Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

The Turtles and Allies Fan Club

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine (except for any kids other than Zach and Caitlyn) and the story is! This is mostly a sweet slice-of-life so the characters can have a little break from the chaos, but some upcoming adventures are hinted at! ThickerThanLove helped a great deal with various elements. I also drew from my personal experiences with kids and named a few after kids I know. This is part of my Exit the Fly verse. Baxter is human again and an ally of the Turtles. His brother Barney no longer works for Shredder.

Barney was sitting on the couch, reading a scientific magazine. On the other couch, Vincent was laying across the cushions, one leg up and bent at the knee while the other leg crossed over it. They were both fairly relaxed, but Vincent seemed to be sending a message.

"Something from Zach?" Barney guessed without looking up.

"Yes," Vincent chirped. "He's very excited about something. He says that he's been taking computer classes on my suggestion and that a lot of the kids in the class like the Turtles. And us. And he says their interest isn't casual and waning, like the other kids he knew of before."

"Good." Barney was still staring at the article in front of him. "He needs more friends. And I imagine it would be far easier for him to get along with children who appreciate the Turtles almost as much as he does."

"No doubt. He says there's something he wants to tell all of us and can we come to the pizza place by Channel 6 after school."

Barney shrugged. "There shouldn't be anything holding us up."

"I didn't think so," Vincent agreed. "So I just told him we'd be there."

Barney nodded and turned the page.

For another several minutes there was silence. Then, finally, Barney set the magazine aside and looked up. Vincent seemed content; his arms were behind the laptop and he was staring up at the ceiling. One foot was in motion as he laid there, deep in thought. Barney finally shook his head and looked away.

He could have lost Vincent during that electrical storm. The control room console was repaired now and everything was back to normal, but Barney was still shaken by the events of the night and what had nearly happened. The electrical shock had pulled Vincent's soul right out of his body. It could have so easily been fatal.

"Barney . . ."

He looked up.

"Are you alright?"

A sigh. "I'm fine."

Vincent sat up. "You're thinking about the storm again, aren't you?"

Barney growled. "I can't help it. I still feel terrible about what happened. And how I acted. You're right that I acted better than I did towards Baxter in the past, when the same thing happened to him, but I shouldn't have said anything harsh at all."

"Change takes time, Barney."

"But you were so afraid and distraught. I was so selfish. I should have pushed back how I was feeling, the way you usually do. Instead I let it all spill out." Barney leaned forward, propping himself up under his chin. "Baxter, on the other hand, was very sweet, despite his own agony." He stared across the room. "I'm such a hypocrite. I know exactly how to counsel people in the same kinds of situations, but when it comes to myself, I don't seem to have any idea of what to do."

"That's normal." Vincent pushed himself off the couch and came to sit next to Barney. "The great majority of doctors and therapists don't know to handle their own problems. Probably every one of them."

"That's completely twisted." Barney finally looked over at him. "You needed comfort and I didn't give it."

"I didn't expect you to," Vincent said softly. "How could anyone know how to comfort me in such a bizarre situation? We were all scared and confused and didn't know how to handle it. Every one of us needed comfort."

". . . I can't deny that," Barney grunted.

"It's alright, Barney," Vincent said. "I didn't blame you. I knew from the start that you would have a horrible time dealing with it."

Barney shut his eyes and leaned back. "To love so much that it scares you and brings out the worst in you isn't right," he said. "Love should bring out the best in someone."

"I've seen it do both," Vincent said. "Honestly, Barney, it brings out the best in you most of the time." He smiled. "And even when you get on edge and upset, I know it's because of your love and to me, that makes it alright."

"You're being so logical," Barney remarked.

"I'm a computer," Vincent shrugged and grinned. "It's what we do."

Barney had to gruffly smile a bit at that.

xxxx

Baxter leaned back at his desk upon scrawling his last correction on a Strange Science script. It was unusual but very nice when incorrect scientific "facts" were the most disturbing things that happened. Still, it was concerning when Shredder and Krang were silent for so long. That generally meant trouble when they did come out, as though they were saving up all their energy and plotting for one big, outrageous scheme. Those schemes usually resulted in heartache, too, and Baxter was not anxious for any of them to encounter more of such, especially after the last few weeks.

"Hi, Baxter."

He looked up at a cheerful knock on the open door. April was standing there with a smile and several print-outs.

"Hello," he smiled back.

"I hear Zach's got something he's excited to tell the Turtles," April said.

"Michelangelo was telling me about it," Baxter said. "Apparently, Barney, Vincent, and I are invited too. And you."

"Me?" April blinked.

"That's what Michelangelo said," Baxter said. "I think it's almost time to go meet them." He pushed his chair back. "Shall we go together?"

"I guess we might as well," April said. "I won't be able to be gone long, though; there's a hot new story and I want to see if Burne will let me cover it!" She waved the print-outs.

"Oh?" Baxter tensed. "It's not an attack from Shredder and Krang, I hope."

"I don't think so," April said. "It's not their style. It's a really weird bank robbery!"

"Yes, that certainly isn't their style," Baxter agreed.

"Burne's probably going to make me cover something boring, though, like the new vampire bat at the zoo." April made a face.

"I think that's one 'boring' story that Vernon wouldn't be anxious to cover," Baxter chuckled. He got up and came around his desk. "Even though they very rarely prey on humans."

"Oh, you should have seen Vernon when that story came in," April smirked. "He couldn't get back to his office fast enough."

"I can imagine." Baxter headed into the hall and April walked with him to the elevator. "So what is this strange bank robbery?"

"No one remembers the crooks coming in at all!" April exclaimed. "But one minute everything was fine, and the next, the safe had been robbed!"

