Spoilers: This is a missing scene for the episode Same As It Never Was.
Author's Note: Leo and Raphael showed up, and then they immediately went off to fight the Shredder. Obviously there's only so much that can happen in a thirty-minute episode, but there's gotta be something in the middle there. Maybe it went something like this.
Rating: PG for minor language and mention of injuries.
More Now Than Yesterday
It had been years since anyone could sneak up on Raph, but Leonardo got closer than anyone else ever could.
Raphael didn't hear his brother approach so much as he just knew Leo was there when moments ago he hadn't been. Thirty years of guilt, grief and fury thrummed between them and when Leo was close it was as if Raph could feel their history plucking at his skin.
Leonardo stopped a few feet away, leaving a safe and comfortable distance between them. Close enough that Raphael couldn't ignore him, far enough away that Raphael wouldn't move away just to spite him. "Do you understand a word they're saying?"
It wasn't the opening gambit Raphael had been expecting, so he had no prepared answer, no flippant reply. "No," he admitted, surprised into honesty. Leo had always been able to do that to him.
Donatello could do it to him as well, Raphael remembered, but in Donnie's case he had expected the unexpected. Somehow, all these years, he'd never learned to expect it from Leo.
And speaking of things unexpected, Raphael watched Donatello and April with their heads close together, bent over maps and blueprints and sketches of things Raph didn't recognize, of places he had never been. April had lived a lot of years on her own after Donatello vanished, after Casey died, after Raph and Leo left and she had become someone he didn't always recognize anymore.
Not completely alone, Raphael corrected himself. Angel had stayed. Michelangelo had stayed. And if the three of them had been no match for the might of Shredder's army, then at least they had tried.
"Some kinda weapon," he said. It was an educated guess, based half on gut feeling and half on the fact that he very distinctly heard Donatello talking about automatic weapons earlier. "April's got some kind of plan, I guess."
It was mostly Donatello's plan, wrapped up in a bit of April's knowledge of the area and Shredder's operations. April had a way for them to get close to Shredder – everything after that was going to be up to Donatello and the three of them.
Leonardo didn't say anything, just stood at Raphael's side with his arms crossed over his chest and watched Donatello and April as they rifled through papers, scrawled designs and equations on the walls and bickered back and forth over pressure points and the melting point of steel.
Well, not watching – Leo didn't watch anyone anymore, but sometimes it was still easy to forget. Leonardo always seemed to know what was going on around him, it was almost easy to forget he didn't wear sunglasses in the dark because he was a trend-setter.
Part of Raphael, the part that still felt grief more keenly than he'd ever admit, wondered if Leo was just like that with them – if he was more vulnerable out in the world with men and women who weren't his family, with strangers watching his back. But they weren't strangers to Leo. And Raph would be the first to admit that he hadn't done much of a job watching Leo's back in more than twenty-five years.
Raphael risked a sideways glance. Leo looked good, he looked strong as ever. The scars around his eyes were still visible, a paler green than his normal skin tone, but just a little faded since Raphael had last seen them.
"You look good," Raphael said, before he could catch himself.
Leonardo didn't catch himself either, turning to stare at Raph – a reflex that seventeen years of blindness had never erased. Raph bit his tongue under the imagined weight of a non-existent gaze and remembered how when they were younger he could read Leo's every thought in the way his older brother would look at him.
He remembered the days after Splinter's death, the second of what would become to damn many deaths piling up around them. He remembered the way Leo would watch him, tired and worried – about Raph. Worried that Raph would run off and do something stupid, worried Raph would get careless in a fight, but worried, mostly, that Raph would always blame him.
Middle-child syndrome, Donatello had once said, the way Raphael was always so damned intent on doing exactly what Leo didn't want him to do.
Thirty years ago, Raphael had felt the weight of Leo's gaze on him and hated him for a hundred things but mostly Raph had hated Leo for failing Splinter, for failing Donnie. Raphael had hated Leo for not being better than Raphael. He had felt Leo's worried looks like salt in a festering wound and refused to even look at his older brother, the person he'd once been willing to follow to his death.
