Good morning, good evening, or good afternoon to all of you, my readers, on whatever day you chose to click on this icon! As always, I am Pi90katana, and here I am. Duh.

I've been in a sucky mood lately. Writing something dark like Cork is all well and good, and is fine with me, but when you're in such a mood as I it's not a good idea to do so for such a great while. But a certain part in my story involving Splinter recognizing the turtle's presence's gave me an idea for a fic. And that evolved into how that had come to be, which reflected on their childhood, which eventually presented a question.

At what point did Master Splinter start thinking of the ninja turtles as his sons?

Well, I decided to address it. I apologize to anyone if it has already been done before. I wrote this kinda thinking movieverse, but since I am only an expert on the new movie, if there are any problems I hope you'll forgive. Oh, and the TMNT are small here so expect baby language. No misspellings there, nor in the title.

I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: If the TMNT were mine, we'd know there would be a sequel to the movie by now.

&&&&&

Beneath the dim glow of the lightbulb, a large rat had his nose nestled over the worn pages of a National Geographic. He was greater in size than even what people referred to as a 'big' rodent; after all, a big rat probably could not have held the tattered edition in its paws as this one did.

Splinter looked at the pictures with great interest before turning to the words. It was amazing, two years had passed since the incident that had changed his life. The impact the ooze had had upon him and the infant turtles had taken their toll immediately, of course. All five of them had grown four times their original size within a night! And while time had produced increased development as it went, he'd been surprised so find that it had not stopped there.

Within weeks, the rat had found himself remembering things much clearer. Many of the memories he'd had before the event were still blurry, something that had never bothered him until now, but those that had occurred just before he'd come in contact with the ooze and those taking place afterwards were as clear as a polished mirror. Days after that, Splinter had found himself capable of speaking as the humans above did and it did not take him as long as he'd suspected to get a grasp on the basics of the English language. His animal senses were more acute now, but the instinct that had served him was not his primary source of judgement as was logic.

Counting had come to him like the doomed fly to a spider's web. Reading was proving to be almost as simple. It was frightening at times, how he was able to comprehend the meaning of the words he was deciphering, yet thrilling. In time he suspected the young turtles would be capable of the same achievements; they only could not do so yet because they were so young.

A small wristwatch he'd found lay on a beaten up nightstand that the rat had brought down into the sewers. The hands of the watch were both pointing up and Splinter had recently learned that this meant the time was midnight- or noon, depending on how the sky looked. Putting the National Geographic away next to the soiled magazine covering the Renaissance period and a Soap Opera's Digest that had found its way down here, he walked over to the middle of the room. Just below the lone light bulb, he pulled on the cord that sent the chamber into darkness. After the mutation, for some odd reason his first instinct had not only been to find a new den large enough to accommodate the turtle tots, but an area with light. Their new home had three light bulbs that had originally been installed for those workers who came into the sewers to repair things or check upon them. Splinter sincerely hoped those men would never arrive here.

In the darkness, he made his way over to his small bed. That too he had found above ground- in a place called 'the dump'. It was fairly nice, one corner was torn but it served its purpose. The nicer bed he'd found, which had a small tear on the side and a purple stain in the middle, he had given to the boys to share.

Easing himself down gently, Splinter sighed and brushed at something on the shoulder of his garment, a red bathrobe he had discovered. The rat couldn't understand this desire to cloth himself, nor the hope for finding a better robe in the future, but he was growing accustomed to it. He thought that it was humorous that he'd even taken the tradition of humans in wearing cloth over his body. But the robe, in a way, reminded him of his Master Yoshi.

Lying down, the rodent pulled two sheets up to his chin for warmth and turned to the side. Already his vision was adjusting; he could see the hands of the clock ticking away. Master Yoshi had been a very kind man. Closing his eyes, Splinter fell asleep thinking of him.

&&&&&

… And he awoke to the sound of little feet quickly drawing closer to his side. Blinking, Splinter rose from his bed and took a quick look at the wristwatch before searching for the small silhouette, which had abruptly halted once it had seen it would be unable to poke him from out of sleep's embrace. The rat's long fingers gently explored his nightstand until he'd located a candle and a match. He used them at night when light was necessary but when he did not want to waste the precious electricity of their home. These things Splinter had had to journey above ground as well to find, but closer amongst the humans. There was a little old lady who made candles and sold them on a street corner that he purchased them from; she was also kind enough to give him the matches. But it still worried the old rat greatly every time he sought out the items.

Striking the match once against the bricks, warm light filled the room, casting flickering shadows in every direction. Touching the match against the wick of the candle, Splinter held the base of it and looked closer at the little boy who had entered his room. By his eagerness to enter yet his reluctance to startle, he'd already assumed it to be the one he'd come to call Michelangelo. Now as he examined the tone of the young turtle tot's skin the rodent could see that his guess had proven correct. The child was wide-eyed and shaking, his bottom lip trembling, and he looked ready to cry. Splinter was instantly concerned. "Little one," He asked, coming closer; "What is wrong?"

Sniffing, Michelangelo looked up at him. "There's a mons'er in my woom!" He told the rat.

Relieved, Splinter couldn't help but chuckle. Setting the candle down again on the nightstand, he kneeled down to meet the turtle's blue eyes. There had been many times over the years, ever since they'd been able to talk, that this one had come to him in fear of frightening creatures. "Michelangelo, remember what I have told you? There are no such things as monsters."

"But I heareded it! Make sa funny soun'." An air of concentration transformed his features. "S'like… rrriiieeelsh, rrriiieeelsh, rrriiieeelsh, rgguuurgle. 'N it's weal loud!" Without warning, he grabbed Splinter tightly in a hug. "I's scared!"

