Chapter 1: Night of the Dragon
The late night moon had beckoned him here, to the city's high rise sky where everything was fair, everything was quiet, and for just one moment, all his problems disappeared. The chill November air stung him deeply as he ran, leaping across the gaping caverns to land silently on the next rooftop, ignoring the icy fingers that reached for him in every breath.
But no, he couldn't stop. He had to run, to get out of there, to breathe. The burning in his muscles numbed the anger that pounded in his brain, the icy wind chilled the raging fires coursing through his veins, and whatever Leo had said to him, whatever they had fought about, was forgotten now.
He clenched his teeth and leapt up off a rooftop ledge landing smoothly onto the next, never breaking the pattern, the rhythm of movements he knew so well. His blood boiled with the frustration that consumed him, the pulsing, silent thrum of his heart that whispered blackened truths into the night.
Leo wouldn't let him forget. As soon as he walked through that door, it would start all over again. He would make some snide remark about him being a hothead or a child for storming off like that, and he wouldn't be able to stop himself from ripping him a new one.
"Damn it!" he cursed aloud to no one when he stopped to catch his breath, one arm bracing him against a crumbling brick wall. His mind was screaming for more, but his body just couldn't take it. He'd been running for hours, and pretty soon, he would have to go back home and face him. Maybe Splinter would force him to apologize. The very thought made him cringe. He could already see the smug-ass expression spreading across Leo's face as he stumbled over half-hearted words. That was his Hell on Earth.
But what's the difference? He thought, still gulping deep, huffing breaths of icy November air, my life is fucking Hell on Earth anyway.
The adrenaline was pounding through his brain again, his heart racing in his chest. The rage was building, and pretty soon, he wouldn't be able to control it.
"Fuck you, Leo!" he roared over the rooftops into the polluted sickly orange of the New York City sky. His curse rang through the narrow alleyways and down into the streets, but Raph didn't give a flying fuck who heard him, he didn't care if he was seen. He had to find a way to get rid of the pressure building up inside his chest before it destroyed him from the inside out.
As if on queue, the heavens opened and released an icy downpour down onto the world below, sleet coating everything that lay within its path. Raphael grit his teeth and could see his breath escaping him in mad huffs into the moonlit air.
With another mad howl of rage, he clenched his fist and buried it deep into the crumbling brick. His knuckles didn't even care about the pain singing through them now. He focused only on the release. To hurt, to break, to injure something other than himself was an overpowering relief. His chest heaved with the rush, the power, the satisfaction.
Tonight was definitely a skull bashing kind of night.
He pushed off the wall and was running again, leaping, landing, jumping across the rooftops in a sequence he could do blindly. Casey's apartment was only a block away.
In a matter of minutes, he was swinging himself down from the ice-caked wrought iron fire escape and tapping lightly on his window pane. The whole apartment was dark, and nobody answered.
With a deep sigh, Raph made a fist with his good hand and rapped loudly on the window. With all the adrenaline singing through his veins, he was lucky he didn't break straight through the glass.
When no one answered again, Raph rolled his eyes and pressed his palms against the window pane, sliding it upward and letting himself in.
"Case? You here?" he whispered gruffly, looking around in the dark for any sign of life. Of course, there was probably all sorts of life living in the layer of crap that covered his apartment. Raph shuddered at the tingling sensation of imaginary insects crawling on his skin and pushed the thought from his mind. He was only interested in the bigger, more apish type of life that lived there amongst the garbage. He could hear snores pouring out from the other side of Casey's wooden bedroom door and let an evil grin passed over his lips.
Time for a wakeup call.
Taking a few steps backward, he charged headlong for the door and leapt up into a graceless flying kick, busting the door down with enough noise to wake up the entire state of New Jersey.
But standing in the doorway, Raph frowned when he saw the lump that was his friend only groan and stir beneath the bed sheets.
"Casey, you cocksucking bastard, wake up!" he yelled hoarsely at the top of his lungs, but Casey only rolled over to his other side.
In one final attempt to wake the dead, Raph grabbed a protruding ankle and dragged his friend off the bed with an unceremonious thump onto the hardwood floor. With that, Casey flinched awake, eyes wild with confusion as he tried to figure out just how he had ended up on the floor.
"You awake?" Raph grunted, arms crossed over his plastron, causing the man to blink and squint into the dark to see the thing that had treated him to such a rude awakening.
"God damn it Raph!" he cursed, glancing upward to the clock on his nightstand. "You got any idea what time it is?"
"Time ta bash Purple Dragon skull" he retorted sharply without a trace of remorse for his groggy human friend, turning for the door that was now hanging by its hinges. "Let's go."
