A/N: My new year's resolution: finally put this thing online after meddling with it for two years already!
This is sort of an AU based on the information given in the episode "Tale of Master Yoshi" . The first few chapterlings are actually all part of the prologue, but it was simply too long to post as a single chapter (in my opinion anyway). You'll probably be able to tell by the chapter names when the prologue has finished and the story starts ^_^ Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own the TMNT or any of the other characters belonging to the TMNT franchise. I did create the character of Mashimi however, but not his name.
Quickly Tang Shen hurried over and reached out with a hand, "Don't do it like that," she continued, her voice gentle even as she gave the command, and kneeled down on the grass, not appearing to care about her dress, or anything else, but the little boy in front of her. Carefully she placed her hands around his.
"Gently, Mashimi, or you will hurt Splinter."
Guiding his young pudgy hands she changed the boy's hold on the grey rodent so he could carry him more comfortably. Satisfied that the rat was no longer in danger of being either squeezed or dropped, the woman smiled and gently stroked the rodent with one hand, and placed the other on the black hair of her young son, "There you go. You see, Mashimi, he looks a lot happier already."
Absently patting a few stray blades of grass of off her dress while standing up again, Tang Shen felt like she was in heaven with her son beaming a smile back up at her. With pride she saw how he was intent on making sure he would not hurt the rat in his hands while walking forwards once more. Falling in at his side she gazed down at the little black haired head bowed in concentration for a few moments, then looked ahead at the road at the edge of the grassy field they were walking on. It had become a daily outing for the two of them to come to the park in the morning with their pet, Splinter, and let the rat run free while Mashimi played.
Tang Shen had always been amazed by Splinter's intelligence, and not just because he could copy martial arts movements from his cage. Even now she was convinced he was showing more patience with the child than a normal rat ever would. She'd been meaning to look up how old rats could get to be, but somehow never actually got around to doing it. Deep down inside she knew it was because she feared the answer she might find. He was a part of her family, had been with her since before her previous family fell apart. To lose him to old age would be like having to accept the loss of the others as well.
A giggle snapped her out of her gloomy thoughts, and she looked down to see Splinter's whiskers tickling her son's hands with their speedy movements. Though she smiled, she felt alarmed he might drop the rat, and quickly moved to cup the boy's hands with her own, "We are almost at the edge of the park, my son, I shall carry Splinter the rest of the way home now."
Reluctantly the boy let go of his little friend, pouting a bit as he looked up at him in his mother's hands, then grabbed a good handful of her white dress as they kept walking. Careful as her son was, he was still a boy who had only just celebrated his second birthday. He could not always control his movements with precision yet, and was still developing and learning his own strength. She would not allow Splinter to get hurt during innocent play. Only during their trips to the park, and while she was watching them the whole time, did she allow it. She could only hope Splinter would live long enough for Mashimi to grow older and more responsible so he could handle the rat properly and with care.
She now gently held the furry little creature in one hand close to her chest, where he could comfortably watch the city around them, and held her son's hand with the other as they made their way through the busy streets of New York. Carefully she made her way through the crowds, always looking both ways before crossing a street, and making sure she would not get lost. It had been a couple of years ago when she had first set eyes upon this city, and she had been amazed by the difference with her own hometown. But as time went by, it had mostly been the people that stood out as different to her. And while she didn't exactly feel unwelcome, she did feel different. As she learned the language spoken here things got better however, and she even made a few friends. But even now she still couldn't get over the difference between her old and new home.
Startled out of her thoughts at once by both her son's voice and the sudden honking of a truck's horn, Tang Shen gasped as she saw a vehicle heading straight towards a man crossing the street, a man who was obviously blind by the way he held his cane. Without thinking about it she tightened her hold on the little hand in her own, and at the same time on the little furry body in her other, her eyes glued to the horrible scene she knew was about to happen. Already she started to twist her body so she could shield her son's eyes, so he would not have to witness such a horrible event at such a young age.
But it didn't happen.
Even as Tang Shen moved to protect her son's mind, a young man on the sidewalk had moved as well to protect the oblivious blind man by shoving him out of the way. Seeing this she didn't even notice the blond boy that got bumped in the process, nor the glass bowl that slipped from his grasp and smashed on the ground, releasing it's contents on the road. A little gasp of surprise escaped her as she saw how both men made it safely to the other side of the road, the truck swerving along until it came to a stop as well. Still staring, Tang Shen watched the driver get out and hurry back to see if anybody was hurt. Her heart then still pounding she felt relieved the accident she had been sure was about to happen had been avoided.
