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For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Part 5


Thirteenth February. Racino Pass.

Hawke’s head jerked and his eyes flew open. His eyes went straight to the fire and he sighed; it had gone out. He rubbed his eyes tiredly and shivered. It didn’t matter; the kindling was gone and he knew that he lacked the energy to get more. He checked his leg. The bandage had soaked through and was sticking to the wound; the ground beneath him was stained with blood. He must have almost fallen asleep, he thought tiredly. He took a breath and assessed his situation.

The sun had travelled across the sky; he figured he’d been on the mountain a couple of hours. His body was stiffening with the effect of the cold and physical trauma not just from the knife wound but also from the jump out of the chopper. He had to hold on. Dom and Caitlin would have Airwolf by now; they would be looking for him; they would find him.

A movement in the undergrowth caught his attention. He stared at the rustling leaves and his eyes widened at the sight of a wolf creeping out of the vegetation. The amber eyes regarded him for a long moment and Hawke held his breath. He’d known that there were a few wolves left on the mountains and occasionally he’d hear one howl but it was the first time he’d seen one. It looked like a relatively young she-wolf. He froze as she started toward him. He barely took a breath as the wolf padded over to him. She nosed his foot and he barely restrained himself from jerking away in an atavistic response. She turned once, twice and then to his amazement settled by his side.

He shivered as the wolf’s warmth started to transfer to his own body. He let out a slow breath. He felt his eyes start to droop and yanked them open at a low growl. His gaze slid to the wolf. She was looking back at him.

‘Guess you want me awake.’ He murmured. ‘OK. So what do you want to talk about?’

The wolf lay her head down between her paws.

‘Maybe I should tell you about my wolf.’ Hawke said. ‘She hasn’t got so much fur but she’s smart.’ He gave a rueful smile. ‘Too smart, I think. She’s been doing a few things on her own; opening doors, responding to SOS calls…I don’t know.’ He shook his head. ‘I kinda think something’s going on with her.’ He sighed. ‘She’s great but I can’t help thinking her creator’s planted something else in her, like another logic bomb.’

Hawke’s blue eyes darkened with the memory of Charles Henry Moffett. He had never gotten along with Moffett. ‘He was bad to the core,’ Hawke commented to the wolf, ‘and I killed him. He killed…he killed someone I…someone I cared about.’

Gabrielle. The image of the small dark haired woman who had been his lover for a short time floated into his mind. They’d spent six days with each other. It was strange to think it had been such a short time. He’d lost her in the Libyan Desert; held her in his arms as she died after being tortured by Moffett. He had mourned her death for a long time after it had happened. Had he loved her? He’d thought so at the time. He sighed. He rarely thought of Gabrielle these days. It had been over two years since her tragic death and the ending of what might have been between them. If she had lived…if she had lived he probably would never have met Caitlin, he mused.

Caitlin. His heart warmed at the thought of her. Their friendship had been so fast and so easy…Caitlin had told him once that she had thought they were always meant to be friends like it had been fated and deep down he agreed with her. Even at that first meeting he had described to the other men, somehow he had known he could count on her. When she’d tracked him down to tell him about Jimmy, there had been no question in his mind that she fitted into his life. Their only issue, he thought, was his own fear of losing her. It had led him to almost letting her go the year before; she’d been shot saving him and he’d tried to push her away but in the end the brief separation had simply forced him to face up to his feelings for her. He couldn’t imagine his life without her in it…‘I’m getting married soon.’ He murmured sleepily to the wolf. ‘I have to hold on. I promised I would be at the wedding…’

The wolf was getting to her feet. Her head lifted to the sky as if she scented something on the wind. Hawke felt the absence of her warmth immediately. ‘Where are you going?’ He asked as she padded away. ‘Where are you…’ His eyes slipped shut.

Thirteenth February. Airwolf.

‘We’re almost there.’ Dom said. ‘You need to ease up…’

Airwolf shook as Caitlin brought her to a complete halt. Dom sprang to adjust the systems and keep them in the air.

‘Dom?’ Caitlin tried unsuccessfully to keep the panic from her voice.

‘I’m scanning.’ Dom confirmed. ‘I have the chopper.’ His lips thinned. ‘But no life signs…oh God.’

‘What?’ Caitlin’s head whipped around to look at him. Her mouth went dry and her heart was beating so loudly she wondered it didn’t burst from her chest as she waited for the reply.

Dom’s eyes met hers slowly. ‘I have two bodies on the ground.’

‘Where?’ She demanded and followed his quiet directions furiously blinking back the tears that threatened. Hawke couldn’t be dead…he just couldn’t be…she would know it…

‘I have a better visual.’ Dom said. His quick intake of breath as the images became clearer had Caitlin whirling back to him. ‘It’s not him.’ He hurriedly told her. ‘It’s not him.’

