"You should've said something to us."
Raphael tensed at the sound of his brother's words, then shot him a sidewards glare, the wind whipping the tails of his mask about his face.
"Said somethin' about what, Leo?" he replied, his voice underscored with the unmistakeable flint of challenge.
Leonardo regarded his brother with a steely expression, arms hanging loose and seemingly relaxed by his sides. But Raphael recognised the poise, knew Leonardo would be ready in an instant to draw his weapons if Raphael decided he wanted to fight this out instead of talk it out.
In all fairness to Leonardo, Raphael invariably preferred to fight it out.
Leonardo went straight to the point, not even bothering to state that Raphael knew exactly what he was talking about – that was obvious and therefore redundant:
"Something about your relationship with April."
They were on a rooftop in the Bronx, a pause in the midst of their evening patrol, a new system implemented to monitor the ongoing activities of the Foot – obviously such an empire would not crumble with the mere demise of its leader; within it there were any number of hierarchies – and ambitious opportunists. The mid-Spring air was warm, and sweet as it could ever be in the densely-populated city. They were both lightly sweating from the exertion of the rooftop race that had spontaneously broken out between them some miles ago. A race Raphael had won by a hair's breadth.
"I didn't know my private life was up for gabbin' 'bout 'round the dinner table," Raphael threw back, turning to face his brother square on, shoulders back and fists bunching. Michelangelo or Donatello would take this as their cue to back off but Leonardo remained calm - his own posture tensing fractionally.
"We're a clan, Raphael," Leonardo replied steadily, ice blue eyes fearlessly boring into him, illuminated just enough by the ever-constant glow of the city. "The decisions of one affects us all."
"Save it," Raphael broke in brusquely, flicking a hand in disgust and turning his shell to Leonardo, the abrupt disarming a bigger insult to his brother's pride than any savage words he could hurl. He could practically feel the turtle in blue bristling. Turn your back on me? But charging Raphael now would be dishonourable, a kneejerk reaction to petty provocation. "I ain't interested."
He strode over to the rooftop ledge and gazed out across the wash of shadows and light that composed the thriving cityscape, the ever constant boil of traffic burbling up to where they observed, both within and outside of it, fading steadily to a murmur like steam evaporating about their ankles.
Behind him, he sensed Leonardo was composing himself, determined to stay in control. Already irritated by his brother's officiousness, Raphael provoked him further, hopping up onto the ledge and swaggering along it, courting disaster. Of course he had no intention of allowing himself to be seen, had already assessed the landscape as they had been trained to do constantly when out in the world - he just wanted to unhinge Leonardo that little bit more. The shorter his brother's temper got, the quicker any lecture was over and done with - and the real fight began.
And Raphael was in the mood for one.
Leonardo was clearly determined to keep it together, however, and didn't admonish him about exposure.
"You have a duty to your family," he said, sticking to the original subject, though his voice was tense and flat and he angled his body to watch Raphael's stride along the ledge. "In our circumstances, the concept of personal lives has variable relevancy."
Raphael wasn't entirely sure he understood that and it pissed him off further. He jumped down from the ledge, feet scattering dust, and strode over to Leonardo, shoulders back and chest puffed up.
"Zat so, fearless? Do I gotta report in how many times a day I jerk off now, too?"
Leonardo, of course, stood his ground and though Raphael was a head taller than he was and used every inch of it to tower threateningly over his brother, he merely gazed implacably up into Raphael's stare, eyes hard and stony. He did not even blink at Raphael's crudity, taking it in stride. It had been expected, one more beloved weapon in Raphael's arsenal of defences.
"I'm not debating this with you, Raphael," Leonardo continued in an even voice, though his use of his brother's full name flagged his strained patience. "You should've said something. You owe us that much. Particularly as you haven't been exactly subtle."
Raphael pounced on these last words.
"If it was so obvious, why'd you need me to say anythin'?" He kept his tone belligerent, cocking his head and sneering. He was pissed Leonardo had blindsided him with this discussion, right there and then, when he'd been feeling good after his minor victory, enjoying the Spring evening and the pleasure of physical exertion.
