I realize that I'm not too good at Mikey's POV. Probably means I need to practice it. I put up a challenge for this idea at Stealthy Stories, but everybody seems really preoccupied with my casket challenge. Hehe. Trying to remember how boys flirted when I was sixteen. They aren't terribly subtle, if I remember rightly. At least the ones I knew, anyway. Might change the title if I think of something better.

It was one of those tense afternoons when everyone expects something to happen and the expectation blocks out all reasonable means of distraction. Don was sitting on April's couch, watching figure skating. There was no lab to hide in here. He glanced at the front door every few seconds, listening.

Mikey felt bad for him. He knew Don had a very small sphere of influence and it was hard for that sphere to expand. He remembered when they'd first met their only human friends. Casey claimed that he didn't know Don could talk for at least a week.

"Why does Leo need a girl all to himself?" Don asked, watching a steroid-filled figure skater land an inhuman jump. "Isn't April enough for him?"

Mikey said, "Sure, April's great. She's enough woman for all of us. But I think he needs something that April isn't giving him. I bet this girl puts out."

"Michelangelo!" Master Splinter said. "Have some respect for your brother and for this girl! We have had a long discussion about this and need I remind you that physical relationships with humans are still forbidden! For all of you!" He glowered significantly at Leo, who was too busy straightening every already straight object within arm's reach to notice the reprimand.

Raph set the table, dumping the plates in their settings and making a lot of unnecessary racket. "Don't worry. We're too ugly for humans."

Mikey knew that most of the emphasis of this meeting was on Raph. And sure enough, Leo was biting his lip and watching Raph as he sat heavily at the table and waited for the food to be served, showing no indication that he would get up to greet the dinner guest.

Don leaned over to Mikey and whispered in his ear, "Leo with a girlfriend? Ugh."

"Took the words right of my mouth." The idea made him want to gag. He pictured a girl hanging around the dojo, watching them practice. He wasn't averse to the idea of more girls in their lives, but the idea of watching one making out with his brother in plain view of them all made his stomach bubble uncomfortably.

He wondered what it was doing to Raph. The way he was scowling across the room at Leo, gave him an indication that it made him want to punch Leo. But everything seemed to make him want to punch Leo, so maybe everything was okay with him.

There was a light knock on the door and Leo fluttered his hands in the air, as if they were all being unreasonably noisy and the sound might hurt her delicate ears. April went to the door, laughing as he shushed him and told him to calm down. Master Splinter positioned himself behind April as the formal secondary host of the evening, waiting to be introduced to the guest.

And then she was in the room. Don and Mikey turned around, looking at her over the back of the couch. Mikey realized that they must look like they were hiding like little children and then sprung over the back of the couch and sprinted over to shake her hand.

She was about as tall as April. He was surprised at how pretty she was. Her hair was long and black and she smiled around nervously at them all. She was wearing a strange dress and looked a little like she'd come from a renaissance fair. It was a long gauzy dress like girls wore in Jane Austen mini-series'. It looked like a nightgown. She was holding a casserole dish in her hands, which were shaking slightly and the lid clattered with every shake. "I brought some green bean casserole. I hope that's okay. Leo didn't tell me what to bring."

"Yeah, he's a real brute," April said, trying to smile at her as she took the dish. Trying, but not managing.

April pushed it into Mikey's hands and waved him away towards the kitchen. He huffed into the other room. Why was he sent into the kitchen like the family slave? They always made him do everything. Mikey heard Leo's voice calling for Raph and saw his brother's shell leave the doorway. He quickly followed, curious to see what Raph would do.

He held out his hand to the girl, not bothering to offer a smile or any indication that he was appreciative of her company or presence in the room. He looked rather frightening, Mikey thought, or he would look frightening to a stranger anyway. The girl's eyes widened as she took his hand delicately and winced at his strength.

Leo was smiling brightly and Mikey wondered if his cheeks would hurt tonight from the strain. He said, "Raph this is Emma. Emma, this is my brother Raphael."

"I've heard a lot about you," she said.

"Can't say the same," he growled back.

Leo's eyes darted back and forth between them. Mikey thought he must be mentally gauging the animosity.

