It had been close to a year since the turtles had defeated Shredder and things were going well. At least…most things were. For some reason, things had changed between the brothers after Raphael's confession last year when they had supposedly been 'about to die.' The hothead still treated them the same, but it was the way they treated him that held a subtle change. It was barely noticeable at first. In fact, Raphael himself hadn't even realized that things had changed until a couple weeks ago, yet upon thinking back he had realized that the difference had been gradually growing over time. The change was extremely subtle, but it did exist. Each of his brothers was acting a little differently towards him.
For example, Donatello was much more laid back with his criticisms of Raph's shortcomings in mental capacity.
Mikey was goofy, that hadn't changed, but it did seem as though he was trying a lot harder to spend time with Raphael. Of course, they had always been rather close and spent a lot of time together, but it seemed to Raph that now Mikey was going out of his way to hang out with him.
And then, there was Leonardo. Fucking big brother Leonardo. God, Raphael was so fed up with big brother Leo and his stupid-ass questions that were so hard to answer. Questions Raph was absolutely sick and tired of hearing. Questions like: Are you okay?
What the shell was that supposed to mean? Did it look like there was something wrong with him? And what was up with Leo's other new favorite phrase: Wanna train? We could do some one-on-one.
Perhaps Leo was also just trying to spend more time with his hotheaded sibling, but the problem was that Raph needed to separate himself from his brothers. He really didn't like it when they got too close to him. And this strange shift had really put him out of his comfort zone.
Raph had gone through life believing that his brothers were far better and had greater potential than he himself did, and he had accepted that. For years he had feared that one day they would no longer need his sorry ass around and that he would become more of a burden than a brother. As such, he had made up his mind long ago that as soon as that day came, he would leave. That was why he couldn't let them get too close. Because the closer they got the harder it would be for him when that moment finally came.
Raphael pulled out of his thoughts as a figure approached him. His green eyes glanced at the feet of the person in front of him and moved slowly upward until he was staring directly into a contemplative blue gaze. "What do you want, Fearless?" He asked.
Leo glared at the nickname and Raphael smirked. Raph motioned his brother to sit beside him on the couch. Leo didn't answer the question and Raphael didn't prod him any further. They sat in silence for a few moments. Then, a familiar feeling washed over Raph and somehow he knew exactly what words were about to come out of his older brother's mouth. Wanna train? We could do some one-on-one.
"Wanna train? We could do some one-on-one."
Totally called it, Raph thought to himself. He growled slightly at Leo's proposal, but the hurt that flashed in Leo's eyes made Raph cave to the pressure. "Fine." He stated, pushing himself up off the couch. Just as he was about to start walking towards the dojo a hand caught his wrist, making him tense. Raph wasn't really a hands-on type of guy, but he did his best to put up with his brothers' constant bouts of physical contact. Raph's eyes shifted to Leo as he turned back around. The older turtle's expression was guarded and unreadable.
"We don't have to if you don't want to. I'm not trying to force you into it." Leo said flatly.
Raph mulled that statement over for a moment. Truth was Raphael loved training, problem was, he didn't like training with Leo. And especially not one-on-one. Sure, he liked contending against his older brother, sibling rivalry and all that, but that wasn't really the issue here. See, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how good he was, Leo always made him feel like shit. Not that Leo meant to…well sometimes he meant to, but most of the time he didn't mean to. But it was times like these, the casual one-on-one sparring matches, where it really hurt the most. Times when Leo wasn't even trying to be better than him, but he just was. These times burned through Raph's thick outer skin and straight into his heart. Moments like that made him feel even more inferior than he already was. So as long as Leonardo wasn't insistent, Raphael was more than happy to decline his older brother's offer.
When Raphael made no reply, Leonardo frowned. Raph had zoned-out and was currently staring blankly into space. Something was bothering Raphael. Had been for a while now. And Leo really wanted to know what.
For the past year, things had really been going well between the two of them. Leo felt that Raph's confession had really struck down the wall that had previously stood between them. That confession allowed Leo to see his red-masked brother in a whole new light. Instead of seeing only the mean, rough exterior, the ninja leader could now see into the soft inner core that Raph never openly displayed.
