WARNING: The following contains adult situations meant for mature readers only.
It was brisk in the hotel room. Raphael could hear the air hissing through the vents and feel its cool breath on his skin, but he didn't make any move to cover himself. The cold was refreshing for the moment, and anyway, he wasn't ready to move. Both his breathing and his heart were gradually slowing, and his limbs felt deliciously heavy. Goddamn, he'd needed this. It had been too long. After a few more minutes just lying there, savoring the feeling, he turned his head to take in the woman sprawled beside him.
Joi. She reminded him of a lioness, all lean and tawny—especially now, with her usually smooth hair tumbled across the pillow in a golden tangle. And at times her green eyes had an almost predatory gleam… though just now, when she turned her head to look back at him, there was none of the huntress in evidence.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey," she returned with a languid smile.
Earlier, when he'd first arrived, they hadn't taken the time for a polite greeting. He grinned to himself, remembering. No, their greeting had been… entirely impolite. What had begun years ago as fervid subterranean trysts had matured into this—once, twice, or, if he was really lucky, maybe three times per year she flew out to New York, and took a hotel room with a nearby side door. A hat and a long coat were good enough to fool anyone for the few seconds it took for her to let him in, and the comforts and privacy of a hotel sure beat hanging out in the lair with his family all the time. Besides, it wasn't like there was a need for a cover story anymore—his family knew what they were… and what they weren't. Their relationship, such as it was, consisted mainly of sparring and fucking, with the occasional email between visits. Neither of them had pushed for anything more than that.
He stretched, and put his hands behind his head. "So. What is it that brings you to our fair city this time?" he said lightly. "Tournament? Weapons exhibition? Sudden urge to hit up Broadway and take in some culture?" As he talked, his eyes were roving over her body, lingering on the pale skin of her breasts and bikini area, untouched by the rays of the sun that gave the rest of her skin such a healthy, bronzed look—not like the fake orange hue of a tanning bed he'd seen other women sporting.
She didn't answer right away, and as she stared up at the ceiling, he saw her catch her lower lip between her teeth. That was his first clue that something about this visit was different.
Slowly she turned her head to look at him, and there was a softness in her eyes that he'd seldom seen before. "I came because… I have some news for an old friend." She paused a moment, holding his eyes. Then she pulled the sheet over herself, up to her armpits, and turned onto her side facing him. "The kind that needs to be said in person."
Raphael watched her face, aware that his heart rate had picked up again, but trying to ignoring the sinking feeling in his gut. He swallowed. "I'm listening."
She studied his eyes in silence for a moment, and then pulled in a deep, slow breath and let it out again before saying softly, "I'm getting married."
It took him a while to find his voice. "Wow. Um, congratulations. When, um, when's the big day?"
"Three weeks," he echoed woodenly. Suddenly it felt way too cold in the room. He sat up, settling with his shell against the headboard, and pulled a section of the sheet up as he digested this information.
Raphael had never been deluded enough to presume he was the only one—hell, it wasn't like he was celibate by choice in between their meetings—but she'd never mentioned any men to him, or any man in particular, and he'd never asked. He wondered how long she'd been engaged, thinking of her last trip out not six months ago, but decided not to ask. It was none of his business anyway.
Joi sat up as well, facing him and still clutching the sheet in a tangle at her chest. "I didn't know how to tell you… or when, but we, I, I can't see you like this anymore." She blinked and quickly lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry." And she did seem sorry, though he wasn't sure if that made him feel better, or worse.
Raphael shook his head. "You don't gotta apologize," he said firmly. "This wasn't… I mean, ain't like I thought this was gonna go on forever. Someone was bound to snatch you up. I'm only surprised it didn't happen sooner." He paused, watching helplessly as she bit her lip again, still looking down and blinking her eyes rapidly. This wasn't the Joi he knew; she was usually bold to the point of being brazen in manner, sure in her actions and utterly fearless in spirit. But right now even the way she was clutching that sheet broadcast her insecurity, as if she was afraid she might be swept away if she let go.
He knew just how she felt. Under the sheet, his fists were clenched, too, like if he pressed hard enough he could rid himself of the ever-tightening knot in his gut.
"God," she said, wiping her eyes with the heel of her hand. "I know this is the right thing to do, I just…" she shook her head and sniffed, "I just didn't expect it to be this h-hard."
