DISCLAIMER – I only own the storyline and my own OC's. E & L own the TMNT's, while Wendy Peabody owns Rahab, Seth, Gaele, Devon, and Riahna. From her story, The Enemy, Ramica gave me the inspiration to write this alternative ending to Gabriella's flight from Carmel, which is based on Reflected Reality. I should note that the original ending of RR stays as written. I'm only playing around with an idea, is all. Enjoy.
Author's Notes – What If?
While Ramica and I were writing the part of Reflected Reality where a pregnant Gabby takes off with her daughter Mindy, I wondered what would have happened if she succeeded in getting away. I played around with several scenarios that almost caused me to write it differently than what we ended up with. However, I wasn't so sure if I wanted the pressure to further the adventures when Ramica and I were trying to finish RR at the time.
Nothing like a little pressure to get Writer's Block going, and we certainly didn't need that!
So, giving credit to Ramica for her twist on her Rama series (The Enemy and A Sense of Family), I decided to do 'What If' story, featuring the aforementioned idea.
The middle part of chapter one will deal with flashbacks to Reflected Realty, with chapter two having flashbacks of what happened afterwards.
Also, some of you who read RR learned to hate Gabby, which truly saddened me. However, considering what she was trying to avoid and to the extent she was willing to go to, I can't rightly blame you, either.
With that said, you won't like her any better in this one, either! Bwahaha!
When word reaches Don Tello about a sultry singer in a smoky Alaskan nightclub and who is so private that she insists on veiling her face and body, his interest is piqued. After five long years of searching the world for his wayward niece, Don believes he has finally found her. Now, the true adventure begins as he and his brothers, along with his two nephews, take flight to the northwestern-most state in the Americas. It will be a test of patience for all of them as they try to verify the rumors of a 'shrouded woman with the golden voice', called The Enchantress.
Either way, Seth wants his wife back, but more importantly, he wants his children. If he finds Gabby, will he forgive her, or will he leave her and return with their children back to California?
More importantly, will Gabby let him?
THE PRICE OF PASSION
Chapter One – Anticipation
They talked quietly among themselves as they huddled around the table in booth eight. Tucked into the darkest corner of the nightclub, the deep shadows there effectively obscured the six hooded figures from curious eyes. As they watched the various patrons fill the establishment, they allowed the cacophony of occasional boisterous laughs and whispered intents to mask their conversation. Only when the server would come to replenish their drink and appetizer would they turn their attention away from their palaver.
Yet, the moment the waitress had left, they resumed their soft discourse once again.
Dressed in long, Carhartt artic coats and Sorel boots, with their faces concealed within their oversized, fleece-lined hoods, the six blended well with the general population of The Borealis Nightclub in Fairbanks. The Alaskan city sat only a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle, with the current weather outside proving that fact most of all. Therefore, it wasn't too unusual for some 'sourdoughs', or old timers, to overdress for indoor activities in the dead of winter. It saved them the hassle of re-dressing themselves in order to go back outside to their car, or, in the case of Fairbanks, their 'tin dogs', or snowmobiles.
In short, the throng of people virtually ignored the group in booth eight.
Nevertheless, had anyone ventured over and chanced a peek inside one of five hoods, they would have most certainly recognize that these 'local's were more cheechako, or newcomers, to the Alaskan wilderness. As it was, however, the six hooded customers sat unnoticed in the darkened corner at the back of the room.
While the other patrons milled about the floor of the nightclub and conversed as they took drink, the group in the corner booth would occasionally look over at the darkened stage. It stood opposite from where they sat, with the raised platform situated at the far end of the large expansive room. Red velvet curtains, that had seen better days, hung along the back part of the dais, allowing for a wider performance area. The front part of the platform bowed outwards towards the various softly lit tables, permitting the audience to wrap around each side of whoever performed there. A microphone was already set up along the front edge, indicating that, soon, someone would be entertaining the gradually growing crowd.
All the same, the six individuals at table eight would intermittently glance towards the stage while they carried on with their own conversations. Each sipped at their drink, nursing their beverage along as if trying to extend the savor.
Currently, the nightclub seemed full to capacity, with more customers adding to the crowd minute by minute. More than a few patrons had obviously too much liquor, where voices became unusually loud from time to time. The ever-increasing sour smell of booze and the dense clouds of cigarette smoke nearly made the waiting a torturous task for the six hooded customers. Just the same, they persevered as it was becoming obvious the musical part of the evening was drawing near.