Caitlin breathed out. ‘Then where is he?’

‘I’m widening the scan.’ Dom said.

Doc followed the results on the monitor in front of him. ‘There!’ He stabbed a finger at the screen. ‘He’s by the path.’

‘I got him.’ Dom said. ‘He’s alive.’

Caitlin swung Airwolf around to the coordinates and landed her as close as she dared on the rocky path. Her blue-green eyes went straight to Hawke lying motionless by the mountain wall. She shoved the helmet away and fumbled with her door before running over to him. She slipped on the path, oblivious to the cold wind cutting through her Airwolf uniform and fell to her knees by her fiancé, barely aware of Doc crouching down next to her or Dom struggling up the path behind them.

‘Hawke?’ Her shaking hand cupped his cheek. ‘String? Do you hear me?’ He was so cold; too cold. ‘Doc?’ Her eyes flew to their friend’s anxiously.

Doc’s fingers were pressed against Hawke’s neck. He frowned as his eyes calmly catalogued the injuries the other man had endured. His gaze went unwillingly to the brown rusty stain on the dirt path beneath Hawke’s leg. The pilot had lost a lot of blood.

‘Well, Doc?’ Dom said breathless. ‘What’s the verdict?’

‘He’s alive but we need to get him to a hospital and quickly.’ Doc said. He gestured at Caitlin and Dom. ‘Give me a hand to get him into Airwolf.’

They all lifted an unconscious Hawke and began the treacherous descent back down the path to the helicopter. Dom scowled and stopped.

‘What?’ Caitlin asked her voice sharp with anger at the delay.

‘Look there’s a chopper.’ Dom said.

‘It’s heading towards us.’ Doc noted.

‘Come on. Let’s get moving.’ Dom hurried them forwards.

They were almost there when the chopper got close enough to send clouds of dirt and dust through the air, obscuring their vision. They lowered Hawke gently to the ground and covered him until the chopper moved away. It swung around and came back; their eyes widened in alarm at the attack pattern forming.

‘Dom, get to Airwolf!’ Caitlin yelled. ‘You can cover us.’

‘Right.’ Dom stumbled away from them but his progress was soon halted by a stream of gunfire that impacted the ground in front of him and cut him off from Airwolf. He crouched by the mountain wall and looked helplessly at the distance between him and the helicopter. His eyes shifted back up the path where Caitlin was covering Hawke with her own body, protecting him; Doc was attempting to protect her, both of them were faced away from him and didn’t know he hadn’t made it to Airwolf or that the chopper was coming back for another run.

Dom’s lips firmed; he had to get to Airwolf or they were all dead ducks. He’d taken two steps when the ADF pods suddenly deployed under Airwolf. He froze and stared at the machine in shock. He glanced back at the chopper as it started its run…the missile shot out from under Airwolf’s belly and headed straight for its target. The chopper exploded.

Dom swallowed hard and headed back to help Caitlin and Doc.

‘That was some shot.’ Caitlin said clambering back to her feet.

‘Yeah.’ Dom agreed without elaborating as he hefted an arm under Hawke’s shoulder and lifted him. ‘Come on. Let’s get out of here.’ He thrust his concern about what had happened away; getting Hawke to safety was the most important thing.
 

Part 6

Thirteenth February. Fox Ridge Medical Centre.

‘Here.’ Doc offered Caitlin the plastic cup filled with weak coffee and wasn’t surprised when she shook her head. He set it down on the table and took the plastic bucket chair next to her in the stark waiting room.

‘What’s taking them so long?’ Caitlin asked anxiously. It had been over an hour since Dom had dropped them off. She knew the older man had wanted to stay, had seen his desire to make sure Hawke was alright in his eyes but one of them had needed to return Airwolf back to the Lair and he’d volunteered before she could say anything. Her eyes filled with tears again and she swiped them away angrily. Her emotions were too close to the surface.

‘He’ll be OK.’ Doc said. ‘Hawke’s a survivor.’

She nodded. ‘I know.’ Her hands twisted together. ‘I just…I can’t lose him, Doc.’

Doc slipped an arm around her shoulders. ‘You won’t.’

The sound of footsteps had her spinning around and Doc let his arm drop away at the sight of Dom with Michael and Marella running down the corridor with Caitlin’s family.

Caitlin stood up and went straight into Dom’s arms. ‘Dom…’

‘It’s OK, honey.’ Dom patted her awkwardly. ‘How is he?’ He asked gruffly.

Caitlin couldn’t speak and she turned to gesture at Doc.

Doc got to his feet. ‘He’s lost a lot of blood from a knife wound to his leg; there were some other minor injuries and he’d been on the mountain awhile. They’re treating him for the first stage of hypothermia.’

Dom’s grave expression told its own story.