Forget lioness, right now she resembled nothing so much as a lost kitten, and even though he sensed physical contact might be what she needed, even something as small as taking her hand or rubbing her arm, he couldn't bring himself to do it. He just couldn't touch her right now, not when minutes ago he'd been admiring her nude figure so casually, so unsuspectingly. It was all he could do right now just to stay here in bed with her. No… it would have to be words. Stupid, clumsy words that never seemed to come out the way he wanted them to.
"Um. Hey. It's okay," he tried. "Look, it, it ain't like we can't see each other ever again. I mean, maybe not like this, but you could still come out 'n visit, hang out with us at the lair—you know, like it was before." Before we extended our sparring to the bedroom. He squeezed his fists even tighter under the covers.
"No," she sniffed, "I can't."
"Sure you can, you could—"
She shook her head, and when she looked up at him she seemed more sure of herself, though her eyes were still glossy with tears. "Do you really think we could do that?" she said softly. "See each other, and not end up like this?"
He thought about that, tried to picture how things would go in his head… and as soon as he did, he understood why she was so upset. This wasn't just the end of their relationship as it was now—this was the end, period. This was goodbye. After this, he was never gonna see her again. Because she was right—even looking at her now, eyes red-rimmed, face streaked with tears, he still wanted her. There was no way he could be the strong one, the one to refuse her, if it came to that. Clearly she didn't trust herself around him, either. And she's getting married.
"No. You're right," he said, and it seemed to him the words were coming from far away. From the beginning, even before sex entered into it, everything they did together had had an energy, an intensity to it. They were always testing each other, pushing each other to their limits both physically and mentally. He wouldn't call it love, exactly… hell, he didn't know what to call it. He just knew they had this connection, that they were drawn to each other, and he didn't think time or distance would ever change that.
"So this is… I guess this is it, then." He'd almost said "this is the end," because that's what it felt like to him. But he didn't want it to be an end for Joi. For her, it was a beginning, too. She's getting married.
"This is it," she agreed, and when she blinked fresh tears materialized, but this time she looked him bravely in the eyes, unashamed.
He broke eye contact and drew in a slow breath, trying unsuccessfully to get his insides to unclench. "I wish I'd known," he said, more to himself than to her.
"I know—I'm sorry," she said again, wiping her eyes again. "First I waited because I wanted to make sure it was for real, you know? And then I—"
"That ain't what I meant," he interrupted, and her green eyes slid up to find his. "I wouldn't care when you told me, or if you ever told me. That's your call. I only meant…" He hesitated. "I meant I wish I'd known this was gonna be our last time together. I would've been more, um, considerate." I would've made it last, instead of rushing through like a bull in heat.
"Well I… have a confession," Joi said. "I didn't exactly plan on telling you this tonight. I know it's selfish, but I was going to just… wait a day or two. Until we'd had more time together. But then tonight when you… well, I just couldn't—"
"You couldn't do that to him," Raph finished for her. "I get it."
"No!" she objected, eyes flashing defiantly. "I couldn't do that to you." She paused, and then drew another deep breath before saying, "You and I, we've been through a lot, and I hope… I hope you don't think that just because the time we've spent together has been, um, limited, that I don't… care about you."
"So I'm more than just a good lay? That's good to know," he said with attempted lightness.
She didn't laugh, and her emerald eyes reached deep into his, searching. "You know… sometimes I wonder, if things were dif—"
"Don't," he cut across, more harshly than he intended. He took a calming breath, and gentled his tone. "Don't say it. Things are the way they are." I'm a mutant turtle. And you're getting married.
She nodded, biting her lip again, and looked down.
"So, what's his name?" Raphael asked when he was able to find his voice again.
Steven. Joi and Steven. "And he's a decent guy?"
"He's the best," she answered. Then, softly, "I love him."
He nodded, and he knew he should say something else, like how he hoped they'd be happy together… that he'd miss her. But all he could manage was, "I should go." He slipped out of bed, and bent to pick his belt up off the floor.
"Wait, Raphael—what if… what if I asked you to stay? Just for tonight?"
He straightened slowly and turned to her. She was watching him, waiting, and though she was still holding the sheet against her, he could see the lines of her long legs under the fabric, and a teasing hint of skin where the sheet swooped low at her back. He could go to her—go to her, push her back onto the bed, run his hands under those crisp sheets to feel the warmth of her, and he sensed… no, he knew she wouldn't object. It would be that simple, and he was already growing hard just thinking about it…
He shook his head fiercely to clear it, and forced his eyes back up to her face. "Don't do that," he said with a hint of ice in his tone. "Don't put this on me, you're the one who's engaged," he said, jabbing a finger at her. "No hypotheticals. You're either askin', or you're not."