They were so close now their plastrons were practically scraping, Raphael scowling down at Leonardo, Leonardo gazing intently back.
"Because that's how you show respect for your family, Raphael!" Leonardo's voice had risen a fraction and Raphael's fists clenched a little in anticipation. "By communicating with them."
"Maybe in your book," Raphael fired back. "But not all of us subscribe. Something ain't right just 'cause you say so, Leonardo."
"Is it really so hard for you to show us any kind of consideration?" Leonardo challenged him, inching forward as a warm wind swept between them, rustling the tails of their masks. Raphael dug his heels into the rooftop and puffed his chest out again, refusing to budge.
"Here I thought I was, not rubbin' it in your faces I'm getting' what you ain't," Raphael snapped without thinking, his blood beating hot in his veins, determined to get in any kind of jab in his outrage at being ambushed, his embarrassment about the subject of discussion and his indignation at being condescended to.
And just like that, Leonardo's eyes glinted with victory and he was once again cool, calm and composed, taking a small step back, his carapace outlined in silver thrown by the moonlight.
"Would April really want you talking about her like that?" he pointed out mildly, face expressionless save for the sheen of smugness in those bright blue eyes.
Raphael exploded, because god-fucking-damn-it, his self-righteous prick of a brother was right, and that had been a stupid mistake to make and Leonardo was going to rub it right in.
He gave Leonardo a rough shove and though his brother was too centred and guarded to stumble, his upper body swivelled back under the force of Raphael's thrust and his impassive expression was cracked by an irritated grimace for an instant.
"Ain't none of your business," Raphael glowered, stepping up into Leonardo's face again, every muscle bunched hard beneath his scales, only just barely restraining himself from throwing the first punch.
Leonardo shoved him back but Raphael was prepared and barely flinched, not failing to note how Leonardo's jaw tensed to witness it. One more to Raphael in the never-ending competition they waged daily.
"It is when it has the potential to affect all of us," Leonardo snapped at him, voice furious with emphasis.
"Why you only bringing it up now then, bro? Huh?" Raphael threw back at him, toe to toe with his brother whose eyes now blazed almost as furiously as his own, the night seeming to close in around them, a suffocating blanket of indigo. "Pissed I beat you back there?"
"What? Don't be ridiculous," Leonardo fired back, a little too quickly, a little too much scornful inflection. They were rivals in everything and Leonardo hated to lose, especially hated to lose to Raphael, even something so paltry as a rooftop race, even when he was doubtless cataloguing every flip, leap and step Raphael had taken for future reference, considering it a lesson learned. "Master Splinter asked me not to say anything until he'd spoken to you."
"And you just had to bring it up now?" Raphael demanded and Leonardo shook his head, allowing himself the slightest eyeroll.
"Come on, Raph – there was ever going to be a good time with you?"
Raphael snorted, shifted his weight, clenched and unclenched his fists. "Yeah, well, Splinter and I got this all sorted out. So what the hell is your point anyway?"
Leonardo sighed with the air of the long-suffering, once again fanning the flames of Raphael's rage.
"The point is that your family needs to come first, Raphael. Always."
"April is family," Raphael bellowed back then gritted his teeth, sucking in a breath as his shoulders tensed again, fed up and frustrated.
Leonardo nodded steadily, his expression once more grim and intent, holding Raphael's gaze. "Yes. She is. She was our hogosha and now she is ours to protect. She is our sister. But she is also human and she lives within a human world. There's a risk to us involved for those reasons alone and that's why you should've said something. We all need to be informed about anything that has the potential to affect our lives. What is so hard for you to understand about that?"
"Shut up," Raphael growled, turning from Leonardo with a scowl, pacing the roof as gravel skittered beneath his tread. Leonardo had entered full-blown lecture mode and Raphael could feel his temperature rising steadily with every measured, precise word until it felt like his brain would boil out of his ears. The Spring night seemed suddenly uncomfortably warm, pressing in on all sides, the dusty cement beneath his feet sticky.
