With the star motionlessly floating against the black ribbon of sky, below it rested a simple farm house. It was nothing special: just above that of a cozy shack, really. The roof leaked, the walls creaked, but to Casey Jones, it was a second home; and nothing beat Christmastime at the farm house.
It was Christmas Eve, and as his muscle-bound arms carried a bundle of wood through the bush, a subtle smile stretched across Casey's face. His deep blue eyes stared up at the cascading sky above him as he made his way back to the farm house. A "never-ending dome of abysmal atmospheric pressure," as Donatello would call it. Sighing peacefully, he felt the snow crunch below his massive boots with each step.
The snow was beginning to pick up again, lightly dancing to the ground in flurries. Though their situation wasn't the best since the group had arrived to the farm house, this kind of weather put Jones at ease in a way. It made him feel… calm. Considering his hot-tempered nature, this was just what the doctor ordered. At least now he could spend the holiday with the turtles, Master Splinter, and April; and with Leo doing better now, they could actually celebrate something.
Finally, passed a bushel, he could see the farm house come into vision. The smoke from the fire pit was beginning to die as the gang circled its nadir, where Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, April, and Master Splinter established a campfire. With a few larger stones to sit on, and a bag of marshmallows resting on the largest one, the fire pit was quite a nice set-up. It was a tranquil sight – excluding the fact that Michelangelo and Raphael were quarreling in the distance.
"Whaddya mean Klunk can't have a marshmallow?!" Michelangelo whined, clutching his pet cat, Klunk, tightly in his arms.
"Mikey, it's gonna make 'im sick!" Raphael yelled, arms flailing.
"But he eats marshmallow-and-chocolate-sauce pizza with me all the time, don'tcha Klunk?" Nuzzling his cat's head, Michelangelo smiled happily as Klunk began to purr.
"Mikey," Raphael insisted, arms crossed, "Ya gotta stop babying that thing! He's nevah gonna grow up if you keep treatin' it like a little baby!"
"But he is my wittle baby," the orang clad turtle cooed, "Arent'chu Kulunky?"
"Gah, I think I'm gonna be sick!" the red clad turtle whirled, sitting back down next to Leonardo.
Giggling lightly, Casey made his way over to the group.
"Hey fellas!" Jones cried, "Got some more firewood!"
"Great!" April replied, motioning over to assist her friend, "Here, lemme-"
"April, I got this," Casey insisted, holding the pack tight in his arms, "Besides – a lady like yourself shouldn't be doin' no heavy-liftin'. It takes a real man to do a job like this."
"Oh, really?" the red head retorted, cocking an eyebrow as she grabbed the bundle of firewood, "Then how come you're doing it?"
A company of 'Oooo's could be heard from the turtles as Casey cheeks began to glow crimson with embarrassment.
"She toldju, son," Raphael laughed, stuffing a marshmallow into his mouth.
"Aw, shuddup," Jones mumbled under his breath.
With a haughty stride, April tossed half of the wood to the remaining pile of scrap and the other half into the pit of fire. Almost instantly did the flame return to their heights.
"Woohoo! FIRE!" Michelangelo began to chant and leap for joy.
"Mikey," Donatello sang in a cautioning tone, "Do you remember what happened the last time you danced around a fire?"
Looking down at his bandaged left foot (which had to be wrapped after he accidently stepped on one of the fire-singed branches), Michelangelo replied slowly with a, "Yyyyeeeessss."
"And what have we learned?" the intelligent turtle questioned.
"Uh…" the youngest turtle pondered for a second before shrugging, "…Don't step on fire?"
"No," Raphael intruded boldly, "Don't act like an idiot around fire!" With a quick flip of his wrist, the red clad turtle thwapped his youngest brother in the back of the head.
"Owww!" Michelangelo wailed in pain.
As April giggled at the spectacle between the two brothers, she leaned her head on Casey's shoulder as she stared up at the night sky.
"The stars are so beautiful here. Nothing like back in the city," the woman pointed, her emerald-green eyes wide with amazement, "Oh, look! There's Orion's Belt!"
"Yeah," Casey replied before pointing up himself, "A-an' that one kinda looks like Moe from Moe's Pizza Shack back at home!"
Overhearing their conversation, Leonardo sighed deeply as he stared up at into the abyss himself.
"Home," the eldest turtle exhaled quietly, adjusting his arm sling. How he missed it: the rooftops, the sewer… everything. Though his battle with the foot soldiers and the Shredder left him physically and emotionally scarred, he still had that thirst for justice – to reclaim his original mound of glory, for himself and his master.
Returning from the farm house with a tray of hot chocolate, Master Splinter brought himself and the wintertime drinks over to the group.
