'It's your turn to change him.'
The brilliant blue eyes of his younger brother gleamed with amusement. 'I don't think so.' Stringfellow Hawke said with a laugh.
Saint John wrinkled his nose and held the child out in front of him over the dining table which was strewn with a large number of documents. 'He's your son.'
'Who you volunteered to look after while Caitlin took a bath.' Hawke shot back.
Saint John grimaced. 'I got shot protecting him.' He pointed out. It had been only a couple of weeks since he had taken a bullet that had allowed their friend Jo Santini to get Nicky to the safety of Airwolf, the world's most technologically advanced and only mach capable helicopter, during a hostage situation at the Lair. His shoulder had healed nicely; it was only a flesh wound and he'd had worse.
Hawke sighed and reached across to pluck his young son from Saint John's grasp. 'You know that excuse is going to get old real quick.'
'But I intend getting full use out of it before it does.' Saint John quipped as he followed Hawke over to the sitting area and watched as his brother quickly and expertly dealt with the diaper. 'You have that down to a fine art.' He commented when Nicky was cleaned up.
'Yes, I do.' Hawke tickled his son's tummy and was delighted when Nicky blew him a drool bubble. He wondered if there some weird parenting quirk that made it adorable instead of gross.
'You know I'd be happy to take him next week.' Saint John offered, lowering himself to the floor to join in playing with the baby.
'Nah.' Hawke shook his head. His warm blue gaze met his brother's hazel eyes. 'Marella's looking forward to having Nicky.' The dark-haired Hawaiian intelligence agent would be Nicky's godmother and took her impending responsibilities seriously.
Saint John made goo-goo faces at his nephew. 'Michael does know he's in for the infamous baby test, doesn't he?' He asked referring to Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, Marella's fiancé and Hawke's close friend.
'The what?' Hawke asked with a short laugh.
'The infamous baby test.' Saint John repeated.
His brother looked at him blankly.
'You know,' Saint John said impatiently, 'when your girlfriend arranges to look after a friend's baby with the express purpose being to see how you deal with it.'
'Deal with it?' Hawke's eyebrow quirked upwards.
Saint John gestured. 'Look after it…the baby.' He sighed. 'You know what I mean.'
Hawke picked up his gurgling child and cradled him as he started to whimper.
'He's hungry.' Saint John said identifying the stubborn set to Nicky's mouth. 'I'll get the bottle.'
Hawke let Saint John dash off to the kitchen to retrieve the bottle and warm it as he kept Nicky from a full blooded scream that would no doubt bring his mother running. His wife Caitlin deserved a break. She had just gone back to work and had admitted the schedule of juggling a home, a baby, a husband and a job was tiring. She had even joked that her mother might be right after all; that staying at home as a full time mother was a good idea. Hawke knew her well enough to know it was just that; a joke. Caitlin wasn't suited to staying on the sidelines anymore than he was. He patted Nicky sympathetically as he began the first really earnest cries.
'Come on, little guy.' Hawke crooned. 'Uncle Saint John's almost got your bottle ready.'
'Here.' Saint John handed Hawke the bottle and the bib at the same time.
Hawke neatly turned Nicky in his arms, deftly positioned the bib, tested the liquid and had the teat of the bottle in this son's mouth in a couple of experienced moves.
'You see,' Saint John said as he settled back against the sofa, his legs stretching out on the hearth rug, 'you would pass the baby test with flying colours.'
'I don't think there is a baby test.' Hawke said as Nicky sucked enthusiastically on the bottle. 'Maybe it's just you they were testing.'
'There is a baby test and I'm telling you, Michael is facing it next week with your kid.' Saint John ran a hand through his short light brown hair. It wasn't as short as Hawke's but it was short enough. It amused him that they both preferred the militaristic style of their army experience.
'Marella already knows Michael would make a good father.' Hawke said defending his friend. 'He has Angelina.'
'But didn't you tell me he didn't know about Angelina until she was what…ten?' Saint John's eyes twinkled. 'I'm telling you; she's testing his baby skills.' He waved a hand at Nicky. 'I mean have you ever seen Michael pick up Nicky?'
Hawke opened his mouth to say yes and closed it again. In all honesty he couldn't remember an instance when Michael had actually picked up Nicky voluntarily. He'd held him once shortly after the birth when Hawke had shown Nicky to the spy for the first time but he had handed him back to Caitlin pretty quickly. 'OK.' He allowed. 'You might have a point.'
Saint John nodded enthusiastically. 'I definitely have a point. There's no way this isn't a baby test especially now Michael's popped the question.'
Hawke shrugged. Marella had accepted Michael's proposal and the happily betrothed couple were making wedding plans for the summer along with Michael's daughter who was thrilled with her new step-mother-to-be and with the prospect of being a bridesmaid. Hawke figured the former was just nudging the latter for which Angelina was most thrilled about.
'You know I can't believe Michael snagged himself someone that…'
Hawke shot his brother a look.
'Hot.' Saint John ended with a smirk.
'You should see some of his other aides.' Hawke commented as he set the bottle down, rearranged the bib over his shoulder and patted Nicky's back until he gave a satisfactory milky burp. 'Michael's always had an eye for beautiful, intelligent women.' He settled Nicky down again with the bottle. 'Besides you're just jealous.' He teased.
Saint John sighed. 'You're right. I am.' He rubbed a hand over his hair and wondered at his sudden unguarded moment of honesty.
'You are?' Hawke looked over at him.
Saint John shrugged. 'I'm not getting any younger, String.' He gently clasped one of Nicky's waving hands. 'I'd quite like one of these myself.'
'You kinda need to find yourself a woman first.' Hawke pointed out lightly.
His elder brother rolled his eyes. 'Yeah. I kinda figured that for myself.'
'You have anybody in mind?' Hawke asked mildly curious at his brother's admission.
Saint John sighed as Jo drifted into his consciousness. He shook his head as though it would shift the image of the pretty blonde pilot. Jo was like a sister to him, he told himself firmly; besides, she and their mutual team-mate Mike Rivers seemed to have something going on between them. They had been real close since Mike had gone undercover as a German pilot just after Christmas and Saint John wasn't about to get in the middle of it and screw it up for them. 'Not really.' He murmured. He tried a smile. 'You got the best woman going.' He said diverting the topic a little.
'Yes, I did.' Hawke said contentedly. He and Caitlin had their first wedding anniversary coming up and while the past year had been challenging on many fronts, he truly believed their marriage was the reason they had survived everything life had thrown at them, including losing his beloved mentor and surrogate father, Dominic Santini, in a horrific helicopter explosion.
Saint John grinned. 'I take it she still doesn't know what you have planned?'
'Nope.' Hawke said. He had something special in mind for their anniversary and knew it was driving his wife nuts that he wouldn't tell her exactly what; he wanted it to be a surprise.
'It's a great idea.' Saint John said. 'By the way, I've been meaning to ask if you had photos of the wedding?' He asked casually as if it weren't a big deal that he hadn't seen any pictures of his brother's wedding beyond the framed shot of the bride and groom on the mantel.
'Back cupboard by the radio.' Hawke answered absently his attention on Nicky. 'There's an album.'
Saint John levered himself off the floor and pottered back to the kitchen to grab a couple of beers. On the way back he dived into the cupboard and dragged out the album Hawke had mentioned. He placed one bottle by Hawke while he sat in one of the easy chairs and flipped through the pictures. He stopped at a snapshot of Dom with his brother and Caitlin. It was an outtake and had the older barrel-chested man with his arms open wide, his face split almost in two with a gap-toothed grin, reaching for the smiling couple who were reaching back for him for a group hug. Saint John's fingers brushed across the happy faces.
Hawke looked over as he set Nicky down in his baby carrier and reached for the beer. His sharp eyes caught on the picture that had captivated his brother's attention. 'It's a great shot.' He commented. 'I've been meaning to have it framed.'
'You should.' Saint John said with a heavy sigh. His serious hazel eyes met his brother's. 'I'm sorry I wasn't there.'
Hawke's blue eyes shifted a little; his expression became guarded. His brother's decision not to contact him for sixteen years was still a prickly topic. On one level, Hawke understood his brother's desire for freedom and independence; on another, he couldn't quite forget the heartache of not knowing if his brother was alive or dead. Their past closeness as brothers was something they were striving to recover but they'd made good progress especially since Nicky had been born. He knew Saint John was waiting for a reply and he sighed. 'So am I.' He said gently without a shade of accusation or recrimination.
'It looks like it was a great day.' Saint John commented moving on from the picture of Dom to other shots of the couple and their wedding guests. He stopped again; this time at a formal shot of Hawke with Dom and Michael either side of him. He grimaced feeling his regret bite a little sharper. If he had been around, it would have been him stood beside his brother and not the spy, he thought. He rubbed his chest absently. He and Michael weren't quite as adversarial as they had been when they had first met but he still didn't trust the spy, still resented the other man's place in Hawke's life. He snapped the album shut and took a deep breath. 'I didn't see any shots of your bachelor night.' He commented. There had been a couple of loose snaps in the album of Caitlin's bridal shower.
Hawke shrugged. 'Wasn't any.'
'What did you do?' Saint John asked curious.
'Went fishing.' Hawke said succinctly. He sighed at his brother's pointed look and gestured with the bottle. 'Dom and Patrick organised a camping trip up the mountain.'
Saint John's lips twitched. 'Sounds perfect for you.'
'It was.' Hawke admitted. 'Just Cait's Dad, her brothers, Michael, Doc and Dom.'
'A friend of mine. Bush pilot, used to be a medic in the army.' Hawke said easily. 'He's in Africa at the moment doing some volunteer thing.'
'So you had a good time?' Saint John asked.
'The first night was good.' Hawke said casting his mind back.
'And the rest?' Saint John probed.
Hawke gestured again. 'Kinda got overtaken by us getting hijacked by some guys.'
'Hijacked?' Saint John's eyebrows shot up.
'A plane went down near the stream. There were two guys who were delivering false id papers to some fugitive up at Rachino Pass.' Hawke explained. 'They pulled guns on us. I had to fly them up there in the chopper while they bust up the communications equipment the guys had and left them stranded.'
Saint John frowned. 'What happened?'
'I got away but got in a knife fight, got stabbed in the leg and ended up waiting for a rescue on the side of the mountain for more hours than I care to think about.' Hawke said in a matter-of-fact tone that belied the sheer terror and danger of the events. 'Almost didn't make it to the wedding.'
'Damn.' Saint John said quietly.
Hawke pulled a face. 'Cait and Dom rescued me in the Lady with Doc. It worked out.'
'Not really the bachelor event you want to remember.' Saint John said wryly.
Hawke took a long pull of his beer.
'You know,' Saint John began conversationally, 'we could take a trip up the mountain.' He pointed at Hawke with the beer bottle. 'Give you a second attempt at it.'
Hawke lowered his beer slowly. His blue eyes were on his brother's hopeful expression. 'I'm not sure, Saint John.'
'Aw, come on.' Saint John said.
Hawke sighed. 'I didn't really want a bachelor thing back then, Saint John.'
'It'll be fun. You, me. We'll invite Mike and Jason, he could do with something to take his mind off everything. I tell you what, I'll even invite Michael.' Saint John encouraged enthusiastically.
Hawke wasn't immune to his older brother's pleading expression; it had been years since Saint John had used it on him but he was dismayed that it worked just as effectively as it had before. 'OK,' he said reluctantly and held up his beer to stop Saint John's delighted response before it got started, 'if you can convince Cait.' He couldn't see his wife being too eager for them to repeat the trip given the previous outcome.
Saint John smiled far too smugly for Hawke's comfort. 'OK. Deal.' He leaned back in his chair. 'I can convince Caitlin.'
'Convince me of what?'
Both men turned at the Texan accent and smiled at the sight of the redheaded pilot on the stairs to the main bedroom. She was dressed in jeans and one of Hawke's sweaters, her red hair hanging in a wet ponytail over one shoulder. She made her way over to them and slipped into the seat next to Hawke on the sofa. She leaned over and checked on the baby before she snuggled up to her husband and snagged his beer for a quick drink.
Hawke tugged her closer. 'Saint John wants to give me another shot at a bachelor night and take me on another fishing trip.'
Saint John stepped in quickly seeing the anxiety flicker across her freckled face. 'I figure he deserves another chance at one given how his last one got so screwed up.'
'Sure.' Caitlin said slowly. 'But another fishing trip? He did tell you he almost died on the last one?'
'Well, what are the odds of it happening again?' Saint John asked trying to cajole her.
'To him?' Caitlin looked at her husband fondly. 'Probably a dead certainty.' She finished dryly.
Hawke started to quietly chuckle.
Saint John took a deep breath; he was obviously going to have to bring out his ace. 'Shame.' He said sadly. 'I thought it would be nice, you know, as I kinda missed out the first time and I didn't get to do all that big brother stuff like arranging the bachelor party.'
Caitlin rolled her eyes. 'Please. Like I'm going to fall for that.'
Her brother-in-law plastered an innocent look on his face. 'What?'
'Saint John, my mother is the Queen of the Guilt trip so don't even get me started.' Caitlin retorted. She looked over at Hawke whose amusement of the conversation was evident in the small smile tugging at his otherwise impassive expression.
She realised he'd planned it so she would be the one to refuse Saint John; Hawke hadn't been keen on his bachelor night and had only been partially mollified at the idea of the fishing trip. She bit her lip. Despite Hawke's reluctance she knew it would be a good bonding exercise for the brothers. They had struggled with their relationship although Saint John's protection of Nicky had helped bridge some of the distance; Saint John had chosen to stay with them after his release from the hospital and the past week or so had felt like they were a real family.