‘The doctors are still with him.’ Caitlin said.

‘I’ll go see what I can find out.’ Marella offered quietly taking hold of Caitlin’s hand briefly.

‘Thank you.’ Caitlin squeezed the hand she held before she released the other woman to enable her to fulfil the offer she’d made.

‘He’ll pull through, Caitlin.’ Michael said taking hold of the hand Marella had relinquished.

She attempted a smile; failed and slowly sank back into the chair. The spy sat next to her on one side whilst Dom took the other. The older man covered her hands with his. Her family exchanged a look; each feeling equally left out, each feeling equally helpless. They silently took other seats in the waiting area.

‘You know all those times when he’s worried about losing me…’ Caitlin’s breath caught in her throat. ‘I thought I understood but now…’

‘I know, Caitlin, but you just have to keep a positive thought.’ Dom counselled her.

‘Oh God!’ Caitlin rubbed a hand over her eyes. ‘The wedding…’ She sighed. ‘I guess I should cancel…’

‘No!’ Erin said sharply and crouched down in front of Caitlin to take her sister’s hands in hers. ‘It’s too soon to make that decision.’

‘He’s injured, Erin.’ Caitlin said. ‘Even if he’s…even if he’s fine, he won’t make the wedding.’

‘He said he’d be there, Cait.’ Dom said gently. ‘It’s the last thing he said to me. He said to tell you he’d be at the wedding. Your sister’s right you just need to wait and see.’

The sharp of click of heels brought them to their feet again as Marella arrived back with a male ER doctor dressed in green scrubs. ‘I’m Doctor Yardly. Who’s the next of kin?’

Dom indicated Caitlin. Officially, until they married, he guessed it was still him but he figured the difference of a couple of days wasn’t worth getting precious about.

‘How is he?’ Caitlin asked.

‘He’s stable.’ The doctor said. ‘We’ve given him a blood transfusion, stitched the wound on his leg and treated the hypothermia. He’s also on a high dosage of antibiotics and painkiller. He’s still unconscious but he should come round in the next few hours.’

‘Can I see him?’ Caitlin demanded.

‘Of course. Follow me.’ The doctor began heading up the corridor and Caitlin followed after him but stopped as she realised Dom wasn’t with her.

‘Dom?’ She queried looking at him over her shoulder.

He waved her on. ‘You go. I’ll see him later.’

Caitlin shook her head and held her hand out. ‘He’ll want to see you too.’

Dom held her gaze for a heartbeat and took the hand she offered, tucking it under his arm as they hastened after the doctor.

Hawke was in a small private room. They didn’t notice the pale green walls or stark décor, their attention was on the still form lying in the bed, wrapped in blankets. A drip snaked across the bed and into one forearm whilst his injured leg had been placed outside of the blankets; the thigh heavily wrapped in a sterile bandage. They could see the evidence of other bruises and scrapes along the length of his leg.

Caitlin took the chair nearest the bed and tangled her fingers with his. Her eyes never left his face. A bruise was forming on the left side of his jaw; another under his right cheekbone. There was a scratch she hadn’t noticed before that ran from his throat down his neck. She raised her hand she held and kissed his knuckles. ‘Come back to me, Hawke.’

Dom moved a second chair close to the opposite side of the bed and settled into its leather upholstery. Tears pressed against the back of his throat and his eyes as he watched the shallow rise and fall of Hawke’s chest. He laid a hand on Hawke’s arm that lay on the bed near to him but couldn’t find the nerve to speak. The boy he’d raised, the man he sometimes secretly wished had been his own son, looked so broken…he’d failed to look after him and keep him safe; failed in the promise he’d made a lifetime ago to his best friend, Hawke’s father.

‘It should have been me.’ The words came out so unexpectedly and so bitterly that Caitlin’s eyes shot to Dom’s.

‘What?’ She asked uncertainly.

‘I know the way to that Pass but I let him go with those men when he stepped forward.’ Dom took a deep breath, forced himself to meet her eyes. ‘It should have been me.’

Caitlin’s compassionate gaze gentled further at the obvious guilt the older man was feeling. ‘He wouldn’t have wanted you to have gone, Dom.’ She said softly. ‘I know he’d rather be here than to have let you go and to have lost you.’

A tear rolled down his cheek and she held out her other hand across the expanse of bed. Dom took it clumsily.

‘He’ll tell you that,’ Caitlin continued, ‘as soon as he wakes up.’

Dom nodded. ‘As soon as he wakes up.’

Hawke was dreaming; he knew he was dreaming because he’d had the same dream a number of times since he’d proposed to Caitlin and it was always the same; he was getting ready for the wedding…

He was standing in front of the full length mirror on the inside of his wardrobe in his bedroom at the cabin, and he was wrestling with the tie that went with the new suit he’d bought for the wedding.