"Some hot chocolate for this particularly chilled evening, perhaps," the elderly rat smiled.
Rising collectively, the group grabbed their mugs.
"Thanks, Master Splinter!" April acknowledged.
"Of course, Miss O'Neil," Master Splinter reciprocated.
"Hey, just what we needed," Casey added, grabbing a mug, "Thanks, Mastah Splintah!"
"Thank you, Mister Jones," the rat replied, placing a hand on Casey's shoulder, "For your hospitality and this evening."
"Aw, don't mention it. What's Christmas without a little fun, anyhow?" the man shrugged as he returned to his seat.
"Alright, hot chocolate!" Michelangelo cried, taking a mug.
"Be mindful, Michelangelo," the rat scolded as his youngest son paused.
"I will, Sensei," the orange clad turtle swore, staring at the mugs, "Hmmm… which one should I take? Eeeeny, meeeeany, miiiiiney—"
"Just pick one an' get on with yer life, Mikey!" Raphael yelled from behind.
"Geez, alright!" Michelangelo yelled back, "Hmmm… I piiiick… This one! 'Cuz it's got a cat right on the cup. Just like my Klunk."
Taking the mug, Michelangelo kneeled down to show his pet.
"Look, Klunk, a cat! Just like you."
Staring at the mug, Klunk immediately began to-
"Aww, don't be jealous," the orange clad turtle insisted, picking up Klunk, "You're still my favorite."
Visibly calmer, the cat purred once more as the two returned to the fire.
"Finally!" Raphael exclaimed, reaching his father only to whisper, "Uhh…Sensei… Did you—"
"The red mug, Raphael," Master Splinter responded in a hushed voice, "With an extra dash of peppermint, as you requested."
"Yer the best, Mastah Splintah," Raph replied quietly, taking the mug with a smile.
As Donatello approached his father, the intelligent turtle stared down at the steaming liquids.
"Oh. Uh, hot chocolate," the purple clad turtle turned, as he was not a fan of the drink. The only hot drink he could stomach was coffee: any time of day, he could drink it. When working on inventions, it was practically a life saver! He'd soon gotten hooked on the stuff, drinking at least two cups a day without fail. Though hot chocolate smelled nice, it just wasn't the same for the purple clad turtle. Of course he didn't want to seem rude, and politely took a mug, saying, "Thank you, Sensei."
"Oh, but Donatello," the wise rat insisted, "I always thought you preferred coffee to hot chocolate."
The intelligent turtle paused for a moment, "I-I do, but—"
"Then why not take the purple mug instead?" Master Splinter added with a smile.
Looking down into the contents of the purple cup, he could see the steamy brown liquid steaming with its watery consistency. With one deep inhale, Donatello knew it was coffee.
"Alright!" Donatello exclaimed, "Thank you, Master Splinter!"
Laughing to himself, the rat nodded as his son took his drink. Looking down at the tray, Splinter noticed that there were still two mugs left: his own… and Leonardo's. Glancing over to locate him, Master Splinter spotted his eldest son staring downheartedly up into the night sky. He had watched his pupil struggled to place back together his broken spirit for weeks now, and shared in his son's frustrations. Sighing heavily, the old rat picked up the tray and shuffled his way over to his blue clad son.
"Some hot chocolate, Leonardo?" Master Splinter suggested.
Startled by the sound of his father's soothing voice, Leonardo jumped and replied, "Uh… no thank you, Sensei."
Nodding affirmatively, the rodent placed the tray down and joined his son in staring up at the stars as he spoke.
"The sky is most beautiful tonight, is it not?"
"It's pretty nice."
"We hardly see a sky like this hanging above the city."
With his eyes shifting beneath his blue mask, Leonardo turned to face his father.
"Sensei… Are we ever gonna go home?"
"What do you mean, my son?"
"W…W-What do you mean, 'What do you mean'? I mean are we ever going home?"
"Look around you, my son," Master Splinter instructed.
Following his father's instructions, the eldest turtle gazed at the group which sat by the fire. Donatello joined April in locating star constellations as Raphael and Casey began to arm wrestle, and Michelangelo and Klunk danced across the snow (away from the fire, of course).
"I-is that the Big Dipper?" April inquired.
"I believe so," Donatello replied, sipping from his mug, "And wouldja look at that cosmic cluster up there? Beautiful!"
"Alright Jones," Raphael growled, slamming his elbow on a hunk of wood, "Best three outta five!"
"Forget it, Raph," Casey insisted, doing the same, "We all know who's gonna win."
"Oh, good – you already know it's gonna be me," the red clad turtle smirked, "Now I can spare yeh feelings."
