This bunny suddenly attacked me Friday morning and I've been working on it since. Hope you enjoy it.
Oh, and a late edit to thank GreenWillow for her beta work on this!
TMNT do not belong to me or anyone I know personally. However, there IS coming a day when...
Stalking the Green-Eyed Monster
Usually Leo paid little attention to Mike's many "projects". They were never as interesting as Don's, nor as colorful as Raph's (especially when Raph would accidentally smack his thumb with a hammer; the language was as entertaining as it was shocking). They certainly weren't as practical as his own ("Mike, HOW are you going to get an elephant?"). All of them worked hard to discourage Mike's interest in their own projects, which in itself was quite a project.
But the past few days Leo had noticed his brother spending extra time in the dojo.
And he knew that Mike was not in trouble, so it obviously wasn't a punishment set by Master Splinter about something that might have taken place during private lessons.
And there was the second thing Leo suddenly realized-- Mike lately had been going to Splinter for "private lessons", not just regular private lessons like they always did outside the dojo, but, in the words of the turtle in question "extra-special private lessons only for me."
"What kind of lessons?"
"But WHAT kind of private ones?"
"The kind that are private, duh! If I tell you, then they ain't private!"
And with a "sheesh, I know you're not as smart as Don, but really..." trailing behind him as he left his frustrated brother standing gawking after him, Michelangelo headed for the dojo, a bulky notebook under one arm.
That was another thing. The notebook. A typical used three-ring binder, faded blue cloth covering, frayed at the edges, bulging to near overflowing with papers of all sorts, and colorfully decorated by Michelangelo with fierce Ninja and deadly weapons and the words "Michelangelo's Top Secret Project for Michelangelo's Eyes ONLY! Keep Out! I mean it, 'cause it's TOP SECRET!"-- he'd been carrying it around almost nonstop lately. They'd hardly paid it any attention when he'd first started dragging it out for them to see, constantly pointing out to one and all about how it was "very much top secret so none of you guys better try to read it 'cause it's PRIVATE", but now the more Leo thought about it, the more he realized that little brother must be working on "something special" and not just trying to get on their nerves as usual.
He began to notice that Mike would carry that notebook into the kitchen whenever he was helping Sensei with the cooking, or when he had to clean up afterwards. He carried it into the "classroom" both in group lessons as well as their individual ones. He carried it into the bathroom (but Leo preferred to NOT think about THAT! He remembered that time he accidentally walked in on Sensei, who was reading a magazine in there...). Heck, lately he'd been sleeping with it "to make sure you guys don't try to peek in it!"
"Like anyone really gives a damn about yer stupid notebook," Raph snorted, struggling into his pajamas.
"Raphael! Ten flips for swearing!" Splinter appeared from "nowhere" and stood, arms crossed and eyes flashing as he counted off the ten flips.
"You should know better, Raph," Leo admonished after Splinter left the room. "You know he hears everything, and you shouldn't use such language anyway."
Raph, head inside the pajama top that he'd been trying to put on before the unscheduled exercise, muttered something that not even Splinter would be able to hear, then climbed into bed, pulled up the covers, and with a pointed "how long are you gonna have them lights on?" buried his head into his pillow, back to them all.
Don, ignoring it all as if it were the usual nightly ritual (which, if truth be told, it was), was already dozing off. That left Leo to gaze in growing curiosity at the now "tented" Michelangelo, who even though the light was still on was using a flashlight to read his precious notebook. A soft, steady scratching sound alerted Leo to the fact that Mike was writing something.
"Ah-HA!" came the muffled exclamation. "So THAT'S how it's done..." followed by more scribbling noises.
"Go to bed, Leonardo," Splinter, on his way to his own room, stopped to see why the light was still on. "I am surprised to see you still up."
"Yes, father," Leo gulped, making a hasty dive for his own bed. "But father... what about..."
Splinter, about to turn off the lights, had failed to notice the top bunk. An indulgent smile touched his lips briefly, then vanished.
"Michelangelo, put your project away and go to sleep."
"Yes, father," Mike's grinning face appeared from under the covers, and he clicked off his flashlight, tucked his notebook between the pillow and the wall for safekeeping, and was probably asleep before Splinter turned off the lights.
Leo lay in the dark, long after Splinter had left and the soft breathing of three brothers indicated that he alone was wide awake. He hated to admit it, but he was beginning to wonder what the heck Mike was working on.
Why had Splinter smiled?