Here let me help you.’ A man stepped forward out of the shadows of the room; his brother, Saint John. It wasn’t the brother of his childhood or the brother he’d left behind in a jungle; it was the brother that looked out at him from a picture included in a folder of information he’d received; a picture that had finally given him conclusive proof his brother had survived ‘Nam.

Saint John had been rescued by a Special Forces unit he’d gone on to join and after he’d left the army he’d joined an intelligence agency to perform deep cover operations like those of the Special Forces. Michael had told Hawke that he thought his brother was working for the Company; the intelligence agency that was due to take over the FIRM in July. They were so close to answer and yet so far…how did you find someone who didn’t want to be found? Whose life depended on not being found?

Saint John had spun Hawke away from the mirror and was fastening the tie with a thoughtless efficiency that spoke of years of military experience. His tanned face was set in a frown of concentration; his hazel eyes fixed on his task. ‘You never did learn to tie these things rights.’ He grumbled. ‘There you’re set.’ He stepped back and viewed his handiwork with satisfaction. He shook his head as his eyes finally met Hawke’s blue gaze. ‘I can’t believe you’re getting married.’

Me either.’ Hawke admitted. He shoved his hands in his pockets.

Caitlin’s good for you.’ Saint John said. ‘She’s made you happy, String.’

Hawke nodded. ‘She’s…everything.’ He felt his old fear rise up. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without her.’

Let’s hope you never have to find out.’ Saint John said patting his shoulder.

I wish you were really here, Saint John.’ Hawke said. He wanted this to be real so badly it was no wonder he had dreamed it so often; the calming brotherly support as he prepared to marry.

I know.’ Saint John sighed. ‘You’re so close, String.’

But not close enough.’ Hawke said regretfully.

Not so I can be at your wedding, no.’ Saint John agreed. ‘But maybe soon…’

Is Michael right? Are you working for the Company?’

Saint John smiled at his brother. ‘You know that’s not how this works, String. I’m only inside your head.’ He reminded him.

No clues at all?’ Hawke prodded.

Saint John shrugged. ‘I need you to find me. You need to find me.’ He said. ‘But that hasn’t really changed.’

Hawke fidgeted.

Saint John gestured at him. ‘You might as well say it.’

Do you really want me to find you?’ Hawke asked. ‘After all, you haven’t been in touch all these years. Maybe you don’t want to be found.’

We’re going to have to talk about that.’ Saint John said with a serious expression darkening the hazel eyes. ‘But you know how I feel about you, String, you always did.’

Hawke took a deep breath and then a step forward to sweep his brother into a hug. ‘I love you, Saint John.’

I love you too, String.’ His brother took a step back…and started to fade away. He gave Hawke a mock salute. ‘Don’t be late for your wedding, little brother.’

The wedding; he was going to be late for the wedding…

Hawke’s eyes snapped open. The bright artificial light had him wincing and he turned his head to the side to avoid the harsh glow of the main light fitting. Hawke glanced around the rest of the room; it was small with pale green walls softened with some pictures that didn’t quite live up to being real art. His eyebrow quirked at the sight of Dom in a leather chair; the older man was fast asleep, his chin resting on his ample chest, his hands folded over his stomach.

‘Hey.’ Caitlin said softly. ‘Welcome back.’

His eyes immediately shifted and locked onto Caitlin’s. He frowned at the evidence of tears; the damp spiky lashes, the faint tracks of wetness under her eyes.

‘Hey.’ His throat was dry and the word whispered out.

Dom gave a grunt and opened his eyes wide at the sight of Hawke looking back at him.

‘String.’ Dom lurched out of the chair and stood by the bedside as Caitlin poured some juice into a glass and handed it to Hawke. He took it with a hand that shook slightly and he saw Caitlin visibly check a movement to help him. He gulped the liquid thirstily and the glass was empty when he handed it back to her.

‘How are you feeling?’ Dom said.

Hawke felt the sharp bite of pain as his stitched wound protested at a small movement and the aches from a multitude of other bruises and scrapes he’d picked up. ‘I’m OK.’ He said gruffly. His fingers tightened on hers. ‘Guess you guys found me.’ He’d been on the mountain alone but they’d found him.

Caitlin nodded and her eyes filled with tears again.

‘Hey.’ He brushed away a tear as it rolled across her cheek. ‘I’m OK.’

‘I thought…’ she took a shaky breath, ‘I was so scared.’

‘I told you I’d be at the wedding.’ A thought occurred to him and his eyes widened in alarm. ‘I haven’t missed it have I? What day is it?’

‘It’s still the thirteenth.’ Dom said.

Hawke breathed a sigh of relief.

Caitlin shook her head. ‘Don’t worry about the wedding.’ She sat back down in the chair. ‘We can reorganise it.’

