The Spirit of the Season
Mikey curled up on the couch, humming with excitement as Donnie turned on the television. It was the best thing Donnie had ever, ever made, but it broke really, really easy as Mikey had learned off and on throughout the summer so now Donnie was the only one allowed to touch it.
TV time was his very favorite time of day. But now that winter was coming, it was getting colder, even with Donnie's magic heat making machine. He liked that one too.
Shivering, he curled into Raph, who grumbled and bopped him on the head, but then put an arm around him to let him absorb some of their shared warmth. Raph was nice even if he didn't know it most of the time.
The screen filled with words that were supposed to tell them what was going to play. Leo looked over to Donnie.
"What's it say?"
"I don't know."
Wow. Mikey hadn't realized that there were things that Donnie didn't know. He couldn't wait to find out. Then the screen filled with magic and Mikey's whole world changed.
Splinter excitedly opened up his box of New Year stuff. Being only half way through December, it was a little early, but he couldn't help it. The holiday was just much more fun with children.
Granted, there were so many things he couldn't do. They had no one to send cards to. And even if they did have access to ingredients he knew that he didn't have the heart or ability to produce Shen's kuromame, kuri kinton and mochi. Once again he felt the familiar longing. She would have loved to see the boys enjoying the week long holiday.
The bells were here, though his sons loved them so much he was pretty sure they rang them much more than the traditional one hundred and eight times. And then there was the fukuwarai.
It was just an old paper plate with eyes, nose and mouth drawn and cut from other random scraps of paper but it was still a lot of fun to see what faces his blindfolded sons would produce.
And then there was Shen's hanetsuki equipment. He remembered watching her play it with Amaya as children, knowing that Amaya was always going easy on her twin. Those were happy memories.
And although it was more of a girl's game, his boys loved it, although they did play it with a lot more aggression and gusto than he'd ever seen. More like combat than a game really. After last year's battle royal, he'd been inspired to begin their ninjutsu training. Well begin it the following spring when the winter sluggishness had passed.
He wished his boys could play at takoage, but there was no way they could fly kites down here. Still it was nice time. They'd clean the lair from top to bottom, then he'd give them each some of the change that he'd found throughout the year as their otoshidama.
He'd recite what poetry he could remember and when December thirty first became January first they'd ring the bells. Then the games would continue well into the next week. He looked forward to their New Year celebration every year. It was a shame he couldn't take them up to see the first sunrise of the new year but the risk was too great.
"Sensei." A small voice pulled him out of his thoughts. He still wasn't quite used to them calling him that even though he'd begun their training months ago.
"Yes Michelangelo. Come in." The littlest turtle shuffled into his room.
"What is it my son?"
"Can you tell me about Christmas?" That pulled Splinter up short. Christmas? Where had Michelangelo heard about that? The television of course. Infernal box. What did he know about Christmas? He strained to recall.
He'd never really celebrated it in Japan, much preferring the New Year festivities. All that came to mind were vague memories about sponge cake and fried chicken. It was supposed to be a romantic, gift giving holiday, but and Shen had never really indulged it. However that wasn't Christmas in America.
He tried to remember his forays above in past years during this season. There were bedecked, glowing pine trees, a fat man in a red suit and a terrifying shopping frenzy. That's right. People went mad buying presents this time of year. Ugh. What was he supposed to tell his son that wouldn't sound greedy?
"I believe it is a time when people do nice things for each other." Michelangelo's blue eyes lit up.
"Like presents! From Santa!" Splinter sighed and rubbed his temples.
"Yes, I believe I've heard something like that." Michelangelo clapped excitedly.
"The TV was right! I'm going to write Santa a letter. The best letter ever. It's ok if Santa knows about us right?" Splinter sighed again.
"Yes, I suppose so." With a joyful squeal, his son leapt to his feet and ran out of the room. Oh dear. His sons would probably expect presents this year. What was he going to do?
Mikey went straight to his box of toys. They each had one, filled with things that Sensei found and thought they might like. His most prized possessions were his worn down crayons and used activity paper. He loved them and used them as carefully as possible, fearing that he would use them up and not have any left.
But this was special because it was Christmas. He pulled out the cleanest sheet that he could find and sat down to write. Hmm. He couldn't just write this for him. What about his brothers? Yes. The letter needed to be from all of them.
Leo focused on the kata with all his attention. It drove him nuts that Raph was better than him. Sure Raph enjoyed their training, sometimes more than it seemed like he should, but he didn't love Sensei's art. Not the way that Leo did.