Although live entertainment was a thrice-weekly occurrence, the vast number of people still filing in through the double front doors signified the popularity of the performer to come. Slowly, a party atmosphere began to ebb its way around the low-lit drinking establishment. One could almost feel the excitement grow as the crowd became increasingly anxious for the show to start. A few louder expulsions of talk rippled over the general buzz of conversations as more enthusiastic fans discussed the soloist soon to arrive.
"So, this is your firsht time at a sing song here, eh?" one slightly inebriated male asked, "You're gonna love thish girl; she shings like 'n angel!" he said to his companion.
Then, another sounded out enthusiastically, a woman this time, "I've heard she's deformed. That's why she has to cover herself up."
Someone evidently asked the woman how she knew that to be true, eliciting a reply from her, "Oh, you should see the skin around 'er eyes. Very pale, almost white. Pro'ly had an accident with some chemical or sum'th'n. I don't blame 'er a bit for hiding under all them scarves."
As more customers worked their way through the front door and into the already-crowded interior of the nightclub, the group at table eight watched with rapt fascination. They noticed the barkeep, an obvious native Alaskan by his appearance, yelling for his girls to hurry up with their drink delivery. In the meantime, embolden customers called out for 'more of the same, Joe', or 'spot me a tab fer tonight, I'm celerbatin',' and other demands. It was a riotous blend of voices, which would normally numb a person's ears and grate against impatient nerves, unless you wanted to be there in the first place.
For one individual at table eight, he definitely had other preferences. He slowly shook his head and muttered grumpily under his breath, easily heard by his table companions, "It's too busy in here. What were we thinking?"
He received nods in understanding from the others, with one offering a gentle consolation. Keeping his voice and face low, he turned towards the first speaker, "Might be better this way, Raph; less chance of her seeing us."
"Yeah, Leo," the other replied in a whisper, "but only if junior, here, keeps a lid on his impatience." He nudged the one to his right who sat book-ended between himself and his brother, "You better get yourself under control, Seth; otherwise she'll sense you the moment she steps out on stage."
Seth remarked softly, "Look, if it was your wife who disappeared for five years, you'd be chaffing at the bit to get her back, too."
Cocking an eye-ridge, the first muttered, "I look at my 'wife' every time I visit you, remember, and there isn't a whole lot of chance of gettin' her back, either!"
"Raph, knock it off! Not here, 'kay?" another member of the group seethed under his breath, sipping deeply at his half-filled glass of Seven and Seven.
"Hey, I wasn't serious. Just keep your shirt on, Mike." Raph grouched, "And your coat, too, unless you want to freeze to death." Raphael snorted quietly then, "Why'd she go to Alaska, though? That girl's brain cells must have taken off in the opposite direction when she flew the coop."
"Actually," another voice interjected, "it was brilliant of her to choose this location. Would any of us, in an attempt to hide, pick such a place so alien to our own physical needs? Half human or not, Gabriella is still part turtle; she would suffer just as much as any of us would under these extreme cold temperatures." He chuckled lightly, "What little she learned of hiding in plain sight, dear brothers, she took to heart!"
Raph smiled within the confines of his hood, his smirk quite evident in his voice, "Yeah, Don, leave it to you to say something like that," and then hook his head. He turned back to glance at the stage and murmured, "I just hope we can get to her, though and without too much fuss."
"And get my kids, as well." Seth said solemnly. He then murmured, "With our luck and the way it's been going lately, the sheriff will be here tonight, too."
"Don't worry about the authorities, Seth," Don exclaimed, "I'll handle that if the need arises."
Just then, the sound of a cell call interrupted the conversation.
Don reached inside his coat and pulled out a small folded video phone. He flipped it open and immediately saw his valet in the small glowing view screen. The man was back-dropped by what appeared to be a simple living room, complete with a wall that trimmed with framed pictures. The small view screen showed Thomas's right arm extended out in front of him as he allowed the phone's lens to project him into its matrix.
The remaining five at the table leaned in to listen to Thomas's cryptic message as he said in Japanese, "I'm at ground zero. The goslings are in the coop and resting. Aunt Roady will be out until morning." Then, the screen went blank and the call ended.
Don sighed deeply as he flipped his phone closed, tucking it casually back inside his coat as he interpreted the message to his family, "Thomas is already at the house, waiting for us. He said the kids are in bed asleep and he's managed to drug the sitter, so we have until morning to get this problem back to California."
