Mike tinkered with the controls for the sound system. This was not his field of expertise, at least not the technical aspect. He looked up briefly and saw Allie leaning against a wall. She smiled and walked over. "Glad to see you're up."
He sat in a chair. "Are you okay? With the complete story, I mean?"
"Feuds between families going back generations, ninjas trying to regain honor by attacking defenseless women and children, and Zack will inherit leadership of a ninja clan. Throw in a few demons and you've got a good plot for an anime film." She shrugged. "I've ran into weirder stuff. I can handle it. Does it bother you?"
"Nah, but I've grown up with it. Splinter's been telling us the parts of the story he knew ever since he figured out he could talk. So Zack's going to inherit?"
Allie's face wrinkled like she had tasted something disagreeable. "I know I'm the oldest now, but I'm a street fighter. I fight for survival or to protect someone weaker. I wouldn't be any good in a fight with rules. Besides, I want to give the whole normal thing a try. Graduate high school, find a career, stop being so angry at the world."
"In that order?"
"I put them in order of difficulty, easiest first. But seriously, now's a good time to change. The adoption and fighting an honest enemy definitely upset the routine I had going."
"The Shredder's honest?" Mike whirled the swivel chair around to face her.
"Compared to other people I've had to fight, yeah. He hides in shadows and behind that stupid costume, but he comes out and tells you what he's going to do. He wants to take over the city and kill us and he announced it over the television. I'm not saying he's a good guy but at least, he isn't pretending to be the best thing to happen to the city."
"You have an interesting way of looking at things." He turned back to the sound system controls. "How do you think living with April is going to work out?"
"Her and Zack are optimistic about it. I'm going to try hard to make it work. The whole being normal thing. I met someone in San Francisco about two years ago who managed to do it. I'm going to follow his advice."
"Good to have a plan. How does this sound?" He turned on his CD of loud rap for few seconds.
Allie uncovered her ears. "Depends. Are you trying to tell the whole city where you are?"
"I think the volume switch is broke. Donnie's helping Leo and Lotus shop."
"She's been spending a lot of time with him lately." Allie moved across the room to stand behind the Turtle.
Mike shook his head. "I still can't believe she's Mitsu's granddaughter--a few times removed."
"She was the girl I really liked that was in love with another guy. But that was in the past. Way in the past."
"Have you, after that, ever wanted a girlfriend?"
"I got over it. It wouldn't have worked out anyway."
"Because you're from the future?"
"That could've been a reason, but it wasn't the main one." Allie waited patiently. "How can a girl fall in love with a turtle--even one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety?"
"It's not that hard." Mike turned his chair around sharply. Allie leaned forward and kissed him. "I'm not afraid of risks. Besides, you have a promise to keep."
"To learn to live in a world where people don't stab you in the back all the time?" Allie nodded. "But I thought you wanted a normal life?"
"What's more normal than having a boyfriend?"
"One that doesn't have a shell."
"You are the first guy since Zack and Dan who didn't write me off as a total nutcase. You're also the first guy willing to look past my attitude, and I know how bad it is. If having a shell gives you the courage to do that, who am I to complain?"
"You don't care how I look?"
She sat down on his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I think you look fine."
He pulled her face down and kissed her deeply.
Donnie climbed down the ladder. Allie and Mike were entwined together, kissing passionately and completely oblivious to anything else. If they were any closer, they would be sharing the same space. Donnie cleared his throat. Startled, they looked up quickly and Allie shifted off Mike's lap and leaned against the wall. "Mikey, how's the sound system coming?"
Mike grinned lopsidedly at Allie. "Everything's absolutely, positively excellent!"
"Well, turn it on." Mike absentmindedly pressed play. Allie threw herself over him and shut it off. Donnie charged up to them as Mike helped her up. "You said everything was fine!"
Mike shrugged, "Everything except the volume control."
"Don't blame him, Donnie, I distracted him." Allie grabbed Mike's hand and pulled him away. "Let's give Donnie some space to work on it."
Donnie shook his head as they left. "I sure hope this lovebug isn't contagious. I'd hate to see Raph acting that goofy."
Leo threw his feelings into the punches that hit the dummy. Lotus hadn't mentioned her decision and it left him frustrated.
Lotus watched the Turtle lash out at the dummy. "I do not think it will hurt you." Leo stopped its swinging with a lopsided grin. "I have made my decision." He watched her fearfully. "I will stay!" He grabbed her up by the waist with a yell, spinning her around. "Leonardo, put me down!"
Raph walked into the training room and stared. "What's wrong with him?"
"I am staying!"
"I guess so. It would be hard to get on a plane like that."
Leo stopped and put her down. "Did you mean it?"
Lotus steadied herself against the wall. "Do you always do that?"
"Good, then I meant it."
"Yahoo!" He ran up to his brother. "Did you hear that, Raph? She's staying! Yahoo!" He ran out yelling.
Lotus joined Raph in the doorway. "Is he always like that?"
"Leo? Nah, most of the time he's a real quiet fellow. Why do I have the feeling you're going to be the end of that?"
Lotus shrugged, "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"I just hope you don't plan on living down here. Leo flipping his shell we can handle once in a while, but not every day."
"I will consider myself warned."
