And now-- the final chapter. WARNING: Prolly full of sap. Extremely long. HOPEFULLY it's a satisfying conclusion. I started out to do a one-shot and the story started to grow. But I hope I didn't deviate from my original mission.
Many extra Christmas wishes to Kyabetsu for all her help with "the Precious". I hope everything goes as you plan!
TMNT are the property of Mirage. The description of the display case comes from "usadisplay", a real place on the web. O. Henry is in the public domain, and I still remember my fifth-grade teacher reading it to us and crying as she read. I wish I could quilt.
"The Gift of the Magi-angelo" Part Four
"When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.
Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.
"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?""
Mike was in the kitchen, making dinner, when he overheard a careless comment from Don to Sensei.
"April says the display case has arrived."
Mike, pausing in his work, strained his specially trained Ninja hearing to eavesdrop, but Splinter's questioning reply was pitched low and soft as his normal voice usually was (unless he was reprimanding Michelangelo for some careless mistake in the dojo-- then he could make a sound like thunder!).
Don, on the other hand...
"Mike's going to love it."
Display case? I'm going to love it?
Mike went back to peeling potatoes in that quick and easy way of his that, when Raph would attempt to imitate it more potato than peel ended up in the sink, his brow furrowed in thought.
Display case? Sensei's giving me a display case? To display what? My Battle Nexus trophy was destroyed by Karai. My medal, too.
For a few moments he shed a figurative tear for his two Greatest Proofs of being better than his bros. Stupid Karai-- he'd JUST gotten his room exactly the way he liked it. Ah well... shrugging, he went back to creating Michelangelo's Mega-Fantastic and Unrivaled Anywhere on Earth Even Though it is His First Attempt at Ever Making It Shepherd's Pie©. He'd puzzle it out later. But it seemed a disappointing sort of gift.
He'd been hoping for a Wii™...
As the potatoes cooked, Mike minced up the lamb (no ground beef for this recipe-- he was gonna wow everyone at dinner tonight-- even April would be impressed, and insist on his not repaying her for the groceries!), then tossed it in with his veggies and onion and garlic that were nice and sizzling in the skillet. As he prepared the gravy for flavoring, he found himself thinking again about what he'd heard.
A display case? Sensei got me a display case? What have I got to display?
Klunk strolled into the kitchen and began to beg some tasty raw lamb from his precious Mikey. As the cat purred and rubbed his body between Mike's legs in the time-honored cat dance of "feed me you love me meowmeowmeoooooowwww", the turtle kept thinking of what use he would have for such a gift.
I mean, Karai and her army destroyed everything worth displaying he mused. I've been lucky enough to find replacements for my collections, but still-- I doubt anything I have is worth a--
Mike suddenly realized exactly what he had that could be displayed--
Or rather, USED to have that could be displayed...
For a moment the cat and the cooking were forgotten in a brief and frightening vision of Christmas Day, where Splinter presented him with something he'd been wanting for some time, yet had always found reasons why he couldn't get it...
"My son, allow me the honor of encasing your treasure in this humble--"
"Yow! Sorry Klunk!"
The cat, impatient and miffed at being ignored, had done his cute little trick of standing up on his back legs, reaching up Mike's leg with his front ones, and digging in his claws as he stretched and looked cute.
Some raw lamb rewarded the cat, while the turtle, going back to his work, forced the vision from his head.
"Naw," he said with a shaky laugh. "I'm jumping to conclusions. I've got plenty of things that could be displayed. Like my action figures-- Sensei is always complaining about stepping on them whenever he has to go into my room to collect the laundry. Yeah, the action figures-- sure, it makes sense!"
Right. Despite the fact that you've been going on forever about wanting to get something "Worthy" of the honor of displaying your precious comic in came the annoying, evil inner-voice.
Mike resolvedly forced the voice into the black void of "Deliberate Ignorance" and went back to making the best damn night before Christmas Eve meal this family would ever in their lives taste.
And there it stayed, until, while taking out the beautiful picture-perfect and smelling delicious Shepherd's pie, he overheard Splinter say to April, "It is worth the sacrifice."
"Hey! Earth to Mikey!" Raph's voice startled him into realizing that he'd been standing there for a few minutes holding the casserole pan in both hands. "You meditatin' or somethin'?"
"Sorry," he managed to grin. "Just wanted to be sure it was finished."
Raph, in the middle of his mission to get the plates and silverware, cast a skeptical eye at Mike.
"Checkin' the food involves sayin' 'Oh, man, what am I gonna do?' over and over under yer breath?" Then he snorted out a laugh. "Lemme guess-- it's gonna taste awful 'cause you forgot somethin'."
