A/N Thought I'd take a break from my usual fandom and give this a shot. Rated mostly for language.
Dedicated to Dierdre, who really knows how to tell a story.
It was 2:10am when Raphael saw Jaime lock up the bar. That meant a slow night. Raphael sometimes had to wait until nearly three a.m. before he saw her—the long mane of brown curls under the neon sign and the keys jangling in her hands. Alone at 2:10 meant no stragglers. That was good. He hated the stragglers. They sometimes gave Jaime a hard time—tried to hit on her, tried to touch her. Raphael, from his perch on the roof across the alley, could hear their slurred, lewd comments. He watched with a scowl as the regulars tried to hug her, as though she were their friend, all the while their hands inching towards her ass. Jaime knew how to handle them—with a smart remark and a firm disentangling from their sloppy embraces—but still, Raphael didn't like it. But on this night, at 2:10am, she was alone.
It was a cold, late-October night when the air felt like it would crystallize at any moment but for the biting wind that broke the icy stillness. It was too early for a real winter but Raphael could see the breath plume out in front of Jaime as though she were smoking one of her many cigarettes. She wore tight black leather pants cinched by a spiked belt and short, puffy jacket over god-knows-what kind of skimpy top.
"Nice shirt," Raphael commented dryly. "Where's the rest of it?"
"The bar is always hot," she said and laughed at his dark expression.
"No wonder those assholes don't keep their hands to themselves. You don't leave them much to the imagination."
Jaime opened her mouth to retort but snapped it shut and studied him a moment. "You don't seem to mind what I wear here."
Raphael snorted. "Here, it's different. It's your apartment. You can wear what you want. It's…different."
"Is it?" she persisted with a crooked smile.
"Yeah, it is," Raphael growled and set his beer bottle down hard on the table to emphasize his point.
Jaime studied him a moment more and then teased, "You're such a hypocrite."
He only grunted and quickly looked away to hide the red that surfaced from under the green of his cheeks. She was right. He liked her in her wife-beater tanktops, slim and tight over her small breasts. They showed off her toned arms and the tattoos that adorned them. He liked seeing her in those; he just didn't want anyone else to.
He felt her gaze on him a moment more and just before the silence grew too long, she made a joke and they laughed and everything was okay again…
Jaime locked up the bar—a dingy, dark place called Lucky 13—and stuffed the keys into the pocket of her puffy jacket. She stood for a moment, silent in the shadowy alley, and glanced around. Her gaze trailed past the Lucky 13's red neon sign, down the alley, and finally across the way and up. Raphael felt her gaze fall on him like a warm mist and then it was gone again. She never could see him until he wanted her to but that was okay by her; she knew he was there. Raphael watched as a small, crooked smile flitted across her face and then, satisfied, she began to walk.
New York at night, at 2:10am, was no safe place. The haunts came out, both loud and soft. The loud ones drove slick cars, weaving across the streets, cursing for the bars had kicked them out before their night had ended. These were the assholes who drove up alongside Jaime, asking her if she needed a ride, asking her if she was working—as if she were for sale—with their crazy-loud, laughing voices.
"No, thanks," preceded, "Fuck off," and if that didn't work, Raphael did.
The quiet ones, the dangerous ones, slunk out from the shadows with gravelly, desperate voices and dirty hands. These were the ones Raphael watched for as he crept along the rooftops—one eye on the shadows and one eye out for fire escapes or street posts to scale down if she needed him.
This night, as with most nights, the streets were quiet and Jaime walked purposefully, but not fast. She knew Raphael was there but he thought darkly on all those countless nights before his patrol route took him to her—all those nights in which she had walked alone. He thought too, of that horrible, nightmare night, the night they met had first met face to face and his scowl deepened. Jaime wasn't careless, but she wasn't afraid. Raphael thought she should be.
"I've been mugged twice," she said. "That's it. No big deal."
What about that night, Jaime? he thought. What about the time that was a Very Big Deal? The night we met? But they had made an unspoken agreement that they would not talk about it and it seemed at times to Raphael that she'd blocked it completely from her mind. Like now.
"Before there was you, Raphael," she continued, "there was my pepper spray." Raphael grunted only and she laughed. "My pepper spray, at least, doesn't drink all my beer and leave footprints on my coffee table."
But it didn't save you that night, did it? he wanted to ask. It didn't kill for you.
