They had the Foot soldiers cornered, a quartet of thugs they'd busted unloading wads of cash in the dockside warehouse, stolen earlier that afternoon from an uptown bank.
Leonardo had opted they confront them head on, wanting them to understand the turtle creatures their deceased master had been so hellbent on destroying were still very much alive – and very much keeping track of what they were doing,
Raphael didn't mind. Not a bit.
"How many bones in a Foot?" he asked Leonardo, smirking nastily as he advanced slow and steady on the soldier he'd lazily disarmed moments ago, the soldier who was eyeing him frantically head to toe, the bald dismay of the already defeated distorting his blunt features.
"That depends on whether or not they have a spine," Leonardo coolly replied, playing along, twin katana blades glinting in the stark flurorescence of the single overhead globe. The four soldiers had adopted fighting stances, but their edgy expressions and constantly shifting weight betrayed them. They were goners and they knew it.
Raphael didn't have a shred of pity for them. There had been casualties at the bank.
"By the time I'm through with you," he growled menacingly through his sneering grin at the soldier he approached, the biggest of the lot, a grizzled brute who looked mean as a cut snake – ordinarily. "I'll be able to pick you up, shake you about a bit, and count from the rattle."
The soldier's ruddy expression blanched white and Raphael could see his upheld fists trembling as he and Leonardo closed in.
Suddenly the air was rent with a shrieking nasal soprano:
"Let it go! Let it go! I am one with the wind and sky!"
The room froze. Slowly, five sets of eyes swivelled towards Raphael.
"Let it go! Let it go! You'll never see me cry!"
Raphael rolled his eyes downwards to where his phone vibrated busily in its pouch.
"Here I stand and here I'll stay!"
Raphael glanced back up to find himself confronted by four baffled expressions, and Leonardo's impassive one, his brow ridges lightly raised.
"Let the storm rage ooooonnnnnn!"
The frantic orchestral accompaniment faded away, leaving the warehouse eerily quiet.
The silence stretched on for several interminable moments, Raphael at the centre of it, twin sai clutched so tight in his hands he could feel the leather grain imprinting his palms.
"Did you need to get that?" Leonardo asked, his mildly deadpan voice not fooling Raphael in the slightest – his asshole brother was positively howling with laughter on the inside.
Raphael cast a flustered look across the cornered soldiers, all of whom stared at him in hesitant confusion, brows quirked and eyes wide.
Then, the big brute's lip twitched. Just once.
It was enough. Raphael grit his teeth, put his head down and charged.
The hour it took to finish up and get back to the lair did nothing to quell his rising temper and he barrelled into the den with the force of a freight train, muscles bulging and veins throbbing all over his neck and temples.
The littlest brother had scarcely returned from his own patrol with Donatello and was in the process of settling down to play a video game when Raphael stormed in. His reflexes well-honed after years of evading beat downs from angry older brothers, Michelangelo tossed the control aside and bolted off with a Zoidbergesque series of woops, Raphael thundering hot on his heels.
The sight of his quick younger brother's tail bobbing just metres in front of him, frustratingly just out of reach, put steam in Raphael's stride. His pulse was pounding a deafening beat in his ears and he could hear the grind of his own teeth as he bore down steadily, furiously on the orange-clad turtle who risked a glance over his shoulder and shrieked, then maddeningly sped up, shooting off through the tunnel system, leaving Raphael to roar futilely after him.
By the time he caught up, Michelangelo was waiting for him in a cross chamber, a level up, perched on the railings and gazing down with an unexpectedly sombre expression.
Raphael skidded to a halt, perspiring heavily, tipping his head back to scowl at his bratty brother.
"Get down here Mikey, so I can beat the green offa ya!"
Michelangelo shook his head firmly, lips pressed into an obstinate pout. "Uh uh. No way, bro. Now, we're even."
Raphael's brows furrowed as he gazed, panting, up at his brother. He flung his hands out to the sides. "For what?"
Michelangelo regarded him gravely, his baby blue eyes iridescent in the hazy glow of the lights they kept maintained. "April."
Ah, shit. Abruptly disarmed, Raphael looked away, across the room to a thickly cobwebbed corner and let his hands fall in fists by his sides. He ground his jaw and tried to muster his rage once more.
"Ain't no excuse for messin' with my shit, Mikey."
"You knew I liked her!" Michelangelo's voice rang out across the empty chamber, echoing off the walls, surrounding Raphael with accusation. Raphael snorted and reached up to tighten the knot on the back of his mask.
"Mike, you like every chick you set eyes on."
Michelangelo shrugged, kicked his sneakered feet against the railing. "I got a lotta love to share," he said offhandledly, then jabbed a finger towards his glowering older brother. "Youstillshoulda talked to me!"
Raphael snorted again, started to pace across the grimy stone. "It just kinda happened, Mikey. I – wasn't really thinkin' – "
"Nothin' new there," Michelangelo sniped and Raphael whirled to glare up at him, lip curled.
