The stairwell door slammed behind Raphael. What does Michaelangelo know 'bout it anyway! Look at his psycho girl. Who had been the best thing to ever happen to Mikey, he had to admit. That didn't make him feel any better. He stormed up to the roof, passing Di on the way.
Mona was curled up against the parapet wall, hidden from the sinking sun, and surprising him with a hiccupping sound. Her head jerked up when the door slammed shut. "Just leave me alone!"
"I want to! Everybody else told me to talk to you!"
She ran her hands across her cheeks. "You wanna break up, fine. But be honest about it! I went with Allie 'cause she's my friend and she needed help. You got a jealousy problem with her, but don't take it out on me!"
"This ain't 'bout Allie! You used me to do your job!"
"Do I look like James Bomb? I didn't need you to find the Ronin, I had my own leads." She turned her gaze away. "You mowed me down and didn't care that I was a freak. And like an idiot, I believed you."
"You're not an idiot," Raph said. "And stop callin' yourself a freak; you're not one of those either."
"You don't want anything to do with me now." Mona stared past him.
"That's not true! I do want you. You don't want me!"
"That's not true either! You've been the only thing I've been thinking about for the last three months."
"I can't stop thinkin' of you either."
"Then why are we fighting?"
"I don't know!" Raph stared down at her sad face. He sighed, and knelt beside her. "I just want things to be good."
She looked at him. "You're trying to shut us down before we even get started. I never lied to you 'bout my feelings. I just didn't tell you 'bout Mutates stuff 'cause I couldn't."
"I know that." He looked away. "I know I've been a jerk."
"You seem to stay that way."
"Yeah, I do. Can't blame you if you don't want anything to do with me now."
"I just can't give up on you like that. But I am going to go with my first response if this happens again." Mona wiped her face with her hands.
"And what is that?"
"Hit you upside your head."
Raph's mouth twitched. "You'd be the only one I let get away with it." He took hold of her and drew her closer.
"I like the direct approach." Mona murmured as she closed the distance between their lips.
Throttle gently brushed Charley's chestnut hair from her face. She murmured drowsily as her head shifted on his lap. He smiled as he looked back up at her living room. Finally, some peace and quiet with his girl and she was exhausted. Not that he minded guarding her rest. It had been grueling these past few days. And then the first thing she did on getting back to the garage with the parts she wanted from the scoreboard was to go to work on the yellow van. "You work too hard, my girl," he whispered.
She rolled over slightly and opened her green eyes. "Throttle?"
"Yeah, beautiful sleepyhead. Good nap?"
"You shouldn't have let me fall asleep. Don'tcha want any supper?" She struggled to sit up.
"No hurries. I thought I'd treat you."
She knelt on the couch and leaned against him. "More avoiding the crowd at Tala's?"
"I just hate to share you." He kissed her gently, but hearing a stealthy footstep made him break it off. He set his finger against her lips. Charley kept silent. Yeah, somebody was upstairs with them. He eased off the couch and drew his blaster.
Charley correctly interpreted his signal to keep talking. "So what do you want for supper? I don't want hot dogs. We already had Chinese and you hate Mexican." Throttle eased to the wall; his blaster held ready. He peered into her empty bedroom.
"Have somethin' against pizza?" A familiar voice said behind her.
Charley made a shrill noise and whirled around. Throttle swiveled to aim his blaster. Leo jumped back. "Stop doing that!" Charley shouted.
"You better be glad I don't have a hair trigger." Throttle holstered his gun.
Leo smirked. "You got better hearing than a human. I'll remember that."
"What are you doing here?" Charley demanded.
"Sorry, Di sent me to get Zack's hairbrush. Somethin' about getting his original DNA. You hadn't done anything 'bout the broken window, so I came in through there."
"What broken window!" Charley stormed to her guest bedroom.
"She really doesn't like people sneaking up on her, huh?" Leo turned to Throttle.
Throttle shrugged, "We've been rudely interrupted before. Need a board, babe?"
"Yeah, I'll dig up the hammer and nails."
