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Fanfiction: One of the Family - Part III

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

 

Chapter 6

Caitlin ran the water in the sink and wished that the lighting in the ladies’ room was a little kinder. Under the harsh glare of the bright fluorescents she could see her freckles standing out in sharp relief against her pale skin; the dark shadows under her eyes. She washed her face and reached for a towel to pat it dry.

She didn’t look up as the door swung open and Marella entered. Her friend had aged gracefully; her dark hair untouched by gray; her complexion free of the usual myriad of wrinkles. She simply looked like a more mature version of the agent Caitlin had met years before.

‘Are you OK?’ Marella asked concerned. ‘You ran out of the room so fast after Michael’s update...’

‘Thought I was going to throw up.’ Caitlin said. Her eyes met Marella’s in the mirror. ‘But I’m fine.’

Marella looked at her speculatively. ‘Cait, are you...?’

‘Pregnant.’ Caitlin nodded sheepishly. ‘Two months.’ She turned around to look at her friend. ‘I didn’t even realise.’

‘Congratulations.’ Marella hugged her gently. She eased back and examined Caitlin’s expression. ‘Are you happy?’

Caitlin smiled. ‘About the baby? ‘ She nodded and threw the paper towel in the trash. ‘I’m very happy.’

‘And Hawke?’ Marella asked pointedly, brushing her dark springy curls over a shoulder.

‘He’s pleased but he’s worried about me.’ Caitlin said. ‘You know that the doctor told us it would be dangerous for me to have any more.’

‘Is that why he was home today?’ Marella asked.

Caitlin shook her head. ‘I only told him this morning.’ She caught Marella’s anger. ‘He was home because he finally stopped running.’

‘He’s lucky you’re so understanding.’ Marella said, folding her arms and leaning back against the counter.

‘I knew what I was getting into when I married him.’ Caitlin pointed out. ‘Hawke’s never been easy but he’s always been worth it.’

Marella placed a hand on her arm. ‘I’m glad you guys worked through it.’

‘Yeah,’ Caitlin grimaced, ‘but I should have confronted him earlier.’ She gestured at her friend. ‘The kids picked up on it; they’re hurt.’

‘They’re good kids, Cait.’ Marella assured her. ‘They’ll come through it too.’

‘I just feel like I screwed up as a parent, you know.’ Caitlin said leaning back and joining her. ‘Amelia’s going to be fine, I think. She’s just such a sweetheart and she’s definitely a Daddy’s girl.’

‘But you’re worried about Nicky?’ Marella realised.

‘He’s so angry at Hawke.’

‘Maybe that isn’t a bad thing.’ Marella held up a hand. ‘I love Hawke, you know that, but the way he’s treated you all this last couple of months he does deserve to see some fallout from that, Caitlin. Him pushing you away when it was just the two of you and no commitment between you was bad but understandable given his history. Him pushing you away when you’re married and you have two children...it’s not acceptable.’

‘He knows that.’ Caitlin said defensively.

‘It should never have happened.’ Marella stressed. ‘And maybe Nicky being mad at him for a little while will make him realise it can’t happen again.’

‘Marella,’ Caitlin said tersely, her own frustration and anger bubbling up, ‘I know you’re angry on my behalf, on the kids’ behalf, but...’

‘Butt out?’ Marella smiled as though she had expected the answer. ‘Like I said, he’s lucky he has you.’

‘You’d do the same for Michael.’ Caitlin pointed out, exasperated.

‘You’re right.’ Marella admitted it. ‘I’m just pleased Angelina’s OK.’

Caitlin softened immediately. She knew how worried Marella had been about Angelina. Although Angelina was only Michael’s by blood, Marella was her mother. ‘Are you going with the others to the hospital in Wyoming?’

Marella shook her head. ‘Angelina sounded fine and Michael’s with her.’ She waved at Caitlin. ‘Hawke’s with her. She’s OK.’ She looked at Caitlin. ‘I guess you’re not going either with Seb being OK.’

Caitlin shook her head. ‘I just hope Mike pulls through too,’ his injuries had sounded serious and it wasn’t good that he was unconscious, ‘but I need to be here for the kids and Sarah has Chris, Alan and the guys.’

‘I was surprised Jo went with them.’ Marella commented as they both turned to exit the brightly lit bathroom.

‘I’m surprised she turned up early.’ Caitlin said. She sighed. ‘She and Mike have stayed in touch; they’re friends. I know she wants to be here for the wedding and I know Mike wants her here but...’

‘But you wish she’d stayed in Italy and not have Saint John stirred up by her presence again.’

‘He loves her.’ Caitlin said sadly. ‘I think he always will.’

Marella nodded. ‘You up for some investigative work?’ She asked changing the subject.

‘The saboteur?’ Caitlin nodded. ‘Count me in.’ They walked back into Michael’s office and found it empty.

The others must have left already for Wyoming, Caitlin surmised. Jane had opted for staying with the kids in Marella’s office.