Rubbing his head for a moment, Splinter gently pushed him away. "And where did you hear this noise, child?" He asked with a kind smile.

Michelangelo looked at the ground. "In my woom." He leaned in closer, as if he had a secret to share. "It's on the ceilin'- 'cause it's a mons'er," He whispered.

"I see," Splinter nodded sincerely before standing. "Then I suppose we should go see this monster."

The boy tugged at his hand roughly and the rat was surprised by his strength. "No! It eat us!" He appeared positively terrified now.

Patting the young turtle's hand, the rat tried to calm him down. "Michelangelo, if you fear that this monster will eat you, do you not think we should at least go back to your room to check upon your brothers? You left them there, did you not?" Realization seemed to dawn upon his face and he nodded. Picking the candle up, Splinter smiled and held his hand out to him. "Then let us go and see."

Hesitantly, the two-year-old took it, keeping close to the rodent's side. Every time Michelangelo believed that there was a monster in their home, Splinter always had to find some cunning way to get the child back into his room so he could prove to him that there was no such thing.

Their steps were even with each other's. Though faster than a typical rat's existence had deemed him, Splinter moved slowly with his stubby legs. The toddler by his side, still not fully grown, took what were quick steps in his eyes but with such short legs, he was still not getting very far. Michelangelo stopped before him at his room, which was sealed with a thin purple sheet that served for some level of privacy. Likewise, Splinter also had one, though his was white. He had found them with the mattresses and thicker blankets at the dump and had set them up as a curtain of sorts; they were held in place with duct tape so if the boys happened to pull on it too hard, as they sometimes did, it would fall down. But that was nothing too tedious; Splinter could always repair it.

Parting the curtain aside, he carefully entered, watching so as to not let the flame of the candle touch the fabric. Michelangelo still hesitated at the doorway, refusing to release his hand. Splinter turned back and nodded to him, silently urging him in, and the boy finally followed. Again the rat knelt by his side. "I do not hear it," He whispered, trying not to wake the other turtles.

The child put a finger to the rat's lips. "Shh," He said. "Gots to be quiet."

Nodding in his understanding, Splinter sat silently, waiting for the sound. Soon, he could make out a faint nose that vaguely resembled that which the little turtle had imitated. Apparently also hearing, Michelangelo whimpered and drew closer. Stroking the nape of his neck, Splinter held the candle up so that the light shone upon the ceiling. Slowly, miscellaneous shadows were given shapes and he directed the toddler's view to that spot. "Is that where the sound comes from?" Still frightened, the boy nodded. "Do you see what is up there, Michelangelo?"

Turning his head, the youngest of the turtles looked. "Pips," He finally answered, and for a moment, Splinter wondered if he were seeing something else.

Realizing that they were talking about the same thing, he nodded. "Yes, little one. The pipes. Do you know what goes through those pipes?" When the boy shook his head, Splinter stood. "Come with me," He said, taking his hand once more. Moving the curtain aside, he led him to the area of their home that served as the den. To the side of a broken couch was some piping and he gestured for the child to come see. "Put your hand upon the pipes, Michelangelo." As the two sat down, he watched the little green hands rest upon the metal. "Tell me, what do you feel?"

The toddler giggled. "Movin'! Feels funny." Suddenly, he drew his hands back away in horror. "Mons'er in there?" He asked.

"No, Michelangelo. Put your hand back." To encourage him, Splinter rested his own hand against the piping and felt the vibrations.

Hopping around a little in indecision, the youth opted to try again. "What's it?" He asked. In a show or bravery, he rested his cheek against the surface. "Cold."

"Indeed," Splinter said proudly. "That is the water, Michelangelo."

"Wawoo?" He questioned, picking his head up. "No," He said. "Wawoo's wet."

"Yes, but this water is inside the pipes. We cannot feel it," He explained. "Now put your ear next to it and see if you can hear anything."

Doing so, he watched as Michelangelo's eyes instantly widened. "Mons'er sound!" He yelled, making Splinter wince. He hoped the others had not awakened to that.

"No, little one. That too is the water. It is moving through the pipe and going to other parts of the sewer," He explained.

Michelangelo looked at him curiously, then put both hands back on the pipe. "No mons'er?" He finally asked.

Splinter grinned. "No monster." He watched the turtle tot for several minutes. "Are you ready to go back to bed now?" His answer was a negative head shake. "Why not?"

"Don' wanna go to my woom," Michelangelo reasoned. "Wanna sweep in your room. Be safe."

His reasoning actually took Splinter by surprise. Never had any of the boys expressed a desire to spend the night in his bed before. But he knew it wasn't abnormal for young children to seek out the safety of those that raised them in the middle of the night. He blinked, debating how to tell the child to sleep in his own room.

Instead, he found himself speaking the exact opposite. "Very well, Michelangelo." The boy gave him a brilliant smile and stood as Splinter reached for his candle. Together, they walked back to the old rat's chamber and, setting the light down, he helped the child onto the bed and tucked him beneath the covers.

Getting beneath them himself, he took another peek at the wristwatch before blowing the flame of the candle out. It had taken twenty minutes to convince Michelangelo that there was no monster in his room, and now it was half past one in the morning.

As the boy's breathing became even, Splinter relaxed, hoping for sleep to come to him just as quickly. As he was dozing, he couldn't help but hear the child's senseless mumbles of dreamland and rolled over on his side.

&&&&&

It seemed as if no later than he had done that that he became aware of a soft tapping noise, though the watch said it had in fact been over a full hour. Opening his eyes, he listened closer for it; hearing it again, the rat sighed and sat up, finding another match to light the candle once more. Climbing out of bed smoothly in an attempt to keep Michelangelo asleep, Splinter drew closer to the entrance to his room.

