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Fanfiction: Closure - Part I

Fandom: Airwolf
Series: The Lost Season (Story 23)
Summary: Hawke recovers from his injuries but faces a deadly duel with Dom's killer.
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Hawke/Caitlin.  Michael/Marella. 
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Closure

Part 1

Stringfellow Hawke knew it was a dream. He didn’t exactly know how he knew but somehow, someway his conscious mind was telling him the truth. The Santini Air office around him might seem real; the table he was leaning against certainly felt solid enough and he’d almost burned his tongue on the hot coffee in the mug he held but…it was a dream…

He glanced at the office door. Something bad had happened beyond that door. His brow creased as he tried to remember what. Why wouldn’t his head work?

You OK, kid?’

Hawke turned at the voice of Dominic Santini and smiled at the old man who was a close friend, mentor and surrogate father all wrapped up into one. Dom was dressed in his usual garb; pale blue shirt, brown trousers, topped with a shining blue jacket inscribed with the Santini Air logo and a red baseball cap over his wispy grey curls. The familiar sight calmed something in Hawke.

Just feeling a little groggy, Dom.’ Hawke replied.

You were injured pretty bad, String.’ Dom reminded him. Injured…of course, he’d been injured…that’s why he was dreaming and why this wasn’t real. Dom gave Hawke a gap-toothed grin. ‘Well, I’ve got to go now. I’ve stayed with you too long as it is, kid.’ He stood up and made for the door.

No!’ Hawke panicked; he wasn’t ready to lose him yet. He moved to block Dom’s path, standing in front of him. ‘Don’t go, Dom. Not yet.’

I have to, String, it’s my time.’

Hawke held on tightly to Dom, tears already flowing down his cheeks as he begged the man who’d raised him not to leave him.

Dom patted his back. ‘It’s my time, kid.’ He repeated and drew back.

I can’t come with you.’ Hawke said.

Dom’s large callused palm cupped Hawke’s face. ‘I know. It’s not your time yet, String. You have Caitlin and your son to look after.’

Hawke nodded at the mention of his wife and their unborn baby. They needed him and he couldn’t leave them; he’d promised Caitlin.

It’s time you returned to them and it’s time for me to leave.’

How am I going to do this without you?’ Hawke asked roughly.

You’re going to be fine.’ Dom kissed his cheek. ‘I’m always going to be backing you, kid. Don’t forget that.’

Hawke watched Dom slip through the office door and away from him…

It was the incessant beeping noise that brought Hawke back to consciousness. It broke through the insulating bubble that had protected him from the outside world and nudged him slowly but ruthlessly awake. He opened his blue eyes and immediately snapped them shut to block out the artificial light that flooded every corner of the room. He opened them again slowly, allowing them to adjust. He lifted his head and stopped as even that slight movement caused his senses to swim; his head felt heavy. His eyes rested on a monitor by the side of his bed. It was the source of the beeping sound. He scowled. He was in a hospital. His gaze drifted and careened to a stop at a woman slumped asleep in a chair by the bed.

Caitlin. His eyes scoured her appearance. She was dressed in blue jeans and an oversize pink jumper. Her red hair was caught in a messy ponytail with wisps escaping to frame her freckled face. The pale delicate features were screwed up into a frown as though her troubles had followed her into her dreams. His sigh disturbed her and she stretched, arching her back and displaying the pregnant profile of her body as she came awake. Her blue-green eyes flickered in his direction and caught his like a snare. For a long moment they remained frozen looking at each other.

‘Hi.’ His own voice sounded rusty with disuse.

‘Ohmigod! You’re awake!’ Caitlin stumbled out of the chair and made toward the bed before changing directions abruptly. ‘I have to get a nurse.’

‘Caitlin, wait!’ Hawke stopped her and she made her way back to his side.

‘Are you real?’ He asked hesitantly.

She smiled and laid her hand against his cheek, her thumb brushing over the stubble on his jaw. ‘Is this real enough for you?’

Hawke raised a trembling hand to cover hers. He leaned into her. ‘You’re real. You’re really real.’

‘I’m really real.’ The smile she wore shook and her eyes filled with tears. ‘I thought I’d lost you.’

‘I’m here.’ Hawke said trying to comfort her.

