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Fanfiction: One of the Family - Part II

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Chapter 3


Mike pulled up in front of Santini Air and turned to Chris with a ready grin. ‘And I still say Duran Duran are the best band ever.’

‘You are so old,’ Chris complained, ‘and so wrong.’

Sarah sighed dramatically and poked her head through from the back seat. ‘And as fascinating as this debate is perhaps we could get to work.’

‘Yes, Mom.’ Chris rolled his eyes at Mike but he got out of the car. He walked with a cocky confidence that only a seventeen year old could exude. Mike watched as the young man who was soon to be his step-son disappeared into the hangar. Chris was hanging in at school to complete his senior year but his heart was already at the airfield, already in the sky.

Sarah watched him go and nudged Mike with her fist. ‘Are you coming in?’

‘Yeah,’ Mike said, ‘I’ve got some time.’ He helped his fiancée out and slung an arm around her shoulders as they made their way inside.

They found Saint John tightening the bolts on the rotor of the latest helicopter to bear the trademark design of Santini Air.

Sarah yelled up at her brother. ‘Hey, Saint John, you want some coffee?’

‘Sounds good.’ Saint John called back. He climbed down the ladder, wiping his hands on a rag and walked with them into the office.

‘So, you decided to join us today, Mike?’ Saint John asked, accepting a mug from his sister with a smile.

‘Actually, no.’ Mike picked up a pen and played with it absently. ‘Your brother skipped out on today’s test run so I’m covering.’

Saint John lowered the mug. ‘Skipped out?’

‘Spending the time with Caitlin and the kids, hopefully.’ Sarah said pulling a face. Her expression gave away her opinion of her brother’s recent behaviour.

Mike and Saint John exchanged a look.

She noticed it immediately and sighed heavily. ‘Men.’

‘Sarah,’ Mike caught hold of her hand and kissed her knuckles, ‘you and I both know your brother would never cheat on Caitlin.’

‘Just ignore her and the kids to run around after some other woman.’ Sarah retorted.

‘It’s not that simple.’ Saint John said. ‘I think Dad’s heart attack brought back a lot of stuff for him.’

‘It wasn’t exactly a picnic for any of us.’ Sarah muttered. ‘And it shouldn’t be an excuse.’ She sipped her coffee, dropped a kiss on Mike’s lips. ‘Come find me when you’ve finished gossiping with Saint John.’

‘Hey!’ Mike protested as she shot him a brilliant smile over her shoulder on her way out, ‘we don’t gossip!’ He looked over at Saint John. ‘We just discuss topics in a manly way.’

Saint John snorted. ‘How are the wedding preparations going?’

‘Sarah’s happy.’ Mike quipped. ‘I’m happy.’ His eyes glinted. ‘You worked out the bachelor thing yet?’

‘Are you sure you want to risk it?’ Saint John shot back. ‘You know what usually happens when you invite my brother to one of those things.’

Mike grinned. ‘I’ll risk it.’

Saint John raised his mug. ‘You’re a brave man.’ He paused for dramatic effect. ‘Or stupid.’ He smiled. ‘I’m thinking of going with stupid.’

Mike stuck his tongue out at him. He glanced through the door and back at Saint John. ‘About Jo...’

‘I told you it’s OK, Mike.’

Saint John’s jaw tensed and Mike knew it wasn’t really OK; his best man just didn’t want to spoil Mike’s day by asking him not to invite her. Mike sighed. He almost hadn’t but he and Jo were still friends and he wanted to keep it that way. He had thought – hoped – she would refuse the invite.

Mike changed the subject. ‘So you think your brother’s come to his senses at last?’

‘I hope so.’ Saint John said strongly. He looked down at his coffee. ‘I went to see Michael a couple of days ago.’

‘Really?’

‘He pretty much told me Dad’s heart attack probably brought back all the stuff about losing people and that if Caitlin was letting String work it out, we should keep out of it.’ Saint John shook his head. ‘I don’t know why I didn’t work it out.’

Mike caught the suppressed frustration in the older man’s voice. He knew how it rankled Saint John that Michael understood his brother better than him on some things. ‘You couldn’t have known, Saint John.’

‘Why not?’ Saint John demanded. ‘It’s my godddamn fault he has that fear!’ He sloshed the coffee over the side of the mug and swore.

‘Saint John, it’s not your fault anymore than it’s your parents’ or even Hawke’s.’ Mike said unusually serious. ‘He went through hell because he lost you all. It left scars. He’s just lucky Caitlin understands him.’

‘She told me to stay out of it.’ Saint John muttered. ‘Like I can just stay out of it when he’s my brother and she’s...’ he stopped suddenly.

Mike was left wondering what his friend was going to say. ‘Well, it looks like they’re sorting through it.’ He said opting for a cheerful view.

‘Let’s hope so.’ Saint John grumbled.

‘I’d better head out.’ Mike said. ‘Take care.’ They hugged, patting each other’s back before parting.

Sarah called Mike over as he left the office. ‘Hey you!’

Mike walked over, picked her up, twirled her around and stole a kiss.