To her credit, she didn't flinch or try to deny his implication. She just met his gaze forthrightly and said, "You're right."
He stood there for a moment, but when no invitation was forthcoming, he turned to hide his scowl and began fastening his belt. Don't be mad at her, not now, not for this, he told himself, but another part of him—his cock, no doubt—was thinking, I shoulda just gone for it… He was just getting ready to tuck his sai in his belt when she spoke.
"I'm getting married…" she said slowly, "but I'm not married yet."
Raphael paused, holding his breath.
"One last night together. That's what I had planned on. So… stay with me? Please?"
"You sure?" he asked quietly without turning around, and there was that other voice again, yelling, are you nuts? Just take it! But he had to know. "Cause I don't wanna do this if, if… you're gonna regret it later."
He heard a soft sigh from behind him, and she said, "I'm… I'm not sure if I can explain this right to you, because I have trouble explaining it to myself. But ever since we were thrown together, it's like I've lived in two separate worlds—one in California, with my family and my training, helping my father run the dojo, going out with friends… a normal life. But when I'm here, I'm in a world where dragons and demons actually exist, and martial arts is a way of life, not just a hobby or a sport… and where my friends seem more human somehow than any humans I know. These different worlds have always existed parallel to one another, never intersecting. What I did in one world had nothing to do with what I did in the other, and I'll admit that if I wasn't getting married, things would probably just go on as they are. But recently I've come to the realization that all of this, all of these, these separations I've created, they're all in my head. There's just one world—and I'll be married in it. In three weeks, when I get married, my worlds converge. After that I can't be with anyone but Steven. But tonight… tonight I'm still yours. If you want me."
If he wanted her? God yes, he wanted her. It wasn't possible for him to not want her. Throughout her speech he'd remained turned away, his body taut but still, holding himself in check as he focused on her words. But he could still picture her, and that was bad enough. He knew as soon as he turned around and looked at her, he wasn't going to be able to stop himself. But he didn't need to hold back anymore.
I'm yours. If you want me.
He started to turn, but he didn't get any farther than a twitch of the muscles before he froze again. She'd reassured him that she'd thought about this, that she knew what she was doing… but she had not told him she wouldn't feel guilty. She could've just said she wouldn't regret it. Hell, she could've just touched him, and that would've been it—but she hadn't. Such a long explanation wasn't really necessary to convince him… unless she was really trying to convince herself. And the fact that he was standing here ready to walk out the door had probably nudged her slightly into panic mode. She knew she either had to ask him to stay, or watch him leave.
He knew what he'd do if the situation was reversed. And now he had his own choice to make: did he want her… or did he want her to be happy?
He didn't turn; he didn't dare turn—instead he glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Still early. Well, early enough, anyway. He sheathed his weapons, pulled his shell cell out of his belt, and stood there staring at the numbers on the keypad. Do it! Don't think about it, just do it! He took a breath, and hit the speed dial.
Michelangelo answered on the second ring. "Yo, Raphie! Didn't expect to hear from you tonight. Calling for love advice again?" his brother said with a snicker.
"Mikey," he said brusquely, ignoring that last comment. "How fast could you pull together a party?"
"Raphael, what are you doing?" came Joi's voice from behind him, but he ignored her.
"A party? No time at all, bro! The most critical element, myself, is already here, so all we'd need is a few extras, like snacks and drinks, and we're good to go. Why, what're we celebrating?"
"Joi's engaged. She finally conned some sucker back home into marrying her, can you believe it?" He kept his tone light, even jovial, and even if his brother wasn't fooled, it gave him a lead to follow.
"Whoa… well um, hey, that's great! Of course we need to celebrate! When are you coming?"
"We'll coordinate with Casey and April, and head on over," he said. He was pretty sure Casey would still be up, and April… well, it was for a good cause.
True to form, Mike went into immediate party planning mode. "Great! I'll just get some food together here, if you guys can pick up some drinks. Then there's just the small matter of tunes… don't worry, I'll get that started, too." There was a muffled sound of footsteps, followed by a whump and a yell on the other end of the phone. Then he heard a voice in the background say, "What the hell!"