‘Yes, you are.’ Caitlin leaned down to kiss his other cheek and he caught the hint of her perfume before she drew back. ‘I need to get the nurse. I’ll be right back.’

The next few hours sped by in what seemed to him a frenzy of examinations, of being poked and prodded, asked inane questions and embarrassingly having tubes removed from various places he preferred not to think about. He heard the doctor catalogue the list of his injuries in a state of disbelief; burned hands and arms that had healed without scarring; his lower legs had been badly cut and the blood flow compromised; they’d had to perform additional surgery to prevent the loss of his right leg. There had been spinal damage but the inflammation had reduced and it wasn’t permanent. The worse news was the brain haemorrhage that had happened shortly after his arrival at the clinic…wherever it was; his hand drifted up to the side of his head where they had opened his skull to perform brain surgery. He’d slipped into a coma following the operation and apparently they had feared it would leave him with permanent brain damage.

Finally, he was tucked back into the bed and they left him alone with Caitlin. She perched at the side of the bed and he noticed the small white lines of fatigue and worry that lined her face. She’d been through hell worrying about him, he thought, and she’d had to endure it alone.

‘You probably have a dozen questions.’ She began. ‘How much do you remember?’

‘Bits and pieces.’ Hawke burrowed back into his pillows. ‘I remember the explosion and losing…losing Dom.’ His voice broke and he took a moment to recover his breath. When he looked up he saw his own grief reflected in Caitlin’s face. He felt for her hand and clasped it with his own.

‘I miss him too.’ She said.

They were silent for a long while as they mourned the loss of a man who had treated them both like his own children. Caitlin clumsily swiped at the tears running down her cheeks.

Hawke sighed. ‘Cait, I remember after…I thought I was dying.’

She nodded. ‘You were doing a pretty good job of it.’

His blue eyes focused on Caitlin again. ‘I remember at the hospital…I promised to come home to you.’

She nodded and her eyes shone with tears again. ‘I was so scared you were slipping away from me. It was the only way I could think of to keep you focused on fighting through.’

‘God, I missed you.’ He said quietly.

‘We missed each other.’ Her voice was a whisper. ‘When you asked me to stay away…’

He flinched as though she had yelled the words at him.

‘I couldn’t bear not being able to be with you…’ Caitlin’s eyes filled with more tears and she tried to pull away.

Hawke kept a firm grip of her hand. ‘I was trying to protect you, Cait, especially with the baby. I lost Dom, Cait. I knew I couldn’t lose you too. That would have killed me for sure.’

‘I know.’ A tear made a lazy trail down her cheek.

Hawke reached out and wiped it away with his thumb. He left his hand cupping her face and slowly drew her toward him until he could kiss her softly on her lips. They looked at each other and he kissed her again, driving his fingers into her hair at the nape of her neck. He felt her palm against his bare chest and he broke away from the kiss to tug her closer, burying his face in the clean scent of her hair. They stayed that way for a long while until he eventually drew back.

‘Are we OK?’ Hawke pushed a lock of hair away from her damp face.

She sniffed and traced his rough jaw line with her finger. ‘We will be.’

‘I thought…at the hospital…’ Hawke hesitated. ‘I thought I saw Saint John.’ His breath caught in his throat and he dimly registered that Caitlin was nodding.

‘You didn’t dream it.’ Caitlin squeezed his hand. ‘You have your brother back. Jo took Airwolf with Locke and an airforce major called Rivers to Burma. They rescued him.’

Hawke closed his eyes again and let the relief seep through him. It hadn’t been a dream. Saint John was home.

‘I called him.’ Caitlin continued. ‘He’s on his way.’

Hawke opened his eyes and frowned at her. Jo was Dom’s niece; they had been training her to fly Airwolf, the world’s most technologically advanced and only mach capable helicopter, just before the explosion that had killed Dom and injured him. Jason Locke, he vaguely remembered the name…Archangel’s replacement at the FIRM…no, not the FIRM any longer; it had merged with another, larger intelligence agency called the Company. Locke had taken over as Hawke’s contact on Airwolf whilst Archangel, Hawke’s friend otherwise known as Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, concentrated on a project to build a new generation of the helicopter. Rivers…he didn’t recognise at all. So if that was the team that had rescued his brother in Airwolf…his tired mind put together the missing pieces…

‘The Company have Airwolf.’ Hawke said dully. Caitlin nodded. He sighed and slumped back against the pillows. He would never have handed over the helicopter willingly especially with the development of her artificial intelligence but maybe it was good that it was finally over.