‘Oh, gross!’ Chris complained from under the helicopter.

‘I didn’t hear you complaining when you were making out with Elena Lopez.’ Mike shot back.

‘She’s not my Mom.’ Chris pointed out.

Mike grinned at Sarah who was biting her lip and trying not to laugh. ‘Thank God for that.’ He kissed her again. ‘See you later, beautiful.’

‘Be safe.’ Sarah called out as he headed out of the hangar. He glanced behind him and grinned. She was beautiful; her mink brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, blue eyes shining at him. He was thankful he’d had the sense to grab hold of her; that he hadn’t allowed the rather daunting prospect of what her brothers would think sway him from getting involved with her.

Two more weeks, he reminded himself as he made for the chopper; two more weeks and she would be Mrs Mike Rivers, and he’d have a step-son. He and Sarah had already talked about adding to their family once they were married. He couldn’t wait. Of course, if someone had told him when he’d first met Sarah that they’d get married, live happily ever after, he would have laughed at them.

The journey to Red Star took a while and he let the flight absorb him. Too soon it seemed he was setting down on one of the helipads and making his way into the building. He changed into the Airwolf lilac flight suit and made for the briefing room.

Seb was already present as was Michael’s daughter, Angelina. He shook his head. It seemed to Mike like yesterday when she’d been a young schoolgirl in pigtails. She was training to join the flight crew; a situation he knew made Michael terrified and proud in equal measure. One of the Airwolf crews was in constant operation out in the Middle East; one always on stand-by in the US for missions that originated directly from the White House. Being part of an Airwolf crew was a dangerous job.

But then Angelina had already seen more danger than most twenty-two year olds and losing her fiancé two years before had seemingly pushed her into her current direction. She was good; incredibly smart; disciplined. Her physical training had added muscle to her slim frame. She wasn’t a bad pilot either. She and Airwolf had developed quite a rapport in the sky.

Mike nodded a greeting at Seb and sat down, happily lifting a foot onto the shiny briefing table and crossing his legs at the ankle. Michael limped in a moment later, leaning heavily on his cane. Mike saw Angelina frown and grip her chair as though to prevent herself from going over to him.

‘Sorry to keep you waiting.’ Michael pressed a button and the screen behind him leapt into life. ‘The test run is over Yellowstone National Park. Your assignment is to take geothermal images of the whole park...’

‘Why?’ Mike asked interested. ‘Are we looking for lost tourists?’

‘Actually you’re looking for signs of an imminent super-volcanic eruption.’ Michael rejoined smoothly.

‘Right.’ Mike murmured.

Michael lifted a hand from the table. ‘It should be straightforward enough as a test run for the new ship.’

‘Where’s Hawke?’ Seb asked bluntly.

‘Personal business.’ Michael said succinctly. ‘He’s at home.’

‘About time.’ Seb muttered.

Michael shot him a look. ‘You’ll leave in thirty minutes. Any questions?’

There was a resounding silence.

Mike swept his report from the table and swung his feet down. ‘Sounds simple enough.’

The team made their way to the test hangar. The new Airwolf was slim and elegant in design. She still carried the black and white motif; but her body was slimmer, sleeker; her nose more aerodynamic. She was going to be a beauty when she was finished, Mike thought proudly.

‘OK, gang!’ Mike ordered cheerfully. ‘Pre-flight checks.’

Seb grumbled but got inside to start running the technology checks. Mike had Angelina walk him through the counter-measure specialist checklist before he walked her through the pilot’s. They had just finished when they saw a woman approaching.

‘Great.’ Seb muttered. ‘Look who it is.’

Angelina grimaced but she had a polite smile on her face when the woman got close enough for them to talk with her. ‘Lydia.’

‘Hi.’ The blonde glanced around with an anxious look in her brown eyes. ‘I thought Hawke was taking the test run today.’

‘He’s at home with his wife.’ Seb replied caustically.

Lydia stared at him for a moment before she turned and walked away.

‘That is one weird woman.’ Seb said.

Angelina nodded. ‘I don’t care what they say; there is no way Uncle String would fool around with her. She’s not his type.’

‘I agree.’ Mike said easily as they put on the helmets and began to power up. ‘But let’s focus on the assignment, huh?’

A couple of hours later, he stared out at the unrelenting natural beauty below him and handed over the controls to Angelina. He pulled a candy bar out of his top pocket and took a bite, savouring the sweet chocolate even as he admired the view below.

‘This,’ he declared, ‘is the way to see this park.’

‘It’s beautiful.’ Angelina said.

‘And remote.’ Seb shook his head. ‘All I’m picking up is elk and bear.’

Mike swallowed his chocolate. ‘It’s a not somewhere you want to get lost in that’s for sure.’

‘Nights at high altitude here can drop below freezing even in summer.’ Angelina agreed with him. She smiled at him. ‘You all set for the wedding?’

‘As much as we can be.’ Mike joked with a smug smile. ‘Saint John’s organising a bachelor thing.’

‘That’s brave.’ Angelina murmured, steadying Airwolf as she buffeted by a strong wind.