"I've been doing pretty okay," she insisted with mounting ire. She was reading his face and hearing his thoughts and he could practically feel the agitation coil in her small frame. "I can take care of myself and if anyone thinks different he can go fuck himself."
"Yeah, okay," Raphael muttered. He wasn't going to break their vow. But I can make a new one, he thought, watching her blow cigarette smoke out of her nostrils like a bull ready to charge. Four nights a week—the nights you work the late shift—my patrol will end the same way…with you.
Jaime lived four blocks away from the Lucky 13. She turned out of the alley and walked Bleeker Street, well-lit and populous at times—too open for him to join her on. Raphael stayed on the rooftops until she turned the darkened corner to her apartment.
Their routine, hers and his, was always the same.
Jaime waited in the dark for his soundless landing beside her. From there they walked together in silence, she down the middle of the alley, he in the shadows. When she reached the door to her building, she went in and Raphael went up the fire escape—three flights to her apartment. He was already on the escape landing by the time she came to unlock the window. In the beginning, his silence—the utter quiet of his agile movements had unnerved her.
"You're like a big green ghost," she'd told him.
But his silence was not the only thing that unnerved her. Not by a long shot. Raphael remembered those nights early on when her luminous brown eyes would alight on him for only a few moments at a time, as though she couldn't take him in all at once. Nervousness, he'd quickly deduced, was unusual for her, but back then, her hands trembled slightly as she lit her cigarettes, and he felt that housefly glance of hers that rested on him only for seconds before taking off again.
Now, months later, he was pleased when she locked eyes with him during one of their heated discussions/debates. Her hands were strong and sure as she popped the caps off their beer against the edge of the counter. He liked that better than the furtive glances and trembling fingers that were only stilled after she'd jammed them into her pockets. But she hadn't screamed when she saw him for the first time that terrible night. True, she wasn't altogether herself and half out of her mind with fear, but still…She hadn't screamed and Raphael thought he loved her then.
But really, he knew it was the first time he'd seen her.
A hot, humid night in late July when she didn't wear a jacket and the tattoos on her arms were like bruises on her pale skin from his vantage on the roof. Her hair, with its long, soft curls—like red-tinged coils under the neon—cascaded down her back and hung loosely about the slender muscles of her arms. The cut of her arms against that soft hair, the soft dark pools of her eyes, her cutting laugh… She was hard and soft at the same time and the dual sensations and impressions she left on Raphael that first night he happened to glance down into the alley were forever emblazoned in his mind as what a woman—his woman—should be.
"Don't put me on a pedestal," she said.
He quickly averted his eyes and silently cursed himself for staring.
"Don't flatter yourself," he returned, but it had no bite.
Jaime smiled, pleased. Raphael let it go. He didn't worship her. He had too much sense of himself for that, but he ceased to see other women as women. Maybe she knew that, maybe she didn't, but he suddenly didn't care. After three weeks of visiting her small apartment, after maintaining as cool a front as he could, he figured it couldn't hurt to let her feel admired.
And besides, playing it cool wasn't getting him anywhere…
On this late-October night, as he landed silently beside her, she smiled her crooked smile in the darkness and then they walked. Raphael's sharp eyes followed her until she was safely inside and then he scaled the fire escape to the third floor. He leaned against the wall and waited, letting his gaze meander lazily up to the sky.
It was a clear night but no stars were visible. The relentless haze of the city lights colored the sky like a yellowing fog. Not like out on the farm where the sky was a black velvet swath dotted with thousands of diamonds. Jaime told him once that she had rarely been out of the city. Raphael wanted to take her to the farm and watch the starlight be absorbed in those deep brown pools of her eyes. A scowl touched his face for that wasn't ever going to happen. Not with the advent of Trevor. Trevor had gotten to her first.
The click of the window latch came from behind him and jarred Raphael from his thoughts. Jaime shoved open the window and he climbed through. They stood for a moment, in the narrow corner of her apartment. Raphael loved and hated these moments. Hated them because nothing ever came of their nearness and loved them because there was always that possibility that something might. He loved the smell of her—cigarettes and shampoo and her warm breath on his face. This was the time they said their hellos. On good days, she leaned against him briefly in a kind of half-hug, half-nudge with her hip—an acknowledgement that anyone else would have thought was small and meaningless. But Raphael knew Jaime didn't touch people very often, nor like to be touched, and so these little moments grew large for him. On bad days, if she was tired or in a foul mood, she'd chuck him on the arm, and always, no matter what, she'd demand the same thing. "What's the story, Raphael?"
