*I've been chasing a plot bunny since last night, and this is the result. If you're familiar with my other stories, this one is a little different. I decided to forgo my collection of OC's and my complicated story-line to return to their roots. It also gives me a chance to get another injection of Splinter - something I've been craving, thanks to Mikell.

Fear not readers, I have not abandoned Redemption. I've finished writing it, and it's not ending any time soon. Actually, it's just starting to heat up. ;) This "Oneshot" focuses back on the turtles teenage days, before any of my OC's were a twinkle in their eye.

I do not own the TMNT...I just enjoy playing in their world. Thanks for reading.

The repetitive dripping was the sound that called the turtle back to reality. A flash of irritation coursed through his mind, as he reached for his pillow to muffle the disturbance. He was surprised when his arm struggled to obey the mental command, shuddering with the effort it took to raise it a few inches.

Shell, why can't I even...

The thought trailed off his arm came crashing back down, and shooting pain ran through the limb like a current of electricity. A groan escaped through his gritted teeth, but he was no less determined to accomplish something. The turtle blinked rapidly as he opened his eyes, and tried to distinguish his surroundings. It was so dark he could barely see a thing; tiny shafts of light struggled to penetrate the shadows.

All at once, the turtle became acutely aware of a nauseating stench, which produced an uncontrollable urge to get sick. The speed with which he turned his head only made the sensation worse. As he threw up violently he was overwhelmed by the splitting pain in his head, and embarrassed of losing control of his stomach.

The all-over ache was registering more like a fiery burn by the time he was finished. Disgust twisted through his gut and fueled the turtle's desire to escape the mess he'd created. He summoned his energy to attempt another move, his body protesting every inch that he pushed. He doggedly continued shifting little by little, until he'd rolled onto his other side.

The stench was no better, but at least he'd managed to do something. The turtle exhaled shakily - an action that barely constituted breathing. He steeled himself to take a deeper breath, but it wasn't worth the agony that exploded in his plastron. Shallow breathes were better than nothing. The turtle focused on maintaining a small intake of air, with the least pain possible. He started trying to assess his situation, but the smell was so powerful, it was difficult to think about anything else.

Man, I really don't want to throw up again. I've got to get out of...wherever here is.

The turtle tried to work his way up into a sitting position, but rather than getting anywhere, it felt like he was sinking. He fought to keep from being swallowed by the unseen mass beneath him, but struggling only seemed to make him sink faster. It was a useless effort to start with; he didn't possess the energy to fight against the darkness that was overwhelming

him. Intense weariness pulled on his eye-lids, their sheer weight driving them closed.

I can't give up this easily, I have to get up! I have to find them.

Disorganized thoughts swam through his mind as reality faltered.

Are they lost...or am I?

For some reason the question triggered a jolt of panic that had him gasping for air.

Can't breathe, I can't...

The turtle's body trembled as he tried to force air through his lungs, and felt tears escaping to his own shame. The utter helplessness of being trapped and worthless invited a tide of tears that he didn't want to give in to.

Where are they? They're always here. Did they catch them, are they hurt?

He wanted to breathe, cry out, and throw up all at the same time. But more than that, he wanted his brothers; he wanted them to understand that he needed them. Darkness tugged at his mind, making further contemplation difficult. The turtle gasped for air one last time, before the final fringe of consciousness fled from him.

Splinter was finished pacing, and finished waiting. The incessant twilight of their underground home made it impossible to distinguish what time of day it was - but he knew. The rat knew it was far too close to daylight, and his missing son was still that: missing.

His tail flicked back and forth with irritation as he looked down at the cell-phone in his hand. Splinter had always felt like the technology was over his head, but Donatello had done what he could to make the device easier for him to use. Calling his absent son only required the use of a single digit on the phone - what Donatello referred to as a "speed-dial".

Splinter had used it a number of times already, without having any success in reaching his son. Something was wrong; he knew something was wrong without even speaking to the turtle. He had a tendency to worry whenever his young teenage sons spent an extended amount of time on the surface - but never more than when one of them was off alone.

The three had returned much earlier that night from their typical exercises on the city heights, which served more for their entertainment than anything else. Only one had separated from the group, choosing to remain on the surface.

I trust my boys. They have trained hard, and they understand the need for caution. But they are still so young, and at times...reckless.

Splinter looked at the clock again. There was only a little over an hour and a half before daybreak. It would take a few minutes to reach the street level, meaning even less time to devote to a search.

I should have acted hours ago, when I could not sleep. Now time runs short, and I have no one to blame but myself.

The rat was sorely tempted to go alone. To risk his sons against the rising sun was not an idea he relished. He would have preferred to seek for his missing son on his own, trusting his intuition to help him find the turtle. For the moment, however, his confidence in his instincts felt shaken.

I have come to expect to feel anxious when they choose to wander, and so I fought the urge tonight, instead of taking it seriously. The other boys may hold the key to where he has gone. We're going to have to do this together. What would they think if I simply left without them? I do not wish to encourage any more of this 'loner' behavior. I suppose the example must start with me.

With a heavy sigh Splinter started for the staircase, and leaned hard on the banister as he climbed to the second level. The rat paused by the first door he came to, and softly opened it without making a sound. His eyes rested on the empty top bunk for a few seconds, before he turned to the turtle sleeping on the bottom.

"My son."

The young turtle stirred with a grunt. "Sensei? What time is it?"

"Early, but you must get up, my son. We have precious little time to waste."

"What's going on, Sensei?"

"Your brother has not come home, and the day is close to beginning. We must fetch your other brothers, and move quickly to search for him."