The tapping was growing more insistent and the rodent pulled the white curtain back to reveal the child it came from. As he'd guessed, Donatello, the only turtle who had shown the courtesy to knock, had his little knuckles rapping at the bricks lightly. "What are you doing up so late, young one?" He asked him.

The olive-skinned tot was hopping from foot to foot and looked up upon seeing Splinter, crossing his arms over his midsection. His voice was rushed even as he tried to speak properly, and soon he gave up that endeavor all together, growing quieter as he did so. "I nee… go, go…" Donatello's jumping became more urgent. "Gotta go potty!"

Sighing inwardly, Splinter took the boy by the hand, already leading him outside their home. "I thought that you had gone before bed."

Little feet hurried across the concrete. "Have go 'gain."

In a tunnel directly connected to what could almost be termed as their 'front door', Splinter first checked to make sure that no humans were around before bringing Donatello out into the open. The candle was almost unnecessary here for this section of the sewers was always lit, so he set it down.

As the child took position by the water, the rat turned his back. Already, all of the toddlers, with the exception of Michelangelo, were becoming aware of issues of privacy. As the tinkling ceased a few minutes later, he was surprised by two splashes and turned around to find the child ankle-deep in the water he'd just relieved himself in. "Donatello!" Splinter reprimanded. "Get out of there, right now!" Surprised, the boy hurried back up and out, standing before the rat looking positively terrified. Splinter eased his expression. "That water is filthy, Donatello; what were you doing in there?"

Three-fingered hands entangled themselves together. "I wanted see how big it's. Go down weal far."

Splinter looked at him. Always curious, this one was proving to be. He would have to keep an eye on him. "Yes, it is, Donatello. But you cannot play in there; it is dangerous and you could get hurt."

The tot nodded. "'Kay. I sowwy," He apologized.

"It is all right," Splinter told him, bringing the boy close to him when he looked about ready to cry. "Do not be upset, Donatello. It is all right."

The youth rested his chin upon the rat's robed shoulder and turned it to the side. After several seconds, he sniffed and pulled away. "Where they go bye-bye?" He asked, looking at the water and all of the various debris floating in it.

"It depends, dear child," Splinter told him. Already they were moving onto the next subject. "The sewers are very large and the water takes things in all directions."

Clearly not understanding him entirely, Donatello pulled away and began to follow what appeared to be a crumpled milk carton, going to the rodent's left. Sighing as they passed the entrance to their home, Splinter picked the candle up off of the ground and followed him, knowing now that the spot where he lay in bed at nights would be cold once again when he got back to it.

Now ahead of the object, the inquisitive child stood at the end of the tunnel, where it divided and led in to two more separate directions. Splinter was pleased to see him stop there and not go on; he and his brothers had been forbidden and repeatedly warned not to go any farther in either direction without Splinter there. As the rat drew closer, the milk carton spun along the current down the path and angled to the left. Donatello watched it in fascination and upon seeing Splinter arrive, bestowed him with a dazzling smile. "Go this way! Go this way!" He exclaimed in excitement.

The mutated rat couldn't help but laugh. "Indeed it did."

"Follow it?" Donatello eagerly questioned. "Pwease?"

"Perhaps another day, Donatello," Splinter told him gently. "But it is nighttime now, and that means it is time to sleep, not explore."

With a fall of his shoulders, the boy gave into submission and took the rodent's hand. "Why?" He asked.

"Because if we are not well rested by the morning, we will be too tired to play during the day," Splinter told him.

"Oh," The turtle acknowledged as he began to swing their hands together. "Why sleep at nigh'-nigh' time 'n not mornin'?" Letting go, he jumped ahead and flipped around to look at him. "Pway at nigh'!"

Credit had to be given where it was due; the child was nothing if not a thinker, already viewing problems from all angles. "I suppose it would have something to do with having light to play in when the morning comes. It would be rather to difficult to play at night when it is dark and you cannot see."

In an expression of pure tenacity, the boy crossed his arms over his plastron and jutted out his chin. "Why…" He struggled to form the sentence in the big, grown-up way he sought. "So why have nappies?" Donatello asked.

Cocking his head, Splinter again looked over this small being. Perhaps he had misjudged their intelligence; this one clearly didn't miss a beat! "Because after playing and learning with your brothers, you grow tired in the day. Naps will give you extra energy for later on. If you miss it, you will have to go to bed sooner than before because you will be cranky. So in other words, Donatello, you are still going to be taking your nap tomorrow."

Meeting his gaze, the toddler seemed to be deciding whether or not he wanted to further argue his point, as Splinter knew he had brought up the subject to do so. Finally, he nodded in approval of the facts and grinned warmly. "'Kay." Turning around, he began to trot ahead in the direction of home before stooping to the ground for something. "Look!" He yelled happily, showing the treasure to the rat. It looked to be a torn strip of a checkered flannel shirt. "Keep! Keep!" He begged.

As Splinter came near the object, he wrinkled his nose in dissatisfaction. The odor was horrid. "Not this time, little one," He told him. "This is ruined and it smells."

Clutching it, Don pouted. "Sooo… Wanna keep."

"And what, pray tell, would you do with it?" Splinter entertained him.

"Wear it!" And to show what he meant, he wrapped the piece of cloth around his eyes like a blindfold. The pleasant laughter that is so attributed to children rang out against the sewer walls; Donatello amused by such a worthless thing. Bringing a smile to his face, Splinter pulled the cloth off over the child's eyes. "If you want something to wear like a mask, I will find a better material to make it out of. For you and all of your brothers. Would you like that?"

Light brown eyes peeking out from beneath the flannel, Donatello nodded vigorously. Taking the cloth off of his face, he left it on the ground, waving it good-bye as they walked away.