"The only thing yer gonna be feelin' is pain, Hamato!"
"Bring it on, Case."
As the battle began, Michelangelo watched as Klunk rolled a small pile of snow into a sloppy ball. It only took this small action to inspire the orange clad turtle.
"Good thinkin', Klunk," Mikey said, grabbing the ball. Shaping it in his hands to perfect its form, Michelangelo squinted his eyes as he smiled menacingly – calling, "Hey, Raph!"
With one hit, the snowball smack Raphael right in the forehead. As both Casey and Michelangelo began rolling on the ground with laughter, the red clad turtle felt his face burn with fury as he jumped from his spot.
"Ya dead, Mikey!"
While Raphael chased Michelangelo, Leonardo giggled lightly at the sight. Seeing this, the wise rat placed his hand on his eldest son's shoulder.
"You see, my son? We are home – for we are together."
Coming to this realization, the blue clad turtle smiled sincerely and lightly pulled his sensei into an embrace.
"Merry Christmas, Father."
"And to you as well, my son."
"OWW! RAPH, THAT REALLY HURT!"
"THAT'S THE POINT!"
With his sons still bickering, the old rat sighed, "Aya. They are like children," before calling out, "Michelangelo. Raphael. Enough of this!"
"He started it!" the two cried out simultaneously while Raphael held Michelangelo in a headlock and Michelangelo grabbed Raphael's right leg.
"This hardly matters," the rat scolded insistently, "Now is the time to 'finish it'."
Obeying their master, the two turtles sat by the fire once more.
"What time is it?" April asked with a yawn.
"Hmmm, let's see," Donatello hummed, looking up at the sky, "Judging by the placement of the moon… It's about… twelve-thirty."
Looking back down, the purple clad turtle became startled as the group stared at him with wide eyes.
"W-what?" Donatello shrugged, "Haven't you ever heard of 'moon-placement'?"
"Donnie," Raphael replied, wrapping his arm around his brother's shoulders, "Sometimes… your nerdiness astounds me."
"Hey, Sensei," Michelangelo pondered excitedly, "D'ya think Santa will find us out here?"
"Of course not, stupid," Raphael interjected, "There's no—"
Stopping short, he noticed his little brother staring at him with his eyes wide.
"No what, dude?" Michelangelo asked earnestly.
Staring for a second, the red clad turtle sighed deeply before replying, "There's no, uh… th-there's no reception out in the woods. Yeah, cuz Santa's got radar, y'know? And he can't always see stuff outside the radar an' everything.
"Nice save," Casey whispered sarcastically in a voice low enough for only Raphael to hear.
"Shuddup," Raphael grumbled, taking a swig from his hot chocolate.
"Michelangelo," Master Splinter added, "The greatest gift one could ever receive is the one you have right before you."
As Master Splinter slapped his palm across his own forehead, Leonardo scooted closer to his little brother.
"I think Sensei meant family, Mikey," the blue clad turtle interjected.
"Oh!" Michelangelo shouted in realization, "Right! Duh."
As a collective silence fell upon the group, Casey perked up his low voice.
"Hey, y'know, since it's Christmas Eve an' all… Maybe, uh… Maybe somebody should read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas', or somethin'."
April turned her head, "That's a pretty sensitive suggestion coming from you, Jones."
"Yeah," Raphael jested, "What kinda corny idea is that?"
"What—'s jus and idea, is all," Casey exclaimed, "It… just don't feel right without it, y'know?"
"Casey's right," Donatello added, "It couldn't hurt. But we don't have the book. Who here knows it?"
"Sensei," Leonardo said, knowing he could tell it by heart, "Why don't you tell it?"
"I'd be most honored to, Leonardo," Master Splinter replied
"Oh boy, a story!" Michelangelo exclaimed, placing a now sleeping Klunk on his lap.
Watching the fire as Master Splinter recited the poem, the group gazed upon the flickering source of heat. Of course, the warmest sense they all felt was that of being together. Even Raphael felt the glow while his father spoke, recalling on his past – when they were all little, and Master Splinter would tell them stories all the time. Splinter's voice was practically hypnotic, and pretty soon the entire group had fallen under its spell as he spoke.
"-'And they heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight— 'Ha—'"
Continuing to tell the tale, a light unconscious snort from Casey Jones caused Master Splinter to pause and gaze upon his now sleeping audience. While April and Casey rested their heads on each other, Donatello laid down on a log as Michelangelo pressed against Raphael, while the orange clad turtle held Klunk tightly in his arms. Looking down next to him, Master Splinter found his eldest son resting his own head against his bony shoulder. Smiling contently, the wise rat yawned and breathed the end of the poem, "'Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night'."