Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope that this two-parter is to your taste, and that your taste is to fluff and nonsense with a healthy dose of "family" stuff.
Many many thanks to Kyabetsu, my invaluable consultant in all things Comic-- and the bestest person for helping out when one is stuck on a plot point!
TMNT are the property of Mirage and Peter Laird. Anything with ™ after it is a real invention that I found on the Internet. The Rat and the Bishamon designs mentioned are also from the Internet from a crafts shop. The O. Henry story this is inspired by and quoted from is in the public domain. I'm making my list and checking it twice, but somehow I don't think Playmates will ever make a large Splinter doll just for me...
"The Gift of the Magi-angelo" Part One
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And
sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two
at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and
the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent
imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied.
Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven
cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
Mikey sighed deeply. He stared at the amount of money spread out on his bed and knew that, no matter how much he looked at it, it would not magically increase.
He'd been working hard for April and Casey since October at any chore they felt pity enough to pay him for-- and yet it STILL wasn't enough for Sensei's Christmas present (which he had stubbornly NOT told said employers how much it was going to cost, as he did NOT want charity-- NOT this time!).
Of course they knew it must be a large amount; Mike's dogging them at all hours, looking for any job they were willing to pay him for, had been enough of a hint. April, knowing what the gift was, had warned him that those items were rather costly. But she had no idea of the actual price-- and she couldn't bring herself to ask.
Mike gazed at the printout of the finished item he so wanted to give Splinter for Christmas-- indeed, had COMMISSIONED for Splinter's gift--the image was so worn and creased that much of the glorious detail was fading, but to Michelangelo it glowed as if it were there before him, in the awestruck and grateful hands of his father.
"I have to get this for him! I have to!" he reminded himself. "I ordered it-- I designed it! I need to finish paying for it!"
And he wasn't TOO far off the price of the gift!
He only needed two hundred more dollars, and the gift would be his! HIS to place in Sensei's hands, HIS to astound and amaze his brothers with his thoughtfulness and generosity.
He started remembering how this had all started; back in September he'd seen this perfect quilt block of the Rat while cruising the web for art supplies-- he had been toying with the idea of branching out into other areas-- and he had found this twelve inch by twelve inch quilt square of the Rat from the Zodiac-- it had looked so intriguing-- and THEN the idea had come to him to make his father a quilt-- a quilt of the Rat surrounded by loyal and loving turtle images!
And when he'd come up with the idea, it was so clear in his mind-- but when he'd looked into how to make a quilt, it didn't take long for him to realize that his skills would not be sufficient for such a project.
He then tried to find such an item already made; after all, this WAS the Internet! He had searched every site he could think of, even the auction sites that he loved so much, and it had shocked him that such things were NOT available even in this day and age.
But, with the help of April, he'd found out that such a thing could be ordered; could be commissioned!
"But Mikey, those things are expensive," she had warned. "And if you commission it, it's going to cost even more!"
Mike, however, was not to be dissuaded. Quickly the idea of just how it should look formed in his mind, and he drew out what he wanted-- and it would be perfect!
He ordered the patterns for what was available, and then, utilizing his artistic abilities, he drew out how the quilt should look: the Bishamon (Japanese Treasure design) would be the background. In the center was to be the block of the Rat from the Japanese Zodiac, looking proud and appearing with the God Daikoku's mallet that bestows wealth. He imagined that Splinter must have looked like this, all those years ago-- it was sort of like having Sensei's baby picture!
Then-- he wanted four images of Genbu, the Black Turtle (A/N: one of the "Four Gods" in Chinese and Japanese myth), one for each corner-- but there were none to be found. The woman he had found who who made quilts said that she could make the blocks herself if he designed it, but it would cost extra.
And boy, did it!
Well, this WAS for Sensei! So Mike, after much research, managed to make out FOUR distinct "Turtle Generals" that blended traditional art work and yet could easily be seen to be each one of them as well.
It was TEMPTING to add a fifth turtle (being him again), right next to the rat block, standing guard-- but that would have thrown off the visual balance (as well as opening himself up to much teasing and criticism from his brothers).
Mike gazed at the printout of the result of the woman's weeks of work-- it was gorgeous! It was a thing of beauty; indeed, she had had many offers to buy it while she worked on it in her shop, some of the offers several hundred dollars more than HE was paying, in fact.
But even though he was behind in the final payment, she was an honorable person, and said she would hold it until he could pay for it-- and he still owed her two hundred dollars.
And Christmas was only a week away!
Mike stared again at his money. It was a far cry from two hundred. He watched as Klunk, seeking his attention, pounced upon the pitiful pile of cash and began to play with it.
