I do not own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of their companions. That honor belongs to Mirage.
This is the first of four installments in a series of short stories, rated K+ just in case for some language/themes in future chapters. Please enjoy, and comments are always welcome!
Many, many thanks to R.R. Ten'ou for beta reading and giving such helpful feedback. You rock!
Knockety-knock-knock, knock knock.
Donatello had to smile to himself at the sound of Michelangelo's signature rap from the entranceway, just because it was so very Mikey.
Don closed out his email and turned to take in the comical sight of the younger turtle standing stiffly in the doorway—all of his muscles were tensed, as if he were a dog waiting to be let off a leash. Donny smiled inwardly in amusement, imagining how much it had to be costing Mikey to wait to be invited in; but he was glad that at least one lesson seemed to have sunken in. He didn't mind his brothers coming to him with questions, but Michelangelo had ruined too many projects by simply walking in and not paying attention to where he was going or what he was touching.
"What's up, Mikey?" Don asked, gesturing to his brother that it was safe to enter.
Instead of bounding in as expected, Michelangelo entered with absurd care and walked slowly over to Don's bed where he sat down heavily.
So, it's one of those visits, thought Donny. Mikey mostly came to ask him to fix or build things for him, but in those cases he would usually shove something under Don's nose and speed-talk about it for a full minute before taking a breath and allowing his brother to get a word in edgewise.
Today he must've had something bigger on his mind—a rarity with Michelangelo.
Don spun his chair around to face his brother, and waited calmly for him to speak. Mikey looked at him, and blew out a breath before beginning.
"Don," he said, "I feel kinda bad about what happened at practice earlier."
Don had to think for a moment before he remembered what had happened. Practice sessions just seemed to run together in his head—it was like trying to remember what he'd had for breakfast yesterday.
"What, you mean with Leo?" asked Don, vaguely recalling the incident.
"Yeah," affirmed Mikey.
Don shrugged. "I wouldn't worry too much about it, Mikey. You know how Leo gets during training. Besides, I'd think you'd be used to being scolded by now."
Mikey looked at him for a moment, then a smile split his face and he laughed loudly.
"No, dude, that's not what bothered me!" said Mike amidst his laughter. "Leo's little lectures? You kidding? I barely register those anymore!" He chuckled some more. "I've got thicker skin than that!"
Don smiled. "So then, what's the problem?" he coaxed.
Mike sobered instantly and shifted uncomfortably on the bed.
"It was ... you know, when he accused me of being sloppy because of staying up half the night playing video games," Mikey said.
"Oh ..." said Don, still a little confused. "Well, I guess he shouldn't have said that without knowing for sure—and I'm sure he felt bad once you told him it wasn't true," responded Don in what he hoped was a sympathetic way. It was a little hard to understand, though. It wasn't like Mikey to be so sensitive about such things.
"That's the thing ..." Mikey said miserably. "I lied."
He didn't meet Donny's eyes.
"You ... lied? So you were up half the night playing video games?"
Mikey nodded mutely. Then he slowly looked up at Donatello, eyes swimming with guilt.
In the view of their father and teacher, lying to your family was a kind of betrayal—this idea had been hammered home so often that it was inextricably imbedded in all of their psyches. Accordingly, the size of the untruth was not proportional to the severity of the misdeed—a lie was a lie, no matter how big or small. Mike may as well have told Leo he wasn't actually a turtle. Oh, certainly they kept lots of things to themselves, but that was different. Omitting some information for the sake of privacy was acceptable. But this—telling a blatant untruth—was something else entirely.
Don was momentarily at a loss for words, but then seeing how stricken Mike looked he made an effort to remove the shocked expression from his face.
"But, Mikey, I don't understand. Why didn't you just admit it? I mean, it's not like it would've been the first time. Leo would have had his little rant, and maybe Master Splinter would have reprimanded you, but you know it would've blown over soon enough."
"I know ..." replied Mikey wretchedly. "But I couldn't help it, it ... just sort of, like, came out! Leo looked so annoyingly sure of himself that, just for once, I wanted him to be wrong. And ... I got mad at him, I guess, but, well ... I think I was mostly mad at myself for being so predictable and screwing up again," the turtle confessed as he looked at his older brother.
Mike's eyes pleaded for understanding, and sympathy stirred in Donatello's heart. He did understand. He'd caught hell from Leo before for staying up all night in his lab and showing up to practice tired. Anyone who knew Leo would understand. The eldest brother meant well, but he was always hardest on those he loved—and the high standards he held for his brothers made it inevitable that they would occasionally fail to meet them. They knew this and tried not to let it get to them (with varying degrees of success), but the truth was that when Leonardo was disappointed in you, you felt it keenly.
Don also knew that Mikey didn't often verbally express his deeper emotions, but when he did it was indicative of just how troubled he was. And when he really needed to talk about something, Mike always came to him—trusting he would not be laughed at or ridiculed or scolded. Don felt unaccountably touched by that knowledge, and he strove to live up to the younger turtle's trust in him.
Don sighed and then went to sit next to his brother. He slung an arm around Mikey's shoulders and gave him a brief squeeze, then he tugged his orange bandana tails playfully.
"It's okay, Mikey, I know what you mean."
