Laughter rang out over the clearing outside the mountain cabin and was carried away on the breeze over the shimmering lake. It startled the eagle flying overhead and it whirled away with a harsh cry. Stringfellow Hawke glanced up at his unhappy avian neighbour and sent a silent apology. For a long time, he and the eagle had lived in solitude on the mountain but things had definitely changed for Hawke. He lowered himself to the bottom step of the cabin and slid his arm around Caitlin. The redheaded pilot grinned at him for an instant before her attention returned to the baby in her arms; their son, Nicky. Hawke was unable to resist leaning over and tickling his son's cheeks. The resulting gurgle sounded like a chuckle to him. Contentment stole over Hawke as he allowed his blue eyes to drift.
A shout had his gaze shooting across to the far side of the clearing where an impromptu volleyball game was being contested. On one side, a young girl with flowing blond hair was exchanging high fives with her female team-mates, her step-mother Marella and Hawke's sister, Sarah. On the other side of the net, Sarah's son, Chris was receiving a consoling pat on the back from his Uncle Saint John while their team-mate, Mike Rivers contested the call with Saint John's girlfriend, Jo Santini, who was acting as umpire.
'Who's winning?' Hawke asked idly.
'The girls.' Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III noted. He rubbed his moustache thoughtfully. 'Another two points and the game will be over.' There was an underlying glee in his voice; his daughter and new wife were on the winning side. He ruffled the fur of the brown chocolate Lab sat beside the camping stool he had commandeered.
'Told you.' Caitlin said with satisfaction. She grinned at her husband. 'That'll be ten dollars you owe me.'
Hawke's eyebrow quirked upwards. 'You haven't won yet.' He pointed out dryly.
'We will.' Caitlin said confidently as she adjusted her hold on Nicky.
'She's right.' Michael said as the male team lost another point.
'Hawkes never give up.' Hawke commented. As though to underscore his point, Chris executed a perfect shot and serve returned to the men. Hawke's lips twitched as he caught Caitlin's rueful gaze. She stuck her tongue at him.
Michael hid his amusement at their exchange and cleared his throat. 'I've been meaning to say thank you to the both of you.'
'What for?' Caitlin asked surprised.
'For today and welcoming us back.' Michael's gaze landed on Marella who turned as though she sensed his regard and smiled at him brightly before she was pulled back into the game. He sighed and turned back to Caitlin. 'And for everything you did at the wedding last week. If it hadn't been for the two of you rescuing Marella we might not have had one.' The thought of how close he had come to losing his bride sent a shiver down his spine.
Hawke shifted his position a little uncomfortable with the praise even if it was deserved. 'You'd have done the same for us.'
Michael smiled at the complete certainty in Hawke's voice. Their friendship was still a revelation to Michael in many ways but one that he had come to appreciate and even rely upon. Assigning Hawke to recover Airwolf, the most technologically advanced and only mach-capable helicopter in the world had been one of his better decisions, Michael mused. Although he would never have guessed that, three years later, the entire Airwolf project would be a government sanctioned operation under the Department of Defence. He pushed his glasses up his nose, his finger briefly touching on his ever-present eye-patch.
The project was going well; an ex-NSA agent Robert Delaney ran the Washington side and dealt with the politics leaving Michael to run day-to-day operations out of Red Star. Michael in turn gave a great deal of latitude to Hawke who flew Airwolf with the able assistance of Caitlin and Mike Rivers who was a talented Air Force major. They were going to have to think about training a second team, Michael thought idly as he watched the volleyball game. An updated version of Airwolf was almost ready for missions and he didn't want to place it solely in the control of the artificial intelligence that Airwolf had developed in the past year. It was a pity in some respects, he considered, that Saint John and Jo had decided to concentrate fully on Santini Air, the air service once owned by Hawke's late surrogate father and mentor, Dominic Santini.
The thought of the old pilot lifted Michael's lips into a reluctant smile. Dom had died the year before in a helicopter explosion but his ghost continued to haunt the spy regardless. In truth, Michael didn't really mind; there was something comforting in knowing Dom was still around helping them all. His eye flickered to Hawke. He'd never told the younger man about Dom's visitations. Initially it had been because he had believed they were hallucinations brought on by concussion but it was hard to deny the truth of them when Dom kept showing up…either that or Michael really was going mad. He choked on the thought and hurriedly took a sip of his drink.
'We should bring out the food.'
Caitlin's comment broke Michael's chain of thought and he glanced over at her. She was placing the baby in his carrier in preparation for getting to her feet.
Hawke tore his gaze away from the game and nodded. 'I'll give you a hand.'
'Can you watch Nicky, Michael?' Caitlin asked as Hawke helped her to her feet.
A faint hint of nerves flitted in and out of Michael's good eye but the spy nodded his agreement as the couple headed indoors. He looked warily at the sleeping child.
'You know I thought you'd be OK watching him by now.'
Michael refused to be startled at Dom's cheery voice. He deliberately took his time turning around to greet the ghost. Dom was sat on a nearby log. He looked to all intents and purposes exactly the same as he had in life with the same paunchy stomach, same grey wispy hair and the same wide gap-toothed smile. 'Hello, Dom.' He frowned. 'What are you doing here?'
'Can't a man stop by and check up on his family?' Dom retorted. He waved at the volleyball game and his eyes warmed at the sight of his niece. 'Ah. Doesn't she look good? And she and Saint John make a great couple.'
Michael refrained from comment. His own somewhat tumultuous relationship with Hawke's brother had settled into a truce and he was happy to admit that he had no deep opinion about Saint John's burgeoning romance.
Dom didn't seem to mind his lack of input, continuing on regardless. 'Angelina's growing up so fast.'
'Yes. She is.' Michael noted wistfully as he watched Angelina play. He couldn't argue with the pilot. His daughter was growing up fast; she would be twelve before the year was out and he could hardly believe it.
'Cherish these moments, Michael.' Dom said solemnly. 'You don't get another chance.'
Michael's gaze snapped back to Dom and his brow creased with concern at the sober look on Dom's craggy face. 'Are you OK, Dominic?'
Dom stirred and shook himself a little. 'Ignore me, Michael. I was just thinking about Sally.'
Dominic's daughter, Michael remembered; the one who had died without ever really knowing her father. He endeavoured to change the subject. 'Aren't you taking a big risk being here?' He asked.
'You're the only one who can see me.' Dom said dismissing his concerns with a huff of laughter. 'If anyone notices anything, it'll be you talking to yourself.'
'Thanks, Dominic.' Michael said dryly. 'That's just…'
'Talking to yourself, Michael?'
Hawke's voice caught him by surprise and he inwardly lamented the pilot's ability to sneak up on people.
'See?' Dom laughed and slapped his thigh.
Michael sighed and gestured at Hawke. 'Just thinking out loud.'
The pilot shrugged and began setting out the picnic blankets that he had brought out. 'What about?'
Dom sniggered and Michael shot him a look. Hawke caught the end of it and his blue eyes moved to the log curiously as Michael covered with a non-committal response.
'You need a hand?' Michael asked hurriedly as Hawke's gaze returned to him.
'Sure.' Hawke handed him the final picnic blanket and headed back indoors.
'That was your fault.' Michael hissed when he was certain Hawke was out of earshot.
Dom shrugged unconcerned. He sobered, his face turning grave. 'It's going to start soon, Michael.'
'What?' Michael asked absently as he laid the final blanket on the ground.
'Christmas,' barked Dom, 'what do you think I mean? I mean the showdown with Cordelli.'
Michael glared at Dom who glared right back at him.
'When?' asked Michael as he glanced around anxiously to check no-one had noticed his behaviour.
'Soon.' Dom reiterated. 'He's going to need you, Michael. He's going to need everyone.'
Michael felt a chill of apprehension down his spine as he took in Dom's grave face.
'What is going on with you?' Hawke asked bluntly from behind him.
Michael started. He hadn't heard Hawke approach again. 'Sorry.' Michael brushed a hand through his floppy white blond hair as he met Hawke's concerned blue eyes with a rueful look. He glanced back at the log; Dom had disappeared. Typical, Michael thought derisively.
'You look like you've seen a ghost.' Hawke commented as he set down the crockery and cutlery he had brought out.
'Do I?' Michael murmured.
'Yeah.' Hawke gestured at him. 'You're as white as the suits you usually wear.'
'I'm fine.' Michael said plunging his hands into the pockets of the beige pants he was wearing instead of the three piece white suit which was his normal attire.
Hawke gave him a dubious look but went back into the cabin.
Michael sat down with a sigh of relief and rubbed his moustache thoughtfully. Dom's cryptic comments were one of the things about his visitations that drove him crazy. Not that the comments sometimes didn't have an element of truth in them. It kept him in reflective mood as the volleyball game drew to a close and the picnic began.---
'I can't believe you called that shot out.' Sarah complained good-naturedly to Jo as she set her empty plate down and reached for her drink.
'It was a good call.' Mike said smugly.
'You would say that,' Sarah laughed, 'it won you the game.' She threw her balled-up paper napkin at him. He threw it right back at her. She threw it again seemingly oblivious at the worried look exchanged by her brothers at the by-play.
Caitlin intercepted the airborne napkin. 'Children,' the twinkle in her eyes gave away her amusement, 'play nicely or you don't get dessert.'
Mike subsided with an apologetic smile. Sarah pulled a face at her sister-in-law. Chris laughed at his mother who ruffled his hair lovingly in response.
'I think the umpire did just great.' Saint John slid his hand under Jo's blonde bob and rubbed the back of her neck. She leaned over and kissed him.
'I'm sure you do.' Marella commented dryly. She brushed a crumb off her white trousers and handed the last of her sandwich to Angelina's dog, Brownie.
Jo grinned at her. 'I swear I was completely impartial.'
'Right.' Mike snorted.
Jo hit him lightly on the arm.
'Hey!' Mike protested laughing and holding his hands up in surrender. 'I'm not complaining!'
Angelina whispered something in Chris's ear and he nodded eagerly. She turned to her father and pulled on his arm to get his attention.
Michael responded slowly as though his mind were elsewhere. 'What, angel?'
'Can Chris and I be excused to play Frisbee with the dogs?' Angelina asked with a sweet smile designed to melt her father's resistance; it worked.
'If Sarah agrees.' Michael said.
Sarah nodded. 'Just stay away from the water.'
The two children shot to their feet and raced away from the group of adults.
Saint John shifted position slightly on the ground and decided to take advantage of the lack of children. 'Have you heard anything more from Larry Mason, Michael?'
Michael shook his head. 'Not yet.' He sighed. 'I'll chase him when we return to the office tomorrow.'
'I thought you said he was close to finding our parents.' Saint John's frustration gave an edge to the words that had Michael's hackles rising fast.
'He's doing the best he can.' He retorted.
Marella laid a hand on Michael's arm. 'Larry's the best there is.' Her dark eyes flashed at Saint John. 'He'll be in touch as soon as he has something.'
'Sorry.' The apology was grudging but Saint John knew he owed Michael one. 'I'm just a little anxious that we find our parents before Cordelli.'
'We all are.' Hawke added quietly. 'Michael and Marella are right; Larry's the best there is. He'll be in touch.'
'I don't think we'll have to wait much longer.' Michael murmured remembering Dom's words.
Hawke raised an eyebrow but didn't comment. It was unusual for the spy to admit to intuitive feelings or hunches; Michael usually relied solely on logic and facts. He could see the same thought cross Marella's mind.
There was silence for a moment before it was broken by a baby's wailing.
'That's Nicky.' Caitlin murmured.
Marella waved her back into her seat. 'I'll get him.'
Caitlin settled back against Hawke. 'Tell me he's going to stop teething soon.' She demanded jokingly looking at Sarah.
The other woman grinned and shook her head. 'You've got months of it.'
'Great.' Caitlin rubbed her forehead. 'So tell me how I survive on three hours of sleep a night?'
Jo grimaced. 'Three hours?'
Caitlin nodded and stifled a yawn. 'Three hours.'
'You get used to it.' Sarah said matter-of-factly.
'When?' Caitlin laughed.
'Another couple of years.' Sarah smiled. 'Of course, that's if you don't add another baby to the mix.'
There was a hint of a question in the statement and Caitlin ignored it. She and Hawke were trying for another baby but she preferred not to have the whole world watching and waiting. Maybe they wouldn't have to wait much longer though, she mused, her hand sliding over her flat stomach as she thought about her visit to the doctor's earlier that day. Maybe her tiredness wasn't just down to Nicky's teething…she searched for a topic to divert the conversation. 'How's the house sale coming along?'
'Almost complete.' Sarah said happily. 'In another few days, I should be the proud owner of my own home.'
'That's great news.' Jo grinned at her.
'You could stay here.' Hawke said quietly. His blue eyes settled on his sister regretfully. 'We'll miss you when you're gone.'
'No, you won't.' Sarah laughed. 'You and Cait will have the cabin to yourself again. You'll love it.'
Hawke shrugged. He knew a part of him agreed with her but another part of him was sorry to his sister move out to her own place.
'I still think you should stay here until we've got the Cordelli's under lock and key.' Saint John said bluntly.
Sarah rolled her eyes. 'That could be months.'
'It won't.' Hawke gestured at her. 'As soon as we find our parents, we'll move on the Cordelli's.'
'Exactly how are we going to do that again?' Sarah asked exasperated.
'We have a plan.' Hawke stated.
'A plan you're keeping to yourselves.' Sarah pointed out. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her brothers. 'I'm a Hawke too.'
'Yes, you are,' Saint John agreed, 'but you're not trained for this kind of thing.'
Caitlin smiled sympathetically at her. 'Believe me, Sarah, if I wasn't trained, they probably wouldn't tell me either.'
'So you know.' Sarah said. Her blue eyes flashed at Mike. 'Do you know?'
'Well…' he began hesitantly avoiding her gaze.
'See.' Sarah gestured angrily. 'Everyone knows but me.'
Jo put her hand up. 'I don't.'
'We'll tell you when we find our folks.' Saint John said trying to placate both of them.
Hawke shot him a look and Saint John shrugged as though to say 'what was I supposed to do?'
'You really think this Larry friend of yours will find our folks?' Sarah asked nervously running her fingers through her mink brown hair. Her blue eyes pinned her brother's.
'Larry will find them.' Hawke assured her.
Sarah took a deep breath, trying to still the butterflies in her belly and loosen the tight feeling in her chest.
Saint John reached over and squeezed her hand. 'It's going to be OK, you know.' He smiled at her confidently. 'We'll be right there with you.'
'They must hate me.' Sarah ducked her head. 'Running off the way I did…'
'Not a chance.' Saint John said firmly. 'I bet they'll be thrilled to see you and I know they're going to love Chris.'
' Saint John's right.' Caitlin added smiling at her sister-in-law. 'I'm sure they'll just be pleased to see you're OK.'
'And, besides, I think your brothers coming back from the dead will steal the show.' Mike commented wryly.
Saint John reached across and smacked the back of his best friend's head.
'Hey!' Mike rubbed his head and glared at the older man.
'Actually, I think Mike's probably right.' Sarah said sending him a sympathetic glance. She sighed, her vision turning inward as a memory surfaced. Her parents at a dining room table trying to explain the picture of two boys they had hidden away. In hindsight, she could see that their faces were filled with pain; her father's eyes smarting with tears; her mother pale with tension. She shook her head. 'They never forgot you.'
'There's going to be a lot of explaining to do if we find them.' Saint John sighed. Jo's hand slid over his and he turned his palm upward to intertwine their fingers.
Hawke rubbed his thumb over the rim of the beer bottle he held. 'When,' he corrected softly, 'when we find them.'---
Hawke shut the cabin door and breathed a sigh of relief. He loved the extended family that he had built but he couldn't deny that he was pleased that the majority had decided against staying over. He wandered into the empty living area pleased that Sarah had already made her excuses and headed for her bedroom at the back of the cabin; it was just him and Caitlin. His dog, Tet, wagged his tail as Hawke took a moment to rub his fur fondly. He made his way into the kitchen where Caitlin was stacking the last of the washing up and slid his hands around her waist. She leaned back against him and tilted her neck to give him access. He was smiling as he kissed her.
'Ready for bed?' He asked.
'Hmmm-hmmm.' Caitlin turned in his arms and planted her own lips solidly over his. The kiss was deep and passionate. 'Give me another minute and I'll be right with you.'
Hawke stole another kiss before he left her and took the stairs up to the master bedroom. He made his way quietly across the room to check on the sleeping baby in the crib on the far side. Nicky's eyes were tightly shut, a slight flush on his plump cheeks. Hawke gently traced a finger over his son's head before he tucked the blanket Nicky had dislodged back into place.
The bedroom fire cast strange shadows on the walls and Hawke checked on it before he stepped into the en-suite bathroom. A few minutes later, he climbed into the large bed and waited for his wife. He didn't have to wait long as Caitlin breezed into the bedroom, flashed him a smile and went to the bathroom. Five minutes later, she came back dressed in a cotton t-shirt that Hawke vaguely recognised as his. She clambered across the bed and snuggled up to him.
'You alright?' She asked as his arm went around her to tuck her more firmly against his side.
'Hmmm.' Hawke stroked her hair back over her shoulder.
She shifted and raised her head to look at him, concern darkening her eyes. 'What's up?'
Hawke knew it was pointless to claim nothing was worrying him. 'I was just thinking about my folks.' His finger caught on a whirl of her hair and he twisted it gently.
'What about them?' Caitlin prompted gently as she lowered her head back to his shoulder.
'Just…stuff.' Hawke muttered. He shrugged awkwardly given his position.
Caitlin took his hand in hers tangling their fingers together. 'You still worried about meeting them again after all this time?'
For a long moment, Hawke was silent as he fought the initial urge to deny it. 'Maybe.' He admitted finally. 'It's been a long time.'
'You're family.' Caitlin said softly. 'That doesn't change.' She sighed. 'I have to admit I'd prefer to be in your shoes than Sarah's.'
'Yeah.' Hawke grimaced a little. 'It's not going to be easy for her.'
'We'll all be there for her.' Caitlin assured him. 'She'll be OK and so will you.' She reached up and kissed him before returning her head to his shoulder.
He squeezed her gently. 'I think we're all nervous even Saint John.'
'Well, it's only natural.' Caitlin said. 'You've been separated a while and this whole search for them hasn't exactly been easy.'
'No.' Hawke said frowning as his mind drifted back to the picnic and Michael's strange behaviour.
'What?' Caitlin asked aware his attention had turned inward.
'Nothing.' Hawke answered. 'I was just thinking about Michael.'
There was laughter in her voice and the promise that she was going to tease him mercilessly for the admission. Hawke ignored both. 'Yeah. Don't you think he was acting a little odd?'
Caitlin sobered at his serious question. 'No more than usual. Why?'
Hawke shook his head. 'It's probably nothing.'
'But it might be something.' Caitlin expanded.
'Then tell me!' She said exasperated.
He shrugged again and she shifted to look at him fully. She raised an expectant eyebrow and he gave in with a sigh. 'He was talking to himself when I went out with the blankets.'
'He said 'Thanks, Dominic.''
Caitlin's nose wrinkled. 'He said 'Thanks, Dominic?''
'He really said Dominic?' Caitlin checked.
'Yeah. I'm sure.'
Caitlin sighed. Hawke's hearing was superb; if he said he heard it, he probably had. 'Weird.' She bit her lip. 'Maybe he was thinking about the search for your parents and how Dom started him on it.'
'I don't know. He was staring at the log like there was someone there,' Hawke said, 'and it's not the first time.'
'Maybe you should talk to him.' Caitlin suggested.
'And say what?' Hawke argued. 'By the way, Michael, are you having conversations with the man who raised me and who just happens to be dead?'
She stroked his arm trying to soothe him.
Hawke rubbed his eyes tiredly. 'Sorry.' He sighed.
Caitlin bit her lip. 'The only way you're going to find out what's going on with Michael is by asking him.'
He knew she spoke the truth but the idea of even raising the subject had him shifting restlessly. 'Maybe I should just forget I heard anything.'
'If that's your decision…' Caitlin murmured.
'It is.' Hawke said making his mind up in a flash. 'I probably misheard anyway.'
'Right.' Caitlin drawled; the one word dripped with disbelief.
Hawke's lips twitched as he kissed her. He was about to deepen the kiss when Caitlin broke away and yawned.
'Sorry.' She apologised sleepily.
He smiled ruefully and gave her a chaste kiss on the forehead. 'It's OK. Get some sleep.'
'You sure?' Caitlin asked even though she was already turning away from him and moving into her favoured sleeping position.
'Sure.' He pillowed his head on one arm and let the other slide over her hip as he settled in behind her. It wasn't too long before he heard her breathing change as she slipped into sleep. He stayed awake, his mind drifting from Michael to finding his parents and another brother he'd never met. Finally, his thoughts settled on his wife.
Caitlin had been tired a lot since they'd got back from the wedding in Hawaii, he mused. Part of it he knew was Nicky; their son was teething and would wake them up every couple of hours to complain about his pain. It was tiring but it didn't explain Caitlin's constant need to sleep. The last time she'd been as sleepy was when she'd been expecting Nicky…the thought caught him off guard and his eyes snapped open.
Was she pregnant?
He barely managed to restrain himself from shaking Caitlin awake and telling her his suspicion. He turned onto his back as though to remove himself from the temptation. It was certainly possible; they had been trying for a second baby for a little while. There was another obvious clue, Hawke realised as he counted back the days to Caitlin's last period. She was definitely late, he thought with satisfaction. He moved back to his side and couldn't resist shifting to lie closer to her; his front pressed up against her back. He dropped a kiss on her neck and she stirred gently. He didn't move and she murmured his name before resuming her rest.
A baby. He couldn't help the huge grin that the thought evoked; didn't want to resist it. Another baby. He covered Caitlin's flat abdomen with his hand picturing it rounded and swollen with their child. It was his last coherent thought before he slipped into sleep.
Hawke woke early to Nicky's squalls and with his suspicion on Caitlin's condition at the forefront of his mind, he made his way to the crib swiftly determined to ensure Caitlin rested. An hour later, with Nicky placated and sleeping again; Hawke showered and dressed before he made up a breakfast tray and carried it into the bedroom.
Caitlin opened her eyes sleepily at the sound of Hawke approaching the bed. Her eyes widened with surprise. 'You made me breakfast in bed?'
'You deserve it.' Hawke said dropping a kiss on her lips as she sat up to receive the tray.
'Have I told what a great husband you are?' She gave him a wide smile and picked up the mug from the tray. She took a big sip expecting coffee and almost spat the actual drink of herbal tea over her toast. Her gaze shot to Hawke's. 'Tea?' She asked delicately.
He nodded; his blue eyes unguarded in their happiness.
She sighed and ignored the twinge of disappointment that she hadn't been able to surprise him with the news. 'How did you know?' She demanded.
'Know what?' Hawke prompted lightly.
She rolled her eyes. 'Don't mess with me, Hawke, or you'll be wearing this?' She held up the mug threateningly.
'I worked it out last night.' Hawke admitted. He reached across the bed and tucked her hair back behind her ear. 'You're late.'
'So I am.' Caitlin agreed. Her expression turned rueful. 'I wanted to surprise you once I'd gotten the confirmation from the doctor.'
'You've had the test?' Hawke checked.
'Yesterday.' Caitlin said. 'They said they'd call me in a couple of days.' She shook her head a little. 'But I already know.' Her free hand shifted to her abdomen.
