A/N: Here's another one for Deb, who sent me a long list of prompts.
Even the few minutes inside Airwolf's environmentally maintained cabin had reset his body temperature so opening the right hatch into that heat was like walking into a wall of fire. The thought of her lying atop the burning sands, baking under the ferocious sun for however long that bastard Moffet had had her on this dune made his stomach heave as he stumbled down the dune, skidding through the sand.
He dropped to his knees, lifting her body from the sand that had baked her from below and leaned over her, providing at least a momentarily breakfront from the killing rays. The sun had burned all exposed skin a bright red. Blisters dotted her face, like puffy white polka dots in a red field. Her lips were swollen and crusted and moving without making any sound.
"Gabrielle." He pulled her closer to him, speaking gently, trying to reassure her. Her skin was as dry and rough as the sand in which she'd been sprawled, and almost as hot. "Oh, easy baby, it's over."
He saw the ripped clothing but chose not to think about it, focusing instead on her almost incoherent words as he frantically tried to remember the emergency treatment for severe hyperthermia. The canteen that Dominic carried, jogging towards them, wouldn't be enough.
He touched her face gently, rubbing water on her lips as she tried to explain that she was going to go, that Moffet came. It wasn't enough. Splashing the water all over her body wasn't going to be enough and he sighed as he made the decision and gestured for Dominic to take the canteen.
Gathering Gabrielle in his arms, he jogged back to Airwolf, more slowly than he had when he was running down the dune.
He laid her in the back, in the cramped space next to the Dominic's seat in the back.
"See if you can find some cloths in the starboard storage bin," he said roughly to Dominic. "I don't care if they're dirty. Just use the canteen to keep them moist and cover her as much as possible with them. If you can't find cloths, rip up your jumpsuit."
He wanted to do it himself but knew he'd have to be the one to fly, the one to get help from the only source he could rely upon.
As Airwolf rose into the sky, his eyes fixed upon the tire tracks leading away from this Golgotha, tracks left by the devil himself. Hawke's fingers wrapped around the stick and tightened on the firing trigger, aching to pursue, to intercept and to destroy. Instead he lifted Airwolf from the sands of hell and picked a course toward the Gulf of Sirte.
It took him a few frantic minutes to remember how to operate Airwolf's communications system. Archangel had given him specific frequencies to use but the panic that threatened to overwhelm him with every glance over his left shoulder scrambled his thoughts and it was long minutes before he calmed his mind enough to remember.
He was expecting Archangel and was surprised to hear the low, whiskey tones of the woman he'd met in Paris,
"I'm coming in," Hawke said, surprised at how level and in control he sounded when his heart felt as if it was racing almost as fast as Gabrielle's. "I need the Enterprise's medical officer standing by, prepared to treat a bad case of heat stroke or hyperthermia. It's Gabrielle."
It was all he needed to say.
He adjusted the cabin temperature, increased altitude and let Airwolf's internal cabin pressurization system automatically push a higher oxygen mixture through its filters.
Ten minutes out from the Enterprise, the muscles in Gabrielle's arms and legs began to twitch uncontrollably. He could hear Dominic's soothing voice take on a frantic edge and the slap of hands against wet cloth trying to keep her from injuring herself against the steel plate on which she lay.
He'd landed helicopters on almost every surface possible in Vietnam and while flying stunts for Santini Air but landing shipboard was an experience he didn't expect to repeat any time soon. Certainly the flight deck of an aircraft carrier the size of the USS Enterprise was a hell of a lot more stable than your average boat, but it was moving and he felt the port wheel touch down at least two seconds before the starboard and nose wheels did. The flight deck crew had them tied down in the time it took Hawke to release his harness and turn to see how she was doing.
Hawke climbed out to give the medical officer unfettered access. He could see Archangel and Faye hovering and wondered if they were here for Gabrielle or Airwolf.
Navy corpsmen pushed past him with an IV kit and ice packs. Another not far behind carried a stretcher. Minutes later, they maneuvered her out of the helicopter and laid her on the stretcher, placing the ice packs carefully in her armpits, at both sides of her neck, at her ankles and wrists. Two corpsmen manned the stretcher, the third held the saline bag at his own shoulder height. The medical officer was the last out of Airwolf and scurried after them.
