Dedicated to everyone with this kind of problem. Plays some when before season 1. I've been working on this a felt eternity… Well, sorry for my long update times. The next Glory-chapter will be coming… somewhere in the future.
I couldn't find someone to beta this story, so if anyone volunteers, I'd sent him or her the story and repost it here.
Disclaimer: TMNT; Splinter etc. are property of Mirage.
A Lesson Well Learned
"Be yourself, no matter what they say…"
Sting, Englishman in New York
Again, his master's cane had made contact with his head. The second time this morning. Michelangelo briefly wondered if he would get bruises like small horns at both sides of his head, but the expression at Splinter's face let his smile immediately vanish.
Nothing more. Not this morning.
That was clear. He risked a glance to his right side. Raphael had his eyes closed and breathed deeply. Mikey surrendered to his fate and went back to meditation position. Eyes closed, deep breath, inhalate, wait. . .
It was useless. He just couldn't get this rhythm out of his head. What a catchy tune! Dap dap- he jiggled with his toes, opened his eyes- and found the nose of his master only an inch away from his own.
Mikey sighted inwardly and closed his eyes obedient. Okay, he had messed up in training this morning. Again. But this wrestling move looked so cool, how should he know it wouldn't work in reality if he didn't try it out? No need to make such a fuss.
He smiled again and remembered the song he was currently learning at his guitar. The training should be over in fifteen minutes, twelve, ten… He was counting backwards. Meditation was so boring!
Finally Splinter gave the signal to stand up. They all bowed before their master, then they left the dojo. At least Mikey intended to do so, but Splinter grabbed for his arm.
He turned around, feeling uncomfortable and expected the command to take over the chores, or to be grounded. But his master just looked into his eyes. He didn't seem to be angry, but to be . . . disappointed?
"Just what am I supposed to do with you."
Michelangelo swallowed hardly. Somehow, this hurt more than every punishment.
Leo had watched this little scene. When Splinter left, he came over.
"What's the matter, Mikey? Why do you always have to fool around? Isn't it possible for you to be serious for two or three hours?"
"Jeez, become finally adult!"
Mikey didn't know what to answer. Technically, they were all at the same age, but-
Leo left his brother standing in the dojo. Slowly, Mikey turned around and walked to his room. He closed the door softly, not in his usual "to-much-energy-to-be-careful" way. Donatello already had to change the door hinges two times. He sat down at his bed and looked around in his room as a stranger would do. Posters of the Silver Sentry and other heroes and comic book characters. Self-painted crayon-pictures of his family. Overloaded bookshelves, filled with mangas, comic books, DVDs and a few fantasy and science fiction novels. His electric guitar. An old computer Donnie had given him for games, so that he wouldn't occupy the living room for hours. Action figures. An old, very tousled teddy he just couldn't bear to part with. Paper models of Star Wars-spaceships. Show me your room and I tell you who you are. No, this didn't look like the place of an adult. It looked like a romper room.
He lay down at his bed. Right now, he didn't feel like playing guitar, or even like reading comic books. Leo was right, wasn't he? He really did behave like a child sometimes, but was it his fault that his brothers and his master were so deadly serious?
Mikey turned on his back. This was so unfair! Feeling deeply sorry for himself, he fell asleep. After a few hours, he woke up, just in time for the afternoon training. This time he wouldn't let his mind wander, he would stay focused! He knew he wasn't as strong as Raphael, as intelligent as Don or even close to be as skilled as his oldest brother, but he was faster and way more athletic. Ho bowed to his master, than to his first opponent: Raphael had a sneer in his face and twisted his sais, confident to win- five seconds and two well directed blows with Mikey's nunchakus later he stood disarmed before his "baby bro", and a kick sent him to the ground. Nonchalantly Mikey stretched out his hand and helped him up. Raph whistled commendatory and when Michelangelo turned around to Master Splinter, he nodded and said "well done". Mikey grinned happily and waited for Don to enter the sparring circle. He would beat him, too; even Leonardo, he would prove them he could be focused as well, that he was a true ninja as well- and as adult as them. He waited for Don to raise his bo staff-
And a wet, very very cold washcloth hit his face. Totally surprised, Mikey jumped up and almost fell out of his bed. Raphael stood beside him and shook his head derisively.
"Does our little baby need his afternoon nap?"
He didn't wait for an answer, but turned around to leave the room.
"Are you already allowed to play with weapons", he said without looking back. Luckily, so he couldn't see Mikey blush. He gripped his chuks, then hesitated. He already got his shell beaten up this morning once, so should he really go for a second bashing? Then he imagined Splinter's face, sighed inwardly and went to the dojo. No, a second round was definitely better than that look in his father's eyes again. As it would make a difference, he'd disappoint him anyway.