"It's fucking three in the morning!" Casey whined, struggling to untwist himself from the heap of bed sheets that had made the free fall down onto the floor with him and managed to stand clumsily.
"Yeah, whatever, Case, just… let's go. I caught wind that the Dragons got a huge shipment of coke comin' in off the harbor tonight."
"Doesn't Splinter make you guys wake up at like, six in tha morning?" Casey yawned sleepily, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palms.
At that, Raph turned on his heel and shot Casey a glare. "Since when are you sucha prude?" he seethed.
Casey rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "Well, uh, Leo called me an' he said ta have you back before midnight if we go out 'cause you haven't been makin' it ta practice and…"
He cut himself short when he saw the seething, venomous glare Raph was throwing in his direction, both hands clenched into tight fists.
"You been fightin' with Leo again, haven't ya" he said lowly.
Raphael's glare only deepened. "Oh fuck off, Casey. What are you, my therapist?"
Casey was looking more nervous than ever and didn't say a thing, and Raph took that as his queue to leave.
"You comin' or what?" he said angrily over his shoulder, turning out the door.
"You know what" he glared, walking towards the open window and refusing to wait for a response "screw you. I'm goin' and I don't care what you or that fuckin' prick says."
When he disappeared from the doorway, Casey took a step forward. "Raph… wait."
Raphael ducked back in the doorway, hot rage still lingering on his face.
"I'm comin' with you."
"Now was that so hard?" Raph said, grinning wryly in the doorway. He leaned down and picked up a pile of clothes from a heap on the floor, throwing them at his friend. "And nice boxers, by the way, flamingos really are your thing."
In the dark, Raph didn't have to see to know his friend was blushing. He chuckled a little under his breath and disappeared behind the door once again.
"Just hurry up" he grinned "I ain't gunna wait for you ta pretty yourself up."
"I'm goin', I'm goin'" Casey mumbled, stumbling through the bedroom door in the middle of pulling his sweatshirt on. "You must be really miffed at ya bro ta be this ticked off. I ain't seen you this steamed in a while."
"Yeah, well, Leo's got that effect on people" Raph said lowly, twirling one sai in his hand and examining its dagger point in the moonlight, waiting for Casey to take up his mask and golf bag stashed in a corner of his living room.
Slugging it over his shoulder, the man gave his friend an odd look.
"What were ya guys fightin' about anyways?"
Still clutching the sai, Raph shifted his eyes from its grisly point to the man that stood before him, grinning wryly.
"He said he don't want me stormin' outta the Lair, meetin' up with you an' 'puttin' myself in danger. Says the way I fight is dishonorable. So I said fuck him an' stormed outta there."
"An' met up with me" Casey added.
"An' now all we gotta do is find us some danger" Raph grinned, nearly giddy off the intoxication of rebellion. He pushed open the window and lifted himself out, waiting for Casey to do the same.
"Damn, Raph, ya didn't say it was fucking ten degrees and rainin' out here" Casey complained, hugging himself and shivering against the soaking cold.
"Ah, don't be sucha princess" Raph grunted, flipping up the fire escape and leaping onto a nearby roof. "Ya get used ta it after a couple a hours."
Casey snorted in disbelief, but whether that disbelief was directed toward Raph, or to himself for actually being dumb enough to follow Raph, he had no clue.
It took nearly twenty minutes to get down to the docks where Raph had caught wind of the drug rush going down that night. When the vigilante duo arrived, they could see a new boat had moored in the polluted harbor, surrounded by at least two dozen tattooed goons unloading plastic-wrapped boxes of coke that were by no means filled with soft drinks.
"When're these freaks ever gunna get the message?" Casey said angrily, perched on a rooftop beside Raphael with a bird's eye view of the night's activities.
"Ah, I dunno. Don't think they'll ever learn" Raph said dryly, shaking his head in disgust, but then quickly remembering his anger. He withdrew his sai and cracked a vicious grin. "But if they learned, then we'd got nobody to bash in every night of tha week."
"You're right, Raphie boy" Casey grinned, selecting a hockey stick from his collection of 'weapons' and pushing down his mask. "Let's go kick some ass."
With that, the pair leapt off their rooftop perch and dropped down into the thick of a swarm of Purple Dragon goons, standing slack-jawed and frozen with their feet rooted to crumbling concrete.
"Hey look!" came one startled cry "it's the freak and the psycho with the hockey mask" one moaned from a distance, someplace shadowed and undecernable where each goon seemed to blend into one.
Raph wished he knew which one of those idiots had said it. He grit his teeth and bared them like a savage animal, brandishing the dagger points of his sai in the moonlight. There was only one thing he hated more than when Leo acted like a dumbass… being called a freak.