Hawke followed, crossing paths with Archangel whose gaze was fixed on the stretcher, on Gabrielle. His expression was desolate, but then he blinked and it was again unreadable.
The sickbay was on the second deck, just below the hangar deck and amidships. His call had done more than have a doctor on the flight deck as they landed. The Enterprise's medical staff had prepped a tub in which Gabrielle was immersed in iced water as they treated her for shock. Hawke stayed with her as long as possible but when she was moved into the Intensive Care Quiet Room, he'd been ordered out. He had loitered outside it for three hours, bumping into the sailors making their way rapidly through the narrow corridors of the ship. Finally, distraught and restless, he retraced his steps to the flight deck.
He scanned the immensity of the flight deck looking for Dominic without luck. He saw Archangel, standing next to Airwolf, talking to a Navy officer so he started in that direction. Almost immediately a sailor tried to stop him and when Hawke shoved the man, two more appeared. Finally Archangel said something to the officer who simply jerked his head and the sailors stepped back.
"How is she?"
Hawke studied him for a moment and then, grudgingly, said, "She's alive."
There was a brief flash of irritation that smoothed away.
Hawke tasted blood in his mouth. "Yeah." He realized that there was a second part to the question. "It was go after him or get her here."
He'd thought about going back, taking Airwolf back to finish the job to wreck such vengeance on Moffett that the whole of Libya would feel it. He hadn't done it. He'd been paralyzed by a bone deep atavistic fear that if he left her, she would die.
Archangel nodded, acknowledgement and understanding both, even if the corners of his mouth turned down in disappointment.
"Radar's all lit up. Khaddafi's Air Force, such as it is, was scrambled and has been in the air for the last three hours, flexing their Russian military hardware. They're not ranging too far from the edge of their territorial waters though."
Hawke nodded. There was no point in trying to talk Archangel into letting him take Airwolf back now. Even if the Libyan Air Force wasn't manning the barn door after they'd lost their prize helicopter, Moffett was long gone, hidden in the compound or in another city.
"We'll get him, Hawke," Archangel said darkly. "I have a personal interest in making sure that happens."
Hawke scuffed at the desk, scowling and sighed.
"Faye took Dominic to the mess hall."
There was a subtle insinuation that Hawke had abandoned Santini, which he had, but Dominic was a big boy and could take of himself. He was probably talking the ears off Faye.
"As soon as the medical staff decides that Gabrielle is stable enough to be moved, she'll be flown to the hospital at Landstuhl. Faye will go with her. I'll be flying stateside in about six hours. You're welcome to hitch a ride home if you want. The offer extends to Dominic as well."
Hawke looked up, beyond Archangel, at the sun's reflection off the black hull of the sweetest helicopter he'd ever flown. He'd had plans for that helicopter and had even found a nice little place to stash her while he navigated the US Government's rabbit warren of broken promises. He jerked his chin at Airwolf and Archangel turned to look at her.
"I admit that I was half-expecting you to grab her and disappear," he said. "But you kept your side of the deal."
"I want St. John," Hawke said simply, gazing with undisguised hunger at the trump card he thought might make that happen.
Archangel looked at him, expression shifting until he worked through whatever he was thinking. "Yeah. I know."
His voice sounded almost exactly as it had in Hawke's cabin a week ago when he'd realized Hawke was serious: a horrified recognition that on this topic Hawke would not relent. He probably would shake some trees, military, intelligence and foreign contacts, looking for information on St. John, but Hawke knew it wouldn't be his top priority. It wasn't his top priority now and every day it would drop further down the list until it was a job that he assigned to the least busy, meaning the least capable of his analysts.
Until he wanted something again.
"I'm going to stay with her," Hawke said. "See if I can catch a ride to Germany."
Archangel glanced at the Navy officer standing a few feet away until the other man nodded and Hawke's ride was secured.
"You got what you wanted, Michael. Don't come back unless you're found St. John. I'm not interested in any more of your jobs."
Archangel's lips pressed together for a second and then he extended his right hand. After a considering it, Hawke clasped it and they shook. Whether or not Gabrielle returned to her job when she recovered, Hawke had already decided that this was the last job he'd do for the Firm.