"I'm better than you."

If there was one damn thing Leo could say that felt like a stab wound, that would be it. Raphael recoiled, hid the hurt with a brittle chuckle. It was heaved out, bone deep, fragmenting like broken glass from his lips now curled in that bitter, bitter smirk.

Still chuckling, he circled like a panther, wagging a mocking finger in the distance between them. Leo had retreated to his sliver of the roof top, his eyes narrowed, body rigid with waiting.

The chuckle ended with a gleeful snarl.

"You know something, big brother, I'd have to disagree with you...on that one."

Raphael lowered his head, as he turned to face his older brother, the hatred shadowed by the rain, and the sickening tension that roiled through Leo's gut like the storm.

Leo did not flinch when he heard the slide of metal slicing the silence. Raphael casually drew his sais free from their sheaves. Raphael's eyes were narrowed, and glittering like the points of his sais. Smirking, he unfurled them with a grace of water flowing over stone. The air between them hissed with the blade's edge, as Raphael waved one sai towards his heart in invitation.

Leo only glared at him, eyes hardened from the long years of burden. Of being the noose and the tether and the target. Of being the vessel that all Raphael's rage had spewed into.

Sighing inwardly, Leo knew it was useless to plea for reason, to force Raphael to see the long lost light. The rage he had buried for so long was rapidly fragmenting through his frail defenses with the potency of an erupting volcano.

"Don't do this, Raph." The words were bitten off, and broken, slamming against his clenched teeth in the effort to speak them.

Raphael barely hid the flicker of surprise at hearing the low, feral growl emerging from Leo. The roll of thunder exploded over their heads, but neither brother cast a glance skyward. The tension between them imploded, the shards and the words and the restraint being hurled into oblivion.

. If Leo had taken a step backwards, had looked away, had done anything but look at his brother, and sneered at him.

If Raphael had let go of the unspoken wounds, and constant chafe of being burdened with Leo's infuriating demands and the anguish at his disappearanceā€¦.

But absolution wouldn't come at the blade's edge, and misplaced hatred was now too familiar a defense to surrender.

Raphael heard Leo's soft, smug sigh, as he shook his head. Stepping into the harsh, scarlet glow of the neon sign, he slowly drew his swords. In the red light, they glowed, two lines of bloodied silver. Leo lowered them to fighting stance, and pivoted, waiting.

Raphael drew his sais, shifted his weight, and after seeing Leo's mocking smile, charged. Leo halted, one second behind. Then, he shot forward, the long blades sliding sparks over the rooftop.

They struck each other full force, the vicious clang of katana and sai rippling through the air, as they both leapt, rose, and collided.

There was the savage dance of blade against blade, brother against brother, as Raphael stabbed, and Leo dodged. A grunt when Leo drew blood, and a hiss of breath when Raphael struck out with his sai. They both lighted the ground, the katana blade trapped by the sai's prong as Raphael sneered, and twisted his wrist.

Leo growled, and broke free with the hammering blow to Raphael's plastron. Raphael staggered from the nearly blinding pain, as he drew back, heaving. The brutal exchange had flung them apart, and both were left with nothing but the rain, the rage, and the ending.

Choking for air, they both faced each other. The blood dribbling down their wounds was the same. Leo stared hard at Raphael's face, twisted into the feral loathing. Leo recoiled at his own face, mirrored and drippling from the dull gleam of the katana's reflection. They looked the same.

Leo's sharp breathing was truncated by the bright flicker of crossed swords, as he arched them high, slicing the sky, slicing Raphael's skin as he brought them crashing back to earth. The skin on his shoulder, inches from his neck, neatly parted at the katana's touch. The cut stung from the dribbling rain, and Raphael glanced at it, numbly. The scarlet line slithered over his leathered sleeve, as if weeping.

Leo's eyes slid from the wound he had just inflicted to the dripping red off his katana, and his face twisted in horror. Eyes widening in tortured realization, he raised one hand in placation, and stepped backwards in retreat.

"Raph-" It was whispered like an invocation, and lost to Raphael, as the blood surged through his veins and the roar of sensations and restraint collapsed inward until there was nothing left but the rage.

He flicked his wrists and the sais danced between his fingers like flame as he twirled them towards his brother. There was the low, thunderous roar that burbled from his lips and spilled like a tidal wave as he leapt.

His flight was severed by both the metallic clang of metal, and the flash of Leo's katanas. The long blades had laced themselves between the prongs, and Raphael could not yank them away without losing a finger, or worse.

. Leo heaved all his weight on the shaking grip of the katanas. Raphael's shoulders flared with pain at the sudden, sharp plummet. The fiery ache lodged in his sockets told him that he could dislocate them. Leo noted the tremble in Raph's arms that now grew to unmistakable quaking.

They were inches apart, so close that Raph can see the rain weaving its shining trails over Leo's drenched mask. So close that he can feel the snarl, inches from his face, see the burning eyes, and the twisted mouth. So close that if he could work one sai free, he could plunge it hilt deep into Leo's plastron, and end this hell they've found themselves in.

Leo's trembling grip slackened, and tightened, as he lowered his head under the terrible strain. His fingers were white at the knuckles. It was achingly slow, but unmistakable, as the katanas were forced downward, inch by tortured inch.

Raphael snarled, and lurched forward. The sais scraped upward in a long, graceful arc, rising from the darkness like arrows. A twist, a clang, and Leo felt his weapons being severed like his bones were being broken.

Raphael's eyes shot open, glimmering in the dark, as the severed swords clatter to the earth at Leo's feet. Leo stared at the empty space where his swords were, bewildered at just holding the handles.

There was only the soft caress of wind, the sound of Raphael's grunt, and then, he fell on Leo, like an avalanche. The blows became one long moment of agony, as Leo crumbled to the pavement, beaten, broken, bloodied.

A metallic flash, as the sai nearly impaled him, and excruciating ache as Raphael plummeted from the sky, and slammed into Leo's plastron.

Raphael rose like a condemning god above him, his shaking hand gripping the sai inches from Leo's heaving, sweated throat.

The other sai glittered dully, curled back against Raph's side, as he only stared down at Leo.

Leo was still sprawled and hurting, but he only gave the sai a scathing glance, as he lifted his chin, as in gave him a brittle smirk, bordering on shattering.

Later, Raphael would look back on the memories, and console himself that it was nothing more than self-defense, instinct,or even irritation, when he had to fight the urge to slit that smugly offered throat. The sai's point glittered between them like a fallen star.

Leo stared up at Raphael, waiting for the killing blow. There was no betraying flicker of fear, there was no imploring of a brother to a brother. No, this was the bitter acceptance of fate at the hands of an enemy.

Raphael's gut clenched, numbly, as he looked at the weapon he held only inches from Leo's throat, and the hellish realization that Leo was only waiting for him to slit his throat, to be stabbed, to be severed, and slain.

The rage flickered across his thoughts, squelched out of existence by the horror of it all. Raphael stared deep into the obsidian eyes, glimmering with accusation, and then confusion. Leo's brow crinkled into a sharp line, as Raphael lowered the sai, almost gently.

The rage contorted into wilted anguish, as Raphael stared down at Leo, in tears. The sais suddenly burned against his palms, and for one moment, he considered hurling himself with his weapons over into the abyss of rain and darkness at the ledge.

Leo saw nothing more but the tortured last glance, the hitching breath, and the frantic retreat as Raphael only shook his head, weeping, and fled.