Donnie tapped away, turning his new lair security ideas into working code. A familiar presence filled the room and an unconscious smile spread across his face.
“What? I didn’t make a sound. I know that I didn’t. How did you know?” He stifled a laugh as he shrugged.
“I can just tell.” She mock pouted as she plopped down in the chair beside him.
“Interested in some coding. There are a few segments that you could help with…”
“I can’t stay too long. Casey has something special planned for tonight, so I thought I take some extra time getting ready.” He rolled his eyes, amused. April rarely spared too much attention over physical appearance, beyond her careful maintenance of personal hygiene.
“It’s not like it’s your anniversary.”
“No, but it is Valentine’s Day.” He huffed in indignation.
“I fail to see how the torture and execution of some guy in the third century is romantic, no matter what Chaucer says. Or are you referencing the Prohibition era mob massacre in Chicago on this date?” She just smirked at him.
“So I did some research on the history of it when…a while back, just to see what all the fuss was about.” They both ignored his almost reference to the crush he’d once had on her.
“So I’m guessing that you don’t have any plans with Venus then?”
“Nothing beyond our usual daily routine. Why would I? It’s not like she even knows what Valentine’s Day is. China has only really picked up on the holiday in major urban areas. Her monastery didn’t even take note of when they started celebrating Qixi over there. How would she even…” April’s smile broadened. “…unless…April you didn’t!” She couldn’t help grinning.
“I’m just acting as an ambassador of American culture.” It was already late morning of February 14. He could feel the panic setting in.
“I know it’s a bit of a greeting card holiday, but it’s nice to do something special every once in a while. You’ll thank me for this later.”
“With some notice! What am I going to do?” She patted his shell encouragingly.
“Trust me, you’ll figure it out. Just try thinking with that big heart instead of that big brain.” He could feel a lump forming in his throat.
“Well, gotta go. Good luck Donnie.”
He immediately abandoned the security upgrades to start frantically researching everything he could about modern American Valentine’s Day traditions.
Donnie did his best to ignore the intrusion when Leo entered his lab. He didn’t have time today.
“Uh, Donnie…” He couldn’t help himself. He looked. And had to suppress a groan.
“Seriously?” Leo looked contrite.
“It was an accident.” Donnie glared at the dented, slightly scorched and smeared, with an as yet unidentified substance, toaster with its mechanical guts spilling out the toast slots.
“How?” Leo sheepishly set the mangled wreckage down on his desk.
“I think I may have pushed the toast button down too hard and it got stuck. And then the toast started to burn, so I tried using the spatula to get it out. Which worked, although more than just the toast came out, which was so burnt, I just gave it to Mikey.”
“Mikey ate it? What am I saying? Of course Mikey ate it.”
“He just called it extra crispy toast. Anyway…” Oh shell there was more.
“Once the toast was out, some of the melted spatula plastic poured out, so I dropped it before I could get burned. I think it might need to be fixed.”
“Ya think? How can you use my battle tech so flawlessly and not be able to make toast?”
“It’s deceptively simple looking.”
“That’s it! No more kitchen appliances for you without supervision.” Leo sighed but nodded.
“So you’ll fix it then? I never really got my toast…”
“Tomorrow. I’m busy now.” Curious, Leo sat down next to Donnie.
“With what? Do we have some new enemies? Have you uncovered some kind of crime ring? Are…”
“I need to figure something out for Valentine’s Day with Venus!”
“Oh.” An idea suddenly occurred to Donnie and he turned from the computer to give Leo his full attention, minus the usual stream of ideas and calculations running in the background.
“So did you plan anything special for Miwa today?” It still felt weird to call Karai Miwa but she was pretty insistent about leaving her past behind. Anyway, Leo was a brilliant tactician and planner. He had to have something good.
“Well, Valentine’s Day works a little differently in Japan. She made me honmei-choco.”
“She made WHAT?”
“She MADE what?”
“Yes, she MADE chocolate. It was a really nice gesture. Although now I need to figure out the perfect return present to give her for White Day, but I’ve got a month, so that should be no problem.”
Donnie’s mind was still reeling from the revelation that Miwa made chocolate. She never cooked anything and attempting to ask her was dangerous on a level that even Raph didn’t risk.
“How was it?”
Leo’s strained answer told Donnie everything he needed to know and he was glad that he hadn’t been included in the holiday gift. Her being a keenly perceptive kunoichi and Leo being a surprisingly terrible liar for a ninja, she had to have known, but clearly didn’t stop Leo from pretending it was awesome.
“Oh, by the way, here’s yours.” Leo held out a small, gift wrapped box towards him that Donnie eyed like an undefused bomb.