That brought a frown. "It sounds like time was stopped and then started again," Baxter mused.

"I know! I remember what happens when Donatello created a Time-Stopper." April sighed. "Not to mention what happened just recently when his device and Shredder's collided. And we don't need any more Dimension X pirates showing up!"

"We certainly don't," Baxter said wryly. "Or anything worse."

"Speaking of worse, I heard that Wally Airhead is getting out of prison soon," April grimaced. "Oh . . . you wouldn't have heard about him. . . ."

Baxter pressed the elevator button and turned to stare at her. "He was in my biology classes in college," he exclaimed. "He never gave up on some bizarre idea to make people unnaturally stronger."

"And he perfected it!" April exclaimed. "He nearly destroyed the city because of it!"

Baxter shook his head. "I kept telling him he should put his intellect to a good use, but it seemed like all he really wanted it for was to make himself brawnier than all the bullies. Not that I can blame him for wanting to put them on the run, but I had different ideas of how to do it."

April regarded him in surprise. "It sounds like you guys knew each other pretty well!"

"We were just classmates," Baxter said. "And he wanted to use me as his guinea pig in his experiments." He shuddered. "I drew the line at that. His dream was to be like Arnold Schwartzenegger. I had no desire to be . . . shall we say, beefed up. Aside from the fact that I hate most physical activity, I wanted people to pay attention to my mind, not my body. And I wanted to beat the bullies with my intellect, especially since they only thought with any muscle that wasn't the brain."

"Well, the Turtles proved that brains triumph over brawn, so I'd say you had the right idea," April said. "I wonder if Wally will remember you and want to see you when he gets out."

"Unlikely," Baxter said. "In any case, I don't particularly want to see him unless he's turned over a new leaf."

The elevator dinged as it arrived. The duo climbed in and headed down to the ground floor.

"I don't think he has," April said. "Well, at least he isn't feeling remorse, last I knew. But he's planning a new series of exercise videos. I don't know if he'll get any public interest in them. He already approached Channel 6 and was turned down."

"Mr. Thompson probably would have turned me down as well, if you hadn't vouched for me," Baxter said.

"You were a special case," April smiled. "I knew you weren't going to do anything wrong."

"I hope Wally isn't also planning revenge against the Turtles," Baxter said in concern.

"I've warned them, just in case," April said. "Oh, and you say he wanted to be like Arnold Schwartzenegger? Boy, he sure did. Right to the point of always talking like him and getting all of his minions to talk like him!" She rolled her eyes.

Baxter chuckled. "That must have been so ridiculous."

April smirked. "To say the least!"

The elevator stopped and they emerged, heading for the front doors. The Turtles were just about to come in as they were walking out.

"Hey!" Michelangelo waved with gusto. "Are you guys ready to see what our little amigo Zach is so excited about?"

"I sure am!" April exclaimed.

"I must admit, I'm very curious," Baxter said.

The pizza parlor across the street from Channel 6 had long been a favorite hang-out of the Turtles and friends. As they went in now, they found Barney and Vincent already settled at a table, but no sign of Zach.

"So, the one who brought us all together isn't even here yet?" Raphael blinked.

"I guess he's still walking from school," Vincent shrugged. "Hi, Baxter! Everyone."

"Hello." Baxter smiled as he slid in on Vincent's other side. He knew Barney hated to be crowded into the middle.

The others claimed the next table over. "So, how was work today?" Raphael wondered.

"Fine," Barney said.

"The classes are more full again now that the semester has started," Vincent said. "After we see Zach, we'll need to go over for the evening class."

"Hopefully he won't take too long," Baxter said.

He didn't. Within ten minutes of everyone placing their orders, the door opened and Zach strolled in, followed by Caitlyn and what looked like eight other kids. "Hi, guys!" he chirped.

"Zach!" Leonardo was staring, as was everyone else. "What's all this?!"

"These are all the kids from my computer class who really like you guys," Zach beamed.

A girl with medium-brown hair stood near Baxter and blushed as he looked over at her. "Hi . . ." she said shyly.

Baxter smiled at her. "Hello."

"I'm Betty," she announced.

"It's good to meet you, Betty," Baxter said. "Our mother's name is Betty."

She grinned, revealing a missing tooth. "I know." She looked pleased to have that connection with Baxter.

"Who is everyone else?" Barney prompted.

Caitlyn stood up tall and smiled authoritatively as she pointed and named everyone else there. "Jordan, Hayley, Brock, Oliver, Kelsey, Jaycie, Brent."

"This is quite a group you've got," Leonardo said. The question in his voice was clear. He was thrilled that Zach had made so many new friends, but there was more to this than a simple introduction.

Zach looked to the Turtles with hopeful, pleading eyes. "Remember how I wanted to make a fan club and you guys kind of vetoed that idea?"

"It just didn't seem very practical at the time," Leonardo said.

"It probably wouldn't have been good with those kids anyway," Zach said. "But these kids are different! We all think you guys are the coolest and we wanna form a fan club!"

Hayley nodded. "We wouldn't ask to see your Lair unless you wanted to show it," she promised.

"But we all wanna be like you!" Oliver exclaimed. "We even have our own weapons!" He held out a handful of what looked like real ninja stars.

"Where did you get those?!" Leonardo gasped.

"There's a store in the mall that sells 'em," Oliver said. "And we've made bos and nunchucks and we have sparring sessions and . . ."

"And sometimes the boys win," Jaycie smiled.

"Well, what do you think?" Zach's eyes were filled with hopefulness. "Can we have a fan club?!"

Everyone was floored.

Michelangelo was the first to recover. "It sounds mondo awesome to me!"