Hawke stared at her. ‘What do you mean reorganise it?’

‘Well,’ she gestured at his leg, ‘you’re not going to be well enough…’

‘Hey.’ He waited until he held her damp eyes firmly with his. ‘We’re getting married the day after tomorrow. OK?’

She nodded. ‘You sure?’

‘I’m sure.’ Hawke squeezed her hand.

Dom smiled. ‘I’ll go let everyone know you’re back with us.’

Caitlin stood up and gestured at the older man. ‘I’ll go.’ She said. ‘I need to speak with my Mom and Dad.’ She added when Dom made to protest. She leaned over and kissed Hawke gently on the lips before she left the room.

Hawke watched her go before he turned back to Dom. ‘Guess I scared the hell out of her.’

‘Not just her.’ Dom said with a small huff of laughter. He sank back into the chair. ‘For a while there, kid…’ he shook his head, ‘you kinda scared the hell out of me too.’

Hawke shifted uncomfortably at the churning emotions crossing the craggy lines of the older man’s face. ‘I knew you’d find me.’

‘So what happened?’ Dom asked.

Hawke sighed. ‘It was Farland.’

‘Farland?’ Dom’s eyes widened. ‘You mean that guy who disappeared a couple of weeks back when they went to arrest him?’

‘That’s the one.’ Hawke confirmed. ‘John,’ his lips twisted, ‘was a counterfeit specialist. He’d prepared a whole pile of fake id for the guy.’

‘So Racino Pass was the drop spot.’ Dom said putting it together.

‘You got it.’ Hawke plucked at the bed sheet. ‘I jumped out of the chopper when I brought it into land but they managed to see where I went. Farland sent Frank and another guy after me.’

‘Yeah. We saw the bodies.’ Dom noted.

Hawke shrugged. ‘They didn’t leave me much choice.’

‘Hey, I’m not complaining.’ Dom assured him picking up on the slight defensive Hawke had tried to hide. ‘I’d rather have you then them any day of the week.’

Hawke relaxed a little. ‘The second guy had a knife. They were supposed to finish me off whilst Farland got away.’ He said. ‘I made it back to the path after…finishing the fight.’ He shook his head and caught the other man’s eyes. ‘I knew you’d come looking for me.’ He wondered briefly whether to tell Dom about the wolf and decided against it; he hadn’t quite determined whether it had been real or a hallucination. He was tending to think it was the latter…

‘You know I think they came back to check you were dead.’ Dom said.

Hawke’s eyes narrowed. ‘What do you mean?’

Dom told him about the chopper that had attacked them when they had rescued him.

‘You could be right.’ Hawke commented. ‘Maybe he did come back when Frank and the other guy didn’t show.’ He frowned. ‘I guess you shot them down.’

‘Ah…about that.’ Dom wiped his hands nervously on his thighs. ‘I think you might be right.’

‘About what?’ Hawke asked bemused.

‘About something being wrong with Airwolf.’ Dom said gesticulating. ‘About her doing things on her own.’

Hawke raised an eyebrow. Airwolf had acted independently a couple of times in the last few months but the older pilot had always maintained she had simply extrapolated her programming and had dismissed Hawke’s worry that something more fundamental was wrong. ‘What did she do?’

‘She…ah…’ Dom avoided his eyes. ‘She shot down the chopper.’

‘She what?’

‘Now don’t look at me like that!’ Dom said hurriedly. ‘You see we were on the ground carrying you and the chopper turned up so Cait and Doc covered you whilst I went to Airwolf to deal with it but then…’ he took a breath, ‘but then I got cut off. The chopper turned and was heading back to make a second run at us; Airwolf deployed the ADF pods and shot it out of the sky.’

Hawke was silent as he absorbed the information. He stabbed a finger at the older man. ‘She’s grounded.’

Dom sighed. ‘She saved our lives.’

‘Maybe,’ Hawke allowed, ‘but if she’s choosing targets and shooting at them all by herself, something is definitely up with her programming.’ He sighed. ‘Have you or Cait told Michael yet?’

Dom shook his head. ‘I was the only one who saw.’

‘Good.’ Hawke rubbed his chin thoughtfully. ‘I’ll tell Cait after the wedding; she needs to know but she’s got enough on her plate right now.’

Dom nodded. ‘And Michael?’

Hawke sighed deeply as he wrestled with whether to tell the deputy director. Given what had happened the last time when Airwolf had acted screwy under the influence of a logic bomb, Michael was very likely to overreact. Hawke was no longer worried that Michael wouldn’t try and find his brother if he didn’t have Airwolf but he still didn’t want a decision forced on him by the spy. ‘When Cait and I get back from the honeymoon, we’ll run some tests. If she’s still acting up, we’ll tell him then.’