Marella sat down behind Michael’s desk and asked for the latest reports.

Janice entered. The beautiful brunette handed Marella a stack of files and hovered another one in her hand. ‘I also looked into Lydia Armstrong’s ex on Archangel’s order, Marella. Do you want that one too?’

‘I’ll take it.’ Caitlin said. Janice handed it to her and left. She flipped it open and scanned through the initial information with a frown. ‘So he actually does exist.’

Marella raised an eyebrow as she opened the first file and began to look through the personnel list.

‘Marella,’ Caitlin said urgently, ‘this guy is on staff in engineering. He’s an ex-Army explosives expert.’

‘What?’ Marella got up and walked around to read over her shoulder. ‘I know this guy.’ She went back for her report and shifted the papers until she got to the relevant section. ‘Drew Henman; he hired on a month after Lydia began working here.’

‘She never mentioned to Hawke that he was working at the base.’ Caitlin said.

‘Pretty key piece of information, don’t you think?’ Marella reached again for the personnel list. She paged through checking for their names. ‘Lydia signed out as soon as Airwolf left for the flight test; she claimed she wasn’t feeling well. Drew never showed up for work today but he was on duty last night.’

‘You think Drew planted the bomb.’ Caitlin stated. ‘He was probably jealous at Hawke spending so much time with Lydia,’ she ignored her own whisper of jealousy, ‘and planted the bomb to hurt him.’

Marella tapped the folder thoughtfully. ‘What if they’re both in it?’

Caitlin stared at her. ‘What?’

‘I mean,’ Marella said seriously, ‘what if Lydia’s whole focus on Hawke hasn’t been about him; it’s been about getting to Airwolf.’

It made sense; it made too much sense. Caitlin threw her folder on the desk. ‘Damn it.’

o-O-o

One hospital corridor felt very much like another. Hawke squirmed on the hard plastic chair it felt like they’d been waiting for hours. He glanced up at the clock and repressed the urge to pace. His mind turned instead to his last phone call with Caitlin and the revelations around Drew Henman and Lydia.

A strange mix of emotions curdled inside him; mortification, shame, guilt. He didn’t know what to think. It wasn’t the first time one of them had been used to get to Airwolf; it probably wouldn’t be the last but he had thought he would know if someone was trying to play him. Hell, he didn’t admit it often but he had confidence in his gut and his gut had told him Lydia was in trouble. He couldn’t believe that she wasn’t.

Caitlin hadn’t been amused when he’d insisted they check out the other scenario; that Lydia had been acting under duress, bullied by Drew in some way into helping him – or maybe, completely unaware. His wife might not have been amused but she had agreed.

She believed in him.

Despite everything.

Despite the fact that it was his fault that the Airwolf programme had been compromised; his fault that a bomb had taken out the new ship; his fault that a bomb had injured people he cared about.

Angelina stirred in the chair next to him. She was dressed in the spare clothing they had brought with them and looked frighteningly young in jeans and sweater. Her injured arm was sprained not broken but it was bandaged heavily and in a sling.

Hawke exchanged a look with Michael, who sat on the other side of her, over Angelina’s blonde head. Michael hadn’t wanted Angelina involved with Airwolf but after the death of her fiancée, she had become focused on becoming part of the crew. Hawke figured Michael had given her a chance because she would have just gone somewhere else if he hadn’t; the Air Force, the FBI, CIA...God knew she would have had her pick from the alphabet soup. The crash had been Michael’s worst nightmare made real.

Seb was the other side him; Saint John beyond him. His younger brother sported a white patch over the gash along his temple but he looked fine otherwise. He’d matured into a brilliant young man. Hawke watched as Seb’s eyes flickered to Angelina and away again, and wondered at it. He dismissed the thought that Seb might be interested almost immediately. There was a heck of an age gap and, besides, the two worked together. He ignored the little voice in his head noting that he and Caitlin had an age gap and they had worked together. They had enough trouble to contend with, Hawke reminded himself, without borrowing more.

Saint John shifted position and Hawke saw why as he turned his head and saw the doors at the end of the corridor opening. His father, Jo, Chris and Sarah were headed towards them.

Alan Hawke headed straight for Seb; he held his youngest son tightly for a long moment before easing back and framing his face. ‘Knocked your head?’

‘I’m fine.’ Seb insisted. ‘Better than Mike.’

‘Where is Mike?’ Sarah asked urgently as she hugged her younger brother.

‘Surgery.’ Saint John answered.

‘He lost his chute.’ Hawke explained succinctly.

Sarah paled but she held his gaze demanding more even as Chris moved closer to her in support.

‘He got knocked around on his way down.’ Hawke continued. ‘It looks like he had some internal bleeding. He was unconscious when we found him and there’s some concern of a head injury.’

She let out a shaky breath. ‘That’s bad.’

Saint John put his arm around her. ‘He’s tough; he’ll make it.’