Splinter knew he could find various fabrics at the dump that had been abandoned, many probably in decent condition. He'd long been wishing to make something for the turtle tots to wear so that he could tell them apart easier; if it weren't for the minor differences that made them unique, he would've been up a creek long before now.

He was thankful that there were no more distractions as they finally entered back into their domain. Patting the child gently on the shell, he took him by the hand to the living room, which also split into a kitchen and the small area where he cleaned the boys up. There, with a large container filled with the clean water he'd gotten on the surface, Splinter proceeded in cleaning the child up. He had five small washcloths for each of them and upon selecting Donatello's, he wetted it and dampened the tot's face, chest, and feet before lathering the washcloth with soap and cleaning the same areas. Taking small handfuls of water, he rinsed the soap off of him; Donatello helping him as they went.

Even here in the sewers, Splinter had tried to keep them as clean as possible. Sometimes that meant they couldn't have a full bath, but they never stank of the area surrounding their home. And none had thus far gotten ill from lack of attention to cleanliness on their caretaker's part.

Shivering, Donatello drew closer to him and Splinter wrapped him in his arms for warmth. A commodity he had yet to find were towels that weren't torn and would fit their bodies. With winter coming, he hoped to find those soon. The boys grew so cold after their baths, no matter how light they may be. "Are you ready to go back to bed now, little one?"

Donatello nodded quickly and closed his arms around Splinter's neck, an instant indication that someone was going to be refusing to walk. "Wanna sweep with you," He said through chattered teeth, exaggerating his condition. But Splinter barely caught that, taken once more by surprise in the second time one of the boys had made this request. Like with Michelangelo, he wished to tell him no, but the little one snuggled closer to him. "Cold, cold, cold," He whimpered. "Keep me warm, pwease."

Of course, that did it. Sighing, Splinter nodded and, wrapping one arm around the boy's shell while moving him to his right hip, retrieved the candle once more and made the way back to his room. He was grateful that, at this size, the turtles were not so heavy that he couldn't do this. First setting the light down on the stand, he then put Donatello on the floor and made room for him in the bed. Luckily, Michelangelo had slept like a rock throughout the entire time he was gone and did not stir as the springs in the mattress creaked.

Holding his arms out to him, Donatello waited to be moved up onto the bed. Splinter picked him up and settled him in between himself and his brother, pulling the sheets over his body. Keeping him close, he was about to close his eyes when…

"Why 'Ikey here?" A hushed voice questioned.

Splinter frowned and looked at the curious child, whose eyes were very much open. "Your brother was afraid a monster was in your room and wished to stay the night in here," He explained.

"Oh." Again there was quiet and Splinter closed his eyes. Then; "What buggies eat?"

Already Splinter knew this was going to be a very long night. An hour or so later, once Donatello had finally dozed off after learning why water is clear, what lay hidden inside his body, and where boogers come from, the old rat was able to sigh in pleasure and relaxed his body.

He felt a little kick next to him as the boy moved, as he always did in sleep, and with a small inward sigh, tried to ignore it.

&&&&&

It was a strange dream. One of monsters crawling through pipes incessantly asking the question 'why?' Splinter did not know whether or not he should have been relieved or frustrated when he was awoken once again. Small hands shook his shoulder as hard as their owner possibly could. And those it was not painful in any way, if Splinter had believed Michelangelo was strong earlier, it was nothing compared to this child.

Only one of the turtles had thus far mustered enough courage to not only enter his room but to shake him so brutally into consciousness. Was he that tired that he hadn't sensed him before this point? "Raphael," Splinter sighed. The wristwatch said it was nearly a quarter to four in the morning. "What are you doing up?"

The boy's shoulders rose and sagged with his speech. "I tirsty," He said, watching as Splinter lit the candle. "Get a dwink?"

Sitting up, the rat looked at him. "And what do you say if you want a drink?"

Cocking his head, the child looked up at the ceiling, as if trying to remember. "…Pwease?"

Splinter smiled when the darker-toned turtle put his head back down. "I suppose so," He glanced at the other two children, sound asleep on the bed. Grabbing the candle, he stood and walked the distance to the doorway, the child following. "Come with me."

As they passed through the curtain, Splinter extended his hand for Raphael to take. The tot pushed it away and shook his head. "No need hand," He reminded his caretaker for what must've been the hundredth time in the past two months. "I big."

Placing his hand back at his side, Splinter nodded. "Of course. My mistake." They came to the kitchen and the rodent began to go through a wide range of boxes they kept in there with the aide of the candlelight. Because this was after all the sewers, he neglected to bring any items that might easily perish into their home. Splinted passed by a box of dried herbs he had also purchased from a street vendor with the money he sometimes found in the tunnels, then one filled with various kinds of crackers and fruit snacks. Next to it was one that contained beef jerky, the only meat product he seemed to be able to bring in for them, and several bags of nuts. There was one filled with cereals he'd stocked up on and a small one with fruits and a bag of baby carrots. These he insisted the children eat quickly, so they would not rot. There was another box, hidden from the boys' sight, which contained things like chocolate, cookies, and potato chips, which he would give out on rare occasions when they were good.

The last box held liquids- several bottles of water, the occasional soda, and various juices. He wished he could give the tots milk, but to do that he would need a refrigerator. Splinter wondered how much trouble it would be to find one and get it working. If it were possible, they could certainly keep many more food items.

Taking a bottle of water, he opened it and retrieved a plastic cup from a separate box in the corner. At the dump, he had found a very handsome children's set of eight with colorful pictures of animals on them. Each boy had been allowed to pick two and now Splinter retrieved a red one with a fox, a rabbit, and several birds sitting in trees for Raphael. As he was getting ready to pour, the child tugged on his robe and shook his head. "Un-uh."