‘Saint John may have used the word stupid.’ Mike commented happily. ‘I think he’s worried about my inviting Hawke.’

‘He probably won’t show.’ Seb suggested bluntly. ‘He’ll be too busy with Lydia.’

‘Seb, that’s really unfair.’ Angelina complained.

Airwolf shimmied left and Angelina corrected.

‘What’s unfair is the way that he’s treated Caitlin for the past few months.’ Seb argued back. ‘I don’t know why she puts up with him – why any of us put up with him.’

‘You’re just jealous!’ Angelina shot back. ‘And Caitlin loves him and understands what he’s been through. You don’t!’

‘Hey, all of us have been through stuff.’ Seb rejoined furiously. ‘But somehow everyone seems to think he got the worse deal and I’m sick of making allowances for him.’

‘He did get the worse deal.’ Angelina said angrily. ‘The last time I looked you didn’t lose your parents when you were twelve and your brother didn’t leave you wondering whether he was dead or alive in ‘Nam for fifteen years of your life!’

‘No, my sister ran away and we didn’t know if she was dead or alive.’ Seb pointed out. ‘And Saint John lost our folks too – nobody seems to be bothered about that!’ He glared at Angelina. ‘Just because you have a crush on him doesn’t mean he’s perfect!’

‘I do not have a crush on him,’ Angelina denied passionately, ‘and just because you resent him doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give him a break!’

‘And...’

‘That’s enough!’ Mike intervened as Airwolf shifted again in response to Angelina’s emotions transmitting through her hold on the helicopter.

There was a moment’s silence.

‘You’re both right.’ Mike said seriously. He turned to the back and held Seb’s angry eyes with his own. ‘Seb, you do need to give your brother a break. He lost everyone in his life at some point; you haven’t. Maybe if you consider how you felt when Sarah was lost and multiple it by everyone else in your life, you’ll get a clue at what he went through.’ He watched as a dull flush broke over Seb’s cheeks. ‘It left him with a lot of baggage and sometimes it raises its head.’

He turned back to the front. ‘And you, young lady, have to stop viewing Hawke as perfect. He’s flawed; just like the rest of us.’

‘But...’

‘No, buts.’ Mike stated firmly. ‘Seb is also right. Just because Hawke has had a tough time, has baggage, it doesn’t give him a license to act out the way he has over the last couple of months. Maybe Caitlin will forgive him for it – that’s between them – but he’s made mistakes and that’s the truth of it.’ He sighed as she looked at him. ‘Kid, if you want to be part of the crew, you need to be able to challenge whoever sits in this seat occasionally, and that includes Hawke.’

‘Does it include you too?’ Angelina asked tersely.

‘Yes, it does.’ Mike agreed cheerily. ‘But not right now.’

Airwolf suddenly shuddered violently and Angelina fought to keep her steady as Airwolf plummeted sharply.

‘What the hell was that?’ Angelina asked as the alarms sounded loudly.

‘Hand her back!’ Mike ordered briskly. ‘Seb?’

‘It was a small explosive device!’ Seb exclaimed with disbelief. ‘It was attached to the internal structure.’ He shook his head. ‘Diagnostics are all over the place!’

‘I’m reading damage to our electronics including the engine systems!’ Angelina said.

‘Open up communications! Send a mayday!’ Mike said, fighting to keep control as Airwolf refused to respond.

There was another jolt as Airwolf shook again.

‘Secondary explosive!’ Seb swore. ‘It was attached to the fuel systems. I’m reading an imminent build up of gas in the fuel line.’

‘On my mark,’ Mike said grimly, ‘you eject!’ It was the only way to ensure their lives, he told himself.

‘Mike...’ Seb protested.

‘I’ll eject as soon as I’ve got Airwolf away from you guys. Now, on my mark!’ Mike repeated. ‘Angelina, send our coordinates and final mayday now!’

Angelina complied, her voice shaking as she relayed the information.

‘You’d better hit that eject button as soon as you can, Mike.’ Seb warned. ‘I don’t want to tell Sarah you’re not coming home.’

‘I’ll be right behind you.’ Mike promised. ‘On three.’ He said calmly. They all slid their visors down on their helmets, engaged the oxygen flow attached to their seats. ‘One, two: mark!’

They hit their eject buttons. The panels under their feet fell away, the cabin depressurising rapidly and Mike watched as Seb’s and Angelina’s seats shot downwards into sky. The parachutes opened up. He fought to steer Airwolf away from them so they wouldn’t be caught in the explosion.

It was a struggle between the damaged systems, the depressurisation and the winds bracketing the damaged helicopter. The urgency to leave pressed in on him but he knew he needed more distance from Seb and Angelina. His gut nagged at him though and Mike knew he was out of time. His hand reached for the eject button and flicked it.

He fell through the floor of Airwolf; plummeting into the blue sky. The parachute opened up above him and he jolted in his seat as the wind caught it and sent him spinning through the air.

Airwolf exploded.

She was nothing but a ball of orange fire above in the sky.

Mike looked up and his eyes widened behind the visor as he saw her tumbling down. He was too close! He was too close and...