"It's quite a compliment," April said.

"It sure is," Leonardo said. He looked to the other Turtles. "What do you say, guys?"

"Hey, it's okay by me," Raphael shrugged.

"Same here," Donatello said.

Vincent studied the group. He counted six girls and four boys. "So is this a Turtles Fan Club or . . . ?"

"It's for all of you!" Zach said. "That's why I asked you all to come."

Barney raised an eyebrow. "We're popular enough that we're desired subjects of a fan club?"

"Sure," Caitlyn said, and the others nodded. "We want to call it The Turtles and Allies Fan Club. We're going to present our club to the school and have it made an official school club. If it's really alright with all of you, of course."

"It's fine," Barney said.

"I like it," Vincent grinned.

"I'm . . ." Baxter blushed. "I'm honored. . . ." He wondered if he would have felt the same years ago. He might have instead been frustrated to think that only kids recognized his genius. Or maybe arrogant and prideful to have a fan club, any fan club. Now, after he had caused so much chaos in his instability and madness, he was humbled to think that any strangers could like him at all.

"I think it's a great idea," April smiled.

Zach shifted. "If the school okays it, we'd like to have a party and stuff to celebrate and introduce our club. Would you guys . . . maybe be willing to come?"

Again everyone was surprised. But no one seemed to have any objections to the idea, so Leonardo spoke for them all and said, "We'd love to come."

"Alright!" Zach beamed. "Thanks, everyone!"

Now that that was out of the way, all the kids seemed to become emboldened. They crowded in, most of them talking at once as they flung questions at the quickly overwhelmed group. It wasn't long and it was difficult to tell who had said what, and what had been said at all.

"You know, this is starting to remind me of being interrogated by The Swatter," Raphael muttered as he backed up against the other Turtles.

"Oh, come on, Raphael," Donatello smiled. "These kids are harmless."

"Not when they're packing real weapons!" Raphael exclaimed.

"We'll talk to them about that," Leonardo insisted. "They probably don't realize how dangerous those are to the untrained." He frowned. "I'd like to have a talk with that store in the mall too."

"And even their makeshift weapons could be dangerous," Donatello said.

"Will you guys demonstrate your weapons for us?" Brent finally said over all the other voices.

"Sure," Michelangelo said. "But like, not in here. How about at the party?"

"That'd be great!" Zach beamed.

"So . . . when is this party?" Leonardo slowly asked.

"Um . . . this Friday," Zach confessed.

Everyone was stunned.

"Can you really prepare everything that quickly?!" Barney said in disbelief.

"Sure we can!" Caitlyn insisted. "We've already been planning it out."

"It's gonna be a great party!" Zach declared. "Especially now that you guys are all gonna come!"

"Zach . . ." Leonardo blinked. "Since no one had said it was okay to make the fan club, why were you planning the party?"

The boy blushed. "Well . . . we hoped you would say Yes. . . ."

"And we wanted to have the party as soon as possible if you did say Yes," Caitlyn added.

"You're very resourceful," Vincent said. "I'm sure you'll do it."

Zach beamed. "We'll do our best!" Suddenly remember something, he asked, "Oh, and do you think Master Splinter will come?"

Leonardo looked to him in surprise. "He doesn't usually come out of the Lair," he said slowly. "But if he's invited, I'm sure he'll come."

"He's totally invited!" Oliver exclaimed.

Barney and Vincent soon had to bow out for the evening class and April had to hurry to see about her story, but the others stayed on, talking with the kids and listening to their plans for the party. By the time the group left for dinner, the Turtles and Baxter-who were all at the same table now-were stunned, amazed, and overwhelmed.

"They really have been planning things out," Leonardo remarked.

"They're a good bunch of kids," Raphael said.

"Like, totally!" Michelangelo grinned. "They're all gnarly!"

"I'm surprised there's more girls in the group than boys," Donatello said.

"Hey, us Turtles aren't only interesting to boys!" Michelangelo said.

"We're sure not," Donatello said. He was still surprised.

"I think that's wonderful," Baxter said.

"That Betty girl sure seemed taken with you," Raphael said.

"She likes science," Baxter said. "She's shy and quiet, like I was."

"And Jordan thinks Vincent is pretty awesome," Michelangelo said.

"I wonder if each of them has a favorite," Leonardo mused. "It's so weird to think of ourselves being so popular that kids have favorites among us."

"Including you, Michelangelo," Baxter wanted to point out. "Brock seemed to find you 'bodacious.'"

"Yeah, no kidding," Michelangelo blinked. "That was pretty something."

"You're just as great as the rest of us," Leonardo smiled. "Naturally the kids would see that."

Michelangelo spun an unused napkin on the table around with his finger. "So . . . what do you think it's gonna be like at this party? We've never gone to a party hosted by kids before."

"It sounds like they have everything all figured out," Leonardo said. "I think it will be a great experience."

"They're paying for everything out of their own pockets," Donatello said.

"Mondo impressive," Michelangelo said. "They really wanna do this!"

"No kidding," Raphael mused. "Well, it'll be interesting to see what they come up with, at any rate."

Baxter smiled and started to get up. "I need to get back to Channel 6 for the evening news broadcast."

Michelangelo hopped up too. "I'll come with you!" he chirped. "And then we're all meeting for dinner in the Lair tonight!"

Raphael waved. "We'll see you two then."

Goodbyes were exchanged all around and Baxter and Michelangelo headed out to walk back to Channel 6. Michelangelo walked with his hands behind his head, looking both thoughtful and happy. "Parties always put me in a good mood," he declared.

"I'm not surprised," Baxter chuckled.

"I guess you never really liked parties before we met, huh?" Michelangelo said.