"No, you need to listen, Raphael," Leonardo pushed on, jabbing the air with an emphatic finger. "Have you even thought about the fact there is a risk involved to April as well? If our enemies knew they could use her against you – "
But Raphael had heard enough. He whirled on Leonardo and reached out with both powerful arms, giving his brother an almighty shove that sent him stumbling backwards a step before he dug his heels in and regained his composure, his chin down and brow thunderous beneath the shadows that dappled his face.
"You wanted to kill her!" Raphael threw at Leonardo, who flared his nostrils and tightened his jaw in response as the accusation hit home.
"No, Raphael, I didn't want to," he replied in a low, steady voice like stone smothered in velvet, his shoulders hunching over as he fought to keep himself in check, eyes fixed on his hot-tempered brother who glowered and shifted edgily on the balls of his feet . "I was prepared to – if it had come to that. And that was before Splinter told us who she was anyway," he couldn't help adding defensively at the end.
"I'd never kill an innocent," Raphael snarled back, narrowing his eyes at his brother as he recalled the testy consultation they had had, out of earshot from Donatello and Michelangelo, on the way home to the lair after their first encounter with the ballsy reporter who had since so unexpectedly become part of the family – and for Raphael, even more. It had bugged Raphael at the time and now – even though it was beside the point, even though April was at no risk from his brother – just thinking about Leonardo's calm resignation at the prospect was enough to have Raphael grinding his teeth, balling his fists so hard his palms smarted from the strain.
Leonardo saw how close he was and readied his stance, weight centred, arms carefully poised at his sides.
"I will do whatever it takes to protect this family," he countered. "And I'm not going to stand here and justify that to you. You should understand."
Raphael shook his head once, a slight, tense movement.
"Never an innocent," he rumbled quietly and despite Leonardo's best efforts to remain calm, he saw the blue eyes flash above the intractable set of his mouth.
"You were pretty happy to let her think you would!" he accused, referring to Raphael's menacing conduct towards the startled and frightened human woman atop a rooftop not too dissimilar from the one they were now standing on.
Raphael snorted, lip curling in a disdainful sneer, giving Leonardo a quick once-over.
"That's a little different to actually being willin' to do it, Leo."
"Being 'willing' has nothing to do with it. I will fulfil my duty to this family, no matter the cost." Leonardo was keeping a careful distance, the earlier posturing machismo between them gone as he readied himself for a proper fight.
"Just so long as you don't forget that means April now, too," Raphael hurled at him with bared teeth, pointing a forceful finger, the veins of his arms bulging against the flesh.
"Don't you forget it either," Leonardo replied sharply.
Raphael was taken aback by that, a flicker of confusion contorting his features, his head snapping back a twitch.
"What the fuck's that s'posed to mean?"
Leonardo gazed at him levelly. "It means being prepared to put April's wellbeing above your own."
The full implication of Leonardo's words hit Raphael's plastron like a fist, seeming to sink in thickly a moment later, as though the plating was quicksand with his heart a stone at the bottom.
"Fuck you," he snarled and Leonardo inclined his head ever so slightly, one brow ridge barely quirking.
"Reasoned argument there, Raph," Leonardo said dryly, and his superior manner only fired Raphael up even more.
"You are so fuckin' smug!" he shouted, withdrawing his sai in a swift movement and an instant later Leonardo had his katana in hand. "Standin' there and lecturin' me on the wellbeing of an innocent woman you were ready to kill."
"Prepared to kill - ," Leonardo interrupted.
"What's the fuckin' difference?" Raphael cut in, brandishing his weapons, a pulse beating hard in his temple, his jaw aching from where he had been grinding his teeth.
"Intent! I had taken it into consideration as a possibility. That's all. I thought you were mature enough to handle that," Leonardo paused and snorted softly, treating Raphael to the same contemptuous once-over his brother had given him moments earlier. "My mistake."
The brothers were silent as they waged war against each other on the moonlit rooftop, only the occasional grunt as strikes were blocked or met their mark emitting from either of them. They had had little enough to do over the last few weeks and Raphael had been feeling the strain – frustrated by the restraint he had to show in their moderated training sessions after months of being able to go as hard as he pleased on scumbags who had it coming to them. He'd been spoiling for a real fight, something to vent his pent-up energy, and if some low life criminal wasn't on hand, then his pompous asswipe of a brother was as good an option as any other.