‘He will.’ Jo agreed softly. ‘He’s been through worse and come out of it.’ She and Saint John looked at each other; memories swimming in their eyes.

Hawke heard the soft sound of footsteps and nudged his sister in the direction of the approaching doctor.

The grey-haired man stopped in front of them and scanned the group tiredly. ‘Who’s next of kin?’

‘I’m his fiancée.’ Sarah stepped forward.

‘Perhaps we can go somewhere private?’ The doctor said pompously.

‘This is fine.’ Sarah bit out. ‘Please. How is he?’

The doctor sighed. ‘I’m afraid the news isn’t good. We’ve repaired the damage and stopped the internal bleeding. But early scans are showing some signs of inflammation in the brain tissues, possibly from being shaken. His pupil responsiveness is slow and indicates trauma to the brain.’ He looked at her dispassionately. ‘Even if the rest of his body recovers, we believe he’ll be brain damaged.’

‘Oh God.’ Sarah swayed and Saint John steadied her.

Hawke shot a look of anger toward the doctor for his insensitivity.

His father moved to stand beside them. ‘Can we see him?’

‘Only one person at a time.’ The doctor said automatically. ‘I’ll get a nurse to take you down.’ He walked away before anything more could be said.

Michael stood up. ‘I’ll make some calls and get an expert neurologist here to give us a second opinion.’

Hawke nodded.

Sarah suddenly whirled around and before Hawke could react she hit out at him.

‘This is all your fault!’ Sarah yelled.

He didn’t defend himself; just took the punch. Everyone else stood frozen; shocked at her anger.

‘You were supposed to be flying!’ Sarah continued sobbing. ‘It was supposed to be you!’

Hawke caught hold of her wrist as she went to hit him again and she stopped, standing in front of him, crying. He knew he should say something; anything. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t tell her he would change places if he could; Caitlin was pregnant; they had kids, and as much as he hated Mike being injured and hoped like Hell he would come out of it, Hawke was relieved it wasn’t him. Guilt tore through him again.

‘Don’t you have anything to say?’ Sarah demanded, raising her tear-soaked face to look at him accusingly.

‘No.’ Hawke said. He let go of her and walked away.

He didn’t even know where he was going until he reached Airwolf. He’d parked her on the roof and the late evening sun bathed her in a warm russet orange. He leaned back against her nose, folded his arms and stared out at the cityscape in front of him unseeingly.

If he hadn’t been so caught up in running away the past few months; if he’d realised what was going on...maybe he could have stopped the bomb...maybe he could have prevented Mike lying in a hospital bed with potential brain damage and the ruination of his sister’s happiness...

Hawke sighed.

He missed Dom.

He always missed Dom but he missed Dom more when he needed the older man for his wisdom and support. He wondered what Dom would have made what had happened; Hawke’s involvement. He could almost hear him in his head...

‘It’s not your fault, kid.’

Hawke frowned and turned around. His father stood by the tail, one arm resting atop it.

Alan walked forward. ‘Sarah’s upset. She needs to blame somebody...’

‘She’s right to blame me.’ Hawke cut in.

‘No, she’s not.’ Alan said forcefully. ‘The only person to blame is the person who planted the bomb.’

Hawke stared ahead moodily. ‘What if they planted the bomb to get to me?’

‘Then they missed.’ Alan said calmly. ‘Still not your fault, String.’ He paused. ‘Dom would have told you the same.’

Hawke was surprised into looking at him.

‘You know all the way up here, I was thinking what would Dom have said to you.’ Alan sighed. ‘I know you miss him; I miss him too.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Hawke felt compelled to apologise. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his father – he did. Maybe it was just that Dom had occupied that role for longer, or maybe it was some part of him still didn’t trust that his father had come home, Hawke mused.

‘Don’t be.’ Alan said. ‘It wasn’t your fault you were raised by Dom.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘But I’m thinking I haven’t kept my promise to him.’

Hawke looked at him inquiringly.

‘Maybe I should have noticed what you’ve been going through the last few months.’ Alan commented.

‘You’ve been recovering from a heart attack, Dad.’ Hawke pointed out. ‘And the last time I looked I was an adult; I make my own mistakes.’

‘You don’t trust we’re not going to disappear on you.’ Alan said bluntly. ‘You haven’t trusted that since we came back and it’s been twelve years.’

‘I lost you when I was twelve.’ Hawke shot back.

Alan stared at him. ‘Ah, String...’

Hawke turned away from his father. He swallowed hard against his surging emotions.

‘I can’t promise you I’m going to live forever, son.’ Alan said gently.

Hawke managed a short laugh. ‘Caitlin said the same thing to me when we got together.’

‘Your wife is a wise woman.’ Alan said. He waited a moment. ‘What did you say?’

‘That she was going to have to be patient with me.’ Hawke replied. He shook his head. ‘I don’t know why she stays with me.’

‘She loves you.’ Alan pointed out. ‘We all do.’

Hawke pressed his lips together.

