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Nature Versus Nurture (Part III) Devotion Or Deception

By flikaroo

Other / Adventure

A Lonely Brother

For the past six months, when Michelangelo wasn’t forced into training with Master Splinter or doing chores, he could be found in the same spot.  Sitting on the couch, blankly staring at the television. 

Klunk leapt up onto the couch.  The feline placed an orange paw on Michelangelo’s arm.


The distracted turtle didn’t even flinch at the contact.

Klunk placed a second paw onto Mikey and tried again.


Receiving no response, Klunk curled up next to cat dad. 

The distracted turtle didn’t make a sound when his best friend had entered the lair.

April O’Neil shifted the packages in her arms.  She called out a greeting as she headed towards the kitchen. 

Silently emerging from his room, Master Splinter nodded as he welcomed the red head.  He moved to help her unload the bags.  “Ms. O’Neil.”

“Hi Master Splinter.”  April gave the old rat a warm smile.  Her smile fell as she asked.  “How’s he doing?”

A flicker of sadness flashed across Splinter’s face as he replied.  “I’m afraid that Michelangelo’s mood has not changed.”

After putting the goods away, April joined Master Splinter at the kitchen table.  A cup of hot tea was placed in front of her.

Absently running her finger along the rim of the cup, April sighed.  “It’s been six months Master Splinter.”

Sitting down beside her Splinter nodded, then sipped his tea.  “Michelangelo is still grieving over the loss of his brothers.”

A frown crossed April’s face.  She had recently read about the Kübler-Ross model.  The model outlines the 5 stages of grief.  Let’s see the five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  But Michelangelo has been stuck on the same stage for six months now, depression.

April gently blew on the tea to cool it, before taking a sip.  A comfortable silence joined the red head and the Ninjitsu master as they sat in the kitchen. 

Eventually Klunk sauntered over and began rubbing against April’s legs. 

The red head reached down as she began scratching the cat under the chin.  “Hi Klunk.”


Satisfied with the display of affection Klunk walked away.

Noticing the time, Splinter rose from his chair.  He lightly squeezed April’s hand as he spoke.

“Please excuse me, for I must partake in my evening meditation.  It’s always a pleasure to see you Ms. O’Neil.  You are welcome to stay as long as you like.”

Giving Splinter a warm smile of her own, April nodded.  After watching the old rat leave the kitchen, her gaze wandered over to Michelangelo.  Her depressed friend had not moved from his spot in front of the television. 

April looked down at the cup in her hands and swirled the tea leaves.  Her thoughts wandered back to the five stages of grief.  The book I read said that the depression stage shifts over time.  Typically sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. 

April’s eyes wandered back over to Mikey sitting on the couch.  And the person may be blaming themselves, taking responsibility for their action where something has gone wrong.  Master Splinter said that Mikey argued with Raph and Donnie before they left the lair.  I don’t know what it was about, but maybe he feels guilty?

Finished with her tea, April turned in her chair, facing the living room.  She crossed her arms in front of her chest.  Let’s see, first you’re supposed to be there for them, accept their misery. 

April scoffed.  Well I’ve been doing that for the past 6 months. 

The red head narrowed her eyes and she continued.  The second thing to do is to keep them moving.  And to show them there is a light ahead; encourage them to reach towards it.  April tilted her head, deep in thought.  Well, the moving part is easy.  I know that Master Splinter is still making Mikey train every day.  But he’s been training for the past 16 years, it’s a routine by now.  Maybe that’s not enough?

Suddenly the answer popped into her head.  And it was so simple.  April could have smacked herself in the forehead for not realizing it sooner.  Of course!  Mikey needs a reason to get moving again.  And I’ve got just the thing.  With a satisfied smile, April headed towards her friend.

Michelangelo did not shift his gaze from the television.  He felt the couch shift from April’s added weight.  The disheartened turtle knew that he had been an awful friend to April lately.  He just couldn’t help himself.  Six months had passed, with no word from any of his missing older brothers.  Mikey snuck a quick glance towards the dojo.  No sounds of swords cutting through the thin air.  No grunts and thumps from fists striking the heavy bag.  Mikey stole a brief look towards the laboratory.  No noises from the tinkering of unknown inventions within the lab.  Mikey held back a sigh. Oh how he missed his brothers.  And it was all his fault.

The orange masked turtle felt numb and hollow, like the leftover shells after a steamed lobster dinner.  Mikey’s thoughts wandered to the all too familiar topic of his missing bros.  Leonardo, left on a self-sacrificing mission to take control of the Foot Clan.  He was convinced it was the only way to bring order to the streets of New York City.  I should have done more.  Let him know that he is not just a leader, but also family.  I should have told Leo that he’s not just my protector, but also my brother.  And Raphie, first I yelled at him, blamed him for supporting Leonardo.  And then he stormed out of the lair.  Fueled by the anger from a conversation with Donnie that I still don’t know the cause of.  I don’t know where he went, or why he was so mad.  And Donnie, poor Donnie.  He snuck out of the lair after I yelled at him.  After I accused him, blamed him, as the turtle responsible for both Leo and Raph leaving.  Michelangelo’s stomach lurched, the all too familiar pang of regret slowly building inside of him.  Completely absorbed in his misery, Mikey jumped when he felt a warm hand grab his wrist. 

