And WHEN Was The Wedding?
A/N #1 – This story was inspired by VIDZ's excellent JAG fic Wrong Impressions, and will be structured in a fashion similar to his fic It's The End of the World – told from several different viewpoints.
Disclaimer – As always, I don't own these characters...either Bellisario or Universal does. But since they don't take the characters out to play anymore, I do every so often. I just have to remember to put them back when I'm finished with them. For purposes of continuity, this story arc will take place a few months after the S2 episode Flight 093 is Missing. – robertwnielsen
Summary – A simple slip of the tongue causes panic for Caitlin...but at the same time, could it allow her to make her dreams come true?
Chapter 1 – Dom
"Mornin' Cait," I said as I saw my younger employee, Caitlin O'Shannessy, walking into the hangar. My younger surrogate son, Stringfellow Hawke, was already there, working on a helicopter camera mount.
"Mornin', Dom...Hawke," Caitlin said, barely casting a glance at Stringfellow Hawke.
"Mornin', Cait," Hawke said, surprised she was all but ignoring him. His words caused her to stop walking and turn back towards him.
"You actually acknowledged that I'm here?" Caitlin asked, astonished. "I think that's a first...what do you say, Dom?"
"I think you're right, Cait," I said with a grin. "String hasn't acknowledged that you've been here lately...then he up and does it today. You think he's sick?"
"I dunno, Dom...except maybe sick in the head. Maybe he's just been workin' too hard." She smiled at Hawke, and seemed surprised to see him return her smile.
I've gotta admit something here—I was almost as confused as Caitlin was about String's reactions to her. I mean, let's face it—String can sometimes go for days without saying word one to her about anything—so I know his response to her just then surprised Cait as much as it surprised me. Her attempts to get String to see her as something other than a 'good friend' had met with increasing frustration, as he had either ignored her, or brushed her off consistently. Of course, she knew about the "curse" that String thought he had, thanks to a discussion with me about it. But if anybody can prove to String that the curse doesn't really exist, I'd put money on Cait, I said to myself. She's already proven how well she can take care of herself...especially with the hijacking...not to mention that deal with Holly...and the Anderson affair. That's three different times she coulda been killed...but she wasn't. Not to mention the first time Hawke met Caitlin, down in Texas...God only knows what Bogan and his boys wanted to do to her...and would have done to her, if we hadn't shown up. Caitlin had been telling me how frustrated she was getting about String...even hinted that she might be going back home to Texas if things didn't change. I sure hope she doesn't. He might not admit it, but if she left...that'd just kill String. And, God knows, String's a lot easier to deal with with Cait around. I sure as heck don't want that to change. I couldn't help but suddenly remember something that happened when I got out of jail—I'd been framed for the murder of my ex-wife, but String and Cait helped clear me—and as we walked back to the hangar, I stopped and looked at a picture of my daughter Sally Ann, just as String said, "Hey, Dom! What's holdin' you up?" And when I looked up, I saw String and Cait in each other's arms—just the way they should be, I remembered thinkin' to myself, once I got over the shock. Suddenly, I heard String callin' for me.
"Hey, Dom," String hollered at me, "What's our agenda for the afternoon?"
"Just doing what we're doing," I said, as I heard the phone ring in the office. As I walked into the small office, I hollered over my shoulder, "If you see anybody with work, holler at me, willya?"
"Santini Air," I said, after I picked up the phone.
A woman's voice, one that I thought I recognized, said, "Hello...I'm calling for Caitlin O'Shannessy. This, ah, this is her mother. Is Caitlin around?" I knew I recognized that voice from somewhere, I said to myself, and I suddenly found myself paraphrasing a Bill Cosby routine I saw on TV not long ago. "And I thought, 'Uh-oh. Somebody's in TROUBLE.'" Quickly, I snapped myself out of my reverie. "Yeah. Yeah, she's here. Hang on a sec, willya?" Sticking my head out the door, I called out, "Cait? Your mom's on the phone!"
