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Fanfiction: Family Business - Part V

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Part 13


The machine beeped reassuringly. Hawke ignored it just like he had ignored it every day for the two weeks he had been sat in the room. His attention was on the almost insubstantial figure of his wife lying motionless in the hospital bed under a mountain of blankets. She lay abnormally straight and still. Caitlin usually exuded a restless energy, even in sleep, that was missing. Hawke’s fingers rubbed against her hand which he had wrapped tightly in his. He willed her to wake up.

The drug-induced coma had been abandoned once the doctors had confirmed the swelling on Caitlin’s brain had subsided yet she hadn’t woken up. The doctors were running tests and muttering over the results – results they still hadn’t shared with him. He wasn’t exactly oblivious to it, simply more determined to keep his focus on Caitlin. He had barely moved from her side since he had been shown into the room except the occasional bathroom break. Sometimes someone else would sit with him; her family, his family, Michael or Marella…they would talk with Caitlin while he would remain silent.

His hand reached up and stroked her pale cheek, his fingers sliding over the stark freckles as he ensured he didn’t disturb the respirator that controlled her breathing. She was covered in tubes providing nourishment to her body; removing the waste. The bandage surrounding her head gave her a strangely anaemic look; they had shaved her red hair away for the surgery. His thumb brushed over her pale lips. He held her hand up and ignored the vivid scratches that marked her skin as he pressed it against his rough cheek.

‘Is there any change?’ Erin, Caitlin’s older sister, reached for Caitlin’s other hand on the opposite side of the bed.

Hawke shook his head. He couldn’t remember when Erin had arrived and he dismissed it almost immediately as being unimportant.

‘Why don’t you take a break?’ Erin suggested. Her green eyes ran over him sympathetically taking in the shadows under his bloodshot eyes, the grey cast to his tanned complexion and the way his outfit of jeans and shirt hung loosely from his body.

Hawke shook his head again.

Erin sighed. ‘You know you should go and check on Nicky.’

The mention of his son stirred him momentarily and his gaze shifted from Caitlin to her sluggishly. ‘Is something wrong?’ He asked.

‘If I told you there were would you go and see him?’ Erin asked exasperated. ‘He’s your son, Hawke. He’s missing you and Caitlin. He doesn’t understand why you’re not with him.’ She stopped; Hawke’s attention had already moved back to Caitlin.

‘At least go and get something to eat.’ Erin pleaded.

Hawke didn’t respond.

She got up swiftly as tears pricked her eyes and she stooped to drop a light kiss on Caitlin’s cheek before she left the room closing the door behind her.

There was a rather sizeable group in the stark waiting room as she entered. Hawke’s family lined one wall with Mike and Jo lending support to Saint John. Jane’s arms were filled with Nicky; she had taken to her role of grandmother with eager enthusiasm despite the circumstances or perhaps because of them. Caitlin’s family occupied the other wall. They all looked up as Erin sought out her mother and took comfort in a hug for a long moment.

‘You tried, honey.’ Maggie said stroking her hair.

The door opened again and Michael entered. He was wearing his usual white suit but he had eschewed a jacket and the sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up. He was effectively running the Airwolf project from the hospital as neither he nor Marella had wanted to leave Hawke while Caitlin’s recovery remained questionable.

‘Any news?’ He asked as he sat down next to Patrick.

Caitlin’s father shook his head sadly. ‘She hasn’t moved. Neither of them have.’

‘Marella’s talking to the doctors now.’ Michael said soothingly. ‘Perhaps they’ll have more to tell us later.’

Alan cleared his throat. ‘Is there any word on the investigation?’

Michael shook his head. ‘Nothing more.’ His good eye grew cold. ‘We can be fairly certain it was the Cordelli’s though. Our intelligence has the family taking refuge in their Mexican villa the day after the attack.’ He stated. ‘They were obviously expecting retribution for the attempts on Caitlin and yourselves.’

‘Had they succeeded with all the attacks, they would have wiped out our entire family.’ Alan commented soberly.

‘I’m not sure they were all intended to take you out.’ Mike said out loud unusually sober. ‘I think the attacks on you were to distract Hawke and ensure Airwolf was kept occupied.’

‘Caitlin was the main target.’ Michael thought out loud.

‘Why?’ Patrick demanded.

Mike shifted awkwardly under the older man’s fierce gaze. ‘Take Hawke out of the game. With respect to everyone else in the room, he’s the main threat to Cordelli.’

‘Hawke is an extremely dangerous opponent.’ Michael mused rubbing his moustache.

‘He’s a helluva pilot.’ Alan noted remembering the dog fight.

‘So you’re saying our daughter is lying in that hospital bed because someone wanted Hawke…neutralised.’ Patrick was outraged.

‘I’m afraid so.’ Michael murmured.

Maggie rubbed Patrick’s arm gently. ‘I’m sure Hawke’s already blaming himself enough, Patrick.’

‘Yes.’ Michael agreed. ‘He is.’

‘I’m not blaming him.’ Patrick subsided onto one of the empty sofas with a heavy sigh. ‘This is just such a mess.’

‘I think we can all agree on that.’ Alan said grimly.

‘Only they’ve underestimated him.’ Michael continued. ‘Because as soon as Caitlin wakes up…or…’ he waved a hand vaguely to cover the other eventuality he didn’t want to say out loud, ‘he’s going to go after them.’