Caitlin sighed and pushed a wet strand of escaping hair back into her ponytail. 'OK. If Hawke wants to do it, I have no objections.'
Hawke choked on the last gulp of beer. His blue eyes shot to his wife's accusingly.
She patted his knee apologetically as Saint John hooted with laughter.
'You'll have fun.' She said.
'Right.' Hawke muttered.
'That's settled then.' Saint John said pleased. 'We'll head up this weekend before you guys disappear for your trip.'
Caitlin looked around for something to change the topic given Hawke's disgruntlement. Her blue-green eyes glanced off the dining table. 'Did you find anything useful in the file Michael gave you?'
The Hawke brothers had realised that there was a possibility their parents were alive and in witness protection following Alan Hawke's involvement in identifying a Mafia mobster Angelo Cordelli and his henchman Edward Sallis as his father's murderer. The brothers were determined to find out the truth which had come into question after a Japanese pilot had claimed that Alan Hawke had died a mere five years earlier instead of in the boating accident as they had all previously believed.
Hawke sighed and followed her gaze back to the spread of documents. 'Nothing yet.'
Saint John grimaced. 'I don't see how all this information on the Cordelli's is going to help.'
Hawke rubbed his chin. 'We're going to have to find a way to bring them down if we're going to end this and make sure they don't come after us or our folks.'
'You do realise the Cordelli's are a major Mafia family?' Saint John said with a hint of exasperation.
'There has to be a weakness in their operation somewhere.' Hawke commented.
'What about Locke's info on Yahara?' Caitlin asked tangling her fingers with his.
Saint John's sigh was almost identical to his brother's. 'It's a lot of paper.' He said defensively.
'Which y'all been staring at all day.' Caitlin remarked amused.
'I don't suppose you could take a look?' Hawke said. 'You're a helluva lot better at this stuff than we are.'
'I just have more patience.' Caitlin said.
'That's what I said.' Hawke replied. 'You're better at this than we are.'
'Flattery will get you nowhere.' Caitlin remarked secretly pleased at the compliment. She patted his knee. 'You'd better get back to it while I put Nicky down.'
Hawke looked across at Saint John who gave him a bemused shrug and they wandered back over to the table.
Caitlin carried Nicky up and placed him back in his crib before she returned to the downstairs and made some coffee for them all. She curled up on the sofa and opened the book she had gotten half-way through reading in the bath. Her eyes flickered to the table and the quiet hum of conversation.
She'd take a look at the paperwork over the weekend while the men went fishing, she decided. There was always the chance that her investigative skills honed in her previous employment as a police officer might pick up something the two ex-soldiers missed. Maybe she'd invite Marella and Jo at the weekend, see if the women in general couldn't collectively come up with something, especially as the guys would be away. She smiled wryly. The fishing trip would be good for the brothers, she mused, just as the search for their parents was bringing the two men closer. She gave a satisfied nod of contentment at the sight of Hawke and his brother sitting closely together, both bent over the same document discussing its merits, before she returned her attention determinedly to her book.---
'You'll have fun.' Caitlin said rubbing her husband's arm comfortingly.
Hawke's eyes slid to hers. For a moment the unfathomable blue depths showed his disbelief before they shifted back to the early afternoon sky in front of them.
They were both stood out on the porch waiting for the arrival of the helicopter that would deposit Jo, Marella and Angelina at the cabin and pick up Hawke for the trip up the mountain. Tet, Hawke's dog, was sat waiting patiently beside his master.
Caitlin reviewed Hawke's stern profile and sighed. 'If you really don't want to do it, I'll tell Saint John I changed my mind.'
His eyes darted back to hers
She hooked her arms around his neck and he shifted to hold her. 'Seriously, String. If you don't want to do this, you don't have to.'
His eyebrows rose a little at the shortened version of his first name; she rarely used the derivative. 'String, huh? I must be in trouble.'
'No.' Caitlin said with a reluctant chuckle. She shrugged and smoothed her hands over his shoulders feeling the tension locked in them. 'I think it would be good for you and Saint John to spend the time together but it's your decision.'
Hawke sighed and pulled her a little closer. She was right. He knew Saint John had suggested the trip out of his guilt that he hadn't been around for the original bachelor night and that allowing Saint John to replay the event might help his brother get past it. As much as he didn't want to go, he knew his brother was looking forward to it and he wouldn't let him down. 'I told him I'd go so I'll go.'
'Well, make sure you come back in one piece this time.' Caitlin murmured.
Hawke's eyes narrowed on hers. She was nervous, he realised and kicked himself. It had probably taken a lot for her to agree to the trip given how he'd almost not come back the last time. 'I'll be fine.' He assured her. 'Like Saint John says, what are the odds of it happening again?'
'Do I have to repeat my answer?' She said laughing.
Hawke dipped his head and kissed her. She leaned in and the kiss deepened. A sound caught Hawke's attention and he eased back to stare at the seemingly empty sky.
Caitlin sighed as the helicopter flew into view and moments later it was set down on the landing pier. They hurried over. The next few minutes passed in a chaos as the group piled out of the helicopter, the bags were unloaded and taken into the cabin; Hawke's fishing gear and rucksack were loaded. Everyone was decked out in warm outdoor gear even Michael had eschewed his usual all-white uniform to dress appropriately for the weather and the activity.
'What's this?' Caitlin asked as Jason Locke handed Jo a box of documents.
'The Company cleared the house Yahara was staying in.' The African-American agent explained. 'This was all the paperwork we could find.' He shrugged. 'There was nothing useful as far as the Company was concerned but it might provide some clues on where Yahara got his information on Alan Hawke.'
Caitlin gave him a delighted smile. 'We'll take a look.'
'We should make a move.' Saint John said slapping his brother's shoulder.
Hawke shot him a look. He took a step forward and hugged Caitlin.
'You be safe.' She whispered.
'We'll check in first thing tomorrow.' Hawke promised gently. He ignored everyone else and cupped her face in his hands, kissing her deeply.
The others exchanged wry looks.
'Daddy,' Angelina tugged at her father's hand, 'you should kiss Marella.' Her dog Brownie jumped up and down beside her excited.
Marella looked over at her fiancé, her dark eyes twinkling.
Michael hid his own smile. 'If you insist.' He let go of his daughter and tugged his fiancée into his arms to kiss her soundly.
The new Airwolf team looked at the two couples with amusement.
Mike Rivers glanced over at Jo. 'How about it?'
Jo grinned. 'Not a chance.' She laughed as their team-mate Locke rolled his eyes. There was only one guy she was interested in, Jo thought. Her eyes flickered to Saint John who was staring off into the distance over the lake. She sighed. It was just a pity he didn't see her that way.
'You can kiss me.' Angelina offered cheekily. She quite liked Mike with his mane of curly blond hair and mischievous grin.
'Well, how can I refuse an offer like that?' Mike said moving forward intending to plant a very sloppy but completely platonic kiss on Angelina's forehead.
'Rivers.' Michael said mildly breaking his hold of Marella. 'That's my daughter.'
'Sorry, princess.' Mike ruffled Angelina's golden head as she protested her father's interference. 'Maybe when you're a few years older.'
'Or over my dead body.' Michael muttered just loud enough to be heard by the adults who started chuckling including Mike.
'What, Daddy?' Angelina asked innocently.
Michael reached down and hugged her. 'Be good for Marella and Caitlin. No climbing trees.'
'Yes, Daddy.' Angelina cradled the arm encased in plaster from her last attempt at the activity.
Hawke gave Caitlin a final hug and she let him go, reluctantly stepping back. The guys piled back into the helicopter. Hawke and Saint John took the front seats; Mike and the two intelligence agents, Locke and Michael, took seats in the back with some of the luggage they hadn't managed to fit into the hold.
Hawke started the engines and rotors, checked the gauges and indicators. He glanced out at the cabin. The women were gathered on the porch along with the two dogs watching their departure; his eyes fixed on Caitlin. He couldn't shake the uneasy feeling about the trip despite his best efforts. He repressed the urge to sigh. Maybe Caitlin wasn't the only one affected by what had happened the last time, he thought wryly.
Saint John's worried voice broke through his thoughts and he turned to nod at his older brother. 'Sorry.' He grasped the cyclic and the helicopter ascended into the sky and Hawke let the familiar hum and rhythm of flying relax him.
'So,' Mike said leaning forward to poke his head in-between the front seats, 'I heard there was some fun the last time you guys tried this?'
Michael looked over at the irrepressible pilot with a hint of exasperation. 'I wouldn't classify being stranded on a mountain as fun.'
'Come on,' Mike said encouragingly, 'a plane crash; armed hijackers, a fugitive from justice. Didn't you find that fun?'
'Sure,' Hawke said dryly, 'I had a lot of fun almost dying.'
'Excuse Mike,' Locke interjected, 'he has a screw loose.' His dark eyes motioned at Mike to settle down and the young pilot obligingly changed the topic.
Locke's dark complexion was wan; he was still recovering from the torture he had endured a couple of weeks before in the same incident that had resulted in Saint John's shooting. He shifted in his seat. He should have refused to come, he thought not for the first time. He and the younger Hawke brother had never been seen eye to eye, and his relationship with his predecessor on the Airwolf file, Michael, was also a little fraught. But Saint John had insisted he come with them and while he might have held out against Saint John alone, he hadn't been able to withstand the combined voice of the rest of his team. He crossed his arms and sat back in his seat letting the conversation wash over him.
'So, how did you discover this place?' Mike asked.
'Family tradition.' Saint John said. 'We've been taking trips up here since my Grandpa was alive. Dad or Grandpa would bring us and after…Dom would bring us even though he couldn't fish worth a dime.'
'He never did learn.' Hawke agreed remembering the older man with a lot of fondness. There was a pang at the memory; the loss was still too recent, too raw. 'Said he just enjoyed the company.'
Saint John nodded. 'Actually, I think it was Grandpa who brought us up the first time.'
'It was.' Hawke agreed.
'I think it was Mom and Dad's wedding anniversary.' Saint John mused.
'They probably wanted the time alone.' Mike suggested waggling his eyebrows.
Both Hawke brothers protested at the same time and they looked at each other with a startled amusement before Hawke turned his attention back to the flight.
Michael cleared his throat. 'How are things going with sifting through the information from the FBI?'
'Slowly,' admitted Hawke. 'I'm hoping Cait'll pick something up that we missed.'
'The Cordelli's seem to have an airtight operation.' Saint John agreed. 'There are no obvious weaknesses.'
'The FBI has been trying for years to break down that family without success.' Locke said. He wasn't sure the Hawkes search for their parents was a good idea and the idea of bringing down a Mafia family to achieve it seemed farfetched to him.
Hawke's jaw set in a stubborn line. 'There's always a way.'
'We just have to find it.' Saint John agreed.
Michael looked across at Locke. The brothers were obviously united on their plan however insane the idea was. 'My contact told me he's close to getting the file on your parents. Hopefully that will help with the search for them.'
'I hope so because what we've got so far hasn't helped at all.' Saint John commented. 'The coastguard report of the supposed accident; Dom's old file on the murder of my grandpa; the information on Yahara…' he sighed, 'it's all led nowhere.'
'Maybe that box of paper from Yahara's house will turn up something.' Hawke said.
'I wouldn't get your hopes up.' Locke interjected. 'I had a look and nothing jumped out at me.'
'If there's something there, Caitlin will find it.' Hawke's quiet confidence in his wife shone like a beacon in the cockpit.
'She's got some good help too.' Locke added. 'Jo's got an eye for investigative detail.'
'As has Marella.' Michael added.
'They do make a formidable trio.' Mike mused. 'They kind of remind me of Charlie's Angels. Now if we could only get them all into bikinis…'
'I wouldn't mention that to them.' Saint John said laughing as the others shook their heads. 'Not if you value your head.'
'I don't think it's his head he would need to worry about.' Locke commented wryly.
Michael considered Marella and Caitlin's likely response and smiled. 'You're probably right.'
'Oh come on; like the thought hadn't crossed any of your minds.' Mike said.
'So if they're Charlie's Angels, what would that make you?' Saint John retorted. 'Charlie?'
'Nah.' Mike replied. He waved his hand expressively. 'Why would you want to be Charlie? He never gets to be with the ladies.'
'So that would make you Bosley.' Locke pointed out.
'Bumbling funny guy.' Saint John met Mike's eyes laughing. 'I can see how that fits.'
'Hey!' Mike protested chuckling.
Hawke was shaking his head in amusement at the exchange – Mike and his brother were always good entertainment – when a glint caught the corner of his eye. He checked the sky with a frown, all of his senses suddenly on alert.
'What?' Saint John said immediately picking up on his brother's tension.
'We have a bandit.' Hawke said bluntly. 'Two o'clock.'
The others turned to crane their heads out of the windows.
'I don't see anything.' Michael said peering into the sky.
'He's there.' Hawke knew it in his gut.
'Are you sure?' Locke asked doubtfully.
'If he says there's something there, there's something there.' Michael responded before Hawke or his brother could reply. He'd worked with the pilot too long not have developed an enormous respect for Hawke's abilities.
Hawke ignored Locke and adjusted course.
'You heading for Foxridge?' Saint John asked seeing the change. The little town on the mountain-side was the closest populated area that could be deemed urban within reach.
'Yeah.' Hawke said shortly.
Saint John looked up. 'Got him. Four o'clock. He's staying with us.'