Mike gave him a glum half-smile in appreciation for the reassurance. After a moment he said, "I suppose you're gonna tell me to go confess to Leo, huh?"
Don hesitated for a second before answering. Part of him knew that was exactly what he should tell Mike to do, but another part of him felt protective of the one that always came to him for solace. He was certain that if his brother confessed now, so long after the fact, he would be in even more trouble than if he'd just admitted the truth in the first place. As a result, the whole incident would probably be blown way out of proportion, and he didn't want to see Mikey further distressed when it was obvious how bad the younger turtle already felt.
On the other hand, this wasn't something he could just let go by. Michelangelo had to be punished in some way; that much was clear. Yet when he saw his kid brother's blue eyes ready to spill over with tears, he just couldn't bring himself to give the response that waited on his tongue. Fortunately for Mikey, the logical part of Don's brain kicked in just far enough to provide the justification needed to bend the rules a little.
"No," said Donatello bluntly, shrugging his shoulders.
"No? You don't think I should tell him?!" Mike sounded shocked yet hopeful, and he seemed to perk up a little.
"Tell me, Mikey, what made you come and talk to me?" Don asked, as if he hadn't heard his brother's last question.
Mike looked at him like he was an imbecile.
Oh, that's rich, Don thought.
"Dude, that should be, like, mega-obvious—who else would I go to? Raph?! Master Splinter? I don't even know which would be worse!" and he shuddered as his overly-vivid imagination showed him how each one of those choices would play out.
"Whoa, whoa!" said Don. "Not 'what made you come and talk to me', I meant what happened that made you felt like you had to talk to anyone."
"Oh ... well, um, I started playing the game again after practice, the same one I played last night, Ultimate Task Force III ... it's so bad-ass, dude, you should play it with me sometime! You have this team and you have to bust up criminal operations, and each level is a different one, only when you bust up the bad guys you get to keep some of the loot, which makes your team better! Last night I made it through level five with almost all of my team intact and—," Mike was talking rapidly, running his sentences together in the usual way and gesturing enthusiastically as he did so, until he caught sight of Don's raised brow ridges.
"... Yeah, um, anyway," he cleared his throat and continued at a slower pace. "Like I was saying, I started playing again, but it was ... well ... " his eyes flicked to the doorway, as if afraid someone might overhear what he was about to say. "It was kind of a bummer. I couldn't focus and I just kept dying anyway, even though last night I was, like, unstoppable. And I had this feeling in my stomach like I'd eaten week-old Chinese takeout," he said, rubbing his stomach region at the memory.
Mike looked up at Donatello, comprehension slowly dawning on his features.
"Oh, man, I'm such an idiot!" Mikey declared emphatically.
Don patted his knee. "No, you're not."
"I'm getting sick! That explains everything!" continued Michelangelo, throwing up his arms.
"Huh? No! That's not—," started Donny, but a sidelong glance at his face revealed that Mikey was simply baiting him. Donatello rolled his eyes and shook his head as his brother grinned like a Cheshire cat.
Mike laughed. "All right, so I felt a bit guilty," he admitted.
"Right, you felt guilty. And if you went to Leo and confessed, what do you think would happen?"
"Uh, he'd probably get mad, go on an unnecessarily long tirade, Raphael would hear him and jump on the 'Any Excuse To Yell At Mikey' wagon, and since Raph's got such a BIG FAT MOUTH, Master Splinter would come to see what the big deal was, and then I'd probably get assigned extra practice and have my game taken away," finished Mikey dejectedly.
"That's more or less the way I picture it, too," said Donny. "So how bout if we just skip all that middle stuff and jump to the end?" he suggested.
Mike crinkled his brow in confusion. "You mean go directly to Master Splinter?"
Don suppressed a sigh. Swing and a miss. "No, I mean take your game away," he said seriously.
At that, Michelangelo just looked appalled.
Don held one hand up to stop Michelangelo's impending outburst. "Just hang on a sec, let me explain," he said. "Unquestionably, the moral thing to do is to tell Leo. But, we agreed the result of that would cause a ruckus, and if it were me I'd wanna avoid that even more than the actual punishment. So what if you just agree to give up a game for a while on your own? Sort of like a short cut?"
Mikey looked like he was considering, so Don continued talking.
"I mean, after all—you know what you've done wrong, and you feel bad about it—so as long as you promise yourself you won't do it again, I don't see any harm in leaving everyone else out of it."
Mike was nodding slowly to himself. Then he brightened considerably and said, "Yeah, I guess you're right. Thanks, Donny," he said, looking at his brother and smiling in relief.
"There's just one problem, though," said Mikey slowly, his expression pained. "I don't think I can give up the game on my own. Would you mind ... would-you-mind-hanging-on-to-it-for-me-until-my-punishment's-over?" He finished the request quickly, like ripping off a band-aid just to get the pain over with.
"Course I wouldn't mind," said Don agreeably as he rubbed Mikey fondly on the head. "I might even do as you suggest and give it a try myself ..."
"Oh, now you're just being evil," said Mike, narrowing his eyes accusingly as he stood up to leave.
He laughed as Mikey exited the room, but when his brother was gone Donny's smile dissolved and he turned back to his computer.