‘I wish I could take back everything that happened to you,’ Alan said quietly, ‘every loss; every hurt. But I can’t. Only you can stop what happened in the past running your life right now.’

Hawke nodded jerkily. ‘I know it.’ He did know it. He’d given into his fears in the past three months; pushed his family away hard and he hurt them. He could still picture the wariness in Nicky’s eyes. He couldn’t do it again, Hawke realised. He had to find a way to live with his demons because he was damned if he was going to hurt his son, his daughter or his wife again.

‘But if you need me or your Mom; we’re here.’ Alan added quietly.

Hawke looked at him. He held his gaze. ‘I know that too.’ He managed.

Alan nodded. He gestured back towards the roof entrance. ‘Are you going to come back inside?’

‘You should go.’ Hawke said. ‘Sarah needs you.’

‘She needs you too.’ Alan said. ‘Come on.’

Hawke cast one last look at the sky and followed after his father.

Chapter 7

It wasn’t a forest which was weird because Mike could have sworn when he’d come to and managed somehow to get the helmet off before passing out again that he had landed in the middle of a clearing in the middle of a forest.

Mike stared out at the stretch of white beach and wondered where the hell he was. Wherever it was, it felt real. Sand slipped between his bare toes; a breeze brushed over his skin and through his wavy blond hair. He could feel the warmth of the sun through his Air Force t-shirt; through the heavy denim of his jeans. The waves crashing along the empty shore were the purest blue framed with brilliantly white foam.

A child’s laughter caught his ear and he glanced over his shoulder. His heart clenched tightly at the sight of the six year old.

Isabella Jane Hawke.

She was Saint John’s and Jo’s little girl; named after both grandmothers. She was dressed in a pink swimsuit and happily engaged it seemed in building a sandcastle. He wandered over to her.

‘Hi, Bella.’ Mike crouched down, his heart in his throat as he took in her shining hazel eyes and the way the sun turned her hair to burnished gold. She would have been a heartbreaker if she’d lived, Mike mused sadly.

‘Hi, Uncle Mike!’ Bella offered him a shell. ‘You’re not supposed to be here.’

‘I’m not?’ Mike took the shell and examined the fragile white fan-shaped object before setting it aside. ‘Where is here?’

‘Here.’ Bella said firmly, patting another lump of sand into place.

‘Right. Here.’ Mike said. Clearly, he was supposed to know where he was. Was he dead? He felt a little faint at the idea and hurriedly sat down fully on the sand. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Waiting.’ Bella said simply, focused on her sandcastle.

‘What for?’ Mike asked confused.

Bella looked up at him. ‘Mommy, of course.’

A memory stirred and made him shiver. Mike looked around again. It was the beach, he realised; the beach where Bella had died. Only in reality it was usually packed with sunbathers and surfers; families enjoying the LA sun and sea.

Jo had taken Bella out for the day. She’d been distracted by a tourist couple asking for directions, had turned away from her daughter building a sandcastle behind her to point out the way and had turned back to find Bella gone. The little girl had apparently taken her bucket down to the sea to get some water for the sandcastle but had gone too far into the water and slipped; she’d bumped her head on a rock on the bottom of the ocean, fallen unconscious and drowned as the sea carried her further away from shore with each wave.

Saint John had never blamed her but Jo had never forgiven herself, and in the end she hadn’t been able to stay in LA or with Saint John.

The whole thing was such a tragic waste of a life, of a marriage, of a love, in Mike’s opinion.

Bella handed him a small red spade. ‘You can build the moat.’

Mike accepted the spade with dignity and began to dig.

A shadow fell over them and Mike looked up. He froze. He’d never met the man but he recognised Dominic Santini.

Dom beamed at him; a gap-toothed grin that lit up his swarthy face and made his eyes twinkle. He wore a shiny blue jacket and an equally shiny red hat emblazoned with the Santini logo. ‘You must be Mike.’

‘I must be dead.’ Mike countered shakily. ‘You’re a ghost.’

Dom laughed raucously. ‘Ah, it’s been a long time since anyone assumed they were dead when I appeared.’ He slapped Mike’s back hard and Mike jolted forward.

‘Ow.’ Mike offered.

Dom waved into the distance. ‘Come on. Let’s take a walk.’

Mike looked at Bella, unsure whether he could leave her.

‘Don’t worry,’ Dom reassured him, ‘she’s as safe as houses.’

Of course she was safe, Mike chastised himself; Bella was dead. He got to his feet.

‘Bye, Uncle Mike!’ Bella said waving at him.

He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. ‘Be good,’ he murmured, ‘and if you can’t be good...’

‘Be cute.’ Bella giggled, completing the refrain he’d taught her.

Mike blinked back tears and nodded. He caught up with Dom.

‘So if I’m not dead...’ Mike began awkwardly.

‘You’re somewhere in between.’ Dom confirmed. ‘Like Bella.’

‘But Bella’s dead.’ Mike said confused.