Truth be told, Leo had been trying to get past Raphael's outer layer since they were thirteen, but by the time they turned sixteen he had given up and accepted that Raph was just a big bully, inside and out. But now, Leonardo was closer to Raphael than he ever could have hoped he would be. He felt he'd gained enough insight into his younger brother to know when the hothead was upset. And Raph had been 'upset' for a while now.
The key lay in the hothead's social behavior. Not that Raphael was particularly social to begin with, but what the heck. When Raph was upset he would stare into space for long periods of time with a concentration Leonardo wished the hothead could apply to his training. Not only that, but when he was engaged in a conversation, he was even more prickly than usual. It seemed to Leo that the red-masked turtle fell even deeper into his anger when he was upset.
Still, Leo had sense enough to know that Raph wouldn't want to be bombarded by any further questions. He had made that mistake often enough in the past, and it never ended well. "Well then, what would you like to do?" The leader asked.
Raph's smirk told Leo that whatever Raph had in mind, he wasn't going to like it. The elder turtle stiffened in apprehension.
The smirk only grew wider. "Let's go topside."
Leo relaxed. That wasn't as bad as what he had expected, but he still didn't like it. Sensei, Donnie and Mikey were still out on a supplies run. They didn't need very much, so Raph and Leo had opted out. The reason Leonardo disapproved of Raphael's idea was primarily because the others could get back at any minute and if they got caught…let's just say that it wouldn't end well. And somehow every time Leo acted on one of Raph's ideas he ended up in the hashi. "No." He decided.
Raph glared at his older brother. But Leo's refusal only made him more determined. "Well I'm going, with or without you. Just think what Sensei will do to ya when he finds I'm topside alone."
Leo sighed and rolled his eyes. Sometimes Raphael really was impossible. He just wished his brother didn't know how to manipulate him into doing things like this. But for some reason Raphael always knew what to say when it came to getting the leader to agree to something he already said 'no' to. "Ugh. You know I can't just let you go up alone. Sensei will kill me."
Raph's smile was rather unsettling, "I knew you wouldn't disappoint. You won't regret this."
Leonardo sighed again, "I already am."
Raph put an arm around Leo's shoulders, purposely making the older turtle even more uncomfortable, "Don't worry, big bro, we're gonna have some serious fun."
"Well, your idea of fun is seriously twisted." He glared at a Raph a moment and then asked, "What if Sensei gets home before us?"
"Sensei said when we go topside we have to be in pairs." He shrugged, "Besides when he left he didn't say we couldn't go out."
Leo face-palmed. "If you always bend what Sensei says, you'll never learn."
"Maybe I like learning the hard way."
Leo rolled his eyes and headed to the dojo for his katanas. Raph followed a few paces behind. Leo went over to the weapons rack, grabbed his katanas and sheathed them. Raph loomed over his shoulder and Leo handed the younger turtle his sais. Raphael spun the weapons lightly and then sheathed them. Leonardo glanced contemplatively at his brother.
Raph glared, "What?!" He asked frustratedly.
"Why do you always do that little flourish before you put your weapons away?"
All the leader got was a bland stare and a rather impertinent reply, "What, like you don't?"
Leo's eye-ridges furrowed in thought as he realized Raph was right. All of them had a little habit of showing off their weapons as they armed themselves. "Well, I guess I do, but yours is so complicated."
For a brief moment Raph's facial expression was a mixture of confusion, annoyance, and amusement. It wasn't long before the amusement overshadowed everything else and the hothead smiled. The smile melted into his signature smirk. "Actually, it's the easiest move in the book."
Leo raised an eye-ridge skeptically.
Raph raised an hand, "Hey, I wouldn't tell you that if it wasn't the truth. Now quit stallin' and let's get out of here 'fore Sensei and the others get back."
"And what do you suppose they're going to think when they come back to find us gone?" Leo asked.
Raph smirked yet again. "I'll take care of that." He went out into the main room and managed to dig out an old pizza receipt he could write on.
Went out. Be back soon, don't worry. Won't be gone long, need fresh air. –R &L
"Well, that takes care of that." he stated, handing it to his older brother.
Leo read it and handed it back to Raph. "I don't know about this. What if they don't find it?"
Raph stared at him dryly. "What's the first thing Mikey does whenever he gets back to the lair?"
"Eats leftover pizza, if there is any." Leo answered plainly.