‘How?’ Alan asked. ‘Even if he takes out Giovanni Cordelli, there’s always going to be another Cordelli to take his place, that’s why I took the family into hiding in the first place.’

‘We have a plan.’ Saint John said evenly rubbing his hands together. He tilted his head. ‘We were going to execute as soon as you were all safe.’

‘Which reminds me,’ Michael inserted dryly, ‘I know you all want to be here for Hawke but you are creating an easy target all staying here together. I’d like you all to consider…’

The three Hawke siblings immediately began to protest.

‘None of us are leaving.’ Jane said determinedly over her children. She held Michael’s gaze. ‘We ran once; we’re not running again.’

‘I’m not leaving String.’ Saint John added his voice rough with emotion. ‘Not again.’

‘I think Michael’s right; you should all consider it.’ Jo laid a hand on his arm. ‘String would understand.’

Saint John stared at her in disbelief. ‘String would understand?’

Jo flushed and dropped her hand.

‘Actually I’m not sure he’d notice if we all disappeared again right now.’ Sarah sighed, glancing at Jo sympathetically.

Erin swiped at her cheeks. ‘He’s hurting so badly…’

‘Maybe if we took Nicky into the room…’ Jane suggested. She looked down on her grandson lovingly.

‘He’s not interested.’ Erin tried to keep any hint of judgement out of her voice. ‘It’s like the only thing that exists for him is Caitlin.’

‘He always was single-minded even as a child.’ Alan said crossing his arms as he leaned against a wall beside his wife.

Saint John surged to his feet. ‘So what are we supposed to do? Just sit here and wait for him waste away along with…’ He stopped abruptly. He looked apologetically at Caitlin’s parents. ‘Sorry.’ He muttered. He spun away and charged out the room.

Mike waited and when Jo didn’t move he sighed and got up. ‘He didn’t mean it.’ He offered before he went after his friend.

‘We’re sorry.’ Sarah apologised.

‘There’s no need.’ Maggie murmured. ‘This is tough on all of us.’ Her voice broke on her last word and Patrick wrapped an arm around her.

Michael sighed and got to his feet. He limped out of the room and into the corridor. A brief look to his right confirmed that Mike had caught up with Saint John and was quietly comforting the other man by the nurses’ station. He watched as Mike led his best friend away probably to get some air. Michael leaned against the wall and took off his glasses. He pinched his nose as he closed his eye and tried to get rid of the tension headache he had developed.

‘You need sleep.’ Dom advised sagely.

Michael opened his eye slowly. Dom was leaning on the wall beside him. He looked as tired as Michael felt. ‘You look awful.’

Dom gave a huff of laughter. ‘Gee, thanks, Michael. You’re not looking so hot yourself, huh?’

‘Where have you been?’ Michael demanded. ‘Have you seen Hawke?’

‘I’ve been with him.’ Dom said simply. ‘And so have you. That’s all we can do, Michael.’

Michael sighed heavily and replaced his glasses. ‘You know he hasn’t seen, Nicky. He’s pulling away from his family just at the moment when he’s found them.’

‘You have to make him see what he’s doing is wrong.’ Dom said.

‘And how exactly do I do that, Dominic?’ Michael hissed.

Dom rubbed his hand through his wispy grey hair. ‘You tell me.’ He gestured at Michael. ‘I never understood how you managed to get him to the…uh…funeral…when, you know, we thought Cait was…dead.’

‘I threatened to tell you he’d tried to shoot himself.’

Dom frowned. ‘I took all the guns out of the house.’

‘Apparently, not all of them.’ Michael pointed out with ruthless logic.

Dom threw his hands up. ‘The sneaky…’ he sighed heavily and caught Michael’s gaze. ‘You can do this, Michael.’ He gave him a sad smile. ‘I know you and I haven’t always gotten along but I know String couldn’t ask for a better friend. You do your best and you’ll be OK.’

The other man’s words filled Michael with gratified sense of pride. He couldn’t deny to himself that Dom’s confidence in him, his belief in him didn’t mean something. ‘Thanks, Dominic.’ He held Dom’s gaze. ‘I’m certain I’ll regret saying this but I wish you were here, really here, I mean.’

‘So do I, Michael.’ Dom answered gravely.

The spy waved down the corridor. ‘I best go and talk to him.’

‘Sounds like a good idea.’ Dom watched Michael take a step away from him. ‘Michael…’

Michael turned back with a quizzical look at Dom’s odd tone.

Dom gave him another sad gap-toothed smile. ‘I’ll see you around.’

Michael nodded slowly. He turned away for a second and whirled back to question the ghost further; Dom was gone. He frowned. He couldn’t shake the feeling he had missed something in their exchange. He headed to Caitlin’s room. He knocked and went in without waiting for an answer; he doubted he would get one. He walked around the bed to an empty chair and sat down. Hawke barely glanced up at him.

‘They’re all worried about you.’ Michael began. ‘You’re fading away from us and you don’t even seem to realise it.’ There was the barest flicker across Hawke’s face, the only sign he had heard. ‘You have to pull yourself out of this. Your son needs you. You’re his parent; you have to be the one to tell him it’s going to be OK, that you’re always going to be there for him. You have to fight dammit.’

Hawke stirred as Michael fell silent. ‘Do you think she heard you?’ He asked roughly.

Michael looked at him over the expanse of the bed. ‘I don’t know but I wasn’t talking to her.’