‘She doesn’t understand that. She’s waiting for Jo.’ Dom said. ‘That’s why she’s here.’

‘And why am I here?’ Mike asked bluntly. ‘Not that I’m not grateful that I’m not dead,’ he said, pausing to check he’d made sense, ‘but I’d like to get back to my life.’ Back to Sarah.

‘I know, kid.’ Dom said kindly. He stopped and looked at him seriously. ‘You’re here because you need to be here.’

Mike frowned.

‘Airwolf was sabotaged.’ Dom’s expression darkened; his brow lowered. ‘But you know that already.’

‘The bomb kind of gave it away.’ Mike quipped dryly.

Dom smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘String’s in trouble.’

‘They were after him not Airwolf.’ Mike surmised.

‘And by the time they work that out, it’ll be too late.’ Dom said urgently. ‘You have to get back and warn him! Caitlin’s life depends on it.’

Mike breathed in sharply. ‘They’re going to go after Caitlin to draw Hawke out?’

Dom nodded. ‘I can’t do anything but you can.’

Mike looked at him. ‘How?’ He waved his arms. ‘How do I get back?’

Dom gestured at him. ‘You’ll think of something.’

‘I’ll think of...’ Mike glared at him. ‘Is that all the advice you have?’

‘Caitlin managed it somehow.’ Dom pointed out briskly. ‘You just have to do whatever it was she did.’

‘And what did she do?’ Mike demanded, placing his hands on his hips.

Dom held his gaze. ‘She didn’t give up.’ The bulky figure began to fade away like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. ‘Hawkes don’t give up!’

Mike stared at the patch of sunlight where Dom had stood. ‘Well, I’m not a Hawke!’ He yelled.

‘Seems to me if you’re marrying a Hawke, it kind of makes you one of them.’

Mike whirled around and stared at the African-American man stood behind him. The grey suit was too much for the beach but it was so Locke Mike forgot for a moment to breathe. ‘Jason?’

The former Company agent nodded. ‘At your service.’

Mike sprang forward and hugged his friend. Locke had died after being taken hostage and brainwashed by Giovanni Cordelli. He’d missed the other man in the years since. ‘You look good.’

‘For a ghost.’ Locke qualified. ‘I’m here to help you.’

‘Thank God.’ Mike said. ‘Because I’m not sure where I start.’

Locke smiled at him. ‘You’re the one who found Airwolf, Rivers. Why don’t you start there?’

Mike sighed and looked around for a car. A silver convertible appeared in the distance, parked up by the edge of the sand. He started walking towards it, Locke beside him. ‘This isn’t going to be easy, is it?’

‘Never is.’ Locke agreed with an easy smile. ‘Why don’t you tell me about the woman brave enough to marry you while we get there?’

Mike slung an arm around his friend. ‘She’s beautiful...’

‘That goes without saying.’ Locke commented.

‘Smart...’

‘Which begs the question why she’s with you.’ Locke rejoined.

‘And I love her.’ Mike said seriously. ‘I have to get back to her.’

‘We’ll get you back to her.’ Locke said.

‘Is that a promise?’ Mike asked as they reached the car.

‘That’s a promise.’ Locke held Mike’s gaze for a heartbeat before he reached into a pocket and brought out a set of keys. ‘I’m driving.’

Mike sighed dramatically but he got in the passenger seat. He trusted Locke would get him to wherever he needed to go.

Chapter 8

Hawke fingered the bruise on his lower jaw and reflected that his sister had a hell of a right hook. He changed position on the narrow bench. They were waiting in a different corridor but it seemed to be pretty much the same as the last one. Beyond the double doors his sister was with Mike.

Michael had taken Angelina and Seb for something to eat; Saint John, Chris and his father had gone with them, leaving Jo and Hawke alone to wait in silence.

Jo shifted on the bench and rubbed her arms as though she was cold.

‘You OK?’ Hawke asked gruffly. Her presence filled him with mixed feelings. She was all he had left of Dom in many ways and he understood why she had left but he couldn’t forget how much she had hurt Saint John.

‘Fine.’ Jo said. ‘Just worried about Mike.’

Hawke nodded. Michael had arranged for a specialist neurosurgeon to fly in and consult but the outlook seemed grim. Mike remained in a coma. Hawke shifted restlessly. He felt useless. There was nothing any of them could do to help; Sarah was the best person by Mike’s side. If he was going to come back for anyone it would be Sarah, Hawke considered seriously. Maybe it was time he suggested that he, Michael and Angelina headed back to LA.

He’d called Caitlin and gotten the news from her and Marella that both Lydia and Henman were missing. Both their addresses on record had been searched by Michael’s team of agents; they’d found nothing. A deeper background check had revealed that the two were related. Step-brother and sister. Lydia’s mother had apparently married Henman’s father at some point.