Leo followed Throttle down stairs and stopped at the door between the kitchen and the garage. He stared at the partially demolished van. "Donnie's gonna have a fit."
"Charley will get it put back together. She's already done a lot." Throttle chuckled as he headed out the back door. Charley kept spare building materials in a shed behind the garage. He found a piece of plywood small enough to cover the window and brought it in.
Charley was rooting through her tool chest. "But they're not sure if it's gonna work?"
Leo's voice came out of the van. "You can't ever get an absolute statement outta Donnie. The most you'll get from him is the probability is favorable. And Di's even worse about it. But Zack's strong. He'll pull through it."
"Found a cure for Zack?" Throttle rested the board against his leg.
"Maybe, maybe not. And that's why I'm here looking for his book sack."
"I thought I pulled everything out," Charley said.
"Found it. Wedged under the bench." Leo grunted as he pulled it free, and finally emerged triumphant from the van. "Better get this back and see if Mikey needs backup."
"What is Mike doing now?" Throttle asked.
"Keeping Allie under control. I doubt she's taking Zack undergoing a dangerous operation or something very well. See you guys later."
Charley finally pulled the hammer out of her tool chest. "Poor Zack. A kid shouldn't go through that much."
"Nobody should. Guess it's back to Tala's after we fix the window." Throttle hoisted the board.
"They probably wouldn't miss us."
"True, but we should be there all the same."
She sighed. "No, I guess working isn't a good enough excuse. I'm never going to get that van done at this rate."
"You're the best, Charley-girl. Of course, you will."
Di delicately inserted the needle into the IV tube in Zack's arm. The new set up would carry the chemicals to his bloodstream quicker than an injection. This was going to work. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Donnie patiently mixing at the cubicle recessed into the wall for such preparations. This was going to work. And if she repeated that to herself enough, maybe it would come true. Zack slept quietly under the anesthetic. The computer, MC, monitored his stats through the sensor pads stuck to his flesh. That much was ready.
Donnie lurched suddenly, grabbing the cubicle's edge. She moved quickly to his side. "Are you all right?"
He ran his free hand across his face. "You better finish mixing this stuff. I'll... I'll double-check the algorithms." He tried to move to the computer chair, but stumbled.
Di didn't relinquish her hold until he was seated. "What's wrong?"
He sighed. "It comes in a rush, tired and dizzy. Then it goes away. I'll be alright."
"You're pushing yourself too hard." She brushed her fingers across the top of his head.
"If I don't, Zack pays for it. Can't have that. Besides, it doesn't explain why my leg goes numb."
She winced, "Lasting damage, I thought I had taken that into account. I'm sorry."
He squeezed her hand. "We don't know that yet. I can handle this. So don't go worrying Leo."
"They should know. They're your brothers."
"And I'll tell them if it's permanent. It won't be a bad thing. I'd like to have a good reason Leo and Raph can't argue with to give up fighting. Never liked doing it anyway."
"We all have duties we dislike."
"Yeah, and it's worse when you don't wanna let down the people you love." He released her hand after one final squeeze. "We'll survive."
"No, we'll prevail." She caressed his head one final time, and turned to the chemicals.
The blue glow faded, and Ryan, Trash, and Ryan's bike were inside the cylinder booth inside the ship. "Man, this thing could put the airlines out of business." Trash leaned heavily against him.
He swallowed his worries about her health. "Yeah, but I'd miss those tiny bags of peanuts. Come on, let's get you back to bed."
"But you're not gonna let me do anything fun there," she complained as they moved slowly out of the cargo bay.
"So we can have fun later, remember?"
"Oh yeah. Wait a sec." She made him pause at the door into the lounge area of the spaceship. Throttle and Charley were inside talking quietly to Leo, Modo, and Sparks.
The tan mouse heard them first and turned.
"It's cool, Ryan-babe." She looked into the room and said in a louder voice. "Throttle, Charley, I'm sorry 'bout bein' a loud-mouth bitch. Okay, time for the bed rest."
He shook his head as he helped her down the hall. "You're a piece of work, Victoria."
"What? Are you saying I shouldn't apologize?"
Leo jogged out of the lounge. "Ryan, they started a treatment on Zack. Thought you should know."