"Not much," Baxter admitted. "Although sometimes I hoped to find friends if I went to them."

"Didn't you and Barney ever, like, even have nice birthday parties or something?" Michelangelo wondered. "Birthdays should always be special. At least, that's totally one of my mottos."

"Honestly, our birthday parties were mainly social affairs." Baxter rolled his eyes. "Mother always made sure to invite all the affluent children whose parents she was trying to make a good impression on, whether or not we even knew them!"

Michelangelo cringed. "That sounds awful. So you never got to invite anyone you wanted to?"

"We were never close enough to anyone to really want them," Baxter said with a wry smile. "Even so, we hated Mother's approach to our birthdays."

"And totally with good reason!" Michelangelo exclaimed.

"Not to mention, the other children wanted to be there about as much as we wanted them there," Baxter said. "We all struggled to be polite, but none of us were really happy unless we could find some common ground. And Mother commandeered everything so much, we didn't have much chance to try."

"And then I guess when you grew up, you probably didn't celebrate or anything," Michelangelo said.

"Not really," Baxter said. "I usually tried to celebrate by completing a new idea or invention on my birthday. I don't know what Barney did. Probably not even that. He was mostly bitter about celebrations."

"He's had fun this year, hasn't he?" Michelangelo looked both worried and hopeful now.

Baxter smiled. "He might not admit it, but yes, he has." He pushed the door to Channel 6 open and he and Michelangelo walked inside.

The Turtle relaxed. "Oh good."

"I suppose your birthdays have always been happy," Baxter said, half without thinking.

"Mostly!" Michelangelo said. "There was one real bummer year, though. But then it was nice later, so I try to think about that."

Baxter pressed the button for the elevator. "I hope I wasn't part of what caused it to be terrible," he said with a furrowed brow.

"Oh no!" Michelangelo was quick to say. "You never showed up to cause trouble on any of our birthdays."

"Well, that's good," Baxter sighed.

"Yeah, it was Shred-Head and the Gruesome Twosome who made it crummy," Michelangelo said. "And . . . no, nevermind."

Baxter peered at him in concern. "What else?" he said gently. "I can tell there's more . . . maybe even that the other bothered you worse."

Michelangelo looked away. "Well . . . no, not worse, but . . . the guys kind of . . . thought it would be funny to pretend they'd forgotten all about my birthday." He mostly mumbled this.

Baxter couldn't help looking annoyed. "I never thought that was funny or kind when it happened in books or television shows," he said. "I suppose Raphael instigated it."

"Yeah," Michelangelo nodded. "But the others went along with it and even found it funny most of the time." He sighed now. "I don't like to come down on them too hard, though. I know I'm just overly sensitive. I even left the Lair because I felt so bad about them seemingly forgetting."

"It is unkind," Baxter said in irritation. "You're not overly sensitive, Michelangelo. Most people are simply too insensitive."

Michelangelo blinked in surprise. "Really?"

"Yes." The elevator arrived and Baxter stepped inside, followed by Michelangelo, who was smiling a bit now.

"Leonardo regretted things first, from what they said later," Michelangelo said. "He'd wanted to stop things and Raphael wanted to keep going because he was having so much fun."

"Typical," Baxter grunted. He pressed the button for their floor and leaned back.

"But even Raphael felt bad when he realized it just wasn't a cool prank to pull on me," Michelangelo said.

"I'm sure." Baxter finally smiled a bit. "Raphael always does want to make good when he knows he's made a mistake."

Michelangelo relaxed. "Yeah. But Shred-Head really was the worst thing. He tried to kill all of us, and it looked like he'd succeeded with the others!" He shuddered at the memory.

"That's horrible!" Baxter exclaimed. "You're right, it couldn't get much worse than that."

"Most definitely the worst birthday ever," Michelangelo declared. "But once we were all safely back home, Splinter made sure to show me that my birthday hadn't been forgotten after all and we all had a bodacious time."

"I'm glad something went right," Baxter smiled.

Michelangelo shifted. "I guess I should ask if you've ever had a really happy birthday."

"My most recent one was," Baxter said softly. "I was worried about Barney working for Shredder, but you and the others went all-out to make it a meaningful day for me. That meant so much then and it still does now."

Michelangelo beamed. "Gnarly! And we wanna do the same this year. Err . . . do you think Barney would be okay with a party and stuff?"

"He might grunt and growl a bit, but he would be very touched by your efforts, Michelangelo," Baxter said sincerely. "And I think it's high time Barney had a nice birthday too."

"Just what I was thinking!" Michelangelo grinned. "Oh, does Vincent celebrate a birthday?"

Baxter blinked. "You know, oddly enough, I don't have any idea. He's never mentioned it and somehow it never occurred to me to think about it. I'll have to ask him."

"Yeah!" Michelangelo encouraged. "I'd love to throw him a party too!"

The elevator dinged and they stepped off as the doors opened.

"Hi, guys," Irma greeted them. "I hope you've got your science segment ready, Dr. Stockman. We go on the air in less than thirty minutes!"

"Everything's ready," Baxter assured her. "I'm a consummate professional."

"I have to admit, you're really good at show biz," Irma said.

"I'm generally good at anything that involves what I'm passionate about," Baxter said. Then, blushing, he added, "Thank you."

Irma smiled. "See you in the newsroom!" She waved and headed down the corridor.

Baxter massaged the bridge of his nose. "Sometimes I'm still arrogant," he said in shame.

"And if you shouldn't be, you catch yourself," Michelangelo said. "Sometimes I think you being snippy is kind of justified, when it's directed at some creepazoid."