I noticed the look on Caitlin's face as she took the phone from me and said, "Thanks, Dom." She left the office door open, so String and I could hear the conversation, even though I don't think she intended us to hear it. But she looked so scared when I handed her the phone, I figure she just forgot to close the door. She looked like she was headed to the execution chamber, I said to myself. I can't remember ever seeing her look so scared...even after the hijacking, she didn't look that frightened. I mean, I know Cait and her mom don't exactly get along—String and I hear Cait's end of the problems they're having every time they talk—or make that argue—on the phone, and I guess I can kinda understand it. I mean, ever since the hijacking, her mom's been pushin' for Cait to go back to Texas, and find a good man to settle down with. Of course, I said to myself, Cait doesn't need to go back to Texas to find a good man—I mean, in my not so humble opinion, the perfect candidate's right here in California—that is, if we can ever get him to pull his head out of his rear end and quit feelin' sorry for himself. But there was somethin' about Cait's expression when she walked into the office—like I said, she looked like she was being walked the last mile to the execution chamber—and, that scared me. I mean, I hate to admit it, but I've grown to love Cait like she was my daughter—which is another reason why I go nuts when I see how String treats her. One of these days, I said to myself, we're gonna have it out about Cait, String. And so help me God, I'm gonna make you see reason.
Just then, I heard Cait's voice. "Hi, Mom," she began, and I could already tell that things were not gonna go well. Just from her mom's tone of voice, I said to myself, I know there's gonna be trouble. Not thirty seconds into the conversation, I was proven right, since Cait had left the office door standing wide open, and was standing with her back to the door, so String and I could hear everything she said, and Caitlin was none the wiser.
"Look, Mom, no. No, Mom, he's not an idiot. And he's not a fool, either, Mom. Well, okay, maybe he is a fool," Caitlin was saying, and I knew Cait was talking about String. I think he knows it, too, I said to myself as I glanced over at him. And, I hate to admit it, especially since I raised both String and Saint John after that accident out on the lake, but in this case, I'd have to completely agree with Cait's mom—String is a danged fool for not loving Cait.
"No, Mom...no! I'm not..." Don't ask me how, but I knew Cait's mom had just asked if she was pregnant. Heck, I remember String telling me once that Kelly's dad once asked him if Kelly was pregnant. But, I know String better than that—if he was going to sleep with anyone, he'd make damned sure they were in a committed relationship, or he'd protect himself the best he could, so whoever he was with didn't wind up pregnant. At least, I hoped like hell he would—I thought Alan, Jane and I raised that boy better than that. Of course, we don't know if Cait's ever slept with anybody, I said to myself. My thoughts were jerked back to the present when Caitlin continued, "Mom, look, for the last time, no! Oh, dang. I just remembered. Mom, I do have something to tell you. This past weekend, I, um, I eloped, with my best friend."
CLANG! The sound of the wrench String dropped just then echoed through the entire hangar like the bell signaling the next round of a heavyweight championship boxing match. I glanced over at String, and saw him turn white—I mean, sheet-white—and, if there's one thing I know about String, it's that he doesn't scare easy. So for him to look like that, Cait's comment must have terrified him—and, it made me wonder why. I mean...I know why I hope he's scared, I said to myself. I know it sounds crazy, but I was hopin' like heck that hearing that from Cait—even though I have a gut feelin' it wasn't true—at least, I hope like hell it wasn't true—will push String to do something about his relationship with her—or at least, the relationship they should have, if he'd just admit to his feelings.
"What did she say?" Hawke quietly demanded.
"I—I thought she said that—she eloped with her best friend," I stuttered, shocked, and tried to keep my voice low enough so that Caitlin didn't hear me.
"That's what I thought she said, too," String replied, and the look on his face was a combination of fear and jealousy. Problem is, I don't know which wins out, I said to myself. I always thought String was her best friend. At least, I know Cait thinks of String as herbest friend. Oh, boy. If she said that just to try to get her mother off her back, Cait could be in serious trouble when her mom finds out it's a lie. At least, I hope like heck it's a lie. But then again...I forced myself to listen, but at the same time not look like I was listening in case Caitlin turned around, which she did. I swear, I never saw another human being's face turn that red, that quick. Well. She knows we're listening now, I said to myself after I made eye contact with Cait.
