A/N: So much love to Willowslament or Willowfly or Ash or whoever you are. Best beta I've ever had.


The first time Angel was allowed into the lair without a blindfold, they had a party.


Sometimes it hit him, literally struck him like a fist, like a Foot ninja had just sucker punched him out of nowhere. He'd stand there, frozen, head reeling, for a long moment. And then he'd take in a deep breath, think about something else, and probably go punch something, for good measure.

It hit him in the middle of a fight once. He faltered and let in a strike he should have been able to block easily, and he could tell by the grim set of Leo's mouth that his brother was blaming himself for the blood pouring out of Raph's nose. He swiped the proffered cloth from Leo's hand with a growl and crouched. His brother sat silent, looking at Raph from the corner of his eye as he tried to staunch the flow, and when Raph gave one last bloody snort and stood up, ready to go again, Leo stood as well, slipping down into stance without saying a word.

"What, no lecture?" Raph taunted as they exchanged tentative blows, trying to find their rhythm again.

"No," his brother said infuriatingly, coming at him with the same strike that had caught him off guard, which Raph blocked perfectly this time. The fact that Leo didn't smirk like a pleased teacher at this was only more infuriating, and he could feel his brain working behind the instinctive dance of block-strike-parry that barely took up any conscious thought anymore. By the time he finished pouring his anger into his brother for safe-keeping it was very late at night, and Leo left for bed without saying anything. Raph, anger spent but fists still restless, beat out a trance on the punching bag and tried to figure out what part of his world was so out of place that it could make him lose it in a fight like that. (He tried not to think about Leo and the empty space where a smirk should have been.)

And then it hit him while Angel was over, and everything came together at once and left him breathless and still and wishing he could just somehow not know.


"I'm being lectured by a giant rat on my anger issues," she said distantly. "This is so weird."

"What're you complaining about?" Raph said, totally deadpan. "Happens to me all the time."

She gave him one startled look, and then threw back her head and laughed.


He's pretty sure that's when it started.