Baxter chuckled. "I suppose you can look at it that way." He sighed, sobering as they started down the hallway after Irma. "I haven't always been good at things even if it does involve what I love, though. I can't forget about my supreme failure as a teacher."

"You just couldn't get the class to respect you," Michelangelo frowned. "That's like, not a crime. And I'll bet they're gonna regret the way they treated you, if they don't already! They're way old enough now that they should realize they were mondo rude."

"I like to think that," Baxter said. "I'm still frustrated with my lack of assertiveness, though. I think Barney and Vincent are right that I could probably do it now. But now I'd rather keep doing this."

"Hey, there's a lot of ways to teach," Michelangelo said. "Your science segments have got a whole bunch of kids interested in science!"

"I can't deny that," Baxter smiled. "I still get emails from children wanting to know more. I have to admit, I love it."

Michelangelo beamed. "That's awesome."

"Yes," Baxter mused. "It is."

"Maybe Betty was even one of the kids who wrote you!" Michelangelo suggested.

"She could have been," Baxter agreed. "I believe there were a couple of Bettys."

They reached the newsroom and walked in. Vernon was already broadcasting the top stories, so the observing friends fell silent. Each had a great deal on his mind.

xxxx

Barney was as bowled over by the children's fan club as the others were. In some ways, perhaps moreso.

"Brent really likes you," Vincent commented.

"We most likely have a shared interest in science," Barney grunted. "And maybe he chose me because that little girl already claimed Baxter. Each of them seems to have selected a different favorite."

"How odd," Vincent mused. "In times gone by, you would have pounced on the idea of someone preferring you."

"I know why Baxter has always been better-liked, and now that I've finally faced my inner demons, I've made peace with it," Barney said.

"Or resigned yourself to it," Vincent said. "Barney, you're a good person. It's logical that people recognize that."

"It's logical that you and Baxter would," Barney said. "You know me and have accepted me, even with all of my flaws."

"And others are doing so as well," Vincent said. "You know your students like you."

"Again, they associate with me. Some stranger off the street, what would he know? Only what he hears on the news."

"And there's been some good press for you lately," Vincent said. "Although I have the feeling there's something more to it than hearing positive news stories."

"What else could there be?" Barney retorted.

"If you really want to know," Vincent said cleverly, "you'll have to ask him."

Barney rolled his eyes.

xxxx

The days passed without interference from Shredder and Krang, although another bizarre bank robbery was committed and everyone was baffled. By Friday, the case hadn't been solved and the Turtles were more than ready to put it aside and attend their young friends' party. No one was sure what to expect, but when the group arrived at the elementary school and entered the gym, they were all pleasantly surprised.

Green crepe paper hung from the ceiling and was draped along the walls. Also on the walls were pictures of the Turtles, Splinter, April, and the Stockmans, obviously drawn and colored by the children. All were at varying skill levels, but all were also drawn from the heart. Some showed the group having pizza parties or having picnics or playing ball. Others depicted fights against Shredder, Krang, and other villains.

"I really don't know what to say," Baxter remarked, adjusting his glasses as he stared at one illustration of apparently him, fighting what looked like Cthulu.

"Ah, the mind of a child," Raphael quipped.

"This is one adventure I hope we never have," Baxter chuckled.

"Actually, I wonder if Shred-Head was inspired by those old Lovecraft stories when he took over Octopus Ink for 'The Grand Arising,'" Raphael intoned, wiggling his fingers.

Barney gave him a blank look. "That's an escapade I don't think you've told us yet."

"We'll totally do that later tonight, Dude," Michelangelo said with a thumbs up.

"This must be Caitlyn's," April smiled, studying a picture of her reporting on top of the moving Technodrome. "I don't think even I'd be this daring!"

"Well, you just never know," Raphael remarked. "Stranger things have already happened."

"The children have certainly put their all into this," Splinter commented. "The treats on the buffet table even look homemade."

"No kidding." Raphael blinked and looked to the assorted cookies, brownies, and other desserts. "Hey, you know, you're right!"

"And they knew exactly what to make for us!" Michelangelo's eyes gleamed. "Look at that gourmet dessert pizza right in the center!"

"And a normal pizza too," Leonardo observed. "Not to mention what looks like sushi for Master Splinter."

"Of course!" Oliver hurried over and bowed to Splinter. "I made everything myself!"

"Really." Splinter smiled with an answering bow. "It looks delicious."

"Only the best for you, Master Splinter!" Oliver exclaimed. "I mean, you're the coolest guy of all! The Turtles wouldn't be anything without you!"

The Turtles stared in momentary surprise.

". . . He's got a point there," Raphael remarked.

"Like, totally!" Michelangelo nodded.

Splinter smiled, pleased. "Thank you, my young friend. I am looking forward to trying your sushi."

Oliver beamed.

Zach soon bounded over to them. "What do you think, guys?!" His eyes shone with hopefulness.

"I think you've outdone yourself, Zach," Leonardo said. "Everything is really well-done and thoughtful."

"Like, these pictures are totally gnarly!" Michelangelo declared.

"We all chipped in," Zach grinned.

"So, do you have a plan for this party?" Donatello wondered.

"Well . . ." Zach blushed a bit. "We were all hoping for a demonstration of you guys' weapons and stuff. I guess that should come before we eat."

Caitlyn bounded over now too. "Then we'll eat and maybe play games or something."

"Dracula?" Betty's eyes sparkled.

Dead silence.

"What kind of a game is Dracula?" Barney said in disbelief.

"It's really cool!" Jaycie gushed. "And creepy. But we'll talk about it after we eat."

Vincent was already looking up the game in his databanks. "There's not really much to it," he said in surprise. "It does sound like a good Halloween game, though."