"I can't ask Casey and April-- I just can't!" he spoke to the cat as he gently rescued a precious twenty from the mighty hunter known as Klunk. "Maybe I should ask the guys? Even though I know they already got him something... I could say it's from all of us!"
But even as he vocalized that to his cat, he knew it would be useless. They each might give him some money, but he was pretty sure that all three together would not have two hundred dollars. They, too, had earned money helping out various "safe" humans. But they had only done so to buy Sensei their gifts. And they had gotten really nice ones, at reasonable prices. He was the one who, while looking to get the bestest gift in the world, had gone far beyond his budget and good sense.
Klunk meowed in reply, as if reading his thoughts, and jumped up onto his precious Mikey, purring in an encouraging way as he sought out his favorite perch on the turtle's shoulder, where he could rub and nuzzle Mike's cheek and chin to his heart's content.
"You're right, Klunkers. It never hurts to try!"
And with new determination, he headed out to Don's new lab. Don was the best with money-- and Mike WAS his favorite brother, after all!
"I'm broke, Mike," were the response to Mike's cheerful "Can I speak with you, my bestest brother?"
Mike considered turning on "the eyes", but held back. Weapons of that nature needed to be used sparingly and at just the right heart-tugging moment.
"Aww, c'mon, Don! I have the perfect gift, and I've been paying and paying on it, but I'm just a little bit short of the final payment!" Mike said, keeping the whine out of his voice and at the same time pleading. "I can say that it's from all of us! And it would be, even though it was all my idea and I've paid MOST of it, and you guys would only be paying a small part of it."
"Skeptical" definitely was the word to describe the look Don favored his brother with.
"How small a part?"
Mike cleared his throat, determined to pull this off.
"Ooooh, only about sixty-five dollars," he responded, keeping his voice as nonchalant as possible (and failing miserably).
Don's snort told the turtle that this had been a fool's mission.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," he said, just the right amount of dejection in his tone. "The eyes" were on standby, waiting for the moment to spring their emotional-wrenching trap on the brainy brother. "I guess I'll be the only one without a gift for Sensei this year."
"The eyes" allowed their potent power to appear just for a brief moment-- a taste of their might, as it were. It'd be nice if Don would cave before Mike had to resort to such a weapon.
"Tell you what," Don said, still eyeing his brother. "Help me out with this bet I have, and I'll cut you in for half of it. It won't be as much as you apparently need, but it'll be more than you have now."
Mike, intrigued, put on his best grin.
"Sure! What is the bet about? Anime? Horror movies? Oh, I know-- Silver Sentry trivia!"
"Nope. We have a bet on what type of useless present you got for Sensei this year."
A stunned silence, followed by righteous indignation.
"I don't get useless gifts for Sensei! When have I EVER given a 'useless' gift to sensei?"
Don contemplated Mike as if he were one of his experiments. He needed to say nothing. Mike read his look perfectly.
"Okay, but c'mon, I was six at the time!" he defended himself. "I thought he'd like it!"
"What about the Sauce Dispensing Chopsticks™ from last year?"
"Those were COOL! I can't help it if Sensei had trouble working them. And it was funny when all that sauce squirted out and hit Raph right in the face! Besides, Splinter said they were a very thoughtful gift!"
"I think the exact phrase was 'Who would ever have thought of buying such a gift?'."
"No he didn't. And what about the present I got him the year before, eh?" Mike was ready to fight. How dare his brothers bet on him like some kind of loser!
Now Don laughed aloud.
"The NAP Alarm™? Honestly, Mike, that had to be the dumbest--"
"Splinter thanked me! He said that he needed something to keep him from falling asleep whenever you started talking all technology and science!"
Don shrugged, but the hard look in his eyes showed that the shot had struck home.
"I guess you don't need that money so desperately after all," he mused.
"I guess I don't!" Mike and his injured pride shook the dust from his feet and left the Lab, swearing to never return in his entire lifetime.
Merrrow Klunk purred apologetically in Mike's ear, and the turtle reached up to scratch his loyal kitty behind the ears.
"It's not your fault, Klunkie-wunkie," Mike assured him. "It was a good idea. I just chose the wrong brother. Or rather, brothers," he added, reminding himself that all three were betting on him-- or rather, against him!
He wandered out into the living area with the idea of watching some tv, looking for diversion from his problem, yet his mind stuck on Christmas.
Christmas. He so loved Christmas. But today he could only think of how he could get two hundred dollars in time to get the quilt in time for Christmas.
"Will you buy my hair?"
He heard before he even came in view of the bank of tvs that someone was already watching a movie.
