Don has a little bit of a temper himself. That's all I'll say. And I feel bad for poor Raph right now. Good thing he has a good daddy. My deranged idea of Christmas story. Actually, this was another Stealthy Stories challenge. The idea was that one character had to give another character a present that was under $20 and also pink. I rolled this character combination.
"Raphie, open yours next," April said as she handed him a Christmas present wrapped in red. How predictable, he thought with a twinge of sourness. But then he saw the glowing smile on her face and forgave her. He could even forgive the occasional Raphie when she giggled and clapped her hands.
Leo leaned over next to him to inspect the unwrapping over his shoulder. Raph tried to ignore the bow attached to the top of Leo's forehead. Mikey snuck up behind him while he was sorting the presents and ninja-ed the bow onto his head. Raph wasn't sure if Leo knew it was there or not, but suspected the former. Leo was the yearly present chairman, handing out the gifts, looking really important and ceremonial. Mikey did the honors the previous year and ended up handing the presents to the wrong people on purpose. Don refused to do it, claiming a rejection of the profound responsibility and hoping no one knew that he was really too lazy. Raph received a lifetime ban as gift distributor after he threw a box at Mikey's head and broke the contents. Of the box. Not Mikey's head.
April bounced up and down in anticipation of his reaction. She did that with each present and Raph never got tired of watching it. He wondered what she would do when he actually opened her present. She wouldn't stop talking about it and said, "I wanted to get something that you would like that wasn't really predictable, like about motorcycles or…"
"Shh!" Casey said, waving his hand to quiet her. "Don't ruin the surprise."
"Keep your woman in line, Casey," Mikey said as he hooked up his new video game, reading the instructions with his other hand.
Raph tore the wrapping paper and Leo said, "Don't just rip it all off. You could use it again." Raph looked over his shoulder and gave Leo a fake glare of rage. Leo leered back at him dramatically.
Don was sitting in a nest of wrapping paper and said, "Uh, oh. Raph and Leo are gonna fight."
April nearly took the present out of Raph's hand and opened it for him.
"I don't know why you have to color code things," he said, smiling at her to demonstrate that he was only teasing. "We can tell each other apart by this point in our lives."
"What is it? What is it?" Mikey asked, hopping up and down and clapping his hands together like a five year old. Raph found that Mikey's deep voice and man-sized build made the gesture rather bone chilling. Not remotely as cute as when April did it.
Raph pulled back the wrapping paper in one grand tear and Leo clucked at him. "Didn't you hear me? You shouldn't just tear it all off. If you take off the tape, we can reuse the paper."
Don made sure to pull on Leo's bandanna tails as he walked past to the kitchen. "When have you ever reused the wrapping paper you got?"
Leo snatched a candy cane off the Christmas tree and peeled off the cellophane. "I did once or twice. I wanted to use it for decoupage in my room."
"You're such a girl, Leo," Don muttered from the kitchen through a mouthful of three Christmas cookies.
Splinter said, "What do you think of your present, Raphael?"
Raph had forgotten the present and was about to point out that every year he found a bag of wrinkled up wrapping paper and now he knew the source of this clutter. Leo was anti-clutter and Raph thought this deserved a good teasing. But instead he redirected his attention to his father's gift and pulled a long strip of cloth out of the box.
"What the hell?" Casey asked loudly from the other side of the room. "Didn't April get the same thing?"
It was a pink scarf. A nice scarf. But very definitely pink.
His father betrayed no hint of humor. That wasn't unusual. Splinter's joking face was pretty similar to his normal face. The rat was inscrutable. "That's real funny, Sensei," Raph said, tossing it aside. "Now bring out the real thing."
Don gasped and sprayed Mikey with wet cookie crumbs. Mikey squealed, "Ew!" Everyone stopped talking. They all had scarves. Color coded scarves. Leo held up a light blue scarf from under the wrapping paper and his eyes went to their father briefly, looking for a reaction.
Raph's stomach solidified with shame.
"I could not find a similar style in red for the same reasonable price as I did all my shopping online," Splinter said, shrugging. "I thought that shade was close enough."
But it was pink. Dark pink. Really girly pink. And April was wearing an identical one around her neck at that moment.