"Dare I ask?" Barney grunted.

Before Vincent could reply, Brock interrupted with, "Michelangelo, will you show us how you use your nunchucks?!"

Surprise flashed in Michelangelo's eyes, but it was swiftly replaced with a grin. "Sure!" He moved far away from the buffet table and whipped out one set of nunchucks, moving it with perfect speed and precision. After a moment he added the second set and operated each without slipping up once.

Brock took out his makeshift nunchucks and tried to copy him, but soon was hopelessly lost. He could not refrain from hitting himself by accident more than once. "You are totally the master, Michelangelo," he declared.

"Aww, shucks, it took years of practice!" Michelangelo said. "And like, soo many bruises."

"Well, it certainly paid off," Baxter smiled.

"Let's all join in, shall we?" Leonardo looked to Raphael and Donatello.

"Works for me," Donatello said.

"Oh, you know I'm game," Raphael smirked.

Soon all four Turtles were on the side of the gym opposite to the food, sparring with each other and showing off various fighting techniques. The kids were particularly enraptured when Raphael caught one of Leonardo's katanas in his sai.

"If I wanted to, I could break his sword right here," Raphael said. "The other name for sais is sword-breakers."

"No kidding!" Hayley was intrigued. "That's awesome!"

"It is pretty cool," Raphael smiled.

"But it's not going to work today," Leonardo said, and pushed Raphael and his sais back with the force of his swords.

It was some time before the sparring session ended. When it did, the Turtles were ready to stop while the kids still wanted more.

"Aww, over already?" Jordan sighed.

"Sorry, kids, but we're getting pretty hungry," Leonardo said. "We've really worked up an appetite!"

Zach grinned. "Then let's eat!"

The fan club was soon all quite agreeable to that. But they held back from taking anything right away. "The guests of honor should all go first," Caitlyn insisted.

"I can totally resonate with that notion," Michelangelo grinned.

It took a while for everyone to select food to eat. As they did, they moved to the various tables and chairs set up near the buffet.

"These centerpieces are very creative," Baxter commented. Each table featured a white lunch bag with a drawing on each side.

"Mondo awesome!" Michelangelo grinned.

"When did they ever find time to draw so many things?" Barney wondered.

"The pictures on the wall have been collecting for weeks," Vincent said. "Zach told me. They weren't just drawn to show off at this party. These bags, however . . ." He curiously picked one up and turned it around. "I think these are exclusive to the party plans."

"I think we really made a hit." Leonardo was looking over all the students and the teachers who were in attendance. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. They smiled and talked, munching on the refreshments.

"Yeah, this fan club is probably going to get a lot bigger," Raphael remarked.

"It is most impressive, what they have all done," Splinter said. "And you all performed very well, my Turtles."

"Only because you taught us so well, Master," Leonardo smiled.

"Oliver has the right idea there," Donatello agreed.

"I agree," Splinter said, "and I am pleased you all feel the same."

It was when the food had ben consumed that the kids all came to attention. "Let's play Dracula!" Betty squealed.

"It's amazing that the shy girl is the one most into this," Barney grunted.

A teacher gave them an amused yet sympathetic look. "They always want to play this," she said.

"Okay, so everyone gets on the floor in a circle," Kelsey said. "Somebody plays Dracula and goes around the circle. If they touch somebody, that person screams and is dead. Oh, and it's played in the dark. The remaining ones usually start moving out of the circle to try to hide better."

Jordan grinned and went for the lights.

"This is a dumb game," Oliver rolled his eyes. "Unless we get ninjas involved!"

"Oh, but that wouldn't even be fair," Leonardo said. "We'd have a big advantage over everyone else!"

"Unless we, like, tone our ninjas senses down just to play," Michelangelo said hopefully.

"Why don't you try it, Michelangelo, and we'll see how it goes," Splinter said diplomatically.

"Alright!" Michelangelo cheered.

The lights went out and the room was plunged into an eerie silence. After a moment, a chilling shriek cut through the darkness.

Baxter jumped a mile. "Even though I knew it was coming, that was nerve-wracking!" he exclaimed.

"Well, you'd better get used to it quick," Raphael remarked.

He was right. The sounds of scuffling and screams alternately echoed through the gym.

Vincent, who was the only current light, leaned back and idly watched the kids. "It's interesting how they can find enjoyment in something so simple, especially in an era of technology," he mused.

"It is an . . . odd game," Splinter said. "But children have found delight in simple games since the dawn of time."

"It seems like the girls are more interested in this one," Leonardo said. "Except for Michelangelo and maybe one or two other boys."

"I'm slightly surprised the teachers allow this," Baxter said.

"Well, if the kids always want to play it, I guess they've just resigned themselves to that," Raphael shrugged.

"Most likely," Barney agreed.

"Why does it have to be played in the dark?" Vincent frowned. "They could end up knocking into something when they're scrambling out of the circle to hide."

"Everything's more fun in the dark!" Caitlyn replied. She dove under the next table over. "Coming through!"

Splinter and the three Turtles quickly pressed their legs against the front chair legs as she crawled past. "This is . . . ahem . . . certainly a different side to Caitlyn!" Splinter exclaimed.

"Aww, it's kind of nice, in a way," April said. "She and Zach sometimes try to be older than they are, but deep down they're still kids. It really comes out at times like these. And I'd much rather see Caitlyn playing a silly game like this instead of trying to emulate me when she's too young to get into that kind of danger!"

"Honestly, April, you're too young to get into the kind of danger you find," Raphael remarked.

Baxter chuckled. "Sometimes I think we all are," he said.

"But the Turtles are trained for it and handle it very well," Barney said. "And they're only a handful of years older than Caitlyn and Zach."

