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Fanfiction: Spirit of the Wolf - Part II

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Part 2

 

Hawke zipped up the flight suit and tugged at the close fitting green. Why did all these flight suits have to be green? He grumbled to himself. Why couldn’t they make them a different colour for a change? His fingers brushed the hand-stitched name above his left pocket. ‘Capt. Stringfellow Hawke.’

Hey, Hawke.’ Adam Fellows slapped the pilot on the shoulder. ‘You ready to go meet our new bird?’

Sure.’ Hawke slammed the door shut on the locker and turned to smile at his African-American co-pilot.

Gee, Hawke.’ James Byrne, the final member of the crew, grinned at him. ‘You could sound, you know, like the teensiest bit excited.’

It’s a chopper.’ Hawke said.

It’s the world’s most technologically advanced, only mach capable helicopter.’ Byrne said. ‘And we’re going to get to fly her.’

Hawke and Fellows exchanged a shared look of cynicism. Both of them were ‘Nam veterans with combat experience; Byrne was a MIT graduate with degrees in aeronautical engineering and computers. He was brilliant but young and untried.

Kids.’ Fellows hooked an arm around Byrne’s head and rubbed his fist in the pristinely arranged hair, mussing it up. ‘So idealistic.’

Hey, watch the hair.’ Byrne said his hands already smoothing the blonde locks back into place.

Hawke shook his head as the two of them continued to banter as they all left the locker room and made their way over to the main hangar. They slowed seeing the group standing waiting for them; Archangel, Marella, another couple of the pilots who’d tried out and Moffett.

Damn.’ Fellows muttered. ‘Why’d Moffett have to turn up?’

He is the designer, Adam.’ Byrne said.

He’s a snake.’ Fellows said. ‘And he wants our jobs. I heard he called the Committee and asked them to replace us with him, Gordon and Sinclair.’

Those guys couldn’t even hold a candle to us.’ Byrne said.

Well, we’ll just have to prove that, won’t we?’ said Hawke quietly. They came to a full stop.

Hawke. Byrne. Fellows.’ Their names rolled off Michael’s tongue with a hint of the slow Southern twang that had coloured his childhood accent. ‘Are you ready?’

Hawke’s eyes slid coldly to Moffett before returning to Michael. ‘We’re ready.’

Michael led the way inside the hangar. It was in darkness and Michael waited to call for the lights until the Airwolf test crew was lined up in front of the shadowy outline of the helicopter. The sudden brightness had them all blinking but Hawke recovered first.

Instant recognition.

The picture Michael had showed him; the designs he’d reviewed…all faded into meaningless chatter; this was the real thing and he wanted her badly…

He walked around her, examined her from every angle; sleek, sharp and deadly. The black and white was more reminiscent of a killer whale than a wolf but it worked. He laid a hand on her nose and slid it over the black shining armour as he moved around to the cockpit door. The hiss of the depressurisation when he opened it startled everyone but him. He climbed in and settled into the seat, checked the arm reach to the consoles and the cyclic. It was a perfect fit. He was barely aware of Byrne and Fellows taking their places.

Man, would you look at this!’ Byrne rubbed his hands as he sat at the in-flight data centre and the consoles lit up automatically.

This is something.’ Fellows said awestruck.

So what are we waiting for?’ Byrne asked.

Hawke reached for the helmet and grimaced at the heavy football style. ‘Nothing.’ He said in answer to Byrne’s question. ‘Let’s start her up.’ He punched the button and heard the reassuring sound of her rotors powering up and the engines starting. He taxied out to open space and as he passed Moffett he glimpsed the unbridled hatred on the other man’s face.

Hawke manoeuvred forward; he was smiling when he grasped the cyclic and made her airborne; he was grinning when he accelerated and sent her flying; and then it happened…something intangible clicked between him and Airwolf, and she wasn’t Moffett’s any longer…she was his…

Hawke’s eyes snapped open. It took a moment for him to reorient himself. The familiar ceiling calmed his racing heartbeat; he was in bed at the cabin. Caitlin shifted beside him and he carefully eased away from her to slip from the bed. Tet, his dog, raised his head from where he was lying in front of the bedroom hearth curious at the movement. Hawke pulled on a pair of jeans and padded his way downstairs. He headed for the kitchen and gulped down a glass of water. He refilled the glass and raised it to his forehead and let the cool beads soothe the ache there.