Letting out a breath she started to form the decision to walk over to the two men, to congratulate the younger on his heroic move, when suddenly a sharp tug on her hand made her forget all about it. Quickly glancing down she saw she was no longer holding Mashimi's hand. Gasping she saw the little boy rushing towards the road, his little legs holding up at this speed, but not only making his progress far from smooth, they were also threatening to make him fall down at any moment. With all the rushing people around them, and the speeding cars just ahead on the road, Tang Shen felt sure she was about to lose her mind in a sudden new terror. Gasping, and then shouting something even she wasn't sure of what, she bolted after her little boy, her hands stretched out in front her to grab him at the first possible moment.
Mashimi's face was turned towards the edge of the sidewalk, and as he reached it he came to a clumsy halt, and would have toppled forwards in front of an approaching car had his mother not grabbed him at the back of his clothes at that exact moment. Letting out a cry of protest the boy was snatched into her arms where she held him close, mumbling half a dozen different things incoherently at him, her mind only focusing on the possibility of him having gotten hurt if she hadn't gotten there in time, not even hearing the honking of the car that sped past them.
He tried to wriggle out of her grasp, mumbling something about "green" and "little". It was then that she realized that she was holding him with both her hands, her arms wrapped around him to keep his little body safely close to her own.
For the third time in a short period of time she felt alarmed, and quickly searched the ground around her. She must have dropped him when she saw Mashimi run away. She was sure she had still been holding on to him when the accident with the truck and the blind man was prevented. Or had she? Suddenly unsure Tang Shen started to run around with her son in her arms, her eyes on the ground as she weaved her way through the crowd of people rushing around her. He could easily get trampled on! If she did not find him right now, he could get lost in a sea of people like this!
Feeling tears well up in her eyes Tang Shen kept calling out Splinter's name, her eyes darting around desperately. She could not lose him anymore than she could lose her son, she had to find him!
Suddenly she became aware of her son tugging a stray lock of her long black hair, and looked down at him in her arms, and realized he'd been calling to her.
"Mommy! Spinta! The'!" As he pointed with a pudgy finger at the same spot he'd been running towards, she looked over just time to see her little furry friend dart over the edge of the sidewalk and out of her view.
"Splinter!" she shouted, not noticing several people turning their heads at her curiously.
Quickly she ran back and peered down where she had seen the rat disappear, hoping she wouldn't find a flattened little body with a tire mark on it. Instead she saw a small stream of water rushing down a storm drain below her. Relieved, yet at the same time feeling new worries flood her, she crouched down, trying to see inside. However it was obvious that it was very dark inside, and she would not fit through the opening, nor be able to reach the ground if she tried to put her arm in.
"Splinter! Are you there!"
Even as she called she knew it was foolish. He was a rat, he couldn't answer back, and even if he did squeak, she wouldn't be able to hear it over the noise around her. Desperate she looked around her, searching for something that would help her, holding little Mashimi close to her the whole time.
There was nothing. She couldn't do anything. Biting her lower lip she called Splinter's name again, knowing it was foolish to expect the rat to be able to climb out the way he had gone in. Even if there hadn't been so much water, he'd never be able to jump this high. Fighting back a sob she tried not to think of the water rushing below her into the storm drain. If Splinter had fallen into that, then surely he'd been swept away by now, far away from her.
"Oh Splinter, please don't leave me…"
For maybe another minute Tang Shen remained where she was, deep in thought. Then she finally slowly got up, still staring with some careful hope towards the opening, before finally turning away.
She couldn't answer Mashimi's plea as he tried to shift his body to look at where the rat had disappeared, and hugged him closer instead. She hadn't given up hope yet though, but she had to accept that she couldn't do anything herself right now, she had to get help and hope Splinter would be alright.
Quickly she rushed home, at times switching to a sprint in her hurry. If time made the difference between Splinter being found alive and well or being lost forever, then she would make sure to turn things in her favor. It was a matter of trust she decided, trust that her family would not have to face another loss so soon again. Destiny could not be that cruel, could it? Already she had lost a brother, the one she had named her son after. And in a way she had lost the only father she had ever known. She had even lost her country, though this she had done willingly for the man she loved. She could not accept another loss. She could not be losing Splinter, especially not like this! She would never forgive herself is she did. These thoughts seemed to give her feet wings as she rushed back home, her mind desperately repeating over and over that all would be alright.