Donatello paused. "That's weird to think about, you know? It usually feels like we're a whole lot older than they are."

"In many ways you are, my Turtles," Splinter said. "But in other ways, you still show your chronological ages."

Leonardo especially looked embarrassed. "Oh yeah. . . . Like when we don't clean up the Lair properly."

"Exactly," Splinter nodded.

Baxter shook his head. "Michelangelo mentioned that occasionally that happens and the Lair ends up looking like . . . how did he put it . . . a miniature garbage dump." He shuddered. "It's especially horrifying to me when I remember how the fly's takeover of my mind made me like garbage and how I would have reveled in the chaos at the Lair because of that. Ordinarily I'm a very clean person."

Vincent gave him a sympathetic look. "At least it's all over now. And you can be grateful that at least the only part of the fly's diet you started consuming was the sweet part."

Baxter grimaced. "At least I had that much humanity left."

One final, overdramatic scream brought the game to a close. When someone flipped the lights on, Michelangelo was spinning on his shell near Baxter's table. He looked up at his friend, grinning. "So how'd I do?!"

"You were certainly startling," Baxter commented. What he didn't add was that he was certain Michelangelo had indeed "let" the girl playing Dracula win. He was sure the Turtle had heard her creeping up on him.

"I won't be able to hear out of this ear for a week," Raphael remarked.

"Now let's play Ghost in the Graveyard!" Jordan exclaimed.

Raphael snorted. "They sure are a morbid bunch of little darlings, aren't they," he said low.

"Children often go through phases like that," Barney said. "And some of them don't grow out of it."

"Play this one outside," one of the teachers cautioned. "It's far too rowdy for in here."

"Outside would be more fun anyway," Zach said.

"You'll all play this game, won't you?" Kelsey said hopefully, looking to all their guests of honor.

They all exchanged a look. "How do we play it?" Leonardo asked.

"Somebody plays the ghost and hides and everybody else looks for it," Oliver said. "The ghost can jump out and try to tag anyone who gets too close. Then they become another ghost and join the chase!"

Caitlyn nodded. "Everybody tries to run to a designated safe spot when the ghost is found. The last one in becomes the new ghost, if another one wasn't tagged already."

Splinter looked amused. "I believe we can indulge them in this game."

Barney was extremely wary and hesitant, but when the others seemed to all agree with varying degrees of reluctance, he at last nodded. "Alright. I don't want to be the only one who sits it out."

Vincent gave him a look of fond entertainment. "I think it will mean a lot to Brent especially for you to join in, Buddy."

Barney adjusted his glasses. "Just don't expect much."

As it turned out, Barney was able to hold his own very well in the game. Like Baxter, he could run fairly quickly and his agility and stealth kept him from easily being caught by the ghosts. He almost always made it to the safe spots in time.

Brent was soon regarding him in awe. "You're really good!" he exclaimed.

"I'm not bad," Barney had to admit. He paused. "But tell me, Brent-what is it you find so appealing about me? After interacting with you tonight, I've seen that science doesn't even seem to be a major interest for you."

"It's not the science that I like. It's you!" Brent said. He shifted and looked down, awkwardness in his stance and movements. "When you blew up that lightning gun thing in the way that kept the blast in the Dansing Building, you saved a whole lot of people in the buildings nearby who could have been hurt or killed. I was one of them."

Barney stared at him. "You were?"

He nodded. "I was visiting my aunt and uncle in the apartment complex right nearby. You saved all of us!"

Now Barney looked down, humbled. "I'm glad."

Vincent smiled.

After several rounds, the kids at last seemed to be wearing out. Several flopped on the grass, staring up at the night sky.

"This has been a really awesome time," Zach declared.

"You planned everything out very well," Vincent said.

"Like, totally!" Michelangelo chirped. "It's been radical, Microdude!"

Zach beamed. "And getting to share everything with all of you guys has really been a dream come true. Not just for me, but for the other kids too."

"And we have been most honored," Splinter said.

"I wonder if we should stay and help with the clean-up," Leonardo mused.

"No way," Caitlyn retorted. "You're all the guests of honor. You shouldn't have to help clean up!"

"But you should take home lots of leftovers," Kelsey said. "Come on! Let's go see what's left."

Much of the food was gone, they soon discovered, but there was enough left that they could each enjoy a small plate of goodies-with the exception of Vincent, of course.

"Are you sure you don't wish you could eat?" Zach asked.

"I'm sure," Vincent said. "But everything definitely looks appetizing. I'm not surprised it was such a big hit."

"Like, totally!" Michelangelo chimed in. "So, how often are you microdudes gonna meet?"

"I think every day sounds good," Zach declared, and everyone chorused in the affirmative.

"We'll see each other at school, and maybe we'll have meetings . . . every day after school?" Caitlyn suggested.

"Yeah!" Jordan exclaimed.

All the Turtles beamed. "You know, it was great seeing all the effort all of you put into this party," Leonardo said, "but I think the best part is seeing your friendships."

"Oh, for sure, Dude," Michelangelo said.

Zach grinned. "You know, I'd really started to think I had enough friends. Now I know that I was just fooling myself. There's never too many."

"There certainly aren't," Baxter said, fondly smiling at the group.

"Oh, and guys?" Oliver stepped forward, followed by the others. All were holding out their ninja stars. "We think maybe you ought to hold onto these for now. After seeing you in action, we know that we're not trained for them."

All the other kids nodded in agreement.

The Turtles smiled and took them. "You're all making a wise decision," Leonardo praised. "And I'd still like to have a talk with that store owner."

"They'd listen to you," Hayley said.