"Careful who you're callin' freak" he seethed, a spark of coursing fire flickering behind darkened brown eyes as he glanced from one thug to the next, counting, taking it in, relishing the sweetness of justice yet to be done. The men lugging boxes had hence abandoned their burdens to the cool, sleet-covered ground, brandishing weapons of cutting blades and smiley chains, slicing though the frozen air.
The sleet came down in sheets now, pounding deafeningly against the ground and shoulders, covering all with blanketing icy chill, an impenetrable coldness that could never staunch the hellish fire raging in his eyes.
Tonight, the world burned for him.
And three words rang out into the night, calling over nature's frozen tears.
"Get 'em boys!"
And as if in a rush of a great tidal wave, they were upon them, swinging cutting blades and clumsy punches that would never even threaten contact as they both feigned and weaved expertly as if two blended into one. Casey swung his hockey stick, a long and sweeping arc that took many off guard, cutting their feet from beneath, causing its targets to crumple into a heap on the ground.
Raphael turned the blades of his sai inward in his hand, doling crushing blows of punches, accented with his weapon's pommel.
Many were injured, many lay bleeding upon that icy ground.
And it was then that Raph saw him… a rough-looking thug with a nose ring, swinging his smiley chain in violent arcs in his direction. Few of his brethren lay standing. Casey dealt with the rest. But this, this punk… he had hunger in his eyes. But behind the hunger burned a fearsome, defiant courage, something Raphael- the freak- could recognize, relate. If their circumstances had been different, they would have shared a common thread, a spark of understanding.
But now, they stood, two young souls weathered by the cruelty of an unjust and violent world, facing each other as enemies by that polluted harbor's edge, far from any shred of acknowledgement, forever turning the tides of perpetual motion, furthering the darkness of the world.
Before the kid could strike, Raph had his sai turned within his hands, those imposing blades flickering pristine steel in the failing moonlight tinged with hail. He caught the heavy chains between the tines and wrapped them tight around his arm, drawing the kid closer, facing him for that brief moment, dark fires burning behind hate-ridden eyes.
Raph almost hoped he was the one, the one to udder that disgusting word-freak- and make him suffer for his wicked tongue, his violent disrespect of this warrior, this creature that had him so mercilessly struggling in his grips. The mixture of disgust and fear, the sheer repulsion lingering there behind his eyes told Raph that even if he wasn't the one who had spoken, he had been thinking it all along.
The putrid, disgusting freak.
In that flash of a moment, that flicker of connected glances, it all turned to dust before Raph's very eyes. Because that look of fear in the kid's eyes changed instantly into something devious, a vicious sideways smile that knew nothing but wrong.
Before Raph could stop him, there was a knife, the chains abandoned, slicing through the air. Raph's sai clattered onto the ground beneath the weight of the abandoned chains mixed with surprise and panic, that cutting blade glittering in the eerie darkness.
The gash carved hotly across his arm before he could stop him, a stream of blood trickling warm across his flesh, licking at it like the fire that burned within.
What happened next, was just a blur, a flutter of movement, strength, blood spattering on concrete walls, an addition to the latest graffiti until he lost himself in the stark beauty of it all, until the first rays of sun crept over the horizon.
Between Raph and Casey, they could have made short work of twenty four Dragons, but instead drew their battle out to almost unnecessary proportions, relishing every kick, punch, and broken bone they delivered into the endless sea of the criminal world until every body lay silent and unmoving, or else paralyzed by pain on that cold November ground.
And somewhere there behind him on the wall, a burst of crimson trailed downward into a vein of life now spattered across the open ground. A body lay in a heap and twist of limbs, more silent than the others.
He was dead.
He didn't have to check to know he was dead.
And he hadn't even retrieved his weapons. He had killed a man, felt his neck snap, beneath his own bare hands.
But he refused to know that now. He was focused on the task at hand, unloading endless glittering cascades of poison into the harbor below, watching as it mingle like blood on the concrete, blood mingling with the sleet, as it was swallowed into murky waters, never to be seen again.
One hundred pounds of crack cocaine were taken off the streets that night. And with that swirling powder swallowed by the sea, countless children would never have their lives ruined by dealers, families would never be torn apart, so many people, innumerable and forgotten, would never be killed for no reason. Because of what they did every night, thousands of lives were being saved. And for just one night, the world seemed to be a little more just. Sure it was rash, sure they enjoyed it a little more than they should, but it was all in the name of achieving the greater good.
A dent in the endless plated armor, a ripple in a blood-soaked sea, it would ultimately never make a difference.
But to all those that it touched, even the slightest nick mattered. To him, it mattered.
And if Leo could find no honor in that, he would still choose dishonor every time.