“Miwa asked me to hand them out to you guys.” No doubt to avoid a more honest reaction to her culinary efforts. Leo picked up on his brother’s trepidation.
“Mine was the only honmei-choco. Everyone else’s is giri-choco, so it’s store bought.”
Donnie grinned at that, not minding being given ‘obligation chocolate’ if it meant that Miwa hadn’t tried making it herself. He cheerfully opened the box and popped the small chocolate in his mouth. And it was amazing. Miwa must have gone to an actual chocolatier for it. He’d need to look up whether or not he owed her anything for White Day as a result. If so, totally worth it.
But that was a problem for not now. Hopefully the sugar rush would give him some ideas. Leo looked longingly at the empty box after seeing Donnie’s rapture at eating it, before collecting himself.
“Well, good luck then. And let me know when I can have toast again.”
Donnie had barely gotten back to work when Mikey bounded in. He couldn’t help cringing as his little brother hopped on a rolling lab stool and zoomed over, spinning in circles on the rotating seat.
“Donnie, I’m bored.”
“Go find someone else. I’m busy.”
And that’s when the delicious smell hit him and Donnie zeroed in on the wicker basket in Mikey’s lap, covered with a red and white checkered cloth. Now that he thought about it, he’d forgotten to eat. Miwa’s store bought chocolate had been delicious but not very filling.
“Well, lunch might be fun.” He reached towards the basket, but Mikey deftly snatched it away.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…”
“What? You just brought in food that I can’t eat to torment me.” Judging by the contrite look on Mikey’s face, that might have been a little harsh. But he was starving and the basket smelled like it was filled with all of Mikey’s family approved successes. Well, the ones that didn’t need to be eaten warm.
“It’s for Renet.”
That’s right. The idea of Mikey being in a romantic relationship with anyone was so mind boggling that he usually shoved it aside. But now that he was looking, he could see the card, homemade by Mikey from crayon and construction, that would have made any first grader proud to produce.
“For Valentine’s Day?”
A picnic might be a great idea. If only he could produce the food. It should be simple. Follow a recipe. Get a result. Like a chemistry experiment. But while his attempts were never as disastrous as Raph and Leo’s, and he could probably now add Miwa into that list, they were never very impressive either. Mikey always chided him for just going through the prescribed cooking motions with no inspiration or creativity, which was apparently what made food great…or terrifying as his little brother had proved on more than one occasion. Hmm, maybe he could convince Mikey to make the picnic lunch. Except, it probably wouldn’t be as special if he did that.
“Yeah. She’s got a ton of studying to do for her new time gig, but she said that whenever she gets a break and Lord S isn’t watching too closely, she’d pop in today and we could hang out in Null-Time for a while. So I made us a special lunch to celebrate. But waiting is a totes bummer brah. Do you think she’ll like it?” Donnie’s stomach growled as he contemplated the food and Mikey brightened.
“I know what I can do while I wait! Be right back with lunch for you D!” Mikey dashed off towards the kitchen. Well that worked out better than usual when Mikey had too much time on his hands. But it still didn’t solve his problem.
Raph strode into the lab just as Donnie was polishing off the last of the delicious lunch Mikey had produced for him.
“Have you seen Mikey? He left a huge mess in the kitchen.” Donnie pushed the plate away from him.
“He just left on a date with Renet.”
“What?! Sensei’s gonna make us clean up after him then!” Donnie shrugged.
“They went to Null-Time, so they could be back any minute. Or she could bring him back the moment we’re done cleaning. It’s kind of up to her.” Raph sighed in irritation.
“She’d better not or I’ll pay him back with interest next time we spar.”
“And that’s different from usual how?”
“You really want a demonstration?”
“On second thought, I’ll pass.” Raph shrugged and cracked his neck.
“Suit yourself. What are you doing?”
He peered over Donnie’s shoulder to see a screen full of every Valentines cliché the internet could offer. Now that Donnie thought about it, Raph was really romantic when it came to Mona, another name change he’d just have to get used to since Lisa apparently wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Maybe he should suck it up and ask his big brother for advice. Sure getting Raph’s help with romantic endeavors had been hit or miss in the past, but in Raph’s defense, he had been trying to protect him from the disaster that was his April infatuation.
“So, what are you doing for Mona today?” Raph’s smug expression suggested that whatever it was, it was good. He held up a greeting card sized, pale pink envelope.
“You got her a card?” Raph scowled.
“Not just a card. Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?” Donnie crossed his arms indignantly, pride warring with his need for help.
“So what did you get her then?” The smirk was back.
“Well she really likes to get all girly fancy, which I gotta say is pretty hot.” TMI! TMI! This was not helping.