Mike's pride snapped him away from his dread about the display case.
"I never forget anything! I'm an EXCELLENT cook, my good sir!"
"Never forget, eh?" Raph's voice was muffled as he reached into the cupboard for more plates. "Let's see... you tried to make Irish Stew but you didn't have all the right seasonings so you improvised and we all had the freakin' runs for a day. Then you tried to make that rum cake for Splinter's birthday-- No idea what you did there, but I thought Leo was gonna have ta cut it with his katana, it was so dense. I'm surprised the first slice didn't crack the plate! And we all had to eat it because Splinter didn't wanna hurt yer feelings."
"YOU had SECONDS of that!" Mike challenged.
"Yeah, only because Don bet me ten dollars I wouldn't," he smirked, his stack of dishes and silverware ready to be transported into the dining room. "Damn near lost a tooth, but I won the bet."
"Well, I'll bet you ten dollars that you'll be begging to finish eating up this masterpiece!" Mike haughtily replied.
"Nope," came the stinging reply. "I already got a bet goin' at the moment." And the big bad doo-doo head meanie Raph left the kitchen, laughing all the way.
Mike stood in thought, then shrugged.
"No. It's not worth ruining this masterpiece just to get back at my evil brother."
And he served dinner to the appreciative members of his family and his friends and his former best brother Raphael.
Mike was a nervous wreck.
All through that dinner, and afterwards, and even into today (Christmas Eve) his imagination was working overtime, his dread was building.
Splinter could NOT find out about the comic! He just couldn't! That would ruin everything, make everything worthless! Splinter must not KNOW what Mike had done!
Casey swore and swore and swore that he would not say a word to anyone about what Mike had done to get the money for such a gift.
"Damn it Mikey, I'll kick yer sorry ass if you don't leave me the freakin' hell alone about yer secret!" Casey swore once more (along with some other words that would not be nice in a family Christmas story). Mike finally left him alone.
But he was dreading Christmas Day...
While "cleaning" Don's lab for him (i.e. getting ready to download some precious anime for later viewing), he saw that one of the computers had not been clicked off of the site the viewer had been at-- and what he'd seen convinced than ever that Doom awaited him tomorrow... his eyes began to swim as he read the description...
The model 710 Comic Display Caseprotects, displays and organizes your complete and valuable collection... made of a revolutionary crystalclear, soft, lightweight plastic... UNBREAKABLE... will protect from dust, damage and theft....Your favorite Comic is HERMETICALLY SEALED against the elements of destruction.
Model 710 is perfect for "Silver Age" size or smaller...
Don had reached past the stunned turtle and closed out the window, but not before Mike had seen the old Fantastic Four comic being displayed in this wonderful case.
"Santa will put coal in your stocking if he catches you snooping," Don chided him, going about his business in his own lab.
Mike couldn't reply; his voice was too choked up with the knowledge that Splinter had gotten him something he'd been longing for, something that would make it possible to bring his precious comic out of its vault and into the light of his room for all to see and marvel at...
I can fake it! I know I can!
Mike, leaving the lab and plopping himself down in front of the bank of tvs, began to practice his "surprised and pleased beyond belief" reaction for tomorrow... as well as his possible responses to Splinter's "Let us see how it looks in the case".
Gee, Sensei, thanks! I'm gonna use it for all my special comics, one at a time! Alphabetically! That means I'll start with 'Amazing Spiderman' first! 'Cause the title starts with "A"...
Isn't that title "THE Amazing Spiderman"? Unless you're referring to "Adventures in Reading starring the Amazing Spider-Man" Don's practical sneer echoed in his imagination.
"Note to self; Don's got it coming to him. Okay, think, Mikester, think!"
Dad! It's perfect! How did you know I wanted something like this to put my new issue of "Justice Force featuring Turtle Titan" in? It's sure to be a famous collectable...
Yeah, in about a hundred years! he could hear Raph snort.
"My list of paybacks needs overhauling," Mike mused, as Klunk joined his precious master on the couch, ready for some well-deserved attention.
Oh, Sensei! It's just what I've been wanting! But let me try it out on my Silver Sentry issue one first. After all, he's going to be here for dinner, and I want to honor him.
Mike absently switched on the bank of tvs with one hand while scratching his Christmas kitty with the other, but his mind was on tomorrow. Splinter would buy that story, he was so big on honor and paying respect. Surely that ploy would work... yeah, he'd go with that one. It needed a bit more polish, but it would work!
Does this sudden urge to "honor" Silver Sentry stem from how the other day you accidentally set loose the guy he'd just caught? the Ghost of Leo pointing out a careless Turtle Titan action Past queried.