"Well, I don't know about that, but I'm going to try anyway," Leonardo said.

"We all will," Raphael said. "Selling weapons is fine, but only if you're selling to people who know how to use them."

"And like, the next time you guys have a party, we are so totally in!" Michelangelo grinned.

"We'll probably have one for Halloween," Caitlyn said.

"Major perfecto!" Michelangelo chirped.

They were all in a good mood as they left. It had been a nice respite from the chaos and crime they usually had to deal with. There were still the bizarre robberies to solve. And who knew when Shredder and Krang would attack again. Most likely sooner than any of them would want. But for now, it had been a good and fairly welcome day.

"They were all quite well-behaved," Barney mused. "I was surprised and impressed."

"They're good kids," Michelangelo said.

"I'm sure they get wild sometimes, though," Donatello said. "Especially if the games they like to play are usually morbid ones."

"I would hate to always be supervising them," Raphael agreed.

"They were probably on their best behavior because of us," Leonardo said. "That was nice. I'll bet they get hyper at holidays."

Baxter winced. "In that case, the Halloween party might not necessarily be interesting in a good way."

"Let's not judge it before we go," Leonardo said. "But it would be good to be prepared in case they get . . . a little crazy."

"Hey, what are you guys doing for Halloween?" Michelangelo suddenly asked, looking to the Stockmans.

"Us?" Barney raised an eyebrow. "I wasn't planning that we'd do much, if anything."

"Didn't you ever, like, pass out candy to the kids?" Michelangelo wondered.

"No," Barney grunted.

"It sounds like a fun experience," Vincent said. "Maybe we could try it this year."

"If you want to," Barney said.

Baxter chuckled. "I haven't done that in years, excepting last year."

"But no costumes," Barney flatly added.

"Aww, but costumes are part of the fun!" Michelangelo protested.

"Feel free to wear one if you want," Barney said with a raised eyebrow. "I have no desire to."

"I didn't either, actually," Baxter said. "I just handed out the candy. Although Michelangelo saw to it that the apartment was decorated for the occasion." He looked amused.

"So what did you do about Channel 6's Halloween party, Pal?" Vincent curiously wondered.

"To be honest . . ." Baxter blushed. "I didn't go. I was still very new to the station then and I thought it would be too awkward trying to socialize with a lot of people who probably didn't like me. I stayed home and passed out the candy. And I accompanied Michelangelo around some of the neighborhoods while he Trick-or-Treated."

"I tell you, Michelangelo has never grown up," Raphael remarked.

"You guys probably never even tried Trick-or-Treating, did you?" April suddenly spoke up. "Since you didn't even see the surface until you met me."

"That's right," Raphael said. "We were too old for that kind of thing. I wouldn't mind copping some of Michelangelo's candy stash, though."

"Hey, I share!" Michelangelo retorted.

April chuckled and looked to Baxter. "Are you planning on coming to this year's party?" she asked. "Most of the staff sure likes you now."

"I know. I guess I would feel awkward not going this year," Baxter mused. "Unless I stayed home and celebrated with Barney and Vincent."

"All of you guys could come," April said. "You could pass out candy for a while and then show up. A lot of the staff does both. Especially the ones with kids."

Barney adjusted his glasses. "You probably have to wear a costume, though, don't you? I don't have any desire to be someone else. I'm still figuring out who I am."

"Well . . . you don't have to," April said. "But you fit in a lot better if you do."

Barney gave a knowing nod. "And you're probably teased and kidded if you don't. That's what always happened when I had to chaperone student Halloween parties or attend university staff parties."

"I can't guarantee that would happen," April said. "But every workplace has wiseguys."

"There's still plenty of time to decide," Baxter said. "We'll think about it."

"Barney does bring out a wise point," Splinter said. "While there is no harm in dressing up for a few hours, it is understandable that some prefer not to. One in Barney's position might only become uncomfortable by attempting to be someone else when he is at long last discovering his own identity."

"Exactly," Barney said.

"I wouldn't mind dressing up," Vincent said. "So what's your reason for not liking it, Pal?" He looked to Baxter.

"I guess I'd just feel silly," Baxter admitted, "even though I know there's no real reason to. A lot of adults enjoy masquerades."

"Last year Baxter was telling me about what Halloween was like when he and Barney were kids," Michelangelo said.

"Oh? What was it like? . . . If you don't mind it being talked about, Buddy." Vincent glanced to Barney, who shrugged.

"I don't care," he said.

"Well, he said they were allowed to go Trick-or-Treating, sometimes with the maid, then by themselves when they were older," Michelangelo said. "Barney always dressed up as scientists. Baxter sometimes dressed up as characters in books he liked." He grinned. "It sounded pretty cool."

"I played Frodo one year," Baxter confessed. "The animated movie was out by then, but I didn't base my design on it. I had images in my mind from reading the books and I based my costume on that."

"Epic," Michelangelo grinned.

"I'll admit it was one of the few normal activities we engaged in," Barney said. "But since my only desire was to be a scientist and now I am one, I couldn't even think of a costume I'd like even if I wanted to dress up."

"Aww, heck, I'm sure I could come up with something!" Michelangelo said. "But err, only if you wanted to."

"I'll pass," Barney said, but his raised eyebrow said that he was idly curious as to what Michelangelo would pick, even if he really didn't want to wear it.

"Well, in any case, I'm sure this will be the best Halloween ever!" Michelangelo gestured wildly. "All of us together and having fun!"

"It's still a month away," Barney said. He gave a gruff smile. "But you're probably right."

"I know he is," Baxter said sincerely. "Nothing could be better than having all of my loved ones to enjoy it with."

Everyone had to agree with that.