"Well, go on," Mikey gave Raph a gentle shove from behind, pushing him up the stairs to the door of Splinter's meditation chamber. The red-masked teen raised his hand to the door, and then glanced back at his siblings, nervously.
The other three turtles gave their brother the "thumbs-up" sign, smiling broadly.
Raph swallowed the ever-growing lump in his throat and rapped lightly on the wooden framework of the door.
"Enter," came the gravelly voice of the old rat, muffled by the door but still quite understandable.
Raphael slid the door open and stepped inside, sliding it shut again behind him. His mentor was seated at the far end of the room, on a slightly raised platform, facing away from the door, hunched over an aged book of Japanese scripture. The terrapin crossed the room and dropped to his knees on the floor, head bowed low. "Master…I know that I've disgraced you…and I know it's probably too late, but I…I wanted to apologize. I'm sorry for the way I am. I'm sorry I haven't been the son you deserve. I never meant to bring dishonor upon our family, an' I wish I could take back a lotta the things I've done, but I can't. I won't ever be as focused as Leo, or as smart as Donnie, or as gung-ho as Mikey. I won't ever be perfect, but I…I wanna keep tryin'…if you'll let me." He could see his own sweat collecting on the floor, which his nose was almost touching, and his bit his bottom lip, waiting in the tormenting silence.
The aging mammal let a small sigh escape from his lips. He turned and stood slowly, walking over to his apprentice. Splinter leaned on his walking stick, using it as support for his ever-wearying body, "Your act of contrition is the first step on the path to reclaiming the grace you lost. I let my temper receive the better of me earlier today; You are my son, and though you may disappoint me at times, the realization of your problem and request for help in finding a suitable solution is a most excellent sign of your maturity as a ninjitsu warrior and as a person," he smiled and offered a hand to Raphael, "Rise, my son. Your apology is quite sufficient."
Raphael accepted his sensei's hand gratefully, stood, bowed again and then wrapped his arms around the old rat in a strong hug, murmuring, "Thanks…Dad…"
Sensei winced but decided not to comment on the fact that his lower back was going to feel quite poor tomorrow morning, "You're welcome."
Raph stepped back and took a deep breath (he was breathing easy again), a genuine smile on his face. "Man, I feel better now – I'm gonna go see if Mikey wants ta help me cook somthin' for dinner. Whadda ya want? Ya know what – I'm just gonna whip up everything we got!" he said, before dashing out of the room like he was walking on air.
Splinter merely shook his head, though the small grin that crossed his face gave away his true feelings, "Good luck, Raphael. Please try not to burn down the kitchen…again."
"Can do!" Raph called back as he opened the door to the main area of the Lair, "Hey Mikey – guess what?"
"Wouldn't it be easier – and safer – to just order out?" Donnie asked warily as he leaned against the fridge while Mikey and Raph took inventory of their options.
"Don, you're in the way," Raph said, grabbing his techno-genius brother by the arms and steering him to the other side of the room as Mikey opened the now un-road-blocked fridge.
"Why do I get such a bad feeling about this?" Don asked as he took a seat next to Leo at the table.
"Hey – if it makes them happy," Leo shrugged, "all we have to do is supervise. No one ever said we have to eat whatever they concoct."
"Fair enough, but I'll flip you for fire extinguisher duty," Don replied, pulling a quarter out of a hidden pocket on his belt.
"Sure – I call heads. Wait – is it winner gets fire patrol or the other way around?"
"Heads: You get it, Tails: I don't. Okay?"
"Okay – no! Wait!"
Donny grinned, tossing the hard, U.S. currency high into the air with a flick of his large thumb, "Too late, you said 'okay'!"
"That's not fair," Leo whined as the coin landed back down on the table, spun a few times and then fell on its face.
"Ha ha!" Don chuckled as he put the coin away, "Looks like you lose. So…" he turned his attention back to the 'chefs', "what's on the menu tonight, boys?"
"Dunno," Mikey started, looking over at Raph, "As long as it doesn't involve alcohol I think Master Splinter'll let it pass."