Hawke laid his hand over hers. 'Another baby.' His voice held a note of awe that had Caitlin smiling.
'Another baby.' She agreed gently. 'And one that doesn't seem to want me to throw up every morning.'
'Maybe it's a girl.' Hawke said. 'Less troublesome.'
'Maybe.' Caitlin agreed laughing. 'Although I don't know about the trouble part; I think my Dad might disagree with you.'
'Maybe mine would too.' Hawke reached over and kissed her.
They settled back against the pillows. Caitlin offered her toast to Hawke and he took a slice as she bit into another.
'You know we still have a bet to settle.' He reminded her idly.
She smiled at him sweetly. 'I'm pregnant.'
'You owe me ten dollars.' Hawke waved his toast at her.
She was about to reply when the distinctive sound of the satellite phone sounded through the cabin. 'Saved by the bell.' She muttered as Hawke got up to answer it. She plastered an innocent look on her face as he shot her a look over his shoulder on his way out. She could hear the murmur of his voice as she shoved the tray to one side and stretched. She might have known that Hawke would have figured it out, Caitlin thought ruefully. She really had wanted to surprise him. Maybe next time. She started to grin. She needed to get through this second pregnancy first, she reminded herself as she got up and wandered into the bathroom. Her husband was waiting for her impatiently when she exited, her body wrapped in one towel with another around her head. 'What is it?' She asked seeing through the impassive mask to the anxiety he was tying to hide.
Hawke met her inquisitive eyes seriously. 'That was Michael. Larry has something.'---
The mood in the group gathered in Marella's office was sombre. Michael was sat at the head of the oval table that took up the right side of the room. At first glance, he appeared relaxed; slouched in the leather chair, legs stretched out in front of him, his white suit pristine and a finger lightly brushing over his moustache. It was the tension in his good eye that gave him away; the look of a predator waiting for the prey.
'How much longer?' Saint John whirled away from the window and the great view of Devil's Anvil and paced back to the table.
Hawke looked over at Michael who raised a hand from the polished wood.
'Exactly what did this Larry say exactly?' Sarah asked. She was sat opposite Hawke, her fingers drumming an anxious rhythm on the table. She was pleased Chris was safe with Angelina in Michael's office a floor away from the tension in the room.
'Just that he had something and was on his way.' Michael's tone held the bored note of someone who had repeated the statement often.
'And you didn't ask him what he had?' Saint John pressed standing at the other end of the table with his hands on his hips.
Michael stiffened. 'I didn't get the chance.' He retorted, anger flashing through his eye.
'Saint John.' Hawke's quiet voice whipped across the room. It was a warning Saint John didn't disregard and he slumped into a chair next to his sister.
Marella cleared her throat. 'Perhaps some refreshments while we wait?'
Saint John gave a dismissive shrug but Caitlin adjusted her hold on Nicky and smiled at Marella. 'That would be great.' She replied.
'I could go for some coffee.' Mike said from his place next to Caitlin.
'I'll organise it.' Marella got up gracefully. She placed a hand on Michael's shoulder briefly as she passed behind his chair.
The phone rang startling them all; Marella halted mid-way across the room.
Michael moved in one swift motion to stab at the conference phone beside him. 'Yes?'
'Larry Mason on line one for you.' The assistant's voice trembled with nerves.
Michael disconnected and stabbed another button. 'Mason?'
'It's me.' Larry's voice was muffled by a lot of background noise which crackled from the speakers.
'Where are you?' Michael demanded.
'The airport.' Larry coughed. 'I think someone is following me.'
Hawke leaned forward over the wood. 'Larry, rent a car and head toward the Valley of the Gods. I'm on my way with the Lady.' He was already on his feet, Saint John beside him. Mike got up a heartbeat behind Michael. The men strode across the room.
Sarah hurried to catch up to them. 'I'm coming with you.'
'So am I.' Jo said determinedly.
'There's not enough room.' Hawke glanced over his shoulder. 'You're both staying here.'
'I'm coming with you.' Sarah repeated stubbornly.
Hard blue eyes clashed with hard blue eyes.
It was Caitlin who broke the deadlock. 'You need an engineer at least.' She handed Nicky to Marella purposefully.
'Michael can cover it. You should stay here.' Hawke argued.
She could see the objections in his eyes and she could feel his worry across the room. She had been pregnant before and weathered a lot but she had a choice with this pregnancy…she sighed and sat back down resigned.
Marella stared at her in disbelief.
'I'm still going.' Sarah said tearing her eyes away from Caitlin.
'Me too.' Jo insisted. 'We can take the second Airwolf.'
'Fine.' Hawke bit out. 'Let's move.'
The six of them left the office without another word and headed for the helicopters. Hawke took the controls of the first with Sarah and Michael climbing aboard as passengers; his brother headed for the second with Mike and Jo. They were soon in the air and flying towards the airport at high altitude.
'What's going on with Caitlin?' Sarah asked. She had sat beside Hawke and she could see the way his jaw clenched at the question.
'Nothing.' Hawke replied.
'What's going on? Is she OK?' Sarah asked insistently refusing to be put off by Hawke's terse answer.
Hawke glanced across the cabin and caught the sincere look of worry in his sister's eyes. He still didn't reply to her though.
'Hawke.' Michael piped up from the engineer's console. 'It's a good question.' He was curious about the answer himself.
Hawke sighed. 'We think she might be pregnant.' He admitted reluctantly.
'Wow.' Sarah muttered surprised.
Michael felt a smile tug at his lips despite their situation. 'Congratulations!'
'Thanks.' Hawke said briefly shooting a grateful look over his shoulder.
'Same from me.' Sarah patted his arm and gave him a brilliant smile.
'Just don't make a big deal of it with Caitlin.' Hawke warned them. 'We still have to get the results of the test back and it's early days.'
'My lips are sealed.' Sarah promised.
'I guess we're going to need to find another engineer for Airwolf.' Michael mused, his mind already turning to the next problem down the line.
'Yeah.' Hawke frowned. 'Maybe the AI can handle it.'
'I'd prefer a living person.' Michael commented. He shifted. 'Do you think Cordelli is after Larry?'
'I don't know.' Hawke replied. 'But I don't want to take any risks.'
'Agreed.' Michael stated.
'Airwolf One, this is Airwolf Two.' Mike's voice resounded clearly through the speakers. 'You want to fill us in on the plan, Hawke?'
'If Larry is being followed, the road out to the Valley is pretty deserted so we should be able to pick up whoever's following him.' Hawke answered thoughtfully. 'You pick up Larry and get him back to Red Star. We'll deal with the tail.'
'Roger that. Airwolf Two out.'
Michael stared at the console. 'Airwolf's scanning for vehicles.'
'Good.' Hawke brought Airwolf to a hover above the road into the Valley.
'I hope this works.' Sarah muttered as she rubbed her fingers anxiously together.
'It will.' Hawke answered confidently.
'Hawke,' Michael said suddenly, 'I'm reading a vehicle turning onto the road. It's an airport rental.'
'Larry?' Sarah wondered.
'Airwolf,' Hawke instructed, 'try to get a picture of the driver and match to Larry Mason's personnel file.'
The word appeared on the monitor and Michael's breath caught as it did every time the AI followed Hawke's orders.
Photo match confirmed. Driver of the vehicle is Larry Mason.
'We have a second car turning onto the road.' Michael's voice remained even and calm, betraying none of the excitement that had the blood zinging through his veins.
'Airwolf Two, this is Airwolf One. Do you have visual confirmation of both vehicles?' Hawke radioed.
'We do.' Mike confirmed.
'I'll take the second vehicle in another two miles. Do you copy?'
'Copy that, Airwolf One.' Mike said confidently. 'We'll pick up our package.'
'OK.' Hawke rolled his shoulders and shifted settling into a more comfortable position. 'Let's do this. Combat mode.'
'Combat mode.' Michael confirmed hitting the button to deploy the weapons. The ADF pods and chain guns slammed into position sending a small vibration through the cockpit.
Hawke pushed the stick forward and Airwolf dived out of the sky. She hurtled downwards towards the vehicle below. He levelled out just above and behind the car; he hit the turbos. Clouds of dust covered the vehicle rendering the road ahead invisible. The car slewed to a stop.
Airwolf circled like a vulture overhead; Hawke swung her one way and then back. The dust cloud increased around the stationary car.
'Airwolf One, this is Airwolf Two. We have the package on board. Do you need assistance?' Mike asked.
'Stay airborne and cover us, Rivers.' Hawke ordered. 'We're going to land and see who this guy is.'
'Understood.' Mike responded.
Hawke circled again to keep the dust cloud high before he landed just behind the car. 'You're staying in Airwolf.' He told Sarah as he yanked off his helmet and drew his gun. She didn't argue and Michael inched his way out past her as Hawke opened his door and got out.
The two men approached the car from either side; their guns held firm in their outstretched hands. Hawke narrowed his eyes against the still flying dust. He was almost level with the driver's door when it burst open and a shape flew at him. His gun fired as he was tumbled to the ground. A hand clenched around his wrist and he realised belatedly that the shape was a man; the driver. They began wrestling in earnest for the gun. Hawke could dimly hear Michael yell a warning but he knew he was too close to his attacker for Michael to safely get off a shot. He went limp fooling the guy for a moment, and just as the man reached for the gun, Hawke punched him quickly in the gut twice. The guy was winded and it was easy for Hawke to throw him off and take up a covering position opposite Michael on the other side of the downed man.
'Stay down or we will shoot!' Michael shouted.
The guy coughed and stayed prone. The dust was beginning to settle over him; on the vehicle; on Michael and Hawke; on the ground.
Hawke's eyes narrowed. He was stood behind the man and could only see his back. There was something familiar about the guy…something that teased his memory. He took a tentative step forward.
'On your knees; hands behind your head.' Michael ordered.
The young man moved slowly until he had assumed the position. He stared defiantly at Michael.
Michael swallowed hard and his gaze jerked to Hawke and he gestured with his head. 'Come here.'
Hawke moved around to stand beside Michael warily. He assimilated the familiar mop of blonde hair and angry blue eyes staring back at him. 'My God.'
'What's going on? Have you got him?' Sarah's voice just behind them had Michael whirling around although Hawke remained transfixed. Her eyes shot to the man kneeling on the ground and widened. 'Seb?'
Sebastian Hawke's gaze snapped to her. 'Sarah?'
'Seb!' Sarah pushed past Michael and threw herself at her younger brother, crying and laughing at the same time.---
Hawke lowered his gun slowly and swallowed hard against the rush of emotion as he watched the tearful reunion of his sister and their kid brother. They were hugging each other, their hands running over each other as though to confirm that the other was real. Michael briefly laid a hand on Hawke's shoulder before he moved away to stand by Airwolf. Hawke was dimly aware of the second Airwolf landing and he turned at the sound of footsteps.
Saint John slowed and came to a halt beside Hawke. 'String?'
Seb looked up at the two men standing beside them and the words dried up in his throat.
Sarah looked at Seb inquisitively wondering why he had stopped talking and followed the direction of his gaze. She smiled and got to her feet; she pulled Seb to his. 'Seb, I want you to meet our brothers. This is Saint John and this is String.'
Seb frowned at them. 'You're supposed to be dead.'
Saint John looked at Hawke and back to Seb. 'Yeah. We get that a lot.' He took a step forward and held out his hand. 'We're pleased to meet you, Seb.'
Seb's eyes flickered to Sarah and she nodded in confirmation. 'It's really them, Seb.'
Seb reached out his hand and cautiously shook Saint John's. He turned to Hawke and held out his hand. Hawke shook it firmly. Sarah rolled her eyes and dragged them all into a group hug. There was an awkward ripple of laughter from Seb and Saint John before they all eased apart. Saint John shook his head in wonder; it was like looking into a mirror of himself in his teens. Only the eyes were different; Seb had inherited the same blue eyes as their father.
'Wow. I would never have believed it.' Seb shook his head and waved a hand at them. 'Mom and Dad are going to be blown away by this.'
'They're alive?' Hawke blurted the question out.
'Yeah. They're alive.' Seb confirmed.
Hawke's eyes met Saint John's in relief; they'd suspected, had hoped but the confirmation was sweet.
'Gentlemen,' Michael broke into the reunion gently, 'perhaps this conversation would be better conducted elsewhere.'
'I agree.' Saint John said.
'Well, that has to be a first.' Hawke noted dryly.
'We should get back to Red Star.' Michael said ignoring the pilot. 'I'll ride with Rivers.' He walked away before they could argue.
'Guess I'm riding with you.' Saint John said happily.
'I can't leave the car here.' Seb protested weakly.
'Don't worry,' Hawke commented as he began walking away to Airwolf, 'Michael will handle it.'
'Well, let me grab my things.' Seb hurried to the trunk of his car and pulled out a duffle bag before he locked the car. Sarah linked arms with him and pulled him towards the helicopter.
'What is this?' Seb asked warily taking in the sleek black armour and white underbelly; the exposed missile pods and chain guns.
'A helicopter.' Sarah grinned. 'I think you're going to like it.' She pushed him inside.
Seb's eyes widened as he took the jump seat next to the engineer's console where Saint John was seated. 'Wow.'
'Welcome to Airwolf.' Saint John said. He handed him some headphones and a mike.
Seb reached out and eagerly put them on. 'This is some machine.' His eyes drank in the console and its array of buttons. 'It has its own computer?'
'That's right.' Saint John said adjusting a couple of systems ready for take-off.
'Seb was a bit of a computer geek when he was younger.' Sarah said as she got comfortable in the passenger seat.
'I still am.' Seb admitted happily. 'This looks amazing.'
'You haven't seen anything yet.' Saint John said.
'Everybody ready?' Hawke asked cutting into the chit-chat. There was a chorus of agreement. Hawke took Airwolf up fast and smooth.
'Woah.' Seb grabbed hold of the console to steady himself.
'He just likes showing off.' Saint John noted. Hawke's understanding of Airwolf was immense. His brother was the only pilot he knew that would have managed the manoeuvre without causing the engines to stall.
Hawke hit the turbos.
'Oh my God!' Seb swallowed as the ground zipped by beneath them. His eyes went to the speed indicator. 'That has to be wrong.'
'Nope.' Saint John assured him. 'It's right.'
'But we're doing over mach one,' Seb's eyes flew back to the windshield, 'and this is a helicopter.'
Hawke let a ghost of a smile cross his lips as he contacted the Red Star control tower. It wasn't long before they were all walking into Marella's office.
'Hawke.' Caitlin crossed the room and hugged her husband tightly. She pulled back and took in his slightly stunned expression. 'What?'
'We found someone.' Hawke turned and gestured at the young man by Sarah. 'Our brother, Seb.' He waved at Caitlin. 'Seb, this is my wife, Caitlin.'
Seb held out his hand as he smiled nervously at the redhead. 'Hi.'
'Hi.' Caitlin's smile was warm and welcoming and he relaxed as she shrugged and moved to hug him. 'Welcome home.'
'Thank you.' His eyes moved inquisitively to the blonde woman Saint John had wrapped an arm around.
'This is Jo Santini.' Saint John said quietly. 'My partner.'
'Santini.' Seb accepted a hug from her with a frown. 'Is that any relation to a Dominic Santini?'
'He was my uncle.' Jo said.
'Wow.' Seb shook his head. 'I always thought Dad made him up.'
'We both did.' Sarah said. She cleared her throat nervously. 'I have someone I'd like you to meet.' Her hands rested on her son's shoulders. 'This is Chris, my son. Chris, this is your Uncle Seb.'
Seb looked at her uncomprehendingly and then to Chris. The realisation sank in slowly but he shook himself free of the shock and held out a hand to the six year old boy. 'Hi there.'
'Hi.' Chris took in his new uncle with interest. 'So can you fly too?'
'Yeah, I'm a pilot.' Seb admitted. 'But I don't do it for a living.'
'What do you do?' Sarah asked.
'Computer programming.' Seb admitted a little self-consciously.
'You're not in college?' asked Saint John curious.
Seb shrugged. 'I do OK.'
'I'm Marella.' Marella stepped forward.
'My wife.' Michael added smoothly seeing the interest flare in Seb's eyes. 'And this is my daughter, Angelina.'
Angelina's eyes scoured the newcomer. 'Do you play chess?'
'Maybe Seb will have time for a game later.' Michael said quickly. 'In the meantime, why don't you take Chris back up to my office? Hmmm?'
His daughter rolled her eyes at him. 'Come on, Chris. The grown-ups want to talk without us again.'
'Again?' Chris gave a disgusted snort but took Angelina's outstretched hand and followed her out.
'Any other nieces or nephews I should know about?' Seb asked feeling a little overwhelmed. As if on cue, Nicky gave a cry.
'That will be your other nephew.' Caitlin said as she hurried over to the carrier. While she calmed the baby, a quiet babble broke out as the others took seats around the oval table and helped themselves to the luncheon Marella organised.
'So, you said our parents are alive?' Hawke's quiet question silenced the table and focused everyone's attention.
'Yes.' Seb nodded enthusiastically. 'Very much alive.'
'Perhaps we should start at the beginning.' Michael waved a hand at Larry Mason. The former intelligence analyst had stayed in the background during the introductions and seemed a little startled to find himself the centre of attention. 'Larry has been tracking your parents down for some time now.'
'I placed a flag on some key information in the systems.' Seb stated looking at Larry with interest. 'It helped me trace whoever was looking for my parents as an early warning signal.'
'Then you know about their history and the Cordelli's?' Sarah asked.
'They told me when Sarah left; said they figured I could handle it.' Seb said blithely.
Sarah blushed. She had been older than Seb when she had forced her parents into telling her and she hadn't handled it at all. Caitlin smiled at her sympathetically as though reading her thoughts.
'Anyway,' Seb continued, 'one of the flags activated last week and I traced it to Mexico. I went to check it out and followed him here.'
'You took a big risk.' Hawke noted. 'Larry could have been working for the Cordelli's.'
Seb flushed. 'I had to know.' He said simply. He gestured across the table. 'I had no idea that you were still alive.' His stunned blue eyes shone with the truth of his statement. 'Or that Sarah was with you.' There was a question buried in the statement.
'We found Sarah and Chris only recently.' Saint John explained. 'Until this last year we never knew we had a sister and another brother, or that our parents might be alive.'
'How did you find out?' Seb's innate curiosity surfaced.
'We ran into an old Japanese pilot who had a grudge against Dad.' Saint John sighed. 'He was certain Dad had died five years ago. It started us questioning whether they had died in the boat accident.'
'Especially given Dom was kidnapped by Sallis last year because he thought Dom would know where Dad was.' Hawke added.
'Sallis got parole?' It was obviously news to Seb who sat back in shock.
'He got parole.' Saint John confirmed.
'Dom put it together after the kidnapping.' Hawke said quietly. 'He realised the FBI might have lied to Mom and Dad about our survival.' He gestured at Saint John and himself.
'I started to look into the situation at Dominic's request,' Michael added, 'and found that there was an open FBI file on your parents.' He paused for a moment. 'Dominic decided not to pursue it.'
'Why not?' Seb asked puzzled.
'He didn't want to risk leading the Cordelli's or Sallis straight to your parents.' Michael said. 'When your brothers began questioning the boat accident, I informed Hawke of Dominic's suspicions.'
'We've been looking ever since.' Saint John said. 'We came across some information that our parents went on to have more children and we managed to track down Sarah a few months ago.'
'And saved my life at the same time.' Sarah said with a shiver of remembrance at the serial killer who had taken her hostage.
'It was good timing,' admitted Caitlin with a smile.
'What about Mom and Dad?' Sarah asked hurriedly eager to change the subject. 'Are they OK?'
'They're OK.' Seb nodded. 'Dad had a scare almost six years ago with a heart attack but he came through it.' His expression turned rueful. 'I…er…altered the hospital records to make it look like he had died.'
'Which is why that Japanese guy thought he was dead.' Saint John concluded.
'So where are they?' Hawke asked bluntly.
There was a sudden silence and Seb shifted awkwardly in his seat. The ingrained instruction never to tell where his family were located raised its head before he pushed it away and took a deep breath. 'Maybe I should explain what happened after Sarah left?'
Caitlin laid a hand over Hawke's; a silent suggestion to let his younger brother talk. He nodded slowly. 'Sure.'
'I guess Sarah's told you how it was with her and our folks, but they were pretty devastated when she ran away.' Seb's eyes flickered over to her apologetically. 'We stayed in Collway…'
'South Carolina, right?' Larry interjected his blue eyes shining with fascination.
'That's right.' Seb nodded at the bearded man a little tentatively, 'We stayed for another six months but Dad started getting nervous. We left some information with a neighbour in case Sarah tried to find us and we moved on like always.'
'Which neighbour?' Sarah asked. 'I asked them all and they all said they didn't know where you'd gone.'
'Mrs Garrison.' Seb said quickly.
'She died.' Sarah murmured. 'It was her daughter who answered the door.'
'So you never got the info?' Seb sighed. 'I'm sorry, Sarah.'
'That's OK.' Sarah shrugged. 'I did OK.'
Seb took a deep breath and clasped his hands together. 'We moved to a town in North Carolina for a while which is when Dad had his heart attack.'
'You were using the alias of Hammond.' Larry noted.
Seb nodded again. 'We stayed about a year. But when Dad had recovered and suggested moving on again, Mom insisted they settle somewhere permanently.' He smiled sadly. 'We went back to Collway.'
'In case Sarah tried looking for you.' Saint John sighed.
'We didn't realise she'd already tried.' Seb said defensively.
'But the records show that you moved to New Orleans after North Carolina.' Larry said leaning forward puzzled at the contradiction.
'Every six months, Dad would head out somewhere and take an apartment or a house.'
'Leaving a false trail.' Saint John realised. 'So if anybody was looking…'
'They'd look in the wrong place.' Seb finished. 'It's that trail I have tagged on the system in case anybody looked beyond the death certificate in North Carolina.'
'And Larry's the only one you've noticed following it recently?' Hawke asked concerned.
'No,' Seb admitted, 'he's just the first I managed to trace back. I'm tracking another two.'
'Two?' Marella wondered out loud.
'Cordelli.' Hawke said succinctly.
'And Sallis.' Caitlin added. 'He might be working on his own to get revenge.'
'Possibly.' Michael agreed.
'You really think it's them?' Seb asked nervously. 'After all this time?'
Saint John shrugged apologetically. 'Our searching has stirred things up. Giovanni Cordelli knows we're looking and has come after us. He killed a good friend of ours recently trying to kill us.'
Seb's young face creased in concern. 'He killed someone?'
Saint John nodded. He still felt the loss of Jason Locke. The Company agent had been a good man and he missed him.
'You said y'all moved back to Collway,' Caitlin interrupted, 'where are they now?'
'Still there.' Seb admitted.
Hawke looked over at Saint John, a question in his eyes. Saint John nodded in response. The brothers stood up in unison.
'Where are you going?' Seb asked bemused.
'Where do you think?' Hawke asked dryly.
'I'm coming with you.' Seb said getting to his feet.
'You should stay here.' Saint John began.
Seb's lips firmed in a stubborn line. 'You don't even have the address and I need to prepare Mom and Dad. If you two just turn up, Dad's likely to have another heart attack.'
'He has a point.' Hawke admitted as Saint John looked over at him.
'I'm not staying behind either.' Sarah said determinedly.
'We all go and it's like telling Cordelli exactly where our parents are.' Saint John said exasperated.
