"Mikey, come on open up!" Stella called as she banged on the door of her little brother's apartment.
"Stel?" he replied sounding rather sleepy. After a moment of fumbling with the locks on the door, it swung wide open, revealing a rumpled looking Michelangelo wearing a pair of comfortable looking grey sweatpants and nothing else. "Sup?" He asked rubbing his tired blue eyes with his fist and yawning widely.
"Can I come in?" She asked as she smiled at his adorable sleepiness. It didn't seem to matter how old he got, In Stella's opinion Michelangelo was still one of the cutest things she had ever seen.
He stepped out of the way of the door and motioned for her to come inside. Not waiting for her, he turned and shuffled toward his overstuffed, care worn blue couch and collapsed bonelessly over the arm of it so that he landed on his plastron and rested his head on one of the seat cushions.
Stella closed the door behind her and surveyed the apartment. The walls were covered with bright paintings as well as various photographs and drawings. Littering nearly every surface, not already covered in art projects, most of which appeared to be in various stages of completion, he had eclectic collections of found objects. It was exactly what she had always imagined the home of an artistic genius to look like.
"Wow, your apartment is-"
She was interrupted by Michelangelo's voice which was seriously muffled by the couch cushion. "If you say anything about how surprised you are that it's not full of half-eaten food and dirty old plates and shit I'm gonna forget for a moment that I love you and I will hit you, hard," he threatened pointing in her general direction.
She held up her hands in self-defense. "I was going to say awesome," she assured him.
He dropped his hand. "Oh, well that's cool then, thanks." He turned his head so that he could look at her with one eye.
"People been makin' comments about your cleaning abilities?" She asked, earning a heavy sigh in response.
"Just the guys, well not Raph really, but the others, heck even April said something. I think they have a hard time remembering that I'm not sixteen anymore, I'm a grown-up—just like the rest of you." He heaved himself up on his elbow. "Anyway it's not like my room was so much worse than the rest of yours, I mean except Leo but we thought he was like an alien or something 'cause of how neat he was." He shivered. "Just unnatural if you ask me."
"I'm not arguing with you about that one, that was so creepy. And you're right, my room was kinda," he quirked an eye ridge, "okay it was really messy but you've gotta admit yours was pretty gross. Remember when we couldn't figure out that really funky smell so dad made you clean out underneath your bed and you found that pizza in the Christmas themed box?"
"Mikey it was November, of the next year! It had been under your bed for eleven months! That was disgusting. I've seen fur balls with less fuzz."
"I may ever so slightly remember this event of which you speak and I still say it was Raph's pizza."
Stella shook her head and smiled with disbelief. "It doesn't matter whose pizza it was, it had still been rotting under your bed for eleven months! That's disgusting!"
"Whatever," he waved her off. "My point is that I was sixteen. Teenagers are disgusting! Have you met one lately? Dis-gus-ting! Like do they bathe anymore? Is that still a thing?"
Stella laughed. "Oh my god you're officially old if you're complaining about teenagers. Anyway, your apartment is amazing and judging by all the projects you've got going on you've been pretty busy," she commented as she studied a half completed sketch of what was easily recognizable as the Coney Island pier at night.
He grunted noncommittally from his spot on the couch. "I couldn't sleep," he admitted.
"Does this have anything to do with me disappearing?" She frowned and bit her lip before adding, "Again?"
He let out a deep sigh and flipped over. "Kinda, I guess," he admitted throwing an arm over his eyes to block out the sunlight streaming in through his curtains. "I was real worried 'bout ya but I always knew you'd be back and I knew that if you couldn't do it by yourself Raph would bring you home. But that's not totally it."
"So if it's not that what's eatin' at you then?" She asked as she placed the bag of groceries she had brought with her on a coffee table which appeared to have been constructed out of old skateboards. "I thought you might appreciate some breakfast foods," she explained as he eyed the bag warily. "I know it's closer to lunch time than breakfast but I stopped by the bakery around the corner and picked up some of those Danish you like."
"The cheese kind?" he asked eagerly, sitting up and leaning forward to peer into the bag.
"Those'd be the ones," she replied. "I also picked up some OJ and some fresh fruit from the market."
"Aw thanks Stel," he said as he reached in and pulled out a pastry, "you're the best sis." He complimented her before taking a large bite.
"So where is our little ray of sunshine?" He asked peering around for his older, grumpier brother. "I'm amazed you've managed to shake Raphie already or are you two still fighting?"
