Boys Will Be Boys
Of all the things on Master Splinter's face at the moment, his frown was probably the most prominent.
Two of his tween boys were safely at home, each studying the assignments given to them by their Father. One had tackled his work with a sense of duty, the other because he truly enjoyed learning.
However, two chairs at the study table were empty; two books closed and awaiting the students who had been assigned to them. When their Father had asked about his errant children, the two most responsible youngsters had disavowed any knowledge as to their whereabouts.
Master Splinter immediately went out into the sewer tunnels in search of his brightly banded sons. He didn't think Raphael and Michelangelo were purposely avoiding their school work; although neither of them was enthusiastic about it, he was sure they had merely lost track of time.
That thought added speed to his feet. His children had been told repeatedly not to wander far from their home; it was far too dangerous for them as the odds for their being seen increased the further away they traveled. Being youthful mutated turtles and ninja's in training made the two youngest boys slightly reckless.
Their Father knew that they were also bored. It was a time in their lives when they wanted a certain amount of independence and freedom and Master Splinter felt badly for them; they would never get to have a normal existence.
Empathizing with them and allowing them to disobey him were two different things. Master Splinter's nose lifted at a tunnel junction and he caught their scent, following it until he heard the sounds of giggling and muted whispers.
Rounding a bend in the tunnel on silent feet, Master Splinter stopped to watch what his sons were doing. Beneath a grate in the sidewalk, Michelangelo was seated on Raphael's shoulders, one arm extended so that he could poke something through the opening.
Michelangelo's arm moved slightly and he clapped his free hand over his mouth to mute the snickering that he was unable to contain. Raphael was biting his lower lip in what appeared to be an attempt to refrain from laughing as well.
Suddenly Michelangelo yanked his arm down and nimbly leaped from Raphael's shoulders. Both boys threw themselves back against the shadowed tunnel walls as a voice from above yelled down at them, ``Where are you, you little shit! Don't think I can't see you!''
Unable to contain their laughter, Michelangelo and Raphael spun away from the grate and ran down the tunnel. When Master Splinter stepped out in front of them, both skid to a stop so quickly that they fell on their rears.
``M . . . Master Splinter!'' Raphael spluttered, recovering his voice first.
Michelangelo's grin was sheepish. ``Hi Father,'' he said in what he hoped was a disarming lilt.
Clutched in his hand was a twenty dollar bill.
With lightning speed, Master Splinter snatched the money from his youngest son and held it between two fingers, his eyes narrowed at the boys. Michelangelo bit off his groan of protest when he saw the look on his Father's face.
``This is my payment for the time I had to spend in searching for you,'' Master Splinter told them in an ominously deep voice. ``Your punishment for missing class is that you will both write an essay on the dangers of `grate fishing' and you will likewise be assigned an extra hour of mathematics.''
His children looked at each other with fallen expressions and got to their feet.
``Geez Master Splinter, we were just having a little fun,'' Raphael protested.
Turning to lead the way home and to hide the pained expression on his face, Master Splinter said, ``I understand that better than you may think, my son.''
``You know what? Sometimes it sucks to be barefoot all of the time,'' Mikey announced, trying not to let anything other than the tips of his toes touch the ground.
Don was supporting most of his weight as they made their way back to the lair. Mikey had refused Don's offer to carry him because he knew they would meet up with Raph and Leo somewhere along the way and he didn't want to be teased by his red banded brother.
``I wish you'd swallow your pride and let me carry you,'' Don said, almost as though reading Mikey's thoughts. ``You are going to shove that glass further into your feet and make it that much harder for me to dig it out. You know I can handle your weight.''
``Yeah I do, Donny,'' Mikey said.
He did know it; Don could carry him, the forty pound duffel he always hauled around, and any number of other things if need be. Not letting Don toss him over a shoulder was not just about pride though.
``If you make this bad enough for me to have to surgically remove the glass, you're going to be laid up for a while,'' Don warned.
``And if Leo sees you carrying me, he's gonna make it damn hard for the two of us to go anyplace alone,'' Mikey pointed out. ``It's bad enough he thinks you're easily distracted and that I'm a goof off. My having to be carried home would just prove his point.''
Don made an exasperated noise in his throat. ``What we just went through could very easily have happened to Raph and Leo. Going to the junkyard for the things we need is a necessity, Mikey. It just so happened that the Foot picked tonight to stake out our hunting grounds. We taught them a lesson and we got away.''
Mikey grimaced. ``It would have been better if we'd gotten away without either of us getting hurt. I think they broke that stack of glass doors on purpose.''
