This fic is rated M for language and violence. If your mom catches you reading a story about Raphael beating up thugs while cursing them out, don't say I didn't warn you.
"Scylla is not mortal; moreover she is savage, extreme, rude, cruel, and invincible."
~Homer, "The Odyssey"
I read this description of a horrible sea-monster, and had to double-check to be sure Homer wasn't talking about our favorite grouchy Turtle. I mean, isn't this how he was described in the original theme song? … Okay, maybe not. But the quote got stuck in my head anyway and several months later I finally figured out something to do with it.
A great deal of credit goes to Backseat Writer, who with enormous talent and patience enlightened me as to where my figuring had gone wrong. This fic is much the better for her intervention.
Finally, just in case you believed otherwise – I don't own Raphael, his brothers, or any other green mutants. I also don't own a single Greek poet. More's the pity.
The light of intelligence went out of his eyes, and he tore through the remaining ninja as though they were rag dolls.
Then he crouched over his youngest brother, his weapons still drawn, and Mike saw all the worst moments of his life flash before his eyes.
The time Raph almost brained him with a pipe. The time Leatherhead got pissed off at his friendly banter, and knocked him out with one blow. The time Don went all monster-y and tried to eat him.
Mike's eyes ticked downwards, towards the blood oozing thickly from below his knee. His eyes ticked up, and he saw that Raph was looking too.
For a moment, he didn't know whether Raph was seeing injured prey, or a brother who needed his help.
Then Raph jammed his sai into his belt, and Mike knew everything was going to be okay.
"Hold on, bro," Raph said, and put his hands on the gaping wound in Mike's leg.
Shell, it hurt.
But he was safe in his brother's hands, and he was going to be okay.
It hurt like a sonofabitch -
- the knife, his leg, blood everywhere -
- as Don pushed the needle through his skin, followed by the slithery feeling of thread in already-wounded flesh -
- but he wouldn't scream, he wouldn't give them that satisfaction -
- and he swore at the top of his voice.
Don paused, letting Raph recover before making the next stitch. "Do you have to be so dramatic?"
"It hurts!" he fumed.
Don sighed, bent forward, and carefully drew the needle through again. "If you didn't run around getting hurt in the first place, I wouldn't have to do this to you in the second place."
Standing and fighting, even though the fire in his thigh threatened to make his leg buckle, and loving every minute, because pain was good, pain was life, pain was how he knew he wasn't dead yet...
Don gave him some balled-up rags to squeeze, so he wouldn't hurt himself from clenching his fists so hard, and he sat there, hating every second as his brother sewed him back together.
"Are you done yet?"
"One more." Slither, pull, pinch, a dab of iodine like boiling acid, and never any satisfaction, never any victory.
Standing over the enemy, hurt badly but the other guy hurt worse, and he was done for the night. Time to limp home, so he could get patched up, so he could heal, gain strength, fight again.
"Okay." A bandage taped securely in place, and he dropped the rags, stomped out of the lab as well as he could with a leg that would barely hold him up.
Time to rest, so he could go out, so he could fight, bleed, heal again.
And again, and again, bouncing back and forth between battle and bedrest, love and hate, weakness and strength.
He lived life at the edges. The middle was only a place he passed through, on his way to another extreme.
Raph listened carefully to Casey's story - of how he used to work as a valet at a fancy restaurant, and how, in scrupulously discharging the duties thereto appertaining, he once parked Wayne Gretzky's car - weighed the evidence, and pronounced his verdict.
"You're fulla shit, Jones."
"Yeah, well, fuck you, turtle-boy," the man returned.
Raph, feeling that no further counterarguments were necessary, simply replied with a rude gesture.
Casey eyed the upraised hand with more condescension than Raph would have liked. "What the hell is that?"
"What do you mean, what the hell is that?" Raph glanced at his hand, then back at the vigilante. "I'm givin' you the finger, jackass!"
Casey shook his head pityingly. "That's not the finger, Swamp-breath. You don't have the finger."
"Gimme a break, Case," Raph said impatiently. "No shit I don't have the finger. But when I do this -" he bobbed his hand, re-emphasizing the gesture "- everyone who's not a retard knows I'm flippin' 'em off."
"In your dopey family, maybe," Casey said. "But do that to anybody else and they're just gonna stare at you."
"Gonna stare at me anyway," Raph grumbled, shoving both hands into the opposite armpit.
"Which is why you gotta give 'em a gesture they'll recognize," Casey said. "Like this." He curled his fingers and flicked them along the underside of his chin.
Raph watched with the same expression Casey had bestowed on him only moments ago. "The hell is that?"
"Just do it, Greenie." Casey repeated the gesture.
Raph copied him, uncertainly, and Casey beamed widely. "There ya go! Now try this -"
By the end of the night, Raph had learned three rude gestures and a number of colorful swear words in Spanish.
"Thanks, amigo," Raph said, before he left.
"De nada, shellback."
He escaped before Casey could make rude gestures all over his face.
He traced the tip of his sai lovingly around the man's eye, enjoying the way the pale, paper-thin skin rippled but didn't tear.
"So," he said, conversationally. "You wanna tell me where my brother is?"