Always, she called him 'Raphael.'
"You can call me Raph. Everyone else does."
"That's reason enough why I won't," she replied off-handedly, poring over one of the many crossword puzzles she was so fascinated with. "Your name is beautiful," she added, chewing the tip of her pen. "Why ugly it up for the sake of familiarity? And who played Clinger on M.A.S.H? Four letters."
"Hell if I know," Raphael muttered. She was always doing that. Saying things that knocked him on his ass without ever knowing it.
"Jaime Farr," she said suddenly, and a sour look came over her face. "Speaking of names… I wonder if my parents realized I share one with a clownish, cross-dressing Korean War-era soldier," she mused wryly, filling in the clue.
"Your name is perfect for you," Raphael said without thinking.
She glanced up at him. He held his ground. "It is."
She smiled. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," he said and returned to his beer. The rest of the evening was spent in relative silence, though a comfortable one, and Raphael thought that an infinitesimal step towards progress had been made. Maybe in another year I can tell her I think she's perfect, he mused dryly.
But he didn't have another year…
A.T. and B.T, that's how Raphael demarked the time now. After Trevor and Before Trevor. Before was the happy time and After was the dark ages. It had been A.T. for nearly a month and it seemed like this era was never going to end.
"What's the story, Raphael?" Jaime demanded this night, but a slight hesitation in her voice took the power out of it. "You want a beer? We had a party here the other night after Trevor's opening so I might have some vodka or…SoCo."
Raphael scowled and took off his street clothes—cap and jacket. "Beer," he said.
"How're the boys?" she asked, rummaging through the fridge.
Raphael glanced to stare appreciatively at her black leather-clad ass sticking out from behind the refridgerator door. "Fine. Mike says hi."
Jaime emerged from the door, two beers clutched in one hand by the bottlenecks and a scrunched up expression on her face. "You told them about me?"
Raphael snorted. "Mikey asked me why the hell I come back so late some nights and where I get the booze from."
"What did you tell him?"
Raphael looked at her. "I told him I go to Madame Rizzo's Dungeon, and that my girl always feels so sorry for me after working me over, she plies me with alcohol."
Jaime rolled her eyes. "Pig." She popped the caps off the beer and joined Raphael on the couch—she at one end and he on the other. She used to sit closer, but it was A.T. now. "You… are… hilarious," she added dryly.
"What's hilarious is that Mikey believes me," Raphael said and took a swig from his bottle.
"I thought you weren't supposed to tell anyone," Jaime said, lighting a cigarette.
"No, you're the one who's not supposed to tell anyone. I can take out an ad in the goddamn Times if I so choose."
"'If I so choose,'" Jaime snorted and laughed her cutting laugh. "Well, tell Mikey Madame Rizzo says 'hello.'"
Raphael nodded and took another swig off his beer. She shifted on her side of the couch and he became acutely conscious of her. It was hard not to be in an apartment this small.
Her apartment was two tiny rooms and a bathroom that resembled a closet. She paid $820 a month for the privilege that, in New Yorkian terms, was actually a deal. Paying rent was a foreign concept to Raphael but $820 for what she called her "glorified shit-hole" seemed like a lot. But the smallness of it reminded him of the lair, and the fact that Jaime would never be more than twenty feet away from him at any given time were pluses in his mind. She hated it. It was too expensive for a bartender's salary and she was sick of borrowing money from her grandmother. Or Trevor.
"So where's Trevor tonight?" he blurted without thinking. He didn't want to know, not particularly, and he knew he was in no danger of discovery or else Jaime would have said "Not tonight," when he landed beside her in the alley. Those, "Not tonights" were becoming more and more frequent. In B.T. they had meant that Jaime had some party or another to attend. A.T. meant the asshole was sleeping over.
"Why would you ask me that?" Jaime said, her dark eyes on his. "He's in Boston for a week, like you care. You hate his guts."
Raphael didn't dispute her on either point. He'd never met Trevor, of course, but he didn't have to to "hate his guts." Jaime was waiting for a response so Raphael shrugged.