He glanced back up the stairs and frowned. He was too wired from his dream to sleep. He could wake Caitlin…Hawke sighed. As much as he was tempted to wake her, Caitlin didn’t need her sleep disturbed just to deal with a neurotic husband. He stoked the living room fire back to a cheerful blaze and sat down on a cushion by the hearth to watch the flames. He wasn’t surprised when Tet joined him, flopping next to him and laying his head on Hawke’s lap. Hawke stroked Tet’s soft fur absently. Maybe his worry about Airwolf and the code was getting to him more than he realised, he mused, or maybe being back at Red Star had just jogged his memory.

He hadn’t thought about the early days of the Airwolf project in…in a while, he realised. Not since they had ran across James Byrne on a mission the year before. Byrne had helped save Caitlin’s life; an act of redemption the younger man had needed…

I cannot believe you took Airwolf.’ Michael’s anger radiated through every sinew of his tensed body, through the clenched line of his jaw and shone like a laser from the piercing blue eyes. He stabbed a finger at Hawke who was slouched in one of the office chairs, his hands folded defensively over his stomach. ‘What the hell were you thinking?’

Hawke returned the glare. ‘I was thinking I was going to catch the little…’ He bit off the swear word.

Well, you’ve just made a bad situation a hundred times worse.’ Michael said pacing back to his white leather chair and throwing himself into it.

He shot Adam…’ Hawke began.

And betrayed us to the KGB.’ Michael said. ‘Yes, I know and I know what a shock that was for you but Airwolf…’

Was the only thing that could have caught up with him.’ Hawke said forcefully. ‘If the little weasel hadn’t hacked into the computer.’

But he did.’ Michael stated. He sighed. ‘Moffett thinks the damage Byrne caused is going to take weeks to sort out.’

I’m sure he’s just loving this.’ Hawke muttered.

Do you blame him?’ Michael asked exasperated. ‘You know he’s wanted your position from day one and you just handed him enough ammunition to argue for your removal as lead pilot on the project particularly as it’s likely I’ll be replaced.’

Hawke flinched inwardly and his blue eyes narrowed on the other man. ‘Why?’

Michael sighed. ‘I handpicked the test team, Hawke. The Committee are not going to let me continue working on the project when I selected an escaped traitor for one position who killed another member of the team and selected a lead pilot who tried to pursue the traitor in a four billion dollar aircraft as if it was ready for battle for another.’

Hawke rubbed his chin. ‘I’m sorry, Archangel.’

Michael nodded hearing the quiet sincerity in the words. ‘Don’t worry, Hawke,’ he leaned back in the leather chair, ‘I’ll survive and I intend to come back to this project. Eventually.’ He clasped his hands. ‘I’d like you still to be here when I do return.’

Hawke shrugged not wanting the other man to see his disappointment that he might be pulled from flying Airwolf. He loved flying her; it was almost a spiritual experience for him. ‘I guess that’s up to your Committee.’ He said evenly.

Michael nodded. ‘I’ll recommend you stay on but politically that’s probably not going to count in your favour just at the moment.’ He sighed. ‘They’ll probably make you try out for the position again.’

Hawke gestured. ‘That’s not a problem.’

No.’ Michael agreed his eyes twinkling. ‘You can out-fly every other pilot here.’ He sighed. ‘You’d better make your way back to your quarters. I’m sure the Committee will have questions for you when they arrive.’

Hawke nodded and left the office without another word. He made his way back to the living quarters but couldn’t sit still and he eventually left the institutionalised rooms to wander over in the darkness to the hangar where Airwolf was tethered. He entered quietly and made his way to the dark form of the helicopter. He laid a hand on her flank and the hiss of hydraulics had a sudden wave of emotion sweeping through him, constricting his chest so it hurt when he breathed. Tears pressed against the back of his eyes and throat. He leaned against her and folded his arms tightly across his chest. He’d lost a good friend, two good friends that day. Fellows had been a good pilot, a solid man and Byrne…Byrne deserved shooting, thought Hawke as the anger stirred again in his breast. He’d thought he’d known the younger man but evidently he hadn’t known him at all. He bowed his head.

