Summary:The title pretty much says it all. ;) As always, c&c is always welcome. This was dedicated to amaronith.
The Secret Language of Raph
The Top Five Ways Raph Secretly Shows He Loves His Brothers (even when they're being assholes coughLEOcough)
Donatello would be the first to admit that he was the weak link in a combat situation. He wasn't the super-ninja Leo was, or the natural athlete that Mikey was, and he certainly wasn't the born warrior that Raphael was. Sometimes, Don thought that Raph would have been better off in another time and place, like ancient Greece, when warriors were a different breed from soldiers and a man's ability to stand against his enemies in combat was more important than almost anything else. Realistically, of course, the ancient Greeks probably wouldn't have been any happier about giant turtles than modern New Yorkers, but, Donatello muses, maybe they could have pretended to be minor deities of some sort. Water gods. Pond gods. Lord of the Turtles, he thinks.
The realization that he's ruminating in the middle of a fight comes to him at the same time as the sound of a blade cutting through the air and he snaps to attention just in time for the Foot soldier's sword to clash heavily against a sai less than an inch from Donatello's face.
He spins to the left and takes out the Foot ninja with a well-placed kick to the head, but he'd have been in trouble without the intervention.
"Watch your back," Raph says harshly. "I ain't got time to watch it for you."
Raph says that, but the times he's thrown himself between Donnie and a Foot soldier (or, you know, an alien gladiator, an Utrom energy beam, a Triceraton laser blaster) are numerous enough to give lie to the statement. Donatello gives his brother a grin. "Thanks, Raph."
When Michelangelo was little, he was terrified of alligators. Well, alligators, crocodiles, rats (the normal ones, that was), dogs, sharks and basically anything with teeth. Most of that was Leo and Raph's fault (mostly Raph's) because after they ran into that albino croc in the sewers, Raph recounted the story in terrifying, vivid and largely exaggerated detail. If one monster was out there, Mikey figured, then there could easily be hundred or even millions and what if they snuck up and tried to eat him?
It was kind of funny at first and Raph remembers spending days pointing out every strange sound and trick of the light until even Leo and Donnie were getting spooked. It wasn't until Splinter offered to take them topside one night so they could watch the fireworks at Central Park, that he realized he may have crossed a line.
Central Park was a big, big no-no for them. Too many people to see them, too many muggers and thieves to hurt them and too many twisty paths and places that a little kid could get lost. Splinter expressly forbade them going topside and on the rare occasions he let one of them accompany him (he wouldn't start taking them up regularly till their tenth birthdays and it wasn't till several years later he'd let them go up in pairs without him), it was only to gather food or supplies. He almost never took them all up with him because he couldn't keep an eye on them all at once and look out for humans. So the chance to all go topside together was almost as big a treat as the promise of fireworks, which they'd only ever seen on TV (and once sort of in real life when Donnie blew up the chemistry set Master Splinter had found for him). But the surprise had gone over less enthusiastically than planned when Michelangelo burst into tears and started shaking his head frantically.
"The monsters!" he'd cried. "Master, the monsters!"
It had taken Splinter a long time to calm him down and even then Mikey refused, flat out refused, to go topside. Leo and Donnie had exchanged an agonized glance because there was no way Mikey would be allowed to stay down there alone and that meant that at least one of them was going to miss out.
"I'll stay with Mikey, Master Splinter." Raph had said the words before he thought about it, but the look his father gave him made him glad he had. "We can watch the fireworks on the news until you guys get back. It might kinda be my fault he's scared anyway."
Donnie made a face at him at that point, but didn't say anything, and Master Splinter nodded approvingly.
Leo and Donnie got to see the fireworks that night for the first time, and Raph didn't even feel bad about missing out. Donnie came back thrilled to death, talking about gunpowder and pyrokinetics and synchronization and bouncing up and down in excitement. Raph and Mikey spent the night making a pillow fort and drawing out plans for how they could defend the lair from sewer monsters. Raph figured he got the better end of the deal.
He and his brothers had been trained to be nearly silent in everything they did – not that you could prove it by the way Mikey banged his way through the world with the volume set on high – but they'd also been trained to sense the world around them, even in their sleep.
This basically meant that Raph was usually aware of the movements of his brothers throughout the night. It didn't always wake him; his subconscious filtered out familiar things and things that weren't a risk, like the sound of Mikey fumbling around in the kitchen or someone heading for the bathroom. He'd learned, especially over the last year or so, to filter out the quiet sounds of glass vials clinking against one another and keyboard keys clicking while Donnie typed or the scent of incense while Leo meditated in the next room. Master Splinter was the only one who managed to consistently wander around without Raph noticing, but he figured he had a long way to go before he was on Sensei's level.
Some things caught his attention enough to pull him awake, even when he knew what they were. The sound of someone falling, the sound of someone practicing in the dojo, the sound of one of his brother's shell cells beeping in the middle of the night. And, no matter how quiet Donnie was, Raph always woke up when he heard his little brother heading up to the surface in the middle of the night.
It wasn't forbidden, not anymore. Splinter had somewhat reluctantly given them the freedom to come and go as they pleased, though he vastly preferred them to only venture topside in pairs, for protection.
Donnie's not the risk taker Raph or even Mikey is, but he gets ideas in his head sometimes and can't get them out. Plans to improve the van or the shell cycles, an idea how to improve the lighting in the lair or ways to turn Mikey's Playstation II into a trans-dimensional portal (he actually hadn't done that yet, but Raph figured it was a matter of time).
He rolls out of bed with a sigh and yawns through his fist as he grabs his belt and bandana, forgoing the rest. He grabs his sais and slides them into his belt as he drops over the edge of the loft and down into the main room of the lair.