"Oh, Jim! My hair grows very fast!"
On the tv was the show that had started it all. The woman was admiring the combs that would have to wait until her hair was long enough for her to use.
"You've gotten me into a lot of trouble, baldy," he said, switching off the sets and, scooping up Klunkers, heading for his room, where he once again rewrapped the quilt, trying and trying with each change of paper to make it look even better than the previous incarnation.
At least it kept his mind off tomorrow.
Where is your comic? What do you mean, you sold it? Why would you do such a thing for a blanket? Yes, it is very beautiful, but have I not taught you four that the price is not what makes the gift special, it is the fact that it comes from my son? Surely Wal-Mart had something much cheaper---
Mike woke up. By the light of the digital clock it was now four hours into Christmas Day.
"Stupid imagination! Stupid dreams!"
He got up and, with perfect Ninja stealth, ventured into the living area where the tree was set up. He still was having just a bit of difficulty in getting used to the space this place possessed. The old lair-- the first lair-- had been roomy to him as a kid, but as they'd grown it'd become snug and cozy. When they'd lost it, and found the newer place with all its room, Mike had felt that they'd moved from a tiny apartment into a mansion. There was so much space, and they'd finally all gotten their own rooms! NO brothers sharing a crowded area! NO Sensei sleeping close-by to know immediately when some wandering turtle tot was looking for a late-night snack because he was so hungry because he'd not eaten the healthy and filling meal provided at supper because it had contained the evil fried liver and the dreaded cooked carrots!
And then, when Karai and her army had completely and utterly destroyed it, Leo had managed to find them this place, and the space was amazing! It almost felt as if they were NOT living underground. And there were places on the upper level where actual sunlight was filtering in-- such a new experience for the sewer-dwelling Turtle.
Mike carefully put out the gifts for his brothers and friends, then worked hard to make sure that Splinter's gift was prominently yet tastefully displayed for all to see. He had pushed aside several gifts with his own name on them (everyone had, as usual, snuck out at one point to place the presents they were giving under the tree-- it had become sort of a tradition, each one trying to do so without getting caught by the others) in order to make room, but for once he didn't indulge in the age-old custom of shaking them, feeling them through the wrapper, and then finally trying to carefully unwrap just a tiny corner for a quick peek inside before someone busted him for doing so.
Back in his room, he shifted Klunk off of his pillow (where the cat had immediately settled once Mike had gotten up) and went back to sleep.
"I'm surprised Mike isn't up first," Leo's voice filtered into the consciousness of the turtle in question. "He's usually the one waking us up with cries of 'Santa's been here!'"
Mike bolted out of bed, raced from his room, sprang over the railing rather than using the ladder, and landed in front of said brother.
"Merry Christmas!" he shouted, grabbing Fearless Leader and giving him a big old sloppy and noisy favorite brother kiss on the cheek.
"EWW! GET OFF!" Leo pushed him away, while Don and Raph laughed. Usually it was one of them to receive the "Traditional Mikey Christmas Kiss"-- Leo was very good about avoiding them each year.
"Yer slowin' down, Bro," Raph chuckled as Leo tried to wipe away the slobber. "He caught you good this year!"
Splinter emerged from the kitchen, tea for himself and Leonardo, hot cocoa for the other three on a tray.
"Merii Kurisumasu my sons," he greeted them, as Leo moved in to relieve his father of the tray. The other three bowed, returning the greeting, and then joining him as they sat down to drink the hot liquids before opening their gifts. Splinter had started that little "tradition" when they were about eight or nine and had gotten tired of finding hastily and poorly rewrapped presents under the tree. From then on, drinks first, then presents, and if anyone broke this rule, then the presents would be put away until after the New Year.
So far it had worked-- although there was that one time when someone had tried to make it look as if Raphael had broken the rule. Splinter, though he had no proof, was convinced it had been Michelangelo, but he did not punish him.
Instead, he had let Raphael handle it. Fortunately, no one had needed a Christmas spanking that day, but such tricks were never played again.
Then the gift-giving took place. Everything was going great! Mike got some new mangas from Leo, some art supplies from Raph (with the stipulation that they NOT be used in any way to piss off the giver or else someone was gonna be eatin' paint and drinkin' turpentine and I'm not kiddin' MIKE!), and some T-shirts with various superheroes on them from Don.
He immediately put on the one with Silver Sentry. After all, it didn't hurt to remind his partner in Crime Fighting how much he admired him...
Now Splinter was bringing forth the gifts he had gotten for his sons.