Debris caught the parachute; knocking it one way then another; it caught fire and he felt the sudden lack of resistance as he began to fall again.

He saw the trees below him and prayed for a miracle.

Sarah, Mike thought desperately; he couldn’t die...not now...

The impact drove the breath from his body and as his head was whipped around violently he lost consciousness as the chair ricocheted through branch after branch after branch, slowing momentum until it crashed into the woodland floor.

 

Chapter 4
 

The raised voices drifting out from the back of the cabin where the kids’ bedrooms were located made Caitlin sigh as she abandoned the lunch dishes.

The nausea had thankfully subsided and they’d been able to sit down for the mid-day meal as a family. It had been awkward and tense. Father and son had barely spoken and Amelia had played up as though to draw attention. Caitlin rubbed the back of her neck and berated herself again for not noticing how Hawke’s behaviour had been picked up on by the kids. She had thought they hadn’t been aware of the way Hawke had absented himself; thought she had done a good job of pretending everything was fine, that he was just busy at work. Clearly she had been deluding herself at her children’s expense. Guilt gnawed at her belly.

She shook herself briskly. There was no use focusing on the mistakes she and Hawke had made with the kids; they had to focus on fixing them. Unfortunately, Hawke’s tentative attempt to reach out to Nicky after lunch – an invitation to take a walk with their dog, Bit, on the mountain – had been firmly rebuffed. She’d encouraged Hawke to go anyway. She knew him well enough to know he would be castigating himself for hurting the kids; hurting her...

She sighed and headed towards the argument. One thing at a time, Caitlin considered determinedly. She could hear the squabbling much clearer as she neared Nicky’s room but the conversation came to an abrupt halt as she appeared in the doorway.

Both her children looked at her from their places on the floor with guilty but closed expressions. She could see temper in their flushed cheeks and Amelia’s teary eyes. Caitlin remembered her own childhood well enough to know that the unspoken rule that whatever the issue between siblings, nobody tattled to their parents. It didn’t stop her from folding her arms and regarding them with a stern stare.

‘Anyone want to tell me what’s going on here?’ She asked.

Nicky and Amelia looked at each other but neither of them spoke.

‘Amelia,’ Caitlin said with a sigh, ‘why don’t you go and practice on the piano. I’ll come out and listen to you play in a little while.’ Music usually helped calm her daughter just as it calmed Hawke.

Amelia scrambled to her feet and followed Caitlin’s suggestion. Caitlin could hear the piano they had bought for her being opened and the first practice notes filling the air as she stepped into her son’s room and closed the door.

She lowered herself to the floor and leaned back against the bed. ‘So.’

Nicky’s gaze was pinned to the floor.

Caitlin rubbed her hands over her knees before she clasped them together. ‘It really sucks, huh? Finding out your parents are human?’

Her son’s head shot up and he looked at her surprised. She held gaze for a long moment before Nicky looked away again.

‘I owe you an apology, Nicky.’

‘You don’t have to apologise.’ He mumbled.

‘Yes, I do.’ Caitlin corrected him gently. ‘I screwed up and you’re angry at me.’ She resisted the urge to reach out to him. He’d started protesting when she hugged him; a small sign that he was growing up, eschewing maternal comfort and wanting to be a man. He wasn’t her little boy anymore but he wasn’t an adult either, and she figured she needed to tread a fine line.

‘He screwed up.’ Nicky muttered, but she noted he didn’t deny that he was angry at her.

‘No, we both screwed up.’ Caitlin said firmly. ‘I should have confronted your Dad much earlier.’

‘Why didn’t you?’ Nicky asked plaintively. He darted a look at her; partly accusing, partly puzzled.

Caitlin bit her lip, wondering just how honest she should be. ‘I think because when I first realised he was doing it, I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t happening.’ She sighed. ‘And then, when I stopped pretending, I figured he would work it out and that he would want to work it out on his own because that’s how your Dad is.’

Nicky didn’t reply and Caitlin nudged his arm gently with her elbow. ‘What are you thinking?’ She asked.

He looked away towards the window and the woodland beyond. ‘Why did you just forgive him like he didn’t do anything wrong?’

The words tumbled out and Caitlin pressed her lips together as she forced herself to remain still.

‘Nicky,’ Caitlin began, ‘do you ever remember a time when you didn’t have Grandpa Alan and Grandma Jane? Or your uncles? And Aunt Sarah?’

Nicky shook his head.

‘Well, I remember when I first met your Dad and he had nobody.’ Caitlin said softly. ‘He only had Dom. That was it.’

‘I know the story, Mom.’ Nicky protested. ‘I know how he married you, and found Uncle Saint John, and then found Grandma and Grandpa.’

‘Yes, you know the story, but you don’t understand what your Dad went through because you’ve never been alone like your Dad was back then.’ Caitlin said. ‘And that’s a good thing, Nicky, because neither your Dad or I ever wanted you to know how your Dad felt back then; how lonely and hurt he was because everyone he loved had left him alone.’

Nicky looked at her, a crease forming between his brow as he assimilated her words.