"Of course he's out of town or else he would have been waiting for you at the bar to see you safely home," he said and accessorized his words with the fakest of fake smiles.
Jaime rolled her eyes but said nothing. Raphael relished the bitterness created by that sentence. It was a safe reason to hate Trevor—that the guy didn't think to make sure Jaime got home safely at night even though everyone knew she was too goddamned stubborn to do it herself. It was up to men to see to such things, Raphael thought, and so Trevor was a failure in that department for not protecting her as he should.
But that was a much safer reason to hate him than the real one and both Jaime and Raphael knew it. It was a neutral, impotent point that couldn't compare to the truth—that Trevor had trampled over something delicate and young and fragile and in doing so had forever earned Raphael's hatred. Because the simple fact was, in the glorious era of B.T., Jaime and Raphael had been a possibility.
Every offhand comment was leading toward a monumental confession. Every moment at the beginning of every night at the window held an alternate universe that was waiting to be explored. He was sure of it, but it was up to Jaime to take that first step for Raphael could not. It was not his place to cross over that threshold unless she did first; such was his handicap for not being altogether human.
One night, very close to the advent of A.T., Raphael had thought she was going to take that step. She had leaned closer to him than she had ever had and his heart had hammered wildly in his chest.
"Good night, Raphael," she'd said, like she said every night when he finally left her apartment to go home. But that night, her voice faltered and her eyes were wide. He saw in them fear and apprehension and—God help him—desire. But she didn't take that step. She must've seen what lay on the other side and had been afraid, or worse, ashamed. And so she had pulled away as though he had snapped a match alight under her chin.
Trevor came soon after.
Now, sitting on her couch, drinking her beer, Raphael suddenly knew this was the last night. He had heard it in her voice. Her customary question, "What's the story, Raphael?" was somehow a loaded one, and he knew perfectly well what the story was. They had come to an impasse and it was time they either scaled it together, or went their separate ways. How he knew that, Raphael couldn't say. Some kind of tension in the air, perhaps. But more likely, it was simply a shared understanding that the time had come. Shit or get off the pot, as the saying went.
"What are you thinking about?" Jaime asked, unsure. She had, over the last three months, gotten good at reading his expressions.
Raphael looked at her, a thousand unsaid words in his mouth. He didn't let them out, but shrugged, and felt impotent and cowardly. Those were not words that came easily to anyone describing him, least of all himself, so he muttered a curse and sprang off the couch with a ninja-grace that seemed impossible for his bulky, heavily-muscled body. He paced her tiny living room, peering at photographs newly hung on the wall with a dour expression on his face.
Trevor was a photographer. Raphael wasn't learned in the art and so couldn't truthfully say one way or another if the guy had talent as far as development and shadowing and all that shit went. To Raphael, the subject was all that was important, and all of Trevor's subjects were the same—tired city people, homeless men on corners, bent and worn people waiting for buses. Jaime described his work using words like, "important" and "honest." Raphael preferred "depressing" and "pointless." That had been their biggest fight. Of all their heated debates on life, art, and who was the better villain, the Joker or the Scarecrow, they had battled fiercely because both were stubborn. But those fights had no malice or anger in them, no matter how loud the volume of their voices. But for that one night. It had been the first night she had put up some of Trevor's work, sealing his presence in her life—marking her, in some way, as his.
"You know nothing about art," Jaime scolded with derision and Raphael could see behind her eyes the unstated fact that he lived in a sewer, in the dark.
Raphael heard those unspoken words clear as day and so made his own cruel and unfair.
"What's he doing?" Raphael demanded, a cigarette perched in the corner of his beak, bobbing up and down with his words. "This picture of a homeless woman outside a shelter? What a crock. You think this photo helped this woman? You think capturing her misery and showing it to a bunch of rich assholes helped her eat that night? It didn't. It helped those rich people, though. I'm sure they looked at it and felt "connected" and sympathetic. They called it "raw" didn't they?, while they sipped their goddamned Chardonnay. What a bunch of phonies. That woman didn't get a hot meal for her kids because Trevor—" he always filled the name with such scorn—"took her goddamn picture."
After that, they had exchanged heated words and more than one epithet at the other's expense, and Raphael left that night wondering if he was going to be asked in the next.