"They think they can cure it?" Trash blinked.
"I'm not exactly sure what they're doing. Di calls it a guided mutation."
"What are his chances?"
Leo didn't meet Ryan's eyes. "Too close for betting."
Ryan swallowed hard. "Come on, let's get you back to bed."
Trash didn't protest. "I like Zack. Why does it have to be Zack?"
"I don't know." He brushed her black hair onto the pillow. "I wish it wasn't. But all we can do now is wait. And hope." She grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
Mona laid her head on Raph's chest. His arms tightened around her. "Do you hate me?"
"Why would I hate you?"
"Cause I don't want Zack to be human if I can't. How awful is that? To wish it on a kid?"
"I had a life! Is it so wrong to want it back?"
"No, it isn't, but you have a life now. It's not a great one, you gotta put up with me--"
She cut him off with a kiss. "You are the best thing to happen to me in a long time."
"Damn, babe, you have had it bad."
"But there are so many that have it worse."
He hugged her tighter. "Come on, babe. There is always gonna be someone worse off than you are. You gotta concentrate on what's good."
"Like you do?"
"Okay, should I stop rewriting Splinter's speeches to me?"
"I don't know." Her head drooped. "I don't want Zack to die. And I don't wanna be a freak."
"You're not a freak. And I'll kick the crap out of the first person to call you one." He took a deep breath. "Besides, neither one of us wants to see Allie go to Japan and end up dead."
"No, we don't."
Eight shifted through the contents of the pantry and frowned. He pulled a few boxes off their shelves and then decided to add a few cans to the pile on the counter. He turned to Smarts, who leaned over island counter, and signed *They went grocery shopping?*
"Well, not everyone can aspire to become a gourmet chef."
Eight turned away with a snort. I am not a gourmet chef, problem with you kids is all you eat is fast food junk. A methodical search of the cabinets reveled a decent set of pots and pans that had hardly been used. What everyone was going to need when all this worrying was over was some stick-to-your-ribs food.
He heard the stairwell door open. "You are the only one who has said his odds are any good. And you don't have a medical degree," Tala said.
"It's not about havin' a medical degree. If you don't believe, naturally you're going to fail," Vinnie said.
"I can't believe you of all people are giving a lecture on faith." The couple walked around the screen set up near the kitchen and Tala stopped. "What are you doing?"
Eight stopped stirring long enough to answer. *Cooking.*
"What was that?"
"Cooking," Smarts answered. "Shocking, the amount of people who do not understand sign language."
"Never had a reason to learn. Now why is he cooking?"
"It's his way to deal with a crisis."
*People still need to eat.* This turning back and forth to sign was going to get old quick, but he had to put his comments in.
Smarts translated as Eight turned back to the stove. "And people still need to eat."
"So you two don't think he's gonna make it either?" Vinnie crossed his arms.
Eight glanced at Smarts, then at the white mouse. *I want him to make it.*
"We both want him to make it. To lose him would crush Allie-Cat," Smarts said.
"I thought her name was Di?"
"Allie's nickname with us was Allie-Cat. Skulls always said he found her like one."
"Oh, a street kid."
"Zack is probably the reason she never became a criminal," Smarts said.
*You're wrong there. Allie-Cat is too honorable.* Eight signed to Smarts, followed with an admonishing finger shake.
"You're just inclined to think the best of everyone."
"Don't you hate being left out of the loop," Tala muttered loud enough for everyone to hear.
"Yeap. Let's go get that shoppin' for Modo done. Is he a Mr. Mom or what?" Vinnie laughed as he dragged Tala back to the stairwell door.
"Don't destroy my kitchen!"
*I think she has trust issues.* Eight laughed as he turned back to the food.
Smarts nodded. "You might be correct."
"He is much better behaved with you." Charley leaned on Modo's shoulder as she looked down at the baby he was feeding.
"It's just a matter of know what to do. I thought all girls were naturals at this stuff."
She stifled her laughter. "Go suggest that to Tala."