Now all that he had were the reflective lenses of a pair of sunglasses and Raph wasn't so good at figuring Leo out anymore.
"I'd say the same," Leo finally replied, his voice dry, a hint of humor buried beneath the sarcasm. "But."
"The shades are styling." Raphael bit his lip, swallowed a grin, knew Leo would hear it anyway. "Aren't those the ones Fox Mulder used to wear?"
"I have no idea. I have it on good authority that Richard Dean Anderson wore them on Stargate, though."
"Bro," Raphael said earnestly. "Somebody lied to you."
Leo chuckled. It was quiet, easy. A flash of white teeth and his crossed arms bounced lightly on his chest. "Yeah, I always kinda figured."
Across the room, Mikey had joined in the planning session, pointing to something on one of April's maps and Donatello was watching with thoughtful eyes. Seeing the two of them side by side made Raphael's chest hurt. "April didn't tell me why she needed me here."
"I figured. I could hear it in your voice. That couldn't be faked."
April hadn't told him much of anything actually, and Raphael couldn't fault her for it. All she had sent was a message: Mikey needs you. You'd better hurry. He'd made it to New York from Phoenix in less than three days, risking capture, skirting safe zones and forgoing sleep, horror like bile in the back of his throat because the only thing he could think was that Mikey was dying, that he was losing the only little brother he had left.
When April had met him with crossed arms and a knowing smirk, he'd been so relieved he'd almost forgotten to be fucking furious. And then she'd sent him off somewhere to meet Mikey and the only one there had been Leo.
"Our little brother is a devious little shit," Raphael said and Leo nodded in solemn agreement.
Mikey looked… good would be a stretch. Raphael still wasn't used to the scars that criss-crossed Mikey's left leg or the gouges across the back of his shell, more injuries left from the explosion that had cost Mike his arm.
"You know," Raph's throat was tight but he pushed the words out anyway, "I've seen Mikey a coupla times a year since the explosion and I still get sick every time."
The silence sat between them for a long moment, heavy and still. "Since I lost my sight," Leonardo said quietly, "there have only been two times I was glad I couldn't see. When they told me what happened to Mike was one of them."
"And the other?"
Leo turned to face him again. "When I heard what Karai had done to you."
"I got off easy." Raphael had never said it out loud before, but he'd always sort of believed it, even in the first couple of weeks when the darkness to his left felt like it was pressing in on him. "I coulda lost a lot more." He ran his tongue over his teeth and admitted, "I still could."
Leo turned his head, facing the far side of the room, where Mikey and April and the impossible all worked together. "More now than yesterday, yeah?"
"Yeah." The word stuck in his throat. "Leo. He's not ours."
It almost hurt to admit out loud, despite the fact that he'd been thinking it since the initial shock wore off the night before. "He's not – he's missing scars he ought to have. He talks about people I don't remember meeting."
"I asked him the date," Leonardo confessed quietly. "He left his world and his brothers some months after our brother was lost to us."
So he really wasn't theirs. It was sick and strange, but Raph could feel the loss of this last chance like a fist to the gut. "I wanted him to be."
Leonardo didn't scold him for the weakness, or point out how illogical it would be for this stranger to magically be their lost brother. He only nodded and said, "So did I."
"We're gonna do this anyway, though. Yeah?"
Because he isn't theirs. He isn't their brother returned to them, but he is Donatello and that might just be enough.
"We're all gonna die tomorrow," Raphael sighed and slumped back against the wall. "And even if we beat him – it'll take years, maybe decades for the rest of the world to recover. Assuming someone just as bad doesn't step in and take over."
Leo nodded. "That's all true. Except the dying part."
Raphael laughed, a short, sharp breath of air, amused and rueful all at once. "I'm glad Mikey's such a sneaky little bastard."
Leo grinned. "Me too."
"Guys!" Donatello called to them across the room, one arm raised to beckon them closer, and for a moment he was a memory and a vision of the future all at once. "I think we've got it. This is our plan to beat the Shredder."
Raphael pushed off from the wall. "We're still all gonna die tomorrow."
"Oh, stop it."