Remy knows he's made a mistake when Colette drops the dish she was holding and it shatters to pieces, rice and gravy and neat slices of veal splattering on the floor in a pattern far more cheerful than the current atmosphere in the room.
"Are you joking with me right now?" she asks through clenched teeth, staring at the object in Linguini's hand.
From his perch on Linguini's head, Remy feels him freeze.
"I d-didn't—" Linguini stammers. The box is still in his hand, intricate chocolate leaves folded over and around the ring of caramel strings that Remy had sculpted for hours, just to make it perfect. "I didn't mean to, this isn't what it looks like—"
"You don't want to marry me?"
"No!" Linguini throws his hands out wildly. "No no no! I mean, yes, I do want to marry you, but—"
"I see." Something hardens in Colette's eyes. "So you thought that if you just had your pet rat propose to me, I would say yes?"
"No, Colette, I—"
"Save it," she says tiredly. "I'm going home. We can talk some other time when I don't have to fight the urge to carve out your insides with my Santoku knife."
"No, don't—" Linguini starts, but Colette's back is already turned and she ignores him. He lets out a yell of frustration. "Arrgh!"
Remy covers his ears, and then scampers down to the table to make sure Linguini doesn’t accidentally hit his own head, aiming for Remy. It's happened before.
Linguini turns to glare him, eyes wide and angry and confused. "Remy, what did you do? You can't just—controlling my limbs is one thing, but you can't propose on my behalf."
Remy finds his leg twitching nervously. Nothing is happening the way it was supposed to. "I thought you wanted to," he says. Linguini is a good boy, but if Remy had left him to his own devices he never would have finished a single dish, never would have even kissed Colette. "Sometimes you just need a little... help."
"Not this time," Linguini says bitterly. He leans heavily against the wall and slides down so he's sitting on the ground. "Some things are just between the two of us. Me and her. You can't just interfere whenever you want to."
For a long time, they sit side by side in silence. Remy forces himself to keep still; he wants to act, wants to fix, wants to do something, but he's afraid that if he moves it will shatter the moment and Linguini will remember he's mad at him. Remy still doesn't entirely understand what happened. Humans meet and fall in love and get married and have children, that's the recipe. Remy sees it all the time in the films. He was just trying to help.
Eventually, Linguini says quietly. "She doesn't want to get married. I already asked her once."
"Oh." Remy doesn't know what else to say. He adds, "I'm sorry?", voice rising slightly in the end because he isn't sure whether he really should be or not.
Linguini doesn't reply, but after a few moments he rests a hand on Remy's head, his thumb gently stroking between Remy's ears.
"I hate you," Remy states.
Linguini doesn't even look up from his computer. "I don't think you mean that."
"I really, really do. It's not just you though, it's the entirety of your species. You're all despicable. Despicable and cruel."
Linguini clicks through another page and snickers to himself. Remy throws a peanut at him, but Linguini just catches it with abnormal grace and pops it in his mouth.
"You know, it's not surprising Colette didn't want to marry you if this is how you spend your Sunday mornings," Remy says meanly.
"I heard that!" Colette says from the bathroom, exiting a moment later with a towel wrapped around her hair. "I must object. I did not wish to marry Linguini for many reasons, but none of them include his tastes in popular websites. Did I miss anything good?" she asks, flopping next to Linguini on the couch, legs tucked beneath her.
Linguini points at something—something horrendous and abusive, no doubt—and they both laugh. Oh, how they laugh. Remy flings two more peanuts at them both. "Can’t you see what you're doing?" he asks, as usual in vain. "You're supporting an industry that exploits the innocence and desire to please that so many animals have for their owners, to not only mock them with degrading texts but also to terrorize entire species like, say, any chance rodents living in the house who are just trying to browse for new recipes, and not only that, not only that, but that prides itself with a motto that is an affront the entire culinary —"
"Hey," Linguini says, "there's nothing wrong with cheeseburgers."
"Cheeseburgers are excellent," Colette agrees.
"We were thinking of integrating them into the menu at the restaurant."
Remy points a finger at him. "You are a disgrace to your father's name. And you," he turns to Colette, "are an accomplice."
"Ooh, look," Colette coos. "There's one with socks on."
Remy shudders. Last time he saw the ones with the socks he had nightmares for three days. Socks make it that much easier to sneak up on you. How could humans not see this? If his colony had had access to the internet, they would not have spent their time searching for humorously captioned images of, like, the Black Plague. He thinks. Remy is almost eighty percent certain of this.
"I'm in yurr kitchen, chopping yurr onions," Linguini intones in a deep voice, and he and Colette dissolve into cackles.
Remy stares at them. "And now I'm going to be paranoid that onion-slicing cats are slinking around my kitchen. I hope you're happy."
Judging by their laughter, apparently they are.
"Well I was going to make you hot chocolate with cinnamon and whipped cream and chili and a dash of coffee grounds," Remy huffs. "But now I am only going to make some for myself. Goodbye."
"Ceiling Cat is watching you cook," Linguini calls after him.
"I hate you!" Remy shouts back, and climbs the kitchen counter.
"The really astounding thing," Remy muses as Linguini dashes around him, collecting ingredients, "is that we've finally found a use for your skills in the kitchen: adding bizarre amounts of various ingredients into seemingly random combinations and accidentally burning them."