"Shuddup, smart ass. Ya think I expected this? Anyway, it was her choice," Raphael clenched his fists and glanced back at the cobwebs, hating even such grudging disclosure, feeling his fingertips dig sharply into his palms. "Not like I made the moves."
Michelangelo sniffed, swung his legs, glanced aside and lifted a hand to fiddle with a crack that split the stone of the support pillar he perched beside. "Yeah, cos you're such an irresistible catch," he muttered.
It was on the tip of his tongue to retort in kind: "As if she woulda gone for a bonehead like you!" – the same old merciless ribbing he gave Michelangelo all the time. But something made him stop, right as he opened his mouth. Right then, he knew it would've hit too hard.
And instead he heard himself spit: "If she'd liked ya, I woulda stood back."
Michelangelo stopped swinging his legs. He turned his head back down towards Raphael where he stood on filthy stone, sweat drying in a sticky film on his scales. The look in his baby brother's eyes gave his heart an unexpected wrench. Raphael met his gaze dead on.
"But she liked me," he finished, and though he was sorry for Michelangelo's pain, he wasn't sorry about that.
Michelangelo huffed, steepled his hands in his lap and gazed out across the dank chamber, a somewhat pensive set to his usually jovial features. His eyes were bright. "Yeah, she liked you. Chicks always dig the big guys."
"Ah, Mikey," Raphael rubbed a hand roughly over his muzzle, a thousand memories of teasing Michelangelo for his shrimpiness suddenly cramming his mind. "I don't think that's what it was."
"Nah, you're right," Michelangelo swivelled his gaze back to his enormous brother, eyeing him critically. "April isn't that shallow. Did you mean that?"
Raphael was confused for a moment. "What?"
"About standing back? If she'd liked me?"
Raphael didn't hesitate. "Yeah."
He didn't bother to say that if April hadn't made the first move, he never would have. That there wouldn't have been anything to stand back from.
Michelangelo cocked his head and gazed down at him, his lips pursed to one side. "Hmm. Well, okay then. I guess I can accept that."
Raphael crossed his bulging arms across his plastron, lifted his chin. "Do you really like her?" It wouldn't change things – April had chosen him and he wouldn't give that up for anything or anyone. But he wanted to know, just the same.
"Nah," Michelangelo batted a flippant hand in the air. "I mean, I'd go there in a heartbeat, like, who wouldn't? But it wasn't any big thing."
Raphael gritted his teeth to hear his brother so offhandedly express open lust for his woman, his spine stiffening so that his shell shifted on his back. But with supreme effort he managed to keep the surge of rage suppressed. There was a wistful note to Michelangelo's last words that betrayed his disappointment.
And he'd always been a sucker for his baby bro's heartache. The kid could be a right pain in the ass, but he'd always been there when Raphael had needed a friend.
"C'mon, get down here," he grumbled, beckoning with a savage sweep of one arm.
Michelangelo eyed him warily, raising a brow ridge.
"I ain't gonna clobber ya!" Raphael snapped impatiently and Michelangelo rolled his eyes and pushed himself off the railing, dropping easily to the stone by his side.
For a moment, Raphael was tempted to give him a smack all the same, but instead he wrapped him into a headlock and gave him a vigorous noogie.
"Hey, hey no fair! I wasn't ready!" Michelangelo squirmed and scuffled about but Raphael held firm, chuckling.
"Suck it up, crybaby."
Michelangelo managed to wiggle backwards out of the hold and put his dukes up, dancing about on the balls of his feet. He feinted towards Raphael, who stared at him with deliberate contempt, still as stone, and shook his head in dry incredulity.
"Come on brah, you think you can take me?" Michelangelo continued to feint and drop back, dancing around his enormous older brother. "Step up and give it a try! Huh! Huh! Float like a butterfly, snap turtley, big bro too slow for Muhammed Mikey!"
Raphael snorted loudly to disguise the twitch of his mouth and batted out with one great arm. Michelangelo ducked only to find Raphael had twisted and hooked a foot around his ankle, knocking him onto his knees.
"He talks a great deal and brags for sure, but that lip's gonna get him knocked to the floor," Raphael deadpanned.
"Didn't know you were into poetry, bro," Michelangelo groaned and Raphael grabbed hold of the rim of his carapace and hauled him to his feet.
"C'mere, ya goof."
He shoved Michelangelo down on the cement ledge that bordered the chamber and sat down next to him, readying himself for an awkward heart-to-heart.
"So does it really feel like warm apple pie?"
It took Raphael a moment. As soon as he got it he whacked Michelangelo heartily upside the head.
"Owwwww!" Michelangelo rubbed the back of his skull, pouting at Raphael. "Lighten up, bro."
"Don't ever talk about her like that, Mike," Raphael snarled, grasping hold of the tails of Michelangelo's mask and hauling his head back to glare furiously at him.