"Mom...No, String just dropped a wrench out in the hangar...No, I don't know why! No, Mom...it's not like that...I know you wanted me to have a big wedding and all that...but he didn't want to...and I don't think he woulda been too comfortable with a big church wedding, anyway. You are? Oh, Mom...you don't need to do that," Caitlin was saying. "I promise...Mom...no, of course I'm not fibbin' you! Would I do that? Okay...okay, maybe I would...but not about something like this! Yeah...yeah, Mom...well, if that's what you want to do, I guess I can't stop you, can I? I didn't think so...yeah...okay...yeah, I love you too, Mom. 'Bye," String and I both started working again as I heard Caitlin hang up the phone and walk out of the office. She was still red from embarrassment, having realized she left the office door open when String dropped that wrench.
"Um, I guess you heard that, huh?" Cait stammered, embarrassed.
"Yeah," Hawke said before I could say anything. "Sorry about dropping that wrench...that comment just startled me. You said you eloped with your best friend? Why would you say something like that, Cait?" If I didn't know better, I said to myself, I'd swear he had tears in his eyes.
"Oh, I dunno, String," Caitlin said. "Mom was going on about me settling down...and calling you names...an idiot, a fool...you know, like she has before. And...she asked if I was pregnant, of course. Finally, I just couldn't take it anymore, and I blurted out that I—that is—we—had eloped. I'm sorry, String," Caitlin said, looking into his eyes. Then, Cait proceeded to tell String that he was her best friend—and I thought to myself, Tell me somethin' I don't know, kid. I've known Cait thought of String as her best friend for several months now—but, I didn't know she thought of him that way—like someone she could love, as...her husband. And again, I pictured the two of them in each other's arms outside the hangar that day. But they'd be good together, I said to myself.
Then, String said, "Yeah, Cait. I know that. And, no offense, Dom, but, you're my best friend, too." I had to admit somethin' to myself—I never knew String thought of Cait as his best friend...I better tell him I'm not upset by that comment.
"No offense taken, String," I said, grinning at him, even as I tried to hide the excitement that these two revelations had caused. So...they both think of each other as their best friend, I said to myself. H mm...I wonder...But, first things first.
"Well, Cait, what your mom doesn't know won't hurt her...or String," I said, trying to lighten the mood, and at the same time, tryin' to figure out whether what Cait had just told her mother was true.
"Oh, wait...there's more," Cait said, and I could see String tense up. "She said...she said she'd be here next week. She wants to meet my husband."
Oh, boy, I said to myself. Just from Cait's tone of voice just then, I knew she'd lied to her mom about bein' married. And that worried the daylights outta me. On the one hand, now, I'm worried. But...there's possibility here! If we play this right...I fought to keep a huge grin from erupting onto my face, especially when I glanced at String and saw how concerned he had suddenly gotten.
"So, what are you gonna do, Cait?" String asked her. "I mean, when your mom shows up next week, and you're not wearing a ring, she's gonna have questions...and from what I've picked up when you've talked to your mom, she doesn't like when people are dishonest with her."
"Oh, that's putting it mildly, Hawke," Caitlin replied, and I could see the fear rising in her blue-green eyes. "When she comes next week, and finds out that I lied about being married...I...I never lied to her before, Hawke," she said and threw her arms around him. Not knowing what else to do, String wrapped his arms around her and held her as she cried. Boy, if there's not love there, I said to myself, as I noticed the way String was holding her. If there's not love there, especially from String, then I'm Luciano Pavarotti. There's gotta be a way we can make this happen, so Cait's mommy doesn't get too upset.
I swear the wheels are turning in String's head, too, I said to myself as I watched String trying to comfort Caitlin. I wonder what he's thinking. Could he...nah. He'd never actually consider marrying Cait...especially like this. That'd almost be...like an arranged marriage, I thought. Still... I had to admit, I wondered what was going on in my younger boy's head at that moment.