“So you got her some jewelry or something?” The scowl was back.
“Seriously Donnie, where did all the smart thoughts go? Geez. How would I pull that off? Put on a trench coat and fedora and hope that no one looks too closely while I go buy it with my imaginary money? Besides, her family has is super rich, like the 1% of the 1% rich. She already has a crap ton of fancy jewelry.” Donnie rubbed his temples. Why did every conversation with Raph have to be so painful?
“So just spell it out for me then.” He sighed, somewhat disappointed.
“Well, she really can’t get fancy here. The lair is fine and all, but it’s kind of surrounded by sewers and abandoned subway tunnels that are not kind on designer threads. So I got Casey to give me a lift up to April’s farmhouse a couple times this week, since she said that I could use it, so I could clean it up and decorate. The card is an invitation for a trip away this weekend. She can totally girl up there and I can appreciate her girling it up there while I pamper her. Oh, by the way, I’m taking the stealth cycle this weekend.”
Now Raph was grinning and, Donnie had to admit, his idea was really well thought out. Mona would be over the moon. Although he hadn’t answered, his expression must have given him away, because Raph’s grin was now extra smug.
“Told ya. So you makin’ plans to surprise Venus?” Donnie frowned.
“I’m trying to.” Raph looked at the computer screen again.
“Does she even like any of that stuff?”
“Well, not specifically but, according to all my sources, it’s traditional.” Raph frowned.
“And that’s important because…”
“Well tradition is very important to her.”
“You know there’s not like a rulebook or anything to follow for this…” Donnie threw his hands up in the air.
“Well there should be! It would make it so much easier!” Raph clapped a hand on Donnie’s shoulder.
“The holiday is just an excuse to do something nice for her.” Donnie’s eyes widened as he considered that. The revelation suddenly put everything in a whole new light. He smiled.
He turned back to his table as Raph sauntered out. Even though Venus’s monastery didn’t celebrate the Qixi festival as that started up in the Han dynasty, she’d still know the tale of the cowherd and weaver girl. Poor Leo was going to have to wait a while before having toast again. Stripping the damaged toaster for parts, he knew just what to do.
“Good work today. Your mastery is impressive.” Venus smiled at Master Splinter’s sparing praise.
“As is yours Sensei. Thank you for taking the time to work with me.”
He nodded and rose to retire to his room, leaving her alone by the dojo tree. They’d been doing exercises of will and focus on the spiritual plane, reached through a state of deep meditation, and had only taken a break around midday when Michelangelo had bounded in with a much appreciated offer of lunch. Sensei was one of the few people, besides her brother, the Chung I, able to train with her this way. Leonardo had the potential to achieve it to, but hadn’t quite progressed that far in his own training.
She stood and stretched. It would probably be a good idea to work through a few katas to keep her body in balance with her mind, but she hadn’t seen Donatello all day and missed him. A small break couldn’t do any harm and in all likelihood, he’d spent the entire time hunched over his computer and probably could use the interruption too.
Set on surprising him in his lab, she stepped over to the dojo exit and was startled to find a path of paper hearts on the ground leading from the dojo to the lab. What was this? She couldn’t help but smile as she followed the trail. Each was woven out of dark and light pink strips of paper with the image of a cow stamped in the center. It brought to mind an old myth.
She pushed open the door to the lab and gasped. The room was dark, except for a light show of the celestial heavens splayed across the ceiling, pouring forth from a small, improvised planetarium that Donatello appeared to be controlling by remote from the other side of the room. He gave her a gap toothed grin as she stepped inside.
It was then that she realized that he was positioned under the star, Altair, whom Niulang, the cowherd, represented in the myth. Looking up, she saw that she was under Vega, whom Zhinu, the weaver, represented in the myth. The stars between them clustered into the lights of the milky way. Then he pressed a button and, across the floor, the light spread images of fluttering magpies forming a bridge between them. With a laugh, she rushed forward and he caught her up in an embrace, stroking his blushing cheek.
“This story takes place on the seventh day of the seventh month. I love it, but I have to ask, what brought all this on?” His warm brown eyes widened.
“You don’t know?” She shook her head in confusion.
“It’s wonderful though.” He laughed.
“I’m going to kill April.” He looked down at her eyes and she could see in his that the stars were reflected in them.
“After I thank her.” Venus raised an eye ridge questioningly at him.
“Today is sort of a romantic American holiday, so I thought I’d celebrate it in a way that you would appreciate it.” The edges of her lips curved up into an enthusiastic smile.
“A romantic holiday? Well Zhinu and Niulang don’t often have much time together. Let’s not waste it.” And she pulled him down into a tail curling kiss that she felt down to her toes. Together they were always science that manifested magic.