Linguini grabs a yellow bell pepper and a bowl of chickpeas. "Do you remember if she wanted chives or parsley with the hummus?" he asks frantically.
Remy absently points at the parsley leaves that Linguini had chopped not ten minutes ago. "The curious thing is what made you suggest the hummus to begin with. Stuffed in a bell pepper. Served on a slice of baguette. Baguette, Linguini, instead of flatbread. The blasphemy is almost admirable."
"She muttered it in her sleep last night," Linguini admits. "It's all she sleep-talks about, these days. Do you have the pumpkin?"
Remy looks down at himself, and then back up. "Do I look like I could be hiding a pumpkin somewhere on my whereabouts?"
Linguini flushes. "Right. Uh..." he scrambles through the cupboards, banging himself on the head once or twice before producing a pumpkin from their depths. "Aha!"
"And what will you be doing with that?"
"It's for, uh, the sauce. Well, more like paste, really."
"Paste," Remy repeats.
"Hummus-stuffed peppers with pumpkin paste." Remy pauses. "You know, that almost makes me want to cry. Literally cry. It is that painful to my taste buds, and that's only thinking about it hypothetically."
"Well great," Linguini says, sulking slightly as he starts to slice up the pumpkin, "I can bake your tears into a pie for dessert, I bet Colette will love it."
"You know," Remy says sadly, thinking about Colette's horrifyingly deteriorating taste for the past seven months, "I really think she will."
Thankfully, Colette knows how to follow recipes to a tee, so she hasn't had to stop working; there was no danger of her letting her madly-swinging cravings affect the dishes she cooks. Really, the only collateral damage La Ratatouille has experienced from the pregnancy is that once a day Linguini has to take an hour off to cook her lunch, since apparently his improvised dishes are the only food Colette can stomach. At first Remy had felt insulted; after seven months of watching the things Linguini's concocted, though, there is nothing left but awe.
"Mmm," Colette says when she tastes today's dinner, closing her eyes for a moment of bliss. "Wonderful."
Remy shudders. "This is just wrong. It is an insult to cooking."
"You're just a food snob," she teases, taking back her spoon.
He lets out a sigh. "You'd probably eat a pie salted with rat tears right now, wouldn't you?"
Colette perks up. "Oh, that sounds good."
"Yes, I thought so," he says.
And yet, every day he sees Linguini sneak her kisses, at work (and Remy should be more strict about that) and at home, both before and after she has eaten things like a pepperoni-halva sandwich or cookie-crumble omelets with what Remy has discovered is considered classic in these cases—pickles. If it were his own parents he would not have blinked twice, but, well, these are humans. Remy expected better; for now, he remains perplexed.
It's Pesto's second birthday party, and they are having a picnic on the roof. It's a beautiful clear spring day, the kind where the Seine sparkles yellow and blue and the wind is just warm enough, and all you want is to close your eyes and bask in the sunlight or open your eyes and bask in the view.
The view, in this case, includes not only a flock of birds and a towering Eiffel and the city spreading below them, but a pair of doting parents and a small girl—still bigger than Remy, of course, but relatively—with a sloppy brown ponytail and big green eyes, who is holding out a plate and waiting for a verdict.
Remy takes the small paper plate, breaks off a piece of cake, and eats it. He feels his eyes widen with horror.
It's the vilest thing he's ever tasted in his life.
Remy forces himself to keep chewing, trying to think of what to say. Perhaps this is a good thing. Maybe the child simply has no talent, and they can just nip that career path in the bud. Or maybe, maybe she just needs to be indoctrinated from an early age on the right way to do things. Maybe—
Remy, he hears a familiar voice say disapprovingly.
He gasps, almost choking. "Gusteau!"
Gusteau's transparent figure floats before him. Remy. Think about what you are saying.
"I was being honest!" he thinks anxiously. "Gusteau, this cake really is the vilest thing I have ever tasted in my life. And I'm a rat. I've literally eaten dung, for weeks at a time."
Surely this is not that bad; she is my granddaughter, after all. Is it not, at least, creative?
Remy glances down at the cake. It's decorated with flowers and a big yellow smiley. Remy wonders whether Pesto drew it on the cake with chalk. "It is creative, but—Gusteau, how can I lie about this? It's terrible."
Eating food, Gusteau says, is more than just your body chemically reacting to whatever you have just consumed. Food is an experience, Remy. Think.
Remy thinks. He closes his eyes and remembers the taste of the simple piece of chocolate Linguini had broken off and nudged at his direction after Remy had gotten locked out in the rain for an hour, of shivering and nibbling on the cube as he dried off in the pocket of Linguini's sweatshirt; he remembers the taste of the warm cider Colette had brewed when she apologized for calling him a pet rat, kissing him lightly on the nose; he remembers the smile on Anton Ego's face every time he orders an item from the menu, before he even tastes it. He remembers what Pesto looks like when she's happy—
When Remy opens his eyes, Gusteau is gone. Colette and Linguini are holding hands, looking at Remy with identical pleading expressions, because Remy's opinion... Remy's opinion matters. Pesto is looking at him expectantly, a wavering smile on her face, eyes wide and hopeful. Remy swallows.
Remember, he thinks he hears fading in the background.
Remember. Anyone can cook.
Remy places a paw in the tiny palm of her hand, finds himself smiling a genuine wide, toothy grin.