'So we don't go at all.' Seb suggested.
'Not an option.' Hawke said quietly.
Seb's eyes shot to him and he shuffled nervously under the hard blue ice staring back at him. 'Then what?'
'We'll bring our folks back here.' Hawke said rocking back on his heels a little. 'You'll all be safe at Red Star while Saint John and I deal with the Cordelli's.'
'Hey, this isn't just your fight.' Seb protested.
'You're what? Eighteen, nineteen?' Saint John said. 'We're both trained for this; you're not.'
'They're our parents too.' Sarah protested firmly.
'She's right.' Seb said.
The younger Hawke siblings stared at their unrelenting older siblings; all wore the same expression of stubborn determination not to relent.
Caitlin gave a loud whistle and they all turned to look at her reluctantly. 'You should all go and get your parents.' She held up a hand when Saint John would have argued. 'The rest of us will stay here, open up Santini Air and give the impression to whoever might be watching that life is carrying on as normal.' She gave a brief smile. 'Or what passes as normal around here.' Her expression sobered. 'We'll discuss who gets to be involved with taking out the Cordelli's when your parents are safely here with us all.'
Hawke caught the glint in her eyes; Caitlin might have stood down earlier but he could see she was determined to be part of the Cordelli op, pregnant or not. He sighed and brushed a hand through his short brown hair. He glanced over at Saint John.
'OK with me.' Saint John said.
Hawke's gaze moved to their younger siblings. They nodded in agreement. 'Are you taking Airwolf?' Michael asked casually from his place at the head of the table.
Hawke shook his head and absently noted the look of disappointment on Seb's face. 'Low key. We'll take an ordinary plane.'
'I could back you up.' Mike offered. 'I'll stay out of sight but it couldn't hurt, huh?'
'That's not a bad idea.' Michael noted.
Hawke nodded. 'Out of sight though.'
'Out of sight.' Mike promised.
'OK, then.' Hawke said looking at his brothers and sister. 'Let's go get our folks.'---
The atmosphere in the small cockpit of the plane was thick with tension. Hawke stared out at the black helicopter keeping pace with them before his eyes returned to the sky ahead. It would be light by the time they got to Collway and he felt a moment's regret for not choosing to fly in Airwolf. If they had been travelling at mach speed, they would have been there by now…all reunited and safely together again. He tuned back into the conversation between his siblings; Saint John had already provided a run down o their own childhood and Sarah was just finishing a potted history of her life after running away from home…
'…so I accepted their offer to come back with them.' Sarah concluded. 'I've been working at Santini Air with Saint John and Jo.'
'Wow.' Seb shook his head and reached for her hand across the bench seat. He glanced at their brothers. Hawke was transfixed on the sky ahead but Saint John had turned his body around in his seat to be able to look back at them fully and he smiled a little hesitantly at his eldest brother. 'So you guys work with each other?'
'That's right.' Saint John nodded. 'Sarah's a great pilot.'
Sarah flushed with pleasure at the compliment. 'I guess we all inherited the gene.' She squeezed Seb's hand. 'You said you fly? I take it Dad finally convinced you to take lessons?'
'Yeah.' He shrugged a little self-consciously. 'It was right after his heart attack and I didn't want to disappoint him.'
'But you don't fly for a living?' Saint John gestured at him. 'What do you do?'
'I'm…uh…a computer programmer.' Seb admitted. 'I write games mostly.'
'Computer games.' Saint John frowned. 'Well, I guess computers are the thing to do these days, huh?'
'I know it's not as exciting as…' he waved a hand around the cockpit, 'but you can make good money.' He finished a little defensively.
'Sure.' Saint John quickly agreed.
'Have you done anything we might have heard about?' Sarah asked eagerly.
Seb moistened his lips. 'Airflight Attack.'
Sarah's mouth dropped open slightly. 'That was the best selling game last year. My neighbour's kid was bugging his Mom about that game for months.'
'Mike plays it constantly. Saint John added. 'I guess you're good.'
Seb shrugged again. 'I do OK.' He shifted position a little and gestured at Saint John. 'So you and Jo are together?'
'But not married.' Seb checked.
'Not yet.' Sarah's eyes met Saint John's teasingly.
Saint John pulled a face at her. 'We got together recently.' He said in reply to Seb. 'What about you? Any girlfriends or wives we should know about?'
'Not right now.' Seb said vaguely.
'But you settled in Collway right?' Sarah asked the old urge to tease her younger brother stealing back over her. 'So you had to have gone steady with someone in high school, right?'
Seb glared at her.
'Wasn't there a girl you used to hang out with?' Sarah continued blithely. 'What was her name?' She clicked her fingers. ' Alice? Scrappy little thing with glasses and braces.'
'Alicia.' Seb corrected. He sighed. 'And yes, we went steady for a while.'
'So what happened?' Sarah asked nosily.
Seb gestured vaguely. 'She went to college.' He looked away, out through the window. 'I didn't.'
Sarah's teasing demeanour dropped away abruptly. 'I'm sorry, Seb. That sucks.'
His head snapped back at her sincerity. 'Thanks.'
'She doesn't deserve you anyway.' Sarah said loyally.
Seb shrugged. 'So what about you? Anybody?'
A picture of Mike popped into Sarah's head before she could stop it and she blushed. 'Nobody. Chris is the only guy in my life.'
'He seems like a great kid.' Seb commented. 'Mom and Dad are going to be stoked.' He shook his head. 'Grandparents. Who knew?'
'Twice over.' Saint John added. 'Don't forget Nicky.'
'And another on the way.' Sarah added breezily.
Saint John's eyes shot to hers. 'You're pregnant?'
'Who? Me?' Sarah yelped. 'No! Why would you think that?'
'You just said that there was another grandkid on the way for our parents!' Saint John pointed out. 'So if you're not pregnant…' he blanched. 'Is Jo pregnant?' he hissed.
'Jo?' Sarah repeated confused at the leap of logic. 'Jo's pregnant?'
'Isn't she?' Saint John frowned. 'Didn't she tell you? How do you know?'
'No, she didn't tell me and I didn't say Jo was pregnant.' Sarah said exasperated as Seb started to laugh.
Saint John glared at him. 'What's so funny?'
'You.' Hawke said succinctly. 'I've never seen you look so scared.' He looked over at him. 'I thought you wanted a family.'
'I do.' Saint John said defensively. 'It was just the shock of thinking…' his voice trailed away in the face of his siblings' amusement. 'OK, OK.' He held up his hand. 'But if Sarah isn't pregnant and Jo isn't pregnant then who…' his hazel eyes widened in realisation. 'Caitlin's pregnant?'
Hawke winced. He shot Sarah an annoyed look over his shoulder and was pleased when she ducked her head apologetically. 'We don't know for certain yet but yeah, we think she's pregnant.' He mumbled as he turned his eyes back to the front.
'Well, congratulations!' Saint John patted his shoulder gently trying not to disturb his flying too much.
'Yeah. Congratulations.' Seb echoed.
'Thanks.' Hawke murmured to them both. 'Let's just keep it between ourselves, OK? Cait doesn't want to jinx it with it being early days and…'
'Right.' Saint John smirked at him. 'We won't say a word.'
Hawke sighed. He was going to have let Caitlin know he'd told them and she wasn't going to like it.
'I take it she's going to stay out of the Cordelli op?' Saint John asked.
'What Cordelli op?' Seb asked jumping on the question.
'They have some plan for taking down Cordelli once we get Mom and Dad.' Sarah said matter-of-factly.
'Really?' Seb asked sitting forward. 'You have a plan to take out Cordelli?'
'We do.' Saint John said.
'So what is it?' Seb asked eagerly. 'I want in.'
'Forget it.' Sarah answered before their elder brothers could reply. 'They won't tell me so they're not telling you.'
'Why not?' Seb asked.
'You're not trained.' Saint John said. 'String and I will handle it.'
'Hey, if you're going after the Cordelli family, it's all our business.' Seb argued.
'I agree.' Sarah said firmly crossing her arms. 'It's not just your lives they screwed up.'
Saint John and Hawke exchanged a knowing look.
'Well, at least we know they inherited the same stubborn genes, right?' Saint John sighed.
Hawke nodded at the sky outside the plane. 'We're almost there.'
'OK,' Seb brushed a hand through his hair, 'maybe we should go over this again.'
'What's to go over?' Sarah frowned. 'You and I will go in and tell them about Saint John and String…'
'Well, I've been thinking.' Seb interrupted. 'Maybe I should go in alone…explain everything and then come out and get you.'
'Look, I know they're going to be shocked to see me…' Sarah began.
'Maybe Seb's right.' Saint John said. 'It has been a while since they've seen you.'
'I'm still their daughter.'
'You are,' Seb said, 'and they're going to be thrilled to see you, don't get me wrong. But you ran away over six years ago. They've been through a lot since then especially with Dad's health and I just think maybe I should break it, all of it including you, to them gently.'
Sarah bit her lip unhappily and she slumped back in her seat. 'Fine.'
Seb breathed a sigh of relief. 'OK.'
'Maybe we should take two cars when we get to the airfield.' Saint John suggested. 'You can go ahead, tell them the news and we'll aim to arrive an hour after you.'
Seb nodded in agreement. It sounded like a good plan to him.
Hawke shifted position in his seat as he radioed for an approach to land. He had an uneasy feeling about splitting up; it felt like a bad plan to him even if it made a lot of sense. He knew one thing; he wasn't waiting an hour.---
Caitlin checked her watch. She glanced over at the clock and back at her watch.
Jo's yell had her turning swiftly to glance inquiringly at the blonde pilot across the Santini Air hangar.
'Will you stop doing that?' Jo asked. 'You're driving me crazy.'
Caitlin smiled apologetically. 'Sorry. I just…'
'I know.' Jo said. She couldn't help looking at the clock herself. 'They should be there by now.' Her voice trembled with her own worry.
'I'm sure they'll call.' Caitlin said as much to reassure herself as Jo.
Jo nodded. 'Sure. They'll call.'
The two women looked at each other.
'We should have gone with them.' Jo sighed folding her arms over the blue coveralls she wore.
'They'll be home before tomorrow if everything goes to plan.' Caitlin gestured at her with a wrench and turned back to the engine she was working on. She'd agreed to spend the day at Santini Air fixing the broken down Jet Ranger to give herself something to occupy her time and she had figured that she and Jo could keep each other company while they waited for the guys to check back in. In reality, the distraction wasn't working and she and Jo were driving each other nuts with their mutual anxiety.
'Why didn't you argue about going yesterday?' Jo asked curious.
'Hmmm?' Cait didn't look up but bit her lip as she struggled to turn a particularly stubborn bolt.
'Yesterday when they all went off to save Larry Mason. You backed down when Hawke told you to stay put.'
'He didn't tell me to stay put.' Caitlin argued.
'Good as.' Jo murmured. 'Is everything OK with you guys?'
'Great.' Caitlin said glibly. She looked over at Jo and caught the very real anxiety on the other woman's face. Caitlin sighed deeply. She had really wanted to keep the news to themselves for a while but Jo wasn't the first to question her about that morning; Marella had given her the tenth degree as soon as the others had left. She'd ended up confiding in her newly married friend and she guessed there was no harm confiding in Jo either; she was family. 'I'm pregnant.' The doctor had called and confirmed it; the news was official.
'Pregnant?' Jo's eyes widened in pleased surprise. She hurried across the hangar. 'That's great!' She hugged Caitlin oblivious to the grease-marks covering them both. 'You must be thrilled.'
'We are.' Caitlin confirmed, a grin working its way across her face. Her hand protectively grazed her abdomen again.
'I'm so happy for you both.' Jo said sincerely. She smiled suddenly. 'You hoping for another boy?'
'I think Hawke would like a girl,' Caitlin said, 'but honestly, we'll be happy with whatever. As long as they're healthy, that's the important thing.'
'Wow. Two babies.' Jo stepped back.
'I know.' Caitlin turned back to the engine. 'I'm going to need lots of help.' She grinned mischievously. 'I think you and Saint John might get some more requests to baby-sit.'
'Any time.' Jo said. She took off her baseball cap and ran her hands through her blonde bob.
'What about you and Saint John?' Caitlin asked almost absently, her attention on the helicopter.
'No babies yet.' Jo said firmly. 'We're just about getting along the two of us without adding a third.'
'Actually, I was just asking how things were going?' Caitlin said with an easy grin.
'Oh.' Jo leaned against the workbench beside them. 'Good.' She rubbed her nose. 'I think we might be on an even keel at last.' She stroked the faded wood, her eyes tracing the scratched surface.
'That's great.' Caitlin said. 'I'm happy for you guys.'
'He wasn't pleased I didn't offer Sarah Uncle Dom's apartment.' Jo shuffled her feet. 'I'm not sure why I didn't offer it to her either really; it's not like I'm ever there.'
'You weren't ready.' Caitlin said sympathetically. 'We all understand that, Jo.' She brought out a rag from her overalls and started to wipe the excess engine grease from her fingers.
'I've been thinking I really should clear the place out.' Jo admitted quietly. 'He wouldn't have wanted it just gathering dust; that's not who he was.'
'He would have wanted whatever was best for you.' Caitlin said wrapping an arm around her.
'I miss him so much.' Jo's eyes brightened with moisture for a moment.
'Me too.' Caitlin murmured feeling her own eyes well up in response to the tears she could see in Jo's eyes. 'Me too.'
They stood still for a long moment until a baby's cry broke the silence.
Caitlin rubbed Jo's back gently. 'That's Nicky. I'd better…'
'Yeah.' Jo sniffed.
Caitlin moved away back across the hangar to the office where she had left Nicky in the carrier. She picked him up and soothed him as she changed the wet diaper that had led to the cries. She had just placed him back into the carrier when the phone rang. She snatched it up.
'Hawke.' Caitlin allowed herself a small smile of relief at her husband's voice. 'Michael told you where I was?'
'Yeah.' Hawke adjusted the position of the phone. 'You OK?'
'Worried about you.' Caitlin admitted bluntly.
Hawke turned in the phone booth. 'I'm OK.' He fiddled with the phone cord. 'Sarah was asking about Chris.'
'He's fine.' Caitlin said. 'I dropped him at school this morning. What's happening your end?'
'Seb's gone on ahead. We're following him.'
Caitlin's brow creased at his tone. 'You don't sound happy about that.'
He was silent for a second weighing his answer. 'Yeah. I don't know, Cait. My gut's telling me something's off.'
Her own stomach clenched. 'Your guts are usually pretty accurate. Where's Mike?'
'Around.' Hawke shook his head. 'I've got to get going. We were supposed to give Seb an hour but I think we're going to get going early.'
'Sounds like a good idea.' Caitlin said her finger stroking Nicky's cheek. She sighed. 'I wish I was with you.'
'I wish you were here too.' Hawke admitted quietly looking out sightlessly at the airfield where they had landed.
'I can grab the second Airwolf.' Caitlin suggested. 'Jo and I can be there in a heartbeat.'
'No.' Hawke shook his head. 'We'll be OK. Mike's already backing us.' He turned around again. 'I'd better go.'
'Be careful.' She cautioned him.
'Yeah.' Hawke paused. 'Cait. I love you.'
'I love you too.' Caitlin's voice was barely above a whisper. 'Call me when you're on your way home.'
The dial tone sounded in her ear and she hung up slowly.
'Was that Hawke?' Jo asked from the doorway.
Caitlin looked up startled. 'Yeah. They've arrived at the airfield. Seb's gone on to prepare their folks. The guys are going to follow now.'
'You know I know how important this reunion is to them and I know that it's their family and they wanted to do it by themselves but I just wish…' Jo's voice trailed away.
'That you were there?' Caitlin nodded thoughtfully as she recalled Hawke's words to her. 'Yeah.' Her eyes met Jo's across the office. 'Me too.'---
There was something uplifting about sitting out on the veranda watching the world go by, Jane Hawke thought. Maybe it was a good reminder that life went on no matter what problems they had, she mused. Her dark eyes flickered from the sunrise to her hand which was linked tightly with that of her husband sat beside her.
Time had changed the tall, handsome blonde pilot who had courted her, not much but enough. He was still as tall as ever; trim despite the few extra pounds time had added to his frame. His hair was still full but it had turned silver years before; he still kept it in the army style he had favoured all his life. His blue eyes were alert as ever and were trained on the sky and there was a frown tightening the lines under his eyes; it had created a furrow between his eyebrows; his mouth was set in an unhappy grimace.
She rubbed his fingers gently. 'Seb will be fine.'
'I should have gone with him.' Alan Hawke muttered. He had been uneasy for days if he were being honest with himself, he thought worriedly. He didn't pretend to understand Seb's computer tricks but the sheer number of flags appearing on the false trail they had left across the country was enough to set the warning bells ringing in his own head. Something had changed in the last year; something that meant his family was no longer safe.
'It was too risky for the two of you to go.' Jane reminded him softly. 'Besides, Mason looks like a pretty benign man from the information Seb was able to dig out on him and it's not as though he's going to confront him in any way.' She took a breath and wondered who she was trying to convince; her husband or herself. 'Seb should be able to handle it on his own.' She added defiantly.
His eyes slid to hers and the corner of his mouth lifted into a gentle mocking smirk. 'You don't believe that anymore than I do. He's a boy still, Jane.'
'He's nineteen.' Jane muttered defensively. 'We have to let go sometime, Alan, or we'll…' she stopped abruptly.
'We'll lose him too?' Alan completed the half-finished statement and nodded. 'You're probably right.' Neither of them voiced the fear that they were already losing Seb bit by bit as the days passed. Their youngest might have accepted the reality of their life on the run and might never admit to his unhappiness with it but they had noted its growing more and more since he had decided not to apply for a university place. He was chafing against the invisible bonds that held him; little things that added up over time and his insistence on going alone to track Mason had been the latest bid for freedom. He wasn't rebelling with the open hostility of his sister, Alan mused thoughtfully, but there was little doubt in his mind Seb was rebelling and asserting his independence just as forcefully. He just hoped it hadn't already got his youngest son killed.
He glanced at Jane. He reached out and tucked a strand of her hair back behind her ear. The style was new and simple, the dark curls falling into a bob around her chin, cleverly hiding the grey amongst the darkness. His wife still retained the same dark beauty that had attracted him in their youth but time and grief had added lines to her face and a sadness that lurked in the depths of her dark eyes.
She had never stopped grieving the loss of their eldest sons and while he knew she had forgiven him long ago, he had never been unable to shake the lingering sense of guilt about the accident that had taken them. Both of them still felt the absence of their daughter like a gaping, open wound. They had weathered the losses; maybe circumstance had forced them to work out the difficulties each loss had brought to their marriage. Maybe if they hadn't been on the run, maybe their relationship would have crumpled under the strain instead of becoming stronger. He had no wish to test its strength again though; he hoped Seb was OK. 'He'll be fine.' He said out loud. 'He's a good kid.'
She squeezed his hand; gratitude for the words and the reassurance although she knew he was worried himself. 'Exactly.' She sighed and stood up. 'I'll go in and start lunch.' She kissed the top of Alan's head. 'How about steak?'
He looked at her with fond surprise. 'You're giving me red meat? Is it my birthday?'
'Funny, Al.' Jane rubbed his shoulder before she disappeared indoors.
Alan watched her go with fond amusement mixed with concern. She usually watched his diet like…well, like a hawk. That she was treating him was a sign of how upset she was about Seb. For a moment, Alan felt a stirring of anger. Seb should have called them and told them he was OK; he knew how his mother worried. The anger faded as fast as it had flared, replaced by the worry that had nagged at Alan since they had discovered they were being traced again.
A car turned into the road and Alan's head swivelled to follow its progress down the residential street. He frowned as it began to slow and came to a halt outside the house. He rose to his feet and took a step away from the swing to stand on the top step; hands on hips; tense; waiting.
Seb pushed the car door open and got out with an ease Alan remembered with envy; had he ever been that young? He was already walking down the steps and along the path. Father and son met half-way. Alan grasped Seb's outstretched hand and pulled his youngest into his arms for a manly hug. He stepped back briskly.
'Your mother's been worried.'
Seb's eyes flickered with annoyance before they softened inexplicably. 'We'd best get inside. I have a lot to tell you, Dad.'
Alan nodded. 'Well, you picked the right day to come home; she's doing steak.'
'Really?' Seb brightened. 'I hope she's got a lot.'
'You hungry?' Alan asked jokingly.
'I'll tell you indoors.'
They were barely across the threshold when Jane came running down the hall to embrace her son.
'Oh it's good to have you home.' Jane rubbed his back and let him ease away with reluctant acceptance. 'Did everything go OK in Mexico?'
'Let's go in the kitchen.' Seb led the way ignoring the questioning look his parents exchanged. He filled a mug from the ever present coffee pot; a vice his mother had never been able to get his dad to give up. He took a grateful swallow of the stewed brew.
'I can make some fresh.' Jane was already tipping out the stale coffee and reaching for freshly ground beans.
'How did it go following Mason?' Alan asked taking a seat at the worn pine table on the right side of the kitchen.
Seb gently steered his mother away from the coffee machine heedless to her protests and seated her at the table.
'You're beginning to worry me.' Alan murmured his fingers rapping impatiently on the wood. 'What's going on?'
'Sebastian?' Jane searched her son's smooth face as he sat down opposite them.
'I don't know how to tell you this.' Seb realised out loud. 'I thought I did…I practiced all the way here and now…' he shrugged, 'I don't know how to tell you.'
'Just say it.' Alan said bluntly. 'Your mother and I will handle it.'
Seb wet his lips and took another gulp of coffee. He set the mug down deliberately and held his father's gaze. 'Mason is working for his old boss on behalf of a mutual friend, one who saved his life.' He took a breath.
'I don't see…' Jane began in the silence.
Alan took hold of her hand and cut off her words as sharply as if he had spoken. 'Go on, Seb.'
'He isn't working for Cordelli.' Seb reassured him hastily.
'You're sure?' Alan checked.
'Certain.' Seb gave a rueful laugh. 'I saw who he was working for and it wasn't Cordelli.'
'You saw?' Jane's voice rose. 'Seb, that was so risky! How could you…?'
'It's OK, Mom.' Seb sighed and ran his hand through his thick blond hair. This was harder than he thought. 'Mason is working for two brothers and a sister.' He said finally as the silence stretched uncomfortably.
'Who?' Alan asked impatiently.
'Saint John and Stringfellow Hawke, and their sister, Sarah.'
The silence was deafening. Alan stared back at his son and shook his head as though to deny the words. Jane sat motionless unable to comprehend what Seb had said.
'Did you hear me?' Seb asked finally unable to wait any longer for them to speak.
'They're dead.' Jane blurted out. 'They died. They got swept overboard with the storm. We couldn't save them; we tried but we couldn't save them and we had to leave…' she stumbled over her words. She whirled around to her husband. 'Alan! They told us they were dead!'
'Seb, this is a lousy joke and you apologise to your mother right now! You hear me, you apologise…'
Seb held fast in the face of his father's anger. 'This isn't a joke.' He stated quietly. 'The FBI lied to you. They didn't die.'
Jane gave a sob and covered her face with her hands. Seb got out of his chair and crouched in front of her as he took her hands in his. He forced her to look at him. 'They're alive.'
'I can't believe…' Alan stood up and paced across the kitchen. He took out a glass and poured a measure of whiskey into it. He tossed it back. His mind leaped to the past; to the moment where they had been told their sons had died. ' Dawson.' He growled the name. 'I should never have believed him.'