"No we're not fighting, he's next door. He's busy trying to decide where the baby is going to sleep until we get the wall knocked out and can expand our apartment to take up the whole fourth floor. He's got big plans that sound messy and involve a whole lot of power tools so he's in fantasyland taking measurements of various shit and making lists of god knows what so I left him to it while I came down here to visit you."
She rolled her eyes and after looking around for a seat decided on his gaming chair. "So what's on your mind?" She prompted.
"You're keeping the baby you rescued at your house?" He asked sounding rather astonished and taking another large bite he finished off his cheese Danish and reached into the bag to retrieve another.
She narrowed her eyes at his blatant attempt to avoid answering her questions. "Yeah we've decided to adopt the little guy. He's so freakin' cute and Raph is already completely smitten. Besides, with Don havin' his hands full with his own kids and Leo being so—Leoish, there was no real question about us taking him. Anyway, you're avoiding my questions Mikey," she pointed out.
He avoided making eye contact with her and she knew she was right. "Come on, you know you'll feel better if you tell me what's up."
He scratched the top of his head and after a moment he allowed his bright blue eyes to connect with her own dark brown eyes. "I don' know Stel I'm just feelin' kinda—you know…"
"Restless?" She asked as she once again looked around the small living room and noticed just how many projects he was currently working on.
He shrugged. "Kinda—maybe—I guess so. Mostly I'm stressed with the shop getting' set to open and then plus I've been thinkin' 'bout gettin' you back and then there's the whole mess with Karai," he admitted.
"Well I'm back now and I mean I do need to get the baby set up but as soon as I'm done taking care of the basics we can focus on finally getting your shop opened up and trust me, it's going to be awesome so there is nothing for you to worry about," she assured him. "And Karai—well you can put her out of your mind, I have."
He raised his eye ridges in surprise. "You're not going after Karai?" He asked around a mouthful of Danish.
She wrinkled her nose as though she smelled something unpleasant. "Karai can go suck an egg for all I care. She's kept for this long she can keep a bit longer."
He reached out and grabbed the orange juice and took a swig straight from the carton. "Well that's a change," he remarked whipping his mouth with the back of his hand and putting the carton back on the table. "What's with the change of heart?" He asked. "From what Raph told me back in December you were like, hell bent on answering her calls."
She shrugged her shoulders. "I guess I saw some shit that forced me to reevaluate my priorities. Not sayin' I'm through with Karai and bringing down the Foot but I'm not going to let that destroy my relationships with the people I'm trying to protect."
Michelangelo nodded his head in silent agreement. "So now you're what, like a mom or something?"
She laughed. "Uh yeah, I guess I am. Weird huh?"
"Totally," he agreed. "So did ya just come by to see tha place or what?"
"No actually. I was coming over to tell you that April and I are going shopping for the baby and I wanted to see if you'd—"
"Wanna come shopping?" He asked jumping to his feet with surprising quickness for someone who only moments before at looked to be on the verge of falling asleep. "For sure! Just gimme a minute, kay Stel?"
"Yeah sure. Hey can I borrow your phone?" She called as he rushed into his bedroom. "I wanna call Raph and see if April and Casey are here yet."
Without a word a cell phone came whizzing out of the bedroom and was caught without issue. Sometimes being a trained ninja had its perks. After a quick conversation with Raphael, Stella learned that April, Casey, and Shadow had all arrived and the baby had woken up from his nap.
"They're waiting up in my apartment," she informed Mikey when he emerged from his bedroom a few seconds later wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of jeans.
"Wow, those jeans fit you really well," Stella complimented him as she inspected his ensemble. Usually when the guys wore clothes they fit strangely because their shells got in the way but these jeans appeared to fit him the same way they would a human guy, come to think of it the jeans Raph had worn home had fit him really well also, she just hadn't noticed earlier. "And so did those sweatpants you just took off."
"Huh?" Michelangelo glanced down at himself. "Oh yeah, Artie made them. She's like super into fashion and figured out a way to sew like pants and stuff so they fit around our shells instead of over it so it doesn't look so weird. It's like, much easier to blend in when it just to looks like you're wearing a custom backpack instead of coming off like a weird creepy hunchback. Also, when the rest of you looks pretty normal it's a lot easier to convince people you're doing some sort of cosplay thing when they ask about you know, the turtle thing."
"Right. Uh—okay then. So um, you ready to go upstairs?"
"Sure thing Stel."
Having to go downstairs and cut across the storefronts to go back upstairs to her apartment on the other side of the building was annoying and Stella made a note to have Raph keep the door leading into Mikey's half of the building after he ripped out the wall dividing the two halves of the top floor.
