The years had lurched on, heedless of the memories, or the cost to either of them now. Raphael allowed the bitter smirk as Karai warily eyed him for a moment, before lowering herself into the obligatory bow.
He winced as he rose to snarl. "We ain't pals. I still haven't forgotten what your daddy dearest has done."
Karai only quirked an eyebrow as she slid into the light. Her hair was now crowned with silver, but her eyes still glittered obsidion, and time had only slowed the feline grace. She still flowed like water.
"Let's just get this damn thing over with." Raphael bit the words out. His eyes flickered with some emotion that Karai did not trouble herself to decipher.
"I give you my word, Raphael. I had no part in this. I only wish to mend this horror, so that we may both have peace."
Raphael shut his eyes, trembling, before he finally choked out, "There ain't no happy endings left. Ain't been since I lost my brothers."
There was that bitter sigh, that hideous look of knowing in her eyes, before she looked at him with sad understanding.
"Neither one of us has very long left in this world, Raphael. "
His eyes narrowed, and his lip curled. "What ya playing at? Ya doing this as some sort of penance?"
She slid her chin up, voice laced with ice, "You are not the only one who has suffered from the actions of my father, Turtle."
Raphael glowered at her, and she only stared back in curt silence, waiting. Not even the passing of so many years could dull all knives. Karai had stoicly bore the greying hair, the slowing, the aches. Eventually, their passing had settled over her like skin.
Raphael apparently had no such surrender in him. Were the circumstances less agonizing to them both, she might have found his refusal to change amusing.
She made no attempt to deflect her eyes, and Raphael simply grimaced and bore it, oddly quiet. Like all things that pissed him off,
he had not accepted getting older well, if at all. No, time had only given him more scars, more loss, more old wounds that made him wince with the arthritis. With as many bones he had broken over the years, Raphael would certainly have some difficulty with movement.
Uncertainty made her hesitate,and compassion made her swallow back the venom and attempt one last time.
"If you do not wish to see them, I will make any arrangements that you see fitting. I will not allow your brothers to be dishonored any more."
His eyes hardened at the unspoken plea.
"I'm doing this. Go to hell."
Her lips thinned into a grim line. "I have spent the last twenty years there."
The words lingered in warning, as she finally gestured in surrender. Fingers curling until the knuckles were white, she turned to him.
"I hope that this will bring you peace, Raphael."
"This ain't about finding peace."
Raphael paid no attention to the scrape of lock against key, as Karai finally stepped aside. He snarled as he shoved fists against the mahongony doors. They unfurled, then banged on the walls, loud, and sudden as gunshot.
From behind, Raphael heard Karai's sigh, and the click of a switch before the huge room was finally swathed in light. Raphael glared upward to see the dangling gold of the chandelier. Raphael drew a shaking breath, disgusted at the bloated opulance.
"Damn it, Karai, where are they?"
Karai said nothing, but rigidly raised a shaking finger and pointed.
"Please brace yourself, Raphael."
Raphael grunted, and turned towards where she gestured.
His snarl fragmented into absolute horror.
Raphael's sudden, agonized flinch was bone deep. The anguish made his face crumble, his whole body tremble, his eyes shimmer in disbelieving tears.
She heard his breath, severed by a clamped jaw and the shock.
"I am so sorry." She whispered softly for the absolution that could never come.
Raphael raised a trembling, numb palm to the glass case that stood on the mahogony platform.
The scream was choked back by the sudden vicious grief. Raphael held back the sob only because the shriek was too strangled to errupt.
And for the second time, Raphael remembered what hell was like.
His brothers. Oh, God, not this. He thought that the hell had been saying good-bye. That being the last one alive would have broken anything else that could possibly hurt. What a damn, pathetic lie.
All of their lives, they had kept to the shadows, fled the human world, existed in its fringe. They had lived in terror of being found,
of being butchered on disection tables, of being evicerated. They had lived their tomblike existance, buried deep in the sewers as corpses...
And now... Raphael just shook his head, sickened. The glass felt so cold under his shaking hands. He swallowed back the vomit, and could only stare at Leo, Mike and Don.
Now, they were only a few feet apart, separated by the glass. Never, ever had he thought that anything could be worse than losing them.
Raphael numbly gazed at them. The years no longer aged them. The years no longer had that power.
Each one of Raphael's siblings had been perfectly preserved and posed like freaks of nature in a musuem. Their skin. Their shells.
Limbs, still corded with muscle, each scar visible, the huge, barely concealed lines where some sick bastard had hacked into their guts and stuffed them. His brothers had all been stripped of their masks, their pads, their weapons, their belts.
Anything that suggested they were less than freaks.
Vaguely, Raphael wondered, If they had been stripped of their bones. If somebody had just taken their skins and draped them over a metal frame like clothing. Raphael scoured the floor, and noted torpidly, that none of them were anchored to any sort of stand.