"What? You're not gonna tell me anything? At all?"
"Mike…" Raphael's voice was a warning growl, echoing like far distant thunder around the chamber.
Michelangelo heavily sighed and rolled his eyes dramatically. "Fine! Sheesh!" He kicked petulantly at the gritty slabs beneath their feet. "It's good though, right?"
"Mike!" Raphael bellowed, whirling on his brother with a fist raised.
"I don't mean like that!" Michelangelo cried, thrusting his arms out in front of him and ducking his head with eyes squeezed shut. "I just meant – " he opened his eyes again and raised his head to look at Raphael, his gaze luminous and yearning. " – it's good, right?"
Slowly, Raphael let his fist drop to his lap, breathing deep and steady as he beheld the hungry longing in the youngest turtle's blue eyes. Sighing, he nodded and turned away to scan the shadowy chamber, clogged with cobwebs and grime.
"Yeah," he said hoarsely. "Yeah, it's good."
He saw Michelangelo nod in his peripheral, felt his brother's pensiveness as silence fell between them. He slumped forward, forearms across his thighs, and exhaled heavily.
"You think it could ever happen to me?" Michelangelo blurted, his voice startlingly loud in the quiet room. Raphael stared at him in dismay as he turned towards his older brother with painfully hopeful eyes in a face unusually grave.
Raphael did not think it would ever happen to Michelangelo. He was still struggling to accept it had happened to him. And most days he was still terrified he'd lose it. A few weeks ago the very notion he would ever have a chance with a woman at all was one he would've scornfully – if bleakly – dismissed out of hand. A woman he actually had feelings for? It had been a one in a billion chance.
But – it had happened.
And as he looked into his baby brother's wishful gaze, he caught a glimpse of all the little twerp had to offer – all of what he was dying to give.
He reached out and placed a hand on Michelangelo's shoulder, squeezing. "Yeah, Mikey. It could happen to you. If it could happen to me, it could happen to you."
A helpless grin spread up Michelangeo's face like the sun rising and despite himself, Raphael felt the corners of his own mouth lift.
"I just need the opportunity," Michelangelo said assuredly, setting his jaw and nodding with determination. "That's all."
Raphael chuffed, unable to help marvelling how quickly , how easily his brother could be cheered. "And provided you don't louse it up by opening yer big trap," he grinned and Michelangelo gave him a disdainful look.
"Har de har," he sniffed and Raphael chuckled and slapped him companionably – with more than a little friendly force - on the shell. Michelangelo slumped forward with an oof then sat up, turning sly eyes towards Raphael. "Hey, if you got away with it, should be a snap for me!"
"Yuck it up, wise guy," Raphael got a hand over Michelangelo's face and gave him a light shove. "I'll be sure to tell April you think her taste stinks later."
Michelangelo snorted, jabbing a finger into the tender flesh of Raphael's side. "I can tell her myself."
They half-heartedly tussled a moment longer, snickering, before Raphael clapped his palm over Michelangelo's skull and held his head still, giving him a narrow-eyed appraisal.
"You okay, bro?"
Michelangelo gave him a lopsided smile, tilting his head back into Raphael's grip. "Yeah, I'm good."
Raphael rubbed his skull firm and quick and let go, then reached into his belt pouch and withdrew his phone. "Good. Then you can take that fuckin' song off this."
But then Michelangelo's eyes were glittering, a wicked little smile hovering about his lips. "You still haven't learned how to use it?"
Raphael gave him a stony look. "All I need it for is calls, Mikey. Not all of us are social media junkies. Now. Change it!" And he thrust the phone towards him.
But Michelangelo was suddenly on the other side of the chamber, poised by a tunnelway, dancing on his toes and smirking mockingly. "Oh, I dunno, Raphie boy, you didn't sayplease."
"Mikey – " Raphael rose slowly to his feet, eyes locked vigilantly on his smaller brother, every muscle coiled and tense and readying to spring.
"Maaaaaybe this will make you more inclined to share a few details with me," Michelangelo said gleefully as he reached into his belt and withdrew his own phone, unlocking it with a swift swipe of his thumb and scrolling quickly, not once taking his eyes off of Raphael, who was once again scowling, teeth bared and eyes slitted. "Maybe I'll just hold you to ransom until you're in a more sharing kind of a mood." The grin on his face was positively ear-splitting as he eyeballed Raphael who glared at him with brimstone in his eyes, carefully advancing with his hands in tight fists. He held aloft his phone and hit the call button. "Or maybe you'll just have to – "
And the stone walls shook as the piercing refrain reverberated around them, blaring from the phone Raphael held in his hand:
"Let it go! Let it go!"
"MIKEEEEEY!" Raphael bellowed, his voice drowning out the wail of the song, his pulse once more thundering in his ears as he took chase.
But Michelangelo was already long gone, cackling evilly in the distance.