There was a brief spurt of shock in Hawke’s eyes.

‘Snap the hell out of this, Hawke.’ Michael said forcefully. ‘If she’s going to make it, you need to fight alongside her.’

‘What do you think I’m doing?’ Hawke growled angrily.

‘Hiding.’ Michael shot back.

Michael welcomed the anger he could see that crackled through Hawke’s blue eyes; it was better than the non-responsive Hawke of the previous days.

Hawke opened his mouth to retort and stopped. He slumped back in the chair, all the fight draining out of him as suddenly as it had come upon him. ‘What am I going to do, Michael?’

‘First, you’re going to get a shower and a shave, some clean clothes.’ Michael said calmly. ‘And then you’re going to get a good meal. Then you’re going to hug your son. And then you’re going to come back here and sit with your wife and continue doing the right things until she wakes up.’

Hawke didn’t reply but the muscle twitching in his jaw gave away that he had heard every word.

‘Come on.’ Michael got out of his chair and held open the door to the adjoining bathroom. He held his breath and only released it when Hawke stood up. He was pleased when Hawke made his way inside and a few moments later he heard the shower running. He hurried out to organise clothes for the other man. By the time Hawke exited the shower, Michael had a change of clothes waiting for him along with a sandwich.

Hawke changed swiftly and ran a hand over his smooth jaw. As much as he hated to admit it, it felt good to be clean again. He sat with Caitlin and ate the sandwich without enthusiasm.

Michael waited by the door until Hawke was finished and set the plate aside and stood up. ‘Come on, Hawke. It’s time for you to see Nicky.’

At the mention of his son, Hawke straightened abruptly. ‘I can’t do this, Michael.’ He confessed reluctantly.

The faint hint of panic had Michael spinning back to his friend. ‘What?’

Hawke avoided his eyes. ‘I don’t know if I can…’ he broke off and paced to the window. He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Nicky.’

‘What about him?’ Michael asked bemused.

Hawke stared sightlessly out of the window.

Michael walked up to stand beside him. ‘It isn’t his fault that he’s OK and she isn’t.’ His voice was incredibly gentle as he guessed at the other man’s emotions.

Hawke crossed his arms over his chest and rocked back on his heels.

‘You love Nicky.’ Michael said. He laid a hand on Hawke’s shoulder. ‘Come on. Do it for Caitlin. She would hate the idea that you weren’t there for your son.’

He saw his words register with Hawke and he felt a moment’s satisfaction as Hawke took one stuttering step after another to the door. They made their way slowly down the corridor to the waiting room. Michael opened the door and gestured for Hawke to go inside. Hawke moved slowly into the suddenly silent room. His eyes swept over Caitlin’s family and settled on his own. Saint John sat with Jo; Chris asleep in Sarah’s arms, Seb by her side; and his parents…with his son.

Jane’s arms automatically tightened on Nicky and he woke at the sudden pressure, wailing his displeasure. She shushed him and Hawke held out his hands. Jane stood up to transfer the baby into his arms.

Nicky stopped crying at the familiar feel and scent. He hiccupped and stared with bright blue eyes into his father’s. Hawke felt his chest tighten with an overwhelming surge of love; he could have so easily lost him too…he closed his eyes on a wave of a shame. He buried his head briefly in the side of the baby’s neck, nuzzling him gently.

‘I’m sorry.’ Hawke whispered gently as he kissed Nicky’s head softly.

Jane reached for Alan who happily wrapped his arms around his wife. Saint John held his hand out to Jo who took it with a smile.

Hawke opened his eyes again. He found Erin in the crowd of people and nodded at her before he glanced around the room. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘You don’t have to apologise.’ Patrick said gruffly.

Maggie shifted along on the sofa and patted it. ‘Come and sit down.’

Hawke gave in to the pleading in her eyes and sat down beside her. He had just got seated when the door opened again.

Marella walked in with Lem; both of them looked serious.

‘What’s going on?’ Hawke asked as Marella headed for Michael and avoided his eyes.

‘I have some news about your wife.’ Lem said coming to a halt in front of the pilot.

Hawke felt his panic rising again; fear clawed at his throat.

Lem sighed. ‘Our latest tests reveal that there is no sign of brain activity.’

Hawke stilled.

‘What does that mean?’ asked Maggie in a high-pitched voice.

‘Although the swelling in her brain has reduced, there is no sign of any brain function.’ Lem explained slowly. ‘She meets the criteria for being considered brain dead.’ He paused. ‘I’m deeply sorry, Mister Hawke.’

‘But that can’t be right.’ Patrick insisted as he hugged his wife to him. ‘She’s fine. She’s breathing and she’s…’

‘We believe the machines are all that are keeping her alive at this point.’ Lem told him gently.

Hawke stared at Lem as though trying to make sense of his words. He dimly heard the sound of crying as Jo buried her face in Saint John’s shoulder and the O’Shaunessy’s gathered together crying. Nicky wriggled against him and he automatically adjusted him.

Lem cleared his throat. ‘Mister Hawke, I know this is a difficult time but I need to discuss the possibility of organ donation before we make a decision about your wife’s life support.’

‘You’re asking this now?!’ Patrick took a step toward the diminutive doctor.

Maggie halted him. ‘Patrick, please!’