"You're named after the archangel Raphael. Did you know that?"

"I thought he was a rap singer," Raph said, letting go of her hand as soon as he could.

She was blushing and jumping from one foot to the other. Mikey thought it looked like she was trying not to run away from him. "He's the angel of healing and matchmaking."

April giggled. "That's our Butch. Quite the romantic."

"We gonna eat?" he asked April, now ignoring Emma completely.

Mikey hung back for a second, as Don and Splinter followed Raph and April into the kitchen, making a lot of unnecessary noise of praise over the green bean casserole. Leo took her hands in his and Mikey had that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that he'd anticipated. It was that feeling that he got when he watched Casey and April cuddling. It was a feeling like he was supposed to stop existing for the moment because they had both willed the rest of the world away. What was Mikey supposed to buy Emma for Christmas? What do you get a girl who dates a sexless ninja who can't go out in public? She put her hands on his chest and Mikey thought he should interrupt the intimacy before he had to watch them kissing.

"Hey!" he said, leaping out from his hiding place.

Emma jumped with a yelp. Leo laughed.

"Now I have three more of you jumping out at me," she said, slapping Leo's plastron playfully.

Mikey was annoyed. He deserved that little slap. All Leo had done was stand there, making eyes at her, like she was the most fascinating creature on the planet. "Don't forget Master Splinter," Mikey said, making sure that his father wasn't slighted. "He can be pretty sneaky. April tries, but it's really pathetic. She's flatfooted."

Mikey stopped talking for a second because he thought he'd seen her eyes cloud over with annoyance at the mention of April's name. But it was gone and she hung onto Leo's arm and said, "I've asked him to teach me to move about silently, but he refuses."

"You'll just sneak up on me," he said, leaning in to whisper into her hair. "I don't want to let go of my advantage."

"You like being in charge, Hamato," she said, stepping up to him.

Mikey knew that they were a second away from kissing, so he said, "Come on, Emma! Raphie's waiting. You should sit by him!" and dragged her into the kitchen.

He knew Raph had heard that because he got up and moved to the other side of the table between Splinter and April.

Leo made a big deal about pulling out Emma's chair for her and then sat down next to her. Mikey was forced to sit on her right side, although he had a feeling like he wanted to hide across the table with Raph. Why? He loved girls.

April leaned over and squinted at Emma's fingernails.

"Forget to wear your contacts?" Don asked, going red at his audacity to speak in front of a strange female.

"No, I deliberately didn't wear them. Interesting manicure, Emma."

Mikey looked down at her hands. Her nails were long and painted black, but the ends were white. Like she was trying to recreate the natural ends of a human's fingernails.

"It's a French manicure with a twist," Leo said, smirking.

Raph scoffed. Mikey knew what he was thinking. Every stupid thing she does must be tremendously interesting to him. He wondered if Emma spent most of her evenings listening to Leo talk about all the ways they could improve their training and katas. What had he told her about them anyway? "So what has Leo told you about us?"

"Michelangelo," Master Splinter muttered between clenched teeth as he graciously received the bowl of green bean casserole.

"Oh, he's told me all kinds of things about you, Mikey."

"Like what? I don't know anything about you." He swung his legs under his chair, feeling a little more comfortable now that his carefully prepared meal was in front of him. Then he noticed that Leo and Emma were holding hands under the table and he put down his spoon.

Master Splinter noticed this also and said, "Leonardo, would you pass the biscuits?"

Leo went very red as he handed the plate to his father and firmly held his hands in his lap for the rest of the meal.

Emma said, "I know that you're an excellent cook and you like comic books and you rarely brush your teeth."

"What about you, Emma?" he said with a mouth full of food.

Leo's face lit up at the opportunity to brag about her and he said, "She works at…"

"Is your name Emma?" she asked.

Mikey was taken aback. He wasn't sure if she was joking. Apparently, everybody else regarded it as a joke because they smiled and laughed. All except Raph who was grinding his napkin in his hand, staring at her with narrowed eyes.

"Sorry," Leo said, giggling at himself. Mikey almost pointed at him and laughed. "Go ahead."