'Is there any chance there's a homing device on board?' Michael asked leaning forward as Hawke dived.
'I checked the chopper over myself this morning.' Saint John said defensively. 'It's clean.'
'Either they have a homing device or they must have followed you from Santini Air.' Michael said forcefully, his good eye pinned to the ground whizzing by below them.
'Why do you assume it was us they were following?' Saint John shot back. 'It could be you.'
'Hey.' Hawke snapped.
The two men subsided.
Hawke frowned. The chopper was keeping pace with them. His ears caught a whistling sound and he banked hard. The missile slammed past them and exploded on the hillside.
'He knows we've spotted him.' Saint John said calmly though his heart was pounding and his breath was coming quickly.
'I don't know,' Mike muttered fastening his seatbelt hurriedly as he hauled himself back into his seat, 'maybe his trying to shoot us out of the sky was an accident.'
'Yeah.' Hawke agreed sarcastically. His instinct told him to go left and he made the move without even thinking about it. Another missile shot past them.
'We need to lose him.' Locke said.
'You want to fly, Locke?' Hawke asked sharply. What the hell did the other man think he was trying to do? His eyes were already looking for the valley he knew was over the next ridge. He skipped the helicopter over it and down into the valley smartly before slowly abruptly. Everyone felt the bottom fall out of their stomach at the move.
The chasing chopper flew over them shooting past.
Hawke raised them and dived back over the ridge.
'That won't fool him for long.' Saint John noted.
'No.' Hawke agreed as he resumed their previous course to Foxridge.
Suddenly, there was an explosion by the tail rotor.
The chopper spun and plummeted before Hawke regained control. He fought with the stick and the cyclic trying to maintain altitude. His lips tightened as they sped towards the ground. He was losing the battle.
'Everyone hold on!' He yelled. 'We're going down!'---
Saint John sat in the silent cockpit and wondered at the fact that he was alive. The last few minutes had been crazy; a wild ride of bucking helicopter through treetops and rough terrain. Somehow Hawke had threaded the helicopter through the smallest opening in the canopy; had avoided the thick trunks and branches around them with the rotors and had forced the chopper to the ground with only one gut-wrenching bump that had thrown them all around the small space. Saint John tried to calm his heartbeat, regain his breath. His hazel eyes darted across to his brother and he froze.
Hawke was slumped against the cockpit door with his face drained of all colour. His eyes were closed and he was very still; too still.
'String?' Saint John croaked. His hands fumbled with the restraining belt before he unsnapped it and dived across the seats ignoring the stirring of the other men in the backseat. 'String?' His voice was stronger but vibrated with fear. 'String?' His fingers felt for a pulse and he breathed out sharply at the steady beat.
'Is he…?' Michael couldn't finish the question as he peered through the front seats at the other man.
Saint John caught his worried eye. 'He's got a pulse.' He gently drew his brother back to a sitting position and winced at the livid bruise and cut on his forehead. 'He's taken a knock to his head.' His throat closed on the rest. Any head wound was serious and this looked bad; Hawke probably had concussion at best and at worst…he couldn't contemplate it. He turned his attention to the rest of the group. 'Everybody else OK?'
'Fine.' Locke said tersely. He was holding his ribs gingerly and Saint John figured he had jolted the already bruised bones.
'I think I'm about to lose my lunch but I'm OK.' Mike said he placed his hand on the seat to push himself up and gave a sharp cry. His face blanched and he took a deep breath hurriedly moving his hand to cradle it gently against his chest. 'OK.' He said trying to maintain the previous irreverence. 'A little sprained wrist. Maybe.'
'Michael?' Saint John asked insistently.
'I'm fine.' Michael confirmed.
'Do you hear that?' Mike asked suddenly.
'What?' Michael asked.
'That.' Mike's eyes flew upwards to the ceiling of the chopper as though he could see through it to the sky above.
'It's the chopper that was chasing us.' Saint John confirmed staring up in the same way as Mike. 'It's flying over.'
There was a tense silence.
Eventually, Saint John breathed out. 'It's gone.'
'Now what?' Mike asked.
'Basic survival training.' Saint John replied. 'Let's get out, administer first aid and assess the situation.' He pushed at the door next to him and it opened. He jumped out onto the floor of the forest and took a deep breath of clean air before he stepped around to open the door next to Hawke. Michael joined him and Saint John grudgingly accepted his help to manoeuvre the younger man from the helicopter and place him gently on the ground.
Michael hurriedly searched his bag and placed a rolled up jumper beneath Hawke's head. They covered him with a blanket Locke pulled from the hold. It was important to keep him warm and dry. Saint John pulled out the first aid kit and within moments, Mike's wrist was bandaged and his arm in a makeshift sling while Locke's ribs had been taped to provide him with support.
Saint John looked around the clearing where they had landed.
'He set us down real nicely, Saint John.' Mike noted. 'Dark side of the forest. We're in shade.' He looked up at the mostly intact canopy of the small clearing and wondered how Hawke had managed to avoid ripping it all to shreds with the rotors. 'He's left us with plenty of cover from that chopper.'
'Until the sun changes position.' Locke said. 'That chopper will catch the rays hitting the rotors.'
'Not if we cover them.' Michael gestured at one of the tents. 'We can put one of the green canvas tents over them.'
'Good idea.' Saint John said.
'I'll do it.' Mike volunteered.
Saint John shot him a pointed look at his wrist.
'I'll supervise.' Mike corrected smoothly.
'Why don't you check our supplies while Michael and I see to the camouflage?' Saint John suggested.
It took them a good fifteen minutes to cover the helicopter completely and rig up a shelter over Hawke's prone form. They were delayed a couple of times as Saint John stopped to assess the damage to the chopper. Saint John checked on his brother again before he collapsed to sit beside him. He took the water bottle Mike offered him gratefully.
'What's the situation?' Michael asked taking a bottle from Locke as he settled on the other side of Hawke to Saint John.
'We have all the supplies for the weekend.' Mike said. 'Everything came through intact except for the chopper and…' he gestured at their pilot. 'We can last a couple of days out here with what we have.'
'String needs medical treatment.' Saint John said firmly. His eyes returned to his brother again and he reached over to tuck the blanket more securely around him. 'His head injury doesn't look good.' He knew he didn't need to explain that the continued lack of consciousness was not a good sign. 'We have to get off this mountain.'
'The chopper's bust.' Mike said bluntly.
'Yeah.' Saint John said. 'The tail rotor's shattered. It looks like there was a small explosive device set on the inside of the tail.' He shook his head. 'It wasn't there when I went over her.'
'We were all in the hangar for a while after your pre-check.' Locke pointed out. 'Someone could have planted in then.'
Saint John shook away the feeling that he had let them all down. 'It would take some work to fix the rotor.' He sighed. 'The radio transmitter is bust too. It looks like there was an identical, smaller charge attached to it. It's fried. Besides…'
'Any outgoing signal will catch the attention of whoever's out there.' Mike said pointing skyward. 'They could pinpoint our position.'
'I have a satellite phone.' Michael motioned at his luggage with the bottle he held.
They all stared at him for a moment and he looked back at them impassively. He had learnt his lesson on the last fishing trip; the more communication tools the better.
'Same problem.' Saint John dragging their attention back to the matter at hand. 'We don't know if they can pick up the signal.'
'We might have to take that risk.' Locke argued. 'We could call out a rescue and…'
'Lead whoever's after us straight to us like Mike said.' Saint John cut in. 'We have to get help for String without alerting whoever's trying to shoot us down.'
'Who is that?' Michael asked almost lazily.
'How should we know?' Saint John retorted exasperated by the other man's belief that the attack was something to do with them.
Michael's gaze hardened. 'The only people who know that I was coming here are Marella, my daughter and you guys.' He stabbed a finger at Saint John. 'Who did you tell?'
Locke and Mike exchanged a worried look as Michael and Saint John glared at each other across Hawke's body.
'Guys,' Mike said quietly, 'blaming each other isn't going to help us get out of this.'
Both older men stirred and subsided as though to their respective corners like prize fighters in a ring.
'OK,' Mike said firmly, 'so let's recap. Someone is after us. Your brother somehow landed us in a good position for cover so we could stay here until someone realises we're missing except for one thing; Hawke has a head injury that needs medical attention as soon as we can humanly get it to him.'
'If we use the radio or the phone we run the risk of it being picked up. Our position would be discovered and we'll all end up dead.' Locke added.
'So we have to find a way to get help for Hawke while not giving away our position.' Michael concluded.
'How far is Foxridge?' Mike asked.
Saint John sighed. 'I estimate from our last coordinates…' he waved a hand eastwards, 'about a ten-hour hike in that direction.'
'I'm not sure moving Hawke is a good idea.' Michael added. 'And if we do take him that ten hours is going to be more like twenty with us having to carry him and the supplies.'
'For once I agree with you.' Saint John said.
'Caitlin will realise something's wrong when we don't check in tomorrow morning and come looking in Airwolf.' Michael murmured. His blue eye ran over Hawke's unmoving form. 'But I'm not sure we should wait that long.' His own worry for Hawke gleamed momentarily in his good eye.
'We split up.' Mike suggested. 'Some of us could get to Foxridge and call Caitlin from there. That means we potentially have help in twelve-thirteen hours tops.' He shrugged. 'The rest of us stay here and look after Hawke. Guard our position in case they're looking for us.'
'Sounds like a plan.' Michael said smoothing his moustache.
'So who goes and who stays?' Locke threw in.
Saint John sighed heavily. 'I'm fit and I know the way. I should do the hike.' His aversion to leave his brother was evident in his unhappy tone.
Mike gestured at him with the water bottle. 'I'll come with you.'
'And what happens if Saint John has an accident.' Locke objected. 'You wouldn't be able to help him, you're injured.'
'So are you.' Mike retorted.
'But I'm not.' Michael said reluctantly.
Saint John looked over at him questioningly. 'It's rough terrain. What about your leg?' He gestured at the limb that Michael had stretched out in front of him.
'My knee's in good condition.' Michael argued. 'I'm certainly more physically able than Rivers at the moment. I'll be fine as long as I take my walking stick.'
'I'll go alone.' Saint John said stubbornly.
'Locke's right.' Michael said. 'What if you have an accident?' He waved his hand impatiently and a stubborn glint appeared in his eye. 'Besides, Hawke would never forgive me if you went alone.'
'Then it's decided.' Locke said forcefully before Saint John could argue. 'Saint John and Archangel will hike to Foxridge, alert Caitlin and Jo who'll bring Airwolf back to extract us.'
'We'll stay here.' Mike said. 'Watch Hawke's six.'
Saint John sighed. He knew the longer they stayed and argued about it the longer it would take for them to get help. 'Let's get packed. We'll travel light.'
Michael nodded and moved to gather a rucksack of basic provisions and supplies as did Saint John. Another five minutes later and both men were ready.
Saint John took one final look at his unconscious brother. 'Look after him.'
'You have my word.' Mike said without any of his usual humour. 'Good luck.' He gave Saint John a quick pat on the shoulder.
Michael allowed himself a glance towards his injured friend before Saint John joined him at the edge of the clearing. They moved out without a word.
'Think they'll be OK?' Mike asked as he watched them disappear into the dense foliage.
'Sure.' Locke said encouragingly. 'If they don't end up killing each other, they'll be just fine.'
'Right.' Mike said dryly.---
'What's this?' Caitlin looked in amusement at the organised piles of folders on her dining room table along with a selection of nibbles and drinks. She and Angelina had disappeared to feed Nicky and had returned to find their activity for the afternoon and evening clearly organised.
Marella smiled at her friend's bemusement and waved a hand over her efforts. 'I've organised the information into categories.' She patted the first two stacks. 'These are all the information from the FBI on the Cordelli's split into two sections; current data and historical information.'
Jo placed the last plate of snacks in the centre of the table and took a step back. She folded her arms and regarded the other woman with a similar sense of amusement to that shining clearly from Caitlin's eyes.
'These?' Caitlin said pointing at the folders nearest to her.
'All information relating to Elijah Hawke's murder and the events that played out in the run-up to the Hawkes potentially entering witness protection.' Marella gestured at the next stack. 'This is all the paperwork gathered from Yahara's house and the one next to it is the current information we have on Yahara.' She shifted a little nervously. 'I thought we could each systematically go through the information stack by stack.'
'What about this one?' Jo asked putting her hand on a small pile Marella seemed to have missed.
'Those I thought Angelina could look through.' Marella said. 'They're a selection from all the different categories.' She smiled at her soon-to-be stepdaughter who beamed back at her. 'Angelina's good at spotting patterns in disparate data.'
And the information Marella had selected was probably appropriate for Angelina's eleven year old sensibilities, Caitlin concluded silently. The precocious youngster had a genius IQ and was way ahead of her peers in terms of academic learning and understanding, but there were things no eleven year old, no matter how bright, should know.
'I sorted out the refreshments.' Jo added.
'It looks great.' Caitlin said with a smile at the blonde pilot. 'I guess we should get to it.'
They all took seats at the table, served drinks and ate the nibbles almost absentmindedly as they read through the documentation.
Caitlin eased back in the wooden dining chair and rubbed at the knot that had formed in her right shoulder. She winced a little. Her blue-green eyes glanced at the clock and she sighed.
'You OK?' Jo asked looking across at her in concern.
Caitlin pinned a bright smile on her face and nodded. 'I'm fine.'
'He'll be OK, Caitlin.' Marella said encouragingly guessing at the reason why Caitlin was uneasy.
Her redheaded friend looked rueful. 'I don't know why I'm so antsy.'