‘I’m sorry.’ Hawke looked at Lem confused. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘I’m asking you if you would like to consider organ donation.’ Lem repeated. ‘I don’t know if you and your wife ever discussed the possibility…’

‘I’m sorry.’ Hawke interrupted again. ‘Are you…did you just tell me my wife’s dead?’ His incredulous tone silenced the room.

Lem gentled his expression. ‘As I’ve explained to you, Mister Hawke, your wife shows no sign of brain activity. By every conceivable test we have, she is brain dead.’

‘She’s not dead.’ Hawke denied it brusquely.

‘Mister Hawke, once we turn off the machines supporting your wife’s life, she will be unable to sustain her body on her own.’ Lem looked at him compassionately. ‘She is to all extents and purposes dead.’

Hawke stared at him. Lem was sincere; he believed Caitlin was dead. His mind shied away from the idea. Caitlin couldn’t be dead; she was down the hall in a room. She was breathing; her heart was beating. She lived. She wasn’t dead.

Brain dead. The voice whispered insidiously in his head. Her brain had stopped functioning. No activity. His wife was to all extents and purposes dead. A part of him wouldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it, yet another was assimilating the information pushing him toward acceptance…thoughts whirled wildly around in his mind before they coalesced into hard decisions…

Michael watched as Hawke transformed in front of them. It was as though the past three years hadn’t taken place. The pilot’s features smoothed into the impassive mask he had worn most his adult life; the one that separated him and kept him safe away from others, from emotional entanglements. The blue eyes gleamed for a moment with something; denial, pain, fear, anger…Michael couldn’t tell which before they iced over and became guarded. Michael swallowed hard. Only an irascible old pilot called Dominic Santini had ever reached this Hawke; only Dom and a certain scrappy red-headed pilot lying in a room down the corridor. ‘Hawke…’

‘I’d like some time alone with my wife.’ Hawke’s voice was blunt, direct.

Lem nodded. ‘Of course. Please take as much time as you need.’ He left them alone.

Hawke hugged his son closer for a long moment before he dropped another kiss on Nicky’s head. He jerked his head at Saint John who stepped forward and took the baby.

‘Look after him for me will you?’ Hawke asked quietly.

‘Sure.’ Saint John nodded.

‘You’re a good brother.’ Hawke murmured patting Saint John’s shoulder almost absently and his brother’s brow creased in confusion as Hawke moved away to the opposite size of the room to stop in front of his mother-in-law. ‘I know you’ll want time with her. I just…’

‘We understand.’ Maggie assured him bemused at his calm. ‘Take as much as you need.’

Hawke nodded. ‘I won’t be long.’ He looked back at his extended family and took a moment to acknowledge each of them individually before he walked out. He headed to Caitlin’s room. He sat back down on the seat he had earlier vacated and took her hand in his. He kissed the scratched and bruised palm.

‘I love you.’ Hawke murmured. ‘I don’t know if you can hear me but I love you.’ His voice broke. He blinked back the tears and leaned over the bed. He kissed her lips softly. He took a step away from her; one and then another. He walked out of the room and down the corridor safe in the knowledge that he had time before his family would become concerned and check on him. His eyes were cold as he took the stairs to the exit; he had something he needed to do.

He was right; it was almost two hours before Patrick glanced impatiently at the clock. ‘Perhaps one of us should check on him.’

‘I said he could take as much time as he needed.’ Maggie pointed out listlessly.

‘I’ll check on him.’ Sarah offered.

‘No, I’ll go.’ Saint John said gesturing for her to take Nicky.

A strange foreboding filled Michael. ‘I’ll come with you.’

The two men made their way down the corridor and hesitated in front of the door to Caitlin’s room. Michael knocked and pushed the door open. It swung to the side and revealed its single unconscious occupant.

Saint John’s eyes widened. ‘Where is he?’ He stepped into the room as though to confirm what they could see. ‘Where’s my brother?’

Michael thumped the doorpost. ‘Dammit!’ His good eye met Saint John’s worried gaze. ‘He’s gone after Cordelli.’

Part 14


Caitlin was confused.

She was sat on the porch of the cabin but she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten there. The sun was setting over the lake, the majestic gold seeping into imperial purple. She was cold despite her warm weather of jeans and sweater. She wrapped Hawke’s leather flight jacket tighter around herself. How had she got to the cabin? The last thing she remembered was flying…

‘You crashed.’

She froze at the familiar voice and turned slowly. ‘Dom?’ Her eyes scoured his kindly, craggy features before she threw herself across the small expanse of bench and hugged him. ‘Oh I’ve missed you.’ She said holding onto him tightly.

He patted her back. ‘I’ve missed you too.’ She shifted suddenly, a calculating look entering her eyes and he waited for the usual question with a sinking heart.

‘I’m dreaming aren’t I?’ Caitlin asked with a regretful sigh.

He blinked. It wasn’t the question he was usually asked. ‘Well…’

‘I mean I must be.’ Caitlin indicated the cabin and the surrounding area. ‘This has to be a dream because if I crashed I had to have ended up in hospital, which probably means that I’m not really here, and you can’t be because you’re dead, so this is all a nice drug-induced dream.’ She finished breathless.

Dom sat stunned for a long moment. In all the scenarios he had played out of his meeting with Caitlin he hadn’t considered that she wouldn’t think she was dead when she laid eyes on him; Michael had leaped to that conclusion when Dom had first appeared to him and so had Saint John…even Hawke in a dream had worked out how close to death he was because of Dom’s presence.