She smiled at them all and said, "I work at a bird refuge. We take care of birds that have been abused by their owners. Exotic breeds that don't have any business being in captivity and older animals that used to live in zoos. We also deal in amphibians and reptiles. We have a large snake collection."

"It's like a retirement home for parrots?" April asked.

She didn't answer and Raph banged his cup on the table loudly, causing Emma to jump. Raph said loudly, "So, what caused you to hook up with a green mutant freak? Have a crash in self-esteem?" He glared down at his plate as soon as he'd finished the sentence.

April groaned and put her head in her hand. Master Splinter gave him a reprimand by way of a foot stomping under the table, but neither showed any effect on his face.

Emma glared at him and Leo said, "Raph, we'll talk about it later." Mikey knew that was Leo's way of telling Raph to shut up before he drop kicked him out the window.

"No, it's okay," Emma said, putting her hand on his elbow. Mikey admired the grace in her hand movements. It looked like she was playing the piano, no matter how she moved or what she did. "You have every right to be wary of me. I'm an outsider. But I'll be totally honest with you. What do you want to know about me?"

Raph stared at her coldly for a while. The silverware clinked as everybody tried to eat to block out the awkwardness. Mikey noticed that Don was sinking into his seat and looking at April with questioning eyes. She shook her head no slightly. Ah, he wanted her to get up so he could leave the table before the shouting commenced.

"You had many boyfriends? Been married?"


Master Splinter's whiskers flicked.

"I've been married twice. But I've moved on."

"Do you realize how young he is?" Raph said, jumping suddenly to his feet, hands on his waist, unconsciously gripping at weapons that he wasn't wearing. "How old are you? You've been married twice?"

Normally, Mikey would have made a joke about robbing the cradle, but that was a good question. How old was she?

"I'm old enough not to tell you," she said, smiling back at him.

April was scooting out of her seat and motioning to Don to follow her. "What? I thought I wasn't allowed me move," he muttered.

Leo was on his feet now. Great. "It's none of your business what her age is or what my age is!"


Now Master Splinter threw down his napkin. He put a firm hand on Raph's shoulder and forced him heavily into his seat. "Sit down, Leonardo! Emma, I would like to say that it is a fact that causes me concern. My son may be mature for his age, but he is only sixteen. I do not grudge friendship for my sons or other kinds of companionship if that time comes. But I have severe misgivings about anything of the kind at this time for them. Let's not talk about this now. I was very interested in your work at the bird facility. Please continue."

Raph jumped out of his seat and slammed his chair into the table. Mikey followed him, snatching a biscuit off April's unguarded plate. He patted Emma on the top of the head as he passed and said, "He just needs more fiber in his diet."

Mikey followed Raph into April's bedroom, where he'd holed himself up. He was surprised that he didn't heard bellowing or smashing of objects. He opened the door and found Raph standing with his fist through the wall and April stomping her foot next to him, with a silent rage aimed at him. "You are so immature!" she whispered at him. "What is wrong with you! Leo brings home a reasonably nice girl and all you can do is ask her age in front of us all?"

He pulled his hand out of the wall and took away several bits of plaster with it. Mikey patted Raph on the shoulders and said, "It's normal to be weirded out, dude. But it ain't normal to go putting your fist through the drywall. Cool it."

Raph sat on the bed and pointed dramatically out towards the kitchen, "I don't like that woman. There's something up with her."

"Well," April said, looking inside the new hole in her wall. "She may not be what we would pick out for him, but that doesn't mean…"

"Why does he get to pick out anything?" Mikey said before he could stop himself. "You just heard Sensei. We're forbidden from 'romantic relationships' right?" He said, putting air-quotes around "romantic relationships." "So why are we acting like he's at his engagement party? Aren't we just encouraging this?"

"She'll probably dump him when she finds out that he's looking at a lifetime of celibacy," Raph grumbled, crossing his arms.

April sat next to him on the bed and said, "Would you two stop that? You're not forbidden from sex. You're forbidden from romantic relationships with humans because of the weird physical… implications. If you found somebody you could be with then Splinter would be happy for you."

