CHAPTER 16

Michael was waiting on the tarmac when the plane came to a complete stop and let out its passengers. Marella was the first to descend out of the plane, soon followed by Hawke who was noticeably sore, but appeared not to be too much worse for wear, considering.

"Hawke, Marella," he greeted. "How-"

"I've had worse," Hawke answered brusquely before he could even get the question out. "How soon can you have a helicopter ready?"

"I have two fueled and ready in front of the next hangar over, why?"

"To get Dom and Cait. It's a long story."

Glancing toward Marella, he only received a shrug in response. "I have no clue."

Picking up his pace to match the determined younger pilot's, he followed before one of his white "snow bunnies," as Dom occasionally referred to them, disappeared and with it any hope of finding out what was going on.

Hawke was already powering up the helicopter and kicking the rotors into motion when he caught up, moving into the copilot's seat. Seconds later they were lifting up off the ground and into the air.

"You want to tell me where we're going or what's going on?"

"I don't know exactly, and to rescue Dom and Cait. We all were held captive in a tiny brick cell at his estate after we got caught, but Quan has a special interest in me and took me along for the trip. Marella found me, helped me escape, and I killed Quan in the process. He was using not only physical pain, but also lies about Saint John and the fact I knew where they are but was unable to do anything to help them. While he gets the enjoyment of reminding me they're starving to death in the meantime."

\A/

"Cait, there's someone out there, sounds like a Ranger." He strained to see through the narrow slits in the wall, finally catching a glimpse of white chopper. "FIRM, I think, one of Michael's. Do we have anything we can use to get their attention?"

Caitlin looked across the unfurnished concrete-walled cell. "A nail file, the clothes we're wearing, and I think that's it."

"There's got to be something, anything."

"Wait a minute, he never took our guns, guess he figured they wouldn't be of and help to us in this concrete hell."

"Good, good." He took his 9mm from his belt and struggled to fit his hand through the tiny opening.

"Here, let me try, my hands are smaller." Caitlin squeezed her hand through the space between the concrete blocks and fired skyward. "I think it's working." She fired another couple rounds, and the helicopter circled overhead again, but then disappeared.

"Well?" Dom asked, trying to get a clear view of what was going on above them.

"They're gone," she answered, "just gone."

\A/

"Do you even know where you're going? You've circled this area three times already."

"I know, but they're down there somewhere."

The helicopter pulled out of the wide arc and he sent the eastward once again, closer and closer to the ground until at last he brought the immaculate chopper into a small clearing in the woods, rotor blades barely missing the trees on all sides.

"Hawke, you're certifiable, you know that? Anyone in their right mind wouldn't even try landing here."

"There."

Before the rotors had even begun slowing, he jumped out and ran for the cleverly hidden camouflaged helicopter only yards in front of them.

"You brought Airwolf in here! You really are insane," he exclaimed, shaking his head. "How did you fit her in? I see it now and I'm still not sure it's physically possible."

"You probably don't want to know."

"What is the clearance? The rotors are practically wedged between the trees."

"Like I said, you don't really want to know."

Giving in, Michael realized Hawke was probably right and followed his lead through where the team had snuck in day before.

\A/

Sweat streaming into his eyes, Dominic tried to ignore the empty feeling in his stomach long enough to fall asleep. "Ya know, I bet Death Valley isn't this hot."

"That's the hottest place in the world, Dom."

"Still can't be as hot."

"Do you think anyone will find us?"

"I don't know Cait, if they are though, I sure wish they'd hurry up."

"Dom, Cait," Hawke's familiar voice called out, "you in there?"

"String! Yeah we're in here, what's takin' you so long?"

"Long flight, they didn't let me fly back. Stand back, we're gonna take out the door."

"You got it."

Michael stuck the C-4 block by the door hinges and detonated the explosive, eliminating the obstacle and allowing the prisoners to escape.

Caitlin was the first of the two to come out, running up to Hawke, embracing him, and pressing a gentle kiss against his lips. "String, I don't think I've ever been so glad to see you."

Scarcely had she finally relinquished him grip, and Dom already had him wrapped in a bear hug. "So good to see you kid, you just don't know how good."

"Enough that' you'd be willing to see me again tonight at the cabin for dinner?"

"What more could a guy ask for?"

\A/

6:30 pm

String's Cabin

"I think you have enough food, Ly' Thi Nhu laughed. "Maybe too much."

"What? You and Tommy aren't hungry tonight?"

"Tommy doesn't have any teeth, and I'm hungry, but not that hungry."

"Alright, you win. I invited a couple friends over for dinner."

"Only a couple? You could just about feed the whole city."

"I don't think so. The cabin will have already more than exceeded maximum capacity by dinnertime."

"Just how many more are coming?"

"Six. And they're here now."

"Now?"

A moment later she could hear the steady rhythm of the rotors biting through the as the white Long Ranger flew towards the cabin and landed on the wooden dock out front.

"You heard that?"

"Nah, I'm just psychic."

"Sure you are. Now how about telling me you're hiding the plates and I'll start setting the table."

"They're in the cupboard to the left of the sink, but why don't you go greet out guests instead. You should know just about all of them by now."

Nhu agreed and stepped out onto the porch, feeling the cool breeze against her shoulders as she watched each person climb out of the executive FIRM helicopter. Marella was first, followed by Michael who had exchanged his three piece white suit for a white sweater and pants. Then out of the back climbed Dominic Santini and Caitlin O'Shaunessey, the two other Airwolf crew members she was just beginning to come to know, and an Amerasian boy she hadn't met before but was quickly introduced to her as Le van Hawke, String's nephew. Lastly came the one she wouldn't have guessed in a million years. From short cropped flaming red hair too short to be disturbed by the wind to the rangy lean frame, it was the man she loved. Abandoning her post by the front door, she ran towards him, leaping into his strong arms. "Trenton," she whispered amongst tears of joy as she buried her face in his shoulder, "You're backā€¦"

"I told you it'd be okay," he said, drawing her closer still and pressing a soft kiss on her lips.

\A/

"Well, was it worth it?"

Hawke continued to stare out the window for a long minute before letting the curtain fall in front of the window and turned to face what had become like his own family. "Yeah," he said with an almost wistful tone, "it was worth it."