‘Hey.’ Caitlin’s gentle tug of his hand brought him out of his reverie. ‘It’s not as bad as you think.’

He raised an inquiring eyebrow.

‘We managed to transfer the artificial intelligence into the new ship,’ Caitlin explained, ‘and modified the programming in the old ship to prevent another intelligence from forming.’

‘You mean the self-preservation code?’ Hawke asked thinking of the part of Airwolf’s programming that allowed her independent action.

‘Yep. We removed it.’ Caitlin said. ‘The modified programming in the old ship doesn’t allow the computer to learn from the memory logs or initiate any kind of self-preservation code.’

‘So she’s just like any other jet?’ Hawke couldn’t keep his disappointment from his voice.

Caitlin rubbed his hand comfortingly. ‘Well, apart from the fact that the intelligence seems to have found someway of linking back to the old ship too. She’s using her intact programming in the new ship to operate.’

‘Linking back?’ Hawke wondered if he was going to say something that wasn’t a question.

‘She seems to be able to transfer herself at will.’ Caitlin smiled. ‘It’s driving Michael nuts.’

‘I bet it is.’ Hawke couldn’t see his old friend being overly relaxed about an independent intelligence being able to roam from computer to computer without any boundaries.

‘It’s just as well though,’ Caitlin commented, ‘I think she’s helping keep the new Airwolf team in one piece.’

‘They’re not doing so good, huh?’ A small glimmer of satisfaction settled the knot of envy in his gut.

‘They’re not you and Dom.’ Caitlin murmured. ‘One of the side benefits of the linkage is apparently Airwolf is copying all the memory files over from the new missions in the old ship into the memory log in the new ship. I think it’s the only thing preventing Michael from asking Karen to curtail her. I think he knows more about the Airwolf team’s activities than the Company director at the moment especially given Locke’s decision to keep Airwolf at the Lair and the location a secret from his superiors.’

‘I didn’t know Locke had it in him.’ Hawke was surprised; his memory of Locke was as a Company man and a stuffed shirt; he hadn’t thought Locke had the balls for that kind of decision. He felt a wave of tiredness descend on him and he stubbornly refused to give in to it. He rubbed a thumb across her knuckles as other details came back to him. ‘Saint John got me out of the hospital?’

‘With a little help from Marella. When you arrived at the cabin, I was waiting with Airwolf and brought you and Saint John here. Michael arranged everything. He’ll be pleased to hear you’re awake.’ Caitlin said.

‘How is he?’ Hawke asked.

‘Good.’ Caitlin smiled. ‘The new project is going well. He and Marella are definitely very much a couple. They visited with Angelina a couple of weeks ago.’

Hawke smiled at the mention of Michael’s senior aide; Michael had admitted his feelings for Marella just before everything had happened and he was pleased to hear it was going well. It sounded like Angelina, Michael’s ten year old daughter, was much more accepting of the relationship than she had been.

‘They’re taking care of Tet.’ Caitlin murmured.

Hawke frowned mentioned at his dog. He wondered how much else he had missed whilst he’d been unconscious. ‘I don’t remember getting here. I don’t remember much after seeing Saint John.’

‘You were out cold the whole journey.’ Caitlin looked back up at him and stroked a hand over his cropped brown hair, careful to keep away from the still livid scar from the surgery.

Hawke cleared his throat. ‘So where is here exactly?’ He gestured at the room.

‘Switzerland.’ Caitlin smiled at his shock. ‘The clinic’s the best in the world for treating major trauma victims. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into getting you well.’

‘How long?’

‘Just under two months.’ Her eyes over spilled with tears again.

‘Two months.’ Hawke repeated the words. He felt the tiredness he’d been holding back descending on him like a tidal wave. He rubbed his free hand over his face.

‘You’re tired. You should rest.’ Caitlin slipped out of their embrace and off the bed. She smoothed the blankets where she’d been sitting as he settled back against the pillows and he caught hold of her hand.

‘Caitlin?’ He asked as he felt the inextricable pull towards sleep. ‘Stay with me.’