Okay, I feel like I need to explain something here. For anybody who doesn't know, you might be wondering why I refer to String as "my boy." Well, his parents, Alan and Jane, were killed in a boating accident when he was twelve years old, and I raised String and his older brother Saint John from that day on. String's father Alan was my best friend—we served together in WWII, and then again in Korea, and when the boys were born, I promised Alan that if anything happened to him and Jane, I'd take care of the boys—especially String. So after the terrible accident up on the lake, I did exactly what I said I would do, and raised the boys until they left for Vietnam. And, there's a selfish reason I want to see Cait and String together—I know I'm not gonna live forever, and it'd be nice to know that there's gonna be somebody around to take care of String when I'm gone—and, if that somebody happens to be Cait, then so much the better.
"Dom...what are we gonna do?" String asked me. "I mean...we can't let Cait's mom find out Cait lied to her about this marriage thing, you know?"
"Yeah, String," I replied, "I do know. Trouble is, I don't think the question is 'What are we gonna do?' The question you should be asking yourself is—'what am I gonna do?' So, I'll ask it for you, String—what are you gonna do?"
String looked at me and said, "I don't know, Dom. I mean..." Just then, I noticed Cait trying to get out of String's arms...and I also noticed String wasn't real crazy about letting go of her.
"Hawke...don't worry about it," Caitlin said as she pulled away from him. "I got myself into this mess, shootin' off my big mouth like that...I'll figure a way out...somehow," she said, and I knew the last word was said with regret. And String'd have to be completely deaf—or as big of a fool as Cait's mom evidently thinks he is—not to have heard Cait's tone of voice just now, I said to myself.
"String...can I talk to you for a sec?" I asked him.
"Sure, Dom," String replied, and the two of us walked a short distance away from the hangar.
"Boy, Cait's announcement really got to ya, didn't it?" I asked String. Even if it wasn't the truth. But maybe...just maybe...we can make it the truth. Even if I've gotta involve Mr. Clean. Heck, Michael agrees with me...he thinks there's more than friendship between String and Cait. Maybe he can help them realize it.
"That's putting things mildly, Dom," String replied. "I mean...I know Cait's mom has been nuts about her settling down ever since the hijacking...and, I still remember you pointing at me during that conversation," String said with a grin, then his expression turned serious again. "And...I hate to admit it...and if you breathe a word of what I'm about to tell you to Cait, so help me, I'll deny it...but, I do care about her, Dom. Probably more than she knows, and definitely a lot more than I should... especially with..." Well...I guess we're gonna have it out sooner rather than later, I said to myself, feeling my frustration with String, especially where it related to Cait, finally boiling over.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, String! Don't give me that curse malarkey again!" I shouted as I threw up my hands. Just as suddenly, I realized how loud I'd shouted, and I prayed that we were far enough away from the hangar that Cait couldn't hear us. On the one hand, I was angry that String brought up the curse...hell, when I heard that same old, tired excuse for why String has denied that he loves Caitlin, I lost it...but at the same time, my heart was singing when he admitted that he cared about Cait. If I'm ever gonna get through that thick head of his—it's gotta be now, I said to myself as I forced myself to be calm before I spoke again. "I mean, okay...Gabrielle, I can understand why you feel responsible for her being killed...but how many times have I told you, Moffet would have killed her whether she was seeing you or not? And as for your parents and Kelly, for Pete's sake String, doesn't the word 'accident' mean anything to you?" I knew I was treading on thin ice, but I also knew that sometimes, the direct approach was the most effective way to get something through that boy's thick skull.
"Not only that," I continued before String could say anything, "we don't know where Saint John is...so we can't really say he's dead, now can we? And most of all...I'm still here. And considering that I've been backing you on Airwolf missions ever since Mr. Clean asked you to find that cockamamie helicopter...Oh yeah...I almost forgot one other thing," I said, ignoring the angry look String was shooting me, "do you really think Caitlin would still be alive today, if you didn't know her? Think about that for a minute, buddy. If we hadn't hightailed it outta here the minute we heard that the plane had gone down at sea, and gotten Airwolf, Caitlin and the rest of those people would all be dead. Either drowned, or suffocated. Do you get what I'm saying, here?"