If you’re looking to take her out for another spin, you’ve got a long wait.’ Moffett’s clipped accent sounded across the hangar and Hawke happily exchanged the sadness he felt for anger.

It’s going to take weeks to repair the damage from your last little jaunt.’ The designer continued.

Stow it, Moffett.’ Hawke growled. ‘I’m not in the mood.’

I guess you wouldn’t be. After all, you failed to save one team member and the other is selling secrets to the KGB.’ Moffett taunted. A flame flickered into life briefly lighting Moffett’s face as he puffed on the slim cigar he held.

Hawke froze. ‘How did you know?’

Know what?’

About Byrne.’ Hawke turned to fully look at the other man. His blue eyes narrowed on Moffett’s face, half-hidden in the shadows that filled the hangar. ‘Only myself and Michael know exactly what Byrne was up to when he shot Adam.’

Moffett blew out a stream of smoke. ‘Perhaps it was a lucky guess.’

And maybe Byrne had help setting up that meeting with the KGB.’ Hawke deduced. He took an angry step forward.

And who do you think the Committee are likely to believe?’ Moffett said smoothly. ‘You? You’re the idiot who almost got their investment shot to pieces today. I’m the genius that’s going to put her together again.’

Hawke’s fists clenched and unclenched by his side. ‘If I ever find any proof that you had anything to do with helping Byrne…’

You’ll do what?’ Moffett laughed. ‘You really think the Committee are going to let anything happen to me? I’m the designer; pilots like you are ten a penny and as soon as Archangel flies away and you don’t have your protector anymore, you won’t be flying Airwolf.’

We’ll see, Moffett.’ Hawke bit out. ‘You haven’t won yet.’

Maybe not today,’ Moffett smiled, ‘but soon.’

Hawke thrust a finger at the older man. ‘One day, you and I are going to go head to head, Moffett, and that’s a promise.’

I look forward to it.’ Moffett said matching Hawke’s angry stare.

I wouldn’t.’ Hawke warned him and before the other man could reply, Hawke spun on his heel and marched out into the night air.

Hawke breathed in the fresh mountain air and let the wash of the cool breeze flow over him. His blue eyes scanned the moonlit lake and the dark peaks rising beyond the silvery water. An eagle cried in the distance and its haunting echo had Hawke staring into the night sky eager for a glimpse of the bird.

Michael had been right about the outcome of Byrne’s defection; the Committee had replaced Michael with another man, Ellison and they had made Hawke try out for the lead pilot position again with a number of other pilots. He’d regained his position with difficulty. Ellison had been a supporter of Moffett’s and had almost insisted that the designer be allowed to have the position he coveted so much; Ellison had been overruled by the Committee. They’d allowed the director of the Airwolf project to choose their own team once; they were not about to make that mistake a second time.

Of course, in the end, it hadn’t mattered. Hawke had stayed another year but looking back he could see that as the animosity between Moffett and he grew, it became easier for the designer to take advantage of Hawke’s temper. The designer had taken falsified test data to Ellison and claimed Hawke wasn’t doing his best to push Airwolf to her limits and Ellison, being the suck-up little jerk he was, had fallen for it. Ellison had confronted Hawke, there had been a big argument and Hawke had walked out on the project. He’d let Moffett win that battle, Hawke thought ruefully. His expression sobered…but Hawke had eventually won the war even if it had come at a huge personal cost…

Hawke swung Airwolf away from the destruction and rubble of the courtyard of the Libyan summer palace where they had retrieved Airwolf and gave Dom the instructions on how to activate the surveillance scans. It felt good to be back in the helicopter. He’d missed this, he realised, as the invisible connection between him and the machine clicked right back into place. He was damned if he was handing her right back to the FIRM…he pushed the thought aside; there was a more important task to focus on; Moffett had Gabrielle out in the Libyan desert somewhere.

His throat closed abruptly on a surge of panic. Moffett had killed the previous girl he had held hostage. It couldn’t happen to Gabrielle, it just couldn’t…he’d lost too many people, he couldn’t lose Gabrielle too…they had only just begun their relationship but the short time they’d had together already meant something to him and had the potential to mean more to him than all the other relationships in his life that had gone before. Hawke peered anxiously through the windscreen at the stretch of sand in front of him.