Mikey couldn't help but screw up his face. "I don't like talking about this. The whole situation is going down a weird road. They're supposed to be just friends. So what's with all the hand holding and cuddly-bear stuff? I hope Sensei tells him off for it. If I don't get any, then neither should he." That didn't make much sense, even to Mikey, but he felt like he needed to offer some kind of justification for his stance, no matter how shallow. It felt dangerous to him to let Leo carry on, thinking he was going to play house with this woman.

April forced them both out of the bedroom and put on her best hostess face, not at all betraying the fact that Raph had ninja-ed his way through her wall.

Mikey had an unconscious need to know where Donny was and what he was doing and wandered away towards his high-pitched nervous laughter. For some reason, Mikey found it soothing. Probably because he'd heard it every day of his life. Master Splinter was telling Emma the story about the time he was chased down a sewer tunnel by an angry kitten. He finished his amusing anecdote with, "It is true that size does not matter, only determination. That brave warrior gave me three small scars that I carry to this day."

Leo was laughing harder at that story than Mikey ever remembered. He distinctly remembered Leo rolling his eyes the last time the story was told. He was standing a few inches too close to Emma and watching her sideways out of his peripheral vision. Mikey was disappointed with Leo. He knew he was a master of charm and wit, so he didn't understand why he was acting like a twelve year old girl.

"I'll be right back," Emma said exclusively to Leo and left for the bathroom. Leo watched her walk away for a second before turning back to the conversation.

She was graceful. She at least had that going for her, Mikey thought as he watched her head towards the bathroom. Not a very glamorous act, but he thought her walk wouldn't have been out of place on the Miss America Pageant. Then she passed by Raph, giving him a quick glance up and down as she passed. Mikey scratched his head and said to Leo, "I think your not-girlfriend just checked Raph out."

Leo punched him in the arm and laughed.

"She has a tattoo?" he asked Leo with surprise as he noticed a black pair of wings emblazoned across her shoulder blades, showing through the gauzy back of her dress.

And then the strangest thing happened and Mikey had seen many strange things in his short life. Raph's eyes fell on the tattoo as she passed and he winced as if he'd just been slapped. He grabbed her by arm, pulled her a step towards him and then punched her hard in the face. She crumpled to the floor.

Mikey flew to her side, checking her pulse. He could tell that Leo was screaming at Raph, but didn't think it was important enough to process. A few dishes broke as Raph pushed past the table and climbed out hastily onto the fire escape. "You knocked her out cold, you psycho! What were you thinking?"

But Raph was already out of sight. It had taken Don a little longer to process what had happened because he had been in the bedroom analyzing the wall damage. He pushed Mikey away and checked her face for broken bones. "Funny," Don said airily as he held her head in his hands. "Her nose should be broken or at least bleeding." Her eyes were fluttering prettily as she came around.

"Yeah, that's fascinating!" Leo said as he pulled her up to her feet. She blinked and looked around blearily for her attacker.

"What happened?" she muttered. She clung to Leo's arm, leaning into him. "Take me home."

"Okay." He motioned to April to fetch her things.

Mikey didn't have much time due to Leo's unreasonable panic to get Emma out the door before Hurricane Raph came back. Leo put on his civilian disguise and practically ran her out of the apartment, letting the door slam behind him.

"What the hell was that about?" April asked.

Master Splinter was looking towards the window, frowning. Raphael would be doing flips until he died.

"Maybe he had a good reason," Mikey said. "Whatever that is. If he's crazy, that's a good reason, I guess."

"I thought she was nice," Don said, sounding rather clueless.

April crossed her arms at him, offended by his insensitivity. Mikey knew he was just trying to block out his concern and dwell on the positive and said, "Yeah, she seemed alright. Old. But alright. Has a weird fashion sense."

But Mikey couldn't help feeling that he should have been more concerned for Emma when Raph punched her out. He knew they were battle hardened, but knocking out his brothers' helpless potential girlfriends was not in his daily agenda. Emma had been polite and graceful and disgustingly affectionate with Leo, but all of those happy moments were clouded by the few strange images that crossed his mind. The way she eyeballed Raph, the way she snapped at Leo and the way she seemed to be put off by April. These were slights that he couldn't overlook.