He then noticed Seth's head perk up at the mention of 'the kids'. Painfully, he knew how desperately his nephew wanted to see Mindy again, not to mention the newest child. Don was anxious, too, but right now, they had to wait, to mind their moves so that his niece would not suspect they were there.
Already she had proved herself quite capable of eluding capture.
"Aunt Roady?" Raph snickered, "Where in hell did he come up with that one?
Mike chirped, "Com'on, Raph, don'cha remember that children's song, 'Go Tell Aunt Roady'? You know, about how the old gray goose is dead?" He smiled wide, somewhat amused with the cryptic wording that Don's valet had used.
Leo and Don chuckled as Raph replied, "Never did like children's songs - or geese, for that matter; aggressive little sons of …"
"ANYway, gentlemen," Don interjected softly before Raph could finish his expletive, "if we have any problems, I can smooth things out with the sheriffs. They're having a fundraiser this weekend for the local children's orphanage and I'm sure a little extra cash will go a long ways."
"A little 'extra cash?' Leo snorted lightly, "Isn't that like 'buying a little boat named the Titanic?" he grumped.
"Hey, nothing like having a rich brother to make things right, eh, Leo?" Raph jested quietly as his mood brightened up a bit more.
"A simple recovery and extraction would eliminate any need for extra expenses," his brother quietly said, murmuring, "If we did it the way we had been taught to…"
"Yeah, and if offspring would just do as they're told, we wouldn't even be here in the first place." Raph deadpanned sorely.
Suddenly, the lighting around the stage glowed to life, interrupting the banter between the two brothers. The illumination blinked once and then again, as the power hesitated, finally going full on as the generator kicked in. Some in the crowd of people began to clap in approval, yet a gradual hush soon enveloped the audience. A few intermittent voices rose above the lull in excitement, but they soon quieted as the majority of those in the nightclub waited in eager anticipation.
The group at table eight also quelled their conversation. Now, all six pairs of eyes riveted to the stage, not more than thirty feet away.
"You sure it's her, Don?" a feminine voice next to him asked anxiously.
"Cassie, I'm certain of it," he replied, "My informant spent all of last month here, once he was certain. He followed her to her home, to the store, to work, everywhere. He's just as tired of this as we are and wants to get on with his life, as we do. The pictures are not the best, considering the poor lighting, but even with the hood and gloves she wore, I know it's her."
Cassandra sighed, "I sure hope you're right. It's time to end this nightmare, once and for all."
"I couldn't agree with you more, my love." Don murmured. With his arm draped around her shoulders, he gave Cassie a gentle hug.
She leaned into his embrace, appearing noticeably tired and spent as she fingered her wedding band. "It's been a very long five years indeed," she mused silently to herself as she looked over towards the entertainment area.
Basking the surrounding tables in a softened golden glow, the illumination spread out beyond the stage area as prerecorded music began to play. It filled the interior of the nightclub with a light energy and promised those needing it, a couple of hour's worth of escape from everyday concerns. Considering it was the winter season with only sixty minutes of sun during the 'daytime', many came to the nightclub to break up the monotony of living in such harsh conditions. Therefore, the excitement intensified until it was almost palatable to the senses.
The heightened level of anxiety caused those at table eight to react more alertly. They could sense that someone was nervous and it wasn't coming from the crowd. In response, the six huddling in the corner booth mentally shut themselves down, curbing their own eagerness for the show to start.
Seth sucked in his breath and held it, almost painfully, as he waited along with the others. He was desperately afraid that this would become another dead-end to their long, five-year hunt for his wayward wife. Considering the probability that the informant had hit a 'bulls-eye', now would not be a good time for Gabby to flee with the children, not with the weather conditions prevailing just outside the front door of the nightclub.
As Seth peered over towards the entrance, he saw a few more people come blowing in through the weather break. Snow flurries dusted over the new patrons, melting in the warm air of the interior as the new arrivals patted the extras off their outerwear.
"Alaska, indeed," he sighed wearily, "Who would'a thought?"
How many cities had they searched, though, and how many countries did they visit?
Seth had lost count.
As it was, he was hardly the same person anymore, where grief and anger had consumed him over losing his beloved Gabriella.
Yet, losing his daughter, Mindy, and his other child, had hardened him considerably as well. How could his wife just up and take his children from him the way that she did?
It angered Seth a lot.
Of course, he mourned for the lost opportunity of seeing the baby Gabby had carried at the time of her disappearance. Did she have a son, or maybe another daughter?