Splinter opened his eyes in his meditation room. Leonardo was shouting jubilantly, that wasn't like him. Someone knocked gently on the round door. "Come in."
Zack obeyed, somewhat sheepishly. "I'm not interrupting, Master Splinter?"
"Not at all, Zackery." The rat favored the boy with a smile. "Sit." Zack obediently sat cross-legged on the mat that Splinter had waved to. "Did you finish talking with Clin-san?"
"Yeah, and I understand why one of us has to go to Japan and prove we're worthy to lead. But why me? Allie's the better fighter."
"She is now, perhaps. But the Foot style of ninjutsu takes years of training to perfect. Allie no longer has the youth nor the desire to devote to such training."
"That makes sense. She says she ready to stop fighting."
"Then what troubles you?"
Zack chewed his lip. "Who's going to teach me? Clin-san's going back to Japan and Lotus says she's a student of the art, whatever that means."
"You do not wish for me and the Turtles to teach you?"
"That's exactly what I want, Master Splinter! I just feel like a brat by asking."
"I will teach you."
Zack was astonished, relieved, and astounded all at once. "Th-th-th-thanks, Master Splinter! It'll be an honor!"
"It is only fitting that I am connected to the Hamatos once again." And now that he could remember, Zack was a replica of Yoshi--only younger. Life is a cycle, Splinter reminded himself.
Dan set a pizza pan on the coffee table and sat on the couch beside April. "What are you going to do with month vacation Dad gave you?"
April made a wry face. "I don't know what you told him, but he seems to have it in his head that Allie and me are going to clash."
Dan spread his hands in innocence. "I didn't say anything! Any conclusions Dad draws about Allie come from his experiences."
That remark drew Allie's attention to them. "I heard that!"
"Seriously," April turned back to Dan. "I'm thinking of going up to the farm and work on restoring it. Splinter wants to get Allie and Zack out of the city until they get accustomed to the situation."
Dan chortled, "That's going to take Allie a whole lifetime!"
"I heard that too, Daniel!"
Mike set bowls of popcorn down beside the pizza pan. "Did I miss anything?"
"It hasn't started yet." Mike plopped down in the bean-bag chair and Allie snuggled closer, letting him drape an arm around her shoulders. "I've never dealt with anyone famous. What's April like?"
"She's cool, you haven't got anything to worry about. You two'll get along great. At least I hope so."
"Your confidence is touching."
"One of us has to be optimistic."
Lotus watched their boldness. She could never behave that way, not in front of people she knew. Leo rested his hand on her shoulder as he leaned against the back of her chair. He understood how she felt.
Donnie turned up the volume of the television set while Raph hushed everyone. "Shut up already! It's on!"
April was seated at the Channel Three Newsroom with an uncomfortable Chief Sterns. "We all know about the blatant terrorist attack on Channel Three. And we all know of the equally heroic rescue by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But many questions have been left in the wake of this weekend's events. Here to answer some of those questions is Police Chief Sterns. Were these ninja terrorists behind the murder of Officer William Baker?"
"The ones apprehended admitted to the murder."
"So that means that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had nothing to with it, correct?"
Sterns gulped, "That's correct, Ms. O'Neil."
"What about the Hi-Tech Robberies? Were you able to ascertain that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had nothing to do with them as well?"
Sterns scowled. She was right, but did she have to rub it in? "We have reasons to believe that this ninja terrorist group that calls themselves the Foot Clan is responsible for the Hi-Tech Robberies. But the vigilantes know as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still wanted for questioning on this and other incidents. But I'm sure you already know all about that."
If that remark was meant to push April off-guard, it didn't work. She merely smiled, "I never knew that you noticed my intense research before, Chief Sterns. Thank you."
Raph turned to April during the commercial break. "We save the city and that's all the thanks we get?"
"Sorry, Charles kept it to a bare minimum. I think that was the only way he could get Sterns to the studio at all. I was lucky to get in what I could about you guys."
"He had to admit you weren't guilty on the air," Dan commented. "That's a start."
"Sorry, Dan. But your dad's just as prejudice as Sterns. Most humans are."
"Not all humans," Allie retorted.
"You're crazy, you don't know what you're talking about." Mike hurried to soothe Allie. He could sense a growing antagonism between her and Raph. What had Splinter said about colliding personalities?
Zack turned thoughtfully to Clin-san. "Is there anyway we could change the name of the dojo in Japan? The part not connect with Oroku Nagi?"
"Why would you wish to change a centuries-old name?"
"You wouldn't want me cutting all ties with the criminal underworld, would you?" Allie was trying to ignore Raph but the arrogant Turtle was making it difficult. For Mike's sake, for the sake of giving up her anger, she would try her hardest.
"It'd probably be better for you but you probably won't, so why?" Mike shifted slightly so he could see her better.
"I do have some people I can trust. People that could come in useful. People that won't like the Shredder trying to push his way in. He's not going to give up."
"If you trust them, they're trustworthy. But I'm not sure how useful they will be."
Dan sighed. "I'm glad that's over with."
"Nothing is over, Dan," Splinter replied. "This is just the beginning."
"Of a beautiful relationship," Mike finished in his best Bogart.
Allie grinned, "You got that right."
Zack's next adventure can be found in To Be a Hero. The Turtles' next adventure can be found in The Ronin.