Raph sat on the couch, flipping through a magazine and trying to block out Leo’s episode of Space Heroes, especially the way he breathily repeated the lines. His Captain Ryan guy crush always made sitting through the already excessively corny show even worse.
It had been a long and boring day stuck in the lair and he was really looking forward to busting some heads on patrol tonight. He was stir crazy enough to actually count the minutes remaining until sunset. Freedom was so close, he could almost taste it.
A high pitched whistle sounded from Donnie’s lab. While Raph’s first instinct was to dive for cover every time this particular scenario played out, his idiot brothers were still at ground zero. Apparently Leo agreed as he was already up and sprinting towards the lab. Not one to be shown up, he vaulted over the back of the couch and caught up within three strides. They arrived at the door simultaneously.
The elaborate set up of beakers on the lab table exploded in a blinding flash and he could hear metal ricocheting around the room as he instinctively ducked into his shell.
Was that Donnie? Or Mikey? Abandoning caution, he popped back out of the shell, seeing Leo doing the same in the clearing smoke. They forged ahead and found Mikey still tucked into his shell, groaning.
Leo tapped his plastron. “Mikey, are you ok?”
Mikey’s response was tentative. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Good. Now get out here so I can smack you.” As he spoke, Raph picked up Mikey’s shell and shook him till he couldn’t stay hidden away any longer. He flung his hands in front of his face as he came out.
“I swear I didn’t know it would do that.”
Avoiding his hand shield, Raph slapped him upside his head. “That’s why you’re not allowed to touch stuff in Donnie’s lab, numbshell.”
A moan from the other side of the table, caused him to drop Mikey and investigate. Leo was kneeling next to his curled up brother, head close to Donnie’s before he shot upright, eyes wide.
“Wait…it got stuck where?!”
“Laugh at me later, Leo. Just get Sensei now.”
Mikey poked his head around Raph’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Donnie.”
“Mikey get out!”
Mikey wilted for a moment under Donnie’s ire, before abruptly brightening again. “Don’t worry Donnie. I’ll call April to come and take care of you!”
Donnie stiffened which immediately caused him to cringe. “Mikey, wait!”
But it was too late. Their little brother was already bounding out of the lab with his T-Phone to his ear. Donnie groaned and Raph was pretty sure this one wasn’t entirely physical discomfort.
Then his father entered and sped to Donnie’s side. Leo stood a step back, peering nervously over his shoulder and tapping his index fingers together, one of Leo’s classic nervous tells.
“Sensei, will he…”
“Your brother will be fine, but would probably appreciate some privacy while I extract the stirring rod.”
Leo nodded. “Hai Sensei.”
Leo hooked Raph’s arm as he went, pulling him out of the lab. The moment they closed the door behind them, he and Leo couldn’t help breaking down into laughter. Once Donnie was better this would be worth hours of amusement. Sucking in air between fading chortles, he looked over at Leo who was wiping tears out of the corners of his eyes, fighting to get his snickering under control. Finally able to take a deep breath, Raph pushed off the door he’d been leaning against since the laughter took hold.
“Looks like we’ll be down a turtle for patrol tonight.”
That killed the last of Leo’s laughter and his blue eyes narrowed at Raph. “We can’t go out tonight. We need to be here, looking after Donnie.”
Raph crossed his arms indignantly. “But Master Splinter said he would be fine.”
Leo frowned. “That doesn’t mean he couldn’t we should ditch him. I’m going to make him a pot of coffee.”
Raph glared after Leo as he watched his older brother head towards the kitchen where Mikey was already topping his apology pizza with Donnie’s favorites.
What was he supposed to do for Donnie? He sucked at making people feel better. Smacking Mikey for causing the mess in the first place already fulfilled his strong suit in setting things right.
Scowling, he made his way over to the arcade game, playing for a few seconds before almost immediately becoming too irritated to even finish the level. So he was stuck in the lair for the rest of the night because his brothers were collectively idiots. It wasn’t fair.
April hopped the turnstiles, carrying a grocery bag. “Raph, is Donnie ok? What happened?”
He rolled his eyes. “Mikey happened.”
She frowned. “He was kind of vague on the phone, so I just picked up some general first aid stuff from the convenience store on the way here. Where’s Donnie?”
“The lab.” He grabbed her shoulder as she started that way, still harboring some sympathy for his brainy little brother. “You might want to give him a bit and knock before you go in.”
She looked at him questioningly and he sighed. “Why don’t you help Leo and Mikey in the kitchen for now?”
She stared at him for a moment and he couldn’t help wondering if she was mining for more information with her psychic powers. Not gonna happen. He crossed his arms over his chest and dialed up the scowl. She huffed and turned to head over to the kitchen.
Watching her walk away, he was reminded that he’d been locked in for an evening full of useless frustration. Screw that! While everyone was distracted in the kitchen, he slipped out of the lair unnoticed.
Raph landed on the fire escape outside Casey’s apartment and peered into the window. He’d been counting on his pal to help him lay the smack down tonight, but Casey just looked dejected, sitting on his couch, spinning his mask in his hands, wearing…were those plastic necklaces? What the shell?
He tapped the glass, quietly enough not to risk attracting the attention of the apartment’s other residents. Casey’s head snapped up and zeroed in on the window. With a sigh, he waved Raph in. Not the reaction he’d been hoping for.
Raph opened the window and silently slipped inside. “Not worried anyone’s gonna notice me?”
Casey snorted. “Nah, my dad’s off doing some daddy-daughter dance with my sister at her school.”