Mikey turned his head, the startled look on his face telling April she had to repeat herself.  “Mikey, are you hungry?  I brought pizza.”

Too upset to eat, he shook his head.  No.

Sliding her hand into Mikey’s own, the red head began rubbing a finger against her friend’s palm, attempting to offer comfort.  April hoped her ramblings would get through to her distracted friend. 

Michelangelo only half listened as April’s voice droned on in the distance, like the constant buzz of a fly near his ear.  “I don’t blame you, I’m not hungry either.  I had pizza for dinner yesterday anyway.  And I need to save my appetite.  I have a date tonight with this guy I met.  I don’t know where we are going for dinner, but I hope the food is good.”

Mikey had zoned out immediately when April started rambling.  But then something she said broke through his thoughts.  I have a date tonight with this guy I met.  He grasped April’s hand tighter.

April smiled as her overprotective friend’s instincts kicked in.  Finally, got him!

For the first time in months, Mikey turned and focused 100% of his attention on his friend.  “Date?  What date?”

April knew that Mikey saw her as more than just a friend, he treated her like she was his sister.  A sister that was going out on a date.  Alone.  With a stranger.  She pulled her hand out of his grasp.  Now that Mikey had nibbled on the bait, it was time to sink the hook and catch her fish, or in this case, turtle.  “Yeah, I have a date tonight with this guy I met.”

Mikey narrowed his eyes.  He had already lost all of his brothers.  The caring turtle wasn’t about to lose his best friend too.  “You can’t go out on a date.”

April frowned at him.  “And why not?”

Mikey started waving his hands around with his words.  “Because you’ll be all alone.  With a complete stranger.  He could be working for the Foot Clan.  Or the Purple Dragons.  Or be some kind of crazed psycho!”

April had to bit the inside of her lip to keep from breaking into a smile.  Michelangelo always over reacted to her dating.  Instead, she gave her friend a stern look.  The stubborn red head crossed her arms in front of her chest.  “I’m going on this date Mikey.  You can’t stop me and you know it.”

Mikey grunted his displeasure with her decision. 

Uncrossing her arms, April placed a hand on his forearm.  “But you’re welcome to watch over me tonight.  Make sure I stay safe.”  Then she leaned forward.  “If you promise to stay in the shadows.”

Frowning and seeing no other options, Mikey nodded.

Michelangelo sat at the kitchen table in April’s apartment.  He half-heartedly nibbled on a slice of cold pizza he found in her refrigerator.  This wasn’t the first time the orange ninja had kept a watchful eye on his good friend during a date.  But the worst part, was waiting for her to get ready.  That woman took forever!

As he waited, Michelangelo’s eyes surveyed the apartment.  It had been months since he stopped by for a visit.  His thoughts turned back to his missing brothers.  Sitting with Raphael in April’s living room as they played video games.  Hovering over Donatello’s shoulder as he typed fast and furiously on April’s laptop at her desk.  And finally, joining Leonardo at the kitchen table as the leader sipped his tea.  Mikey let out a sigh as he leaned his chin into his hand. 

April clearing her throat regained Michelangelo’s attention. “Ahem.” 

The orange clad turtle turned in his seat and let out a gasp.  “Whoa, April!”

The red head spun, showing off her date night outfit with a radiant smile.  “You like it?”

He enthusiastically nodded.  Then Mikey jumped out of his seat and engulfed April in a firm hug.  “Dudette, you look amazing!”

April blushed at the sign of affection.  “Aww, thanks Mikey.”

Pulling out of the embrace, Mikey stared into her eyes.  The sorrowful expression on his face, matched his tone.  “No really Ape, you really are amazing.  Any guy would be lucky to have you as his girl.  I’m blessed to have you as my friend, my sister.  I’m sor-“

April put her finger to Mikey’s lips, cutting him off.  “Mikey, don’t.  I understand.  And I don’t think your brothers are gone for good either.  They’ll come back, you’ll see.”

A flash of hope crossed his face.  “Thanks Ape.”

Suddenly Mikey’s face changed, into the mischievous grin April had not seen in a very long time.  She raised an eyebrow.  “Mikey?”

He swatted her rump, causing April to let out a yelp.  “Come on hot stuff!”

Giggling, the prankster then shouted over his shoulder as he bolted for the window.  “We can’t keep your prince charming waiting.”

April growled as she headed for the door, but had a grin across her face.  Her good friend was finally starting to snap out of his depression.  “Mikey!”

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