‘Back when I first met your Dad he used to keep everybody at a distance because he was scared if he let them get close, they’d eventually leave him and he’d be hurt and alone again.’ Caitlin continued.

Nicky frowned heavily. ‘But doesn’t that mean he was just alone all the time anyway?’

‘You’re right.’ Caitlin said. ‘And it took a long time for your Dad to get past his fears and see that but he worked through it.’ She saw her words, an echo of her previous statement on Hawke’s current behaviour, register with Nicky.

Her son changed position as though unsettled by her words. She wasn’t sure how much he understood really but she hoped he’d understood enough to give Hawke an opening to make it right with him again.

‘I think we both thought that your Dad’s fears weren’t a problem anymore.’ Caitlin concluded. ‘And we were wrong.’ And it had taken them by surprise, she mused inwardly, which partly explained why they’d handled it so badly even if it didn’t excuse it.

‘So you’re just OK with how he acted because of how he was before.’ Nicky said accusingly.

And there, Caitlin thought with chagrin, was the reason why Nicky was angry with her. Not because she hadn’t called out Hawke on behaviour earlier but because she had been too quick to forgive him.

‘I understand because of how he was before.’ Caitlin corrected. ‘And I’m not OK with how he acted; your Dad knows that. But I also know he’s already feeling guilty about hurting us and that he’s sorry. My getting angry with him wouldn’t help things any and just seems kinda pointless.’ Her hand sneaked to her belly.

Nicky rubbed his chin and for a second he looked so like Hawke that Caitlin almost lost her breath. ‘I guess.’

Caitlin nudged him again. ‘You need to talk to your Dad about this.’

‘I guess.’ He repeated. He looked at her shamefaced. ‘I yelled at Melly.’

The unusual use of his childhood nickname for his sister, coined when he couldn’t quite say her name, made Caitlin smile. ‘So you’ll apologise.’

Nicky sprang forward and hugged her. Caitlin caught him and hugged him back hard. ‘You know I love you, right, Nicky?’

‘Uh-huh.’ Nicky shifted, pulling away a little and avoiding her eyes. ‘Me too.’

Caitlin smiled and ruffled his hair. ‘Come on. Let’s go and check on your sister.’

He rolled his eyes but he got up and helped her up off the floor. They made their way back into the living area where Amelia was running through her concert music. Nicky made his way over and sat down beside her on the piano stool. Caitlin could hear him talk quietly to Amelia and as her daughter smiled, Caitlin figured the latest crisis was over.

She sighed and headed back for the dishes. The cabin door opened and Hawke walked in hurriedly, his blue eyes scanning around the room anxiously as Bit walked over to the hearth and flopped down.

‘Hey.’ Caitlin waved the dishcloth at him. ‘I thought you’d be out for longer.’

Hawke closed the door and made his way to her. ‘I just...’ he cut himself off as he looked briefly over at Nicky and Amelia before he made his way into the kitchen where he could talk with her in relative privacy. ‘Everything OK here?’

‘The kids were arguing but they’re over it.’ Caitlin frowned. Hawke didn’t usually get a feeling because the kids were upset. ‘What’s going on?’

Hawke lifted one shoulder but just as he opened his mouth as though to reply, the sound of the satellite phone ringing broke through the cabin.

Caitlin followed him to the bar at the back where they kept the phone still in its Company issued brief-case.

‘Hawke.’ He mouthed the word ‘Michael’ at her before his eyes darkened with alarm before their expression was shuttered away from view completely. ‘When?’

Caitlin moved restlessly and Hawke held up a finger to prevent her from talking.

‘Yeah, I got it, Michael. We’ll be there.’ Hawke dropped the receiver into the cradle.

‘Hawke?’ Caitlin asked, worried at the mask of impassivity he wore.

‘The test flight went down.’ Hawke explained succinctly.

‘Oh God.’ Caitlin’s hand went to her mouth. Seb had been on the flight; Mike...Angelina. The idea that any of them had been lost was unthinkable.

‘They think it was sabotage.’ Hawke continued grimly. ‘Michael wants us all at Red Star.’

‘Right, I’ll get our stuff together.’ Caitlin reached out and grasped his arm. ‘Hawke, it’s going to be OK.’

She could see him battle to hold back a biting retort and almost kicked herself for saying anything. But he nodded finally and moved off to inform Nicky and Amelia. She watched him worriedly. If anything had happened to the others...Caitlin knew Hawke would never forgive himself.
 

Chapter 5

 

Saint John had heard the car pulling up outside the hangar and was already half-way down the ladder when Jo Santini walked in. He stopped his descent and stared at her. It had been just over two years since he had last seen her and she looked good – better, in fact. Her blonde hair was stylishly clasped back from her face into an elegant ponytail; her make-up was light but perfect. Her outfit, a blue pants suit with white shirt, was fashionable and made the most of her trim figure. Her eyes looked at him with an assessing wariness that he figured was reflected right back at her in his own.

‘Saint John.’ Jo greeted him hesitantly.

‘Jo.’ Saint John jumped off the remaining steps, ignoring the jolt in his knees. He walked up to stand just in front of her. ‘You look good.’