Donatello's got his bag o'tricks slung over one shoulder and his bo at his back. "Raph," he acknowledges quietly. "I'm just heading up to the warehouse."
Raph grunts eloquently and holds up one finger as he walks toward the kitchen, scratching his neck. He grabs the first thing he finds – a bag of chips and a couple cans of soda – and wanders back, only a little surprised that Donnie actually waited for him.
The first dozen times, Raph had gone along to watch his brother's back. They weren't used to being alone, the four of them, always in each other's space. It drove him crazy, a little, but it also made his skin itch when one of his brothers was too long out of his sight and too far out of his reach. It was especially bad with Donnie, who had a bad habit of paying too much attention to what was going on in his head and not enough attention to what was going on behind him.
After a while, Raph had also started coming along because he wanted to. Casey had once asked him what he and Don had to talk about and Raph hadn't been able to tell him, but that didn't mean they didn't get along all right. Raph didn't always understand Donnie, but he almost never understood Mikey and that didn't mean anything.
And anyway, when Donnie headed topside that meant he was working on the van, or the bikes, or the weapons, and Raph kind of liked helping out. Sometimes he couldn't do much more than hand his brother whatever tools he needed, but a lot of the time, especially when Donnie was working on the bikes, Raph could get in there and get his hands dirty. Engines were one of the few things he and Donnie both liked to play with and it was kind of nice to be able to talk to his genius baby brother on the same terms every now and then.
Leo is, to Raph's eternal and immense aggravation, the boss of them in all things ninja-related. It's part Master Splinter's doing, but mostly it's just natural for Leo to be the one taking care of them. He's done it his whole life, after all, over stupid little things like bedtimes and scraped knees, so why shouldn't he take care of them when the stakes were higher and the risks more intense?
Raph didn't like it when he was little and it still kind of rubs him the wrong way now that he's older, but he likes to think he's a smarter guy than he was when he was ten, and he knows that being in charge isn't a whole lot of fun. Especially when being in charge means trying to herd Mikey's spastic energy, Donatello's insatiable curiosity and Raph's pig-headed temper all at once, single-handedly and usually in the middle of some kind of disaster.
It's fun to watch sometimes, when things aren't a matter of life and death. Fun to watch Mike and Donnie run roughshod over Leo till he's nursing a headache, fun to join in on Mike's crazy super-hero schemes or let himself get pulled along with Donnie's ill-considered plan to install smoke-bombs around the perimeter of the lair without warning anyone. Even more fun to grab Casey and hit every pool hall in town, knowing that Leo will be banging his head against the wall back at the lair.
Time was when Raph resented every word of caution or concern Leo ever expressed, convinced that Leo was trying to exert control over him, trying to bring Raph down. It took almost losing Leo for Raph to begin to understand.
If it had been one of them, gone so long without word, Leo would have come after them – or at least tried to raise them on their shell cells, early morning training run notwithstanding. And if it had been Raph out there, he thinks, maybe things would have been different, because Leo would have known that something was up. But they hadn't worried and they hadn't checked in and Leo had been more than half dead by the time they knew anything had happened.
So Raph returns the favor. Just a little. If Leo's out topside for a while, Raph will make a point of calling him on the shell cell. Me and Case are heading out. You want we should bust any heads in particular, bro? Or Mikey's getting Chinese. You want lo-mein or what? Sometimes the conversations are a little more fun, like the time Donnie had done something that made the entire place and everyone in it smell like rotten eggs and Raph had called up Leo at April's and asked him to pick up some air freshener on his way home. "And migraine pills," he'd said, ignoring Leo's attempts to find out what had happened. "Master Splinter's getting that look again."
Watching out for the three of them is a full time job and Raph doesn't envy Leo it even a little bit. The least he can do is take up the slack and make sure there's someone watching Leo's back.
April's frowning at him a little, like she isn't sure what to say or even if she should say anything at all, but really wants to. Don takes pity finally and says "Something the matter, April?"
"No," she says quickly. "It's just – Raphael and Michelangelo sure do seem to fight a lot."
Leo starts laughing into his soda, nearly spitting cola over her sofa, and she glances at him sideways, aware that maybe she's said something rude. She's still not used to them, after all, and Don figures that the normal rules of etiquette probably don't cover mutant ninjas.
"That's nothing," his older brother says sourly. "You want to see arguing? Cause I can show you Raph arguing."
"No thanks," April says warily. "I'm not trying to be rude. It just seems like they don't get along very well. They're always bickering and Raph's kind of… well, he puts Mikey down a lot."
It's true, sort of. Donatello shrugs and reluctantly pulls his eyes away from April's computer. He can hear Mike and Raph fooling around in April's shop, the occasional thump and indignant shout indicating that the argument is still going full-force. To an outsider, Don admits, it probably looks kind of violent.
"Raph's a smart ass," he says, forgoing eloquence in favor of simplicity. "Really, he won't say anything if he can't say it sarcastically." He quirks an eyebrow as there's a crash and a startled shriek from downstairs and adds, "They're not really fighting, you know."
"Sounds like a fight to me," April says.
Donatello tips his head to the side. "How hard do you think you'd have to hit me to hurt me?"
April blinks at him in surprise. "With or without a baseball bat?" she asks and Leo laughs.
"That's my point," Don says. "Yeah, you see them wrestling and brawling, but that's all it is. We're ninjas, and we mostly trained against each other our entire lives. I know exactly how much Leo can take in a fight, April. And Raph knows exactly where Mikey's limits are."
"Human kids play tag," Leonardo offers from his place on April's couch. "We spar."
"You're telling me that Raphael smacking Mikey upside the head is his way of playing?" April sounds skeptical.
Donatello shrugs. "Well, most of the time. Sometimes, Mikey just really needs a good smack upside the head."
c&c always appreciated!