‘OK.’ Dom agreed. His eyes ran over Hawke’s battered body. ‘Are you real sure you’re going to make the wedding and honeymoon?’

‘I’ll make it.’ Hawke confirmed quietly.

Dom ignored the icy determination in the younger man’s eyes. ‘You wouldn’t have to delay it for long; just until you’re back on your feet. Caitlin would understand…’

‘Dom.’

The older pilot settled back into the chair. There was no point arguing when Hawke used that tone.

Hawke fidgeted. ‘I…er…I’ve been having this dream…’ He confessed nervously.

‘Oh?’

‘About the wedding.’ He gestured at the older man. ‘About Saint John being there.’

‘I have to admit,’ Dom commented, ‘I was a little surprised that you didn’t wait until he got home.’

‘It wouldn’t have been fair to Cait.’ Hawke said. He didn’t mention his other reason; that the news his brother had chosen not to contact him after escaping the Vietcong had made Hawke reassess how much of his own life he’d put on hold to find his brother. He knew that it had played a part in his decision to go ahead with the wedding.

‘Well it’s only natural you’d want your brother there, String.’ Dom said comfortingly. ‘It’s a big day.’

‘Yeah.’ Hawke sighed.

Dom smiled. ‘Well at least you’ll be there and that’s the important thing, huh?’

Hawke returned the smile. ‘I’ll definitely be there.’
 

Part 7

Fifteenth February. Hawke’s Cabin.

Hawke scowled at the reflection in the mirror and wondered at the mess he’d made of his tie. He pulled it apart and took a deep breath as he started over. He frowned; it wasn’t going well.

‘Here let me help you with that.’

The voice at the bedroom door made him spin around with his heart beating loudly in his chest. He swallowed his disappointment as his eyes alighted on Michael. The spy was dressed in a charcoal suit that matched the one Hawke was partially dressed in. It was weird seeing Michael in something other than the all-white suit he favoured.

The spy frowned. ‘Are you OK? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.’

‘I’m fine.’ Hawke said turning back to the mirror. He sighed and gestured at the half-completed tie. ‘Apart from this.’

Michael walked over and pulled the pale grey silk until it was flat and straight. He fixed the tie quickly and gestured for Hawke to take a look.

The pilot glanced at the perfect knot and breathed out in relief. ‘Thanks, Michael.’

The spy shrugged and glanced around the spare room. His lips twitched. ‘You spent the night here?’

‘We thought we’d stick with tradition; you know, spend the night apart; not see each other until the ceremony.’ Hawke slipped into the dark charcoal jacket and checked the cuffs of his crisp white shirt.

‘And you got relegated to the spare room?’ Michael’s voice rang with amusement.

Hawke brushed some lint off his lapel. ‘Cait needs the main bedroom more than I do.’

‘So you haven’t seen each other this morning at all?’ Michael was sceptical.

Hawke shook his head and smiled at Michael’s disbelief. ‘We had a close call around breakfast but Maggie’s pretty good at orchestrating everyone so we haven’t run into each other.’ He glanced over at Michael. ‘Where’s Angelina?’

‘Outside with Marella.’ Michael said. ‘She can’t wait to be a flower girl. She’s been practising throwing petals all morning.’

Hawke smiled at the indulgent tone in the other man’s voice. Michael had turned into a doting father since they had returned from Russia with his daughter.

‘How’s your leg holding up?’ Michael asked. Hawke had been discharged from the hospital the day before and whilst the pilot always healed fast, Michael knew the other man had to be in some pain.

‘It’s fine.’ Hawke said dismissively. The knife wound was still sore but he had endured worse.

Michael arched an eyebrow as the other man clearly limped over to the bedside table to retrieve his watch. ‘Ready?’

Hawke took a final glance at his reflection. ‘Ready.’ He agreed.

Michael held up a hand. ‘Maybe I should check if the coast is clear first.’

Hawke rolled his eyes. ‘Funny, Michael.’

They headed out through the corridor that led to the main living space of the cabin. Hawke’s eyes widened with pleasure as he took in the transformation. There were petals strewn across the wooden floor; flowers spilled from vases on practically every surface and their heavy perfume scented the air. The furniture had been arranged to provide cosy corners and seating areas whilst the dining table was laden with food and drink for their guests. The wedding cake was set back on its own table complete with the tiny figures of a bride and groom perched on the top layer. Someone had music playing on the stereo and the gentle piano sonata set the mood perfectly.

Hawke felt Michael’s hand on his shoulder and he moved forward slowly, taking his time on his injured leg.

Michael saw the way Hawke’s jaw clenched and resisted the urge to offer his cane; Hawke probably needed it more than he did right that moment. He followed Hawke out onto to the porch. More flowers trailed over the railings and posts, down over the steps.