Hawke closed his eyes briefly. He had a vague memory of some party in his youth; Polly introducing him to Lydia’s brother. He remembered paying little attention to the guy, whispering the suggestion to Polly for them to leave, find somewhere more private. He’d been more interested in spending time with his girlfriend than noticing her best friend’s brother.

Apparently Henman was something of a known mercenary operating under any number of aliases. Marella couldn’t work out why their intel had failed on his background check but had suggested Lydia must have had a hand in that. Caitlin had acknowledged that the evidence against Lydia was fairly circumstantial and tied mainly to her knowing Henman. It wasn’t clear whether Lydia was being coerced or whether she was working with him.

‘You OK?’ Jo asked.

He opened his eyes. ‘Better than Mike.’

Jo grimaced. ‘This wasn’t your fault, String.’

Hawke shrugged.

‘Any news?’ Jo asked.

‘Henman and Lydia are missing.’ Hawke said. ‘Marella’s coordinating with local law enforcement in LA, trying to track them down.’

‘It’s probable they’re long gone.’ Jo agreed. Her eyes sparked with frustration. ‘You’ll get them.’

‘We will.’ Hawke agreed. They’d messed with the wrong people.

‘Caitlin looked well.’ Jo said. ‘So did the kids.’

‘They’re all fine.’ Hawke said quietly.

‘Still at Red Star?’ Jo checked.

He sighed. ‘Caitlin was going to take the kids and Mom back to the cabin. They think Henman may have placed additional explosives at Red Star.’ It was better Caitlin, his Mom and the kids were off the base, Hawke reassured himself. Henman’s target had been Airwolf; Red Star was a good secondary target. It didn’t stop the worry eating at his gut though and Hawke wondered at it.

‘How are you?’ He asked.

‘Surviving.’ Jo shrugged.

There was a long silence.

‘I miss him.’

She said the words so quietly that Hawke almost didn’t hear them. He looked across at her. She sat with her head bent, her arms tight around her.

‘He loves you.’ Hawke replied.

‘I love him too.’ Jo looked up and he wasn’t surprised to see the tears in her eyes. ‘I just can’t be with him.’

‘Isn’t it worse to be without him?’ Hawke asked bluntly. He’d pushed people away too often himself not to know the consequences. If he ever actually lost Cait...it didn’t bear thinking about.

‘Maybe.’ Jo admitted, swiping at her face. ‘But I don’t know how I find my way back.’

‘If I can do it, you can.’ Hawke said. He held out an arm and Jo slid towards him.

‘God, I wish Uncle Dom was here.’ Jo said, through her tears.

‘Me too.’ Hawke admitted.

Jo shuffled backwards out of his comfort and he handed her a tissue. She smiled at him gratefully and gestured at his jaw. ‘You’re going to have a heck of a bruise.’

‘Sarah has a heck of a punch.’ Hawke said dryly.

‘She didn’t mean it.’ Jo said, picking up on the regret he’d tried to hide. ‘You’re her favourite brother, you know.’

‘She works with Saint John.’ Hawke said surprised.

‘But she relates more to you.’ Jo said. ‘She spent a lot of the time on the outside of your family, String. Just like you. She gets it takes time before you feel part of it again.’

Hawke didn’t know what to say. He’d never realised Sarah felt that way; he wondered what else he’d missed.

Jo patted his arm.

The double doors suddenly burst open and Sarah barrelled out. She looked around wildly before settling on Hawke.

‘You have to come with me now!’ Sarah said. She caught hold of his arm and started to drag him. He didn’t argue; he just let her pull him through the corridor and into the isolation room. His eyes widened at the sight of Mike in the bed, wrapped in bandages and looking pale and fragile – but Mike’s eyes were open and alert.

‘Hey.’ Hawke greeted him. He darted a look at his sister. ‘Shouldn’t you get a doctor in here?’

‘Not yet.’ Mike said weakly. He gestured for Hawke to come closer. ‘I need to tell you...’ He coughed a little and Sarah helped him take another sip of water. ‘Had a weird dream...only I don’t think it was a dream...’

‘OK.’ Hawke said slowly.

‘Dom said you were the target.’ Mike whispered and a shiver went down Hawke’s spine.

I’ll always be backing you, kid.’ Dom’s words echoed through Hawke’s head.

‘You have to...to warn Caitlin...’ Mike continued.

Hawke quickly placed a hand on his arm and squeezed. ‘I get it, Mike. Rest up.’ He looked at his sister. ‘Get the doctor.’

Sarah nodded and left the room again.

Mike looked at him. ‘You need to go.’

‘In a minute.’ Hawke said, although everything in him screamed to leave. ‘What else did Dom say?’

‘Nothing.’ Mike sighed. ‘Just that.’

‘OK.’ Hawke said. He eased away from the bedside.

‘Hawke.’ Mike said urgently, forcing Hawke to look back at him. ‘You gonna go after them?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Say hello to them for me.’ Mike said, his eyes closing as he fought to hold onto consciousness.