See anything?’ Hawke asked.

Ah nothing.’ Dom said from the engineer’s console. ‘But I ain’t sure I’m working it right either.’

Hawke spotted something in the sand. ‘Tracks.’ He murmured altering course to follow them.

Hey String.’ Dom laughed delighted. ‘I got it working. Yeah…oh I can see real good. Hey, I…I can see…’ his voice trailed away before he quietly murmured; ‘oh my God.’

Hawke saw why a moment later; Gabrielle was sprawled on the sand and not moving. He set Airwolf down close by and shouted for Dom to bring the cantina usually stowed in the back compartment. He ran to her, kneeling down beside her before he gently eased her into his arms.

Gabrielle.’

She stirred.

Oh easy baby it’s over.’ His blue eyes ran over her. Her dark hair hung limply around her face and her brown eyes blinked up at him in disbelief as though she couldn’t believe the reality of him. Her creamy skin was badly burned and blistered from the heat of the sun. He searched for Dom…where was the water? Her lips were dry and cracked, barely able to move as she murmured his name.

It’s OK,’ he said softly, ‘it’s OK. It’ll be alright.’ Desperation edged his words and he wondered who he was trying to convince her or himself. He stroked her hair and face gently.

The flight was booked…’ her words were barely audible and he took the cantina from Dom hurriedly.

I was going to go but Moffett came.’ She continued.

I know.’ He smoothed the cooling water over her face and her lips. ‘I understand.’

I wanted to see the eagle.’

You will.’ He hugged her to him tighter.

I thought about you and the eagle…all the time. All the time.’ His hand stroked down her neck as she fell silent and he suddenly realised that he couldn’t feel a pulse.

Gabrielle?’ He said urgently. She didn’t respond. ‘Gabrielle.’ He shook her hopelessly; she was dead. ‘No.’ His voice broke on the single word of denial. Dom laid a hand on his shoulder.

Hawke chocked back his tears, found strength momentarily in anger. ‘She promised me, dammit.’ He looked at Gabrielle and felt the anger go as abruptly as it had come. ‘She promised me.’ He repeated plaintively and gently kissed her forehead.

He raised his head and his eyes narrowed; tracks in the sand…Moffett. The anger returned. He gently laid Gabrielle back down on the sand and stood up.

String…’ Dom looked down at Gabrielle’s body and back at the boy he’d raised as Hawke turned to walk back to Airwolf. ‘String,’ he gestured, ‘we can’t just…just leave her.’

Hawke looked back down at Gabrielle and again at the tracks. There was no practical way to take her home and he had confidence Michael would find a way to retrieve the…the body. ‘Come on.’

Dom picked up the cantina and followed Hawke back to Airwolf. The younger man already had the engines and rotors started when Dom retook his seat.

What now?’ Dom asked. ‘Are we heading home?’

No.’ Hawke said grasping the cyclic and raising Airwolf back into the sky. He didn’t explain just started following the tracks.

Ah…String…I have a blip on the screen back here.’

Raise our radar suppressor.’ Hawke ordered.

Right.’ Dom looked around the console and turned the dial on the right knob; he hoped. He checked the monitor and swallowed hard as a second blip appeared. ‘I think he got one off at us.’

Hawke checked the front monitor and fired the turbos, pulling back on the stick so Airwolf climbed. The missile flew past their belly and impacted the sand below. Hawke turned Airwolf and fired at the attacking chopper. He didn’t wait for the explosion; he was intent on returning back to his previous course following the tracks.

Two more choppers joined the pursuit and they dodged another missile; Hawke shot down one, took the other one out with the chain guns. He had to fly back through a canyon to get back to the tracks; anti-aircraft missiles exploded around them.

Hawke weaved Airwolf through the gauntlet; it was all coming back to him and there was an eerie synchronicity between him and Airwolf as if she knew who and why they were hunting…they swept past the barrage as though it was meaningless and shrieked away with a howl of engines.

He was back on the trail of the tracks, back on the trail of Moffett.