‘I’ll be here.’ He heard her say as his eyelids shut firmly and he gave up his hold on consciousness.

Part 2


A faint stream of early morning sunlight was beginning to filter through the blinds when Hawke reopened his eyes. His gaze immediately fell on Caitlin curled up in the chair beside the bed. She was asleep, an open book on her lap. His expression softened as he caught the glint of her wedding ring. There was so much they hadn’t discussed yet…so much they hadn’t had the opportunity to…he frowned as his senses caught something. Someone was in the room with them. He jerked his head round to the left, winced at the sharp pain he caused with the movement before the sight before him stole his breath completely; Saint John.

His brother sat resting in another easy chair pulled up to the other side of the bed. His light brown hair looked mussed and he was unshaven, dressed in a green flight suit. Saint John’s eyes snapped open. The two brothers looked at each other; hazel eyes into blue.

‘God, String!’ Saint John pushed himself to his feet and leaned over to hug his younger brother to him. ‘You scared the bejesus out of me!’ He kept his voice low so they wouldn’t disturb Caitlin.

‘Guess I’m too stubborn to die.’ Hawke eased back from his brother. ‘Guess we both are.’

‘I’m guessing in your case someone’s too stubborn to let you.’ Saint John slanted a look at the woman across the bed.

‘She has this thing about my getting medical attention.’ Hawke explained.

‘I kinda figured.’ Saint John smiled sheepishly, sitting back down. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Weak as a kitten,’ Hawke admitted, ‘but I’m alive. How are you?’

‘I’m OK. Adjusting, I guess.’ Saint John grinned. ‘It’s weird not being under cover anymore.’ He leaned forward in the chair. ‘I had no idea that you didn’t know I wasn’t MIA. If I’d known I would have contacted you, you have to believe that.’

‘I believe you.’ Hawke murmured. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about his brother condemning him to years of uncertainty about his fate despite the words. It was done and it seemed pointless getting angry about it but he could feel his skin bristling with pinpricks of hurt that threatened to grow into something nastier anyway. He sighed. There was an awkward silence.

Saint John cleared his throat. ‘There’s also the matter of the helicopter you left me with.’

‘How is the Lady?’ Hawke felt another pang of envy in his gut. Even with the next generation Airwolf helicopter and the news that the artificial intelligence was transferred, it felt strange that Airwolf was no longer exclusively his.

‘We’re getting used to her.’ Saint John smiled. ‘Caitlin helps out with the odd question now and again when I can sneak a phone call to her. She’s making me look good.’

‘The Company don’t know…?’ Hawke glanced over at his wife protectively.

‘They don’t know where you are, I may have given them the impression you were dead.’ Saint John paused. ‘Even Jo thinks you’re dead.’

Hawke shifted impatiently and turned back to his brother; he wasn’t bothered about himself only about his wife. ‘What about Caitlin?’

‘They also have no idea about Caitlin or even who she is. I talked to Jo and she’s agreed to keep Caitlin’s existence from the rest of the team.’ Saint John reassured him. He leaned forward clasping his hands and glanced over at his sister-in-law. ‘She’s great, String. I can see why you married her.’

Hawke smiled. ‘Best thing I ever did.’

Saint John smiled. It had been a long time but if he was reading his brother right, those simple words spoke volumes. He frowned as he saw Hawke’s eyelids droop.

‘You’re tired.’ Saint John stood up. ‘Get some rest. I’ll come back later.’

Hawke heard his brother leave the room as his eyes closed and fell asleep.

A nurse shook Hawke awake a few hours later, pressing medication on him and helping him with his morning ablutions despite his protests that he could manage fine on his own. Caitlin looked on for a while with amusement before disappearing. She arrived back, freshly showered and changed, to find him back in bed fuming silently at his own weakness and contemplating the bowl of cereal he’d been given for breakfast.

‘Hey.’ Hawke’s gaze snapped to her as she hovered in the doorway.

‘Hey.’ Caitlin moved inside and shut the door. She gestured at his bowl. ‘You don’t want it?’

‘I was hoping for pancakes.’ He joked. He lay down the spoon. He’d only managed a couple of mouthfuls and his stomach was churning uneasily.