"And there's some on the counter from earlier today. So this," Raph pointed to the note, "is going right on top of the pizza box where Mikey will find it."
"But can we really count on Mikey?"
"You wanna try and predict Donnie and Sensei?" Raph countered.
Leo's eyes darkened with understanding and acceptance. "Good point."
When they reached the surface the younger turtle took the lead. "Come on Leo! You're slower than a turtle!"
"Haha very funny." Leo countered dryly. He was being slow for a reason. Raphael was headed straight for the seediest part of New York City. "Raph, are you sure about this?"
Raphael chuckled. "Relax, bro. Just trust me."
Leonardo wasn't certain he liked the gleam in Raph's eyes, but he humored his brother and kept his mouth shut.
Some loud yelling made Raphael glance down into an alley slightly off their beaten path. Leo joined him at the edge of the building above and they both froze in their tracks. Were those…Foot soldiers?
Raph drew his sais and was prepared to jump down when he felt Leo's hand on his shoulder. Raph growled. He hated when Leo did that. It sucked. Not only that, but it really ruined the vibe. "Why do ya always do that? I hate it when you do that!"
"Well, cool off, Hothead, and think this through! Those guys out-number us at least ten-to-one."
"So what? I can still kick their asses!"
There was more shouting from below. Raphael ignored his older brother's warnings and jumped down onto the fire escape below. Even though Raph had disobeyed Leo's orders he was still cautious and pulled back into the shadows where he could hear more of what was being said. Less than thirty seconds after he began to eavesdrop, Raph decided that whatever was going on, he didn't like it.
"Get those parts together!" One of them, obviously the head man of the operation, yelled. "He wants these parts tonight. Anyone who slows us down or doesn't do their job right gets shot. Now get moving!"
Raph glared. He had a pretty good hunch as to just who this 'he' was. But he sure as hell wasn't gonna wait around to find out. Raph wanted answers and he wanted them now.
The red-masked turtle jumped down into the middle of the alley. Everything froze. For a few moments, Raph stared at the Foot and they stared back at him. He narrowed his eyes and the sound of shots rang through the air. Raph paid the guns no heed. He was bulletproof, after all.
After taking the first wave out easily, he turned his attention towards the guy in charge. The six-foot talking turtle pinned his quarry with one well-aimed kick. "So who's the guy who wants these parts so badly? Huh?" He snarled imposingly, in his best 'batman' voice.
The next thing Raph knew, there was a soft click from directly behind his head, followed by the ominous feel of a gun barrel. Raph froze. He knew his shell was bullet proof, but somehow he didn't think his head was. And definitely not at this close range.
There was the sound of swift movement and gunshots. Raphael opened his eyes once it all ceased, not realizing that he had even closed them in the first place. What he saw astonished him. It really shouldn't have, but it did. The guy threatening Raph had managed to slip away in all the commotion only to be pinned by Leonardo.
The eldest turtle held his katanas menacingly to the man's throat. But that wasn't what had surprised Raphael. What surprised him was the expression on his older brother's normally cool and collected face. Leo's bright blue eyes were cold and icy, yet burned with such a fierce look of pure and absolute rage that Raphael couldn't help but stare. He had never seen Leo so angry.
Leonardo hoisted the man to his feet and shoved him backwards violently, snatching him back up again like an angry bird of prey. Leo's cool rage drained from his eyes so quickly Raph wondered if it had all been a mirage. But when the anger resurfaced in Leo's voice, Raph knew he hadn't been mistaken. Leo was livid. "Go." The eldest turtle growled lowly as he threw the man onto the ground. The man stared disbelievingly. "Go before I kill you."
The man paled and Raphael shuddered. He'd heard his older brother make threats before, but they had never been that cold or drop-dead serious. The man scrambled away and signaled the Foot soldiers to retreat. As soon as they were gone, Leo's ire turned to his younger brother.
Raph opened his mouth to say something, but Leo silenced him by holding up a hand. "Not a word. We're going home. Now."
Raphael didn't dare argue. He already had no doubt that Leo would tell Sensei everything, and as soon as he did, Raph's nightlife was over. It was back to the hashi.
But on the inside, Raphael was still pondering what the Foot soldiers had been up to.
I will get to the bottom of this. He vowed to himself.