‘So do you.’ Jo said.

Saint John wondered what she saw. He kept himself in shape but his muscles wouldn’t hold the same tone that his younger body had taken for granted, and the blue overalls really hid everything but his bulk from view. He still had a full head of hair even if there was grey mixed in with the blond but his face was marked with lines from his years of experience.

He waved the wrench he held. ‘We weren’t expecting you for another couple of weeks.’

‘I decided to come early.’ Jo explained quickly. ‘I thought it might be less awkward than just showing up for the wedding.’

He nodded, more because it was expected than in agreement. The way he saw it, it was going to be awkward no matter when she showed up; just like it was awkward right that minute.

‘Sarah still working with you?’ Jo asked, shifting her weight under Saint John’s even stare.

‘Yeah,’ Saint John gestured back towards the office, ‘she and Chris are catching us up on the paperwork.’

‘Chris must be what sixteen...’

‘Seventeen.’ Saint John corrected.

‘Seventeen.’ Jo shook her head in disbelief.

Neither of them mentioned the thought that crossed both their minds, of how old their own daughter Bella would have been if she had lived. Saint John heard the distant sound of a phone ringing and ignored it; Sarah would grab it.

‘He’s working here now?’ Jo asked instead.

‘After school; weekends.’ Saint John said. ‘He wants to fly.’

‘Definitely a Hawke.’ Jo quipped with a tentative smile.

His lips curved unwillingly in reluctant agreement. ‘How have you been?’

Jo bit her lip. ‘Actually...’

‘Uncle Saint John!’ Chris barrelled through the office door and into the hangar, panic written across his face.

‘What’s the matter?’ Saint John asked immediately, turning to rush over to his nephew. He could see Sarah kneeling on the floor by the desk, clearly distraught.

‘It’s Michael.’ Chris explained. ‘He told Mom Airwolf went down; they think it was sabotage.’ His eyes strayed past Saint John to Jo and widened.

Saint John ignored him and hurried over to Sarah. He took the phone from her loose grip. ‘Michael.’

‘Saint John.’ Michael sighed. ‘Is Sarah OK?’

‘She’s in shock. What do you think?’ Saint John snapped.

‘We need all of you at Red Star.’ Michael retorted.

He put the phone down before Saint John could reply and Saint John stabbed the off button with more force than necessary before he belatedly remembered Angelina had been due to be on the flight. Michael was probably worried about his own daughter.

Saint John sighed and motioned at Chris. ‘Get the chopper ready. We’re going to Red Star.’ Chris ran off and Saint John gently rubbed Sarah’s back. ‘Sarah?’

‘Saint John.’ Sarah looked at him shell-shocked. ‘If Mike...if anything’s happened to him...’ she covered her mouth with her hand, ‘oh God, Seb!’

‘They’re going to be OK.’ Saint John promised. He helped her to her feet and turned them towards the door, halting at the sight of Jo.

‘Jo.’ Sarah murmured. She looked at Saint John as though to check he was OK and back to the older woman.

‘There’s been some kind of accident?’ Jo asked in response. ‘Is Mike OK?’

‘Mike had a test flight this morning along with Seb and Angelina.’ Saint John explained quickly. ‘It went down.’

‘I’ll come with you.’ Jo said, her face filling with concern for their mutual friend.

Something of his own hesitation, his desire not to have her along must have shown because she flinched and looked away before gathering her courage.

‘Please.’ She said.

Sarah placed a hand on Saint John’s arm. ‘We don’t have time to argue.’

Saint John nodded brusquely. ‘Come on then.’

The flight was tense and mostly silent. Saint John sat in the front with Jo, leaving Sarah with Chris in the back-seat. He was pleased his nephew had ditched his usual teenage distance to keep an arm around his mother’s shoulder.

Saint John caught sight of his brother’s personal chopper sitting on the helipad as he came into land and he absently realised that Michael must have called in String and Caitlin too. They were greeted at Red Star by one of Michael’s hand-picked agents, Janice, and escorted through to Marella’s large corner office.

Caitlin immediately stood up and came across the room to hug Sarah. Saint John caught the surprise in her eyes as they landed on Jo.

‘I was at the airfield when the news came in.’ Jo explained as Amelia hopped across the room to hug her.

Saint John tried not to feel betrayed by his niece’s warm welcome to her Aunt – both he and Jo had often looked after Nicky and Amelia when they had been married – but he was pleased when Nicky settled for a slow nod that reminded Saint John of String.

Caitlin offered Jo an encouraging smile and rubbed Sarah’s shoulder comfortingly. ‘Marella sent a car to get your parents.’

‘Do you have any news?’ Saint John asked briskly.

‘Search and rescue are already looking for the crash site.’ She motioned at Chris. ‘Could you stay with Nicky and Amelia for me?’

Chris grimaced but he gave a nod.

Caitlin led the way out of Marella’s office and down the corridor to Michael’s. Saint John spotted his brother standing in front of a map of Yellowstone National Park that covered one wall. They all headed over to join him.

