|With This Ring, I Thee Wed
Author: Ladyhawke 620 PM
Story 9 - Takes place after "Regrets", a place where Airwolf's crew's past has a way of meeting with it's present. We often think about the for better part when we marry, but what about the for worse...?Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Chapters: 26 - Words: 43,221 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 12-28-09 - Published: 12-01-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5550108
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Panting, String flung himself towards the pilot's seat of the T-3. Lungs burning, chest aching he forced himself to fumble through the pre-flight list. Miss something and die, he thought, wincing at the burning ache in his ribs, take too long, get caught and die. Damned if you do, damned if you don't…
He shoved the headset on in the same instant a lean finger flipped the starboard engine switch. The radio crackled to life.
Dark blue eyes flickered over his right shoulder, watching as the engine coughed and sputtered, struggling to start. Well, at least he knew which one had been hit, he thought humorlessly. Now, whether it'd hold…
Still breathing hard, air rasping through his aching lungs, tanned fingers scrambled to flip the switch for the second engine, hearing it roar to life. 'Bout time.
Radio static crackled in his ears. "Eagle One to Airwolf, do you copy?"
"We're here String," Saint John's rough steady tones assured, the thud of canon fire echoing back. "Little shell-shocked maybe," he rasped, swinging Airwolf out of an incoming mortar round, feeling the explosion reverberate through the cabin around him. "But here."
"Then let's get this show on the road," String retorted, eyeing the dust plume rising rapidly in the air as an olive drab jeep quickly cut the distance between the compound and the plane. Behind the radio noise, incoming radar abruptly screed to life, picking up a pair of incoming Migs. Hawke shoved the throttle forward hard and prayed.
Blue-green eyes troubled, Caitlin Hawke stared at the paperwork Marella handed her across the battered, metal desk at Santini Air. "You knew, too?" she asked bitterly, recognizing her husbands bold scrawl across the page. She hated the sharp bite of betrayal that accompanied the words. Had she been the only one clueless, the only one who hadn't known?
She shoved the papers away.
"Hawke called and asked before he left," Marella returned, the coffee brown eyes sympathetic even as she pushed the file back towards her. "It really was dumb luck, Cait. He was every bit as upset as you are."
"He could've told me," the red-head muttered mutinously, her pain evident in the tremble of her lower lip as she fought back tears, refusing to open the file.
Marella sighed, wondering vaguely when she'd taken up marriage counseling. "Yeah, he could've Cait. But that's not Hawke and we both know it." Suddenly bone weary, she shifted against the desk. "He thought it was over and done with, years ago."
Her tone was compassionate. "A reasonable conclusion in my estimation." A well-manicured nail pushed the file back in Cait's direction.
She made no attempt to reach for it, avoiding Marella's gaze.
The older woman stood silent for a long moment, a worried frown creasing her forehead before she turned to go. She paused, turning on the threshold. "We all have secrets, Cait, whether we like it or not. Some we choose, some choose us. Hawke's still the same man you fell in love with, the same man he's always been. And if you're honest with yourself, I don't think you'd have it any other way. Read the file." She was gone in a swish of cream-colored silk.
The clock on the wall ticked loudly in the silence. Unthinkingly, a slender, freckled hand reached for the stack of papers as if of its own volition. Thumbing through them, she paused at a faded snapshot of a much younger, rangier Stringfellow Hawke leaning against a medical supply cabinet, ribs taped and bandaged holding a squalling baby. Tuyen, barely a teenager, looking terrified, stood at the edge of the photo.
Cait sighed, feeling the slide of tears down her cheeks as she rubbed her thumb fondly across the picture. Hawke couldn't have looked more scared if somebody had just tossed him a live grenade.
"Even then, huh, String?" she whispered, with a choked laugh. Shaking her head, she slid the photo to the side to read the pages Marella had left.
The plane shuddered, climbing. Muscles clenched, Hawke hauled back on the yoke of the plane, aiming for the end of the runway, aft radar screaming in his ears.
Beneath him, he felt the familiar sensation of the earth falling away as he flung the plane skyward. "Come on baby, come on climb," he muttered, pulling back hard on her nose. Maybe, just maybe, they'd make it…
Radar locked on…
He rolled the plane hard left, felt the unmistakable shudder of the starboard engine choking, dying.
Missile away. "Ah, he-…"
Turbulence slammed the underbelly of the plane, dropping it thirty feet in a heartbeat. A black streak slashed across the sky, slamming itself between the plummeting plane and a rapidly gaining Apex missile.
Second engine stalling, String fought to roll the plane upright as the missile picked up Airwolf's hotter heat signature. Gritting his teeth, he manhandled her back under control as Saint John rolled Airwolf into an Aileron roll, dropping in behind the missile and taking it out in one shot. The first Mig followed in quick succession.
A tanned hand slammed across the instrument panel, hitting the re-start switch for the second engine as the T-3 wallowed upright in a gut-clenching roll.
The starboard engine stuttered to life.
The second Mig swung back.
String snatched for the throttle.
Airwolf swung hard around on her own axis, tail boom fishtailing. She loosed a Maverick so close String cursed, ducking.
Heat and flame rolled across the cockpit, as the plane slung itself towards the deck, skimming the tree tops towards open water.
Radar flared and cleared, the second Mig gone.
"Hell, Saint John," String rasped, finally daring to breathe. "You're supposed to shoot it, not me!"
Saint John's husky chuckle rumbled across the airwaves. "Hey, you're still here aren't you?"
The plane wing dipped down as Hawke swung it in a lazy, graceful arc ocean wards. A lean finger shoved sliding sunglasses up the bridge of his nose as he checked instruments. "Barely," he grumbled, obviously disgruntled.
Saint John laughed. "Well, you know what they say, String. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades."
Hawke grunted, an unwilling grin starting to tug at his lips. "Whoever said that, never flew with you."
His brother snorted in amusement. "Or you," he rejoined.