"Hey Donny! It's party time! Wanna throw some music together?"
"Mikey, I was sleeping!"
"Oh. Sorry, I didn't realize… but hey, you look plenty awake now!"
Raph smiled in spite of himself. "Okay, well I guess I'll leave you to it, then. See ya soon," he said, and ended the call.
"I'll stay with you tonight," he said, cutting over her without turning around. "But not here. We're gonna do this right, celebrate at the lair with my brothers, and plenty of booze." And no shenanigans, he thought, even if he had to recruit one of his brothers to police them.
"That's… very sweet," she said slowly, "But we can just—"
"Look, Joi," he broke in quietly, "I'm almost outta willpower, here. I know I can't tell you what to do—" Then he shook his head almost savagely and said, "No, fuck that. Here's what you should do: you should celebrate this. Forget about me. Forget about us, go home to Steven tomorrow, an' just fucking be happy for what you have."
She was silent for a time, and he couldn't turn and look at her, didn't dare turn and look at her.
"Okay…" she said slowly, "Now I have to ask. Are you sure?"
"No, but I… um…" He floundered for a moment, reaching for the words that always seemed to elude him. "You're... you're more than just a good lay," he said in a rush. God I suck at this. "I mean, uh, what I meant is—"
"I know what you meant," she said gently. Then, softly as a whisper of sheets, she commanded, "Look at me, Raphael."
He steeled himself, and slowly turned. Immediately his eyes were locked into hers, not even for a second wandering to the more distracting parts of her body.
"You're right—except for one thing." She paused and took a slow breath, eyes shining with new tears. "I could never forget about you," she said huskily.
He didn't know how it happened, who moved first, but suddenly Joi was in his arms, hugging him tightly around the neck, and he hugged her back, firmly if not fiercely, the burning in his throat preventing him from speaking even if by some miracle he'd known what to say. The sheet formerly wrapped about her had been left behind when they came together, and part of him was aware of every touch of her bare skin on his. She smelled not flowery or fresh, but of sweat and sex and… woman. She smelled real. Alongside his ear, he heard her inhale deeply, and he wondered if she was savoring his scent, too—if she was trying to memorize the warmth of his skin, the texture of his shell, the beating of his heart…
At length she loosened her hold and began to draw back. He had no idea what she had in mind next, but he knew if she kissed him now, he was done for, in spite of everything he'd just told her.
She did kiss him—softly, on the cheek—then she withdrew, her golden hair brushing his shoulder as she sat back and pulled the sheet up around her once more.
She wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand again and sniffed, and then looked up with a brave but not-quite-successful attempt at a smile. "Okay. Let's do this, then. Give me fifteen minutes, and I'll be ready to go."
Even though he'd been the one pressing for the party, his heart still squeezed painfully when she committed to it. But all he said was, "Sure. I'll just, uh, take a seat over there and call Case."
He sat down, angling the chair away to give Joi a semblance of privacy while he called Casey and April. When he next turned around, she was there, dressed and groomed and gorgeous, with a sparkle of diamond on her left hand. His stomach flipped uncomfortably. Was she wearing that earlier, when I first got here? …Would I have noticed, if she was?
"Ready," she said almost shyly when he met her eyes. This time, the accompanying smile looked more genuine.
An ending for us, but a beginning for her, he reminded himself. "Let's go, then," Raph said gruffly, and he rose and put on his coat and hat. Then he turned to her and offered his hand.
Solemnly she took it.
He wondered if she was aching inside, too, knowing this was their last night… but he hoped not.
She was getting married, after all.
Author's Note: I've been playing with the idea for this fic for quite some time. I know some fans may want to crucify me for even acknowledging the Ninja Tribunal arc by including Joi, but I've always thought her character, as well as her relationship with Raph, had potential, and not just in the romantic sense. As you can hopefully tell from this fic, I'm not a "Love at First Sight" or a "Soul Mates" kinda gal. Relationships are complex things, and not the ooey gooey sickly-sweet things I've been reading so much of lately on this site. True love does not mean dropping everything that you are and everything you might want for someone else (thank you, Stephenie Meyer, thank you so much for propagating THAT ludicrous version of "love"). And of course, not all love stories are happily ever after… but that does not make them inconsequential.
Anyway, thanks for reading! All opinions and feedback are welcome.