‘It’ll take you awhile to get back on solid food.’ Caitlin kissed him and moved to perch on the bed after she helped him settle back against the pillows.

Hawke smiled at her, noting the damp strands of hair that clung to her neck where the hair-dryer hadn’t quite reached. ‘The nurse said the doctor would be along later to talk to me about my recovery program.’ He reached out a hand and was pleased when she took it. ‘Saint John was here earlier.’

Caitlin nodded. ‘I saw him when he arrived.’

‘It’s weird having him back.’ Hawke admitted.

‘You talk any?’ Caitlin asked.

‘Some.’ Hawke sighed.

‘Just give it some time, Hawke.’ Caitlin smiled at him.

‘Yeah.’ Hawke kissed the palm of her hand. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘we didn’t get a chance to talk about you or the baby before I passed out again last night.’

‘I’m fine…’

‘What about the morning sickness?’ Hawke said.

‘It’s pretty much stopped.’ Caitlin said happily. ‘Just occasionally, now and again. The doctor’s here have been great; they’ve been looking after me. The baby’s moving now. Here. Feel.’ Caitlin placed his hand under her shirt, over the gentle curving bump of her pregnancy and he felt the strangest sensation against his fingertips.

‘Wow.’ Hawke was stunned. ‘That’s the baby?’

‘That’s the baby.’ Caitlin confirmed. ‘Doesn’t it feel incredible?’

He glanced up at Caitlin. She looked as awed as he felt. He wished fervently that he had been there for the first time she had felt their baby move inside her. How many other moments had he missed out on?

‘I’m so sorry, Cait.’ Hawke murmured.

‘What for?’ She asked confused.

‘Not being here for you.’

‘You’re here now and you’re going to be with us from now on.’ Caitlin said knowing there was nothing else she could say to take away the hurt and guilt he was feeling. ‘That’s what counts.’

‘From now on.’ Hawke promised. The tiny fluttering happened again and he stroked her skin gently. His dream came back to him. Dom had told him he’d have a…a son. ‘He’s pretty active, huh?’

‘He?’ Caitlin raised an eyebrow amused at the sudden use of the pronoun. When they’d found out she was pregnant, they’d decided not to label the baby early, agreeing that they would be happy with either a boy or a girl as long as they were healthy.

‘I think he’s a boy.’ Hawke said.

‘Any reason?’ Caitlin asked curious at the certainty in his expression.

Hawke hesitated but gave in seeing her curiosity. ‘I kinda had this dream just before I came to.’

‘Oh?’

He rubbed at the soft skin of her belly under his fingers. ‘I was in the office at Santini Air talking to Dom and he told me that I needed to take care of you and our son.’

‘Dom told you?’

Hawke nodded. ‘It was weird, Cait. It was like we were saying goodbye.’

‘Maybe you were.’ Caitlin felt more tears threatening at the sadness in his voice and she took a shaky breath.

‘Maybe.’ Hawke’s hand flattened over her tummy as he looked back up at her. ‘He told me he’d always be backing me.’

‘He always did.’ Caitlin said.

‘Yeah.’ Hawke smiled at her and leaned forward to capture her lips.

The door opened and his brother strode in. Saint John came to a stop seeing the couple kissing and Hawke’s hand beneath Caitlin’s shirt. ‘Sorry.’ He mumbled embarrassed.

Hawke felt Caitlin’s lips curving under his and turned to the door where his brother was beginning to back out awkwardly. He grinned at Saint John’s expression. ‘You’re OK, Saint John. Just catching up with my wife and my son.’ He didn’t remove his hand.

Caitlin rolled her eyes at him but smiled welcomingly at Saint John. He came into the room and closed the door behind him.

‘Son?’ Saint John asked. ‘You had the scan?’

‘Yes, I had the scan but I asked them not to tell me. Your brother just woke up convinced we’re having a boy.’ Caitlin shifted her weight and Hawke glanced at her concerned.

‘You should get more comfortable.’ He reluctantly let go of her and she reached for the chair beside the bed gratefully. Saint John sprung into action to assist her, lifting it closer so she would be right next to the bed and able to slip her hand into Hawke’s.

‘So what’s the plan?’ Caitlin asked her brother-in-law as he took a seat on the opposite side of the bed. ‘Are you going to be able to stay a while?’