Leo was enthralled with each and every new thing Sensei taught. He knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to be Sensei. And so he hung on every word, paid close attention to Sensei's every move and practiced more than was required.
Sure Raph had a natural talent for it, but Leo had discipline and dedication. If he only worked hard enough, he could be the best. Especially since Raph had little patience for things like katas.
"Hey Leo!" With a startled yelp, Leo tripped and fell over.
"What do you want from Santa for Christmas? I'm writing him a letter. Sensei said I could." Leo started to remind him of how Sensei told them that not everything the television said was true, but when he caught sight of Mikey's earnest blue eyes, he just couldn't. Well what harm was there in playing along?
What did he want? To be a great ninja master like Sensei. He was pretty sure that wasn't something you were supposed to ask Santa for. How would you wrap it?
Well, although he hadn't come across a specific one he liked yet on the many television programs, he did feel drawn to the idea of heroes. The thought of someone strong and brave that protected the weak and did what was right because it was right appealed to him greatly.
"I would like a story about a hero. The best hero ever!" Mikey bounced excitedly and he smiled. This was actually kind of fun.
"Got it!" And then his little brother was gone. It was a nice idea, but he hoped Mikey wouldn't be too disappointed if Santa wasn't real. Then again, what if he was?
Raph was doing one handed pushups, trying to make it to twenty five. He could go much higher with regular pushups but this was the first time he'd tried it one handed, so he'd set a modest goal. Then he could surpass it. That was always fun.
Katas and other form practice were extremely boring, especially compared to sparring, but Leo worked diligently at them and was getting better. A lot better. Raph loved being the reigning champion more than anything and couldn't stand the thought that he might start losing to Leo. He hated losing, but losing fights would be the worst.
He tried working on his form. He really did, but it was so hard to stay focused on it. Instead, he'd begun to switch over to doing extra conditioning exercises. Even if Leo got the moves just right, Raph could always overpower him with sheer strength.
Granted, the conditioning exercises weren't all that interesting either, but he could kind of zone out when he did them or turn them into a competition against himself. And he did enjoy competing. There was nothing quite like a challenge.
"Hey Raph!" Mikey landed on his shell slamming him into the ground with a loud 'oomph.' Growling, he flipped Mikey off of him and prepared to attack, but his little brother was too excited to notice.
"What do you want for Christmas from Santa? I'm writing him a letter." That gave Raph pause. His first reaction was to laugh and inform Mikey that there was no such thing and that he was being a baby.
But what if there was? Well, he knew exactly what he wanted. He'd seen them in commercials on the television.
"Action figures!" But not just any. He didn't want any boring soldiers or campy cartoon characters.
"Ninja action figures!"
"Got it!" And then Mikey was off. And despite the fact that he didn't believe in Santa, like some little kid, Raph couldn't help but smile and imagine what he was going to get.
Donnie carefully examined the small engine he was working on. Sure it wasn't an engine yet, but he could see how it would be. He just needed a few more pieces and if he couldn't find them, he'd make them. What would he power with it when he was done? There were so many possibilities.
"Hey Donnie!" Yelping in surprise, he almost dropped it, but caught it at the last second and turned to glare at his little brother.
"Mikey you're not supposed to be in here. I'm working on very delicate things."
"I'm writing a letter to Santa. What do you want him to give you for Christmas?" Donnie's first thought was 'Mikey writing?' followed closely by 'there's no such thing as Santa.' There couldn't be. As he'd watched the various Christmas specials during the season, he'd given the matter serious consideration. It just wasn't possible.
There was no mechanism for reindeer to fly and even if they did, there was nothing for them to push off of to pull a sleigh. And Santa's bag would need some kind of extra dimensional pocket to hold all the presents he needed to deliver, not to mention how he'd be able to find one specific present on demand at any given location.
Locations that didn't have chimneys most of the time even if this Santa person could spontaneously change mass. And he'd need to do some pretty crazy things to the space-time continuum in order to hit so many homes across the world in a single night. It simply wasn't possible.
But Mikey looked so…happy. His detailed explanation of why Mikey was being silly turned to ash in his mouth as he envisioned how crestfallen his cheerful little brother would be when he learned the truth.
It was inevitable of course that he would learn it when there were no presents Christmas morning, but Donnie didn't want to be the one directly responsible for crushing Mikey's hopes and dreams. And so he played along.
"Oh, any kind of tool would be nice."
