an·tith·e·sis: The opposite of what was meant to be.
Master Splinter was old, and he'd been around a while, so he knew a lot of shit. That was fact, not opinion, totally undeniable. If you asked God himself whether Hamato Splinter knew his stuff, he'd probably give you a stupid look and say yeah, dumbass, obviously. So when his father told him things, Raphael knew he was usually right, even if he didn't agree (like with the decision to make him leader, but that ended up working itself out. Kinda.)
But with this?
With this, Splinter was absolutely wrong- "this", of course, being his opinion that kicking the hell out of a punching bag wasn't a true substitute for meditation exercise. That was just damn false, and Raphael would go to his grave defending that. Sitting still until your limbs cramped and breathing slow enough to die on accident might work for some people, but not him.
To him there was nothing quite like the meaty smack of his fists against the pliant, well worn leather, feeling the firm insides give way underneath, reveling in the slight sting across his knuckles as he pulled back and the pleasant ache in his flexing muscles when he delivered another shattering punch, blinking sweat from his eyes and tasting the salt running down his throat.
That was his balance, his peace, letting his body fall into its own rhythm and perfect mixture of adrenaline and calm, while also giving soothe to the raging column of anger that lived inside him, the beast that lingered there for as long as he could try to remember.
Raphael breathed in and out in a steady and measured pace despite his workout; golden eyes narrowed to tranquil slits, the beast inside momentarily sated as everything he hated in his life faded away and ceased to matter.
Freak. THWACK. Outcast. THWACK. Hothead. THWACK. Forever alone.
"-APH! Earth to Rap-SHEEZUS, DUDE!"
Raphael winced and quickly rose out of the offensive pose his body had taken. When he blinked, the haze cleared from his vision and he saw who he had attacked- his littlest brother, who was currently staring at him like he'd grown a second head.
And wouldn't that just make my life a picnic. "Sorry Mike," he huffed brusquely, shrugging. "Ya know how I get sometimes. Shouldn'ta snuck up on me."
"Yeah, yeah," Mikey gasped, nodding quickly, "You know what else I know? You're crushing my arm."
Raph let go of Mikey's wrist, rubbing the back of his head in apology. "S'rry," he mumbled. Mikey rotated his hand and pouted. "Man, and you guys say I space out. You need to chill, bro."
I was, ding dong. Raph inhaled, pushing the beast back down deep and trying not to think about how frail Mikey's wrist had felt in his grip, and how easy it would have been to just…
"What did'ja want, knucklehead?"
Despite his brother's scowl, Mikey's frown morphed into an excited grin. "Donnie says the Bug is talking. He wanted me to come get you so we could listen together, Sensei too."
Raph felt his heart beat faster at the mention of the Bug. "Serious? It's actually saying somethin' good?"
"Yeah! He's got the whole thing recorded!"
A few weeks ago Donatello had managed to tag a Foot soldier with a Bug during a fight, and the signal was still active.
"Wha-oh, dude, no fair!"
They shoved past each other and made a frantic beeline for Donatello's lab, trying to trip each other on the way. Mikey made it in a fraction of a second before Raph, prancing around the gurney in the middle of the room in a victory lap.
"Beat ya, beat beat beat ya…"
"Ya cheated!" Raph growled, and Mikey opened his mouth to retaliate, but Donnie's annoyed snap cut him off.
"Would you two please just sit down and shut up?" the genius turtle sighed, not even bothering to turn around as he fiddled with some kind of recording machine on his desk. Their father was seated next to him, peering intently down his long muzzle as he worked.
"Raphie's just mad cause I beat him," Mikey explained, sticking out his tongue at his glowering brother.
"Keep it up an' I'm gonna show ya tha meanin' of the word."
Splinter rapped his cane on the floor. "Boys!" he said, making them all flinch and giving them an exasperated look. "This is no time for bickering."
Raph sucked in another deep breath and quelled the urge to throw something hard at Mikey's head when the younger turtle blew a silent raspberry in his direction. "Ya got it workin' or not, Don?" he asked, dropping his heavy frame onto the stool next to Splinter.
"Yeah. The transmission is a little fuzzy, but considering the distance it's pretty good. I just have to…" He did something with his hand that Raph didn't catch, and then his olive beak broke into a wide smile. "I've got it."
"Alright, Donnie!" Mikey cheered, blushing when he was shushed again. They all leaned forward and strained their ears as static and feedback jumped from the machine, slowly clearing into barely audible words. Raphael hardly dared to breathe, wanting to hear every sound.
"….*-ather. I couldn't wait for you to return.*"
"That's Karai," Raph hissed, baring his teeth.