It seemed Leonardo had been feeling the same because his brother didn't hold back any more than Raphael did and the two went at it wholeheartedly, the clang and zing of steel clashing steel ringing against the night, the thuds and whumps of kicks meeting muscle and shell a staggered drumbeat to the discordant melody their weapons made. Raphael felt the exhilaration of battle course through his veins as his muscles were challenged, the ferocious pace they set quickly setting them to burn, not allowing himself to think of anything – not the conversation that had prompted this fight, not the patrol they were neglecting, not the fact they would both be doing hard time in the hashi if Splinter found out they had sparred like this, and especially not April – except anticipating his brother's strikes and forcing him to defend against his own, the skyline swirling about them in a streaks of black and gold, blue and silver, the gritty rooftop scuffing beneath their feet.
His focus paid off as soon enough he had Leonardo's katana trapped in the prongs of his sai and promptly disarmed his brother, the katana hitting the rooftop with an indignant clatter. He could've pressed his advantage then and won the fight but now he'd found an outlet for the aggression that had been steadily accumulating, not adequately vented on muggers and rapists who were barely an effort – though satisfying in other ways – he was loathe to give it up. And he was still pissed Leonardo had blindsided him like this, that he was prying into something so personal and sacred. So he sheathed his sai and they went at it bare-knuckle and he did not miss the glint of relief in his brother's focused eye – losing to Raphael twice in one night would've been unbearable. He was still in with a chance.
Raphael could feel his body singing with effort, revelling in a brawl that lasted longer than thirty seconds for a change, his muscles fired with eager force. It was euphoric, a flood of relief near blissful as orgasm.
Leonardo got in a roundhouse kick that sent Raphael flying several metres, landing hard on his tail on the dusty cement, and used the brief reprieve to unload his chest a little more:
"The only reason you jumped on the vigilante thing was so you had a way to pound the shit out of people without having to feel guilty about it. You've always hated humans. You didn't care about them and you didn't care about April. You didn't want her around anymore than I did. Now you're pissed at me for pointing out the obvious?"
Raphael had already bounced back onto his feet, pummelling towards his brother and ready to knock his shell loose for that kick, the warm air chill against his sweat, moving so fast it seared his face.
What Leonardo said wasn't entirely true, though Raphael was happy to let his brothers go on thinking that. Out of all of them he had always been the most ambivalent and hostile towards humanity, knowing they would not be friendly to his family, seeing no need to waste energy on worrying too much about them when any one of them would as soon kill them or lock them up to study. And the chance to work out his considerable aggression on dirtbags he didn't need to waste any mercy on had been irresistible.
But it was more than that – damnit all, as untrustworthy as humans were, he just couldn't stand the thought of assholes who messed with women and kids. Or the elderly. Or pretty much anyone who couldn't stick up for themselves. He couldn't help it: that shit made his blood boil. Put it down to his upbringing. And now he knew what it felt like to put a stop to it, he was addicted, as unable to give it up as he was April.
Not that anyone had to know that, though.
He didn't give Leonardo a chance to reply, unleashing a barrage of strikes Leonardo could do little more than defend against until one met its mark, a hard blow on his brother's plastron that had him skidding backwards. Raphael advanced but Leonardo had already ducked gracefully out of the way, leaping lightly onto the roof ledge and turning to face him, determined to say his piece:
"And I've accepted that. Even if I do think she's a little old for you."
Raphael snorted like a bull in a pen and eyed his brother savagely, assessing the risk of charging him on the ledge – Leonardo would probably just leap like a ballerina out of the way but Raphael hadn't forgotten they were still sixteen stories up – he didn't want Leonardo to actually get hurt. They were only playing, after all.
Leonardo continued, warily assessing Raphael's stance but not budging, not yet.
"That doesn't alter the fact that this change is somewhat – dramatic – and you should've talked to us about it."
Furious and frustrated, Raphael stomped a heavy foot on the cement, thrusting his arms out.
