A/N: This story is just a little bit of fun. I wanted to challenge myself to write in first person narrative, something which I usually don't like. So, being the supporting character fanatic I am, this one is a Splinter-fic. Constructive criticism is welcomed
The TMNT universe is a cross between the 2003 'toon and the 2007 movie. The turtles are several years younger than either cartoon or movie – around 13-14. It assumes that they have already forged a relationship with April. This is a very minor point, as she does not figure much into the story.
Under His Nose
Or 'what you see is not necessarily what you get'
Lesson One: Something's Afoot
It is funny how you sometimes fail to see things until they are right under your nose. Particularly funny when you pride yourself on being a perceptive old rat, but if there is one thing I have learned while raising these boys is that the first mistake is to become complacent.
Pride is a downfall even for the wisest of men, and this old rat knows that despite my patience there are times I sit and feel like patting myself on the back for a job well done. After all, raising four boys, all of them now teenagers, all of them trapped within the sewers of NYC and feeling outcast from the rest of the world is not easy. Even a humble man reflects at times and wonders if anyone else has noticed the labor he has gone through to keep this precious lair more than just a warm hole in the concrete – to shape it into a home. And finding precious few around to witness his achievements he decides to sit and congratulate himself. This was one of those times.
It had started off innocently. I had been watching my stories. Indulging as Donatello likes to say. He is proud of himself for being able to sneak large words into casual conversation, so indulging in stories is what I will say it was. It is not unusual for me to find the couch in a state of utter disarray. Despite training my sons to adhere to all virtues of ninjitsu, including harmony with one's environment, they do not find the subtle harmony in having straight couch cushions. Then again my back finds no harmony in slipping down into the framework of the backside of the couch and my sons have shells to protect them from such a mishap. So straightening the cushions is part of my ritual, gladly preparing the couch before tea and stories.
Nor is it unusual to find things stuffed in the couch. I would swear Michelangelo thinks that the space between the armrests and the springs is his own personal locker space. I had, at one time, considered getting lockers for my sons when I found them in the junkyard. I was torn between the idea of giving them each a personal space beyond their rooms, something that would stand in full view outside the dojo to be a beacon of their own personality; and leaving them there because they represented a facet of human life that my sons could not join in. In the end I left them there because I could feel the pull my sons had towards the outside world, and I did not wish to tease them with a part they could not fully join. At quiet times I wonder if I made the correct decision. Such are even the simplest decisions with my sons, for I do not always know what will make them feel more at ease in this odd subterranean life.
Ah, yes, but we were speaking on things hidden in the couch. I have found his CD player, batteries, Hostess Twinkies with and without their wrappers, VHS tapes, notebooks and all other sorts of things in the cushions of the couch, so one more package stuffed in the crevice was not unusual. Yet certain things make a father's whisker's twitch. Michelangelo is the sort to leave his life lying in a debris strewn path after him, but the debris is almost always mundane. Yet that day I pulled a small Ziploc bag full of matches from the cushions.
Matches were unusual, at least for my youngest son. While Donatello is allowed to use them for his experiments under my supervision, Leonardo enjoys lighting the candles for meditation and I have seen Raphael steal off with some to light a stick of incense, waving it about at night trying to use the glowing ember at the tip to write his name in the air before trying to use the selfsame ember to light the toilet paper on fire, Michelangelo has not been interested in matches. I try to steer my sons away from dangerous activity, partially because I fear they are growing up too fast, and partially because our lair was difficult to find and I have worked hard these past thirteen years to make it a home. A careless fire could take out too much too quickly; and they just don't make insurance policies that cater to giant rodents and their terrapin brethren. So it wasn't strictly that matches were forbidden, but more that I tended to keep them in my care to be used under my supervision. So, I wondered, what were they doing stuffed down into the couch?
This matter would wait until after stories, for my youngest was running off his morning energy with his brothers under the pretension of 'cardiovascular training' (another long word I borrowed from Donatello). It would do no good to stir him up, for truth rarely pours out of a shaken ewer. So I watched Darla get into a foolish argument with her husband and be comforted by Brian while Glenda and Kevin got hit by a drunk driver. I reminded myself to catch the next episode because Kevin was one of my favorites and I hoped he was alright. His carefree smile reminded me of my youngest son.
Which returned my mind to the matches. As my children shuffled in, sweaty and panting, Leonardo grabbed towels from the kitchen, handing one to each of his brothers. Michelangelo and Donatello accepted, as expected, and Raphael denied. The look in his eyes said more than his words, it said he could get his own towel. 'Ah, Raphael,' I thought to myself, 'we will need to have a talk about this nagging tendency of one-upsmanship you have with your eldest brother.' But then was not the time. I rose up and cleared my throat.
"My sons…" I waited until their attention was upon me. "Have any of you lost something in the couch recently?" My eyes scanned their faces and I caught little glimpses of panic. I wondered what was going through their minds. Even Raphael stopped tugging a towel from the upper bar and weakly accepted the one in Leonardo's hands as he turned his gaze to me. I felt my brows furrow in confusion as Michelangelo opened his mouth.
But it was Donatello who stepped forward and spoke. "I am sorry, sensei. I had left a bag of matches on the coffeetable and they must have gotten moved onto the couch and slipped between the cushions."
I blinked, watching my stalwart son explain as he put his hands together. "Donatello, have I not said you may get matches from me when you need them?" He nodded in assent. "Then why bring more matches into the lair?"
He knit his brows beneath his purple bandana, "I thought that it was a bother, sensei. I asked April to bring me some so I wouldn't have to disturb you."
That gave me pause. I must admit they are growing up quickly, but I still hold on to their supervision. I enjoy Donatello coming to me for some supplies so I can ask what he is working on, check on him so I know he is safe and not getting lost in his experiments. I realize I do this for all of my sons, I keep some small thing in my possession, and require them to come to me to get them. I use this as a way to connect with them. Sit them down and talk to them comfortably – for after all they have already come to me.
I swallowed and felt a small lump in my throat. "Donatello, it does not disturb me at all. Matches are a small thing; and I do worry that they can be dangerous. I trust you, my son, but be careful with small things. It is when we stop being cautious that trouble finds us." I stretched my paw out and dropped the bag into Donatello's hands.
He nodded and looked up at me, with an expression of relief. "I promise I will be careful, sensei."
For a second all four brothers breathed as one, and then they began to mop sweat off of their brows. I turned back to Michelangelo, not quite willing to let him off the hook just yet. "My son, were you going to speak?"
I watched my youngest bite his lip and then nod. "I was only gonna say that I stuffed them in my hiding spot because I thought you might get mad."
I could not help but chuckle at this, which prompted my youngest to grin back, and soon all brothers indulged in a short laugh. They wandered out of the kitchen to stretch and shower, meditate and read comic books. That night the lair was quiet.
As I reflect on the entire affair, I should have known something was up. I have learned many a lesson from this incident, and the first is: whenever all of my sons are getting along together, something is afoot.