"I hope you do not think me foolish," he said to them all. "But this year I did go just a bit 'overboard'. However, I am so grateful that we are all together. Considering all we have been through, and how much we have lost, we still have our family. But I wanted to give you each something special."
Oh, boy, here it comes. Let me be cool. Let me be cool.
"For you, Raphael, I have this." And the turtle accepted a bulky and evidently heavy gift from his father with a bow. "Donatello, here is your gift."
Don's was perfectly square. Sure to be something computerish Mike thought.
"Leonardo," The Rat said, handing another bulky gift to a son. Then he turned to Mike. Mike's mouth suddenly felt dry; his throat felt constricted, and he barely hid the trembling of his hands as he accepted...
It was small, flat, not very heavy. Rectangle in shape.
Almost... comic-book shaped...
"Thanks, Sensei!" Mike heard Leonardo say gratefully. Looking up, he saw that his brother was holding a display case. "The tanto the Ancient One gave me will look perfect in this! Thanks!" And he bowed to Splinter.
Display case? The display case was for Leo?
Again Mike looked at this thin, lightweight gift, and even more he was afraid. Had Splinter known? Had Casey told?
Had someone made his sacrifice meaningless??
For what else could this be but his comic-- the very comic he'd sold for Splinter's gift!
Suddenly the day seemed to be worthless.
"Thanks, Dad," came the cheerful voice of Raph, who was admiring his new tools. "I've been missin' my old ones. My bike needs a lot of work!"
"Domo Arigato, Sensei," Don was equally pleased with some items that were too complicated for Mike to make out but evidently had something to do with all the scientific stuff Don was usually engaged in.
Splinter eyed Mike expectantly. Mike swallowed. Hard. Several times.
Then he opened his gift and found...
"The Incredible Hulk" he said shakily-- then froze-- then continued-- "Issue #182," he finished. Then he blinked. Then he looked again. Issue #182-- One Hundred Eighty-TWO!!
The day had suddenly become special again.
"I know that it is not as 'valuable' as the one you already have," he heard Splinter say through the waves of relief that were washing over him, "but April says that it is of some worth, and I felt that it would be a good companion to your special comic. And I believe your Badger character is in it as well."
"Wolverine," Mike absently replied. Then he grinned at Splinter and gave him a hug. "Thanks, Dad! Thanks a lot!"
Then it was time to shower Splinter with gifts. From Leo, some writing instruments, for Splinter enjoyed caligraphy. From Raph, some books of poetry written in Japanese, for Splinter had lost all of his in the destruction of the last Lair. From Don, a new sake set (and April would be bringing the sake later-- she still insisted that, despite the fact the turtles were probably adults in turtle years, they were still TEENAGERS according to her), for Splinter enjoyed a nice hot cup of the drink on cold winter evenings.
Then the three evil brothers began speculating on the gigantic package that Mike presented to Splinter.
"Another air-mattress," whispered Raph to the others, and the snickering was muffled but audible.
"Let's hope this one doesn't play music like the last one," replied Don, and now Splinter's ears twitched in such a way that the three were warned to drop all speculation or there would be a special training session today.
Mike ignored them all.
"I had it made, Sensei," he said before the Rat could get it opened. "I wanted you to have something special. And practical. It gets so cold, you know. And you're-- um-- well, it gets so cold, you know."
Splinter unwrapped the quilt.
Silence reigned for several minutes.
The brilliant flash of the blue border, the colorful design of the Bishamon pattern dazzled them all-- and, as Mike helped to unfold the quilt to its full size, all eyes were drawn to the simplistic yet wonderful square in the middle of the Rat, poised on the God Daikoku's wealth-bestowing mallet.
"I figured that we've always had good fortune," Mike said, explaining the design. "We've always had a home, and we haven't starved, and we have each other. And next year's gonna be the best 'cause it's the Year of the Rat-- and you're a rat-- and..."
"Mike, is that supposed to be...?" Leo broke off, now seeing the patches in the corner.
"Yeah, that's Genbu! Only I had to draw what it should look like, 'cause there are no quilt blocks with the Black Tortoise anywhere to be found!" Mike enthusiastically explained. "Plus I made him more turtle-like, not tortoise-like..."
The figures in the corners were simple in design, yet there was a complexity about their execution that had the viewers marveling as they admired the skill of the quilt-maker. Even Michelangelo, who had designed the patches, felt admiration at the talent exhibited by the quilt-maker.
The turtle in the upper left-hand corner must have been Leo-- THERE Genbu and the snake were engaged in combat, as dictated by Bushido. Genbu wielded a mighty sword, a touch of blue in the handle peering between the black fingers, while the emerald and yellow snake that encircled him appeared ready to strike. But one could tell that the Black Turtle would be victorious.