'Well given what happened the last time Hawke tried a fishing trip as a bachelor night, I can't blame you.' Marella commented.
'I know. I don't think I'm going to relax until they call in tomorrow.' Caitlin paused. 'Or until they get home.'
'How are plans going for the anniversary?' Jo asked subtly changing the topic.
'Good.' Caitlin said. 'We're leaving first thing Friday morning and come back Monday morning.'
'Where are you going again?' Jo asked.
'Halynon National Park.' Caitlin said. 'One of our friends has a cabin up there that he's given us the use of while he's in Africa.'
'Isn't that like a busman's holiday for you guys?' Jo said. She waved a hand around her. 'I mean, you already have a cabin in the mountains.'
'She has a point.' Marella said dryly.
'Nobody knows the exact location of the other cabin except us.' Caitlin said firmly. 'So there'll be no unexpected visits or missions.' She smiled. 'Three whole days of uninterrupted fun with my husband; I can't wait.' There was a smug feminine satisfaction in her voice that had the other two women exchanging a knowing look and Angelina looking at them with a mixture of confusion and curiosity.
'But you're taking the satellite phone so we can reach you in an emergency, right?' Marella checked.
'You're looking after Nicky?' Jo asked the Hawaiian agent as she threw her finished folder down and picked up another.
It was Marella's turn to nod.
'We can't wait.' Angelina piped up.
Jo smiled at her before her blue eyes shifted to Marella. 'So I guess this would be the infamous baby test?'
'The what?' Marella laughed.
'Saint John calls it the infamous baby test,' Jo said, 'when you test your boyfriend or, in your case your fiancé, with a baby to see if he's a good father.'
'I hadn't considered it a test.' Marella said thoughtfully. 'Caitlin asked if I would look after Nicky and was so thrilled to be asked, I didn't even think about Michael.' Her eyes flickered to Angelina. 'Besides I know he's going to make a great father.'
Angelina nodded proudly. 'He's a very good father.'
Caitlin saw the small shadow that shifted across Marella's eyes; she knew her friend couldn't have children of her own and the idea of the baby test was probably treading near to some fairly painful ground. She frowned. 'I've never given a boyfriend the baby test.'
Marella smiled at her gratefully for diverting Jo's attention. 'Never?'
'Never.' Caitlin confirmed. 'My sister, on the other hand…'
'Younger or older?' Jo asked; Caitlin had two sisters.
'Younger.' Caitlin said. 'Fiona does it all the time.'
'Where does she get the babies from?' Jo asked perplexed.
'Erin or Brian or Callum.' Caitlin reeled off the names of her other siblings.
Marella shook her head. 'I can't believe women actually do that.'
'I know.' Jo agreed. 'I can't believe it either.'
There was a mutual look of disbelief between the three very independent and capable women.
Angelina watched them carefully. She wanted to grow up just like them, she decided firmly. She would never put her boyfriend, she frowned a little at the idea – most of the boys she knew were gross – through a baby test.
'So any other plans for the anniversary?' Jo asked.
Caitlin rolled her eyes. 'Hawke has some big surprise but he won't tell me what.' She complained good-naturedly.
'Really?' Marella asked aiming for an innocent look.
'Imagine that.' Jo added.
Both of them hid their faces in the folders they were perusing.
Caitlin's eyes narrowed on the two women. 'You know.' She said accusingly.
'And we're not telling you.' Marella said firmly, looking up at her friend with twinkling dark eyes.
'Don't look at me!' Jo held up her hands as Caitlin turned her gaze on her.
'What about a hint?' Caitlin wheedled.
'No!' They both said.
'Well,' Angelina began.
Marella clamped a hand over her mouth. 'Angelina.' She said warningly.
Angelina sighed and nodded. 'It's not like I really know anything.' She complained.
'You're going to love it.' Marella said to Caitlin reassuringly.
They all shifted their attention back to the information they were supposed to be examining.
Caitlin stuffed a piece of paper back into a folder and set it aside. 'This is going to take forever.' She murmured. She picked up another folder. 'I had this idea that we were going to find something important and show the guys how to do this.' She admitted ruefully.
'It's a lot of information.' Marella agreed. She ran a hand through her dark curls. 'You know what we need is someone like Larry.'
'Larry?' Caitlin frowned.
'Larry Mason.' Marella expanded.
'Who?' Jo asked.
Marella shifted in her seat. 'Larry used to work at the FIRM as an intelligence analyst.' She smoothed her silk blouse. 'He was the best.'
'He retired to a beach hut in Mexico.' Caitlin explained further.
'I could go for a trip to Mexico.' Jo said smiling broadly.
Caitlin caught Marella's eyes. 'You may be onto something. If anyone could track down the Hawkes on the information networks or look through this stuff and find a connection…' she waved a hand at the table.
'It would be Larry.' Marella concluded.
'Or not.' Jo said her blue eyes catching on something in the document she was reading. 'Here. Take a look at this.' She handed over the letter she held.
'This is in Japanese.' Caitlin complained. 'I don't read Japanese.'
'I do.' Marella said reading over her shoulder.
Jo shrugged at Caitlin's questioning look. 'I picked up a smattering.'
Caitlin reminded herself that before Jo started working on the Airwolf team, she had worked as a translator across the world. 'So what does it say?' She asked impatiently.
'Yeah, what does it say?' Angelina asked her voice high with excitement.
Marella's lips pursed. 'Well, if I'm reading this right, it's a report from one of Yahara's men to Yahara on the Hawkes.'
'Namely,' Jo added, 'the Hawkes' children.'
'He was looking for Saint John.' Marella said with a frown her finger tracing down the script.
Caitlin sighed. 'Well that makes sense. He went after Saint John as the elder son in lieu of their father.'
'Hmmm.' Marella concentrated on her translation. 'This report is confirming that Saint John had surfaced in LA; that Yahara can attain his honour from the first son.' She bit her lip and reread the phrase she had just translated again to check. 'He goes onto say that this is a great moment and requests permission to stop the search for the other siblings.'
'Siblings?' Caitlin's eyes widened. 'There's only Hawke and Saint John.'
'Apparently not.' Marella murmured. 'He talks about not being able to find the second son; that intelligence suggests that the second son is dead.'
'That's Hawke.' Jo surmised.
'Right.' Marella's finger tapped a segment of symbols. 'He has also been unable to locate the third son but had a lead on the daughter of Alan Hawke. He finishes by saying with the finding of the first son he assumes that he no longer needs to pursue them.'
'A third son and a daughter?' Caitlin repeated.
'If Yahara's information was correct then this provides more evidence for the Hawkes surviving the boating accident, doesn't it?' Jo asked excitedly. 'I mean they couldn't have more children unless…'
'Unless they lived.' Caitlin concluded. She pushed a hand through her red hair. 'Wow.'
'More than that.' Marella's eyes met Caitlin's fiercely. 'He details the lead he had on the daughter.'
'Hawke's sister?' Caitlin asked wonderingly.
Marella nodded. 'Hawke's sister.' She broke into a wide grin. 'Score one for the women.'---
'I don't need a break.' Saint John protested as Michael pulled him to a stop. He shook the other man's hand off his arm. 'If you need to stop, fine; I'll go on without you.'
Michael sighed exasperated. 'We've been walking for over an hour. We need a five minute break.'
'My brother needs us to get help.'
'Which we won't be able to do if you don't pace yourself and collapse in a heap on the way to Foxridge.' Michael's voice rose with every word and he grabbed Saint John yanking him to a halt.
There was a tense, fraught moment as they glared at each other.
'Five minutes.' Saint John agreed grudgingly conceded.
Michael pushed his glasses up his nose and simply sat down where he stood. He pulled out a water flask and took a long drink watching as his companion did the same. They had walked in silence all the way until ten minutes before when Michael had made his original request that they stop for a break. He had the urge to sigh heavily and covered the moment by screwing the top back on his water bottle. He had thought that he and Hawke's brother had made some progress in the previous month in moving from their original antipathy but it was clear that whatever progress had been made had been completely eradicated with the crash.
It didn't matter, he mused. They had a common goal; getting help for Hawke. They just needed to focus on that. They would deal with the rest of it – who was after them and why – later. He packed his water bottle away and stood up using his rosewood walking stick as leverage. 'Ready?'
Saint John rose to his feet in reply.
They trekked for a while longer before Saint John suddenly stopped abruptly. He raised a finger to his lips and Michael remained silent. He watched in fascination as Saint John's head tilted upwards in a gesture that was so remarkably like Hawke's that Michael missed the presence of his friend anew.
'Chopper.' Saint John growled.
'The same one?' Michael asked in a low voice.
'Maybe.' Saint John shrugged. 'They're gone.'
'They're searching for us.' Michael stated.
'That would be my guess.' Saint John agreed.
Michael looked at the sky. It was late afternoon and they needed to make the most of the daylight. 'Let's keep going.'
Saint John nodded. He checked his watch anxiously as they moved off.
'You know there's a good chance Hawke will have woken up by now.' Michael said casually.
Saint John shot him a look. 'You don't believe that anymore than I do.' He muttered. His hazel eyes gleamed with worry. 'You saw that head injury.'
The spy inclined his own head with its shock of blond white hair as he considered the bitter note of self-recrimination in the other man's voice. 'This wasn't your fault.'
Saint John's head jerked back to Michael again before he fixed his gaze back on the trail they were following. 'I got the impression you thought it was.'
'I wasn't blaming you. I just think your team is the more obvious target for this attack. But regardless of that, whoever did this planned it very carefully.' Michael pointed out. 'You weren't to know.'
'How?' Saint John asked. 'I only organised the weekend a few days ago. How could they possibly…' he stumbled to a halt. 'They have us bugged, don't they? At the air service.'
'That would be my guess.' Michael agreed. He swallowed the comment he wanted to make that while he had been the Airwolf contact for the FIRM, he had periodically insisted that Santini Air was swept. It had driven Dominic Santini nuts but that had merely been a side benefit.
'Damn.' Saint John set off again. His mind raced over the idea. 'So whoever is after us knew about the weekend.' He scowled. 'But what do they want? To kill us?'
'If they'd wanted to do that I would suggest they would have used more explosive on the tail rotor.' Michael commented. 'They did enough to disable the helicopter but not enough to blow it up.'
'You know they only started shooting at us when String spotted them.' Saint John mused.
'What are you saying?' Michael asked.
'Their original intention was just to down us not kill us.' Saint John surmised. He gestured. 'Why?'
Michael raised an eyebrow. 'That remains the million dollar question.'
Saint John stopped walking and placed his hands on his hips as he caught his breath. 'Maybe they wanted us alive.'
'OK.' Michael considered the possibility as he adjusted his glasses. He frowned and his blue eye found Saint John's. 'You know whoever planned that attack on the Lair is still out there.'
'You mean the mysterious boss figure?' Saint John scowled. It didn't sit well with him that the person responsible for Locke's torture and for his own shooting had gotten away Scot free.
'Think about it.' Michael said gesturing with his cane. 'Whoever took you guys hostage at the Lair was very meticulous in their planning. They knew where and when to grab Locke. That's always bothered me.' He smoothed his moustache. 'The MO here is the same. Meticulous planning.'
'To what?' Saint John asked. 'Grab Airwolf?' He gestured at the spy. 'They wouldn't be able to guarantee that we wouldn't crash without injuring all of us even if they counted on our flying ability to get the helicopter down mostly in one piece.'
Michael considered the other man's words, going over everything in his head.
'We have to keep walking.' Saint John said. He made to continue.
Michael turned to him. 'What about Jo?'
Saint John froze. He felt his body move, turn back towards the spy, of its own accord. 'What?' He asked his mouth dry.
'They know Jo can fly Airwolf.' Michael said more confidently. 'What if they only wanted to get us out of the way so…'
'So they can grab Jo.' Saint John finished.
Michael nodded. 'I think that's their plan.'
'We have to get to Foxridge.' Saint John said.
'No.' Michael grabbed him before he could charge away. 'We have to go back.'
Michael raised a hand to stop the imminent explosion. 'If we're right, by the time we get to Foxridge it will be too late to warn Caitlin and the other women.' He said forcefully. 'They could be snatched long gone before we get there and if they are, then our hope of a quick rescue with Airwolf for Hawke will be gone too.' He took a deep breath. 'We have to go back and use the satellite phone to warn them.'
'And if we're wrong?' Saint John said tersely.
'But we're not and you know it.' Michael stated. His blue eye burned with the knowledge that they were right; he could feel it in his gut. 'We have to go back.'
'If we use that satellite phone, it could bring them down on our position.' Saint John noted.
'Then we'll defend it.' Michael said. 'Either way we know Airwolf will be on the way.'
Saint John nodded. 'OK. Let's go.'
They began to retrace their steps, their pace was urgent but steady; neither wanted to delay their progress with an accident.
Saint John looked sideways at Michael at the fiercely determined look on the spy's face. He must be worried about Marella and his daughter, Saint John realised. If a kidnap team hit the cabin they would be in the line of fire. He swallowed hard. So would Caitlin and Nicky. His brother would count on Saint John to protect them if he couldn't. He'd done a lousy job so far, Saint John mused. And then there was Jo…
He didn't know when his feelings for her had changed. When he had first been rescued and returned from Burma, she had helped him through the first few months of adjustment. He knew she didn't know how much he had appreciated her quiet support and friendship especially as he had lived with the secret of his brother's survival and his fight for life in Switzerland. He had convinced himself that his feelings for her were nothing more than those long forgotten; a brotherly affection for a young woman who had once been a surrogate sister to him. When had he realised he was seeing her as something more?