"It's private!" he barked.
"How many times do we have to go around in circles like this, Raph?" Leonardo raged back. "No one is asking for explicit details. How hard would it have been to come to me and say 'hey, me and April? We're a thing now!'?"
"Come to you? What happened to us?"
He was nitpicking more than anything else, unwilling to concede even an inch to his brother's logic, but unexpectedly he saw his words strike home as Leonardo started, his glacial eyes flickering for an instant before he carefully rearranged his features into fixed calm once more.
Raphael reeled a little as he absorbed this unintentional revelation and then pushed on, pressing his advantage as the first flame of jealousy licked through his veins.
"Is that what this is really about? Me puttin' my grubby mitts on your 'hogosha'?"
Leonardo exhaled hard through his nostrils, lifting his chin and squaring his shoulders in the manner he always did when he was struggling to keep his temper, when he didn't trust himself to speak.
And even though he knew April would kick his ass if she saw it, Raphael couldn't help the smug little grin that quirked his mouth.
That prompted Leonardo to jump down off the ledge, back onto the rooftop, eyes glittering and hard, but though he circled Raphael warily he no longer seemed poised to fight, his air more one of weary disappointment than fury. Nonetheless, he would doubtless be ready in an instant if Raphael charged him again.
But Raphael was already regretting his moment of weakness and it was fast taking the steam out of him. He had no intention of rubbing his newfound happiness with April in any of his brothers' faces – not even Leonardo's, about whose opinion he cared more than he wanted to admit. It had been a petty impulse, prompted by dread that Leonardo disapproved – didn't think he was good enough for April, their guardian spirit and saviour. Leonardo was masterful at hiding his emotions but Raphael knew him well enough to recognise when he was hurt and Raphael's gloating had stung.
"No," Leonardo said evenly, his voice taut with care. "At the risk of repeating myself – again – this is about the courtesy you owe to your family. The duty you owe us. That we all owe each other."
Raphael turned to follow his brother's progress across the roof, breathing in deeply and setting his jaw.
"You think I don't care about this family? Ain't I already shown how far I'll go?" His voice was low again, rasping into the night air.
Leonardo came to a halt, nodded once. "And whatever I was prepared for at the start, I think I've proven how far I'd go for April. We just all need to be on the same page here, Raph."
Raphael exhaled, hard and heavy, still resistant to giving an inch even as they seemed to have arrived at a stalemate.
Then abruptly he released the coiled tension he was holding, stepping back and running a hand up over the dome of his skull.
"Well. You know now," he grumbled, close as he would come to conceding.
Leonardo watched Raphael a moment longer then stepped over to where his katana lay and retrieved them, replacing them in their holsters on his carapace, the deadly steel catching the moonlight in one final, wicked wink before they were sheathed.
"I know," Leonardo agreed. "And you see my point?"
Raphael grunted in response, turning his gaze out across the city which winked and glimmered all the way to the horizon and beyond, the distant rumble of traffic like a relentless pulse, pushing the life of the city into all its many corners. He thought of April, how he was going over to her place later on, and abruptly it hit him how long they had delayed.
"Come on," he said, turning towards the blocks they had left to cover. "Let's finish this fuckin' patrol."
"We have to go back," Leonardo said from behind him and Raphael whirled to confront his brother who stood with muscular arms folded over his plastron, still and calm, half dappled in shadow thrown by the water tower.
"What?" Raphael demanded, flinging his arms to the side in confusion.
Leonardo lifted his brow ridges mildly and shrugged. "We have to cover the ground we missed."
Raphael stared at him, temper once again beginning to flare. Could Leonardo really be this much of a boy scout?
Stupid question. After twenty-one years, Raphael knew the answer: of course he was.
"You fuckin' jokin', Leo?" he said brusquely, compelled to fight back as much as Leonardo was compelled to follow the rules.
Leonardo did not move but met his gaze levelly, mask tails lifting in a waft of air.
"Think about what we might've missed," he pointed out and Raphael heaved out a sigh, irritated but unable to resist when it was put like that. There were people in need and lowlifes to pound.