"Oh, this is the most romantic movie," he heard April sigh. When he came around the corner he saw that April was on the couch with Splinter and Casey, watching some old black and white movie. Great.
"What's so romantic about it?" Casey wondered, a sour note to his tone of voice. "So far it's been nothin' but a buncha short stories that make no sense. I mean, that bum who wanted ta get arrested couldn't until he decided ta go straight! What kind of romantic story is that?"
April favored Casey with a stern look over the head of Splinter who was (safely or not, depending upon one's point of view) seated between the two.
"Just because it doesn't have car chases, explosions, and wall-to-wall violence doesn't mean you have to be so negative," she huffed. "And I was referring to this particular part of the movie."
Casey (and Mike, safely in the shadows just observing) turned his eyes back to the movie.
"So her sellin' her hair ta buy a present for her husband is romantic? What's romantic about her cuttin' off her hair?" Casey shook his head. "This whole movie's been a waste-- well, except for that one where the crooks kidnap that brat of a kid an' the dad won't take him back until they PAY him ta do it. But the rest don't make no sense."
"Mr. Jones, I gather you are unfamiliar with O. Henry?" Splinter, irritated by the young man's obvious ignorance, nevertheless was polite and respectful. But only just. The man had groused and grumbled and offered editorial comments throughout the entire film.
"Oh Henry™? Naw, I prefer Snickers™ ta Oh Henry™."
"Casey--" April began, but Splinter halted her.
"Never mind, my daughter. Let us enjoy the rest of our movie."
Mike by now was watching the story, as the woman, hair gone and money in hand, buys a chain for her husband's watch.
Must be nice to have hair to sell, he mused as the tale played out before him. The woman bought a beautiful chain for her husband's watch-- he smiled, imagining Raph wearing such a chain to check his old pocket watch that Sensei had given him when they were kids. "Hold on, guys, gotta check the time," he could almost hear him growl, as he pulled the watch from a special place on his belt, the fancy chain declaring to the world that this was a Ninja with style.
Mike was transfixed. The husband had bought the woman beautiful combs for her hair ("TORTOISE shell? That is SO wrong!") which, naturally, she had sold-- and then it was revealed that HE had sold his watch to buy the combs, so the chain was pretty useless...
"Aw, c'mon! She cuts off her hair and THEN he buys her the combs?" Casey's indignant tone cut into Mike's thoughts. "An' on top of that, he sells his WATCH? What kind of dumb movie--"
"It's ROMANTIC!" April defended. "They each one sacrificed something precious to them for the ONE person who was MORE important to them than 'things'!"
"It's stupid! Why not just get a credit card?"
"Look here, Arnold Casey Jones, I've heard enough from you!" April exploded. "You didn't have to watch, and I warned you this wasn't your kind of film, but nooo! YOU had to join in!"
"I joined in because I'm tryin' ta like what you like!" he snapped back. "Ain't you the one always sayin' 'Casey, just once I wish you'd like what I like'."
"Yes-- LIKE it, not sit there and carp about it the entire time!"
"What's ta like? Five little shows in one movie, and four of them were borin' and made no sense! I mean, even the one with the kid ended strangely!"
"That was the POINT of O. Henry stories! They ended with a twist that caught the reader by surprise!"
"The only surprise is that I made it ta the end of this movie! And HOW was that last one romantic?"
"So, if I cut off MY hair to buy YOU a special gift, you'd think that was stupid, huh?"
Casey favored her with a hard look.
"You plannin' on cuttin' yer hair? How short? I don't want no girlfriend with a boy's haircut!"
April stood up, ready to strike.
"And WHOSE hair is it, I might ask? MINE, that's whose, MR. Jones! YOU have NO say over what I do with my hair!"
"I didn't say I had a say about yer hair, I just said--"
"I heard what you said, and if I want to shave myself bald it's MY business, NOT yours!"
Casey came up off the couch, towering above the redhead, matching her angry glare for angry glare.
"There's no way I'll let you shave yerself bald, April, and that is final!" he shouted, jabbing his finger in the air at her to emphasize his point.
April's eyes went narrow, and then her arm shot out, intercepting the gesturing one of Casey's.
The fight, refereed by Splinter, went on as a thoughtful Michelangelo left the room.
Could I sell something? I mean, sure, I don't have hair, but perhaps I could sell Raph's watch!
I mean, he doesn't really use it...
Naturally, Mikey's good sense took hold of him, reminding him that selling something that wasn't his was not a good idea.
But... could I sell something of mine? Do I even have anything worth two hundred dollars?
Two minutes later he was in his room, gathering his most precious items and laying them out on his bed, prepared to examine each with a critical eye and a monetary motive...
(to be continued)