"What do you mean?" Splinted asked, confused.

Raphael crossed his arms over his small chest. "Wan' oran' duice," He explained.

Looking at him crossly, Splinter turned to him. "No, Raphael. It is too late to be drinking orange juice. You may have that in the morning."

The child pouted, looked away, then turned back. "Apple duice?" He suggested.

"No-"

"Gwape duice?" He tried again.

Splinter frowned. "No juice at all, little one," He clarified. "Just water."

Raphael tapped his foot and sighed. "'Kay…" Pleased, Splinter resumed pouring, only to feel another yank at his robe. He looked down and saw the child pointing to the cup. "Un-uh," He said.

Sighing, Splinter kneeled down next to him. "Raphael, your dinosaur cup is dirty. You will have to use this-"

Shaking his head and waving his hands back and forth, the little boy explained his intention. "No wan' baby cup! I's wan' gwass!"

Eyes widening, Splinter dared to look at the five glass cups he'd salvaged from the dump, each different than the other, which were nestled between the plastic cups and a few plates. Only three were chipped, and a fourth had a section of it's bottom missing. The fifth was perfect. "I'm sorry, Raphael. But you are simply too small to use these. You might break-"

Again he was interrupted. Raphael, now furious by this accusation, stomped his foot again. "I no small! Big! I's big!"

Sliding a furry hand over his snout, Splinter sighed. "Indeed you are, young one. But you are not yet big enough to use these cups. When you are older, perhaps. You see, these glasses are not like your animal cups. If you were to fall with one or knock it over, it would break into many pieces which are very sharp. Do you know what would happen if you or your brothers were to step on one?"

Quick, Raphael seemed to recall his incident with a sharp edge of a tuna can he'd encountered a week ago. "Get owwie."

"Yes. I do not want this to happen to you," Splinter said, placing his hand on the turtle's shoulder.

"But I no bweak it!" Raphael insisted. "I be weal good!"

"Raphael…" Splinter began.

And then the child fixed him with a pitiful look. "Pwease?"

Already, Splinter knew he was going to have to give it to him. This was the first time Raphael had remembered to say 'please' without being told to. It clearly warranted a reward- and the child only wanted one thing at this moment.

He could of course say no. That would be the wise thing to do. But he wondered what kind of a lesson that would teach him; Splinter had been trying to show Raphael for quite some time now that he could get the things he wanted by asking nicely for them. If the glass wasn't given, that would prove these reasonings false in the child's mind.

Ah, the difficulties of teaching manners.

Splinter sighed and looked him in the eye. "Very well," He said. "Just this once."

Returning the children's cup back to its box, he pulled out a glass cup with a small chip in it at the top. Filling it with a third of the water bottle's contents, he replaced the lid on the container and put it back before holding the water out to Raphael. "Now be careful. Don not drink from this side," Splinter instructed while pointing to the chipped edge; "Or you will cut yourself."

Reluctantly, he gave it over. Raphael took it in his hands, sitting down on the floor now, and looked at it. "Heaby," He said. Very slowly, as if he were to risk dropping it if he moved too quickly, the child placed it to his lips and began to drink. Halfway done, he grinned widely and looked at Splinter. "See? I do good."

Splinter smiled and patted him gently on the head. "Indeed so, Raphael."

Nodding, he added, "Cuz I big." He took another sip. "I's do all big boy tings now cuz I's big."

"Well," The rat told him. "You cannot do everything yet. You still have much to learn, Raphael. There are still many things you cannot do yet- you are too-" Quickly recalling the last episode that had resulted from such a statement, he changed his wording. "There are still things you will not be able to do until you're bigger."

The child looked at him as if he'd just said the craziest thing. "I big now."

"Yes, you are. But as you grow older, you will get even bigger. And when you do so, you will be able to do many more things."

Still confused, Raphael frowned. "I big now," He repeated, lifting the cup. "See? I bigger than gwass."

Splinter chuckled. "This is also true. But as I said, you still have some growing to do. Perhaps one day you will be larger than I am."

Raphael's eyes widened to the size of saucers, and he looked him over with a new found interest, sizing him up. "Weally?"

"Indeed," The rodent said.

Smiling, Raph raised the cup again and finished his drink, clearing thinking over the day when he would become, what must have appeared in his eyes, to be the size of a giant. "All done," He said, carefully giving the glass back over to Splinter.

"Thank you," The rat said, placing the glass in a separate box filled with their dirty plates and cups. "Now, shall we go back to bed?"

Raphael sighed. "I guess," Splinter rose and shook his head in amusement. Where had he learned that?

Drawing closer to his bedroom, he stopped and gave the child a light hug, which Raphael then insisted he was too big for. Turning around, he was about to pull back the curtain when he realized the child hadn't left. Looking back, he saw him still standing in the same spot. "Is something the matter, young one?"

Rubbing his arm, Raphael cocked his head. "Why 'Ikey 'n Donny in your bed?" He questioned.

Splinter shifted the candle to his other hand. No doubt Raphael had noticed their absence when he'd gotten up earlier. He had obviously seen them also when he had come to fetch him from bed. "It is complicated. Michelangelo was afraid of a monster and Donatello was cold." He chuckled. "They both wound up in my room. But do not worry- they will be with you again tomorrow night."

"Oh," The child said. He fidgeted. "I sweep there too?"

He should not have been taken by surprise, but still, Splinter was. He didn't know if he'd get any sleep tonight if Raphael were with him, though he could not currently think of anything the boy would do to keep him up. "Ah, but Raphael," Splinter quickly thought, "You are a big boy. Big boys sleep in their own beds."

Raphael looked as if he were being rejected. "I not that big…" He said pitifully, looking at the floor.