Hawke turned around and Sarah moved into his arms for another hug. His eyes slid to Jo before they met Saint John’s, a silent question in his eyes.

Saint John shrugged. ‘Any news?’ He asked again.

‘We have something.’ Michael’s voice had them all turning towards the door. Michael walked in, followed by a harried looking Marella. Michael gestured for them all to take seats at the briefing table. His good eye skipped over Jo, settled on Hawke questioningly before apparently dismissing her presence in his head. ‘This was the mayday.’

Marella punched a button on the computer keyboard in front of her and a crackling sound filled the room and then Angelina’s voice.

‘Mayday! Mayday! This is Airwolf! We are declaring an emergency! There was an explosion caused by a bomb...mayday! We have sustained heavy damage and are ejecting!’

Saint John saw Michael’s barely concealed frustration and worry in the way the spy’s jaw clenched.

Marella turned off the recording. ‘She goes on to provide final coordinates.’

‘There’s already been a search and rescue deployed locally.’ Michael said tersely. ‘But so far they’ve been unable to reach the coordinates due to bad weather moving in over the area.’

‘I told you; we should take Airwolf.’ Hawke bit out. Saint John could feel his brother’s longing to do something: he shared it.

‘And I told you, we can’t risk it.’ Michael said as equally forceful as Hawke. ‘If the new Airwolf was sabotaged, we have no way of knowing if the operational Airwolf has also been compromised.’

‘Can’t we just check for explosive devices?’ Caitlin asked.

Marella shook her head. ‘Whatever happened, it was well hidden within the existing systems. Airwolf’s intelligence didn’t even pick up on it. The intelligence was pulled back here by a safety protocol Karen added a while ago so we only have the data Seb managed to send back before we lost connection and that indicates nothing triggered a warning flag.’

‘Obviously someone has been planning this for a while.’ Michael said grimly. He sat back. ‘Red Star is on lockdown. We’re doing a full head count of personnel.’

‘So we can’t use Airwolf...’ Saint John began heatedly.

Hawke suddenly sat forward. ‘What about the original Airwolf?’

Michael sat forward and pointed a finger at him, a glimmer of hope entering his good eye. ‘That might just work.’

‘What?’ Sarah asked, looking at the two men.

‘The original ship was decommissioned but she’s kept here in storage. A saboteur probably overlooked it.’ Caitlin explained. She stood up as Hawke got to his feet.

‘You’ll need an engineer.’ Saint John noted.

‘That would be me.’ Michael said.

‘Then I’ll take the counter-specialist chair.’ Saint John insisted.

Michael subsided. ‘Fine.’

Hawke leaned over and kissed Caitlin. ‘We’ll stay in touch.’

Saint John exchanged a look with Sarah; evidently the couple had sorted their issues.

‘You’d better.’ Caitlin threatened.

‘I’ll arrange a fuel pick-up.’ Marella said as Michael dropped a kiss on her cheek.

‘Bring them home.’ Sarah said roughly.

‘We will.’ Hawke said. ‘That’s a promise.’

Saint John fell into step on one side of him as Michael fell into step on the other. They diverted to pick up medical supplies and spare clothing before they made straight for the hangar where the old Airwolf was kept. They suited up quickly and within minutes were taking their places.

‘Systems are all in the green.’ Michael said.

‘Let’s go.’ Hawke manoeuvred Airwolf into open space and lifted off with a smooth swiftness that always took Saint John’s breath away. Hawke called for the turbos and they shot forward.

‘Course laid in.’ Michael said.

‘Get Airwolf to plot likely landing sites based on the wind direction, last known speed and altitude.’ Hawke ordered. ‘You’ll need to factor in a few extra minutes of flight time for Mike.’

‘Why?’ Michael asked even as he punched in instructions into the computer.

‘He would have stayed with her and flown her away from the other two to make sure they didn’t get hit by her on the way down.’ Saint John supplied.

There was silence for a long time as Airwolf ate up the miles between Red Star and Yellowstone National Park.

He glanced at his brother and wondered whether he should say anything about Caitlin; about Lydia Armstrong; about what the hell had been going on with String for the last few months. He sighed.

‘You OK?’ Hawke asked quietly.

‘Actually I was thinking the same thing about you.’ Saint John admitted.

Hawke shifted almost minutely in his seat but Saint John felt the merest shift in flight that accompanied his brother’s movement.

‘Mike said you ducked out of the flight run today.’ Saint John prompted.

‘I wanted to spend some time with Cait and the kids.’ Hawke replied.

Saint John nodded. ‘I figured.’

His brother went silent.

‘You’re incredibly lucky, you know that.’ Saint John couldn’t seem to stop the words from tumbling out. His brother had everything he had ever wanted and for him to have endangered that the way he had; Saint John just didn’t understand it. ‘Caitlin loves you; you have two great kids and another on the way...’

‘What?’

Michael’s startled interjection stopped Saint John and he grimaced. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud...

‘Caitlin’s pregnant?’ Michael asked.

Hawke glanced over his shoulder at his best friend before glaring at Saint John. ‘How did you know?’