``Of course they did,'' Don said. ``That mad scramble of yours over the pile of windows and doors was a brilliant maneuver, but it reminded them that we don't wear any shoes.''
``I wasn't trying to be brilliant,'' Mikey admitted, ``I was trying to pull their attention off of you.''
Don stopped suddenly and made Mikey sit down. Squatting next to him, Don asked, ``You did what?''
Mikey looked up at him, his blue eyes wide. ``They were almost on top of your hiding place, Donny. If I hadn't broken cover and distracted them, they would have captured you. Or worse.''
``Mikey.'' Don cupped his brother's cheek and leaned down to touch his forehead to Mikey's. ``You are not a goof off. Leo doesn't really think that and I know I don't. In fact, I always feel extraordinarily safe when you're around.''
``You do?'' Mikey whispered.
``I actually do, you know. For sheer skill and wit, I'd match you against either of our brothers any day. So let Leo make noises; it helps him get past his anxiety, and Raph's bluster helps mask his fear. No one is going to stop us from going out together when we want to,'' Don told him.
``Okay,'' Mikey smiled and struggled to his feet. ``You know, you were pretty wicked with that rear attack once the Foot turned their backs on you.''
Don grinned. ``Wait until we get home and I've taken care of your bare feet. I'll show you another really wicked rear attack.''
Both Raph and Mikey simultaneously reached for the last burrito. Their hands gripped opposite ends at the exact same moment. The glares they shot across the table at one another were matching.
``The last one's mine, Mikey,'' Raph growled.
``I don't see your name on it,'' Mikey shot back.
Neither relented though they didn't begin tugging on the food. Completely destroying the burrito would have been counterproductive, not to mention the fact that Master Splinter really disliked having them fight over a meal.
``You were the first one to the table. You've had your share,'' Raph said.
``I was the first because I cooked the burritos,'' Mikey said. ``And for your information, I didn't start eating until after you guys because I had the second batch to finish.''
``Next you're gonna tell me ya' didn't taste anything while ya' was cooking it,'' Raph sneered.
``For your information, I did not,'' Mikey snapped. ``This last one should be mine out of consideration for me cooking in the first place.''
``Ya' cooked `cause it was your turn,'' Raph pointed out. ``It wasn't like ya' was doin' us any favors.''
``Fine,'' Mikey said with a huff. ``Let's do rock, paper, scissors for it.''
Raph leaned forward. ``Uh, uh. No way. Ya' always cheat at rock, paper, scissors.''
``How does someone cheat at rock, paper, scissors?'' Mikey asked in exasperation. ``It's not my fault you're totally predictable.''
Raph set the elbow of his free hand on the table without relinquishing his hold on the burrito.
``We'll arm wrestle for it,'' Raph said with a smirk.
Mikey lifted an eye ridge. ``Are you nuts? What would ever make you think I'd fall for that?''
``Chicken shit,'' Raph said. ``Ya' afraid of a little manly competition?''
``I'm equal parts brain and brawn,'' Mikey said. ``All of your brains sank into your arms a long time ago. Pick something that's more fair.''
``Guys,'' Leo hazarded, ``perhaps you should . . . .''
``Stay out of this, Fearless,'' Raph interrupted. ``How about we lift our hands off, count to three, and the first one to touch it gets the burrito.''
``Okay,'' Mikey said. ``You let go first.''
Raph laughed humorlessly. ``Ri~ght. I still got plenty of brains little brother. Ya' let go first.''
``Let's count to three and both let go,'' Mikey said.
``No way,'' Raph said, shaking his head. ``You'll grab it and stuff it in that big mouth of yours as soon as I take my hand off of it.''
``That's exactly what you were gonna do,'' Mikey said.
Raph shifted in his chair. ``I'll stay like this all night if I have ta,'' he said stubbornly.
``Be my guest,'' Mikey said, likewise finding a more comfortable position. ``I can sit up longer than you any day.''
Don covered his mouth to hide a smile. The fight over that stupid burrito was fast falling into the realm of ridiculous.
``It'll be a cold day in hell before ya' beat me at anything,'' Raph said.
``I whip your butt all the time,'' Mikey sneered. ``I don't mind doing it again.''
Before Raph had a chance to respond, a flash of cold steel swept through the air between their hands and neatly sliced the burrito in half.
Mouths open in astonishment, Don, Mikey and Raph all turned to look at Leo, who was sheathing his katana.
``The fucking hell!'' Raph exclaimed.
``Thanks for leaving my fingers,'' Mikey croaked.
``Leo, what were you thinking?'' Don asked.
Leonardo rubbed his forehead. ``They were giving me a headache,'' he said.