‘You’re awful quiet, Dom.’ Caitlin noted sitting back and looking at him worriedly.

‘Cait, honey…’ Dom began uncertainly. ‘You’re very badly injured.’

‘Obviously.’ Caitlin admitted cheerily. ‘I’m sat in a dream world talking to you.’ She softened the words with a quick smile.

‘It’s not exactly a dream world.’ Dom murmured.

She stared at him and tried to ignore the encroaching sense of fear in her belly. ‘What do you mean?’ Caitlin asked brightly.

‘This is the cabin,’ Dom explained waving a hand around the clearing, ‘and we’re both really here.’

‘No, that’s not possible.’ Caitlin said shakily. ‘We can’t be really here. I mean, you’re dead for starters and I…’ she stumbled to a halt. Her fearful eyes met Dom’s again and she shook her head in denial. ‘I’m not dead.’ She lurched off the bench and stormed into the cabin. She headed for the fireplace and started a fire in the hearth.

‘You’re not exactly dead.’ Dom said sitting on the sofa and warming his hands against the crackling flames.

‘Well, that’s a vote of confidence.’ Caitlin muttered. She whirled around to face him. ‘OK, Dom. What’s going on?’

‘You remember flying to Red Star?’ Dom recounted.

She nodded in agreement tucking her red hair behind her ears.

Dom sighed. ‘Your bird was attacked by Cordelli.’

‘The tail rotor was hit.’ Caitlin recalled with a flash of memory.

‘Yeah and then the rest.’ Dom waved a hand at her. ‘You almost got her sat down anyway.’

‘The left prop missed the road.’ Caitlin sat down slowly into one of the chairs. ‘We crashed.’ Her eyes flew wide open. ‘Nicky!’

‘He’s fine.’ Dom hastened to assure her. ‘He’s OK. You got him out.’ He smiled sadly at her as she calmed at his words. ‘You should have seen yourself, Caitlin. You were like a tigress.’

‘So long as he’s OK.’ Another thought occurred to her and she looked questioningly at Dom, her hand sneaking to her abdomen.

He shook his head understanding her wordless inquiry. ‘You were injured too badly, Caitlin.’

‘I lost the baby?’ Caitlin blinked back tears. She hugged her stomach as a wave of grief crashed through her and stole her breath.

Dom crossed over. He sat awkwardly on the arm of the chair and wrapped an arm around her. ‘I’m sorry, Cait. I really am.’

‘I just…I know I hadn’t been pregnant long, Dom, but I really wanted my baby.’ Caitlin swiped at the tears on her face. ‘Oh God. Hawke.’ She hiccupped. ‘He’s going to be devastated. He was so thrilled about the baby.’

‘He’s more worried about you.’ Dom murmured.

Caitlin frowned and pulled away from the older pilot. ‘Tell me all of it, Dom. Right now.’

Dom sighed and moved back to the sofa as her eyes dried and filled with a grim determination and stubbornness he remembered all to well. ‘You sustained a bad head injury.’

‘How bad?’ Caitlin demanded.

‘Bad.’ Dom said succinctly. ‘They operated and got the bleeding stopped. The swelling reduced but…’

‘But?’

‘Your brain activity isn’t there.’ Dom said quietly. ‘According to their tests you’re brain dead.’

‘But according to you I’m not dead?’ Caitlin checked.

‘Not yet.’ Dom admitted. ‘There’s a chance. Your body is being sustained by machines. You’re physically still alive; we just have to get your brain working again.’

‘How do I do that?’ Caitlin asked immediately. ‘Tell me because I’ll do whatever it takes.’

‘You have to keep fighting, Caitlin. That’s all there is to it.’ Dom said simply.

‘And how do I do that from here wherever here is?’ Caitlin asked frustrated.

‘You have to find your own way back but I’m here to help you.’ Dom patted her hand and smiled at her encouragingly.

Caitlin smiled tremulously. ‘Hawke told me once that he’d had a dream where you’d told him you’d always be backing him.’

‘And I always will be.’ Dom reiterated. ‘He’s been a mess this last couple of weeks though.’

‘Couple of weeks?’ Her voice was a squeak. ‘I’ve been out that long?’

He nodded.

‘Poor Hawke.’ Caitlin could imagine her husband’s likely response to her injury.

‘He’s got Al and Jane; Saint John and the rest of the clan looking out for him.’ Dom said comfortingly. ‘Not to mention your folks and Michael’s there for him too.’

Caitlin caught the note of respect in his voice. ‘You seem OK with that.’

Dom sniffed. ‘Michael’s not the same man he was.’ He said defensively.

‘At least the reunion went OK.’ Caitlin sighed. ‘I was worried about it.’ She gave a small laugh. ‘Hawke was so worried about it.’

‘Ah, he never had anything to worry about. Al and Jane always loved those boys. If it hadn’t been for Cordelli…’ Dom sighed.

Caitlin leaned forward a creased between her eyebrows as she thought over the attack that had downed her plane. ‘It was Cordelli who attacked me wasn’t it?’

‘Well we don’t know that for certain.’ Dom cautioned her.

‘Dom.’ Caitlin’s chiding expression had Dom flushing.

‘OK,’ he blustered, ‘so it was Cordelli.’

Caitlin bit her lip. ‘Does Hawke know that?’

‘I think he and Michael probably figured it out.’ Dom pointed out.