He was, but sometimes he thought it might be better if he hadn't…
Now, those photos were mixed with half a dozen images of Jaime and Trevor together. Here they were at the Lucky 13, his arm slung around her shoulder and his hand dangling too close to her breast for Raphael's liking. Here they were at one of his shows—he in loose and rumpled finery and she looking dark and wild in black. And here they were on the porch of Trevor's grandparents' house outside Albany, for it had finally been Trevor—and not Raphael—who had shown Jaime her stars.
"You look at those and you're going to get pissed off," Jaime warned from the couch. "Come sit with me," she added softly and again Raphael heard in her voice the finality of these nights.
Raphael sat back down and drank his beer while she lit another cigarette. There was a thick silence between them and then Jaime said what Raphael knew she would say and his 'unless' fell apart and vanished.
"I have to tell you something."
"I'm moving in with Trevor," she said softly, so softly he almost hadn't heard. The words hung in the air like a small swarm of bees and although Raphael had expected them, they stung him nonetheless. He grunted in response and then there was another silence.
She waited for something more, but Raphael wasn't about to—or able—to give her the satisfaction. Jaime slammed her lighter—a heavy metallic Zippo—on the table and stood up.
"Aren't you going to say something?" she demanded, pacing behind him. "Aren't you going to tell me he's a big lazy fake and all that other shit you usually say?"
"Why should I?" Raphael countered. "Won't change anything." He twisted around to look at her. "Will it?"
Jaime sputtered for a moment. "You're such an asshole," she said finally and went into the kitchen-half of the room.
"All right, fine. He's a big lazy fake and you can do better."
"Oh, really?" Jaime demanded from the sink.
"Yeah, really," Raphael returned.
Raphael snapped his jaw shut with an audible clack. She was looking at him with a peculiar expression on her face, as though she were daring him to say it—as though she was hoping he would say it.
"Hell if I know," Raphael muttered, and wondered just when, exactly, had he lost his backbone.
He had turned back on the couch and so did not see her face fall and then harden again, didn't see her eyes shine for the briefest of moments before she blinked them dry. She snapped the caps off two more beers—loudly—and stormed back to the livingroom. She shoved a bottle into Raphael's hand as she flopped beside him on the couch.
"Where?" Raphael asked after another silence.
"Where what?" Jaime asked, her tone wary.
"Where are you moving to?"
"No, Raphael," she said. "No, you can't. Not anymore."
Now it was Raphael's turn to slam his beer bottle on the table, hard enough that white foam erupted from the lip and spilled onto the floor. "Well, what the fuck, Jaime? Is it far from the bar? Far enough where you'll need to take a cab? Or close enough to walk? Because if you're gonna walk, then I need to know—No, fuck it. I'll just follow you."
"Geez, you sound like a stalker," Jaime spat. She regretted her words instantly—Raphael could tell by the way her jaw tensed, but she did not apologize.
Raphael looked at her. "Stalker," he repeated. "Uh huh."
"It doesn't matter," he said. "Trevor isn't about to start paying attention to your post-work habits, so I have to."
"You don't have to," Jaime said, "I don't need a goddamn bodyguard."
Raphael looked sharply at her. "That's a hell of a thing for you to say to me," he said coldly. "You think that's why I do what I do? You think you're some kind of job to me? Yeah, that's it," he said, and began building the evening's main course of sarcasm. "You know, the real reason I want to know where you're moving to is so I know where to bill for my service."
"And to keep track of you. You owe me back pay for four nights a week for three months. That comes to three thousand, eight hundred dollars and forty-two fucking cents."
"Not to mention the night you were almost raped—that should've earned me a bonus, don't you think?"
Jaime's response, a sharp intake of breath, told Raphael he had gone too far. He had broken their vow and there was no taking it back now. He watched as the memories settled themselves over her like a shroud yanked from the closet by Raphael's unrelenting venom. You're such an ass, he told himself. She didn't deserve that, he thought and another voice spoke up, rough and cold. Yes, she did. She's been sleeping with Trevor and she's moving away. She's telling you to get lost so say what you want and maybe it'll hurt her as much as she's hurting you.
But that cold, angry voice brought little comfort. It was the same voice that told him, after a nasty fight with Leonardo, that he—Raphael—had been justified in leveling the most awful insults and cutting remarks at his brother. There was a wall of stabbing words between he and Leo and it was only torn down after some catastrophe brought them together, and quickly resurrected again in time. Raphael hated that wall between he and his brother and he realized he was well on his way to building a good-sized one between he and Jaime.