Hawke paused for a moment to get his balance and his breath caught in his throat. Sunlight lit the clearing with a golden glow; the lake was a startlingly clear reflection of the sunshine and bright blue sky. Pots of white and yellow flowers edged the pier and the clearing. A path of petals led them from the cabin to the wooden platform where Caitlin and he would exchange their vows. Caitlin’s mother had taken charge of the last minute arrangements so Caitlin could stay with Hawke at the hospital. She had outdone herself, Hawke mused with a sense of awe.

They must have moved the choppers already, thought Hawke, which meant all their guests had arrived. It was a small group; Caitlin’s immediate family and a few of their close friends. He caught sight of Half-pint, the boy he’d once believed to be his nephew, playing with Caitlin’s nieces and nephews, and Angelina over by the woods. Tet, his dog, was guarding the pathway to the forest as though babysitting the children and ensuring they wouldn’t stray. Hawke’s eyes drifted forward to where Half-pint’s mother was standing talking to Caitlin’s sisters-in-law, past Marella and Jo Santini talking with the judge who would perform the ceremony and onto where Caitlin’s grandfather and Doc stood talking with Caitlin’s brothers, Brian and Callum. His blue eyes darkened with envy at the closeness of the two men. His eyes clouded; he missed Saint John. He shook off the touch of melancholy. It wasn’t a day for regrets or sadness.

‘There you two are.’

Hawke turned to smile at Dom as he walked out to join him and Michael on the porch steps. The older man grinned back at him.

‘You ready, kid?’ Dom asked.

Hawke nodded. ‘I’m ready.’

‘Aren’t you supposed to be nervous?’ Michael asked.

‘Why would I be nervous?’ Hawke asked as he took the glass of champagne Dom offered him.

‘Because it would prove you were human,’ answered Michael, ‘contrary to all our beliefs.’

Hawke smiled in answer and took a sip of champagne. He had to admit, he mused, that he was surprised at his own lack of nerves. He’d woken up without any doubts or uncertainties; just a quiet certainty that his marrying Caitlin was right. The surety of what he was doing had stayed with him throughout the morning. Hawke tugged on the pale grey tie.

Michael hid a smile and cleared his throat. ‘I have a wedding present for you.’

Hawke raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh?’

‘I’ve arranged to have the marriage record sealed.’ Michael explained. ‘If someone runs a routine background check or even investigates the official records, there will be no way they will find out about your marriage and be able to target Caitlin.’

‘Thanks, Michael.’ Hawke said sincerely.

‘It doesn’t keep her completely safe.’ Michael said apologetically. ‘If someone’s serious enough to come after you…your marriage will be easily uncovered.’

Hawke shrugged. ‘It doesn’t hurt either. It’s a nice thought.’ He patted Michael’s shoulder.

Dom smiled at the spy. It was a thoughtful gift to give Hawke; he’d lost so many people in his life to do something that helped keep Caitlin safe…

‘You know if someone had told me when we made our deal that two years later you would still have Airwolf and I would be stood at your wedding, I would have accused them of being crazy.’ Michael said.

‘Me too.’ Dom said with a laugh.

‘You two agreeing with each other?’ Hawke smiled. ‘We have come a long way.’

The three men smiled at one another.

Dom sighed happily. ‘I have to admit,’ he said, ‘two years ago I never thought I’d see the day you’d walk down the aisle.’

Hawke sipped his champagne. ‘I hadn’t met Caitlin.’

‘Ah it was a good day when you met that girl.’ Dom said.

‘I’ll drink to that.’ Michael raised his champagne glass. ‘To the bride.’

The sound of their clinking glasses mingled with the music drifting from the cabin.

Hawke heard a throat being cleared behind them and he turned to smile at Maggie. He gestured at the scene in front of them. ‘Thanks, Maggie. It looks great.’

Caitlin’s mother smiled and smoothed the dove grey silk dress she wore. ‘You haven’t seen Caitlin yet.’ She waved them forward. ‘You should take your places.’

Hawke nodded and handed the champagne glass to Dom who quickly took it back inside before coming back out to help Hawke down the steps whilst Michael corralled his daughter ready for her part in the wedding.

The judge stood with his back to the lake at the edge of the deck. His twinkling brown eyes welcomed Hawke as he took his place in front of the silver haired man. Dom grinned beside him as his best man and Michael stood as his second. The other guests gathered around in an informal circle leaving a wide gap for the bride and her father to walk through.

The music changed and they all turned to look at the porch steps. Angelina was the first to walk down them. Hawke’s eyes flickered with indulgent amusement to Michael’s proud expression as the little girl made her way towards them, grabbing and distributing yellow and cream petals that matched her dress from a small white wicker basket.