Raphael was pulling a bottle of cooking wine out of the fridge as Mikey said this, "Ya don't hafta worry about it, Mike," he said, uncorking the bottle and dumping its contents down the sink, "Startin' here an' now I quit drinkin' – cold turkey." He tossed the bottle in the trash and then grinned embarrassedly up at his brothers, "I'm gonna…um, need you guys' help with this, alright?"
All three looked at each other, then grinned over at Raph, "No problem!" the turtles told him simultaneously.
"Heh, not sure if I should be grateful or worried," he said, squatting down to pull a stack of pots out of the cupboards beneath the counter, "You guys in the mood for Italian?"
"Mmmmm," Mikey licked his lips, "Spaghetti: instant meal by just adding water! And sauce…and maybe meatballs…"
"Another wonder from the makers of pizza," Donnie joked, "For the more sophisticated diners."
"Yeah," Leo nodded, "Those who know how to use a fork."
"Who doesn't?" the orange-masked terrapin being asked, obviously not picking up on the fairly blunt sarcasm.
"Ya know – there is such a thing as pizza spaghetti," Raph said, setting a stack of pots down on the counter and separating them.
"Really?" Leonardo asked, raising an eyeridge, "Never had that before. What's it like?"
"Who cares?" Mikey cried, "If it's got pizza in the name, how could it be bad? Let's go for it!"
"I never actually tried it before," Raph admitted, rummaging through the cabinets on the walls, "Just caught the recipe on TV one night and thought it looked pretty good."
"Cool," Mikey said.
"Whoa, whoa – wait a minute," Don said, putting a hand up, "Are you telling me you watch cooking shows??"
Raph shrugged embarrassedly, "Hey, that Emeril guy rocks, what can I say?"
Leo sighed and turned to leave, "I'm goin' to get the extinguisher. Keep an eye on the master chefs, would ya?"
"Will do," Donnie nodded, as Raph started up the burners on their rusty stove with a cigarette lighter and Mikey tugged at a well-glued box of spaghetti with his teeth.
"Hey, be careful with that, spazz," Raph warned, "We don't need that all over the floor."
"I am careful," Mikey said, tearing the lid off the box without a hitch, "See? Nothin' to it," he said smugly, sliding out a large handful and holding them over the pot by the ends.
Raphael looked up and his eyes widened, "No Mikey! Not like that!"
But the warning came a hair too late, and Michaelangelo bent the stiff pasta downwards. As the omniscient beings decreed should happen, it splintered into tiny fragments and shot out across the room. Leonardo returned to the kitchen just in time to be rained upon with spaghetti shrapnel.
"Heh heh…Oops?" Mikey grinned widely at Raph, who just scowled.
The fiery turtle walked over to his brother, who was now feebly holding the remaining, jagged, uneven thin sticks of spaghetti. Taking another handful, Raphael got a firm grip near the center of the foodstuffs and broke them neatly in half, allowing the pieces to fall into the water. He glared daggers at Mikey and brushed several pieces of projectile spaghetti from the lining of his shell, hoping this demonstration would be enough to avoid violence.
"Having fun already, are we?" Leo asked, brushing splintered pasta off his seat before planting himself back in it, with the fire extinguisher at his side.
"Looks that way," Donnie nodded, collecting all the fragments on the table into a small pile.
Raph merely continued to glare at Mikey for several seconds, before he turned away and began to open cabinets, hoping to locate a jar of "Ragu".
"Sorry…" Mikey said weakly, but not really looking repentant, "I'll just…clean up then," he added, pulled a dustpan and broom out from between the fridge and the cabinets.
Leo rolled his eyes, and then glanced over at Donnie, one eyeridge raised, "What are you doing?"
"Playing spaghetti 'Scrabble' with myself," Don replied, now with 'antidisestablishmentarianism' spelled out in pasta pieces before him on the table.
Leonardo sighed and shook his head, "This is why we say you have too much free time, Don."
Raphael had now covered the counter with foodstuffs in all manner of packages and was scrawling on an old napkin with a pen. "Get offa the floor, Mikey," he said, not looking up as the team's 'class clown' crawled past him, still gathering up his mess, "You can grovel for forgiveness later – right now I need ya to start measuring out just what I got written here, while I finish with the pasta. Think you can handle that?"