"Sorry," he said, the word sounding pitiful and empty in his own ears.
"Forget it." She pulled her legs under her, making herself small on her corner of the couch. He could see in her eyes that she was looking at that night in her mind, and he cursed himself silently.
Raphael stood up. His sais were still tucked in his belt and he noticed one had poked a hole in her ratty old couch. It was hardly noticeable what with all the cigarette burns, coffee stains, and the horrible flowered upholstery. He removed the sais and dumped them unceremoniously onto the carpet. Then he stormed into the kitchen and began opening cabinets.
"What are you doing?" Jaime asked in a small voice.
"I need—I don't know. A drink."
Jaime unfurled herself from the couch and went to him. She calmly opened the cabinet in which she kept her collection of shot glasses. She pulled down two—one that said "Kentucky" in chipped black letters, and another that said "Mississippi" over an etching of a paddleboat. She collected them from friends who traveled, Raphael knew, and the image of her and Trevor in Albany came to mind. He scowled.
Without asking, she poured tequila into the glasses and handed him Kentucky. Wordlessly, they met eyes, lifted their glasses and downed the liquor.
Raphael hated tequila but it was just what he wanted then. He felt it hit his stomach, which protested for a moment, as it always did, before settling warmly.
"I'm sorry I said that," Jaime mumbled as they went back to the couch. "About you being a bodyguard. You're more than that…"
Her words trailed away and Raphael wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake the rest of them out of her. But he only shrugged, sat down, and chased the tequila with a long swig of his beer. "When do you move?"
"As soon as Trevor gets back from Boston. A week."
Raphael said nothing.
"I won't be working at Lucky 13 anymore. You don't have to worry."
Raphael felt the thousand words ready in his mind again. He wanted to tell her that there was so much more between them than her safety. That a part of his happiness, a part of his own safety, was bound up in these nights, but she already knew that. It had been there since that first night, the night they never talked about, and he hated her a little just then, for throwing it away.
"Well, I guess that's it then," he said, and bent to pick up his discarded sais. He felt her soft hand on his arm and he froze.
Silence came, thick and heavy, and something desperate and wild came over Raphael. He decided that now was the time—before she came to her senses and kicked him out for good—for him to try to resurrect his 'unless' from the dead.
Emboldened by the finality of this night—or more probably by tequila—Raphael leaned closer to her and touched her hair. He had wanted to from the moment he first saw her. She didn't slap his hand away or retreat from him, but sat still and quiet, her hand still on his arm, trailing up over the thick muscles. She closed her eyes and leaned her head into his hand, into his touch.
The curls were softer than he'd imagined to his rough, callused hands, and they twined readily around his fingers. Raphael kneaded his hand through that hair, pulling gently, pulling her towards him.
Raphael felt his heart begin to pound again as he leaned towards her and the portal he imagined every night at her window began to open in his mind's eye. A world of dark, hot nights and secret meetings was revealed and their possibility, coupled with the real touch of her skin, quickened his pulse This is happening, he thought, not daring to breath. He moved closer. Her eyes were closed now and she parted her lips slightly. Raphael, his blood running hot in his veins, slowly laid his other hand on her cheek, slid it down over her neck, down to her breast.
She arched her back and moaned again, and Raphael felt victory close at hand as he shifted even closer to her. But as he did, his toe brushed his sais. They clanked together, softly, but the sound broke the silence and Jaime's eyes flew open. She saw him then and he froze. That second stretched out between them, and then the portal slammed shut as Jaime retreated from him. It was a small movement, a tiny sinking away into the couch cushions but it was enough.
He fairly flew away from her, to his side of the couch. The feel of her was still in his hands until he killed it by taking up his cold beer bottle. He emptied it in one gulp.
"I love him," she whispered.
"Bullshit," Raphael spat. He glared daggers at the sais at his feet, and then kicked the offending weapons that had, for the first time since he'd taken them for his own, betrayed him so horribly. "That's a goddamn lie."
"You don't know that!" Jaime said suddenly. She got up from the couch and went to the kitchen. "You think after three months you got me figured out? You think because you were there that night that you can say what I can and can't do?" She shook her head and muttered a curse to herself before declaring, "You don't know Trevor, either. He's good to me. And you know what else?" She poured two more shots of tequila and downed hers.