He tried. No one could claim else. No one except his three brothers. They almost seemed to have come to an agreement. Mikey, still sleepy, disorientated and lost in his own thoughts, wouldn't even have a change. At the end of the lesson, when they bowed before his master, he didn't dare to look in Splinter's eyes. He had been the "loser of the day" many times before, he never counted it- and he never cared. This time however, he had honestly tried, and he feared Splinter would see the humiliation in his eyes- or even worse, he would pity him. The aged rat seemed to have a sixth sense for his sons feelings, and normally Mikey found comfort in this assurance, yet now he just wanted to be alone, so he vanished after a short, ice-cold shower into his room. No one seemed to care.
He lay down at the bed again, staring at the ceiling. There it was, photos and self-made pictures of his family, arranged to a huge collage. A big, happy family. Yeah.
A gentle knock at the door snapped him out of his thoughts.
"May I enter?"
Mikey briefly considered to say no, but he knew he would never- as well as Splinter knew. Nevertheless, his master asked every time.
"Yes, of course", he sighed.
Splinter pushed the door open with his shoulder while balancing a tray with two teapots. Mikey stood up to help him, but his father denoted him to stay. Then he sat down next to him and handed him one of the teapots. Mikey wasn't to keen on green tea, but to please his father he sipped at the hot, bitter liquid. For a while there was silence. He inwardly hoped his father would leave, when he just kept quiet, but knew better. Splinter would stay as if he would have all time off the world - which he actually had - and wouldn't leave the room until his youngest son would bare his heart to him.
The tea was already cold when Michelangelo finally found the courage to speak.
"I'm sorry for messing up training- again", he said, eyes fixed to the opposite wall. He felt through the mattress how Splinter shifted his weight, then a soft hand touched his forearm.
"I am sorry, my son. I should not have talk with you like that this morning. You all have different skills and abilities, and I should not measure one of you against his brothers."
"So you think I am worse."
"Michelangelo. I demand discipline in the dojo, because an inattentive person is in danger- and a danger for his environment. It is not that I like it to scold you, or that I would prefer your brothers to you."
Michelangelo still refused to look at his master. Splinter sighed, than he grabbed the tablet and stood up.
"The highest expectations are usually set up by someone himself. That is, for example Leonardo's great strength, but also his greatest weakness."
Now Mikey looked up, confusion in his eyes.
"Because he is hardly ever satisfied with himself. He always goes further and further, and once he crossed a border he immediately sets up a new one. He never allows himself a break. Such an attitude can destroy you from within."
Michelangelo wasn't sure if he understood, but he nodded nevertheless.
"Rely on your own strength, my son", Splinter said, and left his son puzzled.
"It'd be much easier", Mikey though, "if he'd just say directly what he means."
Again, his gaze strolled through his room, when he made a mental stock check of his abilities.
Playing guitar- at least he thought so. His brothers usually fled with when he was playing, and Splinter was polish enough not to complain.
Painting- he knew he was good in that! Splinter had a few of his pics in his room at the wall. On the other hand, he even kept their doodles-of-two-years-old, so this did maybe not count.
Skateboarding- he grimaced and remembered lots of bruises, but he hadn't been severely hurt for a long time now.
Video games, inline skating, drawing comics- nothing that would earn recognition in his brother's eyes. And his father's? He wasn't sure. He knew that Splinter loved- and would love- him no matter what, but surely he would be glad if he would be more like Leonardo?
Leonardo. Mikey sighed and grabbed for a new-looking book on his book-shelf, which looked rather misplaced between the tattered, well thumbed novels and the glossy comic books. It was a birthday gift- or Christmas? He couldn't remember. He just remembered he had bought Leonardo a real great poster of Miyamoto Musashi, as he was depicted in Vagabond, and what did Mikey get? A redaction of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. That was so typical Leonardo!
Mikey thumbed through the pages. He hadn't even read it until now. Sure, he knew a lot of quotes from the book- Leo and Splinter cited them often enough- but he was never interested enough to actually toil through the hole thing.
He grabbed for a manga. Vagabond- the life of Miyamoto Musashi. That series inspired him enough to start with the "Book of Five Rings", which he didn't finish. But hey, he had tried it!
He looked at the two books in his hands. Yes, this was the difference between him and Leonardo. Very carefully, he replaced the two books in the bookshelf. Then he went out of his room, out of the lair, ignoring Leonardo's questions about his intent, and then he ran, ran until his legs shivered and his lungs were burning, ran until he had to lean to a wall to prevent to collapse, to tired even to sit down.
It was long after midnight, when he finally came home. The lair was dark, but when he tip-toed to his room a shadow emerged out of the even darker shadow of the sofa, and a furry hand enlightened a candle with a match.
Mikey closed his eyes, being ashamed. His father had been sitting here for all this hours, awaiting his return. He remembered that his shell cell rang a few times, but he was too distracted by his own thoughts to answer it. Sometimes, it was easier to think when his body was in movement. But Splinter shouldn't sit here in the cold. And yet-
"I'm sorry master", he bowed, "I'm fine, and very tired, and want to go to bed."