"Uh…" Say something nice.
Casey took April's scarf and held it up to the light. "These can't be the same color. No way."
But it was true. It was as pink as flayed flesh. That was the first pinkness that came into Raph's mind. It was the pink he had the most experience with.
"No, it's great," he said in a heartily enthusiastic voice. Sounded like General Patton rallying troops for a suicide mission. "It looks expensive." That was true. The material was high quality.
"Ah, I saw that they did not have the color I wanted for you and so I took this color. I could not find one in red of a similar quality and I could not have you being slighted, my Raphael."
He'd used a possessive pronoun. Leo patted him discreetly on the back of his arm to show solidarity, not daring to let the gesture be seen by the group at large. Raph didn't appreciate it because his hand was covered in sticky candy cane residue.
"No, I'll wear it when I go out next time. I kind of needed one."
Splinter was pleased to have satisfied him. All smiles. His whiskers bristled out with excitement. "I know how you despise the cold and I always worry when you wear that flimsy jacket. It is threadbare and I would like to get you a new one with proper lining, but they are expensive and so I thought that a scarf would keep out the cold."
Yeah, that was true. And who else would see it besides them? If anybody made fun of it, he would just kick their ass and that would be it. He could wear a pink scarf if he wanted to. What was stopping him? What did he have to worry about? He carried blood encrusted sais on his waist. Nobody was about to call him a sissy. Not even Mikey. And they were all friends here, right? They would all forget soon. It was just a color. Wasn't he still Raphael without the color red?
"Hey, Rachel!" Mikey screamed down the sewer tunnel after him. "Don't forget to give April the grocery list! I'm sure you'll remember when she paints your nails… ouch!"
And then Mikey's head hit the brick wall, guided by Raph's fist.
Casey stood on the ledge of the building, scanning the streets for trouble. Raph gathered his coat around his chest and tucked his scarf into his collar.
"Want to take a stroll down to 3rd Street, Princess?" Casey asked.
Raph's fist somehow found its way into Casey's face.
Don crossed his normally sympathetic arms at Raph's anger ridden face. "What are you complaining about?" Don asked, his voice high-pitched and annoyed. "I've had to wear purple my whole life. How soon we forget when we're the one being teased, sweetheart… oh, you just broke my nose! Damn it! You fucking jackass!"
Raph's sai caught the Purple Dragon's blade and sent it into space and it tinkled on the icy pavement. He made contact with his head and quickly moved on to the next one. His breath issued from his mouth in icy gasps that he could have seen if he had paid attention. And then his heel hit ice and one of the Dragons reached out, catching him by the scarf.
The Purple Dragon laughed as it slid off Raph's neck. Raph landed on his backside, looking up at him. He held the scarf in his hand and laughed as he held the pink scarf up, waving it at his buddies who were still conscious.
Raph planted his knees in the guy's chest and punched him in the face screaming, "DON'T… TOUCH… MY… SCARF! DON'T… TOUCH… MY… SCARF!" Didn't think it was worth killing over though. Sure, his scarf was now lying in a puddle of blood. Now it was a little more red anyway.
"You were in a fight?" Splinter asked without much surprise.
Grumbled an assent and headed towards his room, stripping off his clothes on the way. Stretched out a sore shoulder and shook the cold out of his hands.
But his father took a hold of his arm with eyes sparkling with reminiscence and said, "Look how you've grown in the last year. You are so tall now. You are almost a man."
"Guess so. Sixteen's pretty old."
Splinter laughed to himself. "Is it indeed? Sometimes I think I will look away and see you running around the table, laughing, as you did when you were a child. But those days are gone. I could not provide for you what you needed then. I hope to do better from now on." He patted Raph's chest and sighed. "You are all so strong now." He stared at Raph's coat buttons, his eyes unfocused. Then, when Raph was about to ask him what was wrong and pull away before he hugged him, he said, "Well, big or not, you are still my child. Now off to bed." He swatted at him with the newspaper in his hand.
Raph waited until Splinter had gone to his bedroom.
He filled the bathroom sink with cold water and pushed in the scarf, letting it soak out the blood until morning. Don huffed past the doorway, his bandaged nose blowing air through his nostrils like a walrus.