part 1

One of Michelangelo's first memories was of Master Splinter and his robe.

Mikey and his brothers were mere tykes at the time and of course anything that their Father did was fascinating to them. They had spent the day following him through the sewers as he searched for things they could use in their constant struggle to survive.

The four tots were crouched around an open manhole in an alley as Master Splinter searched through a dumpster in the warehouse district. He did not like for them to be above ground, but he liked it less that they be out of his sight, even for a few minutes.

Mikey held Raphael's hand while they waited. Raph was a bit larger than the rest of them even at that age, and Mikey always felt more secure when the emerald green skin was close to him. Raph seemed to know that; he never picked on Mikey when his little brother was really frightened or insecure.

Master Splinter was tossing old garments and rags into a pile near his adopted children. These things would be put to good use as bedding material for them; warm, soft and dry it would also be a cushion for their shells, providing them with a more restful sleep. Master Splinter needed for them to sleep better, if they could not sleep then neither could he.

Mikey saw his Father suddenly pause in his search and then leap down from the dumpster gracefully. A smile played across his furry face as he held up a brown robe; in excellent condition save for a large stain on the front of it.

Master Splinter sniffed gingerly at the stain and then nodded; tucking the robe beneath his arm and gathering up the collection of cloth that he had just scrounged.

When they reached the tunnel that served as their home, Master Splinter carefully placed the cloth so as to make a nest for his children and they quickly curled into it. Mikey had never slept on anything so comfortable; he felt as though he were resting on air.

The tot then noticed his Raphael was separated from him by his big brother Leonardo. Crawling over Leo, Mikey wedged himself between those two, despite the mild protest at the disturbance and the fact that Mikey had stepped on one of Donny's fingers while shifting.

Their Father watched them with amusement, waiting for them to settle again. Once he thought they were sleeping; Master Splinter brought out the robe and began to lick the stain.

He could just taste a hint of the cleaning solution someone had used on the spot of grease that stained the robe. Where the solution had failed, the wise rat's saliva did not. Soon the spot was gone; only a faint hint of slightly roughened cloth remained, and that was only visible in strong light.

Standing, Master Splinter pulled the robe around himself and belted it tightly. The fit was perfect and somehow the wearing of the garment made him feel much more secure in his role as Father and sensei to four adopted mutated turtle boys.

Unbeknownst to Master Splinter, Michelangelo was still awake. He had watched his Father clean the robe and then put it on. He had seen his Father twist and turn as he practiced moving while wearing an article of clothing; something none of them had done up until then.

The robe lifted the image of his Father a bit more in Mikey's estimation. People wore clothes and now their sensei had crossed the line into the world of the humans, and he had done it boldly, wearing a wide smile the entire time.

Mikey sighed and wiggled up closer to Raph, wrapping one of his arms around his brother. Raph stirred in his sleep, but didn't push the blue eyed turtle away. This was how they always slept; all four close together in a nest of a bed, with Mikey practically sharing the same space with Raph.

Master Splinter looked them over and touched each one lightly, feeling for the breath moving through their small bodies and the sound of their gentle sleep. He noted the position of the son he considered the youngest; not because of his actual age, which was completely unknown, but because of his demeanor within the family unit.

Each of his children had already been placed into a hierarchy in Master Splinter's mind, and he would begin grooming his children into their roles. Leonardo would be the leader; this he already knew, and would therefore be referred to as the oldest brother. Donatello was extremely inquisitive and intelligent, with a gentle, thoughtful nature. Master Splinter determined that his role would be that of the second oldest.

Raphael was a passionate and temperamental child. Aggressive and impatient, he was also extremely protective of his siblings, with a determined strength of both body and character. Master Splinter considered him the third oldest, but knew that his decision would be forever questioned by the son who in spite of his many gifts, was secretly a bit insecure.

Michelangelo had already shown a desire to covet his youngest sibling title, beguiling his family into giving him the best of the scrounged food or playthings. His penchant for playing pranks, even at such a young age, foretold of many hours of hurt feelings and arguments, but Master Splinter couldn't have quashed the boy's effervescent good humor even if he had wanted to.

Master Splinter noted how Michelangelo clung to Raphael even while they slept, and the faintest hint of a frown touched his whiskers. Perhaps he was seeing too much in a gesture that was probably done out of the need for a feeling of security, but Master Splinter sensed something more.

Shaking his head, he walked over to his own small nest and relaxed into it for the night. For now, he needed to worry about keeping his unusual family safe and healthy. They would have to move soon; their current habitation was much too close to the humans above them, and they had twice recently dodged work crews inside the sewers.

A new home, the mapping of tunnels and locations for reliable and consistent food were Master Splinter's first priority. Next he would begin teaching his children how to defend themselves, and how to avoid having to defend themselves.

In a corner recess of his mind he tucked away his concern about Michelangelo's small obsession with his brother Raphael. There it would remain until Master Splinter saw or heard something that would make it necessary to escalate that concern to a higher level.

For now, these turtles were mere tots trying to survive a cruel and unforgiving world. Master Splinter would fight to the death so that his sons could live in it, and hopefully find some small measure of happiness despite that fact that they were the only ones of their kind.