Splinter nodded pensively and Michelangelo fled into his room. Leonardo. Miyamoto Musashi. Sun Tzu and all this training. He'd never able to bet him. Roughly he pulled his blankets from his bed and threw them on the ground. Leonardo slept on a futon, and what Leo did, Mikey could do as well.
A penetrate beeping rudely awakened him. Spacy he raised his head and wondered why he looked at a bedpost. His head hurts, his legs hurts, his back hurts- now as he thought about it, pretty much his whole body hurt- except his nose, maybe.
He groaned in agony as he tried to stand up. Every muscle in his body seemed to have an agreement not to work today. He staggered to his bed and sat down. Yes, this would be a wonderful day.
Needless to say, morning training was a disaster. He got a few more bruises, even worse aching muscles and when Splinter said "Well done, Leonardo" he gritted his teeth. This was so unfair! Whatever he tried, nothing worked! He felt Splinter's gaze at his back when he left the dojo. Mikey would prove to him, and to his brothers as well, that he could be a great fighter as well. He would- just how.
Back in his room, he looked at the blankets at the ground at had to confess himself: No. No, he couldn't beat Leonardo like that. He was more trained, and one or two days wouldn't change that. And Splinter would not acknowledge it if he would use a trick- would he?
A true ninja is a master of himself and of his environment.
Yep, he had heard that many times before.
Rely on your strengths.
Do ninja use tricks?
A wide grin splitted his face almost in two halves.
Of course they do!
He jumped at his bed and grabbed for a bunch of comic books. When he found an edition of the Aquamariner, a plan grew in his mind…
"Dap dad a tatata…"
Splinter threw a stern look at his youngest and shook his head. Michelangelo couldn't care less. Michelangelo had been beaten by every one of his brother's, and by Splinter himself. Three times in a row. He hadn't even tried. The last night, he had felt pity for his son. He knew he gave his best, but had only a short span of attention. But now he had crossed a line. He wasn't just distracted, he simply didn't care! And was totally ignoring his master.
Mikey opened his eyes and looked at his master.
He didn't stop moving to the music in his head, a music Splinter couldn't hear.
Mikey nodded absently and looked the other way.
And that was just too much.
"Michelangelo! Ten flips!"
Michelangelo didn't even turn around to face him, instead he merely shrugged and strolled in the direction of his room. Leo grabbed for his shoulder.
"What's wrong with you?"
Michelangelo looked directly into his eyes.
"Let GO of me!"
He tried to act as calm as possible, but Leo knew this spark in his brother's eye.
"What are you about to do?" he asked suspicious, but Splinter already stepped to them- and Mikey just ran away.
Furious, Splinter ran after him. No one of his sons had ever disrespected him like this. Why would Michelangelo do this?
Mikey listened to the footsteps behind him. At short distances, Splinter was way faster than himself and his brothers, so he was the closest behind him. At long range, his age slowed him down, but his plan demanded that his master was shortly behind him.
Rely on your strengths…
He slowed down a bit, as he left their home and came close to a (relatively clean) canal, just enough for his master to grap for his arm. Then he suddenly turned around, tightly gripped for Splinter's arm, and let himself fall in the water. No one of them ever tried something like this, although it was the most obvious idea. Maybe too obvious…
Two, three strokes with his legs, and he was under water. Splinter wriggled in his grip, but Mikey didn't let go. As a reptile, he could stay far longer under water than his rat master, but he didn't wish to bring his father into danger. Luckily he didn't had to. Suddenly his master relaxed and gently touched Mikey's arm with his free hand. Surrender. He understood. Immediately Michelangelo pushed both of them to the surface.
His brother's greeted him with a thunderstorm of insults.
"Mikey you moron-" "Have you totally lost your mind?-" "Miiiikeyyyyy, youuuuuuu-"
Splinter raised a paw when his sons dragged him out of the water.
"No…it is… okay…he won."
"He did what?"
Three uncomprehending pairs of eyes looked at him, but Splinter smiled in the direction of his youngest, who grinned back. Yes, he understood. A rather unorthodox way to define his position, but Splinter understood.
"Well done", he said and bowed in front of his youngest.
Mikey was all smiles.
"Day's looser clears the dishes?"
Late at night, Splinter watched his youngest dawdling around in the lair. He had watched the reprise of his favourite daily soap opera, so he stayed up late, even when his sons were already in bed. Well, not all of his sons. Michelangelo beated about the bush and flashed a glance at him every now at then. Splinter smiled inwardly and opened his arms. His youngest grinned, bounced on the sofa and cuddled in his arms, as he did when he was way smaller.
Mikey grinned. No, Splinter was definitely not mad at him. Although it was great to be the WINNER for a change, it surely had it's pro's to be the youngest also, he thought as he snuggled against his father and watched the TV end credits together with him.