There was a thick rustle. "*Daughter. I tried to make my absence as short as possible, but those old fools in Japan had to be reminded of their places.*"
"Did she just hug him?" Mikey giggled quietly. "Shouldn't she be like, bursting into flames right now?"
"Nah, she's just as evil as he is."
"*I heard there was a lot of bloodshed. You crushed the rebellion ruthlessly*." Karai sounded smug and pleased.
"*Indeed. How holds my kingdom?*"
"He ain't no damn king!" Raph snarled, the cocky statement igniting a flame in his chest.
"Raph, I swear to God-"
"*Efficient as ever, but the Hamato's continue to be a nuisance.*"
"*Have they impeded our most recent endeavor?*"
"*No, but I think it might be in jeopardy soon.*"
"Man, they even talk in code when they're alo-OW!" Raph narrowly dodged the plastic beaker Donatello slung in Mikey's direction.
"*That will not be an issue for much longer. I have sent for him, and he will be here shortly.*"
"*Him?" Karai sounded as confused as they all felt. "You can't mean- his training can't be complete yet!*"
"*It is as complete as yours, possibly more so. He aided me in destroying the rebel factions, and he is thirsty for a chance to return home and prove himself fully to myself and to his Clan. What better way to do so than by finally eliminating the turtle problem that you struggle with so dearly? I am sure the irony of the situation is not lost on you.*"
They could almost hear Karai's flinch. "*I am your Elite in New York! He won't know the first thing about running this branch of the Clan, or dealing with the turtles.*" She sounded like a whiny brat, and Raph snickered quietly.
"*He will be my Chūnin, and you will serve him as faithfully as you have me. It is irrelevant to me whether you retain your childhood closeness, but you will work together seamlessly, or I will make other arrangements for you. Is this understood?*" The ice in his tone was chilling even through layers of feedback.
"*…It is…understood.*" She sounded like she was chewing her tongue off.
"*Excellent. Now it is late, and we will dine. Make sure his old quarters are ready for his arrival.*"
"*Yes, Master Shredder.*"
They listened for more, but the static was creeping back in and clouding the reception. "I think they're walking away," Donatello said, tilting his head to catch the faint sound of footsteps receeding.
"Cut it," Raph said, and he did, flipping the switch to end the transmission. They all sat there for a second, digesting the information.
"So, they're planning to kill us, again," Mikey tossed out. "What else is new?"
"We didn't learn sh-crap," Raph amended, seeing the look on Splinter's face. "I thought we'd get more, Don."
"Hey, I plant the Bug, I don't control the conversations." Donnie shrugged, making his violet mask tails slide across his shoulders.
"Donatello, do you think they knew they were being listened to?" Splinter asked.
"No way," the genius said. "They would have destroyed the Bug immediately."
"Then they must be speaking in cryptic terms to confuse any listening ears under their own roof," Splinter mused wisely. "Saki does not fully trust his clan."
"I don't really care about how they were talkin'," Raph interrupted bluntly, crossing his arms tight over his plastron. "I wanna know who that 'He' was."
"Is," Donnie corrected, earning a hard roll of amber eyes.
"Whoever he is, he's coming here really soon." Mikey injected. "He sounds like he's another super trained assassin dude."
"Maybe he's another mutant?" Donnie suggested. "Shredder mentioned Karai knowing him as a kid. Does she have a brother?"
They all looked to Splinter, but he shook his head. "Saki has only one child that I am aware of."
"He's probably adopted." Mikey said. "Jeez, I HOPE it's a mutant-murdering assasin. I'd take that over another Karai... Except, ya know, a dude." He paused, then giggled. "And who keeps hooking up with him, anyway? Who says 'I wanna grow up and marry a evil overlord and have his babies'?"
Splinter stood up slowly and stroked his beard, leaning on his cane thoughtfully. "There is no way we can know for sure, my sons. We must wait for the answers to reveal themselves."
Raph's beak pulled into a frown. His eyeridges came together. "Mebbe not, Sensei. I bet Hun's people know all about it. We should shake a few Dragons down an' see what they say."
Splinter was shaking his head before the sentence was halfway out, and something about the slope of his shoulders said that he'd been expecting to have this argument, and that pissed Raph off a bit. "No, Raphael. We do not instigate conflict, we react to it. Pestering the Purple Dragons about classified information will only arouse suspicion."
Raph gritted his teeth and lurched to his feet. "So what? We got a leg up on 'em, I say we use it! We need ta scare 'em, let 'em know we ain't scared of 'Him' and whoeva the hell else they wanna bring." he said hotly.