That definitely tugged at the heartstrings. Part of Splinter's consciousness was screaming at him to tell the tot 'no' and go back to bed. But oh, how could he now? What soul would decline a child after that?

He sighed and gave him a smile. "Very well." Pulling the curtain back, he allowed Raphael entrance first and then came in. While the boy waited at his bedside, Splinter again made more room in his little bed. He was grateful the turtles were still so small; there had been truth in Raphael's statement. He really wasn't that big- none of them were. Thus, there was really room for all of them on the mattress, no matter how tight the fit was.

Raphael climbed onto the bed without help and settled in next to Donatello, not disturbing his brother at all. Placing his body under the covers, he was quiet as Splinter blew out the candle and took another look at his wristwatch. It was 4:05 AM. Getting back into bed, he closed his eyes to relax. A few minutes later, Raphael spoke quietly. "Spwiner?"

"Yes, Raphael?" he asked, unwillingly opening his eyes.

The child seemed to think about what he was going to say. The he snuggled in a little closer. "I wike my cup more. 'Kay?"

Splinter grinned. "That is fine, little one."

"But I still big," Raphael quickly added. "Wight?"

"Indeed you are," Splinter told him.

He felt the breath against his fur turn away, indicating Raphael was again looking at the ceiling. "Jus' not that big." He yawned. "Gonna be bigger. But not that big now."

"Of course."

There were no more speeches from the child. Moments later, he was fast asleep. Splinter, eager to take a page from the turtle tots' chapter, began to dose as well.

But what was that noise? It was very light, hardly noticeable, but in the quiet, any sound could be heard. He frowned when he realized its nature.

He'd never known that Raphael snored.

&&&&&

This was a sound that did not belong. Splinter opened his eyes, already knowing he couldn't possibly have been asleep for long. Staring at the cracks in the ceiling, he listened for the noise and confirmed that truth. It wasn't coming from this room; it did not resemble Raphael's soft snores, nor Michelangelo's little mumbles. The rustling of the sheets that sounded as Donatello moved around in his sleep was not similar to it either.

There it was again- right outside the curtain. Flicking his sensitive ears towards it, Splinter made out the little sniffs and hushed whimpers that he knew, from their quality of tune, could only come from a toddler.

But the only child left was Leonardo. Why would Leonardo be crying? Thus far, the eldest had come to Splinter's room in the middle of the night on only three occasions, one bathroom visit when he was sick last winter, and twice when one of his brothers was upset.

With the exception of the final two, the boy had been very hesitant. This, in part, gave him away. But when the sounds disappeared all together, Splinter's eyebrows knitted together in worry.

Lighting the candle once more, and noting that it was now half the size it had been before Michelangelo had awoken him, Splinter pulled back the curtain. No one was there.

He frowned. It was now nearing five in the morning and he knew he needed sleep; keeping an eye on the boys, much less entertaining them, was a task that required his full attention. It was very possible that whatever had upset Leonardo no longer required his assistance and the child had returned to bed-

But no. The sniff was so light he'd barely heard it; the young turtle was still out here. Following that point of origin, realizing he was going in the right direction when the cries became clearer, he entered the den. Candlelight cast golden auras on the walls; they were bright enough that anyone in the room would be able to notice them. And sure enough, a little green head peeked from around the side of the couch, tear-streaked and frightened.

Leonardo watched him as Splinter drew closer. The boy was sitting on the ground, with his shell to the couch and his knees drawn up to his chest. The rat took a place beside him. "Leonardo," He said, wiping a tear from his cheek that darkened the thin little hairs on his finger; "What is it that upsets you?"

The boy looked down to the ground. "I woke up," He sniffed. "Brubbers gone," He said, raising his hand. "No more brubbers."

Splinter patted his shell, relieved that he could solve this problem for the boy. No wonder the child had been frightened; as far as he could recall, this was probably the first time any of the tots had found themselves alone. And in the middle of the night, Splinter could understand how this could easily be quite frightening. "It is all right, Leonardo. Your brothers are still here," He reassured him. "They simply are in my room for the night."

Surprised, and looking as if he may cry again, Leonardo raised his head to meet his face. "Why they weave me?" He asked.

Quickly, he saw that the situation was deeper than he had judged it. Like with Raphael being told he was too big to sleep in Splinter's room, Leonardo seemed to feel that he had been rejected- abandoned. Could two-year-olds understand such a concept? The rat nearly hit himself, his tail twitching at the absurdity of his question. Of course they could; the strongest bonds formed for a child are with those he grows up with. That is why toddlers and babies become so fiercely attached to their parents- not only do they require them for physical nurturing, but they need them for a far more complex emotional security. Many a parenting book had found its way into the sewers and each had pointed that one out.

"Oh, Leonardo," Splinter said, picking the elder turtle up and placing him in his lap. "Your brothers did not leave you. They would never abandon you. After getting up, they merely did not return to your room this night."

The boy placed his head against Splinter's shoulder. "I no find 'em. Shure they all here?" He asked, peering up.

"Of course they are," Splinter reassured them. "All three of your brothers are sleeping in my bed. Had you come into my room, you would have seen that for yourself." He stroked the little one's shoulder. "Why did you not come in?" Leonardo didn't answer, instead choosing to look at the light of the candle. It reflected brightly in his amber eyes. Posing the question again, Splinter caught his attention. From the look on his face, the boy was weary. The rat wondered how long he had been up. "Can you please tell me why?" Splinter asked him again.

Leonardo sighed and placed his head back down. "I got scary," He finally said, almost ashamedly.

"And what was it that scared you?" Splinter asked him, rather confused. Why would the child be frightened of entering his room?

Sniffing, Leonardo sat up some, fighting sleep. He shrugged. "I dunno." His eyes flickered up to him and then looked down. Splinter frowned. It was quite obvious that he was hiding something.