I mean, Splinter didn't even snap at him for sitting up in bed like that! Don got in trouble for doing that last week. Splinter took his flashlight from him! And Raph got in trouble for it a few weeks ago, reading comics like that instead of being asleep. But Mike? He just gets smile and a "put your project away..."
And Leo lay puzzling for some time. That Splinter hadn't missed Raph's one swear word, had reprimanded Leo for not being in bed, yet had not only missed seeing Mike (who, let's face it, was well within Splinter's eyesight!), but had only told him to put it away and go to sleep-- WHAT kind of secret project was this? Why was Splinter giving Mike private lessons? That notebook... he takes it everywhere... well, except in the dojo during training, Splinter doesn't allow anything not related to training in the dojo... ha, that was funny that time Don tried to bring in his bug experiment because it was at a 'crucial' stage, and Raph nearly went crazy when one flew out and landed on him while he was on the balance beam, and... zzzzzz...
But when he woke up next morning, he recalled that Mike HAD taken the notebook into the dojo! He had seen Mike carrying it into the dojo just the day before... and why was Mike spending all that extra time in the dojo?
Leo was the only one who ever regularly used the dojo on his own. Raph sporadically would make use of extra practice time, especially when he wanted to catch up to Leo. Don on occasion would spend a few extra minutes in there, but Mike?
Mike never went willingly into the dojo on his own time-- until recently.
As Leo helped get the dojo ready for the morning training, he kept thinking and rethinking about this mystery-- for it was a mystery, and Leo, interest piqued, would not rest until he had solved it. What was Mike up to? Was he in trouble? Trouble so bad that Splinter was keeping it from the rest of them?
"Leonardo, summon your brothers," Splinter's voice cut through Leo's thoughts.
"Hai, Sensei," he bowed, and in his best "I'm the leader" voice he commanded the others to attend.
After five minutes, he went in search of them.
"Guys! C'mon! You're gonna be late!"
"Keep yer shell on, LeoNERDo," Raph said, finishing his cereal with a noisy slurp of the remaining sugary milk from the bowl. "The dojo ain't goin' nowhere."
"And neither are you if you don't hurry!" Leo replied. "Remember, today is your turn to go scavenging with Splinter."
And with a bit more coaxing (i.e., literally pushing Don from behind while haranguing Raph about how Splinter'll not take him topside if he doesn't get his backside into that dojo pronto!), Leo got two of his brothers to training on time.
To the amazement of the three, Michelangelo was already there, sitting on the mat, notebook open, pencil tapping thoughtfully, face scrunched up in "Mikey thought". He removed two sets of loose pages from his overflowing notebook and gestured with his pencil at them.
"Master Splinter, I know you explained about the two different styles," he said, oblivious to the others. "But if they're pretty much the same, why does this one say it has sixty-five moves, while in these others it only comes out to about forty-five?"
"Every master, I believe, likes to improve upon the techniques of what they've learned in their youth," Splinter replied. "The way you and I improve upon the recipes that we come across."
"You mean like when we don't have all the ingredients, we improvise?"
Splinter thought about it, then shook his head.
"Well, I am not sure if it could be called that," he replied. "Now, put that away. It is time to begin."
Mike shoved his papers back into his notebook, then searched through it for a specific page. Making a bold check mark, he slapped the cover shut and, carefully placing it where he had easy access (and his brothers would not), began his warm-ups.
"Leo, you trying to catch flies?" Don nudged him, and Leo suddenly realized that he had been standing there, mouth open in... well... open in what? Shock? Surprise? Disbelief?
What WAS this emotion?
Why was Mike asking questions? Sixty-five moves? Masters? Wha-- Who-- Why did he have his special only for his eyes top-secret project in the dojo? Why was he ALLOWED to have his special only for his eyes top-secret project in the dojo?
Why was Splinter staring at him as if he had lost his mind?
"Uh, Sorry, Sensei!" Leo bowed quickly, realizing that he'd been doing it again. He began his warm-ups, and soon the training began, starting with some basic katas.
Face front, heisoku dachi and bow-- Move to natural stance, yoi-- Look to the left, turn on the right foot and move the left foot to the left to zenkutsu dachi--Execute a harai uke with the left arm--
Leo was so good at these, he could do them in his sleep. He was so good, he could (and sometimes did) perform them with his eyes closed, confident in the knowledge that he was keeping perfect time and that the others were with him move by move and step by step.