Raph raised an eye ridge. “So you figured you’d stay in and play dress up?”
Casey looked confused for a moment before shaking it off. “I was supposed to hit some parties with Red, but she cancelled at the last minute.”
Raph shrugged. “Yeah, Donnie had an…accident in his lab.”
“Sensei says that he will be.”
Casey’s face scrunched in irritation. “Then what’s he need April for? We had plans.”
Raph couldn’t help a little smirk. “For once, he’d probably rather that she’d not come, but Mikey is…Mikey. So what’s with the bling?” He gestured towards the colorful beaded necklaces shining around Casey’s neck.
“Uh…it’s Mardi Gras.”
Raph quirked an eye ridge. “What?”
Casey laughed. “You’ve never heard of Mardi Gras?”
He put his hands where his hips would be if he didn’t have shell. “Isolated mutants, living in the sewers, remember?”
Casey rolled his eyes. “Then you’re missing out. It’s kind of a holiday to cut loose. People have parades, parties with dancing, music, masks and costumes and stuff. It can get pretty wild.”
“So the necklaces are your costume?”
Casey laughed. “No, the beads are more like currency, although Red would probably slap me for distributing them.”
Now Raph was more confused than ever. “Why?”
Casey leaned in and whispered the answer as though there were anyone else in the apartment who could overhear.
Raph’s jaw fell open. “No way! They don’t really?”
Casey grinned. “Some do.” Then his friend’s eyes lit up with a mischievous glint. “Hey why don’t we scope out a party? You’ll see what I’m talking about.”
Raph hesitated, knowing that his family would most definitely not approve, but upon seeing Casey’s amusement at his uncertainty, he glowered at him and responded. “Fine. Lead the way.”
Traveling across the skyline, it didn’t take long to find a rooftop masquerade, given the unseasonable February warm spell. With the flashing lights and pounding music, they’d easily slipped unnoticed atop the bar, the tallest and sturdiest of the temporary structures available.
Raph had been both astounded and fascinated to learn that Casey hadn’t been lying as he watched intoxicated human women earning their Mardi Gras beads as the party progressed. He wasn’t gonna lie. It was pretty awesome. And educational.
Then his T-phone went off, the ringtone fortunately drowned out by the noise of the party and saw Leo’s icon appear on the screen. He sighed. “Nights of pleasure are short.”
Casey looked at him questioningly as he declined the call.
“Fearless the killjoy has noticed I’m gone and will be tracking me down soon.”
Casey rolled his eyes. “Can’t he lay off for one night. It’s Mardi Gras. The rules don’t apply.”
Raph thought about that for a moment. Well if he didn’t have much time left, he might as well make the most of his rebellion. “Casey, give me six bucks.”
Confused, his friend handed over the cash. “What are you doing?”
Raph smiled. “Breaking the rules.”
He perched at the side of the bar.
Casey’s eyes widened. “What if someone sees you?”
Raph snorted. “Ninja, remember?”
Before Casey could offer further protest, he hooked his ankles around the bar’s metal support structure and flipped upside down over the back corner, dropping the bills on the back counter as he snapped up the two beers that the bartender had just opened before turning away for a second to answer a question. When the bar tender turned back, the beers had vanished, replaced by their cash equivalent.
Back up top, Raph’s green eyes twinkled as he handed Casey one of the beers. Casey grinned and clinked the neck of his bottle against Raph’s.
Seething, Leo landed gracefully behind Casey and his brother, glaring at the mostly empty beers in their hands and the wild human party, beyond. “What the shell Raph?! Are you insane?”
Raph snickered. “Lighten up Fearless, it’s Mardi Gras.”
He couldn’t help but blink in confusion for a moment. “It’s what? Never mind. We are going home right now.”
Casey glared and pointed out into the party. “Hey!”
They followed his gesture to see one masked party goer dragging another behind a large, cardboard palm tree decoration while she struggled and batted angrily at him.
Before either he or Casey could react, Raph shoved his beverage in Leo’s hands. “Hold my beer. I’ve got this.”
He had no chance to protest before a swaying Raph was down the side of the bar and ghosting along the edges of the party. Leo couldn’t make out exactly what Raph was saying, but got the gist as his brother peeled the assailant off the glittering girl in the feather mask and waved his sai tauntingly in the man’s face. The guy took off like his ass was on fire the instant Raph released him. Raph’s damsel in distress, mask askew, was gazing up at his brother in astonishment.
“This is bad. Really bad.”
Casey snorted beside him. “Relax Leo, it’s all good.”
His eyes narrowed at Casey, whom he blamed for this debacle. “Bad is never good.”
“Until worse happens.”
Casey was looking past him and knowing that he was going to regret it, he followed Casey’s gaze. The woman was now leading Raph out onto the dance floor and he could make out her lips mouthing ‘your costume is amazing,’ as Raph entered the heart of the party.
Not exercising his best judgment, Raph joined in with a Mikey level lack of restraint, showing off all his best moves to the other party goer’s cheering and applause.
Leo face palmed. “We are in so much trouble.”
Then he took a swig of Raph’s beer.
Leo scrubbed the mildew off the tile, casting a glance over at Raph, attacking the porcelain with the toilet brush as though it were an enemy.
“Watch it Raph. If you break that, we’ll have more than a month of extra chores and being grounded from…everything.”
Raph scowled at him. “But…”
Leo’s eyes narrowed. “Not. A. Word.”
Raph was about to argue, but Leo cut him off. “I blame you.”
At that Raph grinned. “Totally worth it.”