"What?" Raphael returned, rising to the bait.
Jaime bit off her words but it was too late—the phantom of it flitted into the room anyway and the air suddenly grew cold and thick.
"Yeah, okay, I get it," Raphael muttered after a moment. He stood up, gathered his sais and jammed them into his belt. He reached for his jacket.
Jaime watched him, wide-eyed, with something akin to fear as dressed to leave. "No, Raphael, I'm sorry," she breathed.
"It's fine," he muttered, settling his cap on the green dome of his head. "It's what I expected."
"Don't say that. It's not fair."
Raphael stopped and looked at her. "You're talking to me about fair?" He snorted and shook his head. "Fuck this. See you around." He was at the window in two strides.
"You can't leave!" she shouted from the kitchen. "Not like this. We aren't done yet."
She was right. He knew that the night, the night they never had spoken of, had been stirred from its hibernation like some ugly beast, and now that it was awake and prowling the room they couldn't pretend it wasn't there. He saw that she was ready to remember it too. She needed to remember it so that the bizarre relationship between her and a mutated turtle could be reconciled. Trevor was human, that's what she had been about to say and now the fact that Raphael was not could no longer be ignored. They had been going on for three months pretending reality was not as it was—that he was just a guy and she was just a girl and they hung out together sometimes. But there were feelings there between them that demanded attention, and that were the source of this night's arguing and insults and unspoken want. And there was something else there for her too, something that was alien and inconsequential to Raphael who lived a dangerous life—he had killed for her.
Among his brothers and sensei, killing was an unfortunate necessity. A bo staff cracked against the enemy's skull saves Michelangelo one night, and he returns the favor the next. There were no words exchanged over such things—the brothers did what they did, working in a kind of horrible tandem that brings death if necessary to others only so that it doesn't touch them. They never say 'thank you' and never need to.
But Jaime was not one of his brothers. She was of the other world—the one that went to bed every night after watching the evening news thinking that death sure sucked and I'm glad it's not me. It's never me. It never will be me. But that night, Jaime tasted the life Raphael lived and the death he was skillfully capable of bringing, and he could see she didn't know what to do about it. He had saved her from rape, true, but the price for that salvation was high in other ways he hadn't ever thought of.
Raphael removed his jacket and dumped it on the floor. He went to the kitchen and emptied Kentucky. He took the fresh beer Jaime offered him and when they sat down on the couch, he took a drag off her cigarette too. He removed his sais and placed them carefully on the worn coffee table in front of them, and there they sat, gleaming in the dim light of her apartment like an exhibit at a trial.
Jaime looked at the sais for long moments, quietly sipping her beer. Finally, she lay the bottle down and picked up one of the weapons.
"It's heavy," she said, surprised.
Raphael nodded. Anyone who touched his sais—and there weren't many—all remarked on the weight of them.
Raphael watched as she ran her fingers along the longest prong and gingerly touched the pointed tip. "Was this the one…?"
Raphael shrugged. "Maybe."
"I think it was," Jaime said. She studied it a moment more and then laid it in her lap, almost protectively. "What's it like?"
Raphael shrugged again. "It's different every time. But mostly it's just what needs to be done. I don't think about it."
nodded, absorbing this. "How many?"
It was on the tip of his tongue to lie and say he didn't know, that he didn't keep track. But the truth was, he remembered every single man who had died on the end of his weapons, that each life extinguished was permanently etched into his psyche. He wanted it that way. He was glad to feel something every time a life ended at his hands, because in his mind, that acknowledgement of their passing was the only thing that made him different than the Shredder.
"One hundred and seventeen," he said and Jaime's face went pale. She took up the sai again and Raphael thought for a moment that she was going to toss it from her in disgust. But she only looked at it again, studying it, as if searching for old blood or some hint of the death that been wrought by it.
"And the one…that night?" she asked, looking at him now.
"He's accounted for," Raphael said.
Jaime nodded. She set down the sai. She set down her beer and she stubbed out her cigarette, nodding all the while as though she'd come to some kind of conclusion. She settled herself in her seat—braced herself, actually—and met his eye. "Tell me."
Raphael nodded. "How much do you remember?"
"All of it in pieces," she replied. "But it doesn't matter. I want to hear it from you."
Raphael considered this. "Yeah, okay," he said and then he told her their story.