'I believed him too.' Jane whispered. Her shocked wet eyes met his across the room. 'What did we do?'
'You did the best you could.' Seb said forcefully. 'They lied to you. You had no way of knowing that they had survived getting swept into the sea in that storm.'
'They're alive.' Jane said beginning to believe it, a joy beginning to steal over her.
'They're alive.' Seb confirmed.
She gave a cry and hugged him so hard and fast that he staggered off balance. Seb laughed and corrected them; he glanced back at his father.
'You said Sarah.' Alan realised. 'Sarah's with them?'
'Sarah's with them?' Jane repeated. 'Sarah? Our Sarah.'
Alan was aware that his heart was beating fast as another thought occurred to him. He lowered the glass to the workbench and gestured at Seb. 'And they know? They know about us?'
'They've been looking for the last year.' He gently extricated himself from his mother. 'It's a long story.'
Alan slowly crossed the kitchen and sat back down. He tangled his fingers with Jane's. 'Tell us everything.'
Seb nodded again and sat back down. 'You might want to wait until they get here though.'
'Get here?' Jane sprang up. 'They're coming here?' Her hand went to her hair. 'I have to…'
'You're perfect.' Alan said tugging her back into her seat. 'And I want some answers, don't you?'
Jane slowly nodded and looked over the table at Seb. Alan gestured at him.
'OK,' Seb began, 'well, you can probably guess that the FBI lied to them too and told them you were dead.'
'Oh God.' Jane raised her hand to her trembling lips.
'Dominic Santini raised them.' Seb continued.
'Thank God for Dom.' Jane murmured wondering briefly what had happened to her brother who was supposed to have been the boys' guardian.
Alan nodded a lump in his throat. 'He's a good man.'
Seb's face saddened. 'Yeah…I'm sorry, Dad. He died last year.'
'Damn.' Alan pressed his lips together.
Jane's fingers rubbed against his comfortingly. 'So Dom raised the boys?'
'Yes but he suspected something wasn't right about your deaths just before he…' Seb waved vaguely, 'and asked this guy Michael, a friend of theirs, to look into it. Dom dropped it though thinking if you had gone into witness protection that looking for you would only stir things up with Cordelli and put everyone in danger.'
'He always was the sensible one.' Alan murmured.
'Anyway, Saint John had a bit of a run in with that Japanese guy Yahara who was looking for you around the time of your heart attack.' Seb paused briefly. 'Some stuff Yahara said to him and String made them realise that you were probably still alive. They began looking and Mason was helping them out. A few months ago they tracked down Sarah.'
'Thank God.' Jane muttered. 'And she's OK?'
'She's good.' Seb took a deep breath. 'She has a six year old son called Chris and he's great too.'
Alan and Jane looked at him stunned.
'Did you…' Alan pointed at his son, 'did you just tell us we have a grandson?'
Seb smiled and nodded. 'Not just Chris.'
'Sarah has more children?' Jane asked astonished.
'No,' Seb shook his head, 'String and Caitlin, his wife, have a baby son and…uh…she's expecting a second. Only don't tell them I told you; it's still early days and they want to keep it quiet.'
Jane shook her head. The memory of a small boy practising on a cello seemed incongruous with the picture of a married man with children. She couldn't reconcile the two.
The knock on the door startled them all.
'They're early.' Seb stood up quickly. 'I'll get it.'
Jane ran her fingers through her hair and struggled to remove the apron she wore. Alan helped her and held out his hand as voices drifted down the hallway. They stood up together.
Sarah was the first through the door. She flew across the room and into their outstretched arms. Tears ran down Jane's face as she hugged her daughter.
'I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.' Sarah sobbed as she felt her father's arms tighten around her.
'You have nothing to be sorry about.' He said gruffly. His eyes caught on the two men in the kitchen doorway watching the reunion with cautious, hopeful eyes.
Sarah felt his sudden tension and pulled away to look over her shoulder. She smiled tremulously. 'I brought you a present.' She said gently and stepped out of the way.
Hawke couldn't move from the doorway. They were right in front of him. His parents. After so long and so many years, they were there. Alive. Breathing. He needed to breathe… Saint John's hand on his shoulder steadied him momentarily.
'Mom, Dad.' Saint John took the first step into the kitchen. He held out a hand to his father.
Alan ignored it and pulled him into his arms. Tears surged forward as he let go and took hold of Saint John's face. 'Son.'
Saint John wasn't aware of the tears running down his own face as his mother nudged Alan aside.
'Don't I get a hug?' Jane asked laughing, her eyes damp but shining happily.
Alan gently pushed Saint John at her and looked to Hawke.
Hawke's guarded blue eyes met his father's. He still couldn't speak; couldn't seem to move.
'String.' Alan opened his arms.
He had no recollection of moving but Hawke was suddenly across the kitchen and hugging his father. The scent of him; the feel of him was so familiar yet so different. 'Dad.' He gasped as a sob shook his body, wracked his bones from head to toe.
'I'm here, son.' Alan held him tighter. 'I'm here.'
'My turn.' Jane demanded letting go of one son to hold the other.
Hawke wrapped his arms around his mother. She was so slight. He couldn't remember her being so small yet the strength of her arms around him was the same. He buried his wet face in her hair.
They parted reluctantly.
Jane looked around at her family and opened her arms wide gesturing at them all. There was a sense of indulgence as they gave into her silent demand for a group hug, but as they all held onto one another, the sensation they were finally a family again settled around them like a warm blanket.---
Caitlin stole another look at the clock as she closed the final panel on the helicopter and screwed it shut. It had been three hours since Hawke had called her. The Ranger was all fixed. Jo was out with a client and Nicky was sleeping. She had run out of things to distract her. As soon as Jo got back they should go to Red Star and wait, Caitlin thought wiping her hands as she made her way back to the office.
She dialled Marella's direct number from memory. 'Marella?'
'Caitlin.' Marella swivelled in her chair to look out of her window. 'Have you heard from them?'
'Not since Hawke called before, no.' Caitlin grimaced.
Marella frowned at the silence from the other end. 'Caitlin?' She prompted gently.
'Sorry.' Caitlin rubbed her nose oblivious to the streak of dirt it left across her freckles. 'I'm just…'
'Worried.' Marella supplied. 'I know. He's going to be OK.'
'I should have gone with him.' Caitlin said firmly.
'He wanted to keep you safe especially now you have another baby on the way.' Marella pointed out.
'I'm pregnant, Marella, not incapacitated.' Caitlin snapped. She sighed into the silence between them. 'Sorry.' She said weakly. 'This wait is driving me nuts.'
'Why don't you come over now? Have some lunch with me.' Marella suggested. 'You can always leave a note for Jo.'
The idea tempted Caitlin. There would be more distractions at Red Star, more to keep her occupied, and Jo had her own set of keys…Caitlin checked her watch and made her decision. 'OK. I'm on my way.'
'I'll see you soon.'
Caitlin replaced the receiver and scribbled a hasty note to Jo. She left it propped up by the phone and picked up Nicky's carrier. It didn't take long to organise the flight plan, and she was soon locking up the hangar and the office having securely fastened Nicky into the chopper.
Red Star was about a good flight from Van Nuys and Caitlin settled into the pilot's seat with a sigh as she banked right and increased her altitude. She had always found flying comforting and she could feel the tension of the day drain away as she traversed the sky. She glanced over at Nicky and smiled. The baby was fast asleep; he always was when they flew as if the action soothed him on some primal level. Hawke by name, she mused.
The glint of the sun catching metal on the periphery of her vision caught her attention and she turned her head angling it upwards to get a better look. There was definitely something there; a plane. She frowned. The control tower had indicated she had a clear flight sky all the way. Maybe it was private plane on an unauthorised jaunt. She'd keep an eye on it, she decided. If it moved into her flight path she'd report it to the local tower for them to handle.
Fifteen minutes later a deep sense of unease had settled into her gut. The plane was keeping pace with her. She'd had to make a course correction to avoid an unexpected rain storm and it had followed her. Caitlin bit her lip. She was aware she could be being paranoid; if the plane was unauthorised it might be tracking her because it knew she had an authorised course adjustment and was simply following from a safety perspective. Somehow she couldn't bring herself to believe it though.
She was about to use the radio and inform on the plane when it turned seemingly flying away from her towards the west and she breathed a sigh of relief. False alarm, she told herself trying to make light of her anxiety. A moment's air turbulence caught her attention and she focused on her flying, steadying the chopper.
A rap of bullets ripped into its tail; the sound reverberated in the cockpit, shocking Caitlin and waking the baby.
'Oh God.' Caitlin evaded the next stream of bullets through sheer instinct desperately radioing a mayday, a call for help as she tried to assess where the plane behind her was; which direction to fly in.
The tail rotor caught a bullet and the helicopter spun ominously.
Nicky's cry cut through the stuttering engine noise. Caitlin muttered soothing noises as she tried to keep the chopper upright as it plummeted from the sky, tried to search for a landing site. There was a road below her. She headed for it as a fourth wave of bullets sparked over the helicopter. The main rotor was hit and she couldn't hold the chopper. It bounced off the tarmac of the road, stuttered across to the opposite side where it sent a truck skidding to a halt, a car narrowly missing the lurching trailer. One prop settled on the dusty embankment, the other on air. The helicopter tilted and crashed down the side of the hill.
Caitlin was thrown around the cockpit as it slid through trees and bushes, bounced over rock and branch until the awful ride came to a halt. She was in pain but the smell of gas had her fighting the impending blackness; her only thought was Nicky; her baby. The chopper was going to explode and she had to get him out. She struggled with the harness and wiped the moisture dripping into her eyes away, barely comprehending it was blood. She cried out as a riptide of pain spread through her head and her body but she gritted her teeth and reached for Nicky, pulling him free of the carrier and leaving it behind as she desperately kicked open her door.
She fell out of the chopper and scrabbled up the bank. She had one arm protectively around Nicky; the other grabbing handfuls of plants and dirt as she levered her way up the hill away from the impending explosion.
Caitlin's focus was singular; she had to protect Nicky; had to get him to safety. That was all that mattered. His cries filled her ears, drove her onwards.
The blast threw her onto the ground and she only managed to avoid landing on him at the last moment, sacrificing her other side as she landed heavily on her hip and ribs. She immediately rolled, protecting her baby from the flying debris of the helicopter as it rained down around her. Something hit her back; a brief burning pain before she shook it away.
Caitlin struggled back to her feet, began climbing again. Every breath she took was an effort, pain coursed through her but she didn't waver.
Hands reached out to help her; people were surrounding her, lifting her onto the road. Promises of paramedics. Someone tried to take Nicky and she resisted, keeping hold of him even as she succumbed to the urge to lie down. Even as the darkness pulled her under, her fingers tightened on her child.
'Hawke.' She mumbled as she slipped into unconsciousness…---
Something was wrong.
The thought hit Hawke like a sucker-punch. He was watching the road outside his parents, keeping watch as they packed for their trip to California. He peered out in the quiet residential street trying to assess what had changed; what had his senses humming with impatience, with anxiety.
'You OK?' Saint John asked quietly.
Hawke brushed his hand through his short brown hair. 'Something's not right.'
'Outside?' Saint John looked at the street; there was no obvious sign they were being watched, that someone was waiting for them. 'I don't see anything.'
'Something's not right.' Hawke repeated pacing away into the living room. He started sightlessly at the pictures on the mantel; Seb and Sarah growing up mainly in official school poses although tucked at the back was one of him and his brother. 'We need to leave; we need to leave now.'
'OK.' Saint John didn't question it. He'd worked with his brother too long in the field not to trust his instincts. 'I'll round everyone up.'
Hawke watched him leave and heard him yelling for everyone to finish up. He made his way back to the window. He had never questioned the sixth sense he seemed to have but it had never screamed at him so loudly before; he couldn't remember the last time it had caused him to feel so uneasy in his own skin. A memory slipped insidiously into his head; Caitlin helpless on a rooftop held by his arch-nemesis, Airwolf diving towards her, screaming out the sky.
He snatched up the phone and dialled Santini Air. There was no reply and when the answer machine cut in he slammed the phone down. He picked it up almost immediately again and redialled. He got the same response. He took a breath and dialled Michael's office. He was put through quickly.
'Michael, where's Cait?'
'Hello to you too, Hawke.' Michael responded.
'Nobody's picking up at Santini Air.' Hawke snapped his eyes still on the road, still watching for trouble.
'That's probably because Caitlin's on her way here.' Michael said calmly.
The words registered slowly in Hawke's head; Caitlin was on her way to Red Star that was why nobody was answering at the air service. His fear didn't dissipate.
'Hawke, did everything go…OK?' Michael asked awkwardly.
'What?' Hawke rubbed his chin. 'Yeah, fine. Listen, Michael, do me a favour and get Cait on the radio will you? Check she's OK?'
'Sure.' Michael frowned.
'I'm going to be in Airwolf for the return trip.' Hawke said briskly. 'You could patch us through in about an hour.'
'I will.' Michael promised. 'Is everything OK?' He asked again, his own worry rising with the urgency he could hear in the other man's voice.
'I don't know.' Hawke admitted. 'I just…I can't shake the feeling something's wrong.'
'I'll contact Caitlin.' Michael repeated. 'And as soon as you contact me in Airwolf I'll put you through.'
'Thanks, Michael.' Hawke sighed. 'I've got to go. I'll talk to you later.' He put the phone down and looked at it contemplatively.
His father's voice had him jerking to meet his gaze. Hawke shrugged in response to the question. 'I just think we should leave now.'
Alan nodded. 'We're all set.'
'Let's get the cars packed.' Hawke said striding forward.
It didn't seem like any time had passed before the cars were packed and they made the drive back to the air field. It was an uneventful journey and Hawke wondered at his continuing unease as they transferred the luggage to the small plane. He watched as Airwolf slowly landed in front of it. Mike walked out to greet him.
'Has Michael been in touch?'
Hawke's abrupt question took the blonde pilot aback but he shook his head. 'Should he have?'
Hawke sighed. 'Let's go.'
'You coming with me?' Mike asked surprised.
'The plane's too small for all of us.' Hawke said succinctly.
'String.' Saint John appeared by their side. 'Are you sure you don't want to travel with us?'
Hawke shook his head. 'It's going to be a squash, Saint John. You, Sarah and Seb can take turns in the plane; Mike and I can take turns in the Lady.'
'Heck the Lady can take a turn herself.' Mike laughed.
'Did I hear you right?' Alan asked walking over to the three men. His eyes settled on Hawke. 'You're taking that…' he struggled to find a word to describe Airwolf, 'helicopter and not flying with us?'
'The plane's small; it'll be a crush if we all go in it.' Hawke repeated shuffling impatiently. 'I'll catch up with you all when we take a break.'
'Well, why don't I fly with you?' Alan asked. 'If there's room in that…helicopter for me.'
'Sure.' Mike agreed readily. 'We have room.' He was oblivious to the look Hawke shot him and stuck out his hand. 'I'm Mike Rivers.'
'Pleased to meet you. Call me Al.' Alan shook his hand firmly.
'If we're ready we should get going.' Hawke said abruptly. 'Let's go.'
It took a few minutes as the family members said goodbye to each other and they boarded the aircraft.
Mike settled Alan into the engineer's console and took his own place in the counter-measure specialist chair as usual. He put his helmet on and nodded to Hawke. The take-off was fast.
Alan grabbed at the console and realised as they hovered waiting for the plane to join them that he was holding his breath. He let it out slowly and looked around the complicated displays awestruck. 'You say Dom used to sit here?'
'Yeah.' Hawke answered absently. He looked over his shoulder briefly. 'He loved it back there.'
'Right.' Alan said doubtfully.
Hawke's lips lifted a little despite his nagging concern. He brought Airwolf alongside the plane and nodded to Saint John across the sky. He turned to Mike. 'Contact Red Star.'
'Right.' Mike's hand drifted up to the communications panel and stopped when there was a beep on the monitor in front of him. He frowned. 'We have choppers approaching us from the North.'
'ID?' Hawke asked.
Mike frowned. 'They're souped-up. I'm reading chain guns and missile pods.'
'Combat mode.' Hawke ordered. He radioed the plane beside him. ' Saint John, we're picking up choppers closing in on us.'
'Roger that.' Saint John radioed back. 'You playing catch?'
'Guess we are.' Hawke answered.
'Yeah, just don't let Mike drop anything.'
'Funny, Saint John.' Mike radioed back.
'Watch your tail.' Hawke said he already pulling away from the plane, circling around on an intercept course.
'You OK, Al?' Mike asked as he lined up the weapons.
'Fine.' Alan bit out.
'Missile.' Mike called out.
'Sunburst.' Hawke ordered as he hit the turbos.
Alan's fingers went white as they gripped his console. 'Are we supposed to be going this fast?'
'Hold on.' Hawke said. He took his thumb off the turbos and Airwolf slowed abruptly coming up in front of the two approaching helicopters and causing their pilots to panic. They scattered one to the left; one to the right.
Hawke shot the one going to the left as he followed after the one going to the right.
'They've got another missile away.' Mike said tersely. 'Saint John's evading.'
Hawke's eyes narrowed as he hit the turbos again. He picked up the missile easily and sent it into a nearby hillside before he was back in position to shoot at the chopper which was lining up behind the plane. The chain guns chattered and it blew up, falling out of the sky in a ball of flames.
'Nice shot.' Alan was pleased at his calm tone. There was a smugness that edged his voice; a pride in his son that he couldn't quite hide.
Hawke glanced behind him. 'Yeah.' He settled back beside the plane.
'Nice catch.' Saint John radioed him.
'You guys OK?' Hawke asked.
'Yeah. Mom's thrilled to have been in her first dog fight.' Saint John replied. 'Looks like your instincts were on the money.'
'Then why's my gut still telling me something's up?' Hawke wondered out loud.
'We're not home yet.' Saint John pointed out. 'We need to keep ready in case they try again.'
'Agreed.' Hawke ended the radio call. He gestured at Mike. 'Call Red Star.'
The incoming communication siren sounded. Mike hit the connect button. Michael appeared on the video screen. They could see he was in his limo being driven somewhere.
Hawke glanced up at the image. 'Michael. You got Cait?'
There was something in the timbre that warned Hawke; his fingers went numb on the stick; Mike gently took control as Hawke's eyes flew to his friend. 'Michael?'
'Her chopper was hit. She's alive, Hawke.' Michael told him the news quickly. 'She's alive but she's badly injured. I'm on my way to the hospital now.'
'Nicky?' Hawke forced himself to ask about his son.
'He's OK.' Michael said hurriedly. 'She got him out of the chopper, Hawke.'
'We should hit the turbos.' Mike suggested. 'We can be there…'
'We can't leave the plane unprotected.' Hawke snapped at him feeling helpless, trapped.
Mike thought for a long moment. 'Get Airwolf to fly the second chopper out.' He said. 'We can land; you can take the other bird home. She goes faster. I'll stay and escort your folks.'
'Sounds like a plan.' Michael said. He seemed to gesture at someone out of their sight.
'She's gone.' Mike confirmed. 'The AI's no longer with us. Michael, if they're hitting the family, Jo might be at risk.'
'We contacted her. She's OK and I've got agents with her providing protection. She's meeting us at the hospital.'
Hawke focused on Michael again. 'Call me when you…if there's…'
'I'll let you know the minute I know.' Michael promised him.
Alan stirred in his seat as a terrible silence descended in the cockpit. 'I'll come with you.'
Hawke looked back at him quizzically.
'When you change choppers.' Alan clarified. 'I'll come with you.'
Hawke didn't reply; he simply turned back around and stared out of the window. The joy of having his father again, his family again, felt like ashes in his mouth. Had he regained one family only to lose another? The thought gnawed at his gut. He couldn't lose Caitlin; he just couldn't lose her.---
Michael couldn't quite remember the last time he had felt so helpless. Probably the last time he had waited in a hospital corridor, he mused tapping his cane against the linoleum floor. It was the only sign of his discomfort. He had been sitting in the plastic bucket chair for what seemed like hours. He heard the tapping of stiletto heels approaching him and glanced up. He relinquished the cane and his hand went out to clasp Marella's as she took the seat next to him.
'Is there any news?' Marella's dark anxious eyes met his blue gaze.
He shook his head. 'She's still in surgery.' His thumb stroked over her wedding ring. 'How's Nicky?'
'He's being transferred to the nursery. They want to keep him overnight for observation but he's likely to be released tomorrow. Jo's with him.' Marella bit her lip. 'He barely had a scratch on him.'
'The reports said she wouldn't let go of him.' Michael said quietly.
'I saw the reports.' Marella admitted. Tears sprang to her eyes. 'I read the medical file.'
Michael's good eye shot to hers. 'And?'
'Her injuries, Michael…' Marella felt her throat close up. 'Most of the injuries are minor; one of her hands was badly scratched and bruised, her left side of her body; there's a second degree burn across her back along with another bad bruise from what they think was the impact of flying debris from the explosion. And then there's the major…' She bit her lip. 'She lost the baby.' Her voice had dropped to a whisper.
Michael nodded and his hand tightened on hers.
Marella blinked away hr tears. 'The head injury…they're operating to relieve pressure on her brain caused by the skull fracture and to stop the bleeding from the haemorrhage.' She wiped away a trace of moisture. 'It's bad, Michael.'
'Worse than mine; worse than Hawke's.' Marella felt the fear escalate in her gut. Her voice dropped again. 'I don't think she'll make it, Michael.'
'She'll make it.' Michael contradicted her firmly. 'She has to.' He remembered all too well how Hawke had reacted when they thought Caitlin had died the year before; the pilot had been suicidal with grief until he had worked out that the crash they had witnessed had been a hoax.
'Have you spoken with Hawke?' Marella asked.
'He's on his way in the second Airwolf. The transfer went OK.' Michael informed her gruffly. 'I told him she was in surgery.' He looked down at the floor. 'I couldn't tell him about the baby.'
She didn't say anything for a long moment before she smoothed her skirt with her free hand. 'I had Hannah retrieve Chris from school. She's taken him to Red Star.'
'Good.' Michael brushed a finger over his moustache. 'I called the O'Shaunessy's. Patrick and Maggie are on their way.'
Silence descended between them. There wasn't anything else to say, Marella realised with a pang; all they could do was wait.
Time slipped away from them; minutes and hours disappearing until they started at the sudden pounding of footsteps along the corridor. Michael looked up to see Hawke running towards them with a mature older man that looked eerily like Saint John just behind him.
'Hawke.' Michael stood up and hugged his friend.
Hawke released him quickly to examine his face. 'It's bad.' He surmised. His mouth went dry and his guard up, a mask falling over his features and shadowing his eyes. He felt a hand on his shoulder; his father lending support.
'It's bad.' Michael agreed solemnly. He pushed his glasses up his nose and held Hawke's gaze regretfully. 'She lost the baby.' He saw the almost imperceptible flinch as the pilot absorbed the news.
Hawke felt the breath leave his body like he'd been sucker-punched. He had only known about the pregnancy for a short time but he had already come to love the scrap of life growing inside his wife; the promise of their second child. He shook his head as though to clear it. He knew it would devastate Caitlin… 'She's in surgery?'
'It's a head injury, Hawke.' Marella said gently drawing his attention. 'She has a skull fracture which has caused a haemorrhage and swelling.' She swallowed. 'They're operating to relieve pressure and stop the bleeding.'