The doctor rushed into the room with a nurse and Hawke stepped out. He looked at Sarah. ‘I have to go.’

‘I know.’ Sarah hugged him. ‘Go.’

Hawke rushed down the corridor. Jo was already on her feet, pacing, but the others were hurrying into view somehow alerted to the news of Mike’s awakening.

‘String?’ Saint John asked anxiously.

‘He’s awake and talking.’ Hawke said succinctly.

Saint John gave a whoop and without thinking, picked up Jo and whirled her around.

‘Thank God for that!’ Alan said as he patted Chris’s shoulder.

‘What’s wrong, Hawke?’ Michael asked, his arm around his daughter.

‘Mike said he had a dream; Dom told him that I was the target and Caitlin could be in danger.’ Hawke explained. ‘I have to go.’

‘It was a dream.’ Seb protested.

‘No, son.’ Alan countered. He nodded at Hawke. ‘Go.’

‘I’m coming with you.’ Saint John said.

‘Then I’m coming too.’ Seb added.

‘No,’ Michael asserted, ‘you’re injured. I’ll go.’ He kissed Angelina’s forehead as she started to protest. ‘Let’s go.’

They all made their way to Airwolf in silence.

Hawke got into the pilot’s chair and waited impatiently for the others to take their places. ‘Michael, raise Caitlin at the cabin.’

Michael tried. He cleared his throat. ‘No response.’

Hawke stiffened and punched the start button. ‘Hang on.’ He said grimly. Airwolf took to the night sky and Hawke called for the turbos. He needed speed; he needed to get to his family before Henman and Lydia.

o-O-o

Caitlin sat down on the bench outside the cabin and blew on the mug of chocolate she held. The sun had set an hour before and the evening chill was beginning to permeate through her clothing.

It had been a long day.

She closed her eyes and breathed in the crisp air, letting her lungs fill with cold before breathing out again. She could hear Amelia playing the piano to Jane inside. Nicky was on clean-up duty and she was taking advantage of that to have five minutes to clear her head and just process what had happened during the last twenty-four hours.

Thank God Hawke had come to his senses. She knew he’d hurt her during the last few months; he hadn’t talked to her really, hadn’t spent time with her; hadn’t communicated with her. He’d made love to her but that had been the only times she’d felt loved or connected. It felt good to know that he had seen what he was doing in pushing them away and had stopped. She’d felt cared for when he’d looked after her in the bathroom that morning; cherished. Even with heading to Wyoming, he’d also checked in with her regularly. It felt like they’d gotten back onto an even keel and she needed that stability especially with the baby.

Her hand slid over her flat belly. She had wanted another child but, after Amelia, the medical advice had been clear. She had accepted that she wouldn’t have another child but finding herself unexpectedly pregnant...

It was scary. Not in the way that having Nicky had been or even Amelia. She wasn’t worried about whether she could handle being a Mom, whether she could handle multiple children. It was scary because she knew she was at risk; the baby was at risk. She took a slow breath and forced herself to relax. They’d get through it, and it was a risk worth taking.

Caitlin shivered and wrapped her jacket around body tighter. If she was relieved Hawke had realised the truth because of what it meant for their day to day lives, she was also relieved because of the more immediate consequence: his being absent from the mission that day. She would never wish anything happening to anybody but she was just so thankful that Hawke hadn’t been in Airwolf when it had exploded; thankful it wasn’t him lying in a hospital bed with potential brain damage.

The cabin door opened and Caitlin looked up as Jane stepped out.

Her mother-in-law sat down on the bench beside her and looked out onto the dark lake with a sigh. ‘Amelia’s playing is so beautiful.’

‘She’s very talented.’ Caitlin agreed with a smile. ‘Like her Grandma.’

Jane smiled back. ‘Is it wrong that I’m happy one of my grandchildren prefers music to flying?’

Caitlin laughed. ‘They are Hawkes.’

‘Yes, they are.’ She slid a look at Caitlin. ‘So, how are things?’

Caitlin regarded her fondly and Jane gave a half-embarrassed shrug.

‘I know I always say I’m not going to be the interfering mother-in-law but,’ Jane winced, ‘String’s behaviour has been a little hard to miss.’

‘He got spooked.’ Caitlin said briefly. ‘He’s over it.’

Jane looked at her. ‘Spooked?’

‘Alan’s heart attack reminded him too much of the past and it freaked him out.’ Caitlin expanded.

Jane sighed sadly. ‘You know every time I think we’ve just gotten over all the years apart, something will happen that makes me realise it hasn’t been forgotten at all.’

‘What happened, happened.’ Caitlin said. ‘It’s a part of who y’all are.’

‘My son is lucky to have you.’ Jane replied. ‘Not many women would be so understanding.’

‘I love him.’ Caitlin said.

‘What about this woman, Lydia?’ Jane asked pointedly.

Caitlin shifted uncomfortable with the question. ‘He could be right about her.’ She conceded. ‘She could be a victim in all this; as used as Hawke was.’