He shook his head. Maybe after that whole debacle in Africa just before they had all got captured at the Lair. Her ex-boyfriend had sold her to a sheik and Saint John had gone into rescue her. He'd been standing in the dusty desert of that god-awful country with its sun lighting up Jo's golden hair and it was as if he'd been struck by lightening. He suddenly noticed how beautiful she was; what an extraordinary woman she had grown into. And it looked as though Jo was falling in love with his best friend, he reminded himself brutally. He sighed. He loved the both of them; if she wanted Mike…he couldn't get in the way of that. He only hoped he and Michael would get back to the camp in time to warn her and Caitlin. Thank God the spy had brought a satellite phone.
He looked over at the other man. He moved with the liquid fluidity of a professional assassin with only the slightest hint of the injury that required the use of the walking stick. It was difficult for Saint John to trust him. He'd met too many spies like Michael in his undercover work; expediency was usually their motto and he figured that it was a character trait in Michael no matter how well disguised. Still, he'd been wrong about Michael blaming him for what happened. The spy's ability to deduce what had happened was impressive and it might have saved their lives, Saint John acknowledged.
Saint John cleared his throat. 'I'm sorry.'
Michael almost tripped on a root the apology took him so much by surprise. 'What for?'
'Snapping at you back at the helicopter.' Saint John said.
'You were worried about Hawke.' Michael said regaining his earlier walking rhythm. 'I get that.'
'And you weren't?'
Michael kept his gaze fixed on the trees ahead of them. 'I'm not his brother.'
The comment reignited Saint John's irritation. 'Could have fooled me.' He muttered under his breath.
Michael glanced over at him. 'Sorry?'
'Don't act stupid, Briggs.'
The spy sighed. 'You're an idiot, Saint John.'
'What?' Saint John came to an angry halt.
Michael stopped and turned back. 'We have to keep walking.' He started off again not bothering to check if the pilot was following.
'You called me an idiot.' Saint John said angrily coming abreast with him.
'That's because you are.' Michael said feeling his own anger tease at his control. 'Your brother worshipped the ground you walked on. He spent sixteen years of his life doing everything he could to find you. He risked his life, not knowing if you were dead or alive…'
'And making deals with people like you.' Saint John retorted furiously.
'Yes.' The word was an angry shout. 'And making deals with people like me so he could find you. You're an idiot for not contacting your brother for sixteen years and putting him through that hell…'
Saint John grabbed Michael's arm and swung him around. His punch landed squarely.
Michael staggered back and fell. He raised a hand to his sore lip and looked at the fresh red blood that smeared across his fingers. A cold anger settled in his gut.
Saint John was stood still waiting for the other man's reaction.
The spy reached for his cane that he had dropped close by and got back to his feet. His hard blue gaze met Saint John's. 'We don't have time for this.' He made to move away again.
'Hey!' Saint John had barely got his fingers on Michael's arm when the spy moved his fist shooting out like lightening.
This time it was Saint John who ended up on his ass on the ground.
Saint John tested his jaw. He was surprised to find it still worked.
'Are we done now? Because like I said; we don't have time for this.' Michael said tersely.
Saint John hauled himself back to his feet. 'Yeah. We're done.'
They walked on in silence.---
Somehow, Hawke knew he was dreaming.
The sun was shining down on him and it was burning with such a fierce intensity, he could feel the heat of it through his shirt. He closed his eyes and propped his arms up on the sides of the Steerman he was supposed to be helping Dom fix. He was so tired. He just wanted to let the rays bathe his face and go to sleep. He tilted his face to the last of the warmth.
He frowned. There was supposed to be something he was doing. If he could only remember what it was…
The sound of a phone interrupted his musing. He didn't stir. It was a long way from the Steerman to the hangar.
'Would you get that?' Dom's words drifted over to him. 'String?'
He stirred reluctantly hearing the underlying note of grumpiness in Dom's voice. 'Yeah?'
'Would you get the phone? Please.'
Hawke looked up at the craggy face of his mentor. He was intent on his work dressed in an old white coverall and his ubiquitous red cap jammed over his grey curls. 'By the time I get there it'll stop ringing.'
Dom's voice had moved from grumpy to implacable but it didn't stop Hawke arguing as he jumped out and started walking. 'It'll probably stop ringing just about the time I get within…' the phone stopped ringing and he slowed to a halt, 'ten feet.'
'OK. So you were right.' Dom admitted.
Hawke continued walking to the hangar.
'Well now what are you doing?' Dom yelled after him.
'Well it rang so long it must be important. They'll probably call back just in case they misdialled.' Hawke said taking up a position by the phone in readiness. His lips twitched into a brief smug smile as the phone rang again.
'Santini Air.' He answered cheerfully with a knowing look at Dom.
'I have a collect call for a Stringfellow Hawke from a James Blake. Will you accept the charges?' The voice at the other end said.
'Sure.' Hawke said enthusiastically. He hadn't heard from Jimmy in ages.
The discussion that followed was a little disturbing; a friend of Jimmy's told him his friend was heading for Mexico on a bike after busting out of jail.
Hawke hung up the phone and took a step to stand beside the hangar door. He leaned against the wall.
'Why do I get the feeling that that call was collect?' Dom said walking up and rubbing his hands clean of grease with a rag.
'Because it was.' Hawke folded his arms.
'Yeesh.' Dom rolled his eyes.
'Do you remember me telling you about Jimmy Blake?' Hawke asked.
'No.' Dom denied straight away.
'Aircav. He pulled me out of Indian territory when I went down one time. He's in trouble in Texas.'
'What kind of trouble?' Dom asked.
Hawke was about to answer when it struck him. This wasn't a dream exactly. It was a memory.
'Something's wrong.' He said slowly.
'Sure. You were about to tell me.'
'No. Not with Jimmy.' Hawke pushed away from the wall and paced back to the Steerman. 'I remember this. I remember…' he turned back to face Dom and found the older pilot surprisingly calm.
'What, kid?' Dom asked gently. 'What do you remember?'
'This…' Hawke struggled to make it sense of it all. 'This was why I met Caitlin. I went to Texas to get Jimmy and met Caitlin.' He met Dom's sombre gaze. Reality intruded and he remembered the crash with surprising clarity.
'The helicopter was rigged so we would crash land but not enough to take us out. They want us out of the picture to what?' Hawke wondered out loud. 'Grab Airwolf? But they'd need a pilot and if we're injured or…' realisation was swift. 'Caitlin. They'll go after Caitlin, maybe Jo.' That was why he was in this memory he surmised. If he hadn't got the call from Jimmy, he would never have gone to Texas, never met Caitlin and there was a real possibility she would have ended up dead after her confrontation with the sheriff…
'That's right, String.' Dom said proudly. 'They need you.' He gestured with the rag he held. 'Jo and your family; Cait, Nicky and the baby.'
'Baby?' Hawke's blue eyes shot to Dom's.
'Ah.' Dom sighed. 'Me and my big mouth.' He gestured heavenward as though seeking patience. He tried a smile. 'Not yet.'
'But soon.' Hawke commented. 'Right?'
'I can't tell you when.' Dom said gesticulating in fine Italian fashion. 'And we're getting way off the point here. The point is your family needs you now and if you don't wake up you're never going to have that little girl, String.'
'A daughter?' Hawke tested the idea in his head. A little girl. Like her mother. God, she'd be a hellion. He started to grin. 'I'm going to have a daughter.'
'Focus, will ya, String?' Dom said exasperated. 'You have to wake up.'
Hawke focused; he focused on the older man. 'I miss you.'
'I miss you too, kid.' Dom stepped forward and pulled the younger man in for a swift hug. He pulled back and bussed his cheek. 'Now get going will ya?'
Hawke nodded; he could feel the sting of tears in his eyes – dream or no dream. He started to walk away from the hangar; away from the Steerman and the air service; away from Dom.
'Don't forget, kid!' Dom yelled after him. 'I'm always backing you!'
Hawke's eyes snapped open, wide and startled. The sunlight sent a shaft of pain through him and he groaned lifting his hand up to shield his eyes.
'Hey.' Mike said moving quickly at the sound of Hawke rousing. 'Easy there.'
'Caitlin.' Hawke gasped. His hand was shaking as it gingerly touched the bruised flesh of his forehead and scalp.
'Nope, buddy.' Mike said cheerfully. 'It's me, Mike.'
Hawke opened his eyes slowly and glared at the other man as he leaned over him. He motioned for him to move away and struggled into a sitting position. His head protested at the move and he groaned again as he held it with both hands. 'Where's Saint John?' He managed to get the question out through the intense pain.
'He and Archangel went for help.' Locke answered.
Hawke lowered his hands and looked over the makeshift camp to where the agent was sat by a camping stove making coffee. 'Together?' He took a deep breath. 'They went for help together?'
'Yeah.' Mike handed him an ice-pack. 'Here.'
Hawke took it and placed it against his head.
The other man shook out two painkillers and Hawke took them without complaint. He needed to get past the pain. The dream was a little fuzzy but he knew it had been important and he focused on remembering the details as he swallowed down the tablets with a gulp of water. He frowned as the news of Saint John and Michael's departure fully registered. 'Why did they go for help?'
'Radio's bust.' Mike said succinctly.
'Michael would have brought a satellite phone.' Hawke said confused.
'We don't know if the guys who took us down can track the signal if we use it.' Mike explained. 'You need medical attention and we all agreed that the only way to get it without risking the bad guys finding us would be if they headed to Foxridge on foot.' He sat back on the ground near to Hawke. He didn't like the lack of colour in the other man's cheeks and he was reasonably certain Hawke would pass out again.
'When?' Hawke said sharply. 'When did they leave?'
'Coming up on a couple of hours ago.' Mike said. 'They're going to call Caitlin and Jo; get them to bring Airwolf out.'
Hawke checked his watch. They'd crashed a little over two and a half hours before; by his reckoning on Foxridge was a twelve hour hike east of their position. They'd be too late to warn Caitlin and Jo. Hawke knew there was a possibility that they were already too late. 'We have to use the phone.' He muttered as he put the ice pack down and attempted to push himself off the ground.
'Woah.' Mike managed to grab Hawke's arm and steady him as he swayed on his feet. 'I don't think you should be doing anything.'
'And we're not using the phone.' Locke reminded him.
'This…' Hawke waved a hand at the helicopter, 'was meant to put us out of action.'
'Yes, permanently.' Locke said.
'No.' Hawke shot back. 'They were aiming to disable not to destroy.'
'Are you sure?' Mike asked before Locke could reply.
'I'm certain.' Hawke said shortly. 'They're keeping us out of the way. They're after Airwolf and a pilot.'
'Well, if they're after a pilot what's the point of forcing us to crash land?' Locke said exasperated. 'We're all here.'
'No.' Hawke said. 'We're not.'
'Jo.' Mike said horrified.
'And Caitlin.' Hawke added. He took a deep breath. 'We have to use the phone and warn them.'
'If we're not already too late.' Mike let go of Hawke and hurried over to where they had stacked the bags.
'We can't use the phone.' Locke said. 'What if Saint John was right and they can track the signal?'
'Then we give away our position.' Hawke snapped. 'At least, Cait and Jo will be able to get to safety and they'll come after us.'
'We don't know that they haven't been taken hostage.' Locke argued. 'We could just make things worse.'
Hawke's blue eyes lit up with a primal anger. 'Locke, I'm calling my wife and if you try to get in the way you're going to find my fist in your face.'
'Guys.' Mike stepped in between them as Locke rose angrily. 'Jason,' he turned to his team-mate, 'you said yourself earlier that we might have to take the risk of using the phone.'
'If he's wrong and they can track the signal, we'll bring those guys right to us.' Locke replied. 'We'll all get taken hostage.' The memory of what had happened to him before flashed in his eyes and he couldn't stop the small shudder that racked his frame at the idea of being tortured again.
Hawke's eyes narrowed on him but he stayed silent. He knew his own relationship with Locke was too antagonistic for him to convince the other man. Mike had the better chance.
Mike held his gaze firmly. 'It's better that we get taken than Jo.' He clasped his friend's shoulder. 'There are kids at the cabin, Jason. How can we not warn them?'
Locke jerked away from Mike and wrestled with his conscience. 'Fine. We'll call them.'
Mike nodded and headed back to the bags.
'You'd better sit down before you fall down.' Locke said to Hawke.
Hawke's face tightened and he adjusted his stance.
Mike pulled out the briefcase and hurried over to the centre of their small space. He knelt down and opened it up.
Hawke moved to kneel beside him as did Locke.
'OK.' Mike said as he flipped the switch to activate it. 'Let's…'
Hawke's sensitive ears caught a sound in the trees. His head whipped around to it sending another wave of pain through his temple. He raised a finger to silence the others.
'What?' whispered Mike scanning the tree-line. He couldn't make anything out in the dense foliage.
'I thought I heard something.' Hawke said. His senses were on full alert. He had heard something; he just couldn't pinpoint what.
'Let's just get on with this.' Locke said. He reached for the phone.
The command shot across the clearing like a bullet and all three men turned to find themselves surrounded by a team of four men all pointing automatic weapons at them.
Hawke slowly raised his hands as his eyes flickered back to the phone. His heart seized in his chest. He'd woken up too late, he realised with horror; he wasn't going to get the chance to warn his family.---
Caitlin closed the folder and set it aside on the finished pile. Their early discovery of the letter and the news of additional siblings for Hawke and Saint John had renewed their energy and they had dived into the rest of the documentation with enthusiasm. Another hour later and they were all looking like the last of that enthusiasm was hanging by a fine thread, Caitlin mused with amusement.