Leo, gazing at the cloth picture, was sharply reminded of his battle with Lord Hebi (A/N: "The Real World Part One", TMNT 2K3 series)-- and after gazing at it with amazement, he turned his eyes to his brother, and quirked a smile.
"Took a bit of artistic license with the design, eh Mike?"
"Just a little," Mike winked back.
In the right-hand corner, Genbu, encircled yet again by the snake, was holding the creature's throat with one hand. His other was a fist, arm drawn back and ready to strike the fellow reptile right in his emerald green snout, all the while appearing to be cursing it out for being a snake-- definitely Raph.
Raph kept chuckling, as he gazed at the sight-- one "hand" gripping the snake, the other ready to strike. Though the faces of the Genbus were simplistic (like the Rat in the center), it was easy to see that this one was piling insult upon witty insult on the offending reptile.
Lower left-hand corner showed Genbu studying the snake that encircled him, while the snake's upper body seemed coiled in an almost question mark pose-- Don if ever there could be a doubt.
NOT that Genbu appeared helpless; as the onlookers gazed at the picture, they realized that the snake was pinned by one foot of the inquisitive Genbu; the Black Turtle suddenly took on the appearance of someone getting ready to deal with an enemy, but planning out the best way to do it.
Don wondered for a brief moment what type of snake it was, Boa or Python... then he smiled in self-deprecation, realizing that Mike had made a rather clever joke about his brother's "preoccupation" with KNOWING things.
"Good one, Mike," he said, and was rewarded with a huge grin from his baby bro.
And the lower right-hand corner?
Genbu was jumping rope with the snake.
Yes; jumping rope. What had appeared to be Genbu encircled as the others, was in fact the Black Turtle, gripping the snake somewhere in the middle of its length, and in the middle of a jump. Mike grinned as the laughter began to ripple around the room, enjoying the spectacle.
Genbu was grinning a Mikey grin-- and the snake looked either distressed or angry-- probably both. His tail was lashing at one end, head and upper neck area twisting at the other, his red snake tongue showing brightly on the cloth patch. Again, the simplistic renditions of their faces showed no great detail, and yet one could see the anger of the snake and the glee of the Black Turtle.
Splinter's voice startled the others-- then they all began to laugh. It was true-- that HAD to be Mike.
The Rat touched each square, and for many moments he didn't speak. His whiskers twitched a LOT, and there was quite the sparkle of tears in his eyes even as the smile lit up his muzzle... Then he turned to Michelangelo and bowed his head in gratitude.
"My son," Splinter finally said, voice husky with emotion, but strong none the less. "I would greatly appreciate another cup of tea."
"No problemo, Sensei!" Mike happily sang out, disappearing to fulfill his father's request. He could tell that Dad was pleased-- and the knowledge that he'd brought such joy to his father filled the turtle with an indescribable joy that a million pristine copies of "The Incredible Hulk" issue #181 with the first ever appearance of Wolverine could NEVER have come close to...
Splinter, gazing with fixed attention at the gift, absently held up one hand.
"Pay up," was all he said.
Three turtles produced a handful of money and surrendered it without question or complaint to their father.
"... but Sensei-- where did Mike get the money for such a rich gift? Unless he did something--"
"Leonardo," came the stern reply. "It is not our business. Your brother is honorable. Whatever he did, he did honorably. Of that I am certain. Let us hear no more of this."
"But Sensei, you had April get him that display case especially for--"
"Leonardo," was all Splinter said, but Mike, overhearing, could not mistake the tone of finality in that simple utterance of his brother's name.
After a brief pause: "Hai, Sensei."
Mike, admiring his #182 issue of "The Incredible Hulk" with a very very very brief appearance by Wolverine encased in the special display case that kept it practically hermetically sealed, sighed happily. Sensei had not caught on. He had accepted Mike's story about not displaying the first one "Just yet" because he wanted to enjoy looking at his newest acquisition.
Sensei didn't suspect a thing-- and Mike was as happy as any teenager who had managed to put one over on his dad could feel.
"True Ninja, that's me," he said to Klunk, who was sleeping off the huge Christmas dinner he'd partaken of earlier.
It had been a successful and most satisfying Christmas ever.
Though a Wii™ would have been pretty sweet...
"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."
The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children (a/n: or rather, one foolish Turtle) in a flat (a/n: or abandoned pumping station, if you will) who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures (a/n: like issue #181 of "The Incredible Hulk" with the first ever appearance of WOLVERINE for Pete's sake!!!) of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two (a/n: no-- these THREE) were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
O. Henry, with a lot of interference from Cynlee
Merry Christmas to all!