Hawke nodded. He shoved a hand through his short brush of brown hair. 'How bad?'
'They're still in there, Hawke.' Michael sighed. 'We don't know yet.'
Hawke ignored him. He pinned his gaze to the woman beside his friend. 'Marella?'
Marella had worked as an intelligence operative for a long time and she knew how to lie, but standing under the glare of Hawke's intense gaze she couldn't do it. She shook her head, the dark curls bouncing on the white sweater she wore. 'It's very bad.' She admitted.
'Worse than mine?' Hawke pressed.
'They're still operating on her, Hawke.' Michael said firmly. 'And she's a fighter, a survivor. She'll come through this.'
Hawke nodded jerkily. 'Where's Nicky?'
'He's in the nursery.' Marella answered quickly. 'Jo's with him but he's OK, Hawke. They just want to observe him overnight as a precaution.'
'Why don't you sit down?' Michael suggested. 'I'll get you some coffee.' He pushed Hawke towards the chair and was relieved when the pilot slowly sank into it. His gaze moved to the older man. 'You must be Alan Hawke.'
Alan shook hands with the white-clothed man with interest. 'I am and you are…?'
'Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III.' Michael gestured at Marella. 'My wife, Marella.'
'CIA?' He asked dryly motioning at them.
'Department of Defence.' Marella answered smoothly. 'If you'll excuse me, I'll organise some coffee.'
She walked swiftly away and Michael had the feeling she was heading somewhere to burst into tears. 'Excuse me.' He murmured. He caught up with her by the door to the stairs gently taking hold of her elbow to pull her to a halt. She turned towards him, tears already streaming down her face. He pulled her into the stairwell and, in the relative privacy, tugged her against him without conscious thought, soothing her with meaningless assurances he knew he wouldn't be able to keep. Eventually she quietened and raised her head from his shoulder.
'Sorry.' She muttered.
He handed her his handkerchief. 'Are you going to be OK?'
'It's just…harder than I expected.' Marella admitted. 'She's the closest friend I have, Michael, and his face…'
'I know.' Michael said around the lump in his own throat. 'She'll come through this.' He wiped away some of the moisture by the corner of her eye.
'And if she doesn't?' Marella asked bluntly.
'Then we'll be there for Hawke and for Nicky.' Michael said quietly. 'That's all we can do.'
Marella nodded and took a breath. 'I'm going to fix my face.' She blew into the handkerchief. 'Organise the coffee.'
She kissed his cheek and left before Michael could protest. He slumped against the stark wall and tried to regain his own composure.
'How is he?'
Dom's voice had his head snapping up. 'How do you think he is, Dominic?' He asked furiously. 'Why didn't you tell me?' He stabbed a finger in the direction of the older man. 'You could have stopped this.'
Dom looked away and Michael felt a pang of remorse as he took in the sadness and grief that suddenly seemed carved into the late pilot's face.
'He needs you, Michael.' Dom said quietly.
Michael nodded. He straightened and reached for the door handle. He stopped and turned back to Dom. 'He needs you too.' He said simply. He opened the door and left the stairwell without looking back at the despondent ghost.---
The hours seemed to pass slowly as though time itself had decelerated. Hawke figured he had memorised the faint pattern on the floor; the cracks on the opposite wall and the spots marking the ceiling. He couldn't quiet the nagging thought that fate had given with one hand and taken away with the other. His father's silent presence beside him had a wave of mixed emotion roiling through him. As much as it pained him to think it, he didn't want his father or the rest of his siblings, not if it meant losing Caitlin in exchange. He would choose her every time. The certainty of that had him feeling guilty and strangely resentful towards the older man. He rubbed his face as though to wipe the feelings away.
It was the same with Nicky. He loved his son; would die for him but at that moment the fact that Caitlin was hurt and his son was fine seemed incongruously unfair. Hawke pushed away another pang of guilt at the resentment that coursed through him at the thought of their baby. He had refused Marella's gentle offer to take him down to the nursery or to bring Nicky to him. His son was fine; he would wait.
He just wanted his wife; Caitlin had to be alright. He couldn't contemplate any other outcome yet his old fear at losing her was crawling through him. He couldn't settle in his own skin. His gut was telling him that he had lost her; that he had miscalculated and Caitlin was dead because of him. His fault. He should have protected her better; he shouldn't have gone chasing after the family of his past; he should have left it alone…
He stood up suddenly, unable to stay still. 'What's taking them so long?' He wondered out loud. It couldn't be a good sign.
'They'll let us know the minute she's out of surgery, Hawke.' Michael reassured him.
'Why don't I get you something to eat?' Marella offered. 'You haven't had anything…'
'I don't want to eat.' Hawke snapped. 'I want to know what's happening with my wife.' There was a flash of anger through his blue eyes and Marella flushed.
Michael stiffened. 'Hawke…'
'String.' Alan spoke over the spy authoratively. 'Your friends are just trying to help.'
The paternal disapproval in the words rankled. Hawke spun on his heel and took a step away from his father. He stopped at the sight of a middle-aged couple entering the corridor at the other end; Patrick and Maggie O'Shaunessy, Caitlin's parents. A second later, he was being swept up in their embrace as they greeted him worriedly.
'What's going on?' Patrick demanded.
'Her chopper was shot down.' Hawke told him gruffly. 'She's still in surgery.'
'Still?' Maggie's single word conveyed her anxiety at the length of time and seeing her equally as anxious as he was about it soothed Hawke a little.
He nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. 'The wait's driving me nuts.' There was a hint of an apology in the words as his eyes flickered briefly to Marella.
'Nicky?' Maggie asked.
'Nursery.' Hawke said succinctly. 'He's fine.' He was pleased his voice remained steady without a sign of his tumultuous emotions.
'I can take you down.' Marella offered standing up.
Maggie nodded. 'Thank you.' She placed a hand on Hawke's arm briefly before she let Marella lead her back towards the elevators.
Alan stood up and offered his hand to Patrick. Hawke dimly heard the murmured introductions as he retook his seat. He caught the flash of green scrubs out of the corner of his eye and shot back to his feet. He met the middle-aged Chinese doctor half-way down he corridor. He went to ask his question and couldn't as he took in the medic's grave expression. His father appeared beside him; Michael on his other side, Patrick beside him.
'How is she, Doctor Lem?' Michael asked realising Hawke was unable to speak.
'Mister Hawke?' The doctor asked tiredly.
'I'm Hawke.' Hawke confirmed finding his voice.
Lem hesitated. 'Perhaps we should find a more private location?'
Hawke shook his head. 'Please.'
The single word had the desired effect. 'We believe we have stopped the bleeding.'
'That's good, right?' Patrick checked. He met Lem's inquiring gaze. 'I'm her father.'
'Yes. It's good.' Lem's words were cautious. 'We've relieved the pressure on her brain.' He took a breath. 'We've also placed her in a drug-induced coma to enable her recovery.' He held Hawke's gaze. 'I should warn you, Mister Hawke, that with the severity of your wife's injury there is the possibility of severe brain damage or further complications.'
'How severe?' Patrick demanded.
Lem transferred his gaze. 'We will not be able to assess exactly what damage has been caused unless Mrs Hawke recovers from the coma.'
'You mean when she recovers.' Michael corrected catching the wording.
Lem shook his head. 'I mean, if.' He held fast under their intense stares. 'I cannot stress how serious the head injury sustained was. We're having to sustain her on life support at present.'
'I want to see her.' Hawke demanded.
Lem nodded. 'She's being transferred to post-operative care now. I'll send a nurse as soon as she's settled.' His gaze landed back on Hawke's anxious blue eyes. 'We're doing all we can for her.'
Hawke nodded awkwardly.
They all watched as Lem turned and walked away, back down the corridor.---
The machine beeped reassuringly. Hawke ignored it just like he had ignored it every day for the two weeks he had been sat in the room. His attention was on the almost insubstantial figure of his wife lying motionless in the hospital bed under a mountain of blankets. She lay abnormally straight and still. Caitlin usually exuded a restless energy, even in sleep, that was missing. Hawke's fingers rubbed against her hand which he had wrapped tightly in his. He willed her to wake up.
The drug-induced coma had been abandoned once the doctors had confirmed the swelling on Caitlin's brain had subsided yet she hadn't woken up. The doctors were running tests and muttering over the results – results they still hadn't shared with him. He wasn't exactly oblivious to it, simply more determined to keep his focus on Caitlin. He had barely moved from her side since he had been shown into the room except the occasional bathroom break. Sometimes someone else would sit with him; her family, his family, Michael or Marella…they would talk with Caitlin while he would remain silent.
His hand reached up and stroked her pale cheek, his fingers sliding over the stark freckles as he ensured he didn't disturb the respirator that controlled her breathing. She was covered in tubes providing nourishment to her body; removing the waste. The bandage surrounding her head gave her a strangely anaemic look; they had shaved her red hair away for the surgery. His thumb brushed over her pale lips. He held her hand up and ignored the vivid scratches that marked her skin as he pressed it against his rough cheek.
'Is there any change?' Erin, Caitlin's older sister, reached for Caitlin's other hand on the opposite side of the bed.
Hawke shook his head. He couldn't remember when Erin had arrived and he dismissed it almost immediately as being unimportant.
'Why don't you take a break?' Erin suggested. Her green eyes ran over him sympathetically taking in the shadows under his bloodshot eyes, the grey cast to his tanned complexion and the way his outfit of jeans and shirt hung loosely from his body.
Hawke shook his head again.
Erin sighed. 'You know you should go and check on Nicky.'
The mention of his son stirred him momentarily and his gaze shifted from Caitlin to her sluggishly. 'Is something wrong?' He asked.
'If I told you there were would you go and see him?' Erin asked exasperated. 'He's your son, Hawke. He's missing you and Caitlin. He doesn't understand why you're not with him.' She stopped; Hawke's attention had already moved back to Caitlin.
'At least go and get something to eat.' Erin pleaded.
Hawke didn't respond.
She got up swiftly as tears pricked her eyes and she stooped to drop a light kiss on Caitlin's cheek before she left the room closing the door behind her.
There was a rather sizeable group in the stark waiting room as she entered. Hawke's family lined one wall with Mike and Jo lending support to Saint John. Jane's arms were filled with Nicky; she had taken to her role of grandmother with eager enthusiasm despite the circumstances or perhaps because of them. Caitlin's family occupied the other wall. They all looked up as Erin sought out her mother and took comfort in a hug for a long moment.
'You tried, honey.' Maggie said stroking her hair.
The door opened again and Michael entered. He was wearing his usual white suit but he had eschewed a jacket and the sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up. He was effectively running the Airwolf project from the hospital as neither he nor Marella had wanted to leave Hawke while Caitlin's recovery remained questionable.
'Any news?' He asked as he sat down next to Patrick.
Caitlin's father shook his head sadly. 'She hasn't moved. Neither of them have.'
'Marella's talking to the doctors now.' Michael said soothingly. 'Perhaps they'll have more to tell us later.'
Alan cleared his throat. 'Is there any word on the investigation?'
Michael shook his head. 'Nothing more.' His good eye grew cold. 'We can be fairly certain it was the Cordelli's though. Our intelligence has the family taking refuge in their Mexican villa the day after the attack.' He stated. 'They were obviously expecting retribution for the attempts on Caitlin and yourselves.'
'Had they succeeded with all the attacks, they would have wiped out our entire family.' Alan commented soberly.
'I'm not sure they were all intended to take you out.' Mike said out loud unusually sober. 'I think the attacks on you were to distract Hawke and ensure Airwolf was kept occupied.'
'Caitlin was the main target.' Michael thought out loud.
'Why?' Patrick demanded.
Mike shifted awkwardly under the older man's fierce gaze. 'Take Hawke out of the game. With respect to everyone else in the room, he's the main threat to Cordelli.'
'Hawke is an extremely dangerous opponent.' Michael mused rubbing his moustache.
'He's a helluva pilot.' Alan noted remembering the dog fight.
'So you're saying our daughter is lying in that hospital bed because someone wanted Hawke…neutralised.' Patrick was outraged.
'I'm afraid so.' Michael murmured.
Maggie rubbed Patrick's arm gently. 'I'm sure Hawke's already blaming himself enough, Patrick.'
'Yes.' Michael agreed. 'He is.'
'I'm not blaming him.' Patrick subsided onto one of the empty sofas with a heavy sigh. 'This is just such a mess.'
'I think we can all agree on that.' Alan said grimly.
'Only they've underestimated him.' Michael continued. 'Because as soon as Caitlin wakes up…or…' he waved a hand vaguely to cover the other eventuality he didn't want to say out loud, 'he's going to go after them.'
'How?' Alan asked. 'Even if he takes out Giovanni Cordelli, there's always going to be another Cordelli to take his place, that's why I took the family into hiding in the first place.'
'We have a plan.' Saint John said evenly rubbing his hands together. He tilted his head. 'We were going to execute as soon as you were all safe.'
'Which reminds me,' Michael inserted dryly, 'I know you all want to be here for Hawke but you are creating an easy target all staying here together. I'd like you all to consider…'
The three Hawke siblings immediately began to protest.
'None of us are leaving.' Jane said determinedly over her children. She held Michael's gaze. 'We ran once; we're not running again.'
'I'm not leaving String.' Saint John added his voice rough with emotion. 'Not again.'
'I think Michael's right; you should all consider it.' Jo laid a hand on his arm. 'String would understand.'
Saint John stared at her in disbelief. 'String would understand?'
Jo flushed and dropped her hand.
'Actually I'm not sure he'd notice if we all disappeared again right now.' Sarah sighed, glancing at Jo sympathetically.
Erin swiped at her cheeks. 'He's hurting so badly…'
'Maybe if we took Nicky into the room…' Jane suggested. She looked down on her grandson lovingly.
'He's not interested.' Erin tried to keep any hint of judgement out of her voice. 'It's like the only thing that exists for him is Caitlin.'
'He always was single-minded even as a child.' Alan said crossing his arms as he leaned against a wall beside his wife.
Saint John surged to his feet. 'So what are we supposed to do? Just sit here and wait for him waste away along with…' He stopped abruptly. He looked apologetically at Caitlin's parents. 'Sorry.' He muttered. He spun away and charged out the room.
Mike waited and when Jo didn't move he sighed and got up. 'He didn't mean it.' He offered before he went after his friend.
'We're sorry.' Sarah apologised.
'There's no need.' Maggie murmured. 'This is tough on all of us.' Her voice broke on her last word and Patrick wrapped an arm around her.
Michael sighed and got to his feet. He limped out of the room and into the corridor. A brief look to his right confirmed that Mike had caught up with Saint John and was quietly comforting the other man by the nurses' station. He watched as Mike led his best friend away probably to get some air. Michael leaned against the wall and took off his glasses. He pinched his nose as he closed his eye and tried to get rid of the tension headache he had developed.
'You need sleep.' Dom advised sagely.
Michael opened his eye slowly. Dom was leaning on the wall beside him. He looked as tired as Michael felt. 'You look awful.'
Dom gave a huff of laughter. 'Gee, thanks, Michael. You're not looking so hot yourself, huh?'
'Where have you been?' Michael demanded. 'Have you seen Hawke?'
'I've been with him.' Dom said simply. 'And so have you. That's all we can do, Michael.'
Michael sighed heavily and replaced his glasses. 'You know he hasn't seen, Nicky. He's pulling away from his family just at the moment when he's found them.'
'You have to make him see what he's doing is wrong.' Dom said.
'And how exactly do I do that, Dominic?' Michael hissed.
Dom rubbed his hand through his wispy grey hair. 'You tell me.' He gestured at Michael. 'I never understood how you managed to get him to the…uh…funeral…when, you know, we thought Cait was…dead.'
'I threatened to tell you he'd tried to shoot himself.'
Dom frowned. 'I took all the guns out of the house.'
'Apparently, not all of them.' Michael pointed out with ruthless logic.
Dom threw his hands up. 'The sneaky…' he sighed heavily and caught Michael's gaze. 'You can do this, Michael.' He gave him a sad smile. 'I know you and I haven't always gotten along but I know String couldn't ask for a better friend. You do your best and you'll be OK.'
The other man's words filled Michael with gratified sense of pride. He couldn't deny to himself that Dom's confidence in him, his belief in him didn't mean something. 'Thanks, Dominic.' He held Dom's gaze. 'I'm certain I'll regret saying this but I wish you were here, really here, I mean.'
'So do I, Michael.' Dom answered gravely.
The spy waved down the corridor. 'I best go and talk to him.'
'Sounds like a good idea.' Dom watched Michael take a step away from him. 'Michael…'
Michael turned back with a quizzical look at Dom's odd tone.
Dom gave him another sad gap-toothed smile. 'I'll see you around.'
Michael nodded slowly. He turned away for a second and whirled back to question the ghost further; Dom was gone. He frowned. He couldn't shake the feeling he had missed something in their exchange. He headed to Caitlin's room. He knocked and went in without waiting for an answer; he doubted he would get one. He walked around the bed to an empty chair and sat down. Hawke barely glanced up at him.
'They're all worried about you.' Michael began. 'You're fading away from us and you don't even seem to realise it.' There was the barest flicker across Hawke's face, the only sign he had heard. 'You have to pull yourself out of this. Your son needs you. You're his parent; you have to be the one to tell him it's going to be OK, that you're always going to be there for him. You have to fight dammit.'
Hawke stirred as Michael fell silent. 'Do you think she heard you?' He asked roughly.
Michael looked at him over the expanse of the bed. 'I don't know but I wasn't talking to her.'
There was a brief spurt of shock in Hawke's eyes.
'Snap the hell out of this, Hawke.' Michael said forcefully. 'If she's going to make it, you need to fight alongside her.'
'What do you think I'm doing?' Hawke growled angrily.
'Hiding.' Michael shot back.
Michael welcomed the anger he could see that crackled through Hawke's blue eyes; it was better than the non-responsive Hawke of the previous days.
Hawke opened his mouth to retort and stopped. He slumped back in the chair, all the fight draining out of him as suddenly as it had come upon him. 'What am I going to do, Michael?'
'First, you're going to get a shower and a shave, some clean clothes.' Michael said calmly. 'And then you're going to get a good meal. Then you're going to hug your son. And then you're going to come back here and sit with your wife and continue doing the right things until she wakes up.'
Hawke didn't reply but the muscle twitching in his jaw gave away that he had heard every word.
'Come on.' Michael got out of his chair and held open the door to the adjoining bathroom. He held his breath and only released it when Hawke stood up. He was pleased when Hawke made his way inside and a few moments later he heard the shower running. He hurried out to organise clothes for the other man. By the time Hawke exited the shower, Michael had a change of clothes waiting for him along with a sandwich.
Hawke changed swiftly and ran a hand over his smooth jaw. As much as he hated to admit it, it felt good to be clean again. He sat with Caitlin and ate the sandwich without enthusiasm.
Michael waited by the door until Hawke was finished and set the plate aside and stood up. 'Come on, Hawke. It's time for you to see Nicky.'
At the mention of his son, Hawke straightened abruptly. 'I can't do this, Michael.' He confessed reluctantly.
The faint hint of panic had Michael spinning back to his friend. 'What?'
Hawke avoided his eyes. 'I don't know if I can…' he broke off and paced to the window. He rubbed the back of his neck. 'Nicky.'
'What about him?' Michael asked bemused.
Hawke stared sightlessly out of the window.
Michael walked up to stand beside him. 'It isn't his fault that he's OK and she isn't.' His voice was incredibly gentle as he guessed at the other man's emotions.
Hawke crossed his arms over his chest and rocked back on his heels.
'You love Nicky.' Michael said. He laid a hand on Hawke's shoulder. 'Come on. Do it for Caitlin. She would hate the idea that you weren't there for your son.'
He saw his words register with Hawke and he felt a moment's satisfaction as Hawke took one stuttering step after another to the door. They made their way slowly down the corridor to the waiting room. Michael opened the door and gestured for Hawke to go inside. Hawke moved slowly into the suddenly silent room. His eyes swept over Caitlin's family and settled on his own. Saint John sat with Jo; Chris asleep in Sarah's arms, Seb by her side; and his parents…with his son.
Jane's arms automatically tightened on Nicky and he woke at the sudden pressure, wailing his displeasure. She shushed him and Hawke held out his hands. Jane stood up to transfer the baby into his arms.
Nicky stopped crying at the familiar feel and scent. He hiccupped and stared with bright blue eyes into his father's. Hawke felt his chest tighten with an overwhelming surge of love; he could have so easily lost him too…he closed his eyes on a wave of a shame. He buried his head briefly in the side of the baby's neck, nuzzling him gently.
'I'm sorry.' Hawke whispered gently as he kissed Nicky's head softly.
Jane reached for Alan who happily wrapped his arms around his wife. Saint John held his hand out to Jo who took it with a smile.
Hawke opened his eyes again. He found Erin in the crowd of people and nodded at her before he glanced around the room. 'I'm sorry.'
'You don't have to apologise.' Patrick said gruffly.
Maggie shifted along on the sofa and patted it. 'Come and sit down.'
Hawke gave in to the pleading in her eyes and sat down beside her. He had just got seated when the door opened again.
Marella walked in with Lem; both of them looked serious.
'What's going on?' Hawke asked as Marella headed for Michael and avoided his eyes.
'I have some news about your wife.' Lem said coming to a halt in front of the pilot.
Hawke felt his panic rising again; fear clawed at his throat.
Lem sighed. 'Our latest tests reveal that there is no sign of brain activity.'
'What does that mean?' asked Maggie in a high-pitched voice.
'Although the swelling in her brain has reduced, there is no sign of any brain function.' Lem explained slowly. 'She meets the criteria for being considered brain dead.' He paused. 'I'm deeply sorry, Mister Hawke.'
'But that can't be right.' Patrick insisted as he hugged his wife to him. 'She's fine. She's breathing and she's…'
'We believe the machines are all that are keeping her alive at this point.' Lem told him gently.
Hawke stared at Lem as though trying to make sense of his words. He dimly heard the sound of crying as Jo buried her face in Saint John's shoulder and the O'Shaunessy's gathered together crying. Nicky wriggled against him and he automatically adjusted him.
Lem cleared his throat. 'Mister Hawke, I know this is a difficult time but I need to discuss the possibility of organ donation before we make a decision about your wife's life support.'
'You're asking this now?' Patrick took a step toward the diminutive doctor.
Maggie halted him. 'Patrick, please!'
'I'm sorry.' Hawke looked at Lem confused. 'I don't understand.'
'I'm asking you if you would like to consider organ donation.' Lem repeated. 'I don't know if you and your wife ever discussed the possibility…'
'I'm sorry.' Hawke interrupted again. 'Are you…did you just tell me my wife's dead?' His incredulous tone silenced the room.
Lem gentled his expression. 'As I've explained to you, Mister Hawke, your wife shows no sign of brain activity. By every conceivable test we have, she is brain dead.'
'She's not dead.' Hawke denied it brusquely.
'Mister Hawke, once we turn off the machines supporting your wife's life, she will be unable to sustain her body on her own.' Lem looked at him compassionately. 'She is to all extents and purposes dead.'
Hawke stared at him. Lem was sincere; he believed Caitlin was dead. His mind shied away from the idea. Caitlin couldn't be dead; she was down the hall in a room. She was breathing; her heart was beating. She lived. She wasn't dead.
