Opening notes:

During the movie Ratatouille, what happened between Anton Ego's "Thank you for the meal", and the group all heading their own way for the night?

This piece of short fiction is based on Pixar's computer animated movie: Ratatouille. I make no money from this in any way; the only profit is my own enjoyment. Pixar, please think of this as flattery and free advertising. I encourage everyone who has not done so already, to go and buy the film ASAP.

On with the story...

Apology Accepted

"Thank you for the meal."

With that polite statement, Anton Ego turned and stiffly walked from the restaurant without another word. As the door closed behind him, Linguini, Colette, and I all looked at each other and let out a relieved sigh.

First the interview with the press, then my argument with Linguini, getting caught stealing food by Linguini, being trapped by Skinner, rescued by Dad and Emile, almost getting mobbed by the kitchen staff, the staff all quiting, trying to keep the clan organized in the kitchen, then having to explain things to Ego...I don't think I've ever been as stressed in my life. It took more effort than I had in me to keep my ears from quivering. This whole ordeal just might have been rougher than getting shot at by the old woman with the shotgun. I was going to need some serious time to make this all process.

Colette turned to head back into the kitchen, but Linguini stopped her then looked down at me.

"Hey... uh, Little Chef, I need to talk to Colette for a few minutes. Will you head to the kitchen and see how the cleanup is coming?" he said. "Not that I think it's going badly or anything! I mean..."

I held up a paw to cut him off and just nodded, figuring that he had to do some extra explaining or apologizing to Colette; he only stammered like that when he was nervous. I jumped from the table that I was sitting on, to the chair, then ran across to the padded doors that separated the dining room from the kitchen. Heaving on the bottom of one, I managed to push it open a couple inches, just enough for me to slip through. In the corner, leaning up against the counter, was a mop. I ran up its handle onto the counter and surveyed the scene.

Things had been proceeding nicely; a few of the clan were still finishing up the cleaning instructions I'd given them. Dad saw me and came over.

He didn't say anything, just stood there smiling. When I came back to help Linguini, I thought dad would disown me. Instead, he made it possible for us all to get through tonight. If it hadn't been for him... There was no way to show how much gratitude I felt for him at the moment. I settled for giving him a big hug and quietly said, "Thanks so much Dad."

"It's like I said: we're family. We watch out for our own," he replied quietly. "Remy, I want you to know that after seeing you in action tonight, I couldn't be more proud."

I let go and looked up at him as he continued.

"I still don't get what you see in this cooking stuff, but I never thought I'd see the day when a human would defend one of us. I heard what he said about you to that food critic; you've made quite the impact here. I know we caused you some trouble the other night. I'm sorry about that."

The guilt from the previous night loomed back over me once more. When Linguini chased me out of the restaurant and told me not to come back, it was like having a part of me cut off. I hoped he wasn't still mad about the clan taking food. I mean, he did let me come back and defended me in front of everyone, but we hadn't had a chance to 'discuss' that yet. I still needed to tell him how sorry I was. Pushing the guilt aside for the moment, I found my voice and spoke up, "I'm the one who needs to be making apologies to people. I'm the one who started taking food when Emile first found me here. I need to talk to Linguini about that."

"Well, I'll send the rest of the clan back to the colony, but Emile and I'll stay here till you're ready to leave."

Just then Linguini and Colette came back into the kitchen; his arm around her shoulders, hers around his waist. Both were smiling. I guess he managed to patch up things pretty well. He looked around the room, then came over to me.

"Well, the front door is locked and it looks like things are just about wrapped up here. It's been a long night."

Colette moved a little closer and addressed me.

"Monsieur Chef? There is something that I need to say to you." She stooped down so her face was at the same level as the counter I was standing on. With a resolute expression, she continued.

"When you first showed up this evening and Alfredo defended you, I thought he was insane. Then I was angry at him. When I came back, it was unwillingly and I was only going to help tonight." Now she smiled. "But, working with you this evening, I have seen that Alfredo was right about you. You are truly a great talent. If we have the opportunity, I would be honored to cook with you in the future."

All I could do was smile as I tried not to choke up.

Suddenly we heard a banging noise from the refrigerator. All of us turned to look at it. That's right! I'd forgotten about Skinner and the health inspector. Yet another thing piled onto the list of stressful stuff. If much more happened, I was liable to snap.