'Who wants to take a break?' She asked.
'Me.' Angelina replied loudly.
'Me too.' Marella said smiling at the young girl.
'Me three.' Jo said pushing her folder away. 'My eyes are blurring.'
'How about a walk?' Caitlin suggested. 'Tet and Brownie need exercise.'
'Can we go to the hide?' Angelina asked excitedly.
'Sure.' Caitlin readily agreed. The old wildlife observation hide was a favourite with Angelina. It was far enough for a good walk but close enough not to make the walk too long.
'You want me to stay and look after Nicky?' Marella asked as she got to her feet and stretched.
Caitlin shook her head. 'I'll bundle him up and take him with us. I have this new carry thing I've been meaning to try out.'
It took them a while to get organised but before too long they were all wrapped in appropriate outdoor gear with a sleeping Nicky placed in a contraption that fastened around Caitlin's shoulders and hung the baby suspended in the material onto her chest. She placed her hands under his bottom for more support. Marella carried a small backpack with some baby items in case they were needed. They left the cabin and crossed the clearing towards the trail into the surrounding forest. A noise had Caitlin looking back with a frown and she recognised the sound of an engine.
'Is that a chopper?' Jo asked her own pretty features creasing in confusion.
'Yeah.' Caitlin murmured. Some instinct had her giving the signal to lower themselves and they all followed the instruction automatically; Angelina taking her lead from the adults. The dogs seemed to pick up on the tension and sat awaiting instructions. They were all crouched in the undergrowth of the forest; they were hidden but had a good view of the clearing.
'What's wrong?' asked Marella in a low voice.
'I'm not sure.' Caitlin admitted. 'But I'm not expecting visitors.'
The chopper swung into view and landed in the clearing in front of them. All of them instinctively ducked down.
Caitlin peeked out. Four men dressed in black jumped out and ran towards the cabin. Her blue-green eyes darkened at the sight of the weapons they held.
'They're wearing the same outfits as those guys who took us hostage at the Lair.' Jo noted.
'Yeah.' Caitlin agreed. She turned to the others even as her hands began unfastening the baby carrier in preparation of handing Nicky over. 'Y'all head to the hide. It'll provide you with shelter and it is a good place to hide out. I'll join you as soon as I can.' She helped Marella into the carrier swiftly.
'What about you?' Marella asked as she held Nicky to her firmly.
'I'll stay and find out as much as I can.' Caitlin said.
'I'll stay with you.' Jo said.
'No.' Caitlin shook her head. 'You're the only one of us besides me who can fly Airwolf.' She checked her watch. 'If I don't get to you guys in an hour, you'll have to come up with a rescue plan.'
Jo looked unhappy but nodded her head.
Angelina threw herself into Caitlin's arms for a hug.
Caitlin squeezed her reassuringly. 'You need to be a brave girl for Marella, Angelina.' She whispered.
Angelina nodded, her blue eyes wide with fear as she remembered another time when troops had entered her home; her aunt who had raised her had been killed in front of her and she couldn't bear to think the same thing would happen to Caitlin. Her Uncle String had rescued her back then and she clung to the hope he would rescue them again as Marella took her hand and led her away.
Caitlin couldn't spare the time to watch them leave. Her hand went to the small of her back and her gun. She thanked whatever whimsy had decided to propel her to pick it up as she had gotten ready to leave on the walk. She checked the chambers were loaded and replaced it back in the waistband of her jeans. She inched forward to get a better view of the clearing.
Two men came out of the cabin and walked back over to the chopper. They opened the back passenger door and another man alighted. He reached back and held a hand out. A feminine hand was placed it in and Caitlin's eyes widened as a slim attractive blonde descended from the chopper. Her lips firmed in recognition.
Caitlin's eyes hardened. The Hawkes had a history with the Horns. Hawke had been the first to get taken hostage by Angelica's father, the late John Bradford Horn. Horn had brainwashed Hawke who had been tricked into the trap by Angelica. Luckily, Caitlin had managed to use a controversial serum to reverse the brainwashing and they had all escaped. The last encounter had been worse; Horn had briefly convinced Hawke he had seen Caitlin die in order to kidnap her. He had intended to obtain her baby for himself. Hawke had seen through the ruse and come after her. That encounter had ended with Horn's death; Angelica had disappeared into the woodwork.
The blonde was dressed in the same black uniform as the men. Her platinum hair was blowing briskly in the breeze as she walked over to the cabin. She might have known Angelica would turn up like the proverbial bad penny, Caitlin thought in disgust. Like father, like daughter.
She reviewed her position; she wasn't close enough to hear anything and she needed to understand what their plans were if she was going to formulate a plan. She was going to have to take the risk of moving closer. She scampered around the clearing. She checked for guards. The pilot of the chopper was still in the cockpit noting down readings from a post-flight check on a clipboard. She absently approved of his good piloting as she dived around the back of the cabin. None of the doors were locked in the cabin and she carefully entered through the back into the extension with the spare bedrooms. She padded down the corridor and opened the door to the living area a crack.
'…empty. We figure they've gone for a walk, ma'am.'
Caitlin watched as the four men stood in a line reporting to Angelica who was looking at the pictures on the mantel. There was no evidence that the woman was paying attention and the lead soldier obviously thought so too; he sighed in exasperation.
'If we move the chopper, we can ambush them here.' He said slightly impatiently. 'They'll come back from the walk and enter the cabin without suspicion.'
It was a good plan, Caitlin thought, and one that might have worked. She was just pleased the timing of the walk had been so judicious; they had a chance to get out of this.
'Have we heard from the Alpha team?' Angelica asked off-handedly as though she was disinterested in the answer.
'Yes, ma'am. They've pinpointed the location of the crashed helicopter with Hawke and his group. They are moving in on their position.' The soldier replied.
'I'd like Hawke brought here.' Angelica said turning around to face her team abruptly.
'That's not in line with the boss's orders, ma'am.' The lead soldier said defiantly.
'My husband put me in charge of this op.' Angelica snapped.
'Then let's call him.' The soldier responded. 'Because I'm going to need his verification of that before we proceed.'
'Fine.' Angelica flounced into an easy chair. 'Tell the chopper to move out of sight. We wait.'
The lead soldier's shoulders dropped a little, with relief, Caitlin surmised, and he turned to give the orders to his men. Caitlin quietly shut the door and retreated to the back door in case she had to make a sudden exit.
OK, she considered, this was bad. Hawke and the guys had obviously never made it to the fishing trip; their helicopter had crashed. She closed her eyes briefly. There was no better pilot than Hawke, she reminded herself as she tried to stay calm. If anyone could crash land a helicopter safely, it would be him. She had to stay positive. Caitlin opened her eyes determinedly. She had to get the situation at the cabin under control – and most importantly get Angelica Horn out of her house – get to Airwolf and rescue Hawke. It was a plan. She just had to figure out how to do it.
The men were planning to ambush them when they returned from a walk. They could use that. No doubt they would take hiding positions until everyone was inside the cabin. Caitlin nodded her head. It was a start. She slipped out of the back door. She ran to the hide-out in the woods as fast as she could and Jo opened the entrance to it quickly.
'What's going on?' Marella asked.
'Horn.' Caitlin gasped breathlessly.
Marella's dark eyes widened. 'That's not possible. I watched his burial personally. He's dead.'
Caitlin shook her head. 'Not Horn, Horn.' She said regaining her breath as she slumped onto the thin wooden bench that acted as seating in the hide. She waved a hand. 'Angelica.'
'The daughter?' Marella asked.
'They've concluded we went for a walk and they're waiting to ambush us at the cabin when we return.' Caitlin stated quickly.
'Great.' Marella said.
'There's more bad news.' Caitlin said. She took a deep breath. 'I think they made the guys' helicopter crash somehow. They're moving in on their position to secure them too.'
'Are they alright?' Jo asked worriedly.
'I think so.' Caitlin said darting a look at Angelina. She didn't want to worry the eleven year old unnecessarily. She attempted a reassuring smile. 'You know Hawke. He's the best there is.'
'So what do we do?' Jo asked.
Caitlin's lips firmed. 'We get ourselves out of this and go rescue the guys.'
'Damn right.' Marella said.
'You got my vote.' Jo said.
Caitlin nodded. 'I think I have a plan.' She bit her lip nervously. 'It's going to need two of us to walk up to the cabin as though we're unaware of what's going on.'
'Diversion, right?' Marella asked.
'Right.' Caitlin agreed. 'I figure they'll wait until we're all in the cabin before they make a move. So if only two of us return…'
'Like an advance party.' Jo added.
'They'll stay hidden.' Caitlin continued. 'There isn't very much room for them to hide without getting discovered so I think they'll split up. I can take as many as I can out and…'
'And all of us can deal with the rest.' Marella said. She turned the idea over in her head. 'It's risky.'
'It's our only shot.' Jo argued.
'What about their helicopter?' Marella asked.
Caitlin sighed. 'That is a problem.' She bit her lip. 'I have an idea but I don't know whether it will work.' She crossed to the far side of the hide and unearthed the emergency radio Hawke had stored.
'What are you doing?' Jo asked curious.
'Let's just say I'm trying something.' Caitlin said. She switched the dial to Airwolf's emergency frequency.
'If you radio out the pilot in that chopper might...'
'Over hear. I know.' Caitlin said. 'That's why I'm sending the message for help to Airwolf in Morse code.' She was hoping that Airwolf's artificial intelligence would pick up the message and come to help them. The intelligence was a secret though that the old Airwolf team had chosen not to share with the new Airwolf team. Indeed, Caitlin had ensured the intelligence was transferred to a new version of the helicopter before the original Airwolf had been handed over to Locke. It still visited its old ship and had the ability to transfer seamlessly between the two machines. Caitlin just hoped her message would work.
'You think the computer will translate the Morse code like it did when you and Hawke crashed over White Sands.' Jo realised remembering; it had been her first flight in Airwolf.
'I hope so.' Caitlin said vaguely.
'But then what?' Jo asked. 'I mean…'
'I'm instructing her to notify a computer programmer on the project we work on.' Caitlin covered. 'Hopefully, they'll alert the authorities and send help.'
Marella stayed silent. She knew what Caitlin was attempting.
'That's a big if.' Jo pointed out.
'Like you say, it's our only shot.' Caitlin said as she repeated the message before switching the machine off.
'What about me?' Angelina said. 'What do I do?'
Caitlin got up and moved to crouch in front of the frightened but determined little girl. 'You're going to have a real important job.' She said. 'I'm going to need you to look after Nicky and keep him safe. OK?'
Caitlin rubbed her hands. 'Good girl.'
'When do we go?'
'I'll take Angelina and Nicky now.' Caitlin said. 'I'll hide them in the back of the cabin and take up a position. Give me thirty minutes and then make your entrance into the clearing.'
'Got it.' Jo said checking her watch.
'Let's do it.' Marella said.
It didn't seem to take long before Caitlin sneaked Angelina and Nicky back into the cabin. She hid them in the closet in the second bedroom in the extension. It was the furthest from the living area and she doubted whether the men would hide that far back. She crept back up to the living room door and looked out.
Angelica Horn was sat in an easy chair, her impatience clear with the drumming of her bright red nails on the arm.
Two soldiers kept a look-out at the front windows; one was checking out the documentation they had left on the table and the lead guy was obviously keeping watch on Angelica.
Suddenly their radio crackled into action. 'Team Beta come in.'
'This is team beta.' The lead soldier answered.
'We have secured the crash site. Copy.' Caitlin's eyes closed briefly again in worry.
'Copy that, Alpha. We are holding position.'
'Hey, Thorn, I've got something.' One of the soldiers at the front window said interrupting the radio discussion.
'Alpha. We require radio silence. Over.'
'Over. Good luck. Out.'
Thorn looked at his men questioningly.
'Two of the women with the dogs, sir.' The young soldier responded.
'OK. Places.' The lead soldier said. 'Wait for my signal.'
Caitlin skipped back to the far bedroom and took a position by the door. As she suspected Angelica and one of the men hid in the first bedroom. She waited until the corridor was clear before she sneaked back to the main living area.
She figured Thorn would take the best position behind the bar – it gave him cover but allowed him to hear everything without being visible. She drew her gun and approached silently. She ducked and crawled around the bar to the opening, keeping her eyes open for the other two soldiers; she figured they had to be upstairs. She peeked around the corner. Thorn was crouched with his back to her. She moved swiftly and whacked the butt of her gun over the base of his head. He went down with a dull thud.
Caitlin removed his radio and gun before she hurried over to the stairs and crept up them. She had just got to the top landing when the door from the extension opened and Angelica stalked through.
'Thorn! Why won't you respond to my…' Angelica stopped at the sight of Thorn's prone figure. 'Everybody back to the living area.' She commanded. 'Now.'
Caitlin ducked into the shadows and breathed a sigh of relief as the two soldiers who had been hiding in the master bedroom charged out without noticing her. She frowned. She could hear Jo and Marella approaching and there was no way she could warn them the plan had gone wrong.
Angelica motioned for two of the soldiers to take positions either side of the cabin door. At her signal the third soldier stood beside her in the centre of the room and aimed his weapon at the door in front of them.
The cabin door opened and Caitlin watched helplessly as Marella and Jo were both grabbed. They struggled but the men held them fast.
'Hey!' Jo yelled. 'What the hell is this?'