The man spit at him. The glob landed on the tip of his snout, stuck there a moment, then dripped back onto the man's tightly-pressed lips.
"You wanna lose an eye?" Raph growled. "You want to?" He pressed the cold steel of his sai to the outside of the man's eye cavity, where the bone was only millimeters under the skin. "'Cuz I really don't give a shit."
The man swore at him in Japanese.
Raph shifted deliberately, kneeling on the man's crotch. The well-trained ninja stifled a scream, and Raph shifted forward again, bending over his face.
"My humble condolences," he said, in the same tongue, "for the end of your clan."
The man twisted under him, trying to throw him off, but in an instant Raph's sai was back at his throat, pinning him to the ground. "I don't think so," Raph hissed. He reached back, found the ninja's gloved hand, bent a finger almost to the breaking point. Creak. "Where. The hell. Is my brother."
"He is dead."
A thin intake of breath.
"You got nine more, buddy. Where's my brother."
"His body lies at the bottom of the -"
"You freak, you -"
"Seven. You waiting for lift-off, asshole? It ain't coming."
The man kept his mouth closed, and averted his face.
"Look." Raph reversed his sai and knocked the knuckle of it against the man's chin, just hard enough to click his teeth together. "I know all about death-before-dishonor. And we can go that way, if you want. But maybe you oughta think a little bit about what comes before death." He leaned forward, leering into the man's face. "'Cuz I can get real creative."
Stony silence from the unmasked ninja.
Raph shrugged, shifting his grip to the next finger. "Suit yourself. Six more, and then we get to the fun part."
"156 Vesey," the man blurted. "The basement apartment."
Raph nudged the man's Adam's apple with the point of his sai. "You better not be fucking with me."
The man almost shook his head, thought better of it, nearly spoke but realized that would also be a mistake. He told the truth with his eyes.
Raph sheathed his weapon and stood up. "Splint 'em," he said. "You'll be fine in three or four weeks." He moved towards the shadows. "Good choice about the eyes. They don't tend to grow back."
And that, he thought, as he took off towards Tribeca, was why he always left them for last.
"Okay, pal. Gimme your wallet, real slow."
His first reaction was to turn and punch the guy. His second was to laugh, because this poor sap had no idea what a mistake he'd just made.
He didn't do either.
"Chill out, pal," he said, keeping his hands at his sides. "I'm broke."
"I'm not kidding," the punk said, in a voice that tried really hard to sound tough. "I've got a knife."
Raph wasn't afraid of knives. He was afraid of the training, the know-how, that made even an empty hand a deadly weapon.
And this mugger, this kid, didn't have an ounce of it.
He turned around, keeping his head down so the wide brim of his hat covered his face. He could see the glint of the knife, the dancing reflections of streetlamps as the blade trembled in his attacker's hand.
"I'm warnin' you -" the guy started, but Raph just talked over him.
"I ain't got any money," he said. "No credit cards. No watch. The only thing I have -" a grin spread slowly over his face, and he used his thumbs to loudly crack the knuckles of his fingers "- is a big can of whoop-ass, with your name on it."
The guy jerked, and then the knife flashed out, its wicked tip slicing towards his stomach.
"What the hell?" the guy squeaked. He craned his neck, trying to look under Raph's hat. "Who are you? Superman?"
Raph lifted his head, letting the guy see what was above the grin.
"Holy shit!" the guy screamed at him. "You're the freakin' Hulk!"
"Ya read too many comic books, kid." Raph reached out, almost casually, and twisted the guy's arm until he dropped the knife. He caught the hilt of the little dagger between his toes, and flipped it up, catching it in his free hand. "Now," he said. "Let's review. I have a knife, a black belt in ass-beating, and a powerful urge to rearrange your face. You have a choice between stayin' for the festivities, or crawlin' home to yer mom's basement." He switched his grip to the guy's collar, and pulled him in close. "What's it gonna be, pal?"
The guy wet himself.
Raph let him go. He kept the knife.
When he got home, he refused to explain where the weapon had come from, and why he had a tear in his trenchcoat and a nick in his plastron.
6. Merely mortal
He couldn't seem to open his eyes. But it didn't matter.
He knew that voice.
If only he could get his own to respond.
"Stay awake, Raph. Don is coming. You're going to be okay."
A faint wrinkle crossed Raph's brow. What did Leo mean, he was going to be okay? He felt fine.
Just very tired.
It was warm, and Leo's arms were around him, and he was just going to sleep a little...
An insistent tap on his shoulder. "Raph. Don't sleep. Talk to me."
Strange anguish in his brother's voice. Had Leo been having a nightmare? Did he want Raph to stay up with him?
Leo never had nightmares...
"'s okay," Raph murmured. "Nothin's gonna hurt ya..."
Soft droplets on his face. "Thank you," Leo was saying. "Thank you..."
He cracked his eyes open, and it was still dark. He lifted his arm (so heavy), and patted Leo's elbow. "Any time, bro."
"Raph, do you know..."
He couldn't hear the rest. Too tired.
"... I love you."
Yes. He knew. "Love you too... bro..."
He fell asleep.
He didn't wake.