"Lead the way," he huffed with a jerk of his head back in the direction they had come, the greatest concession he had made all evening. Leonardo's mouth quirked a little to hear it and he held his ground, prompting Raphael to pause and look at him quizzically.
"Well, glad you still believe in me," Leonardo said coolly before a smirk helplessly twisted his lips. "Guess that must be because you love me so much."
Raphael shut his eyes tight and groaned pinching the bridge between his eyes. He was never going to live that down.
"Asshole," he muttered and Leonardo chuffed a smothered laugh, turning towards the ledge with a final sly glance at his brother.
"Don't be scared now, Raph," his voice was dark with suppressed mirth and Raphael ground his teeth and jogged heavily after him, picking up speed as the low brick wall loomed before them. "You're good enough to call me brother."
"Good enough to kick your ass," Raphael rumbled as they took the first leap at a pelt, hurtling through the night and landing on the other side, Leonardo diving into a forward roll and Raphael taking it on the shoulder, coming up in clouds of dust as they hurtled towards the far ledge.
"Tomorrow morning?" Leonardo threw at him, smiling against the wind, washed beneath streaks of neon and shadow.
Despite himself, Raphael couldn't help the grin that tugged his lips, feeling the night rush around him as they leapt the edge and swarmed the fire escape, their powerful bodies utilising the seeming obstacles of steel, stone and brick as mere stepping stones to their progress.
"Just don't cry when you lose."
"Naw. I'll save the tears for your funeral – morning fight so that should be about lunch time."
Leonardo's laughter echoed off the stone walls of the alleyway as they disappeared into the shadows.
This fic almost killed me! And I'm really anxious about it.
My take on Raph and Leo's relationship is that as fraught and tense and conflicted as it is they still love each other enormously and passionately and are the very best of friends. They have the capacity to rub each other up the wrong way very easily – of course Leo can lose his temper, we've seen him do it against Raph umpteen times – and of course he can also be wryly playful and rib his brothers as good as any of them and Raph can take it without losing his shit every time too. Leo is not Mr Super Duper Serious Ninja Pin Up Boy and Raph is not Mr Rageful Angry Brooding Rebel Without Applause 1000% of the time. They are brothers above everything else. Raph and Leo butt heads because of personality clashes but they also have a great deal of commonality and I think that's a big reason why they love to fight with each other too – they can fight without holding back, even use it as an outlet for their frustration with each other, even as they know they're not really out to do permanent damage.
Obviously the "resolution" at the end of the film was too simplistic to last. But I think they have these resolutions a lot. They are capable of getting along as much as conflicting and I think the older they get the less they clash and the easier their relationship becomes. They are still young here so it's still pretty up and down. And as much as Raph has a lot of resentment and frustration with Leo he does not actually want to hurt him or put him down. Sometimes he needs to take Leo down a peg or two, but that's not the same thing. Same with Leo. They're not out to hurt each other, they're out to make the other see where they're coming from and because of their natures that leads to conflict which leads to them hurting each other. They are both very headstrong and Leo is very arrogant and Raphael is very rebellious. They want to get along but will inevitably clash and that hurts both of them even as they refuse to back down. I think after their worst fights they will have weird tentative little moments of being extra super nice to each other as a way of showing how sorry they are without ever saying it. I think both of them really badly want to hug each other, just embrace hardcore for the longest while and cry on each other's shoulders but they'll never do it because they are both just too macho and stubborn and noli me tangere about it.
And yes, I think fights between them can occasionally be let go by both of them rather than pursued to a clear end. Not all the time, not even often or regularly – but very occasionally. Yes they are both extremely competitive but sibling relationships can go from deadly serious to offhandedly playful in a heartbeat. And a lot of things are at once spontaneously let go of even as they are pent up and emerge again at some unexpected later date.
I do think Leo is capable of swearing a little – at the right moments – and of getting distracted and not being painfully responsible when there's no life or death situation – certainly when he's still pretty young.
One big question I have – is the rooftop scene set well enough? I kept feeling like there wasn't enough atmosphere and kept reading back over to insert more references to the environment but still feel like there might not be enough. :/