Mikey stood, accidentally using the hand that was holding the dustpan to sketch a rough salute out to Raph. This motion, however, caused all of the debris he had collect to be promptly flung in his face, then scatter on the floor once more. Flustered, the turtle turned around to gather up the small bits of wasted food. This action proved to be even more lethal, as the broom he gripped firmly in his left hand managed to smack Raph in the face when he made to bend over.
"Rrrrrrrr…Mikeeeeeeyyy…" Raph seethed, clenched fists shaking with frustration.
"Nice to have things back to normal, isn't it?" Leo said with a smile.
"I don't know these people – I just live here," Donnie said, not looking up from his game.
Mikey stopped and straightened up again, "Oops, sorry Raph. I'll just put this away." He turned once more, intending to deposit the sweeping device in the closet, but instead managing to whack his brother in the face again as he turned around.
Raph let out a grunt of pain and then grabbed the broom away from his brother, growling like a provoked wild animal, advancing menacingly, holding the cleaning tool like a hatchet.
"Hey Don," Michaelangelo spoke up worriedly, "I did one of those things you told me not to do again…"
"Two words, Mikey," Donatello said simply, "Run."
"But that's only one word – Ow! Ow! Hey! Quit it!" Mikey cried, attempting to flee as Raphael chased him around the kitchen, whacking him with the broom.
"Raph, is dinner ever gonna get done or should I order a pizza now?" Leo asked, fingering the fire extinguisher, wondering if now would be an appropriate time to use it.
"Yeah, I'm getting to it," Raph said, closeting the broom, before shoving the old napkin into Mikey's hand, "And you…" he growled, grabbing his brother forcefully by the shoulders and steering him back over to the counter, "Try and keep your accident-proneness to yourself. I'd like to go through life without lookin' like I ran headlong into a brick wall."
"But you do that all the time – Ow!"
"Just get to work – will ya?" Raph said after smacking Mickey upside the head, "You did wanna help, didn't ya?"
"Good. Then do that," Raph said, glancing over at the pot on the stove, which was practically boiling over, "Aw, shit!" he cried, turning the burner off quickly, and waving at the steam with the other hand.
"Does spaghetti burn?" Leo asked incredulously.
"I wouldn't put it past them," Don said.
"No, it doesn't burn," Raph said indignantly, "But if ya let it go for too long, it ruins it." Yanking an oven mitt off a hook on the wall, he slipped it on and lifted the pot up, pouring its contents into a strainer over the sink. Setting the empty pot aside, he twisted the faucet, letting cold water run over the limp noodles. "How're the toppings comin', Mikey?"
"I got sprinkles, gumdrops-"
"What?? Mikey, did you even look at what I wrote for ya??"
"Huh? Oh – no. Don't hit me!" the orange-masked turtle put his hands up to protect his head.
"Read the damn, paper, Mikey," Raph grumbled, "Trust me, after an hour at 300 degrees, sprinkles and gumdrops ain't gonna be too appetizin'."
"Ya know, we could just cut it down to 15 minutes at 1200 degrees, couldn't we?"
"The oven doesn't go that high," Raph explained, as if it were a kindergartener he was addressing, "And I don't think Leo would appreciate the attempt, either. Here, move over," he added, shoving Mikey over a bit, "It'll go faster if I walk ya through this, apparently."
"Kay," Mikey agreed, stepping aside.
"Now look, it's not that complicated – it's just normal stuff you put on a pizza –"
"No anchovies, right?"
"No. No anchovies. Just mozzarella, pepperoni, onions and peppers," Raph listed, sliding the vegetables over in front of his brother, "Can I trust ya to dice these without hurtin' either of us?"
"Hacking up those poor innocent onions," Mikey faked a small sniffle, "Always makes me tear up…"
"You are so lame…" Raph sighed, "I'd hoped you'd outgrow that."
