-- I don't own the Turtles, etc etc. C'mon, do I really need a disclaimer?

"Sensei?"

Splinter looked up from his task – polishing the shurikens from that day's practice – and waited for Donatello to continue.

"You know how Leo and Raph and Mikey and me are brothers? And we're a family?"

"Yes," Splinter answered, wondering exactly where this line of thought was going, and what kind of damage he'd find outside the dojo. /How could they have gotten into mischief not fifteen minutes after training?/

Donatello fidgeted for a moment. "I was wondering . . . what was your family like? I mean . . . before. Did you have any brothers too?"

Relief brought a slight smile to Splinter's face and he resumed his polishing. "Donatello, I was born a rat."

"Yeah," was the reply, with an unspoken, "what does that mean?" in the tone at the end.

"Rats have very large families."

"Oh." Donatello mulled that over. "So you had a lot of brothers?"

"127 brothers. And sisters." That wasn't, strictly speaking, accurate but the young turtle's reaction made the small lie worth it.

"Wow! That had to be tough! Especially if any of them were like Raph."

Splinter's smile broadened. "We were certainly a rambunctious group, always active, always looking for more room, more food." He paused. "Perhaps that is why we left as soon as we were old enough to survive on our own."

"You mean you left your family? Your brothers? On purpose?" Donatello asked, aghast. Then more quietly, he asked, "Do you miss them?"

There was a need for reassurance that Splinter hastened to fill. "At times, I do miss them. But you and your brothers are my family now and I will not leave you."

"Promise?"

"I promise."

"We'll always be a family?"

"Of course."

"Good, because Mikey and Raph started wrestling and Leo got in the way and they all knocked over the TV but I think I can fix it so don't be mad." Donatello finished it up with an apologetic smile and ran off.

Splinter sighed and went back to polishing. /Brothers./