Cross the left foot behind the right foot, turn left to face the right hand side (turn 270 degrees) in a left zenkutsu dachi, do a left harai uke-- Step forward with the right foot and do shoman tsuki with the right hand-- Pivot on the left foot, turning to the right to the opposite side to a right foot forward zenkutsu dachi. Do a right harai uke. Raph, slow down--
Raph, he could tell, was bored with always doing the basics; when bored he tended to get ahead of them all if not checked by Splinter.
Step forward with the right foot to right zenkutsu dachi and execute a right shoman tsuki-- Step forward with the left foot to left zenkutsu dachi and execute a left shoman tsuki-- Step forward with the right foot to right zenkutsu dachi and execute a right shoman tsuki--
Don was good, better at some than others, but still the untrained eye would never mark his tiny mistakes; the right foot not at the exact angle, the left arm not exactly high enough, the turn not as smooth as it should be. Leo shook his head mentally; he would have to speak to Don, offer to go over the kata with him later.
Cross the left foot behind the right foot, turn left to face the left hand side (turn 270 degrees) in a left zenkutsu dachi, do a left harai uke-- Step forward with the right foot and do shoman tsuki with the right hand--
And as for Mike, Leo smugly and vaguely thought, eyes closed as he was correcting his brothers in his mind...
"Leonardo, you are not attending!"
Snickers accompanied this reprimand, and Leo realized that he was the only one still standing. Hastily he bowed and seated himself as Splinter called Donatello forward to demonstrate his progress with the Jo.
Don was eager to demonstrate. Splinter was going to let him start with the Bo full-time since he had grown so much both physically and in skill. He'd trained with both for a long time, but the length of the Bo had been a bit of a problem for the turtle.
Leo watched with a critical eye as Don demonstrated his skills with the grace of a dancer and the force of a deadly ninja. Having been hit by the Jo as wielded by his brother, Leo knew that Don had almost mastered quite a lot of control over that weapon.
The soft rustle of paper caught his attention. Turning slightly, he saw Michelangelo deep in the midst of his notebook.
"Michelangelo!" he hissed in as loud of a whisper as he dared. "Michelangelo! Put that away! Now!"
Mike pretended to not hear, merely using a highlighter to color a huge section of page of what appeared to be a thin book.
Leo cast a wary eye in Splinter's direction; he was too busy coaching Donatello with wise advice and knowledgeable suggestions. He turned back towards Mike, who was flipping through the pages, muttering something unintelligible under his breath even as he made check marks.
"Michelangelo!" Leo commanded in a louder whisper, waving one hand at him to try to get his attention. "Comply!"
"Quiet, Leo, I'm busy!" he whispered back, not raising his eyes from his work.
Leo glanced again at Sensei. Perhaps he should risk speaking aloud?
He turned once again to the unresponding Mike, preparing to turn loose the full power of his position as (future) Leader of this Team-- and his anger turned to stunned surprise as he heard what his brother was muttering.
"Hmmm...'Kick, down up, step behind, seisan-- Punch punch-- Down-- Up, double strike-- Down and strike-- Right seisan, block-- Punch punch turn-- Punch punch--' I like these directions way better than those others with all the Japanese. Makes it MUCH more clear..."
"Michelangelo, please put that away and prepare for your turn," Splinter's voice cut through Leo's frozen shock.
"Hai, Sensei!" and the notebook, carefully closed and just as carefully placed under the edge of a mat for safekeeping now commanded Leo's attention.
Though he was staring at his brother going through his nunchuka lesson, his mind was on that notebook-- and what he had overheard.
'Kick, down up, step behind, seisan-- Punch punch-- Down-- Up, double strike-- Down and strike-- Right seisan, block-- Punch punch turn-- Punch punch--'
That sounds like a kata-- a kata that I don't know...
A KATA that I don't KNOW?
No! No way! NO WAY! I know ALL the katas Sensei has been teaching us! No WAY does he--
Leo found himself staring at the notebook that was peeking out so temptingly, then snapped his head back to watch Mike, desperately trying to maintain his focus, trying his best to ignore the elephant in the corner... the big, grinning, orange-wearing elephant in the corner...
"Leonardo, it is now your turn," Splinter said, motioning for his student to stand before him.
Leo performed his lesson well but automatically. The only thing he could concentrate on was the one bright hot coal of determination that had started burning in his thoughts.
Somehow, some way, he had to find out what Mike was up to!