Brain dead. The voice whispered insidiously in his head. Her brain had stopped functioning. No activity. His wife was to all extents and purposes dead. A part of him wouldn't believe it, couldn't believe it, yet another was assimilating the information pushing him toward acceptance…thoughts whirled wildly around in his mind before they coalesced into hard decisions…
Michael watched as Hawke transformed in front of them. It was as though the past three years hadn't taken place. The pilot's features smoothed into the impassive mask he had worn most his adult life; the one that separated him and kept him safe away from others, from emotional entanglements. The blue eyes gleamed for a moment with something; denial, pain, fear, anger…Michael couldn't tell which before they iced over and became guarded. Michael swallowed hard. Only an irascible old pilot called Dominic Santini had ever reached this Hawke; only Dom and a certain scrappy red-headed pilot lying in a room down the corridor. 'Hawke…'
'I'd like some time alone with my wife.' Hawke's voice was blunt, direct.
Lem nodded. 'Of course. Please take as much time as you need.' He left them alone.
Hawke hugged his son closer for a long moment before he dropped another kiss on Nicky's head. He jerked his head at Saint John who stepped forward and took the baby.
'Look after him for me will you?' Hawke asked quietly.
'Sure.' Saint John nodded.
'You're a good brother.' Hawke murmured patting Saint John's shoulder almost absently and his brother's brow creased in confusion as Hawke moved away to the opposite size of the room to stop in front of his mother-in-law. 'I know you'll want time with her. I just…'
'We understand.' Maggie assured him bemused at his calm. 'Take as much as you need.'
Hawke nodded. 'I won't be long.' He looked back at his extended family and took a moment to acknowledge each of them individually before he walked out. He headed to Caitlin's room. He sat back down on the seat he had earlier vacated and took her hand in his. He kissed the scratched and bruised palm.
'I love you.' Hawke murmured. 'I don't know if you can hear me but I love you.' His voice broke. He blinked back the tears and leaned over the bed. He kissed her lips softly. He took a step away from her; one and then another. He walked out of the room and down the corridor safe in the knowledge that he had time before his family would become concerned and check on him. His eyes were cold as he took the stairs to the exit; he had something he needed to do.
He was right; it was almost two hours before Patrick glanced impatiently at the clock. 'Perhaps one of us should check on him.'
'I said he could take as much time as he needed.' Maggie pointed out listlessly.
'I'll check on him.' Sarah offered.
'No, I'll go.' Saint John said gesturing for her to take Nicky.
A strange foreboding filled Michael. 'I'll come with you.'
The two men made their way down the corridor and hesitated in front of the door to Caitlin's room. Michael knocked and pushed the door open. It swung to the side and revealed its single unconscious occupant.
Saint John's eyes widened. 'Where is he?' He stepped into the room as though to confirm what they could see. 'Where's my brother?'
Michael thumped the doorpost. 'Dammit!' His good eye met Saint John's worried gaze. 'He's gone after Cordelli.'---
Caitlin was confused.
She was sat on the porch of the cabin but she couldn't remember how she'd gotten there. The sun was setting over the lake, the majestic gold seeping into imperial purple. She was cold despite her warm weather of jeans and sweater. She wrapped Hawke's leather flight jacket tighter around herself. How had she got to the cabin? The last thing she remembered was flying…
She froze at the familiar voice and turned slowly. 'Dom?' Her eyes scoured his kindly, craggy features before she threw herself across the small expanse of bench and hugged him. 'Oh I've missed you.' She said holding onto him tightly.
He patted her back. 'I've missed you too.' She shifted suddenly, a calculating look entering her eyes and he waited for the usual question with a sinking heart.
'I'm dreaming aren't I?' Caitlin asked with a regretful sigh.
He blinked. It wasn't the question he was usually asked. 'Well…'
'I mean I must be.' Caitlin indicated the cabin and the surrounding area. 'This has to be a dream because if I crashed I had to have ended up in hospital, which probably means that I'm not really here, and you can't be because you're dead, so this is all a nice drug-induced dream.' She finished breathless.
Dom sat stunned for a long moment. In all the scenarios he had played out of his meeting with Caitlin he hadn't considered that she wouldn't think she was dead when she laid eyes on him; Michael had leaped to that conclusion when Dom had first appeared to him and so had Saint John…even Hawke in a dream had worked out how close to death he was because of Dom's presence.
'You're awful quiet, Dom.' Caitlin noted sitting back and looking at him worriedly.
'Cait, honey…' Dom began uncertainly. 'You're very badly injured.'
'Obviously.' Caitlin admitted cheerily. 'I'm sat in a dream world talking to you.' She softened the words with a quick smile.
'It's not exactly a dream world.' Dom murmured.
She stared at him and tried to ignore the encroaching sense of fear in her belly. 'What do you mean?' Caitlin asked brightly.
'This is the cabin,' Dom explained waving a hand around the clearing, 'and we're both really here.'
'No, that's not possible.' Caitlin said shakily. 'We can't be really here. I mean, you're dead for starters and I…' she stumbled to a halt. Her fearful eyes met Dom's again and she shook her head in denial. 'I'm not dead.' She lurched off the bench and stormed into the cabin. She headed for the fireplace and started a fire in the hearth.
'You're not exactly dead.' Dom said sitting on the sofa and warming his hands against the crackling flames.
'Well, that's a vote of confidence.' Caitlin muttered. She whirled around to face him. 'OK, Dom. What's going on?'
'You remember flying to Red Star?' Dom recounted.
She nodded in agreement tucking her red hair behind her ears.
Dom sighed. 'Your bird was attacked by Cordelli.'
'The tail rotor was hit.' Caitlin recalled with a flash of memory.
'Yeah and then the rest.' Dom waved a hand at her. 'You almost got her sat down anyway.'
'The left prop missed the road.' Caitlin sat down slowly into one of the chairs. 'We crashed.' Her eyes flew wide open. 'Nicky!'
'He's fine.' Dom hastened to assure her. 'He's OK. You got him out.' He smiled sadly at her as she calmed at his words. 'You should have seen yourself, Caitlin. You were like a tigress.'
'So long as he's OK.' Another thought occurred to her and she looked questioningly at Dom, her hand sneaking to her abdomen.
He shook his head understanding her wordless inquiry. 'You were injured too badly, Caitlin.'
'I lost the baby?' Caitlin blinked back tears. She hugged her stomach as a wave of grief crashed through her and stole her breath.
Dom crossed over. He sat awkwardly on the arm of the chair and wrapped an arm around her. 'I'm sorry, Cait. I really am.'
'I just…I know I hadn't been pregnant long, Dom, but I really wanted my baby.' Caitlin swiped at the tears on her face. 'Oh God. Hawke.' She hiccupped. 'He's going to be devastated. He was so thrilled about the baby.'
'He's more worried about you.' Dom murmured.
Caitlin frowned and pulled away from the older pilot. 'Tell me all of it, Dom. Right now.'
Dom sighed and moved back to the sofa as her eyes dried and filled with a grim determination and stubbornness he remembered all to well. 'You sustained a bad head injury.'
'How bad?' Caitlin demanded.
'Bad.' Dom said succinctly. 'They operated and got the bleeding stopped. The swelling reduced but…'
'Your brain activity isn't there.' Dom said quietly. 'According to their tests you're brain dead.'
'But according to you I'm not dead?' Caitlin checked.
'Not yet.' Dom admitted. 'There's a chance. Your body is being sustained by machines. You're physically still alive; we just have to get your brain working again.'
'How do I do that?' Caitlin asked immediately. 'Tell me because I'll do whatever it takes.'
'You have to keep fighting, Caitlin. That's all there is to it.' Dom said simply.
'And how do I do that from here wherever here is?' Caitlin asked frustrated.
'You have to find your own way back but I'm here to help you.' Dom patted her hand and smiled at her encouragingly.
Caitlin smiled tremulously. 'Hawke told me once that he'd had a dream where you'd told him you'd always be backing him.'
'And I always will be.' Dom reiterated. 'He's been a mess this last couple of weeks though.'
'Couple of weeks?' Her voice was a squeak. 'I've been out that long?'
'Poor Hawke.' Caitlin could imagine her husband's likely response to her injury.
'He's got Al and Jane; Saint John and the rest of the clan looking out for him.' Dom said comfortingly. 'Not to mention your folks and Michael's there for him too.'
Caitlin caught the note of respect in his voice. 'You seem OK with that.'
Dom sniffed. 'Michael's not the same man he was.' He said defensively.
'At least the reunion went OK.' Caitlin sighed. 'I was worried about it.' She gave a small laugh. 'Hawke was so worried about it.'
'Ah, he never had anything to worry about. Al and Jane always loved those boys. If it hadn't been for Cordelli…' Dom sighed.
Caitlin leaned forward a creased between her eyebrows as she thought over the attack that had downed her plane. 'It was Cordelli who attacked me wasn't it?'
'Well we don't know that for certain.' Dom cautioned her.
'Dom.' Caitlin's chiding expression had Dom flushing.
'OK,' he blustered, 'so it was Cordelli.'
Caitlin bit her lip. 'Does Hawke know that?'
'I think he and Michael probably figured it out.' Dom pointed out.
'Does Hawke know about the brain dead thing?' Caitlin asked anxiously.
Dom nodded. 'The doctors just told him.'
'And?' Dom repeated bemused. 'He was upset obviously.' He shook his head a little. 'Bad timing too if you ask me because Michael had just got him thinking clearly again and sorted his head out a little with…'
'Dom,' Caitlin broke in urgently, 'are you telling me Hawke thinks I'm dead?'
Dom swallowed at the horror in her blue-green eyes but nodded again.
'And that he knows it was Cordelli?' Caitlin continued.
'You do know what that means?' She stood up restless.
The older pilot frowned in confusion momentarily but suddenly his expression cleared and he lurched to his feet, his horror-stricken gaze meeting hers. 'He's going after Cordelli.'
'On his own.' Caitlin stated shakily. 'Oh God. We have to do something! I can't just sit around here and…'
Dom interrupted her briskly, slapping the familiar red cap over his head. 'Take my hand.'
She reached for it and as she felt his fingers curl around hers, the cabin faded away and they were suddenly in Airwolf.
Caitlin looked around wildly at the familiar cockpit of the original machine. She was sitting in the counter-measure specialist chair; the place she had usually occupied as the third crew member when Dom had been alive. The older pilot was also back at his familiar station in the back of the cockpit. Hawke was sat in the pilot's seat, his face set and tense. He was focused on the sky ahead; the ground zipping by below them. 'How did…' Caitlin began.
'I don't know so don't ask.' Dom said briskly. 'I just think about you guys and I'm generally suddenly where you are.'
'OK.' Caitlin took a breath and settled back into the seat. She looked at her husband anxiously. 'Oh Dom. He looks so…'
'I know, kid.' Dom said softly.
'Hawke.' Caitlin said his name out loud but he didn't respond. 'String.' She tried again using the softer derivative of his name she hardly ever used.
'He can't hear you, honey.' Dom explained gently. 'He's not aware of us at all.'
She reached across and placed her hand over Hawke's on the stick. 'How do we reach him?'
'I'm not sure we can.' Dom admitted. He threw up his hands. 'Dammit! I told Michael to watch out for him.'
'I'm sure Michael probably did.' Caitlin said tiredly. 'You know how Hawke is when he's set on something.'
Dom opened his mouth to deny it, recalled his own conversation with Michael about the guns and closed it again. He harrumphed.
Caitlin sat back in her chair. 'We have to do something or he's going to get himself killed.'
'I'm not disagreeing with ya.' Dom admitted. 'But what?'
Caitlin's mind raced. 'You said you told Michael to watch out for him?'
'Yes…' Dom agreed hesitantly.
'So you talk to Michael,' Caitlin expanded, 'so there has to be a way of talking to Hawke?'
'I don't know.' Dom replied.
She looked over her shoulder at him. 'How do you not know?'
'Look, the first time it happened, it was kinda…kinda an accident.'
'An accident?' Caitlin's voice rose sceptically. 'How can a ghost talking to someone be called an accident?'
'I was with him and…and he had a head injury and he saw me.' Dom gave a huff of laughter. 'Fair shocked the wind out of me, I can tell you.'
'I don't recall Michael having a head injury lately.' Caitlin pointed out exasperated.
'He just continued being able to see me.' Dom gestured at her impatiently. 'I can't explain it!'
'Great.' Caitlin muttered turning back to stare out of the window. 'This is just great. I'm brain dead in a hospital bed somewhere; my husband's on a mission to take out Cordelli and probably get himself killed in the process and you're telling me I can't do anything! And if I don't find a way to get myself back into my body and get my brain working again none of this matters anyway!' She thumped the arm of the chair. She rubbed her forehead. 'This isn't getting us anywhere.'
'You got that right.' Dom muttered a little taken aback by her outburst.
She shot him a look. 'OK,' she said, 'we need to split up.'
'Sure, we need to…' Dom stuttered to a halt. 'What?'
'We need to split up.' She turned round again. 'I'm going to focus on…on fixing myself.' Her eyes pinned Dom. 'You focus on fixing this.' She waved around the cockpit.
'Sure, sure.' Dom said sarcastically. 'I'll just stay here and fix this.' He glared at her. 'You wanna tell me how I'm supposed to do that?'
'Think of something, Dom!' Caitlin encouraged him fiercely. She held his gaze until he nodded jerkily. 'I really do miss you.' She whispered.
Dom nodded again.
She turned back to Hawke. Her eyes ran over the ice-blue eyes, the tense jaw-line and his skin pulled taut over the high cheekbones she loved and envied. She slid her hand over his. 'Dom,' tears choked her and she had to take a breath, 'whatever happens, tell him I love him.' She brushed away the moisture under her eyes. 'Tell him he needs to live and bring up our son.'
'I'll tell him.' Dom agreed quietly. 'You just concentrate on you.'
Caitlin reached over and awkwardly landed a kiss on Hawke's cheek. 'Goodbye, Hawke.' She whispered. She closed her eyes and focused on her body, felt a slight tug. She opened her eyes and wished she hadn't.
Her body lay before her in the hospital bed, hooked up to the machines keeping her alive. A shiver ran down her spine. Caitlin grimaced and took a seat. She sighed and looked at herself. 'I guess we have some work to do.'---
Michael resisted the urge to slam down the satellite phone and instead dropped it back into the briefcase with a scowl.
'Well?' Saint John demanded impatiently.
The spy turned to glare at the other man who was stood beside him. Saint John was the picture of anxiety; hands on hips, blonde hair askew, hazel eyes barely hiding the deep worry that had manifested since they had realised Hawke had left the hospital. He wasn't the only one waiting for Michael to speak; the rest of the Hawke family was gathered around him, their silence equally as eloquent. Michael was thankful the O'Shaunessy's were with Caitlin. He glanced briefly at Marella who stood to his other side lending support.
'He took Airwolf.' Michael confirmed gravely. 'About thirty minutes ago. She's fully fuelled and armed.'
'He's going after Cordelli.' Mike's grim statement had Michael nodding in agreement.
'He'll be killed.' Jane blanched and slumped into a chair. Seb placed an arm around his mother.
'You don't know Hawke.' Marella regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth and she gave an apologetic look as Jane visibly flinched. Marella doubted either of Hawke's parents needed the reminder that he had grown up without them in his life.
Saint John gestured furiously at Michael. 'This wasn't the plan!'
'No,' agreed Michael, 'this wasn't the plan.'
'So what do we do now?' Alan asked forcefully.
Michael looked over at him and almost did a double-take at the similarity between father and eldest son.
'We go after him.' Saint John said. 'We can take the second Airwolf and catch up with him.'
'And then what?' Michael asked. 'It's not as though you can stop him.'
'But we can back him up.' Mike replied swiftly.
Saint John shot his friend a grateful look for coming up with a valid reason.
Michael shook his head. 'You can't fly without an engineer and the AI is with Hawke.'
'I could do it.' Alan offered hurriedly. He took a step forward, motioning with one hand. 'Didn't Dom used to act as engineer in those birds?'
'With respect, Mister Hawke,' Michael broke in, 'Dom had extensive training from your son, and you'll forgive me for saying this but you don't strike me as someone completely cognizant with computers.'
'I could do it.' Seb slipped off the arm of the chair and stood up. 'I know how to operate a computer.'
There was a determined glint in his eye that Michael recognised only too well. 'You're not trained for this either.' He retorted.
'I am.' Jo pointed out standing up. 'I'll do it.'
Michael's lips firmed with displeasure but he couldn't deny the truth of her statement. 'OK.'
'Then what are we waiting for? Let's go.' Saint John said impatiently.
Michael glared at him and turned his attention to the rest of the Hawkes. 'It would make sense for you all to go to Red Star. You'll be safer there.'
'Michael's right.' Saint John said reluctantly.
Alan exchanged a look with his wife. 'It doesn't seem right to leave String's wife.'
'Marella and I will be staying.' Michael pointed out.
'And so are we.' Jane said determinedly. 'If nothing else at least we can lend support to Caitlin's family and look after Nicky.'
Marella glanced at Michael who shrugged. 'Fine.' He picked up the phone and gestured at Saint John. 'I'll let Red Star know you're on your way and to prepare Airwolf.'
'Thanks, Michael.' Saint John held his gaze for a beat. He turned and made his goodbyes to his family hurriedly before he followed Mike and Jo out of the room.
Alan waited until Michael was finished issuing orders before he cleared his throat. 'Exactly what do you think String is doing?'
Michael shrugged and rubbed his neck as he sat down. 'I don't know.' He admitted. 'Saint John was right. This wasn't the plan.'
'What was the plan?' Sarah asked exasperated.
'She has a point.' Alan said sitting down beside his worried daughter. 'We have a right to know.'
Michael brushed his moustache thoughtfully. 'Originally Hawke believed the only way to secure your return and ensure you stayed safe was to deal with the Cordelli family and put them out of business.'
'That's impossible.' Seb said stubbornly.
'Not for Hawke.' Marella said quietly.
'The Cordelli family is one of the most powerful mob families in the country.' Seb pointed out. 'Not even the FBI can touch them.'
'And jail wouldn't stop them.' Alan added.
'Agreed.' Michael said. 'That wasn't Hawke's plan.'
'Well, the only other option is to kill them all.' Seb said bluntly.
He shrugged his mother's disapproval away. 'You know I'm right, Mom, and that's killing everyone right down to the children.'
'Your brother would never do that.' Jane denied heatedly. Doubt flitted in and out her eyes as she caught the suddenly guarded eyes of the spies.
Michael hastened to reassure her. 'That wasn't Hawke's plan. He realised exactly the same thing; that he couldn't kill them all or lock them up forever. He came up with a different plan.'
'So what was it?' Alan pressed impatiently.
'What's more important to the Cordelli's than family?' Marella asked smoothing her skirt.
Seb frowned and crossed his arms. 'That's easy; their business.'
'Over the last few months we've gathered every single piece of data that we could on how the Cordelli operation works.' Marella explained. 'Most of it wouldn't be accepted as evidence in a court of law.'
'Nothing that we or the FBI could ever use to take down Cordelli, given the means by which we obtained it.' Michael added.
'I don't see how that helps.' Sarah said annoyance flashing through her blue eyes.
'Hawke worked out the main weaknesses in the Cordelli's business.' Michael continued.
'He was going to put them out of business?' Seb frowned. 'Wouldn't they have just come after us anyway?'
'He doesn't have to put them out of business.' Alan said slowly. 'All he had to do was make a deal with the Cordelli's; they leave us alone and we leave them alone.' He stared at Michael. 'The information you have, the weaknesses he identified would be used as leverage.'
'That's right.' Michael agreed. 'Hawke figured that he could convince the Cordelli's to consider the feud a done deal; Angelo killed Elijah; you went after Angelo,' he pointed at Alan, 'which led to his death.'
'At their hands.' Alan muttered unhappily.
Michael shrugged. 'A death for a death.'
'So you're saying Hawke was prepared to allow the Cordelli's just to get away with the family being split up and living in fear all these years?' Sarah asked incredulous.
'That wasn't the Cordelli's fault.' Marella held up a hand when they would have argued. 'The FBI were responsible for the family being separated.'
'But the Cordelli's were responsible for us entering witness protection,' Jane retorted, 'and they tried to kill us just after Sarah was born.'
'Marco Cordelli was responsible for that.' Michael said firmly. He stabbed the table in front of him. 'Six months after that attempt Marco died and Antonio took over.' He sent an apologetic look to Alan. 'From what we've managed to dig up, Antonio voided his father's contract on your head.'
'You mean we could have come home all this time?' Jane was stunned.
Michael sighed. 'I'm not sure it was that easy; I think knowing you were on the run and presumably, Antonio was aware that you had been separated from your sons…'
'He figured that was enough punishment.' Alan murmured. 'Damn!' He dropped his head into his hands.
Sarah reached out hesitantly and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. 'You couldn't have known, Dad.'
'So why have they come after us now?' Seb asked confused.
'Edward Sallis.' Marella answered.
'The guy responsible for the hit on my grandfather?' Seb checked.
Alan looked up with a frown. 'What about Sallis?'
'Sallis got out on parole.' Seb told him remembering the details he had been told about his brothers' search for them.
'He went after Dom originally.' Marella said. 'He thought Dom would know where you were.'
'Dom didn't know anything.' Alan said shocked.
'No, and Sallis realised that eventually but he also realised he had alerted Dom to the possibility that you were still alive.' Michael gestured at him. 'Sallis disappeared.'
'We think he ended up with the Cordelli's.' Marella added.
'Or with one Cordelli in particular.' Michael expanded. 'Giovanni Cordelli, the current heir to the Cordelli throne.'
Marella nervously straightened her skirt. 'He has a reputation as being very ruthless. There are hints of sociopath behaviour in his teens with incidents where we think Antonio covered up for him and paid his victims off.'
'Nice.' Seb muttered.
'Sounds a lot like he takes after his Uncle Angelo.' Alan rubbed his chin.
Marella watched the gesture fascinated. She'd seen Hawke do the same thing so many times. She hurriedly cleared her throat as she realised she had been staring. 'We think, at first, Giovanni was simply content to hide Sallis and watch how things played out.'
'But if Sallis has been with Cordelli, who else has been tracking us?' Seb asked.
'We don't think Sallis has stayed with Cordelli all this time.' Michael corrected.
'Maybe he has.' Alan mused. 'If Cordelli offered him protection, it's possible he would have stayed. He loved being part of that set-up.' He looked over at his son. 'The other party could be the FBI.'
'That could be possible.' Michael murmured. 'They were aware Sallis skipped his parole and Dawson went missing. Anyway, whether Sallis stayed with Giovanni or not, things changed when String and Saint John started to look for you.'
'And then Giovanni got more interested.' Sarah pushed her hair out of her eyes.
'Mostly in Airwolf.' Michael said dryly. 'But Hawke kept beating Giovanni.'
Marella took hold of Michael's hand. 'Which is when Giovanni got mad and started looking for you guys in earnest.'
'And when he tried to get rid of Hawke and Saint John.' Michael rubbed his moustache.
'The incident that killed Jason Locke.' Sarah remembered with a shiver.
Michael nodded. 'That changed the plan.'
'Retribution for Locke?' Seb suggested.
'Justice.' Alan corrected.
Michael smiled at Alan. 'Exactly.'
'The deal changed.' Seb said confidently. 'They leave us alone; we leave them alone but first they hand over Giovanni.'
'That was the plan.' Michael said with a deep sigh.
Jane caught the look in his eye. 'But that's not the plan anymore.'