"We'd hoped you would outgrow that ugly zit on top of your neck- oh wait, that's yer face… Still, you don't see us complaining much," Mikey retorted, placing down the wooden cutting board.
"Yer really pushin' it tonight, ya know."
"I know, but I figure I still have a little bit of breathing room between 'Raph-Annoyed' and 'Raph-Causing Pain'."
"Let's keep it that way, then – for your sake," Raphael said with a smirk, elbowing his brother in the side.
Donnie had now recruited Leo into playing spaghetti 'Hangman' with him, and at the moment, the katana-wielding turtle wasn't faring so well. "I swear, Donnie, if this is another scientific name for some bird only found in Zimbabwe…"
"For your information, it happens to be native to Lithuania," Don said matter-of-factly.
"That's it; I'm choosing the next word," Leo said, sliding all the pieces over in front of him.
"Hey," Don objected, "You weren't finished with mine yet."
"You know I was never going to get it," Leo said, resetting the game, "And it's patronizing when you start adding tendons and ligaments onto the hangman."
"But it adds realism…" Donatello protested quietly, watching as Leonardo began to set out places for letters to go.
"Alright, go ahead," Leo said smugly, gesturing at the table.
"Man…this is probably the hometown of some master swordsmith back in thirteenth century Japan," Donnie said.
"Perhaps….or maybe fourteenth century…"
"Boy, you guys sure play a messed-up version of that game," Mikey said, turning to watch them while Raphael mixed the sauce into the pasta.
"Hey – it's more personal this way," Leo said, "Sort of like an exchange of cultural ideas."
"Yeah," Donnie nodded, tapping his chin with one finger, still examining the 'game board', "It's a way to learn about each others' interests without actually having to sit and listen to a lecture."
"Master Splinter should take a leaf out of whatever book you got that, Don," Mikey said, smiling.
"Word games bore me," Raph said, shaking the shredded mozzarella over the noodles, now spread evenly in a pan.
"That's cuz you have a limited vocabulary," Mikey replied, putting one arm around his brother's shoulder.
"I got your limited vocabulary – right here!" Raph growled, waving his fist threateningly in Mike's face.
"Yeah, that's pretty limited," Mikey nodded, counting his brother's large fingers with one of his own, "I see one…two…wow a whole two words – that's impressive."
"See? Right there! What more do you need in life than that?" Raph took a swing at him, but he ducked and grabbed the pepperoni, "You wouldn't hurt a turtle with a pizza topping, would you?"
Leo just shook his head, "Guys: dinner. Remember that? That strange ritual we perform each night when we gather in the living room and fill our bellies? Yeah, I'd like to get to that sometime before breakfast."
"Keep yer shell on," Raph said, snatching the meat away from Mikey and placing it atop the cheese and vegetable-covered noodles, "Now what do you guys wanna do for an hour while we wait for this?" he asked as he slid the pan into the already-preheated oven and set the egg-timer Donnie had previously repaired for them.
"We could make fun of you some more!" Mikey suggested jokingly.
"How 'bout somethin' that won't result in your death?" Raph replied.
"We could play video games," Mikey said next, "I know you all wanna DDR with me!"
"Mikey – nobody but nobody wants to play that stupid game wit' you," Raph growled.
"Oh yes you do," the orange-masked turtle said, "You had fun last time."
"No I didn't!"
"Nah," Leo spoke up, "I think he was too busy tripping over himself."
"There must be something we could all agree on," Donnie said, placing a final letter in Leo's puzzle with still one leg to go.
"There's always my favorite," Raph said.
"No, we're not going to 'pound the snot' out of Mikey," Leo said forcefully.
The red-masked turtle snapped his fingers, then crossed his arms poutily.
"Well, I've got something that might solve this," Don said, getting up from the table.
"I ain't playin' anymore 'Trivial Pursuit'," Raph said firmly.
"Just follow me," Don said, heading out of the kitchen.
A Note from the Authors:
Sooooo sorry about the gap, nay, RAVINE, between updates! With college starting, I've (Sam) been going crazy and Shaun's got work now, so we both will be continuing with this story, but it'll be slower than it was during the summer! Sorry again!!