"Oh Stel, good thing you're here," Raphael said looking relieved when she came through the front door. He left the baby laying on a blanket on the floor with April who was trying to get him to laugh by booping first his nose and then Shadow's.
The large turtle grabbed her by the elbow and gently steered her toward the kitchen while Michelangelo sprawled out on the floor with April and the two babies and Casey watched from the couch. "Stel," he said in a lowered voice, "did you know our son, has a tail? Like a furry one, that moves, like a lot," he informed her while looking so completely bewildered that she repressed her urge to laugh at his distress.
She shrugged her shoulders. "No but I'm not exactly surprised," she replied. "I mean look at him," she gestured toward where he lay batting at April's hand playfully. "He's obviously some sort of cat—thing. Him having a tail—just not all that surprising."
"It doesn't freak you out at all?" He pressed.
Stella fixed him with a look that seriously questioned his mental abilities. "You have a shell, my father is a mutated rat, I'm friends with a giant amorphous alligator, and sometimes I even hang out with Casey Jones. Raph," she took his face in her hands and placed a kiss between his eyes, "nothing fazes me anymore least of all an adorable little tail." Raphael frowned slightly as he considered what she had just said. "Anyway, how did you find out he had a tail?" She asked with a smirk.
He straightened up and looked immensely proud of himself. "I changed his diaper." He informed her as though announcing he had just performed a successful brain surgery.
She couldn't hold it in anymore and had to laugh. "Aw Raphie, that's so cute," she laughed wrapping her arms around his much larger frame and giving him a hug.
"You're an asshole," he muttered above her before bending down and kissing the top of her head.
"Hey Stel," Casey called from his seat on the sofa, "this lil' guy got a name yet? Tha meathead wouldn' say nothin'."
"Not yet," she replied stepping away from Raphael and walking out of the kitchen. "We're planning on naming him tonight after we've had some time to think about it."
"Well my vote is for Casey Jr.," the large black haired man announced as he stood to pull her into a hug.
From her spot on the floor with the babies April rolled her eyes. "Casey he's not your son," she pointed out. "That wouldn't even make sense."
The large man shrugged. "Makes sense ta me. Just you know, think it over."
"Uh yeah we'll uh put that one in the idea box," Stella said with a smile.
Casey winked at her conspiratorially. "You do that."
"So we're all ready to go whenever you are," April announced as she clambered to her feet and adjusted her clothing.
Stella reached down and picked up the baby and placed him on her hip as April did the same with Shadow. "Hello you adorable little devil," she cooed as she rubbed her nose against his. "Did you have a good nap?"
Unsurprisingly the baby didn't say anything but he did nuzzle her neck slightly and place his chubby cheek on her shoulder for a second before picking up his head and looking curiously around at his new surroundings.
"Can I hold him?" Mikey asked holding out his arms. "I've only gotten ta see him when he's been screamin' his head off. This is like, a totally different kid."
"Just don't drop him ya big knucklehead," Raphael warned as Stella passed the baby to their youngest brother.
"I'm not gonna drop him," Mikey cooed as he made funny faces for the baby and earned a swat across the face and an unhappy whimper in reply. "Alright fine, here," he passed the baby to Raphael. Immediately the whimpers stopped and the baby cuddled into the large turtle's arms.
"Suck up," Michelangelo hissed and stuck out his tongue.
"Well once Mikey stops making faces at the baby I'll be ready," Stella said. "You're coming shopping with us right Mikey?"
"Heck yeah," he agreed. "But what about the lil' guy?"
"Oh he's stayin' here, with Raph and Casey."
Michelangelo looked horrified. "You're leaving him here alone? With Raph and Casey?"
"Hey," both Raphael and Casey protested.
"Yes," Stella replied slowly. "Raph's gonna end up taking care of him on his own eventually and Casey takes care of Shadow all the time without April around and she seems like she's doing just fine," she reached out and gently pinched one of Shadow's chubby little legs and earned a happy gurgle in response. "They'll be fine."
"Alright, I guess." He didn't sound particularly convinced but he knew better than to argue, instead he followed April out the door with only a few fleeting glances back over his shoulder to assure himself that his brother and idiot friend had not broken his nephew before he descended the staircase.
"We'll be back soon," Stella assured Raphael who had followed her to the door while carrying the baby. "I'll call up when I need you to come down and get bags and stuff."
"Yeah, yeah," Raphael replied pressing his forehead against hers, "jus' make sure ya come back a'ight? Seems like every time I let ya outta my sight ya disappear on me."
She leaned forward and pressed her lips gently against his for a quick second before pressing a kiss to the top of the baby's fuzzy head. "You got it."