"You know, you're going to give yourself a headache if you keep yanking on your ears like that, little brother."

Emile had just climbed up onto the counter, which couldn't be easy what with his bulk, and was sitting next to me. The rest of the clan had left. I quickly let go of my ears. I thought I had broken that habit a long time ago.

Colette and Linguini were arguing. I didn't need this. Apparently, she was telling him, in no uncertain terms, that she was going to be the one to get them out of the refrigerator and kick them out of the restaurant because he'd say all the wrong things. He was trying to tell her that it should be his job because he owned the restaurant. I didn't care; one of them needed to get rid of those two before I fell apart. Since I needed to talk to Linguini, I chose to side with Colette.

I walked over and tugged on Linguini's sleeve. When he quit talking and looked down at me, I just pointed at Colette and nodded. He sighed and said OK. Good, the arguing stopped. I think Emile was right about the headache thing. I started massaging the base of my ears, trying to make the throbbing stop. Colette asked me if all of the rats had left. I nodded and she said something about the three of us on the counter needing to get out of sight.

I turned to Dad and Emile and said, "I need to talk to Linguini privately for a few minutes. Could you hide somewhere until those two guys leave?" They said sure so I tugged on Linguini's sleeve again and motioned to his office. He nodded, picked me up, and we went inside.

Linguini closed the door behind us and set me on his desk. He leaned back in the chair and let out another sigh. Ah, blessed quiet.

"Well, it sure has been one busy day, hasn't it?"

Now that all the commotion was over, I felt a little awkward being around Linguini. He seemed to be feeling the same way. I was trying to figure out how on earth I could apologize since I couldn't speak to him, when he started talking.

"Little Chef?"

I looked up at him and nodded. He had a terribly sorrowful look on his face, like what he was trying to say hurt him.

"I need to say something about last night. You know...when I found you and the rest of your...group here." He sighed. "I am sorry about what I said then. I was thinking about it while you were gone, and I realized that I had absolutely no right to treat you like that."

I just stood there wide-eyed with surprise. Why was he sorry? We were stealing food. I deserved what he said.

"Like I told the staff before they left, and like I told Ego, I wouldn't own this place if it wasn't for you. This is just as much your restaurant as it is mine. More so. Anyway, I'm really very sorry and I need to say that I was wrong..."

I held up my paws to stop him. I pointed at him and shook my head 'no', then pointed to myself, let my ears droop, and nodded to say that I was sorry for what I did also.

He gave a half smile and said, "My mama always used to say that if you find yourself in a fight with someone, it's because pride is there somewhere. I let all the attention I got from everyone go to my head, even though I didn't deserve it." Now he was rubbing his temples; apparently he had a headache also. "You know, after I told you to leave that night, I went out looking for you. I searched for hours. And it wasn't just because I knew I couldn't do this without you."

He went out looking for me? Wow.

Linguini leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and continued, "I don't know how things are going to turn out. That health inspector saw you all. He could still close us down. It doesn't really matter. The reason, I went out looking for you, is because I realized that you're my best friend."

I stood there speechless. Me, a rat, his best friend? I thought about the past month or so that we had been together and all of the stuff we had been through. He did save my life when Skinner told him to kill me, but it all started out just as a way to get something from the other. He could keep his job, I could cook. But, neither of us had anybody except each other. As weird as it sounds, after a while I felt like we were brothers. I didn't realize that we'd gotten so close until I risked my life by stealing those documents for him. Heh, a rat and a human... best friends.

'Linguini, you're my best friend also. I don't know how it happened, and I'm sorry that I can't tell you,' I thought to myself. I climbed up his arm, sat on his shoulder, and leaned against his ear.

"Thanks, Little Chef."

We just sat there for a while listening to the muffled voices of the health inspector and Colette yelling at each other in the kitchen. Colette was much louder.

Linguini turned his head to look at me and said, "You were reading those recipes in that box tonight weren't you? I never thought about it 'cause of all the commotion the past few weeks, but if you can read, could you write?"

I thought about it. I suppose I could. Trying to maneuver something the size of a pen steadily enough to write would be a challenge, but I could probably do a few words at a time. I gave him a nod. I slid down his arm to the desk; he rummaged around for paper and a pen. Setting the paper down in front of him, he handed the pen to me. It was about as tall as me, but it didn't weigh much. I should have thought of this before!