"I'm waitin' for Vinnie's verdict on if she's a girl or not." He glanced around the lounge before confiding in her. "I'm worried 'bout Sparks. I tried to get him to go with Vinnie and Tala and he wouldn't."
"I don't think he's ever had a best friend before. And for some reason, he's picked Zack."
"I know, and that's what makes this so hard. All I want to do is get him away from this, and he won't get out of the middle of it."
"I don't know what to tell you, Modo. I'm no good with these situations either." She rubbed his shoulder.
"Hmm, think Tala let me put in a long distance call to Momma?"
Charley smiled. "Does she even know about Sparks yet?"
"Come on, we've been really busy since we got back. Besides, I gotta think of the right way to say it. Momma was always big on gettin' married. How am I supposed to tell her I didn't?"
Charley's answer was interrupted by a protesting cry. "But I wasn't doing anything!"
She turned from the couch to see Throttle dragging Sparks through the door by the scruff of his neck. "You don't need to be sittin' out there where they'll trip over you if there is an emergency."
"Sparks, you know better," Modo said.
Throttle released him with a sigh. Charley offered what she hoped was a sympathetic smile to Throttle's bleak expression. He shook his head and retreated. She took a step away from the couch. "Do you want some supper?"
"I'm not hungry, Charley-ma'am." Sparks went around the couch, but sat on the floor.
Modo reached over and petted his shoulder. "It's gonna be okay, son. Just wait and see."
"Heard that song before." He pressed his face against his knees.
Throttle reached the bottom of the ramp and sighed.
"Your worries are over now." Leo sat cross-legged on the hanger floor. "What's the problem?"
"Not so much worries as wonderin' when I became everybody's parent."
"Everybody but Charley?"
"Everybody but Charley," he leaned against a landing support. "But she's been motherin' us since we crashed."
"Sounds like April. I think she's going be kicking our shells for letting her miss a chance to meet aliens."
"If she's got anything close to Charley's temper, she will be," Throttle chuckled.
"Charley has a temper?"
"That's right, you missed the tug-a-war between her and Trash with me as the rope. Don't sweat it though. If Sparks has anything to say 'bout it, we'll probably take a road trip your way."
Leo blinked. "Yeah, I heard him and you. But he's Modo's kid, right?"
"That doesn't make a difference."
"No, it doesn't."
Mike handed Allie the mug of tea as he sat beside her. The bedroom on the spaceship still had medical equipment for Donnie in it. "It's not the stuff Splinter keeps."
"That's okay." She held it in both hands and stared at the amber fluid. "I don't wanna go to Japan."
"You're not going." He wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "It's gonna work out; trust Donnie. You won't hafta go to Japan and you won't hafta give Karen that ring."
"Just friends," she snorted. "My little brother sure is slick."
"Runs in the family."
"I guess so, but poor Karen. You do realize she's still in the dark about you guys and the Foot?"
"Well, there's plenty of time to catch her up before they tie the knot."
"We'll see Casey and April march down the aisle before Zack tells Karen anything." She took a sip of the tea.
"You might win that bet. They've been hittin' the datin' circuit pretty hard since you left. With each other."
"Good for them."
"Yeah, everybody's hopin' for the best--even Raph."
"I hope Mona knocks some sense into him."
Mike squeezed her shoulder. "I'm sure she will. She don't seem like the type that takes "no" for an answer."
"She doesn't." Allie leaned against him. "I've been thinking."
"You think too much, babe."
"I know, but if Zack doesn't make it, I'm gonna have to liquidate our inheritance to afford the baby."
"That ugly building your grandmother left you two?" She nodded. "I know babies are expensive, but isn't that overkill on diapers?"
"To get the sperm. That's not cheap."
"Oh. So you think that's a good idea?"
"The only way not to lose you too. And quickest way to get a kid before going to Japan." Her lower lip trembled.
"Zack is gonna be just fine. We're gonna have a baby when we both want it."
"I'm so tired, Mike. I never wanted to worry about this."
He took the mug from her. "Come on, lay down for a little while." He set the tea down on top of the boxy medical thingy.
He brushed aside her blonde hair as he drew her into his embrace. "I'll never leave you."