Another missile headed their way. It was locked on target. Hawke fired the turbos tried to get some distance…tried to shake it…tried a counter-measure; nothing worked…Hawke focused on a ridge ahead and continued to weave over the sand dunes, still trying to confuse the missile even as he called for the hellfires over Dom’s panicked voice…

It was going to be close…

He dived…

Fired the hellfires…

The missile followed them…

He yanked Airwolf to the left…

The missile impacted behind them.

A huge black cloud of smoke plumed into the sky. Hawke ignored it; he knew where Moffett was.

Hawke swung Airwolf around and raised her in front of the stopped jeep. His fingers hovered over the trigger but he waited…he wanted Moffett to know who he was facing. Hawke’s icy calm blue eyes met Moffett’s across the stretch of sand as Airwolf’s creator climbed out of the vehicle.

Moffett aimed a gun at Airwolf. The fuel line, thought Hawke incredulous. He’s trying for a single shot to the fuel line – the only thing other than a direct missile hit that could destroy Airwolf. His gaze hardened. Fury, unmitigated fury, swept over Hawke and without another thought he hit the trigger.

The missile slammed into the jeep and exploded. Hawke kept firing; missile after missile hit the sandbank in a cacophony of explosions. Hawke kept firing although there was nothing else to fire…the trigger clicking in the deadly silent cockpit.

String…’ Dom began hesitantly, ‘it’s done.’

Reason returned slowly to Hawke as he registered Dom’s paternal tone and he stilled his fingers. He looked out at the burning debris in front of him and the anger that had sustained him through the flight, through the final confrontation, drained away and left only the reality of his loss. Hawke blinked back tears as they flew forward, over the smoke and fire, the carcass of Moffett’s jeep.

It was time to go home…

Hawke leaned against the bedroom doorway and looked over at his wife asleep in their bed. Caitlin was curled on her side, her hair spread out across the pillow like a copper banner. She looked so innocent asleep, he thought as he crossed the room. Her freckled features gave her a childlike air. He sat down on the bed and brushed her hair away from her face. The memory of losing Gabrielle had sent him hurrying to the side of the woman who currently occupied his life.

He’d never compared Caitlin with Gabrielle…in his heart the two women occupied very different parts of his life. He remembered Gabrielle with fondness but without the heart-wrenching grief that had once led him to hunt Moffett with a single-minded determination. He knew time was one reason for the change but Caitlin was the other; she had balanced him and filled the spaces that had been left empty with loss.

Caitlin stirred and her eyes opened sleepily. She reached out to Hawke and frowned at the icy touch of his skin. ‘You’re cold.’ She complained.

‘Went outside for some air.’ Hawke said.

‘Want to talk about it?’ She asked brushing back the errant lock of hair that had fallen in his eyes.

‘No.’ Hawke kissed her before he stripped the jeans off and climbed back under the covers. He pulled her into his arms tightly and she cuddled closer seeming to realise that he needed more than just the physical warmth of holding her. He felt her hand stroking over his hair and fell asleep.

The sun was streaming through the bedroom window when Hawke awoke. He sighed and sat up. He was alone. He rubbed a hand over his face before he flung the cover back and staggered into the bathroom. The hot shower revived him and he dressed quickly. He found Caitlin sat on the bench on the porch with Tet by her feet. She was reading; one hand held the book and the other a large mug of coffee.

‘Hey.’ He sat down beside her and kissed her before he nudged her until she was tucked under his arm. She set the book and mug aside.

‘You want to talk about what was bothering you last night?’ Caitlin asked.

Hawke shrugged and knew with a glance at her serious blue-green eyes that she wouldn’t accept another evasion. ‘This thing with Airwolf and being at Red Star stirred up a lot of old memories for me.’

Caitlin searched his expression for a long moment. ‘About Moffett.’

‘About Moffett.’ He sighed. ‘About how it began.’ He paused. ‘How it ended.’

She stilled. ‘We’ve never talked about that before.’ Her information about the recovery of Airwolf from Libya and the death of Hawke’s lover Gabrielle had come from Dom. She believed that he’d only told her to make sure she never raised or stumbled into the subject with Hawke.

‘The way I hunted Moffett down and killed him,’ Hawke said finally, ‘it’s not something I’m proud of Cait.’

‘Because he killed…’ She bit her lip. ‘When Dom told me what had happened, he said that…that it was because of what happened to Gabrielle that you went after Moffett.’ She hated the jealousy that knotted her stomach and sharpened her words.