‘Does Hawke know about the brain dead thing?’ Caitlin asked anxiously.

Dom nodded. ‘The doctors just told him.’

‘And?’

‘And?’ Dom repeated bemused. ‘He was upset obviously.’ He shook his head a little. ‘Bad timing too if you ask me because Michael had just got him thinking clearly again and sorted his head out a little with…’

‘Dom,’ Caitlin broke in urgently, ‘are you telling me Hawke thinks I’m dead?’

Dom swallowed at the horror in her blue-green eyes but nodded again.

‘And that he knows it was Cordelli?’ Caitlin continued.

‘Sure but…’

‘You do know what that means?’ She stood up restless.

The older pilot frowned in confusion momentarily but suddenly his expression cleared and he lurched to his feet, his horror-stricken gaze meeting hers. ‘He’s going after Cordelli.’

‘On his own.’ Caitlin stated shakily. ‘Oh God. We have to do something! I can’t just sit around here and…’

Dom interrupted her briskly, slapping the familiar red cap over his head. ‘Take my hand.’

She reached for it and as she felt his fingers curl around hers, the cabin faded away and they were suddenly in Airwolf.

Caitlin looked around wildly at the familiar cockpit of the original machine. She was sitting in the counter-measure specialist chair; the place she had usually occupied as the third crew member when Dom had been alive. The older pilot was also back at his familiar station in the back of the cockpit. Hawke was sat in the pilot’s seat, his face set and tense. He was focused on the sky ahead; the ground zipping by below them. ‘How did…’ Caitlin began.

‘I don’t know so don’t ask.’ Dom said briskly. ‘I just think about you guys and I’m generally suddenly where you are.’

‘OK.’ Caitlin took a breath and settled back into the seat. She looked at her husband anxiously. ‘Oh Dom. He looks so…’

‘I know, kid.’ Dom said softly.

‘Hawke.’ Caitlin said his name out loud but he didn’t respond. ‘String.’ She tried again using the softer derivative of his name she hardly ever used.

‘He can’t hear you, honey.’ Dom explained gently. ‘He’s not aware of us at all.’

She reached across and placed her hand over Hawke’s on the stick. ‘How do we reach him?’

‘I’m not sure we can.’ Dom admitted. He threw up his hands. ‘Dammit! I told Michael to watch out for him.’

‘I’m sure Michael probably did.’ Caitlin said tiredly. ‘You know how Hawke is when he’s set on something.’

Dom opened his mouth to deny it, recalled his own conversation with Michael about the guns and closed it again. He harrumphed.

Caitlin sat back in her chair. ‘We have to do something or he’s going to get himself killed.’

‘I’m not disagreeing with ya.’ Dom admitted. ‘But what?’

Caitlin’s mind raced. ‘You said you told Michael to watch out for him?’

‘Yes…’ Dom agreed hesitantly.

‘So you talk to Michael,’ Caitlin expanded, ‘so there has to be a way of talking to Hawke?’

‘I don’t know.’ Dom replied.

She looked over her shoulder at him. ‘How do you not know?’

‘Look, the first time it happened, it was kinda…kinda an accident.’

‘An accident?’ Caitlin’s voice rose sceptically. ‘How can a ghost talking to someone be called an accident?’

‘I was with him and…and he had a head injury and he saw me.’ Dom gave a huff of laughter. ‘Fair shocked the wind out of me, I can tell you.’

‘I don’t recall Michael having a head injury lately.’ Caitlin pointed out exasperated.

‘He just continued being able to see me.’ Dom gestured at her impatiently. ‘I can’t explain it!’

‘Great.’ Caitlin muttered turning back to stare out of the window. ‘This is just great. I’m brain dead in a hospital bed somewhere; my husband’s on a mission to take out Cordelli and probably get himself killed in the process and you’re telling me I can’t do anything! And if I don’t find a way to get myself back into my body and get my brain working again none of this matters anyway!’ She thumped the arm of the chair. She rubbed her forehead. ‘This isn’t getting us anywhere.’

‘You got that right.’ Dom muttered a little taken aback by her outburst.

She shot him a look. ‘OK,’ she said, ‘we need to split up.’

‘Sure, we need to…’ Dom stuttered to a halt. ‘What?’

‘We need to split up.’ She turned round again. ‘I’m going to focus on…on fixing myself.’ Her eyes pinned Dom. ‘You focus on fixing this.’ She waved around the cockpit.

‘Sure, sure.’ Dom said sarcastically. ‘I’ll just stay here and fix this.’ He glared at her. ‘You wanna tell me how I’m supposed to do that?’

‘Think of something, Dom!’ Caitlin encouraged him fiercely. She held his gaze until he nodded jerkily. ‘I really do miss you.’ She whispered.

Dom nodded again.

She turned back to Hawke. Her eyes ran over the ice-blue eyes, the tense jaw-line and his skin pulled taut over the high cheekbones she loved and envied. She slid her hand over his. ‘Dom,’ tears choked her and she had to take a breath, ‘whatever happens, tell him I love him.’ She brushed away the moisture under her eyes. ‘Tell him he needs to live and bring up our son.’

‘I’ll tell him.’ Dom agreed quietly. ‘You just concentrate on you.’

Caitlin reached over and awkwardly landed a kiss on Hawke’s cheek. ‘Goodbye, Hawke.’ She whispered. She closed her eyes and focused on her body, felt a slight tug. She opened her eyes and wished she hadn’t.