So what did he want me to write? I looked at him and tilted my head to the side. He thought for a second and then asked, "You can understand me, but I can't understand you. When you were talking to those other rats, it just sounded like squeaking to me. Do you have a name that I'm capable of pronouncing?" He looked doubtful.

Actually, we rats speak the same language as the humans we live around. It just seems that human ears aren't designed to hear something as high pitched as a rat voice. I thought about it and slowly spelled my name for him.

He looked at the paper. "Remy?" I nodded emphatically and grinned as he looked at me in wonder. I held my fingers apart a little ways and then mimicked putting on a toque as if to say 'Little Chef' was fine also. He smiled and seemed to get the message.

The next thing I wrote made him get teary eyed. I drew an arrow pointing at him and the words 'my friend too.'

From outside, we could hear the big doors slam shut. Colette knocked on the office door and came in with Dad and Emile following her. She shut the door behind them, leaned back against it and sighed.

"Well, I managed to get rid of both of them. I threatened to have Monsieur Skinner arrested for trespassing so he left fairly quickly. No one will believe that they were tied up by rats. The problem is, both of them saw the rats. We could be in trouble."

I knew that she was right, but I didn't want to worry about it at the moment. There really wasn't anything we could do about it, and stressing about something you have no control over is stupid. We were all stressed enough; time to wind down for the night.

By this time, Dad and Emile had climbed up onto the desk next to me.

Colette looked down at the paper in front of Linguini.

"Alfredo, what is this?"

He just smiled and said, "Colette, I'd like to introduce you to our Little Chef. His name is Remy."

Dad and Emile looked at him in surprise, then looked at me. I just pointed to the pen and paper.

Colette motioned at Dad and said, "I assume that this is your leader?"

I pointed at the picture of Gusteau that hung on the office wall and then pointed to Linguini. Then, I pointed to Dad and to me.

Linguini looked a little puzzled but said, "He's your... Dad?"

I nodded. He looked at Dad with an awed expression and asked, "Thank you very much for the help earlier. Uhm, how should I address you, sir?"

Dad quirked an eyebrow at him. Keeping his gaze locked on Linguini, he held his paw out toward me and said, "Hand me that pen, Remy."

Surprised, I handed it over. I had no idea that Dad could read, let alone write. Since he was twice my size, the pen wasn't nearly as awkward for him. It took him a while, but he wrote, 'My name is Django. This is my older son Emile. Remy is my younger son.'

While Emile gaped at him in shock, Dad handed the pen back to me and said, "That's enough from me. These two might be alright, but I don't make a practice of sending letters to humans."

Colette and Linguini were both staring at the paper, their eyes wide and their mouths open. When they looked up, Dad pretended to tap his non-existent wristwatch and jerked his head toward the door.

"You're right, it's late and I'm sure we could all use some sleep," Colette said. "Let's call it a day."

After gathering Colette's things, she and Linguini held the doors open for us and we all walked out. She gave Linguini a kiss, then rode off on her moped. He bent down and offered a hand to me so we could go back inside and upstairs. I gave him a smile but gently declined. Dad motioned to the street drain, where the path to the colony started. I just shook my head. I needed some time to myself. They all headed off and I headed out. I decided to go sit and look at the skyline while I thought.

Even with all the stress and chaos, this had to be the happiest night of my life. For the first time, I actually knew that my Dad was proud of me for who I was. Linguini and Colette had patched things up between them. Colette said that she respected me. Linguini and I had apologized to each other. I had managed to tell Linguini my name. And I had impressed the top food critic in France. Ego could say anything now that he knew I was a rat, but he had given his compliments to the Chef. Me.

I sat there for hours, thinking.

Things were going to change. The clan couldn't keep running the kitchen. Supervising such a large group was too hectic; I'd burn out. Who knew what the health inspector would do? I wasn't sure whether I should stay with Linguini or return to the colony. Yep, things were going to change. But that didn't matter tonight. Like I had told Dad, change is nature.

I had family. I had friends. I could cook.

When the sun rose, there was only one thought in my mind.

Life was perfect.

fin

Many thanks to Muriel Candytuft for being my Beta Reader on this. Your comments and advice were exactly what I needed.

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