‘A couple of days.’ Saint John said. ‘We’re between missions.’

‘You get the problem with the targeting systems sorted out?’ She asked.

Saint John nodded. ‘Your suggestion worked perfectly.’

As his brother began to ask about details to do with Caitlin’s health and the baby, Hawke began to realise that Saint John had stayed in touch with Caitlin for more than just the odd phone call about Airwolf. He frowned at the teasing tone in Saint John’s voice when he asked Caitlin if she was still craving ice-cream. A wave of irrational jealousy swept over him.

‘You’re craving ice-cream huh?’ Hawke rubbed Caitlin’s fingers and drew her attention.

‘Chocolate.’ She admitted ruefully. ‘I seem to be eating a bowl of it every time your brother calls.’

‘Really.’ Hawke said.

Saint John heard the edge in his brother’s voice. ‘Why don’t I give you guys some time together?’ He said smoothly getting to his feet.

Caitlin waved him back into his chair as she rose. ‘You stay. I have to go sort some things out.’ She gestured vaguely before she leaned down and kissed her husband.

Hawke’s blue eyes watched her skirt the bed. They narrowed as she laid a hand on Saint John’s shoulder on her way out.

Saint John smiled at Caitlin and watched her leave the room. His sister-in-law was one hell of a woman. He brought his gaze back to Hawke and found himself pinned by a searing blue stare.

‘It sounds like you’ve been keeping in touch with her a little more than with the odd sneaked phone call.’ Hawke noted.

Saint John looked at him surprised at the tone of his brother’s voice. He gave a small laugh as he realised what Hawke was thinking. ‘You can’t be serious.’

Hawke raised an eyebrow.

‘You are serious.’ Saint John realised when the intensity of the glare didn’t diminish. ‘String, you have to know she would never…’

‘I know that.’ Hawke stated. ‘I trust Caitlin.’

Saint John felt his own anger stirring. ‘You don’t trust me.’

‘I don’t know you.’ Hawke blurted out.

The air abruptly thickened with tension as the two brothers stared at each other.

Saint John sighed and shifted to lean forward, his hands clasped in front of him. ‘I know this is my fault, String.’

Hawke shifted in the bed and rested his head on the stacked pillows behind him, breaking the eye contact with his brother. ‘Is it?’ He met Saint John’s eyes again. ‘I left you.’

Saint John sprang to his feet and moved to sit on the bed beside his younger brother. He took one of Hawke’s hands in his. ‘You had to leave, String. I knew that.’

‘If you blame me…I can understand it, Saint John.’ Hawke sighed. ‘I’ve kinda been expecting it since I ran into Mace and he tried to blow me out of the sky.’

Saint John blinked. Mace Taggert had been close to them in ‘Nam. He sighed. ‘I can’t say I never blamed you, String. There were moments in the camp…but I always knew you did the right thing.’ He squeezed his brother’s hand. ‘I guess we know now why brothers weren’t meant to serve in the same unit, huh?’

Hawke looked down at their clasped hands. ‘If you didn’t blame me, why didn’t you come back or call?’

‘You think that’s why I stayed away? Because I blamed you?’ Saint John was incredulous.

‘What else am I meant to think?’ Hawke muttered defensively.

Saint John straightened his shoulders and held Hawke’s unhappy blue eyes. ‘I tried to contact you. I left you the letter…’

‘It was a goodbye letter, Saint John,’ Hawke broke in angrily, ‘and I didn’t get that until I opened your footlocker last year.’

‘I wasn’t to know you wouldn’t open the footlocker for years, String.’ Saint John shot back, his voice rising.

‘I thought you were MIA.’ Hawke retorted furiously. ‘It was your footlocker. I didn’t want to open it. I wanted to find you and bring you home so you could open it.’

Saint John had no reply. He wrenched his hand from his brother and stormed to the window to glare unseeingly at the beautiful scenery outside.

Hawke felt his heart pounding. He couldn’t remember them ever really arguing before. He’d known the hurt inside him had been growing ever since he’d found out that Saint John had been rescued from the Vietcong and joined another army unit; that his brother had survived the war and continued his life without contacting him. But he was shocked at the depth of the anger he felt, the way it reached his bones and made him shake. He deliberately took a deep breath.