He could feel the same stupid, irritating decision to hide out and wait for bad shit to happen wafting into the air again, and he couldn't help but try to fight it. Sometimes he felt like the only one NOT afraid to take action, and he hated it.
Splinter was not moved. His ears twitched and flattened to his head, and how mouth set in a tight line. "I appreciate your enthusiasm, Raphael," he said, everything in his voice stating the opposite, "but we will not inflame this situation until we know more."
"So what the hell'd we even do this for then?" Raph countered loudly, "So we could sit on our tails and do nothin'? We ain't cowards, we need ta-"
"The answer is no, Raphael!" Splinter snapped, cutting across him like a whip. "You will abide me in this!"
A low growl rumbled through Raph's chest, and he clenched his hands into tight fists by his sides. "Am I leader or ain't I?"
"You are, my son," Splinter retorted, "but you are also seventeen, living in my house, beneath my tutelage, and you will curb your impulsive actions if I say that they will put this family in danger. We know too little and there is no immediate threat as of yet."
"So we're gonna wait and hide, like punks?!"
"We are through discussing this!" Splinter yelled, slamming the end of his staff on the ground like a judge's gavel. "If you refuse to listen to reason I will not waste what limited breath I have attempting to persuade you. Another word from you will result in punishment."
The flick of his hand when he dismissed him sent Raphael's blood to boiling, but he dipped his head in the barest of crappy bows and stormed out of the lab.
Instinctively he found his way back to the Dojo and his fists were beating a vicious angry tempo on the unfortunate punching bag before he even realized his feet had taken him there. The beast was pissed, snarling, suffocated, and Raph beat it back into submission until his anger turned into annoyance and his lungs were clearer.
This was exactly why horrible stuff kept happening to them while they were unprepared, because they were too chickenshit to stand up for themselves and strike first. What was the point of bugging if they weren't gonna use the info they got?
He exhaled sharply, unclenching his teeth and swallowing down a sour taste in the back of his throat. Karai had called them a nuisance, like that was all they were, a tiny little irritation like flies buzzing around her prissy little head. Not threats.
Well, that was about to change.
Raph's fists slowed as the thought sounded in his head. All he wanted to do was scare up a few Dragons, and it wasn't like he couldn't do that himself. He smirked and stepped away from the bag, reaching down into his belt for his cell.
Two rings was all it took, and then Bonehead extraordinaire was answering on the third.
"Hey," Raph said, edging away from the screen. "Whatcha up to?"
"*Just watchin' a game. Why?*"
"Whatcha doin' tomorrow?"
"*Nothin', April's got paperwork at the station. Why?*"
Raph rolled his eyes and gave a growling sigh. Yup, good ol' boneheaded Casey. "Why'dya think, dumbass?"
"*OH- oh. Yeah, you can swing through. We'll chill.*"
That was the code, and Raph grinned widely, anticipation tingling through his veins. "Alright then. Leave the window open."
He hung up, satisfied. Good ol' Casey. He couldn't wait for nighttime. Splinter didn't want him to talk about it anymore? Fine. He wouldn't talk about. But be damned sure wasn't about to sit back and wait for them all to wake up choking on a nerve gas bomb or something. If they didn't wanna act, then he'd do it himself, and they'd thank him later.
Let 'him' come. We're gonna be ready for his ass. The beast in his heart growled assent.
After a particularly forced meal, Karai was allowed leave to supervise her soldiers in preparing for...his...arrival. She carved a path of misery through the Tower as she went, and more than one soldier had tasted the back of her hand for tiny mistakes. It didn't take the dumbest grunt to figure out that the announcement of his return had shaken her, and shaken her badly. One thing she refused to do was step foot in his old quarters, and no one, not even the stupidest bruiser, questioned her about it.
That was where she stood now- on the threshold of the room, not inside, glaring blankly at the bare walls with her fingernails digging bloody crescent moons into her pale palms. It had been cleaned years ago, but she thought she could still detect a hint of his old scent in the musty stale air.
Bad enough he'd left her behind to chase his own glory, after every promise and oath, but now after she had finally forgotten him he was returning to steal her birthright from her and discredit her in the process.
She brushed the fringe of her short pixie cut away from her eyes angrily and left a faint pink streak behind on her cheek. Her hands shook, and her gut rolled with sickness and memory and other feelings her sociopathic heart refused to identify.
She hoped the turtles put a blade through his eye, and if they didn't she'd do it herself, if only to be rid of his confusing presence in her life.
Her beautiful face twisted into a grimace, and she spat on the floor of the room, whispering a curse before turning and stalking out.
"Safe travels, Otōto. We'll see who takes control of this family. You have a debt to repay, and I intend to collect fully."
Otōto: Little brother