Her body lay before her in the hospital bed, hooked up to the machines keeping her alive. A shiver ran down her spine. Caitlin grimaced and took a seat. She sighed and looked at herself. ‘I guess we have some work to do.’

Part 15

Michael resisted the urge to slam down the satellite phone and instead dropped it back into the briefcase with a scowl.

‘Well?’ Saint John demanded impatiently.

The spy turned to glare at the other man who was stood beside him. Saint John was the picture of anxiety; hands on hips, blonde hair askew, hazel eyes barely hiding the deep worry that had manifested since they had realised Hawke had left the hospital. He wasn’t the only one waiting for Michael to speak; the rest of the Hawke family was gathered around him, their silence equally as eloquent. Michael was thankful the O’Shaunessy’s were with Caitlin. He glanced briefly at Marella who stood to his other side lending support.

‘He took Airwolf.’ Michael confirmed gravely. ‘About thirty minutes ago. She’s fully fuelled and armed.’

‘He’s going after Cordelli.’ Mike’s grim statement had Michael nodding in agreement.

‘He’ll be killed.’ Jane blanched and slumped into a chair. Seb placed an arm around his mother.

‘You don’t know Hawke.’ Marella regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth and she gave an apologetic look as Jane visibly flinched. Marella doubted either of Hawke’s parents needed the reminder that he had grown up without them in his life.

Saint John gestured furiously at Michael. ‘This wasn’t the plan!’

‘No,’ agreed Michael, ‘this wasn’t the plan.’

‘So what do we do now?’ Alan asked forcefully.

Michael looked over at him and almost did a double-take at the similarity between father and eldest son.

‘We go after him.’ Saint John said. ‘We can take the second Airwolf and catch up with him.’

‘And then what?’ Michael asked. ‘It’s not as though you can stop him.’

‘But we can back him up.’ Mike replied swiftly.

Saint John shot his friend a grateful look for coming up with a valid reason.

Michael shook his head. ‘You can’t fly without an engineer and the AI is with Hawke.’

‘I could do it.’ Alan offered hurriedly. He took a step forward, motioning with one hand. ‘Didn’t Dom used to act as engineer in those birds?’

‘With respect, Mister Hawke,’ Michael broke in, ‘Dom had extensive training from your son, and you’ll forgive me for saying this but you don’t strike me as someone completely cognizant with computers.’

‘I could do it.’ Seb slipped off the arm of the chair and stood up. ‘I know how to operate a computer.’

There was a determined glint in his eye that Michael recognised only too well. ‘You’re not trained for this either.’ He retorted.

‘I am.’ Jo pointed out standing up. ‘I’ll do it.’

Michael’s lips firmed with displeasure but he couldn’t deny the truth of her statement. ‘OK.’

‘Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go.’ Saint John said impatiently.

Michael glared at him and turned his attention to the rest of the Hawkes. ‘It would make sense for you all to go to Red Star. You’ll be safer there.’

‘Michael’s right.’ Saint John said reluctantly.

Alan exchanged a look with his wife. ‘It doesn’t seem right to leave String’s wife.’

‘Marella and I will be staying.’ Michael pointed out.

‘And so are we.’ Jane said determinedly. ‘If nothing else at least we can lend support to Caitlin’s family and look after Nicky.’

Marella glanced at Michael who shrugged. ‘Fine.’ He picked up the phone and gestured at Saint John. ‘I’ll let Red Star know you’re on your way and to prepare Airwolf.’

‘Thanks, Michael.’ Saint John held his gaze for a beat. He turned and made his goodbyes to his family hurriedly before he followed Mike and Jo out of the room.

Alan waited until Michael was finished issuing orders before he cleared his throat. ‘Exactly what do you think String is doing?’

Michael shrugged and rubbed his neck as he sat down. ‘I don’t know.’ He admitted. ‘Saint John was right. This wasn’t the plan.’

‘What was the plan?’ Sarah asked exasperated.

‘She has a point.’ Alan said sitting down beside his worried daughter. ‘We have a right to know.’

Michael brushed his moustache thoughtfully. ‘Originally Hawke believed the only way to secure your return and ensure you stayed safe was to deal with the Cordelli family and put them out of business.’

‘That’s impossible.’ Seb said stubbornly.

‘Not for Hawke.’ Marella said quietly.

‘The Cordelli family is one of the most powerful mob families in the country.’ Seb pointed out. ‘Not even the FBI can touch them.’

‘And jail wouldn’t stop them.’ Alan added.

‘Agreed.’ Michael said. ‘That wasn’t Hawke’s plan.’

‘Well, the only other option is to kill them all.’ Seb said bluntly.

‘Sebastian.’

He shrugged his mother’s disapproval away. ‘You know I’m right, Mom, and that’s killing everyone right down to the children.’

‘Your brother would never do that.’ Jane denied heatedly. Doubt flitted in and out her eyes as she caught the suddenly guarded eyes of the spies.

Michael hastened to reassure her. ‘That wasn’t Hawke’s plan. He realised exactly the same thing; that he couldn’t kill them all or lock them up forever. He came up with a different plan.’

‘So what was it?’ Alan pressed impatiently.

‘What’s more important to the Cordelli’s than family?’ Marella asked smoothing her skirt.

Seb frowned and crossed his arms. ‘That’s easy; their business.’