‘You could have called.’ Hawke said, happy that he’d managed to lower the volume of his voice even if the tone remained accusatory. ‘Any time in the last sixteen years, you could have picked up the phone and told me you were OK. Dom never moved, Saint John. He kept the same apartment, same telephone number just in case.’

Saint John’s head bowed. He’d loved the old man who’d raised them; he’d grieved at the news of his death. ‘I know.’ He shoved his hands deep in his jeans pockets and spun back to his brother. ‘Don’t you think I know that?’

The grief in Saint John’s voice, in his eyes stopped the harsh words Hawke had been about to utter. He took another breath. ‘Why?’ He asked plaintively. ‘Why did you never call, write, something just to let us know you were still alive?’

Saint John sighed and walked back to the chair Caitlin had occupied. He sat back down. ‘I don’t know, String. It’s complicated.’

‘Talk to me.’ Hawke demanded.

‘At first…’ Saint John shrugged, ‘the unit I joined was tight. They were really strict on anyone communicating beyond the team. I barely got permission to write you that letter. When I was still with the army, it never seemed possible.’

‘And later when you left?’ Hawke pressed.

‘I was waiting till I got some vacation to visit.’ Saint John said. ‘We hadn’t spoken in years and I didn’t just want to call you but then I got a mission, and another. I was deep undercover, String. There was just no way I could risk calling you.’

‘There must have been times when you weren’t undercover.’

‘Sure.’ Saint John nodded. ‘I can’t remember how many times I’ve picked up the phone and put it back down; started a letter and stopped.’ He shook his head. ‘It just didn’t seem to be the right time, the right moment.’ He sighed. ‘Truth is, String, that I’ve done some thinking since I came home and I think the reason why I didn’t call was because I liked the freedom.’

‘What do you mean?’ Hawke’s brow creased.

‘After Mom and Dad died, I had to be the responsible one, String.’ Saint John held a finger up to stop him from arguing. ‘I was the older brother and I was meant to take care of you. Hell, the army even expected it. I remember Colonel Vidor once telling me to watch your six because you were the one pilot we couldn’t lose.’ He shook his head at the memory. ‘And I never minded. We were a team.’ He took a breath. ‘But when I got captured, I’d had two and a half years of being on my own and when I got offered a place with the unit that rescued me, I figured it was a good thing that we wouldn’t be in the same unit. No more chances for either of us to feel responsible for the other one.’

Hawke sighed. ‘So what you meant is that you liked not having to be responsible for me anymore.’

Saint John nodded. ‘I think I’ve been running scared of losing that sense of freedom, of losing my independence.’ He reached forward and clasped Hawke’s hands. ‘But if I’d had any idea you thought I was still MIA, I would have picked up the phone in a heartbeat. I just can’t tell you how sorry I am how things went down.’

‘I get it.’ Hawke said. ‘I do, Saint John.’ He confirmed when his brother looked at him with disbelief. ‘Hell, I even understand a little. I’ve kinda liked not being known just as Saint John Hawke’s little brother.’

‘But?’

‘But you stayed away so long.’ Hawke’s voice was plaintive.

‘I know, I know.’ Saint John admitted. ‘You have every right to be angry…’

‘I am angry.’ Hawke said. ‘More than a little. Dammit, Saint John, the only reason you’re here is because I was your last resort getting away from Buchard.’

Saint John flushed. ‘But I am back now and I’m not planning to go away again.’

‘And I’m pleased, I really am.’ Hawke said. ‘But we can’t pretend the last sixteen years haven’t happened.’

Saint John sighed. ‘It’s going to take time for us to get past this.’

‘Yeah.’ Hawke’s lips twitched as he remembered Caitlin’s words earlier that morning. ‘So my wife tells me.’

Saint John looked at him seriously. ‘About Caitlin…’

Hawke gestured with his free hand. ‘I was out of order, Saint John. It’s just I kinda feel guilty that I haven’t been there for her for past couple of months and you have.’

‘I was only ever a poor substitute, String.’ Saint John smile widened. ‘She’s treated me like family and that’s meant a lot to me but all she’s really wanted the whole time was you.’

‘She loves me.’ Hawke said smugly.

‘Yeah, for some strange reason she really does,’ Saint John said, ‘and despite the evidence to the contrary, little brother, so do I.’