'No,' agreed Michael, 'that's not the plan anymore.' He seemed to be far away, somewhere in the past, as he continued almost absently, 'Giovanni killed Caitlin; all bets are off.'---
Dom looked around the familiar cockpit and sighed heavily. In many ways, he could almost believe that he hadn't died; that he was still alive and still helping Hawke crew Airwolf. With a brush of his mind, he was dressed in the familiar garb of the lilac uniform he had worn so much in the final years of his life. He watched the console as the AI he had helped create rushed to keep up with the single-minded purpose of her pilot. Dom's eyes settled on the back of Hawke's head.
Fix it. Caitlin's instruction popped back into his head. He wondered how he fixed it. Think, Dominic, he thought angrily. Hawke's life was on the line. OK. First things first; he needed a way to communicate.
'Easier said than done.' Dom noted with a grunt. He had never understood the rules on that; never understood why Michael seemed to be able to see and hear him all the time, why he'd only ever been able to speak with Hawke in dreams.
'String,' he stopped and cleared his voice when it came out in a squeak, 'String, you stop this right now.'
'Ah, kid. What are you doing?' Dom muttered. 'This won't work, you know.' He gestured dramatically at the younger pilot. 'You know that. You did exactly this same thing with Moffett after…after Gabrielle and look how that turned out, huh?'
There was no reaction.
Dom rolled his eyes. Of course, there was no reaction; his boy couldn't hear him. 'I wish you could hear me.' He laughed humorlessly. 'Not that you'd probably listen to me even if you could; you never did, not when you got your mind set on something.'
'Airwolf.' Hawke's gruff voice cut across Dom. 'I need more speed.'
Safety parameters reached.
Dom read the AI's response from his console out loud.
'Remove the safeties.' Hawke ordered.
'Oh, don't do it, baby.' Dom urged frantically. 'You have to keep him safe; you just have to.'
Removing safeties at this time would be counter-productive.
Dom looked astonished at the read-out.
'I said remove the safeties.' Hawke instructed again furiously.
'Don't let him do it, Airwolf.' Dom contradicted. 'He's not thinking straight. He's trying to get himself killed.'
Removing safeties would endanger my pilot.
'Atta girl!' Dom crowed clapping his hands in delight.
'You're refusing my order?' Hawke asked gruffly astonished.
Removing safeties not the best option at this time. Dominic Santini would not remove safeties at this time.
Hawke's eyes flickered from the screen and back to the sky. 'You always did listen to him more than me.' He accused Airwolf gently.
Dom stilled, a thought occurring to him. 'Airwolf?' He asked hopefully. 'Can you hear me?'
'Right.' Hawke muttered. 'You see that, Dom. She always was your Lady.'
Dom raised his eyes from the console in shock. 'String,' he began hesitantly, 'you can hear me?'
Hawke glanced over his shoulder. 'Sure.' He held Dom's gaze for a heartbeat. 'I can hear you.'
'Well, why didn't you say something before?' Dom asked exasperated and annoyed. 'I've been talking away here for hours.'
'Really?' Hawke turned back to his flying. 'Because you've only been giving me earache since Caitlin left.'
'You saw her?' Dom asked astonished.
'Sure.' Hawke readily agreed. 'She said goodbye.'
'No, no, she didn't, kid.' Dom said urgently. 'You misunderstood.'
'She's dead, Dom.' Hawke blinked the tears out of his eyes at his words. 'She died.' His lips firmed. 'Cordelli killed her.'
'She's not dead yet.' Dom said.
'That's what I thought but her brain isn't active.' Hawke repeated in a strangely calm voice.
Dom wondered how he got through to Hawke. 'Her body's still alive, String.'
'The machines are keeping it that way.' Hawke murmured.
'No,' Dom automatically denied it, 'she's alive and she's trying to get back to you.'
Hawke was silent.
'You have to have a little faith, kid.' Dom urged. 'She wouldn't leave you; not willingly. You know that.'
'Give her a chance.' Dom continued talking over Hawke's hesitant protest. 'You should be with her back at the hospital not flying off on some crazy plan to get vengeance.'
'You told me I'd have a daughter.' Hawke's voice was choked.
'I know I did, kid.' Dom said quietly.
'She lost the baby.' Hawke shook his head, a tear sliding down his cheek. 'So you'll forgive me if I don't believe what you say anymore.'
Dom's eyes saddened. 'String, do you…do you remember when you thought Caitlin was dead?'
'Yeah.' Hawke agreed warily.
'And you remember you knew deep down that Caitlin wasn't dead?' Dom pressed.
Hawke remained silent again.
'You know how Meg told you how you had a bond with her?' Dom asked. 'How that feeling she wasn't dead was so strong?' He leaned over the console as though he could reach through every object between them and touch the younger man. 'What did that bond tell you when the doc gave you the news, huh? What's it telling you now?'
He felt the speed decreasing a little as Hawke eased back; a small sign the other man was listening to him; really listening to him.
'Caitlin's not giving up, kid.' Dom said passionately. 'How can you?'
Hawke pulled up and Airwolf reared up in the sky with a howl. Hawke settled her in a hover above the clouds. 'Airwolf, take over.' He ordered.
The automatic pilot button lit up. Dom gave a sigh; at least they had stopped the relentless flight toward Mexico.
Hawke closed his eyes momentarily. He had thought he was going mad when he'd first heard their voices in their cockpit. Dom's voice behind him; Caitlin's beside him. He'd been convinced he was going insane with grief so he had ignored them; ignored the feel of Caitlin's hand sliding over his, her lips on his cheek…
'whatever happens, tell him I love him…'
Caitlin's words rang in his ears.
No, not goodbye. His wife was fighting to fix the situation; to stay alive. She'd left because she wanted to stay alive and she'd left him with Dom because she knew Dom would keep him alive just like he had with Moffett. Just like he had every day since he'd been swept over the side of a boat in a storm when he was twelve…Hawke's whirling mind settled.
'I'm still here, kid.' Dom said softly.
'Good.' Hawke turned around to look at him fully. His blue eyes gleamed with a fierce determination. 'I have a plan.'
Dom slumped back in his chair and looked at the boy he had raised. 'Why do I think I'm not going to like this?'
Hawke's smile was quick and brief before he turned back to the controls and grasped them firmly. 'Because you're not going to like it.'
'I was afraid you were going to say that,' muttered Dom without heat. He was grinning as Hawke hit the turbos and Airwolf shot forward.---
Antonio Cordelli watched his large family interact with an air of detachment. He looked older than his sixty years; arthritis had warped his knuckles and joints. His skin had already lost its elasticity, its wrinkles marred by liver spots. If his body seemed frail, his mind was anything but and as the rest of his family enjoyed the impromptu trip to Mexico treating it like a surprise holiday, Antonio fumed over the antics of his eldest son…or the man who wore the title.
Giovanni. He'd been such a handsome baby, Antonio recalled. Bright, inquisitive, intelligent. He snorted and ignored the curious stare of his elder sister and her obnoxious husband. Giovanni's intelligence had certainly been lacking in the last year ever since Edward Sallis had turned up at their door.
Antonio grimaced at the thought of the disgraced hit man. Sallis had not aged well in prison nor had the prison time given him any sense. If he had known the man had turned up looking for their protection he would have turned him away. Sallis was a blight; a reminder of the old days and his father's regime. Antonio prided himself on running the business as a business without the ever present threat of violence to keep his employees and family in their place. He would have turned Sallis away or better have had him shot on sight; he wasn't against violence when it was very necessary. Sallis was bad news and unfortunately he had played on Giovanni's ego, stoking it up until his son was incapable of seeing how well he had been manipulated.
He tossed back the last of his brandy and slammed the glass down on the table. He ignored the startled stares of his family and shoved his chair back. He muttered an excuse and waved his bodyguards away as he made his way from the large dining room towards the sweeping marble staircase. The large villa was well-protected; he doubted he was in any danger within its walls. It was the reason why he had brought them all to Mexico.
It was always slow progress going up each step but he firmed his jaw, grasped the banister and made his way. Sallis's arrival had meant the reopening of old business; business Antonio had thought as history and forgotten; the death of his brother Angelo.
Angelo had been his father's favourite; the blue-eyed boy with a penchant for trouble and a violent streak that made him unpredictable. Antonio had feared his brother although he had been born first. There had been something in Angelo's eyes that provoked thoughts of the Devil himself. Evil, pure evil. Angelo had been bad to the core and he had been careless. He had gotten arrested and tried to bribe the judge. Elijah Hawke, a proud, honourable man who wouldn't cave to threats or succumb to bribes. Antonio had admired the man although admittedly not in the presence of his male relatives. He hadn't been surprised when the judge had ended up dead. His only question had been who had ordered the hit; his father or his brother.
If he had admired Elijah, he had also admired the man's son, Alan Hawke. He had fought so hard to bring his father's killer to justice. Alan Hawke had worked out the truth and he had trapped Sallis and Angelo with cunning and intelligence. His father's reaction had been fury. Marco Cordelli had ordered Angelo killed in a fit of pique before he had taken out a contract on Hawke who had disappeared into witness protection although surprisingly without his sons. Antonio sometimes thought it had been regret over the decision to kill Angelo that had led his father to his death soon after.
He had immediately determined the whole incident with the Hawkes to be over. If Alan Hawke had gone into witness protection, being deprived of his sons seemed like enough punishment for the man who had, after all, only been reacting to violence they had begun.
Antonio caught his breath as he landed on the top stair. He moved stiffly down the corridor to his suite of rooms. He opened the door and stepped into the dark. He closed the door and moved soundlessly across the space without switching the lights on. When he reached his desk, he snapped on a small lamp and reached for a cigar. He snipped the end and lit it. He puffed on it happily as he poured himself a large glass of whiskey.
'You know those things are going to kill you.'
His head snapped round.
Hawke's blue eyes met Antonio's across the wide room. The gun he had pointed at the Mob boss glinted in the artificial light.
Antonio took a large drag on his cigar and blew out the smoke. He took his time to recover from the shock of finding the pilot in his office. 'You're better than your reputation.' He noted. 'I didn't think you would get in here.'
Hawke shrugged and waved at a chair with the gun. 'Sit down.'
'Of course.' Antonio hefted the crystal tumbler. 'Can I get you a drink?' He met Hawke's incredulous expression. 'Perhaps not.' He murmured. He made his way to the chair Hawke had indicated and sat. 'What now?'
'We talk.' Hawke said succinctly.
'Talk.' Antonio considered the pilot thoughtfully. 'Of course, I have something you want.' He waved his cigar at Hawke. 'Giovanni.'
Hawke tilted his head.
'You know I was thinking as I walked up the stairs how much I admired your father.' Antonio met his eyes again, trying to ignore the shiver that worked its way down his spine at the icy look directed at him. 'Or should I say admire?' He gestured at Hawke again. 'You're very like him. Oh, not in looks but rather in attitude, in the way you think.' He stopped and stubbed his cigar out in a nearby ashtray. 'I admire you, Stringfellow Hawke.'
'Why, thank you.' Hawke said insincerely.
'You are an intelligent man.' Antonio said hoping he sounded confident enough to impress the younger man who he was rapidly coming to the conclusion was more than capable of killing him without a second thought. 'You and I both know this business between our families should have been over years ago.' He paused. 'I called off the contract my father ordered.' He pulled at the collar of his dress shirt. 'What Giovanni is doing, has done, has been without my sanction.' He grimaced. 'He's trouble.'
'Yes.' Hawke agreed. 'He is.' His words were a low growl.
'Always in and out of trouble,' Antonio continued, 'just like his father.'
He saw the flicker of surprise across Hawke's otherwise impassive face.
'Oh he's only mine on paper.' Antonio smiled cruelly. 'Giovanni is Angelo's son.' He waved his hand. 'My first wife liked screwing around. She thought I didn't know but I knew.' He took a deep breath. 'I'll give you Giovanni.'
'Easy as that?' Hawke taunted him softly.
'Easy as that.' Antonio said coldly. 'His whole plan to go after you…take that machine of yours…it's been bad for business.'
Hawke considered Antonio for a long moment. 'I think you might actually be serious.' He concluded.
'I am.' Antonio said. 'Like I said; this business between our families should have been done with years ago. Angelo killed your grandfather; your father's pursuit of Angelo got him killed. It should have been over. Giovanni's raked it all up again. He has to be stopped; I understand that especially now after his latest attacks.'
'Why should I believe you?' Hawke asked.
Antonio lifted one shoulder up carelessly. 'Because if you agree,' he kept hold of Hawke's eyes, 'I'll also give you Sallis.'---
'Are we sure Hawke is headed to Mexico?' Jo asked nervously as she realigned the systems and wondered if she was doing the right thing. The updated version of Airwolf gleamed with a technological superiority over her original model. The array of unfamiliar controls and buttons had given Jo pause and she was seriously wondering whether she was able to operate the console.
'That's where the Cordelli's are so it's a good bet.' Mike said concentrating on keeping Airwolf steady in the darkness as she hit her top speed. He missed the AI, he thought wistfully as he fought to keep the helicopter at a constant altitude.
'We need to go faster.' Saint John shifted restlessly beside him. 'He could be there by now.'
'Not unless he flew her without the safeties.' Mike muttered.
Saint John shot him a look across the cockpit.
Mike felt it rather than saw it; his attention was taken up by his flying. 'Which is very likely given his frame of mind.' He conceded. 'We're going as fast as we can, Saint John.'
Saint John crossed his arms pulling the shiny material of the lilac uniform taut across his chest. 'Why didn't he tell me?' He asked out loud. 'I would have gone with him.'
'Saint John.' Jo stopped trying to make sense of the data that rolled across her screen and raised her eyes to look at her partner compassionately. 'String's grief-stricken. He's not thinking properly.'
'I get that.' Saint John said defensively.
'No,' Jo contradicted him gently, 'you don't.' She waved a hand at him when he turned to look at her. 'You didn't see him the last time we all thought Caitlin was dead.'
'What happened?' Mike asked when Saint John remained silent.
Jo hesitated wondering how honest she should be with him and with Saint John.
'Well?' Saint John asked brusquely curious as to her answer.
'I came back as soon as Uncle Dom called and told me the news.' Jo began. Her hands twisted together as she thought back to her uncle's crumpled face, the way he had shook with sobs as he held her. 'They were both devastated. They thought they had seen Caitlin die in a helicopter crash right in front of them.'
'God.' Mike uttered. He steadied the helicopter again.
'Hawke was at the cabin when I arrived. He was in bed.' Jo sighed. 'I think he stayed there the entire time until the funeral and even then…' she wet her lips, 'he'd stopped eating pretty much, living really. It was like he'd wrapped himself in this fog and no-one could reach him.'
'No-one?' Saint John checked.
'Not even my Uncle Dom.' Jo confirmed.
'But he went to the funeral?' Saint John frowned confused.
Jo nodded before she realised he couldn't see her. 'Michael convinced him somehow.'
'Michael.' Saint John muttered the other man's name. He closed his eyes briefly on a bite of envy. He'd accepted his brother's relationship with the spy; accepted they were close but at that moment he felt the old jealousy surge to the surface. Michael had been there for his brother; he had not.
Mike felt a sudden jolt under his feet and an instant later, the controls were yanked out of his hand. 'What the hell?'
'What's going on?' yelled Saint John as he grabbed for the nearest console as the helicopter changed course.
'Jo?' Mike asked trying not to sound panicked.
'I don't know!' Jo said desperately trying to tap instructions into the unresponsive computer.
Mike suddenly stopped fighting the controls and stared up at the helicopter. 'Airwolf?'
Saint John glared at his best friend. 'Mike?'
'Airwolf has control.' Mike said apologetically as the flight evened out.
'Well get it back.' Saint John demanded.
'It's not quite that simple.' Mike retorted. He waved at Saint John's furious expression. 'I'll talk to her.' He took a deep breath and rubbed his hands on his thighs nervously. 'Airwolf, this is Major Rivers. I need to take control back.'
I am not authorised at this time to relinquish control.
'Authorised by whom?' Mike asked using his most charming tone.
'Great,' muttered Saint John, 'he must have realised we would come after him and he sent Airwolf to distract us.'
'I'm not sure that's right.' Jo said from the engineer's console.
Saint John turned around to glare at her.
'Our course is still South.' Jo said.
'She's right, Saint John.' Mike agreed looking at their heading. 'Whatever Hawke has in mind, he's not sending us home.'
'Then what is he doing?' Saint John mused out loud.
'He's your brother.' Mike pointed out. 'You tell us.'
Saint John sighed and wished again that he had never left his brother alone for sixteen years. He felt suddenly uncertain at the younger man's actions. He shook his head. 'I don't know.' He admitted miserably.
'Your brother's a good strategist.' Mike offered. 'So presumably…'
'This has to be part of his strategy.' Saint John concluded. 'Which means…'
'He's got some kind of plan.' Mike finished. His eyes met Saint John's hopefully.
'He's thinking.' Saint John said with relief. 'He might still be after Cordelli but it isn't some kind of suicide run.'
'That would be my guess.' Mike reached across the cockpit and patted Saint John's shoulder.
The incoming communication beacon sounded.
Mike hit it and a picture of a tired looking Michael appeared on the screen.
'Do you have any news?' The spy asked wearily.
'Airwolf has control.' Mike said cheerfully.
Michael frowned. 'Excuse me?'
'Airwolf has control.' Saint John repeated.
'But we think that's good news.' Mike continued.
Michael made a visible effort not to snap at them. 'Explain.'
'We're headed for Mexico, Michael.' Jo responded. 'We think Hawke's bringing us in as part of whatever plan he's running with…'
'But he has a plan.' Michael realised out loud. His blue eye flashed suddenly alert. He brushed a finger over his moustache. 'He isn't on a suicidal run.'
'Doesn't look like it.' Saint John said with relief.
Michael leaned forward. 'Keep me informed.'
The image blanked out.
'Now what?' Saint John asked.
Mike shrugged and unzipped a pocket on his uniform. He brought out a candy bar and threw it at Saint John. 'I guess we get comfortable.'
'I thought my brother had banned these.' Saint John noted as he unwrapped it.
'What he doesn't know.' Mike said breezily.
The incoming communication beacon sounded again.
Mike hit the button. 'Did you forget something, Michael?' He asked around a mouthful chocolate without looking at the video image.
'Since when am I Michael?' Hawke asked frowning into the camera.
Mike choked on the chocolate and threw the offending treat over his shoulder.
'And is that candy?' Hawke asked in an outraged voice.
'It was your brother's idea.' Mike said defensively ignoring Saint John's look of reproach.
'Hmmm.' Hawke looked up into the camera with narrowed eyes. 'I'm going to conference in Michael. Hold on a moment.'
Mike smoothed his uniform oblivious to the streak of chocolate he left across the lilac.
A second later, the video screen split into two; one side showing Hawke; the other, Michael.
'It's good to see you, Hawke.' Michael said sincerely.
'Sorry for…' Hawke waved a hand.
'You don't need to apologise.' Saint John cut in. 'We know the news about Caitlin had to…' he stopped unable to continue himself at the thought of his sister-in-law's death.
'She's not dead yet.' Hawke muttered.
Michael's eye peered intently down the screen. 'You sound like you know that for certain.' There was a question in the depths of the statement.
Hawke appeared to look behind him for a moment. 'Yeah.' His eyes met Michael's. 'You could say an old friend told me.'
Michael started smiling and hid it quickly bringing a hand up to stroke at his moustache.
Saint John frowned in confusion. 'String?'
'Don't worry, Saint John.' Hawke gestured at his brother. 'I'm not crazy.'
Mike and Saint John exchanged a worried look.
Hawke shifted. 'I spoke with Antonio Cordelli.' He said bluntly. It got their attention just like he intended.
'And?' Michael asked impatiently.
'He wants to deal.' Hawke confirmed. 'He's promised to leave us alone so long as we leave his business alone.' He paused. 'He's giving us Giovanni.'
'Just like that?' Saint John asked sceptically. 'He's his son.'
'Apparently not.' Hawke said. 'Giovanni is Angelo's son.' He shrugged. 'He wants rid of him.'
Saint John's hazel eyes firmed remembering Locke's death. 'Well, we're happy to oblige.'
'Giovanni thought I'd attack the villa in a full frontal assault.' Hawke explained. 'He's waiting with a counter-attack to the South. I have the location's coordinates. Sallis is with Cordelli.'
'Sallis?' Saint John's smile was feral. 'This just gets better.'
'I'm on my way there now to do a recon.' Hawke said.
'Are you sure that's wise?' Saint John asked. 'We'll be with you soon. We can help.'
'I'm OK.' Hawke gave a sad smile. 'I have back-up.'
Saint John frowned. 'What back-up? The AI's flying with us.'
'About that?' Mike asked delicately.
Hawke's eyes flickered to him. 'At least she doesn't eat candy.'
Mike shot him an aggrieved look.
Hawke sighed. 'OK. She'll lock in the coordinates and relinquish control back to you. I'll meet you there.'
Mike reached for the controls and was pleased when he felt them respond to his touch. 'Thanks.'
Hawke's attention moved to Michael. 'I need you to do something for me, Michael.'
'Anything.' Michael said simply.
Hawke cleared his throat. 'I need you to go and sit with Caitlin. I need you to tell her that I love her and I'm on my way home to her; tell her to keep fighting.'
Michael nodded slowly. 'I'll tell her.'
'Thanks, Michael.' Hawke's gaze moved back to his brother's. 'I'll see you later.'
The images winked out.
Jo took a deep breath. 'I have a landing site locked in the computer.'
'Think he'll really wait for us?' Mike asked idly.
'He doesn't have a reason not to.' Jo offered her eyes shining hopefully.
Saint John sighed. 'I hope to God he does.'
'What do you think he meant about back-up?' Jo wondered out loud.
'I don't know.' Saint John admitted. 'But he will have back-up.' He looked across at Mike and then back at her. 'He'll have us.'---
Giovanni Cordelli's Mexican base was an old army airfield. Cordelli had made the most of its highly defensible position and had added to its meagre defences. It was well-armed with ground-to-air missile systems, anti-aircraft guns on the roof and at least one armoured tank. Two heavily modified helicopters were on the ground outside; Hawke figured there was at least another one inside the hangar. He looked at the scans they had taken before they had flown to the meeting location with a frown.
'Whoowhee. He's armed to the teeth, String.' Dom whistled at the impressive list of armaments.
'Yeah,' Hawke agreed, 'you think he was expecting us, Dom?'
'You think the old man tipped him off?'
'Maybe.' Hawke shrugged. 'He may not like Giovanni but maybe he wanted to give him a chance.'
'Or maybe this guy's just paranoid, kid.' Dom murmured.
'Maybe.' Hawke repeated softly peering out of the windshield at the empty field.
'You are going to wait for your brother?' Dom asked suspiciously.
'I said I would.' Hawke muttered.
Dom harrumphed. He glanced at Hawke's head. 'How are things going between the two of you anyway?'
'You talk to Michael,' Hawke said dryly, 'I'm sure you know.'
'String.' Dom rolled his eyes.
'We're OK.' Hawke said. 'It was a bit rough at first but we got through it.'
'That's good to hear.'
'You know about our folks?' Hawke shifted to look at his old mentor.
Dom grinned at him. 'I know. I'm happy for you, kid. Your Dad's a good man and your Mom is a sweetheart.'
'You were right to drop it, Dom.' Hawke murmured. 'Before you…' he waved a hand at him unable to mention his death, 'when you asked Michael to look into it.' He held Dom's gaze. 'You were right to drop it.'