Hawke sighed and stroked her hair back over her shoulder and met her eyes calmly. ‘What he did to Gabrielle was part of it.’ He admitted. ‘He tied her up and staked her out in the desert without water or protection from the sun; raped her, tortured her. She had a slow agonising death, Cait. Nobody deserves that.’ His voice rang with remembered anger. ‘But I realised last night that Gabrielle’s death wasn’t the only reason why I went after him.’

‘What do you mean?’ She asked puzzled.

‘From the moment we met, Moffett and I competed for Airwolf. He created her but I flew her. When he got me off the programme he won one of our battles for her.’ Hawke sighed. ‘When I recovered Airwolf from Moffett…’

‘It felt like you won the war.’

‘Yeah.’ Hawke frowned. ‘I think that’s why I went a little crazy when we discovered Gabrielle.’ He gestured. ‘I felt guilty that I’d gotten what I wanted and she…she’d had to die to make it happen and it was a shock.’ His eyes never left Caitlin’s; he wanted her to see the truth in his. ‘She’d promised me she wouldn’t die…’

‘And then she did.’ Caitlin concluded softly.

‘And Moffett was responsible.’ Hawke shook his head again. ‘So I had the excuse I needed to go after him.’ For the first time, he looked away from her not wanting to see the disappointment or worse in her eyes at what he’d done. ‘Even if Gabrielle had lived I’m not sure the ending would have turned out different.’

‘Maybe not.’ Caitlin caught his chin with her hand and nudged his gaze back to hers. ‘But the world’s a better place without him, String. You’re still one of the good guys.’

Her use of the softer derivative of his name brought a fleeting smile to his lips; the look of absolute faith in him soothed him. ‘I’m not sorry I killed him,’ he said finally, ‘but like I said it’s never going to be something that I’m proud of, Cait.’

‘Maybe that’s the way it should be.’ She commented. ‘Maybe it’s about time you made your peace with that.’

He kissed her. ‘Maybe.’ He settled them back on the porch bench.

‘I guess if this code thing is down to Moffett you’re going to feel like you’re back competing with him over who really has Airwolf.’ Caitlin commented.

Hawke hugged her closer as he realised she’d pinpointed the reason for his unease. The last time with the logic bomb, it had felt like Moffett was reaching out from the beyond the grave to claim her.

‘Karen will figure it out.’ Caitlin reassured him.

‘Yeah.’

She twisted her fingers together and sighed. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘What for?’ Hawke asked surprised at the apology.

‘For being jealous…about your relationship with Gabrielle.’ Caitlin admitted blushing. ‘I guess some part of me has always worried a little from what Dom said that she was the love of your life…’

‘Hey. You’re not the one who should apologise, and Cait,’ Hawke framed her face with his hands. ‘You are my life.’ He kissed her.

‘Have I told you recently that I love you, Stringfellow Hawke?’ Caitlin said when they finally broke apart.

Hawke smiled and stood up. He offered her a hand and when she took it, tugged her off the bench and into his arms. ‘Why don’t you show me, Mrs Hawke?’

‘Show you, huh?’ Caitlin’s smile widened as she hooked her arms around his neck. ‘You have some ideas about how I might do that?’

‘Some,’ agreed Hawke as he dipped his head to kiss her again. A sound caught his attention and he groaned.

‘Chopper?’ asked Caitlin torn between frustration at the interruption and amusement at the disgruntlement on her husband’s face.

‘Phone.’ Hawke scowled. The faint sound of the incessant beeping drifted from the open cabin door.

‘We’d better answer it.’ Caitlin kissed him lightly and headed inside.

Hawke leaned on the porch railing as he waited for her to pick up the FIRM satellite phone. Apart from the radio it was the only communication device they had at the cabin. He didn’t have to wait long before Caitlin rejoined him. She handed him his jacket.

‘That was Michael. He needs to see us right away.’

Hawke nodded. ‘Karen found something?’

‘He wouldn’t say.’ Caitlin sighed. ‘He’s contacting Dom. I told him to tell Dom we’d pick him up on the way to the FIRM.’

Hawke sighed and took her hand as they headed to the chopper.

Continued in Part III.

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