Don's informant, who had found them in Alaska, could not say for sure, only that the younger child he had seen with Gabby was about five years old. Always covered from head to toe in order to blend in among the Fairbanks public, the young one was never out of arms length of either its one parent or older sibling. Where he noticed that Gabriella dressed both of her children in non-gender related clothing; determining the sex of either would have been difficult at best to judge from afar.
The informant did say that there was a noticeable 'hump' along the younger child's back, alluding to the possibility of a shell. One pant leg seemed 'thicker', too, by comparison to the other, suggesting a tail. That was as much as the man could relay to the family about what the younger child looked like. Where none of them knew for sure how long Gabriella had been in Alaska, they collectively surmised that she had arrived when heavier winter clothing was a necessity. The bulkier outerwear would allow the younger child to hide his shell better, whereas warmer weather would make him more noticeable with lighter-weighted clothing.
It was imperative then that they ascertain if Gabby was truly living in Fairbanks and before the warmer weather arrived. The only good thing about where they were was that winter in Alaska was a long-lived season. Once the weather warmed up, though, it would be more difficult for her to dress the children for concealment.
Now was the time to act.
With the informant spending a month in the city and taking notes on the suspect, he discovered that Gabby home-schooled Mindy and the other child. Don and the rest of them felt it made perfect sense, too. How could she justify who and what she was to the local educational system and then still continue to remain below Don's 'radar'? Mindy, even with her strong human influence, would still stand out as oddly different.
As for the sitter, they found that she was an old Inuit woman who lived with them. She was a sharman, or spiritual leader, called an Angekok. The informant found that Marie, or Arnaaluk, originally lived with a more rural tribe northwest from Fairbanks near the coast. However, living with Gabby, she rarely went outside, preferring to stay indoors. The informant believed that the woman was fearful of the 'big city', even though by his standards Fairbanks was no more than a large town.
Yet, how she came into Gabriella's company was still a mystery, though. Considering the Inuit culture's tendency to honor the animal kingdom as part of their spiritual life, more than likely Marie revered Gabby and her children. It was quite logical and, therefore, expected that Marie might see Gabby as an extension to her traditional belief system.
At the very least, that was what Don theorized after he read over the information his source provided him.
Just the same, Marie was just as protective of the children as Gabriella was. She even refused to crack open the front door of the little house in which they lived when, on one occasion, the informant played 'door to door' salesman. Not even the sounds of children seeped through the structure, proof to the family that Gabby had trained them to play quietly.
"Despite the infrequency of your wife's ninja training, Seth," Leo had offered when Don informed them of the possibility of Gabby being in Alaska, "what she did learn she's using well, if evading recovery for as long as she has is any proof."
"At least both children are healthy," Seth had replied sadly, "and for that, at least, I'm grateful."
However, before they learned that the baby was alive and well, the child's fate had worried Seth a great deal. It caused him to wonder if maybe in her haste to leave, Gabriella had miscarried and brought forth a dead child. Although there wasn't any mention of dumpster babies fitting reptilian descriptions, nevertheless, fear would claw at Seth every night.
Yet, anger would cloud Seth's mind and heart, as well, when he thought about what Gabby had done.
Nevertheless, deeper still was his love for her. Seth only wanted her back. He would forgive her of everything if he could only hold her again, kiss her, make love to her, and just have her back in his life once more.
Even his father was willing to forego ninja training for Mindy if it meant finding and returning Gabriella to the family. Leo missed her, too, and he finally had to concede that it seemed counter productive to train a child in an ancient art if it meant losing them forever. Just the same, Leo was confident that if they succeeded in reclaiming Gabby, he might be able to encourage her to see things in their proper perspective once again.
In hindsight, though, he now recognized that his aggressive stance with her initial rebellion was overstated. How could she not balk at having her children learn what Ramiela demonstrated so well? Where neither he nor his brothers ever showed her the depth of 'blood lust' that Rama had, such a sight would have been horrifying to the common person. To, then, add insult to injury by taking Mindy away was the proverbial 'straw that broke the camel's back'.
In short, Leo had not counted on Gabby's maternal instincts to kick in as strongly as they did. In retrospect, it rather impressed him and more so as the months and years went by without finding neither 'hide nor hair' of the girl.
"A true testament to her determination and heritage," he had commented once to Don.
As Seth sat there and waited for the performer to step out onto the stage, he thought back to the day when his and his clan's nightmare began. In two months, it would be the five-year anniversary of her leaving, when his father informed him that, because of Gabby's stubborn resistance to Mindy's training, he would be taking their young daughter to Japan.