The rat sighed. Well, there was only one way to show the child that his siblings were still in their home. Gently, he raised him to his feet and found the candle. "Come, Leonardo," Splinter told him. "I will show you that your brothers have not gone anywhere."

Taking his hand, he began to lead him back to the room. The toddler took his hand as they went, glancing at the walls as they walked. "Not s'posed to weave," He commented. "No know where they go. S'posed to sweep at nigh-nigh time."

Oh, if only the other three thought like this. "This is true, Leonardo. But you should know that there are times when one might need to get out of bed."

"Why?" He questioned.

"Well, consider the time when you were sick. Do you remember that?" From the look on his face, the boy did not recall the event well. Splinter wondered how someone could forget vomiting all over another person that easily. "Or perhaps you'd need to rise to use the bathroom. You yourself, Leonardo, got up tonight for a very good reason. You were concerned for your brothers and wished to find them."

The child seemed to take all of this in before blinking and looking away. Splinter knew that he could not expect him to understand this yet, at least not in the way he was describing it to him. But one day, he would.

"So," In these reflections, he'd neglected to see the thoughtful look on Leonardo's face. "I no be bad?"

Splinter was confused by this and stopped. "How could you have been bad?"

Letting go of his fingers, the child hid his hands behind his shell. "I got up at nigh-nigh time. You say we s'posed to sweep at nigh-nigh time; no get up."

The figurative wheels that turn in every mind made a connection at that point. "Leonardo?" Splinter questioned. "Were you afraid to come into my room tonight because you thought I would punish you for being out of bed?" Looking down at his feet, the boy nodded solemnly and sniffed. The rat almost laughed- certainly, after all that he'd been through this night, the child had nothing to fear. If only he could be made to understand that. Enveloping him in a hug, wary of the candle as he brought it around the toddler's tender skin; Splinter smiled. "I would never discipline you, little one, for showing concern for those you love. I promise you that."

Not entirely understanding him, the boy rested his chin in the rodent's fur. "No mad?" He asked, getting to the point of the matter.

"No," Splinter chuckled. "I am not mad." Standing again, Splinter once more took his hand. "Come. Let us go see your brothers."

As they arrived, Leonardo seemed nervous, looking at that white curtain. "What if all gone?"

"They are not gone," Splinter said matter-of-factly, holding back his astonishment. How did such reasoning come from a toddler of Leonardo's age? "Do you not wish to see for yourself?"

With a breath, Leonardo looked back at the curtain. Setting his jaw defiantly, he pulled the cloth back and took several steps inside, not even waiting for Splinter.

The grin that split his face when he recognized the three lumps on the mattress washed all of the present gloom he'd displayed earlier away. Unable to contain himself, Leonardo ran and jumped up onto the bed, pulling himself up to further see his siblings. Unable to stop him, Splinter was shocked when neither of the three awoke. Of course, they all slept together; certainly they were used to one another's habits. And here Splinter had been taking such cautions.

Up on the bed, the young boy looked at every one of them, wiggling a little with excitement as he confirmed their identities. "'Ikey;" He pointed; "Donny; Waph." Then he crossed one arm over his chest and shook a finger. "No weavin' no more!" He whispered. Splinter laughed softly and Leonardo turned to look at him, obviously not seeing the amusement. "Nigh-nigh time?" The youth asked.

Nodding in absolute approval, Splinter walked over and placed the candle on the nightstand. "Yes, it is time for bed." He watched as Leonardo glanced again at his brothers and it only took him one guess to find what the child wanted. "Do you wish to sleep here as well, tonight?" Splinter questioned him.

Looking up, Leonardo nodded vigorously. No longer was the rodent surprised by this. He nodded. "I shall go retrieve us more blankets from your room; we will need them." After fetching the soft little sheets, Splinter returned to find Leonardo was still awake, watching his siblings in the dark. As he arranged the new blankets, forcing the turtle tot down so he could tuck him in properly, Splinter finally climbed back into bed himself.

Not five minutes later, the body next to him sat up and did not settle back down. Leonardo shifted over, and as Splinter watched him from the corner of his eye, the boy proceeded to pull the blankets back up to each of his brother's chins. Seeing Splinter watching him, he explained himself. "Cold." Quietly, he lay back down and Splinter closed his eyes. Then, another rustle alerted him to further movement from Leonardo. He observed as the turtle pulled the sheets that were covering Raphael back down to his brother's chest and lifted one arm over the covers. Again he lay down. "Waph no wike it too hot," Leonardo said, not even looking at Splinter.

When the child rose for the third time, Splinter knew that he was again fighting sleep, just as he had in the living room. The rodent tugged lightly at the toddler's fingers. "Do not worry, young one. Your brothers will still be here when you awake."

"I know," Leonardo mumbled. "I jus' no sweepy."

A smile curved Splinter's lips. Yes, Leonardo was back to his normal self, then, no longer fearing his siblings would abandon him in the course of the night. As Donatello was curious about all that happened around him in the day, this one was concerned with what went on at night. Leonardo was convinced there was more to its silence than appeared; what this could be completely eluded his caretaker, as did the method to his madness.

What must've been ten minutes later, he finally saw a head nod. It quickly jerked back up, only to fall again within the next eighty seconds or so. Still, Leonardo fought on for quite some time, nearly toppling over in his quest to stay awake.

Finally, he fell back against the mattress, and though he awoke with his tumble, he didn't try and rise again. Turning over on his side, he curled up closer to Splinter and gripped the end of the red bathrobe, rubbing the cloth between his fingers intermittently. It didn't take long to realize that this was another attempt to stay awake. Splinter sighed- he was far too fatigued for this. He felt the fingers stop than hurry again. "Are you growing tired?" Splinter asked the child.

