Three hours of surgery, six units of blood, and a day of rest later, Dominic was well enough to sit up in bed and complain about the necessity for staying in hospital, especially the Firm's hospital, although when Caitlin offered to get him his clothes so he could leave he was quick enough to come up with an excuse for taking further advantage of the Firm's hospitality.
Airwolf had been safely stowed back at the Lair, and Hawke had made sure that every last piece of weaponry was loaded and the Lady was ready to go at a moment's notice.
Now , slumped in a hard plastic chair, Hawke snorted derisively at the older man's hasty backpedalling. Dom glared at him. "I heard that. From the look of you, you ought to be stuck in a bed here too." When they'd arrived at Knightsbridge with what remained of John Bradford Horn, Hawke – after being nagged at by Caitlin for most of the flight – had finally consented to let one of the doctors take a look at him. The head wound had been properly disinfected and a couple of stitches put in, and the assortment of less gory injuries cleaned up. Now Hawke was sporting a small shaved patch on his head, covered with a piece of white gauze. When he saw himself in a mirror, he'd started trying to remember if he owned any ball caps that Tet hadn't chewed up. "You better hope that Elena lady hasn't found herself a job yet," Dom continued. "I think you need her to look after you."
"I think you need her more than I do. You're not gonna be able to use that arm for a long time. Elena's real good at spoonfeeding."
"Spoonfeeding, huh? You got personal experience, do you?" Dom tossed back at him. "That musta made a pretty sight."
Hawke squirmed. Now it was Dominic's turn to snort.
Marella had dropped by a few minutes ago and was leaning in the doorway. Archangel appeared behind her. "Well, well. The gang's all here."
"Not from choice," grumbled Dominic.
Archangel ignored him, looking at Hawke. "Nice trophy you brought in. A bit gory, but very welcome."
Hawke hid his surprise. He'd assumed that if he'd succeeded in catching Horn, the Firm would have been content to carry out its retribution through legal channels. It hadn't occurred to him that Archangel would actually be happy with the full and irrevocable stop that Hawke had put to the man's activities. Or at least not officially happy.
Archangel was continuing. "By the way, I've been informed that not only have you been flying with your license under suspension, you narrowly escaped being slapped with a parking ticket up on the helipad yesterday morning. You could be in a lot of trouble, you know."
"Maybe he's assuming Santini Air will be paying all the fines," suggested Marella.
"Fines? What fines?" yelped Dominic.
Hawke shrugged. "So sue me. My pilot was bleeding to death. And as for the other thing, I got let off with a warning. You can be damned sure I won't be doing that again."
"You better not," said Marella. "I'm not usually that lenient. If I'd been Michael, I'd have whipped that thing away from you so fast you wouldn't even know what happened. Not that you'd have known it if we'd hauled it away with the Budweiser Clydesdales, the shape you were in."
"What are you talking about?" asked Dominic suspiciously. "What happened yesterday?"
"Nothing, Dom," said Hawke. "Literally." He looked at Marella and Archangel. "I'm surprised you're standing there talking about parking tickets when you could have just snatched the damn thing."
Archangel shrugged. "I was unavailable. It was the middle of the night, after all. No one who was here at the time felt empowered to act without my authority."
"Mamma mia," groaned Dominic. "String, don't tell me you left the Lady sitting right on the Firm's doorstep."
Hawke cleared his throat, deciding to postpone any answer. He and Caitlin had already been visiting for half an hour, and he thought the older man was looking as if he was starting to fade a bit. Hawke also knew what Dominic hadn't mentioned, that he was facing at least one more surgery on his shoulder, possibly more. Dom was still in for a rough time, and it was a good thing that Hawke and Caitlin would be able to concentrate on running Santini Air.
He pushed off from the chair. "Come on, Cait. We better get going if we're gonna be at the field early tomorrow."
"What are you talking about?" said Dominic, frowning. "You mean you're going back to work? Don't you think you need a little downtime?"
"Dom, I've already had plenty of downtime. You were the one who told me I've spent the last six months or so sitting on my butt while other people did all the work, remember?"
"Yeah, but that's not – "
"I'd just like to remind you two that I was one of those people doing all the work while Hawke was gone," Caitlin interrupted. "I'm not planning on looking after the place all on my own if he gets any more time off."
"She's right, Dom. You might have to think about hiring a couple of people to replace us. There's lots of qualified pilots around, you know."
"Whose licenses aren't under suspension," added Caitlin pointedly.
"All right, all right. You two get out of here and get your beauty sleep."
"Parsimoniousness, thy name is Dominic," muttered Archangel.
"What was that?"
"I think he's trying to insult you, Dom."
"Oh. Well, from him I wouldn't expect anything else."
Hawke grinned, gave Dom's shoulder – the right one – a squeeze, and headed for the door. Caitlin leaned down and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, murmured, "Get well, Dom," and followed Hawke.
He stopped in the doorway, face to face with Archangel. "What about that license, Michael?"
"Not my decision."
"I'm not going to be much use to Santini Air grounded."
"Really? From what I hear, you're a pretty fine receptionist. And even a half decent accountant, for somebody who can't do his own income tax."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Absolutely," Michael murmured. It wasn't often he got to succesfully bait Hawke.
A muscle along Hawke's jawline started to twitch. Michael relented.
"Come see me in three days. I'll talk to Dr. Greenspan." As Hawke's mouth opened to argue, Michael said swiftly, "Oh, relax. At this point it's hardly more than a formality. Get out of here, both of you. Get some rest, or something. Why not have a little celebration?
They decided to postpone any celebrating until Dominic was out of hospital. Now Hawke stood at the end of the dock, leaning on the railing, feeling the warmth from the day's sunlight still in the wood under his folded arms. One of these days I'm going to have to do something about those splinters.
The pines and mountainside on the far side of the lake were still lit by the last of the sunset, but it was already dusk where he was standing. Far off to his right, he caught the glide of an eagle, making one last flight over the water before the light faded completely.
John Bradford Horn had overshadowed his life to varying degrees for nearly two years now. He knew the man was dead and he didn't believe in shades that walked the earth. The demons that the drugs had raised had all subsided, or been wrestled down. It was over.
If only he could get relax completely, get rid of the tension that lived in a place inside of him that Elena's magic fingers could never reach. But that tension had been there long before he'd ever heard of Horn. Maybe it had even begun forming the day he'd left St. John behind; and if he ever truly let go of it, that might be the day he'd have to give up Airwolf. He'd have lost the edge he needed to fly her so successfully. Hawke wasn't a vain man, but he knew the facts. No one else could fly Airwolf as well as he did. Not her other test pilots, not Caitlin O'Shannessy, not even Dominic Santini. If it meant that he would always be a potential target for anyone who, like Horn, wanted possession of the helicopter for his own unscrupulous ends, well, that went with the territory. It didn't mean he liked it, or even that he was always prepared for it. But he had to accept it.
Lying beside him, Tet yawned, bored. Hawke looked down at him. "Yeah," he said softly. Tet was right. Time to go in, get some supper, plan for the next day, get some more sleep.
Get on with life.