'Now don't go blaming yourself, String.' Dom said knowing Hawke too well not to know what was driving the younger man's thoughts. 'What happened to Caitlin wasn't your fault.'
'It was my decision to find my parents.' Hawke argued. 'I'm responsible for stirring things up and getting Cordelli mad enough to try and kill her.'
'You had no way of knowing.' Dom insisted. 'And besides, you think Caitlin would be happy thinking you'd decided against being reunited with your folks because of something that might happen to her.'
Hawke slumped back into his seat. 'I don't know what I'm going to do, Dom, if she doesn't…'
'Hey, this is Cait we're talking about.' Dom gave a huff of laughter. 'She's the only person I know who maybe has as many lives as you do. If anyone can make it back from this, she can.'
'I hope so.' Hawke murmured.
'I know so.' Dom assured him.
Hawke shook his head. 'I can't believe you're actually here.'
Dom's expression softened. 'I said I'd be backing you, kid, I meant it.'
'I know you did, Dom.' Hawke looked over his shoulder again before he turned back to the sky. 'You can't stay though, can you?'
There was a sliver of hope in his voice that broke Dom's heart. ''Fraid not, kid.' He said regretfully. 'As soon as you're through this…I'll have to move on.'
Hawke nodded. 'I thought so.'
'I'm sorry…' Dom began helplessly.
'Don't be.' Hawke turned to him for a third time. 'I'm just glad I got this time with you.'
'Me too.' Dom said quietly. A flicker on the console drew his attention. 'Heads up, kid. We got company. Your brother's finally arrived.'
The second Airwolf descended and came to a rest in front of them as he finished speaking. Hawke pushed open his door and made his way over to the other machine.
Saint John stepped out and hugged him hard. 'You OK?'
'About Caitlin…' Saint John began awkwardly.
'Let's not talk about that right now.' Hawke said firmly. He nodded an acknowledgement at Mike and accepted a hug from Jo.
'We checked out Cordelli's base on our way here.' Mike began without preamble.
Hawke's lips twitched. 'And what did you find out?'
'That he has a lot of armaments protecting that place.' Jo said anxiously folding her arms around her body.
'A lot.' Mike noted.
Hawke nodded and leaned back against the original Airwolf's nose. 'It's a trap.'
'You have a plan?' Mike asked hopefully.
Hawke quirked an eyebrow upwards as he crossed his arms. 'Maybe.'
'You want to let the rest of us in on it?' Saint John asked a little tersely.
'He's expecting a full out aerial assault.' Hawke noted waving a hand in a vague gesture. 'At a guess, I think he expected me to be completely consumed by grief and to just hit the villa.'
'Prompting him into a counter-attack which would have taken you out.' Saint John finished.
'He didn't realise you'd stop and think about what you were doing.' Jo murmured.
'I almost didn't.' Hawke admitted. If it hadn't been for Caitlin and Dom…
'So what's the plan?' Mike asked getting them back on track.
Hawke's eyes gleamed. 'One of us gives him what he expects but we hit the air-field. When he gets birds in the air for a counter-attack…'
'The other Airwolf joins in support.' Saint John nodded. 'That could work.'
'How do we know we've got Cordelli though?' Jo asked.
'One of us goes in on the ground.' Hawke said. 'We make the id before we start the attack.'
'That's me.' Saint John said firmly.
Hawke shook his head. 'It's too risky.'
'You and Mike are both better pilots.' Saint John argued. 'This is exactly the type of work I'm used to doing. I'll go in on the ground.' He held his brother's gaze. 'Besides, I owe Locke.'
Hawke felt his own resolve weaken. 'OK but you don't engage Cordelli. Understood?'
Saint John agreed swiftly, so fast that Hawke looked at him suspiciously.
'I'll back you up on the ground.' Jo offered.
'No.' Saint John shook his head. 'It's too dangerous.'
'Saint John's right, Jo.' Hawke said supportively. 'If we didn't need to make the id, none of us would be on the ground.'
'And I still need an engineer.' Mike added.
Jo looked unhappily at the three men and folded her arms. 'I'm perfectly capable…' she began furiously.
'Yes, you are,' agreed Hawke cutting in brusquely, 'but not this time.' His resolute eyes met hers.
She flushed but subsided.
Hawke turned back to his brother. 'As soon as we know we've gotten Cordelli, we'll pick you up.'
Saint John nodded as he checked his gun.
'I'll begin the attack.' Hawke said gesturing at Mike. 'You come in as back-up; drop Saint John near the air field. Are we all clear on the plan?'
'We're clear.' Mike said easily.
'Then let's go.' Hawke said pushing off Airwolf and heading back to his cockpit. He closed the door and reached for his helmet as he watched the other three climb into the second Airwolf.
'You did the right thing keeping Jo out of it.' Dom said with satisfaction. 'It's too dangerous.'
'Yeah.' Hawke adjusted the heavy helmet until it sat as comfortably as it could. He started Airwolf up. The growl of the engines underscored the high whine of the rotors as they began to beat against the air. He grasped the cyclic and took Airwolf up into the dark sky. He snapped the visor down and activated the night vision. He allowed Mike to take lead.
Two dark shadows swung over the Mexican countryside heading for Cordelli's base. Hawke split off as Mike headed to drop Saint John near the airfield. He hovered impatiently as he waited for Saint John's radio signal. He shifted impatiently and Airwolf rocked.
'Easy, String.' Dom cautioned him. 'He'll call.'
'I'm not sure this was a good idea.' Hawke admitted.
'You mean allowing Saint John to go in on the ground?' Dom sighed. 'You didn't really have a choice, kid, and at least he's agreed not to engage Cordelli.'
Hawke stiffened as he heard Dom say the words out loud. He turned slowly to look at the older pilot over his shoulder. 'He's not going to keep to that is he?'
Dom opened his mouth and closed it again.
Hawke swivelled back round. 'Damn.'
'Now, String, don't go getting yourself all worked up.' Dom said hurriedly. 'You could be wrong.'
Hawke didn't reply and the radio crackled to life.
'This is Groundwolf to Airwolf. I have visual confirmation. Cordelli is in the North side of the building in an office.'
'This is Airwolf One.' Hawke radioed back. 'Find a safe spot, Saint John. I'm coming in hot.' He signed off and eased forward.
'What are you going to do?' Dom asked worriedly.
'Nothing.' Hawke said. 'It's his decision.'
'Locke was his friend, Dom.' Hawke sighed. 'Weapons to combat mode.'
Dom pressed his lips into a thin line of disapproval but he confirmed the helicopter was armed.
Hawke called for the turbos and an instant later they shot forward across the sky. He kept low, invisible to radar. He zipped over the outer defences, took out one anti-aircraft guns on the roof that could target him. He lined up with the two helicopters on the ground outside the hangar and fired at one. It blew up with a satisfying bang. Hawke was already swinging back around.
'They're moving now.' Dom noted as the scans picked up the rapidly scrambling Cordelli forces on the ground.
Hawke had to evade some anti-aircraft gunfire and his second missile intended for the remaining helicopter went wide and into some ammo on the far side.
'String, that second bird is in the air.' Dom warned.
'Airwolf Two, this is Airwolf One requesting assistance.' Hawke radioed.
'We've got a missile on our tail.' Dom hit the button for a sunburst. 'It didn't take the sun-burst.'
'You called?' Mike quipped as he flew between Hawke and the missile picking it up with ease to send it into the West side of the hangar.
'You take the bird in the air.' Hawke ordered. 'I'll take out the ground targets.'
'Understood.' Mike responded crisply. He swung back around and a moment later, Hawke caught a glimpse of the two helicopters chasing each other over the old runway.
Hawke picked off the other anti-aircraft guns; the armoured tank fired a missile and he dodged it easily before firing two missiles into at it and another ground-to-air missile launcher.
'Scan the inside of that building.' Hawke ordered. 'I want to know where my brother is.'
Dom brought up the scan on the engineer's console. 'I have him, String, he's…in the office with Cordelli.' He looked at the screen in horror. 'He's in trouble.'
'Drop me on the roof,' Hawke snapped, 'and continue taking out the ground targets.'
'I'm on it, kid.' Dom promised as Airwolf hovered over the hangar.
Hawke pushed his door open and jumped down onto the roof of the building. He ran in a crouch, his gun in his hand across the expanse of space to the roof door. He barrelled into one of Cordelli's men and took him out without hesitation. He threw himself down the stairs.
The hangar was mostly deserted but a pilot was in the chopper and the rotors had started creating a wind funnel within the building. Hawke ignored the flying debris and crept across the hangar. He could hear the distinctive sound of Airwolf's howl as she circled the building outside punctuated by explosions on the ground. He peeked through the large internal window into the office.
Saint John was being held between two large muscular men. His face was bloody and he'd obviously taken a beating.
'You thought you could get me here?' Cordelli sneered shoving his own face into Saint John's.
Saint John spat at him. The spittle landed on Cordelli's cheek.
The mobster wiped it away angrily before he hauled back and hit Saint John across the face splitting his lip. 'I should never have listened to Locke. I should have had him kill you immediately instead of using the poison.'
'You'll pay for Locke's death.' Saint John promised grimly.
'You seem to forget who has who hostage.' Cordelli flexed his hand. 'Your brother will drop this attack.'
'You killed his wife.' Saint John pointed out incredulously. 'You think he's going to forget that.'
'I have you.' Cordelli said fiercely. 'He won't risk losing you too.'
'You're right, Cordelli.' Hawke spun into the doorway, his gun raised and pointed at the other man. 'Let him go.'
They all turned to look at him in shock.
'Get him!' Cordelli yelled.
Saint John reacted. He slammed his elbow into one beefy guard and snapped his wrist back into the nose of the other. Cordelli threw himself at Hawke sending them sprawling across the hangar floor. Hawke lost hold of his gun and it scuttled away from his reach as Cordelli grabbed him and punched his gut.
Hawke gave a growl and kicked the other man off him. Cordelli landed in a heap a few feet away. A guard ran up to help his boss to his feet; Cordelli pointed at Hawke. 'Get him!'
Hawke barely had time to react before the guy tackled him. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Cordelli heading to the chopper; it took off skimming the ground until it was clear of the hangar and airborne. Hawke felt his head snap back as the guy grappling with him smacked him. Hawke clubbed him over the head and kneed him in the groin. The guy crumpled satisfactorily and Hawke managed to get to his feet. He rescued his gun and went to rescue his brother.
Saint John slammed the face of his assailant into his knee and watched as the guy landed unconscious to join his buddy on the floor. He wiped the blood from his mouth breathing heavily and looked up to find Hawke in the doorway.
'Cordelli's getting away.' Hawke said succinctly.
'What are we waiting for?' Saint John asked bluntly.
They ran out of the office and headed for the stairs to take them back to the roof. Hawke radioed for Airwolf to come and pick them up. The helicopter swung around and hovered near them. They shot at a couple of chasing guards as they climbed aboard; Hawke into the commander seat, Saint John into the front seat next to him.
'Where's Cordelli's chopper?' Hawke asked crisply as he manoeuvred away from the building before he fired two missiles into it setting it ablaze. He glanced over his shoulder and Dom nodded at him; he was still with him.
'Directly ahead.' Saint John said as he brought up the scan. 'Airwolf Two, what's your position?'
'Our target led us a little off course.' Mike radioed back. 'We're five minutes out from your position to the East.'
'Get back here.' Saint John ordered as Hawke hit the turbos.
They flew past Cordelli and buffeted the chopper badly.
'Set it down, Cordelli.' Saint John instructed gravely. 'Or we will fire on you.'
'Missile.' Dom noted at the same time Saint John did.
'Direct hit.' Saint John confirmed. He radioed the chopper again. 'You know you can't beat us in the air, Cordelli. This is your last chance; set it down.'
'You may have won the battle, Hawke,' growled Cordelli, 'but I'll win the war.'
'He's coming at us on a direct intercept course.' Saint John said urgently looking across at his brother.
Hawke's hand remained steady on the stick. His eyes narrowed.
'Aren't you curious where Sallis is? Why he isn't with me?' Cordelli taunted.
Both brothers went still at the radio message.
Sallis is finishing what he started.' Cordelli laughed. 'Your family is already dead!'
Hawke fired, his fingers clenching around the trigger. The chain guns spat ammo at the helicopter coming at them; it blew in front of them. A glorious ball of red, orange and yellow. Smoke billowed out towards them and Hawke hit the turbos to take them out of danger.
'Guys?' Jo's panicked voice filled the cockpit.
'We're still here, Jo.' Saint John confirmed breathing a sigh of relief. He turned to his brother. 'String, if what he said about Sallis…'
'Get Michael.' Hawke ordered.
Saint John's hand had barely reached for the communication panel when Airwolf had them connected.
'Hawke?' Michael's image appeared on the screen.
'We got Cordelli.' Hawke said succinctly. 'We think Sallis is in LA; maybe at the hospital. He's probably after my folks and Caitlin.'
Michael's face set grimly. 'I'll see they are protected.'
'I'll go on ahead, kid.' Dom offered. 'I can't do anything here…'
'Thanks.' Hawke said to both men. 'We're on our way.' He disconnected the call
'We're right behind you.' Mike radioed briskly.
Saint John rubbed his sore face. 'We'll get there, String.' He said trying to reassure his younger brother.
'Yeah.' Hawke's jaw firmed. 'We will.'---
Michael made his way back to the waiting room hurriedly. His presence quieted the Hawkes almost immediately. 'They got Cordelli.' He told them.
'Thank God!' Jane breathed out heavily in relief and hugged Nicky to her gently. 'Are they…?'
'Saint John looked a little bruised but they both seem OK.' Michael assured her. 'We have another problem.'
'Another problem?' Alan frowned. 'What problem?'
'It seems Sallis could be here. Hawke thinks he's going to make an attempt on your life.' Michael informed them calmly.
'Oh my God.' Sarah clutched at her mother who grabbed her hand and held it tightly.
'I've organised a chopper and pilot. They're waiting on the roof to take you to Red Star.' Michael said.
'What about Caitlin?' Alan asked gruffly.
Michael caught his worried gaze. 'Marella's with her. The O'Shaunessy's left for their hotel a while ago.'
'I'll stay with you.' Alan said decisively.
'Alan…' Jane handed her grandson to Sarah and stood up to argue with her husband.
'I'm the one Sallis really wants.' Alan said. 'If he is here, his attention should be on me not on String's wife.'
'Without being mean about it, Dad,' Seb interjected, 'but she's dead already.' He ignored the look Michael shot him.
'Maybe Sallis doesn't see it that way.' Alan said. 'And even if she is, she deserves dignity. I won't let Sallis touch her.'
'Although I disagree with the reason,' Michael said looking at the older man, 'I have to agree with your son. You should go to Red Star.'
'I began this fight.' Alan said stubbornly, his blue eyes flashing in a way that reminded Michael of Hawke. 'I'll finish it.'
'Alan.' Jane took hold of his hand. 'Please.'
'I have to do this, Jane.' Alan said quietly. 'You take the kids.' He dropped a kiss on her lips and hugged her close for a moment before he spun away and out of the room.
Jane looked after him with tear-filled eyes. She took a deep breath. 'Come on. You heard your father.'
'Mom…' Seb protested.
'I mean it, Seb.' Jane waved at Nicky and a sleeping Chris. 'We have more than ourselves to think about.'
'Thank you, Mrs Hawke.' Michael said gratefully.
'Look after him.' Jane instructed as she took hold of Nicky again and picked up her purse.
'I will.' Michael escorted them to the roof and saw them safely into the waiting chopper. An escort plane would see them all the way to Red Star. He went back down the stairs and checked the waiting room. Alan had disappeared. Michael sighed and rubbed his neck trying to ease the tension there.
'Lost something, Michael?' Dom asked dryly.
'Funny, Dominic.' Michael's good eye snapped to the ghost. 'Do you know where he is?'
'I'll find him.' Dom promised.
'Bring him to Caitlin's room.' Michael instructed.
'I will do.'
Dom vanished in front of him. Michael shook his head and headed for Caitlin's room. He closed the door behind him and a took a seat on the far side of the bed next to Marella.
'How is she?' Michael asked solemnly.
'No change.' Marella sighed. She sat back dispirited. 'I know Hawke said he believed she wasn't dead yet, Michael, but there's no sign.' She swiped at her eyes. 'I think it was wishful thinking.'
'I don't know.' Michael said seriously taking her hand in his. 'I thought it was wishful thinking when he told me she hadn't died in that crash.'
'Any news?' Marella asked.
'Not from Airwolf.' Michael shook his head. 'All the Hawkes apart from String's father are on their way to Red Star.'
'That's something.' Marella murmured.
Michael nodded. 'I've asked security to let me know if they get a sighting of Sallis. Local law enforcement is watching the exits.' He sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose. 'There's not too much else we can do.'
'I guess not.'
Michael rubbed Marella's hand. 'Did you give her the message from Hawke?'
Marella nodded. 'I told her; don't give up.'
'He wants her to keep fighting so badly.' Michael sighed. 'It's going to kill him if she dies.'
A choking sound came from the bed and they leapt to their feet.
'Caitlin?' Marella asked astounded. She hurried over to the stirring woman and calmed her gently. 'Stay still. You have a tube in your throat helping you to breathe. I'm going to remove it.' She glanced at Michael. 'Get Lem and a nurse.'
Caitlin waited patiently as Marella saw to the respirator and she gratefully swallowed some soothing water after the tube was taken away. 'Hawke?' She whispered tiredly.
'On his way here.' Marella said holding her hand. 'He went after Cordelli but he's on his way home to you.'
'Nicky?' Caitlin wet her dry lips and tried to fight the urge to slip back into unconsciousness.
'He's safe.' Marella assured her.
Caitlin's eyes fluttered close again as Lem entered the room at a run, along with a nurse and Michael. Michael and Marella were ushered outside while they conducted tests. They were pacing outside when Alan appeared. Michael could see Dom was with him but he ignored the ghost and focused on the man.
'She woke up.' Michael said bluntly.
'She…' Alan's eyes widened. 'Wow.'
'Yeah.' Michael agreed taking in his shock.
Lem came out and greeted them with a self-conscious smile. 'Well, this is indeed a miracle. I have to say I have never seen this in my time as a doctor before.'
'Is she OK?' Marella asked concerned.
'Her brain seems to be functioning normally.' Lem said authoratively. 'She's breathing on her own and maintaining all her body's functions without intervention.' He shook his head in disbelief. 'She's asleep now.'
Marella turned to Michael and he hugged her tightly as they both gave in briefly to the need to hold each other.
'Can we sit with her?' Alan asked.
'Of course.' Lem said. 'If there is any change, please have the nurse alert me immediately.'
They all nodded.
'I should go and call the O'Shaunessy's.' Marella said. She kissed Michael's cheek and walked away swiftly.
A nurse walked up to the two men before they could enter Caitlin's room.
'Mr Briggs?' She smiled shyly. 'I have a call at the nurse's station for you from security.'
Michael hesitated and Alan waved him away. 'It could be Sallis. I'll watch her.'
Dom nodded at him and Michael agreed reluctantly. He walked away following the nurse down the corridor.
Alan entered the room and took a seat by the bed. He watched the woman in the bed and shook his head at her continuing existence. 'You must be some young lady.' He noted. 'I guess that's why my son married you.'
The door behind him opened.
Alan froze. 'I've been expecting you.' He stood up and turned around.
Sallis grinned at him and waved him away from the bed with the gun he held. 'Alan Hawke. At last.' He watched as the pilot raised his hands slowly. 'You've given me so much trouble and now it's all going to be over.' He raised the gun and pointed it at Caitlin.
'It's me you want, Sallis.' Alan said quickly regaining the other man's attention.
'Oh don't worry you'll get your turn.' Sallis promised.
Alan watched as Sallis swung the gun back around to his daughter-in-law…
Dom appeared between Sallis and the bed…'Now, Al!' He yelled.
Sallis's eyes widened and he froze in shock at the sight of the ghost.
Alan threw himself across the room…
The gun went off with a loud bang.
The two men struggled; they rolled across the floor as Michael and Marella entered the room…
Michael ignored Dom and skirted around the bed to stand protectively over a stirring Caitlin; his gun was poised to shoot the moment he had a clear shot. An instant later, he felt Marella beside him…
Alan punched Sallis in the stomach; Sallis socked him in the jaw. They broke apart breathing heavily as Sallis regained the grip on his gun and pointed it in Alan's belly…
'It's over.' Sallis snarled.
The shot sounded loudly in the small hospital room.
Sallis dropped to the floor; a single gunshot wound in his forehead.
Alan, Michael and Marella's eyes snapped to the open doorway. Hawke lowered his gun and took a step into the room. His eyes flew to Caitlin.
She blinked heavily and smiled tremulously at him. Her hand waved tentatively at him. He was across the room in a heartbeat, his hand taking hold of hers as he stooped to drop a kiss on her lips.
Jo's tremulous voice caught all their attentions. She and Saint John had sneaked just into the inside of the room.
Dom stared at his niece in surprise. 'You can see me?'
'I think we can all see you, Dominic.' Michael noted.
Dom looked around the room as everyone nodded in agreement, varying degrees of shock on their faces. He felt the pull away from the living world even as he took a step towards Jo and she threw herself at him hugging him tightly.
'It's OK. There now.' Dom patted her back before he disentangled himself and pushed her gently at Saint John. 'Take care of her.'
Saint John nodded jerkily. 'I will, Uncle Dom.'
Dom turned around and met Michael's eye. 'Michael…'
'I know, Dominic.' Michael said softly. 'Thank you.' His gaze drifted to Marella for an instant. 'For everything.'
Dom nodded in acknowledgement. He faced his old friend. 'Al.'
'Dom.' Alan's voice was choked; his blue eyes filled with tears. He took a step forward and wrapped Dom in hug before stepping back.
'Kept my promise, Al.' Dom said gruffly.
Alan nodded swiftly. 'My turn.' He promised. 'I'll look after them now.'
Dom smiled sadly. 'You always were the best friend I ever had.'
'You were better.' Alan said not caring that the tears were running freely down his face.
Dom wrenched his gaze away from his old friend. His sad eyes caught Caitlin's. She smiled at him and he moved onto the boy he had raised. 'String.'
Hawke's eyes were already filled with tears. 'Don't leave.' The words were blurted out; heartfelt and raw.
The older pilot grabbed hold of Hawke and held him tightly. 'I have to go, kid.' He whispered. He moved back, a hand at the back of Hawke's neck. He patted him and bussed his cheek. 'You're going to be OK, String. You've got your father again…'
'I've always had a father.' Hawke interrupted gruffly. 'I've always had you.'
'And you'll always have me.' Dom agreed his voice breaking. He took a step back. 'Remember; I'm always backing you, kid.'
He was gone.
In a blink of eye the space where he had stood was empty.
Caitlin's fingers tangled around Hawke's and drew his attention. He crouched down so their faces were almost touching.
'I thought I'd lost you too.' He admitted softly.
She wiped away his tears. 'Hey.' She said weakly. 'I'm a Hawke, aren't I?'
Hawke nodded as his fingers skimmed her cheek. 'Yes. You are.'
'Well, I have it on good authority,' Caitlin said firmly, 'that Hawkes don't give up.'
Joy lit up Hawke's blue eyes as he kissed his wife. Whatever he had lost and whatever he had gained, he already had everything; he had her.