‘But you’re not sure.’

‘No.’ Caitlin admitted. ‘I still think her interest in him was personal.’ She sipped her chocolate and let the drink warm her. ‘But then,’ she sighed, ‘I could just be letting the fact that she’s spent more time with my husband than I have for the past month influence my point of view.’

‘I’m glad the two of you sorted things out.’ Jane said. ‘I’m very fond of you, Caitlin, and I would have hated to have lost another daughter-in-law.’

Caitlin touched her arm. ‘Thank you.’

Jane grimaced. ‘Do you think Jo will stay for long after the wedding?’

‘I don’t know.’ Caitlin said. ‘I don’t think so. She finds LA too hard; too much of a reminder of Bella.’

Jane’s expression saddened. ‘Such a tragic loss.’

‘Yes.’ Caitlin’s hand moved back to her abdomen almost of its own accord.

Her mother-in-law’s eyes narrowed. ‘Caitlin, are you...?’

Caitlin bit her lip and nodded. ‘Two months.’

‘Why didn’t you say something?’ Jane reached over and hugged her. ‘Oh, congratulations!’

‘Thank you.’ Caitlin said briskly. ‘But it’s early days so...’ she shrugged, not wanting to put her fears into her words.

‘Does String know?’ Jane asked bluntly.

‘I told him earlier today.’ Caitlin said. ‘I only found out a few days ago myself. He’s pleased; worried.’

‘You’ll be fine.’ Jane smiled. ‘I couldn’t believe it when I fell pregnant with Sarah. I thought my boys would be it.’

‘I can...’ Caitlin stopped abruptly as a sound caught her ear.

A helicopter.

She frowned. She wasn’t expecting anyone. Marella was knee deep into investigative work and she would have called if she was visiting; Hawke’s last call indicated he and the rest of the family were staying in Wyoming for Sarah. There were very few people who knew the location of the cabin...including Lydia, Caitlin realised darkly. If the target hadn’t been Airwolf; if it had been Hawke...

‘Jane.’ Caitlin stood up, placing her hot chocolate on the ground. ‘Come with me.’

Jane looked at her surprised but followed her inside.

Amelia stopped playing as they entered. ‘Mommy?’

Caitlin grabbed the kids’ coats and hurriedly ushered them into the warm jackets. She urged Jane into hers. ‘I need you all to go out the back and head for the old viewing hide.’

‘Mom.’ Nicky protested. ‘I should stay here with you.’

‘I’m going to be right behind you but I need you to look after your Grandma and sister. Take Bit.’ Caitlin said, even as she retrieved the key for the shotgun cabinet and opened it. She handed Jane a gun who accepted it reluctantly.

Caitlin kissed her daughter, desperately ignoring the bright sheen of tears in Amelia’s scared eyes. She hugged Nicky. ‘Go.’

Jane grasped Amelia’s hand in hers and gestured at Nicky who was cajoling a reluctant Bit. ‘You lead the way, Nicky.’

Caitlin watched as they disappeared and she locked the back door to be certain their exit wouldn’t be immediately apparent before she loaded her hand-gun and tried the satellite phone. It was dead. Maybe they were blocking it somehow, Caitlin mused as she tried to ignore the nausea rising in her gut. She had to stay strong. She had to ensure her kids had time to get safely away...

The helicopter could be clearly heard; its rotors beating loudly as it landed outside. She waited: her heart pounding in her chest and her breathing erratic. The cabin door opened and a man stepped through with a gun in his hand.

‘Drew Henman, I presume?’ Caitlin asked, trying to keep her voice steady as she aimed her own weapon. He looked vaguely familiar; tight dark hair atop a ruddy face that was set in a glower. She realised she had seen him around Red Star.

‘And you are Hawke’s wife.’ Henman said. He motioned at her with his gun. ‘Put the weapon down.’

‘I don’t think so.’ Caitlin said.

‘I don’t want to hurt you but I will.’ Henman smiled cruelly. ‘You’re not the one I want.’

Caitlin looked at him. ‘You won’t get Hawke. He’s not here.’

‘No,’ Henman agreed, ‘but he’ll come looking for you.’ He aimed the weapon as though he meant business. ‘Now either you come with me or I kill you and comb this mountain for your children. Which is it going to be?’

Caitlin waited a beat and set down the gun. She knew she couldn’t risk fighting – not when she was pregnant; not when her children were at stake. She walked on unsteady legs over to Henman before pushing past him and walking on towards the chopper. She was only too aware of Henman’s gun pointed at her as she got in the back as he instructed. Lydia sat mutely in the pilot’s seat. The other woman said nothing as Henman ordered them into the air.

The cabin disappeared into a speak as they rose into the dark sky and Caitlin felt her fear skitter up and down her spine as she tried to remain calm. Her children were safe; that was the important thing. And Hawke would come for her; she knew that.

She just had to stay safe, to stay alive, until then.

Continued in Part IV.

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