"Got it!" And then Mikey was gone and Donnie frowned. He hoped Mikey wouldn't be too upset when this didn't turn out the way the television promised it would.
Splinter dug through the boxes of old clothes that would never fit him again. It wasn't that hard to find red, blue and purple garments, but orange was turning out to be a problem. And then he found a bathrobe Shen had once given him that he'd never worn.
Thank goodness for her sense of humor. He hadn't appreciated the gift at the time, but he was deeply grateful for it now. Her sewing supplies were in her craft box.
"Hey Sensei!" Splinter thrust the robe behind his back, surprised that he'd been too engrossed to notice Michelangelo's approach. Not that he'd had much time as his son had barreled into his room from the living area at top speed.
"What do you want from Santa for Christmas?" Touched as he was that his son had generously thought of him, he really didn't need to complicate this situation any more than necessary.
"Santa only brings presents to children." Mikey frowned, not satisfied with that. "Oh, ok. But what do you want?" Splinter sighed. He already felt bad that the gifts he was making, while practical, were unlikely to be anything his son would request, but he needed to give the child some sort of answer.
"I just want to see my family happy." Michelangelo brightened.
"Wow, that's a great gift idea. Got it Sensei!" And then he was off. Splinter could only hope that his gifts would be enough.
Mikey got back to his crayons and sat down to write, until it occurred to him that he didn't know how. But Donnie did. Time to brave the lab again. He shuffled in shyly. Donnie was back to work on his thingamawhatzit.
"Donnie?" His brother sighed and turned around.
"What now Mikey?" He held up the paper and his crayon.
"Can you help me write the letter?" Donnie's expression softened.
Splinter quickly determined that he would need scissors for his project and headed out towards Donatello's lab. It still seemed odd to think of it as that, but it truly had become the domain of his brilliant young son.
As he passed the living area, he saw Michelangelo's crayons and coloring pages spread out on the floor. He had occasionally come across them in restaurant dumpsters. The crayons were usually broken or worn down to nubs and even the most unspoiled of the children's placemats were still already colored on, but he taken them when he found them and they were his youngest son's treasures.
Perhaps if he paid closer attention during his surface sojourns over the next year, he'd be able to give Michelangelo some very nice crayons and coloring paper for next year's Christmas. But that didn't help him now.
He could hear voices in the lab as he approached. He quietly ghosted in to retrieve a pair of scissors from the tool bench. Michelangelo sat beside Donatello hunched over something. He drifted closer, careful not to attract their attention. Donatello had a ratty old spiral notebook and some mostly spent pens that he'd salvaged for him and Michelangelo had his paper and crayon.
"See the 'e' needs to face this way. Copy it the way I've written it." Smiling, he decided not to disturb his son's writing lesson and went to return to his room. Stumbling across moments like this always lifted his mood and warmed his heart.
Donnie cringed at the sounds coming from his lab as he approached. Who else would be up so early? Oh no his engine! He darted inside and saw, to his relief, that his project was untouched. Following the sounds, he saw Mikey rummaging around in his scrap box.
"Mikey?" His brother spun around, abashed at being caught red handed.
"Uh hi Donnie."
"You know that you're not supposed to be in here. Especially alone." He nodded contritely but almost immediately got over it.
"Can I have these?" Mikey held out an old wire coat hanger and a wad of tangled paper clips imploringly. There were so many ways that Donnie could use them, but if they kept Mikey busy and out of his lab it was worth the investment.
"Fine." They stood awkwardly for a moment. He wasn't leaving.
"What is it Mikey?"
"Can you help me untwist it and cut it up?" He held up the coat hanger expectantly, giving him those sad, pleading eyes. Unable to refuse when Mikey gave that look, Donnie sighed.
"Hang on while I get my wire snips."
Mikey crouched at the entrance to the dojo, watching as Sensei swept up the floor as he did every morning, so that they wouldn't step on anything sharp that fell through the grate above the tree during practice.
He backed out of the dojo and ducked behind the stairs as Sensei left the dojo to empty the dust pan in the kitchen trash. When he father had returned to his room to do that thing where he sat with his eyes closed before morning training, Mikey scurried over to the kitchen trash.
He wasn't allowed to leave the lair to find things, but if things fell into the lair, he could use them, right? His eyes widened as he looked in with wonder. Amid the rubbish were sparkly bits of different colored glass, shining like crystals. Ooohhh.
And then he saw it. The perfectly round bottom of a clear glass bottle. It was perfect!