Fiona was the next, quickly followed by Erin and Hawke held his breath as he waited for Caitlin. She moved into view on the porch, an arm tucked into her father’s. The halter neck dress left her shoulders and back bare and fell in a slim column of pale cream silk to her feet. The material was shot through with a thin gold thread that shimmered in the sunlight. A cream wool shawl, draped over her arms, provided her with some protection against the slight breeze that teased at her dress and she held a bouquet of gold and cream roses in her hand. Her hair was up in some complicated do that Hawke figured would take him a minute to destroy later but she’d left tendrils curling around her face and neck which the sunlight turned to copper. She looked beautiful. His stunned blue eyes finally connected with hers and they smiled at each other.

Their eyes held as Patrick escorted her to Hawke’s side, letting her go with a paternal kiss. Hawke took her hand and interlinked their fingers as the judge began the wedding ceremony.

‘We are gathered here today to witness the union between this man and this woman…’

‘…do you Stringfellow Hawke take Caitlin O’Shaunessy to be your wife? To have and to hold, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, from this day forward for as long as you both shall live?’

‘I do.’ Hawke said solemnly.

‘…And do you Caitlin O’Shaunessy take Stringfellow Hawke to be your husband? To have and to hold, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, from this day forward for as long as you both shall live?’

‘I do.’ Caitlin’s joy rang out clearly.

‘The rings?’ The judge prompted.

The couple turned to Dom who smiled at them before catching on that it was time for him to handover the jewellery. There was a quiet chuckle around the gathering as he patted his pockets and lost the smile before finding the rings in the third pocket he tried. He handed them to the judge.

Hawke’s voice was steady as he completed his vows and slipped the plain gold band onto her finger; it glinted as she slipped the matching wedding ring on Hawke’s finger; his eyes held hers as she completed her vows.

‘…I now pronounce you man and wife.’

Hawke reached over to kiss Caitlin softly on the lips. There was an eagle cry overhead and a throat cleared behind them. Hawke felt Caitlin’s curve under his own. They broke apart and thanked the judge before they were swept into ebullient hugs of congratulations.

The day seemed to pass quickly; there was food and laughter, cake and dancing…Hawke and Caitlin took a moment to sit and watch the others from the porch steps wrapped in each other’s arms.

Caitlin sighed and settled back against Hawke’s chest. She raised her hand and stared in disbelief at the wedding ring which glinted as the sunlight caught the gold. She thought about pinching herself. She had never thought she’d be sitting with him as his wife. She smiled and repressed the urge to giggle.

‘What’s so funny?’ He asked catching the laughter in her eyes.

‘Oh nothing.’ She said and his arms tightened around her. She felt his lips against her bare shoulder and shivered.

‘Have I told you how beautiful you look, Mrs Hawke?’

Caitlin smiled. ‘Mrs Hawke.’ She repeated. ‘I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of hearing that.’

Hawke kissed her. ‘Me either,’ he admitted. ‘I love you, Mrs Hawke.’

‘I love you too.’

They were smiling as Patrick suddenly left the makeshift dance floor they’d laid out in the clearing and bounded up the steps past them to disappear inside. The music stopped and Patrick reappeared with a tray of drinks. The champagne was handed out as Patrick called for order. Hawke smiled at Caitlin’s confusion remembering how Patrick and Dom had conspired to do a speech at the abandoned camping trip.

Patrick cleared his throat. ‘Now I know the happy couple didn’t plan speeches into the day but as the father of the bride, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity and with a little help from the best man…’ he smiled at Dom. Hawke shot his friend a knowing look and Dom smiled smugly back at the younger pilot.

‘…we’ve come up with something but I promise I’ll make it quick.’ Patrick smiled at the couple; at Caitlin’s delight and Hawke’s amused resignation.

‘So,’ Patrick continued, ‘the first thing is to welcome Hawke to our family,’ his smile broadened at his new son-in-law’s surprise, ‘and to thank him for making sure Maggie can stop worrying about whether Caitlin would ever get married.’

There was a smattering of chuckles and Maggie wagged a finger at him promising retribution later.

‘We have to admit Caitlin’s choice of groom did provoke some discussion in the family but,’ Patrick held Hawke’s gaze, ‘it’s difficult to argue with the choice she’s made; an honest, good man who any family would be proud to have as an addition.’ His lips twitched at the colour in Hawke’s cheeks and his gaze slid to his daughter. ‘I’m reliably informed by Dominic that Hawke’s own parents would have been proud of the choice he’s made in his bride and as her father, I can hardly argue.’ Caitlin smiled up at him. ‘They make a good match and I think there is no doubt in those of us who have had the privilege in sharing in your wedding day that you share a special bond, a love that blesses you both.’ Patrick tried to clear the lump his throat. ‘So, everyone raise their glasses please and join me in a toast; to Hawke and Caitlin, the bride and groom.’

The shout rang out across the lake as Hawke kissed his wife: ‘To the bride and groom.’

fin.

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