‘She didn’t tell you I knew?’ Saint John sighed.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Hawke shot back.

‘Look, I only found out because she almost fainted on me the other day.’ Saint John said. ‘She asked me not to say anything; she wanted to tell you herself.’

Hawke turned back to his flying but Saint John could sense he was angry.

‘We’re about to hit the storm over Yellowstone.’ Michael said briskly. ‘Perhaps we should focus on that.’ His anxiety about his daughter bled through his otherwise composed voice.

Hawke didn’t slow down; he ploughed into the storm and Saint John braced a hand on the front console.

‘You’re not going to do any of them any good if you get us killed.’ Saint John said as Airwolf shook with the force of the winds buffeting her; the rain lashed down on her windshield reducing their visibility to zero.

‘As much as I hate to admit it, Hawke,’ Michael piped up from the back, ‘your brother has a point.’

‘Any slower and the force of the air currents will tear her apart.’ Hawke pointed out dryly. ‘You want me to slow down?’

‘No. No.’ Michael sighed. ‘You just focus on flying.’

‘Airwolf, start the scans.’ Hawke ordered. ‘We should be within range.’

Saint John leaned forward and saw the artificial intelligence was already following his brother’s order. The sensor readings jumped on the monitor; information scrolled by fast enough to make Saint John’s head spin. The fact that the intelligence existed had been one of the reasons why he’d retired from the Airwolf crew. He didn’t quite trust a machine that could fly herself.

The monitor beeped.

‘Found them.’ Michael said with relief. ‘Two life signs.’

‘Probably Seb and Angelina.’ Saint John said.

‘Keep scanning further ahead for Mike.’ Hawke ordered. He was already taking Airwolf down into the mists, locking onto the signal Airwolf had programmed for him.

Saint John got out and a wet bedraggled Angelina rushed up first with her right arm in a make-shift sling, climbing hurriedly into the back where her father wrapped her in a grey blanket and checked her over anxiously.

‘Are you OK?’ Michael asked, relief flooding his expression as his eye scanned over her.

‘I’m alright, Dad.’ Angelina assured him, pushing wet strands of her blonde hair out of her eyes as Seb squeezed in beside her.

Saint John looked him over as he closed the door. His youngest brother had a gash over one eye but he seemed fine.

‘I’m good.’ Seb confirmed as he accepted another blanket from Michael. ‘Mike flew on to make sure we didn’t get hit.’

‘We’re on it.’ Hawke raised Airwolf back into the sky.

‘Scans reinitiating.’ Saint John said, reading the monitor again. ‘I have something. Bear east, five degrees.’

‘We have a life sign.’ Michael reported. ‘Sending you the coordinates.’

‘Got them.’ Hawke confirmed.

‘Thank God!’ Angelina said.

Saint John watched as Michael reached over and patted her uninjured arm.

‘I’m going to point out the obvious,’ Seb said, ‘we can’t all fit in this bird.’

‘We’ll assess Mike’s condition,’ Hawke said, ‘if necessary, I’ll stay behind until Saint John can come back for me.’

‘I’ll stay with you.’ Seb offered.

‘No.’ Hawke shot him a look over his shoulder. ‘You’re injured.’

‘I’ll stay behind.’ Saint John said firmly. He held Hawke’s gaze. ‘Caitlin doesn’t need the worry of you having to spend a few hours alone in the wilderness.’

Hawke scowled.

Saint John looked out of the windshield as Airwolf descended, hoping to see Mike on his feet as the others had been.

‘He’s not moving.’ Michael said as Airwolf jolted a little as she landed. ‘Hawke, if I’m reading this right, it looks like he lost the chute.’

‘Oh my God.’ Angelina murmured. ‘Is he OK?’

‘Stay in Airwolf!’ Hawke ordered as he took off his helmet. ‘Saint John and I will go and assess the situation.’ He gestured at Michael who solemnly handed him the first aid kit.

Saint John pushed open the passenger door and ran over to the still form of his friend. Mike was strapped into the chair; he’d obviously been able to remove his helmet at some point as it was lying on the ground beside him but otherwise he was unconscious.

‘Mike! Buddy!’ Saint John felt for a pulse. ‘Can you hear me?’

Hawke looked at him as he knelt on the side and opened the first aid kit.

‘He has a pulse.’ Saint John said.

‘He’s breathing.’ Hawke confirmed. He did a cursory check of Mike’s surface injuries and shook his head. ‘He needs professionals, Saint John.’ He pointed up at the trees and Saint John’s heart flip-flopped as he realised he could see the damage Mike’s descent had done to the canopy overhead. ‘He must have landed hard. If we move him...’

‘We risk giving him a spinal injury.’ Saint John completed. ‘Damn it!’

Hawke grimaced. ‘Stay with him. I’ll get Michael to call it in. We’ll make him as comfortable as we can.’

Saint John didn’t watch as Hawke moved off; his eyes remained fixed to Mike’s immobile form. ‘Hang in there, Mike. We’re going to get you home.’ He promised. ‘You’re going to be OK.’

Continued Part III.

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