Mikey yawned his way through practice as he had for days. He'd been working very hard and staying up later than he was allowed, but it was totally going to be worth it. Hmm, something was still missing.
Ah! The lair! It didn't look very Christmasy. That would make Santa sad, wouldn't it? He could ask Sensei for some socks after practice, to hang up as stockings, probably on the weapon wall since they didn't have a fireplace.
But that wouldn't be enough. He needed something, extra, extra special. Like a Christmas tree! He stopped training and gazed up at the dojo tree. It wasn't exactly right, but maybe…
"Yaaaah." He hit the ground hard as Raph plowed into him.
"Ugh." Maybe he should think about this after training.
Splinter stretched and rubbed his tired eyes. He wasn't up and taking care of the dojo at the usual time, but he had managed to finish his son's presents and a full day early at that as it was Christmas Eve.
Gasps of awe drew him out of his room and he saw Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello gazing up at the dojo tree. It glittered in the morning light filtering in through the ceiling grate, catching on countless pieces of broken glass, wrapped in paperclips and hanging throughout the branches.
At the top was a paper star colored in with yellow crayon and beneath the tree was Michelangelo, curled up and sleeping. The tree, already a decent size when he'd brought it down, had grown rapidly once planted, making it quite large. His son must have been up all night to produce this marvel.
"I think we can skip training today." He announced as he scooped up his sleeping child and carried him to the couch.
He woke up early Christmas morning to lay out his gifts, only to discover, to his surprise, that there were presents already under the tree. They were wrapped in newspaper, colored with crayons and he suspected that he knew where they had come from.
He carefully place his gifts underneath each color coded present and waited for his sons to arrive. He thought he might be waiting awhile, until he heard Michelangelo running around, waking up his brothers to their very vocal dismay. Eight eyes widened as they saw the presents under the tree and descended on them.
"Ooooh soft." Michelangelo wrapped himself in his new orange blanket, as his brothers did the same with their own to keep the winter chill off as they examined their other presents. He was glad his boys liked what he'd made them and couldn't help thinking how cute they all looked bundled up.
Raphael was the first to tear into his gift, finding two wire figurines inside.
"Ninja action figures!" Michelangelo announced cheerfully and Raphael gave his brother a rare hug.
"Thanks Mikey!" Donatello opened his next. It looked like a glass disk wrapped in wire that held it by the edges and formed a handle below.
"It's a detective looking thing!" Donatello blinked at Michelangelo.
"A magnifying glass?"
"Yeah, what I said." It looked like Donatello was about to correct his brother, but just shook the thought away.
"Thanks Mikey. It's great." Now it was Leonardo's turn. They all looked on in puzzlement at the series of crayon drawings tied together by a string through a hole in the corner.
"It's a story about a ninja hero!" Michelangelo looked expectantly at his oldest brother, who smiled at him in return.
"Thanks Mikey. I love it." To Splinter's surprise Michelangelo ran up to him with one last package colored brown and pink.
"This is for you Sensei." Unprepared, he carefully unwrapped the fragile, flat gift. It was a crude, childish drawing of him and his boys and he loved it.
"It's our family, happy!" He embraced his littlest son.
"Thank you my son. It's perfect. But what about you Michelangelo?"
"I got everything I asked for Sensei!" And then Michelangelo was back over by Leonardo.
"Do you want me to read you the story?" Leonardo laughed.
"Sure." They clustered together at the base of the tree with Raphael as Michelangelo began reciting a story to accompany his drawings. Where was…? With a gasp, he dashed over and stopped Donatello from setting the carpet on fire as he'd already learned to use the glass to focus the sunlight.
"Why don't you join your brothers Donatello?" His abashed son, who despite his intelligence could still be a foolish child, rubbed the burn mark and nodded.
"Sorry Sensei." Kids.
Smiling, he went to the kitchen to hang up Michelangelo's family portrait on the refrigerator. As he was returning to the dojo to listen to the story, he saw a piece of paper tucked into the living room tree house. Curious he pulled it free and opened it.
Me and my brothers live in the sewers in New York City. Leo wants a book about heroes. Raph wants some ninja action figures and Donnie wants tools. I know you're super busy, so don't worry. I can handle it. For me, I want my family to have the best Christmas ever. Thank you Santa.
This holiday didn't need to be a consumer extravaganza of greed. Perhaps there was room for Christmas alongside of New Years. He'd be sure to make next Christmas extra special.
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