It was crazy, thinking like that. But, it was damn easier to be distracted by the details than to think of his brothers being butchered and arranged like art for display. No...not butchered. They didn't look cut up, however the hell they had been stuffed...
Donny. His gentle, soft-spoken brainiac brother, who had held them all, stitched up their wounds, kept them alive...
Raph would always remember seeing him hunched over a computer, quietly puttering about his lab, that shy, satisfied smile gracing his lips at his latest discovery.
Mikey. His joyful chuckles, the bright mirth, the feline grace and the goofy backflips...
Now, both of their corpses were rigidly posed inches apart, two animals frozen forever in combat.
Mikey's body was splayed out on the black flooring, neck tilted back, empty glass eyes staring skyward. He was curled as if he had been knocked down, one hand raised as if to fend of Don's blow, the other hand clawing into Donny's face. His features were savagely twisted.
Don... Raphael shuddered.
Don's kind hands were wrapped in the chokehold around Mike's throat. His empty eyes were narrowed, the teeth bared, neck savagely tilted from Mikey's grip trying to rip his throat out. One eye was inches away from being gouged out by Mikey's fingers.
Animals. Vicious animals, trying to eat each other. Monsters. Not brothers who loved each other.
Raphael's gut clenched up when he finally forced himself to look at what had been done to Leo. Leo was hunched over, nearly bent in half, arms arched downward, legs tucked under as if he were going to leap from his crouch to kill something. His face...
Raphael teared up, then. Leo's face had always been serene, patient.
Now, his mouth was contorted in the snarl, limbs curled into the attack, forever in that rigor mortis lie.
From behind, Karai's words slithered out, seared his very soul.
"I know that it is of little comfort, Raphael...but your brothers did not suffer. My sources told me they died quickly, and they were together."
The words slid out, uncoiling like a noose. "H...How? How did my brothers die? There ain't no marks on 'em.."
A sad sigh of tortured understanding. "My father ordered them to be gassed, so that they would remain...lifelike."
He pivoted, eyes burning. "They didn't suffer? How the hell can you know that?"
Karai's lips tightened into a white line of pain. "It would not have suited my father's purposes if the bodies of your brothers had visible damage. You know that your brothers would not have gone quietly, if they had the time to understand what was happening.
Their departures were far more merciful than any of the Foot they killed."
"Why? Why the hell did he do this to them?"
Karai spat, "Because my father went mad." Slamming her shaking hand into the glass, seething, she could barely keep the sob in check. She shut her eyes as if in pain with another brittle sigh.
Raphael's voice was a low growl from behind. "What do ya mean, he went mad? Wouldn't he have to be crazy to something like this?"
"You do not understand, Raphael." She raised that tortured gaze to meet his. "I do not know what triggered his descent into total derangement, but it was both swift and sickening. At first, I honestly believed that he simply decided to treat your brothers'
remains in this disgusting way because he wished to relive his perverse victory. That perhaps he viewed their bodies as mere tropies after a successful hunt."
Her words were shattered as they were quiet. "That was until I finally understood the full horror of my father's state of mind. He did not believe that your brothers were dead."
A choked out scrape of breath, as she forced herself to continue. "Raphael, my father would sit here for hours, gloating and babbling to their corpses about his triumph over them. He would rejoice at how docile and quiet they were. Sometimes, he would fly into a rage and tell me that Leonardo was mocking him. He heard their voices clearly, and even carried on conversations with the corpses of your brothers." Uneasily, her hand trailed over the scar at her neck, that adorned her flesh like a necklace.
Instinctively, her fingers laced around the handle of her blade. "The madness eventually claimed my father, as well."
Raphael was perversely grateful that she did not elaborate on all the hideous things left unspoken.
She halted when she saw Raphael shivering and looking as if he had been stabbed.
"I am not telling you this with the intention of wounding you more, Raphael."
"There ain't a damn thing left that can hurt me. Not now." His voice was so damn frayed, worn as a noose ready to fall at last.
"There is little left in this world that can truly wound either of us after so much loss, Raphael. We are both the only ones left."
Her elegant grace faltered under the sorrow. Raphael suddenly hissed, as he gripped the sais, snarled, and stabbed the glass. The bright shards fractured, showers of crystaline fragments cut his flesh, skittered across the tiles, came to rest.
Heaving, Raphael finally choked out, "You do anything else to them, I'll take your damn head off."
Karai only whispered, "I would consider that a mercy."
Raphael just stared, too shocked and stunned to do anything else. God only knew how fragmented he would be when the numbness wore off and he was left with nothing at all.
"I give you my word. I will do nothing to make this more painful for you. If it is needed, I will see to it that you have the means to transport them where you wish."
Raphael only trembled, before he finally choked out,"Just...just let me take them home."