It nearly devastated Seth to hear those words from his father, and yet he could not rightly blame him.
Just the same, Seth knew that if the kunoichi from the alternate universe, Ramiela, had not become so violent towards Cassandra, mistaking her for her own deceased and abusive mother, then Gabby would have permitted Mindy's training.
However, that wasn't what had happened. Rama did indeed tried to attack Cassie and almost killing her before Gabriella talked the girl out of her blood-rage. After everyone had returned home, Gabby graduated the situation to an all-out resistance against ninjitsu training for her own daughter, Mindy. Gabriella stubbornly rejected every attempt to convince her that training Mindy was paramount to what she wanted for her.
In the end, Gabriella had forced Leo's hand in his judgment and in his decision to have Mindy sent to Japan.
By early morning of the next day, it had become apparent that, during the night, she had left Mike's compound. Don's taxi service had record of picking Gabby up in front of the private road leading in from Highway One, only to then drop her off at the airport in San Jose a few hours later.
After Leo and the others drove out to check up on the lead, they found that not one person at any of the terminals remembered seeing a anyone fitting Gabby's description.
After San Jose, they went on to check San Francisco International. When that panned out, the train stations were next, with all major bus depots considered as well. They ended up calling just about every departure point in and around central California in trying to locate their missing family member.
Yet, despite their many queries and phone calls, it seemed as if Gabby had virtually disappeared.
Finally, after a week of contacting a long list of various taxi services, Mike found 'pay dirt'. One taxi company reportedly gave a ride to a woman near the San Jose airport the same night Gabby took off. According to the driver who handled the ride, the woman had acted a bit strange to him. He described her as "covered from head ta toe, wearin' black gloves while she was carryin' a sleepin' chil' in her arms. She never showed her face t'me, where the hood was comin' down too far fer me to see 'er. She seemed shy, is all."
The driver indicated that the child was wrapped well and had slept longer than he thought normal, too. It seemed odd to him, but then he had seen many odd things in his line of work. Consequently, he dismissed it – until Mike's phone call to the man's taxi company came through.
"Los Angeles…that's where she said she wanted ta go. I couldn't drive that far, company rules an' all, so's I just dropped 'er off at a bus station in Fresno," the driver told him.
However, before they could plan a search party, word came to them that a blast in Japan had presumably killed Don. He had been involved with various business dealings and, consequently, was out of the country during Gabby's sudden departure. As it turned out, though, the blast was a decoy to hide Don's abduction, the resulting investigation sending the ninja members of the clan plus the kunoichi, Ramiela, to the Philippines to retrieve him.
During that time, Leo had Don's security company to follow what leads there were in tracking Gabriella. It was hard for Seth to allow, though, where he was nearly overwhelmed with worry and quite desperate to get his wife and child back. Yet, he had to agree that with as much time that had gone by, trusting the shrewdness of his brother's employees to monitor the girl's whereabouts was the best course of action to take.
While Don's men were doing what they did best, Leo, and the others, flew on to Japan.
When it was proven that Don had not been killed, an informant, a disgruntled terrorist from the group responsible, came forward and told them what faction it was who had initially kidnapped Don and who set up the explosion to cover the fact. Once the location of the terrorist camp was determined, his brothers and nephews, along with Rama, flew to the Philippines. It was there on one of the southwestern islands where they successfully recovered Don alive, bringing him back to Leo's ryu in Japan for convalescing.
As Seth sipped at his drink, he sadly recalled that it was also in the Philippines where Ramiela had supposedly died, as did Devon's hopes for a family. He closed his eyes and swallowed. So much was lost when Rama went back home. So much hope for his brother, gone forever in a flash of light and exploding shrapnel. Seth was glad Devon confirmed later that Rama had not died. Just the same, where he did so through a drug-induced meditation, his second attempt was almost disastrous. If not for Leo's quick intervention, Seth was certain his brother would have died, or – worse – ended up a vegetable.
Seth sadly shook his head. To think that his brother would have been that desperate as to willingly put himself in such danger, spoke volumes with how much he loved the kunoichi. Even though the whole family did find solace that Rama was alive and back in her world, she might as well have died, considering what Devon lost when she transported back to her life in the sewers of New York City.
Sighing deeply, Seth realized how lucky he truly was to have Gabby as his wife and to have the honor of claiming Mindy as his own. Now, more than anything, he desperately wanted them back, to hold his daughter again, and to get to know his very own 'flesh and blood'.
In short, Seth just wanted his family whole and complete again, just as it was before - no matter what.