"Un-uh…" Leonardo said quietly, shifting his head. "I 'wake…"

"You are supposed to sleep at night time, do you recall?" Splinter asked him, throwing his own words back at him.

The child was quiet, as if caught red-handed. "Sweep waiter?"

"No, Leonardo. Sleep now," Splinter told him.

With a head shift, the boy sighed. "Wike shabows?"

Fearing another series of questions as with Donatello, Splinter moaned inwardly. "I imagine I do."

"Me too. They funny; kinda neat." There was another little rub. "Nigh-nigh shabows," He whispered.

Splinter turned his head, trying to make out the dark profiles cast by what little furniture he had. The shadows? Yes, they were very interesting- full of mystery. Shadows were the way of the ninja, he knew. His Master Yoshi had spoken of it several times.

Here in the darkness, everything was shadow. Above ground, the moonlight would be making countless other silhouettes that met a fine line by luminescence. He still had faint memories of the moon and its effect. How nice it would be if the boys could see it. The sunshine too… they would love that. If only it weren't so dangerous.

Another little rub at his robe, followed by just one more.

Then, they all slept.

&&&&&

A small turn in the middle of the night pressed Leonardo closer into him. Splinter woke up and looked down at the child in his weariness. Much to his horror, the eldest of the turtle tots' eye were partially open. Always the first of the four to wake, Splinter knew that if Leonardo awoke now, he would likely rouse his brothers.

Thinking quickly, the rat extended one long finger and began to stroke the boy's forehead repeatedly in a soothing manner. Within a few moments, he was blinking sleepily; Splinter waited long after the child's eyes had closed before resting his finger. He glanced at the ceiling in relief before trying to follow the same suit.

There is a saying that fate will find a way, no matter which path it is forced to take. As if it were waiting for that cue, at that moment, Donatello jerked in his sleep as he'd done throughout the night. Only this time, his feet collided with the bottom of Michelangelo's carapace, nearly sending the youngest two-year-old off of the bed. There was a yelp from the boy, who, saved from his fall by the bed sheets, sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. Pouting, he weakly punched his sibling in the shoulder, but it was just hard enough to wake him. Splinter sighed. The boys were up, he knew; it was only eight o'clock. "Michelangelo," He said, "Do not hit your brother."

By then the two were playing, neither one apparently have taken the blow seriously. As Donatello rolled off of his brother's stomach and closer to the wall, Michelangelo stood up and began to bounce over to the center of the bed, jumping directly between Raphael and Leonardo, who until that moment had still been sleeping. With another leap, the blue-eyed child went for the cord to the light bulb, just barely visible in the darkness. With a yank that nearly sent him off the bed, a light much stronger than the glow of the candle Splinter had used throughout the past many hours flooded the room, forcing everyone but the two youngest toddlers to shield their eyes.

Michelangelo clapped and fell backwards in between his two eldest siblings, giggling. "Goo mornin'!" He shouted. Splinter couldn't help but see the comedy in the sentence.

Growling, Raphael turned over, hitting the child with his shoulder as he tried to go back to sleep. Stretching, Leonardo yawned and smiled at his siblings. Under the covers, tunneling like a worm he had asked about last night, Donatello made their way over to them, burrowing with tremendous difficulty under Raphael before opposing out of the sheets between Splinter and Leonardo on the other side. As the boy yelled and put his head under the pillow, the other three toddlers erupted in laughter.

When the snickers faded, a little turtle climbed up onto Splinter's lap. Michelangelo grinned and hugged him. "Mornin'! I wuv woo daddy!" He shouted.

Splinter had been hugging him when he said that. But as the words had left his mouth, he'd stopped short, more shocked by this than he'd been by their requests to sleep in his bed.

A father? He had… He had never even considered… Yes, he had raised them from infancy, fed them and provided for them, cared for all their needs. But he was a care taker, not a-

Slowly, Splinter thought of those parenting books and magazines he'd discovered. Wasn't that what a parent did? Didn't they care for a child's physical needs, giving them food and shelter; albeit, the turtles were living in the sewers, but it was shelter. And didn't a parent more importantly care for their emotional needs, by loving them and soothing their fears and distresses; channeling their curiosity and keeping them safe?

So, by those qualifications, wouldn't he be their father? A surrogate father?

He hadn't realized that Michelangelo had released him from the hug until the coolness in the air finally reached beneath his fur. Splinter looked up to find the boy was still sitting in his lap, his smile wilted, waiting in surprising patience for an answer. He looked almost wounded that it was taking so long.

Turning his head, Splinter found that Leonardo was also looking at him, one hand gripping his robe. Donatello was standing near his shoulder. Even Raphael had his eyes on him, having lifted his head from under the pillow to stare. All bore the same expression on their little faces.

Splinter's eyes wrinkled together as he studied them. And if he was the father, what then would that make these boys?

He thought of Leonardo's shadows. As of yet, none of the boys had asked to see the surface, though they all knew it was there. None had had the chance to view the shadows or the moonlight and the sunshine that created it. Here now, Splinter could understand why; they already had it.

He had, as well. He just hadn't known it until now.

Looking back at Michelangelo, Splinter held out his hands and again took the child back in a hug. "I love you, too, my son," He said. Moving one arm out, he extended it to wrap it around the other three turtle tots as they drew closer. "My sons."

&&&&&

Pretty long for a chibi one-shot, huh? But I think it was pretty good! I'm actually proud of myself! I think that's the best Splinter I've ever done! Yay!

Oh, and if anyone's wondering why I never referred to him as Master Splinter, I figured he hadn't started teaching them Ninjitsu yet- so he wasn't a master to them.

Anyways, I hope you liked! Please review!