‘Over the last few months we’ve gathered every single piece of data that we could on how the Cordelli operation works.’ Marella explained. ‘Most of it wouldn’t be accepted as evidence in a court of law.’

‘Nothing that we or the FBI could ever use to take down Cordelli, given the means by which we obtained it.’ Michael added.

‘I don’t see how that helps.’ Sarah said annoyance flashing through her blue eyes.

‘Hawke worked out the main weaknesses in the Cordelli’s business.’ Michael continued.

‘He was going to put them out of business?’ Seb frowned. ‘Wouldn’t they have just come after us anyway?’

‘He doesn’t have to put them out of business.’ Alan said slowly. ‘All he had to do was make a deal with the Cordelli’s; they leave us alone and we leave them alone.’ He stared at Michael. ‘The information you have, the weaknesses he identified would be used as leverage.’

‘That’s right.’ Michael agreed. ‘Hawke figured that he could convince the Cordelli’s to consider the feud a done deal; Angelo killed Elijah; you went after Angelo,’ he pointed at Alan, ‘which led to his death.’

‘At their hands.’ Alan muttered unhappily.

Michael shrugged. ‘A death for a death.’

‘So you’re saying Hawke was prepared to allow the Cordelli’s just to get away with the family being split up and living in fear all these years?’ Sarah asked incredulous.

‘That wasn’t the Cordelli’s fault.’ Marella held up a hand when they would have argued. ‘The FBI were responsible for the family being separated.’

‘But the Cordelli’s were responsible for us entering witness protection,’ Jane retorted, ‘and they tried to kill us just after Sarah was born.’

‘Marco Cordelli was responsible for that.’ Michael said firmly. He stabbed the table in front of him. ‘Six months after that attempt Marco died and Antonio took over.’ He sent an apologetic look to Alan. ‘From what we’ve managed to dig up, Antonio voided his father’s contract on your head.’

‘You mean we could have come home all this time?’ Jane was stunned.

Michael sighed. ‘I’m not sure it was that easy; I think knowing you were on the run and presumably, Antonio was aware that you had been separated from your sons…’

‘He figured that was enough punishment.’ Alan murmured. ‘Damn!’ He dropped his head into his hands.

Sarah reached out hesitantly and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. ‘You couldn’t have known, Dad.’

‘So why have they come after us now?’ Seb asked confused.

‘Edward Sallis.’ Marella answered.

‘The guy responsible for the hit on my grandfather?’ Seb checked.

Alan looked up with a frown. ‘What about Sallis?’

‘Sallis got out on parole.’ Seb told him remembering the details he had been told about his brothers’ search for them.

‘He went after Dom originally.’ Marella said. ‘He thought Dom would know where you were.’

‘Dom didn’t know anything.’ Alan said shocked.

‘No, and Sallis realised that eventually but he also realised he had alerted Dom to the possibility that you were still alive.’ Michael gestured at him. ‘Sallis disappeared.’

‘We think he ended up with the Cordelli’s.’ Marella added.

‘Or with one Cordelli in particular.’ Michael expanded. ‘Giovanni Cordelli, the current heir to the Cordelli throne.’

Marella nervously straightened her skirt. ‘He has a reputation as being very ruthless. There are hints of sociopath behaviour in his teens with incidents where we think Antonio covered up for him and paid his victims off.’

‘Nice.’ Seb muttered.

‘Sounds a lot like he takes after his Uncle Angelo.’ Alan rubbed his chin.

Marella watched the gesture fascinated. She’d seen Hawke do the same thing so many times. She hurriedly cleared her throat as she realised she had been staring. ‘We think, at first, Giovanni was simply content to hide Sallis and watch how things played out.’

‘But if Sallis has been with Cordelli, who else has been tracking us?’ Seb asked.

‘We don’t think Sallis has stayed with Cordelli all this time.’ Michael corrected.

‘Maybe he has.’ Alan mused. ‘If Cordelli offered him protection, it’s possible he would have stayed. He loved being part of that set-up.’ He looked over at his son. ‘The other party could be the FBI.’

‘That could be possible.’ Michael murmured. ‘They were aware Sallis skipped his parole and Dawson went missing. Anyway, whether Sallis stayed with Giovanni or not, things changed when String and Saint John started to look for you.’

‘And then Giovanni got more interested.’ Sarah pushed her hair out of her eyes.

‘Mostly in Airwolf.’ Michael said dryly. ‘But Hawke kept beating Giovanni.’

Marella took hold of Michael’s hand. ‘Which is when Giovanni got mad and started looking for you guys in earnest.’

‘And when he tried to get rid of Hawke and Saint John.’ Michael rubbed his moustache.

‘The incident that killed Jason Locke.’ Sarah remembered with a shiver.

Michael nodded. ‘That changed the plan.’

‘Retribution for Locke?’ Seb suggested.

‘Justice.’ Alan corrected.

Michael smiled at Alan. ‘Exactly.’

‘The deal changed.’ Seb said confidently. ‘They leave us alone; we leave them alone but first they hand over Giovanni.’

‘That was the plan.’ Michael said with a deep sigh.

Jane caught the look in his eye. ‘But that’s not the plan anymore.’

‘No,’ agreed Michael, ‘that’s not the plan anymore.’ He seemed to be far away, somewhere in the past, as he continued almost absently, ‘Giovanni killed Caitlin; all bets are off.’

Continued in Part VI.

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