Caitlin knew she had to act fast. She took aim and fired her gun. The soldier by Angelica fell like a sack of potatoes to the floor as everyone else whirled to look at her.
Marella immediately acted. She thrust her elbow into the stomach of the man who held her and lashed out with a fist at his face.
Jo took the more direct approach, punching her fist straight into the groin area of the man who held her.
Caitlin's attention wasn't on them; she focused coldly on Angelica who took one look at Caitlin and ran, side-stepping the women fighting the soldiers and into the clearing.
Caitlin took the stairs two at a time and she chased out after the woman. Angelica was already half-way across the clearing when Caitlin tackled her. They went down rolling on the dirt. Caitlin could hear the dogs barking excitedly.
Angelica lashed out and caught Caitlin's jaw; the redhead fell back and Angelica was on her in a heartbeat, trying to get the gun out of her hand.
Suddenly, the sound of Angelica's chopper had them stilling abruptly and Caitlin found herself looking up into its guns.
Angelica wrenched Caitlin's handgun from her and stood over her gloating. Her grip tightened on the gun. 'I win.' The blonde said with a cold smile.
Caitlin's ears caught the faintest whisper on the air. She smiled back. 'I don't think so.' She moved swiftly into a ball on the ground as Airwolf slammed past the chopper sending it spiralling away from her and sending Angelica to the ground. Caitlin threw herself onto the other woman reaching for the gun. They rolled over the dirt and grass as they both tried to get a hold of the weapon.
In the distance, Caitlin registered the sound of guns and the fiery explosion as Airwolf took care of the attacking chopper. She felt the sting across her cheek as Angelica slapped her but Caitlin kept her focus on getting the gun.
The shot was loud.
Caitlin stilled; her breathing harsh in the sudden silence. Her blue-green eyes registered the surprise on Angelica's face and she lurched backwards away from the blonde's body. She looked down at the blood on her own shirt and clawed at the material to check she was OK panicked until she saw her intact flesh.
Marella ran out of the house clutching one of the soldier's automatic weapons. 'Caitlin.' She ran over to her friend as Airwolf landed on the clearing beside them.
'I'm OK.' Caitlin said as Marella reached her. 'The blood's hers.'
Marella stooped and checked Angelica's pulse. 'She's still alive.' She waved back at the house as Jo raced out to join them. 'I've contacted a clean-up crew.'
'Good.' Caitlin reached down and picked up her gun.
Jo slowed to a halt seeing Airwolf. Her eyes stared in astonishment. 'How?'
'I'll explain later.' Caitlin said her eyes flickering to the machine. At least the intelligence had brought the machine with armament, she mused; if the new Airwolf machine had turned up there would be even more explanations needed. 'We have to go rescue the guys. Marella…'
'I have things covered here.' Marella said. 'The soldiers are tied up and I don't think she's going anywhere.' She gestured at Angelica. 'The team from the agency should be here soon.'
'We should stay until they arrive.' Caitlin said reluctantly.
'No. The team keeping the guys hostage is probably going to call soon for an update. You should go before they realise something is wrong here.' Marella said. Her dark eyes softened. 'Go. I'll be OK. One of them tries anything and I'll shoot them all.'
She would too; Caitlin knew it. She sighed and nodded at Jo. 'Let's go rescue the guys.'
Marella watched Caitlin take the pilot's seat in Airwolf as Jo climbed in the back to the engineer's console. She moved back out of the way as Airwolf ascended. Her own worry for Michael worried at her and she pushed it away determinedly. 'Score two for the women.' She muttered under her breath.---
Mike looked at Hawke anxiously. The three of them had been lined up by the helicopter and told to sit down and keep quiet. They had heard the confirmation from the Beta team for radio silence. The knowledge that the attack on the cabin was probably happening right that minute had stilled Hawke into a deadly motionless; his blue eyes an icy calm that had Mike worried.
'You're planning something, aren't you?' Mike whispered.
Hawke didn't reply. His gaze was pinned on the four men holding them; assessing their positions, noting their firearms.
'I know you're planning something.' Mike repeated.
'I have a plan.' Hawke said quietly.
'I knew it.' Mike crowed happily if in a subdued way so not to alert their captors. He glanced at Hawke. 'This won't involve me getting shot, will it? Because your brother's plans always seem to involve me getting shot.'
'I'll shoot you myself if you don't shut up and listen.' Hawke growled.
There was something in his tone that warned Mike the other pilot was serious. 'Got it.' Mike nodded. 'Shutting up.' He noticed Locke hiding a smile.
'Saint John and Michael are in the undergrowth at six o'clock.' Hawke murmured.
Mike and Locke both resisted the urge to look.
'How do you know that?' Locke demanded.
'I heard them.' Hawke stated impatiently. 'I'm thinking if we can spring a surprise attack, we can get them surrounded. There're more of us than them.'
'I am going to get shot.' Mike muttered.
'Three of us are injured.' Locke pointed out.
'I'm fine.' Hawke stated.
Mike regarded the stubborn set to Hawke's mouth; Saint John had the exact same expression at times. He sighed. 'How do you want to do this?'
'I pretend to pass out. Call for help. We'll take the two up here. Leave the two down there for Saint John and Michael.'
'It could work.' Locke said. 'If Saint John and Archangel are really there.'
'They're there.' Hawke said firmly. 'I'm going to give Saint John a signal.' He just hoped his brother remembered it. He stretched his arms, clasping his hand around his watch leaving two fingers pointed outwards.
Michael lowered the binoculars he held. 'He's signalling us.'
'How do you know that?' Saint John said. 'He doesn't even know we're here.'
'Your brother's hearing is legendary.' Michael said dryly. 'He knows we're here and he gave us this signal.' He grasped his own wrist and demonstrated it.
'Be ready in two minutes.' Saint John said. His hazel eyes met Michael's. 'OK. He knows we're here. Be ready for what though?'
'You can't know that.' Saint John said.
'I know your brother.' Michael responded heatedly.
'And I don't?' Saint John frowned.
'Shall we focus here?' Michael said forcefully stabbing a finger in the direction of their captured friends.
Saint John subsided unhappily.
Hawke suddenly gave a groan and appeared to collapse to one side.
'Hey!' Mike yelled at their captors. 'We need some help here!'
Two of the men closest to Hawke moved towards him.
Michael and Saint John crept forward to come behind the two that were left. Saint John signalled for Michael to take the one on the right and the spy nodded.
The fight was on:
Hawke slammed his fist into the man bent over him as Mike grabbed the guy's gun.
Saint John grabbed his target and punched him out.
Michael slammed his cane across the back of his target's head and the guy fell unconscious on the ground.
Locke threw himself at the second guy and scuffled with him until Mike could shoot him.
Hawke took a couple of punches from his opponent before he managed to knock the guy out. He stood up and staggered dangerously on his feet, his vision blurring and dimming for an instant.
Mike was beside him in an instant. 'Easy.'
Saint John's attention was on his brother and he failed to see his target recover and stand up behind him.
There was a shot.
Saint John looked behind him and the target fell to the ground, the rock he had intended for Saint John's head clutched in his hand. Saint John's eyes went to Michael who held the cane like a gun on the man; the end of it was smoking slightly.
'Thank you.' Saint John said reluctantly.
Michael shrugged and turned in the direction of Hawke. They both hurried over as Locke secured the men.
'Are you OK?' Saint John asked worriedly taking in Hawke's white, tense face.
'I might have a headache.' Hawke conceded. His blue eyes flickered to Saint John and focused on the bruise blooming on his brother's jaw. He frowned. His attention had been a little distracted during the fight but he hadn't seen Saint John's opponent land a blow that would account for the mark. His gaze shifted to Michael's split lip and back to Saint John. He figured it was better not to ask. He gestured impatiently at Mike. 'The phone.'
'Right.' Mike hurried over to the abandoned satellite phone.
Hawke met Michael's eye. 'We need to call…'
'Caitlin.' Michael nodded firmly. 'We know. We worked it out.' He smiled. 'I guess you did too.'
'Yeah.' Hawke was too tired to explain. The faintest sound teased at his hearing and had his sore head tilting upwards.
'What?' Saint John asked wondering whether they were going to face another attack.
'Airwolf.' Hawke stated. As he said the words the helicopter descended into the clearing. They quickly moved away to give the Lady room, crouching in a huddle by their own downed aircraft.
Caitlin was the first out of the helicopter. She raced toward Hawke and he caught her squarely in his arms. They held each other tightly for a brief moment before Hawke eased back. His eyes widened on the blood on her shirt and he swayed.
She saw his reaction and followed his gaze. 'It's not mine.' She assured him and cupped his cheek to get him to focus on her. 'It's not mine.'
His only response was to hug her to him again and bury his face in her hair. They were oblivious to Jo greeting Saint John and Locke with brief hugs before she fussed over Mike with his sprained wrist.
Michael watched it all with an amused detachment letting his own relief seep through his flesh and bones; if Caitlin was safe, so were Marella and Angelina.
Finally, Caitlin eased away from Hawke. She turned with a reassuring smile to Michael. 'Everyone's safe.' She confirmed. 'Marella's got a clean up crew at the cabin with her.'
'I think we're going to need another one here.' Michael noted wryly, his blue eye gleaming with gratitude at her.
Caitlin ran her gaze over her husband's bruised forehead with concern. 'You hit your head.'
'I'm fine.' Hawke replied stubbornly. 'Let's just go home.'
'I think we should get you checked out at a hospital.' Caitlin said her fingers gently tracing over the bump on his head.
'Caitlin's right.' Saint John said firmly. 'You took a nasty blow.'
Hawke glanced over at Michael as though for support and the spy smiled.
'Don't look at me.' Michael said. 'I agree with them.'
Hawke sighed in defeat. 'Fine.'
'Mike needs medical treatment too.' Jo said. She was standing with her arm around the air force major's waist. Saint John looked away from their evident closeness.
'And Jason.' Mike added. 'He's knocked his ribs again.'
'Then it's settled.' Michael said. 'Caitlin and Jo can take you three to hospital in Airwolf. Saint John and I will wait for the clean up crew.'
Saint John sighed but didn't argue.
Jo gave Saint John a quick hug goodbye before she climbed aboard and Caitlin ushered the three injured men into Airwolf. Michael and Saint John watched as the sleek black helicopter ascended back into the sky.
'I'd better call that crew.' Michael noted calmly. He headed over to the satellite phone.
Saint John watched him for a moment before deciding to check on the men they had tied up on the ground. He redid some of the knots until he was satisfied they were all held securely before he headed back over to the shelter they had erected.
'…I know, I know.' Michael's voice drifted over to him. The spy sounded softer, more human. 'Marella tells me you were very brave, angel.'
He was speaking to his daughter, Saint John realised. He lit the camping stove and set on a pot of coffee.
'I'll be with you shortly. Yes, I love you too.' Michael paused for a moment and pushed his glasses up his nose. 'Marella? Yes.' A smile tugged at his lips. 'Thank you. I'll see you soon. Yes. And Marella?' His expression shifted. 'I love you.' He smiled at the response Saint John couldn't hear before he said goodbye and hung up the phone. He limped back over to the shelter and sat down.
'Coffee?' Saint John offered.
Michael regarded him with suspicion but nodded.
The pilot handed him a tin mug filled with the bitter liquid and Michael took a grateful sip of the hot brew.
'I won't apologise.' Saint John said conversationally.
Michael's eye flickered back to him. 'Neither will I.'
Saint John gave a rueful smile. 'Well, the last time I apologised we ending up punching each other.'
'True.' Michael agreed with reluctant humour. He sighed. 'Let's face it; it was probably an inevitability that it would happen at some point.'
'Yeah.' Saint John took a gulp of coffee. 'I don't like you.'
'I don't like you either.' Michael replied.
'I don't like that you put Hawke in danger with your missions and your politics.' Saint John said.
'I don't like the fact that you hurt him with sixteen years of silence.' Michael retorted.
'I don't like…' Saint John looked into his mug, 'I don't like that you've been here for Hawke and I haven't.'
'I don't like the fact that you could easily make Hawke choose you and I would lose the closest friend I've had in my life.' Michael admitted not looking at the other man.
There was a moment's silence.
'The closest friend, huh?' Saint John said softly.
Michael risked a glance at the pilot and saw him looking back at him evenly. 'It might surprise you to know I don't have many friends.'
Saint John gave a huff of laughter and looked away.
'I don't even know how it happened.' Michael admitted. 'But Hawke's friendship – and Caitlin's – means a great deal to me, and to Marella and to my daughter.'
'I would never make him choose.' Saint John said.
'You wouldn't have to.' Michael pointed out. 'If the situation became untenable, he'd choose you.'
'I don't know about that.' Saint John winced at the evident insecurity in the words.
'I do.' Michael said firmly. 'He loves you. You're his brother and sixteen years of being apart hasn't changed that for him.'
'I hurt him.' Saint John said his chest tightening with the admission.
'Yes, you did.' Michael agreed not prepared to lie about the fact. 'He suffered every time a lead on you came to a dead end; with every failed mission to find you.' He gestured with his mug. 'If he hadn't met Caitlin I don't know what would have happened to him.'
'She's good for him.'
'Dom always thought so.' Michael said quietly.
There was another silence and both men focused on drinking their coffee and absorbing the frank exchange of their conversation.
'We're never going to be best friends.' Saint John said.
'No.' Michael agreed.
'But maybe we should stop being adversaries.' Saint John caught Michael's eye. 'I mean we're going to see each other a lot and we've got to work together on this anniversary surprise so…for String's sake?'