Hawke reached forward and they hugged tightly.

Their frank conversation came back to Hawke a few mornings later when an almost overwhelming sense of relief flooded him as he and Caitlin watched Saint John get in a cab and head back to the airport. They waved to the disappearing car until it was out of sight. Hawke slipped his hand into Caitlin’s and breathed in the fresh air, turned his face up to the sun. He halted the nurse who stepped up to wheel the chair he was sat in back into the clinic.

‘Could you just give us ten minutes?’ He asked. He found it amusing that the nurse checked first with Caitlin.

‘Maybe you could wheel him over there and I can sit on the bench?’ Caitlin asked.

The nurse nodded and followed her instructions before going back inside. Caitlin lowered herself onto the bench next to him and when she was comfortable Hawke reached for her hand again.

‘This is nice, huh?’ Hawke’s eyes drank in the blue skies and lush green grounds of the clinic. He could see a lake in the distance and his heart gave a skip. He missed his home; he missed his dog and his cello; the call of the eagle…

‘Are you sure you’re warm enough?’ Caitlin asked worriedly. Hawke was bundled up with a warm coat and blankets over his pyjamas but the air was crisp and she could feel a chill through her own clothes.

‘I’m good.’ Hawke reassured her. ‘It’s just great to be outside.’

‘Feeling cooped up?’ Caitlin asked.

‘A little.’ He admitted; it had gotten worse when the doctor told him that he had at least another couple of months of recovery. It had been a shock but he’d made a start; his physio to rebuild his muscles and strengthen his injured back was going well, he was off the monitors and drips completely, and he’d refused the shrink they’d offered him despite the nightmares that plagued him about Dom’s death. It was going to take time but he was on his way. In fact, the same could be said for his relationship with Saint John – it would take time to recover the past closeness they had shared but they were on their way.

‘What’s going on inside that head of yours?’ Caitlin asked curious at the emotions she could see flitting almost invisibly through his blue eyes.

He kissed her hand. ‘I was thinking about me and Saint John.’

‘You two seem to be working it out.’ Caitlin commented. She wasn’t oblivious to the remaining tension between the brothers but she could see they were both making an effort to get to know each other again and move past what had happened.

‘We are,’ Hawke smiled at her, ‘although…’

‘What?’

‘I’m kinda relieved he’s gone back to the States,’ Hawke admitted, ‘and I have you to myself.’

‘Hawke,’ Caitlin turned to face him fully, ‘you know I kinda got the impression the other morning that you were…’

‘Jealous?’ Hawke suggested. His eyes were rueful and he gave her a bashful smile. ‘I was. I just hated the fact that he knew about your craving for ice-cream and I didn’t.’ He shook his head. ‘Silly, huh?’

‘No.’ She disagreed with an understanding smile. ‘I’d hate it if my sister knew something about you that I didn’t.’

Hawke interlinked their fingers. ‘Did he talk to you about why he stayed away?’

Caitlin shifted position on the bench. ‘Some.’

‘I think I get why he did it.’ Hawke said.

‘You do?’

‘Yeah.’ Hawke rubbed her cold fingers; they’d have to head back in soon. ‘Saint John was always the responsible one because he was the oldest so being free of that must have been seductive. He must have feared losing that independence a lot.’ He sighed. ‘I know being free of having him watch over my shoulder all the time was pretty great.’

‘But that didn’t stop you looking for him.’ Caitlin pointed out.

‘To be honest, Cait, I think I was so focused on getting him back so I could feel better about leaving him in the jungle in the first place that I never actually considered what it would be like when he was.’

‘And how is it?’ Caitlin prompted gently.

‘Tough.’ Hawke smiled to lessen the impact of the harsh word. ‘I’ve gotten used to operating without an older brother. Like with the ice-cream, I’m grateful that he was watching out for you but it feels like…like…’

‘Like he was taking over?’ Caitlin commiserated.

‘Yeah.’ Hawke sighed. It was a large part of why he was relieved Saint John had gone home. He shifted in the chair. ‘You were right; it’s going to take time.’

‘At least you have that now.’ Caitlin pointed out. ‘I don’t think he’s going to forget to call anytime soon.’

Hawke smiled at her. ‘Come on. Let’s get back in.’

Continued in Part II.

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