Michael smoothed his moustache and nodded. 'For Hawke.'
They exchanged a look of perfect understanding before looking away.
'How long before the clean up crew get here?' Saint John asked reaching for the coffee pot and refilling both their mugs.
'Another twenty minutes.' Michael said.
Saint John replaced the pot on the stove and gestured at the spy. His hazel eyes settled on him seriously. 'So I hear you're about to face the infamous baby test?'
Michael lowered his mug and looked at the pilot perplexed. 'The what?'---
Hawke opened his eyes and stared in confusion for a long moment at the unfamiliar ceiling of wooden timber. Doc's cabin, he remembered relaxing. He and Caitlin were at Doc's cabin. He glanced down at his wife; her head was pillowed on his shoulder, her arm around his waist. One of his arms hugged her to him with his hand resting on her bare freckled shoulder; his other hand stroked her arm gently.
There was something different, he mused and frowned slightly. No headache, he realised. He sighed. He had spent a few days at the clinic in Foxridge with a major concussion and another few days recuperating at home before he and Caitlin had decided to head to Doc's cabin a couple of days early. It was the first time his head had stopped aching since the crash. He hugged his wife a little closer. He knew it had worried her. The injury was too similar to the one that had caused him to stay in a coma for two months. He was glad they'd had the time together just the two of them. They had both needed to regain their balance after the scare of the previous weekend. He brushed her red hair away from her face and felt her stir.
'You awake?' Hawke asked.
'No.' Caitlin replied grumpily. She snuggled back into him.
'I don't have a headache.' He said knowing it would get her instant attention.
Caitlin's head shifted and she inched up the bed and his body to look at him squarely. 'You don't?'
He shook his head and skimmed a finger down her cheek. 'Nope.'
She smiled brightly. 'Now that's the best anniversary present you could have given me.' She kissed him.
'So you don't want your other present?' He teased when she drew back.
'Is this the surprise?' Caitlin asked excitedly.
'No.' Hawke denied. He shifted and reached below the bed to rescue the package he had hidden there absently noting Caitlin was taking something out of the bedside table on the other side.
They both sat up in bed; Caitlin clutching a sheet to her. They grinned at one another before exchanging gifts.
Caitlin tore the paper of hers like a child on Christmas morning before the white box revealed another smaller box wrapped in more paper. Hawke watched her as she opened two more before she found the smallest box. She opened the suede jewellery case and gently reached in to touch the gold heart-shaped locket. Hawke inched over and took the necklace from the box. He opened it up and showed her the pictures inside; one of the two of them and one of Nicky.
He cleared his throat nervously when she didn't speak. 'I thought the pictures could be the paper.' He explained; they had agreed their personal gifts would follow the tradition of paper representing the first anniversary.
'It's perfect.' Her eyes were bright with unshed tears and they started to fall as she kissed him.
'Turn around and I'll put it on.' Hawke said his own gruff with emotion.
It took two seconds before the delicate gold was in place around her neck; the locket resting just above her heart.
Caitlin fingered her present and turned back to him. 'It's your turn.'
Hawke carefully unwrapped her gift knowing it would drive her mad. He was certain she was about to grab it out of his hands and unwrap it herself when he finished and extracted a white box.
'I've always wanted one of these.' He joked.
She slapped his shoulder and he pretended to wince. 'Open it.' She demanded.
He complied and froze. His fingers reached in and took out the framed sheet of music. The signature on the bottom was Mozart. He recognised the piece as part of one that was a particular favourite of his. 'How did you get this?' He wondered out loud as his fingers traced over the glass and the gold frame; there was an inscription on the bottom; 'To my husband, all my love, Mrs Stringfellow Hawke'. He found himself smiling.
Caitlin smiled smugly at his reaction. 'It pays to have a grandfather who's an oil billionaire at times.' She admitted.
'Cait, this had to cost…'
'Hey.' She cut him off with a wave of her hand. 'You're not the only one with a trust fund you know. And besides you're worth it.'
He tugged her into his arms and kissed her soundly; the wrapping paper and boxes were quickly pushed aside as kisses turned to passion.
It was much later that they found themselves wrapped up in each other still, cuddling under the covers. Hawke checked the clock. It was early and he had plenty of time to get them up and ready for the surprise. He felt a quiver of nerves and hoped Caitlin would like what he had in mind.
'Whatcha thinking?' She said raising her head from his shoulder to look at him.
'About the info in that letter you discovered.' Hawke covered quickly. It wasn't a complete lie. The discovery of a potential brother and sister had been preying on his mind although both he and Saint John had both been pleased at the additional evidence that their parents had survived the boating accident.
'Well it was Marella and Jo really.' Caitlin admitted. 'I don't speak Japanese.'
'It's weird,' Hawke commented as he ran his fingers down her spine absently, 'thinking that I have a brother and a sister I don't know anything about.'
Caitlin smoothed an errant lock of hair away from his forehead. 'Marella says the lead on your sister was pretty good. You might be able to get to know her real soon.'
'Yeah. Maybe.' Hawke met her blue-green eyes. 'Maybe I should concentrate on getting to know Saint John first, huh?'
'He and Michael seemed to have gotten over their fight.' Caitlin murmured. Hawke had mentioned he thought the two men had gotten into some kind of altercation.
'Good.' Hawke stated unequivocally. He caught Caitlin's questioning look. 'I'm not sure I like the idea of two grown men fighting over me.'
'You're worth fighting over.' Caitlin said. A shadow flitted across her face as she remembered Angelica Horn and Hawke's arms tightened around her. Angelica had miraculously survived the gunshot wound. She was in critical condition and under lock and key at one of the old FIRM clinics.
'Hey.' Hawke comforted her. 'It's over.'
'But it isn't, is it?' Caitlin said. 'Not until we catch her husband, the boss, whoever he is.'
'We'll get him.' Hawke said confidently. 'By the way, what did you tell Jo about Airwolf turning up on her own?'
Caitlin shook off her mood and grinned. 'That it was part of her programming to respond to a Morse code instruction from her pilot but we'd never used it before so I hadn't wanted to say anything in case it failed.'
'Inventive.' Hawke said dryly.
'I thought so.' Caitlin agreed. She sighed ruefully. 'We're going to have to tell them about Airwolf's artificial intelligence sooner or later.'
'Yeah.' Hawke cuddled her closer. 'I vote for later.' He kissed her again and she settled back across his chest, her head tucked under his chin.
Thank God Airwolf had turned up when she did, Hawke thought. From the account Caitlin had given him, the helicopter had saved her life. He had almost lost her. The thought sent a shudder through his frame. He couldn't imagine his life without her, Hawke mused, and he didn't want to. He frowned remembering his dream after the crash.
'What's wrong?' Caitlin asked feeling him tense.
'Nothing.' He denied.
She raised her head and shot him a knowing look.
He shrugged. 'I was just thinking of Dom.'
Her gaze softened.
'I miss him.' Hawke said roughly.
Caitlin brushed her lips over his. 'Me too.'
'Hey,' he said his conversation about his family with Dom coming back to him, 'I was thinking…'
Hawke looked at her intently. 'How would you feel about a sibling for Nicky?'
Caitlin's eyes widened a little. 'You mean another baby?'
'Yeah.' Hawke nodded. 'What do you think?'
Caitlin searched his blue eyes. 'I guess we've never really discussed how many kids we're aiming for.'
Hawke stroked her bare shoulder. 'Kinda depends on you. You had a tough pregnancy last time out.'
'Yeah.' She shrugged. 'I wouldn't look forward to the morning sickness again but I'm not keen on Nicky being an only child.'
'I wouldn't mind another baby.' Hawke admitted. He remembered Dom's words. A daughter. 'Maybe we could try for a little girl.'
'A little girl?'
'Yeah. Like her mommy.' Hawke touched a finger to her lips. 'What do you think?'
'I could be persuaded.' Caitlin said.
Hawke grabbed hold of her and she gave a surprised laugh as he shifted them so she was lying beneath him. 'How would you like to be persuaded?' He asked suggestively.
'You're on the right lines.' Caitlin said. They were both smiling when they kissed.
A couple of hours later, Caitlin laughed nervously as Hawke brought the chopper into land by their own home; she was blindfolded in preparation for her surprise. He surveyed the front of the cabin with satisfaction.
'Aw, come on, Hawke.' Caitlin protested. 'Can't I take this off now?' Her fingers pawed at the band of material across her eyes.
'Not yet.' Hawke said. 'Just wait there.' He quickly alighted and moved around the front of the helicopter to help her get out on the other side. He led her round to the front of the chopper and reached up to undo the blindfold.
'OK?' He asked before he removed it.
'OK.' Caitlin said firmly.
He took the material away.
She blinked and her hand moved to cover her mouth in shock.
The clearing and wooden deck in front of the cabin had been laid out exactly in the same way as it had on the day of their wedding a year before. White and yellow flowers edged the clearing; petals were strewn on the ground. Sunlight bathed everything in a golden glow; the lake shone like glass under the clear blue sky. A judge stood ready at the arbour that had been created on the deck; their friends and family stood smiling at them. Caitlin saw her parents, her own sisters and brothers gathered along with Saint John, Jo, Michael, Angelina and Marella who held Nicky. Her eyes filled up with tears and she looked at her husband in shock.
Hawke took hold of her hand and kissed its palm gently. 'Marry me again?'
Caitlin nodded and they hugged much to the amusement and joy of the waiting crowd. Caitlin found herself quickly pulled away from Hawke as her mother ushered her into the cabin to change. Hawke was equally harried into a spare room to get changed into a suit.
It didn't take him long but he found himself fumbling with the tie.
'Here let me help you with that.' Saint John moved into the room and turned his brother to face him. He fastened the tie with a thoughtless efficiency that spoke of years of military experience. His tanned face was set in a frown of concentration; his hazel eyes fixed on his task.
'You know,' Hawke commented, 'I dreamed this the last time.'
'What?' Saint John asked.
'You helping me with my tie; giving me last words of wisdom.' Hawke confessed.
Saint John's hands slowed momentarily. So, he thought, that explained why Michael had been insistent Saint John go help his brother. 'It was a selfish decision, String, leaving you alone and it's one I'm going to regret all my life.'
Hawke registered the sincerity of the words and nodded. 'Maybe we should stop looking into the past.' He said. 'Concentrate on the future.'
'Sounds like a plan.' Saint John said. 'You never did learn to tie these things right.' He grumbled good-naturedly as he finished. 'There. You're set.'
'You guys done in here?' Michael walked in and Hawke blinked in surprise. His friend was holding Nicky in one arm and carrying a buff folder in the other. He had never seen him look so comfortable with the baby.
'I take it you passed the infamous baby test.' Hawke said wryly.
'Just.' Michael admitted. His gaze strayed to Saint John. 'I had some help.'
Hawke raised an eyebrow. Michael and Saint John conspiring? Maybe he ought to be worried.
'I'm glad I've got you both together.' Michael said. 'This arrived yesterday.' He handed the folder to Hawke who flipped it open.
His eyes shot back to the spy. 'This is the FBI file on my parents.'
Michael nodded. 'You were right. Your parents did go into witness protection soon after the boating accident. There's a note in the file that states they were informed you and your brother perished at sea.'
Hawke's eyes darkened with anger.
'At least we know they survived now.' Saint John said placing a comforting hand on Hawke's shoulder. 'Go on.'
'Unfortunately, the rest is not great news.' Michael said. 'Apparently soon after the birth of your sister…'
'So that letter Jo found was correct?' Saint John interrupted.
'Yes.' Michael brushed his moustache and adjusted his hold on Nicky. 'Apparently there was an incident.'
'An incident?' Hawke asked.
'Their cover was blown and there was an attempt on their lives. The FBI moved them but within two days your parents disappeared along with the baby.' Michael sighed. 'They left a note stating that they didn't believe the FBI could protect them.'
'That's the reason why the file is open.' Saint John concluded.
Michael nodded. His nose wrinkled suddenly. 'Excuse me but I think your son needs changing.' He left the room and the two brothers found themselves alone.
Hawke threw the folder on the bed in disgust.
Saint John sighed. 'At least we know they made it into witness protection.' He looked at his brother. 'We'll find them.'
'We will.' Hawke agreed. 'But whatever happens, we'll always have each other, right?'
Saint John pulled Hawke into his arms for a brotherly hug. 'Right.' He patted Hawke's back and stood back. 'I'm glad you're renewing your vows. It kinda feels like I'm getting to attend your wedding after all.'
'Yeah.' Hawke agreed fervently.
They made their way out and Hawke took the familiar position in front of the judge. Saint John stood proudly beside him as his best man and Michael was stood as his second as before. The other guests gathered around in an informal circle leaving a wide gap for Caitlin and her father to walk through.
Hawke turned to look back at the cabin instinctively and smiled. Angelina made her way towards them as she had done a year before, distributing yellow and cream petals from a small white wicker basket. He knew she considered this practice for her father's wedding to Marella. The dark haired agent was next to make the walk from the cabin; she was carrying Nicky. Caitlin moved onto the porch with her father.
The dress was new; a simple cream column of silk. She wore the same cream wool shawl, draped over her arms and held a bouquet of gold and cream roses in her hand just as she had before. His locket hung around her neck. Their eyes met and held as she was escorted to his side.
Hawke took her hand and interlinked their fingers.
'I love you, Mrs Hawke.' He said softly.
She smiled at him joyfully. 'I love you too.'
The judge cleared his throat and the renewal of their vows begun as an eagle cried its approval overhead.