I knew I'd been a little harsh with String; probably more than I should have. I also knew I was taking an enormous chance by dismissing Saint John the way I had—but I also knew it was the truth—we don't know what's going on with Saint John. Knowing all that, I was ready for anything String might do or say...but, I could also tell that the wheels were turning in his head, probably about the last thing I said. But, it's the truth. If String and I hadn't gone to get the Lady the minute we heard that plane had gone down, Cait would be dead. And...the hijacking didn't happen because Cait knew String...that was just another bad coincidence, I said to myself, recalling another time when knowing String saved Cait's life—the Carter Anderson affair. Cait was flying Carter Anderson III to a business meeting...but somebody wanted him dead. String was being paranoid about the whole thing—and it was a damned good thing he was, too—because we had Airwolf ready to help when we got the Mayday from Cait. Of course, String could turn that right around, and say that if Cait hadn't known him, she wouldn't be workin' here at Santini Air...so she wouldn't have even been flyin' Carter Anderson III that day, I thought to myself sadly. I gotta admit, though, I was more nervous than I'd been in a long time, as I prepared myself for whatever String might say—or do—next. What I definitely wasn't expecting was the response I got.
"Yeah, Dom," String replied with a glance back towards Caitlin, who was standing in the hangar doors. "Yeah. I do get it. And...I have to admit...you might be right. Tell you what...I promise...I'll think about it. Okay?"
"Well, just don't think too long, buddy," I said to him. "'Cause we don't know when Cait's mom's coming to visit...and I think it might be nice to get this solved...however we solve it...before she gets here...you know?"
"Well...yeah, Dom," String told me, "I do know. Don't worry about it...everything's going to work out," he said, and for some strange reason, I believed him.
I dunno why, but just before I went to bed that night, I had this strange vision of Cait bringing another guy to the hangar and introducing him to String and me as—her husband. She announced that she was leavin' Santini Air to go back to Texas, to be closer to both of their families, and when Cait and her new husband walked off, I saw String begin to cry. I said, "Hate to say it, String, but don't you wish you woulda done something when Cait first made the comment about eloping? Now...it's too late." I sure hope I don't see that happen—for real, I said to myself as I fell asleep. That'd just kill String.
Over the next couple of days, I noticed a change in String. Subtle at first, but it got more obvious as the days went on. He started actually paying attention to Cait, more than he had since she came to us. I mean, he'd make sure to say "Hello" when she walked in the hangar, without me prompting him to do it, and he bought her lunch every day; and I noticed something else. He was touching her more often—and not in a friendly way like he had so often before. I'd see him come up behind Caitlin and put his hand on her shoulder for no reason, something he never did before. And, he was hugging her a lot more often, too. By Thursday, I thought I'd seen (and heard) everything...but, I was shocked as we closed up the hangar that day.
"Hey, Cait," String said just before she got in her car to go home. "How about you and me grab a bite to eat?" I was so startled, if I'd been holding a wrench just then, I woulda dropped it, just like String did on Monday morning. Good thing the doc just told me I'm still hitting on all eight cylinders, I said to myself. That coulda given me a heart attack.
"What?" Caitlin demanded, and the harshness in her voice startled me...but she calmed herself down quickly, and apologized. "Sorry, String...just thinking about something Mom said the other day. You actually want to go out for dinner...with me?"
"Sure, why not?" Hawke asked, and by now, I was really interested. Heck, I'd find things to keep me busy around here for a couple of hours, if it meant String and Cait would get closer. And if worse came to worse, and I did get bored waiting and decide to go home, I'd just leave String a note and he could take a chopper up to the cabin on his own. No biggie.
"Why...why sure, String," Caitlin said, and the smile that broke out on her face could have lit up the entire hangar for the next three weeks. "Guess it's a date."
"I guess so," Hawke replied, and then he turned to me. "Dom? You okay for a couple of hours?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure," I replied, trying not to sound as excited as I felt, and knowing I was failing miserably. "You kids go have fun, and I'll be here when you get back, String." I watched the two of them walk over to one of our Jeeps, and couldn't help but notice String putting his arm around Caitlin's shoulders, and her responding by putting her arm around his waist, and leaning her head on his shoulder. And when they reached the Jeep, String opened Cait's door for her, just like Alan and I taught him to do, before getting in the driver's side and starting up the engine.
Saint Anthony be praised, I said to myself as the Jeep pulled away. I never thought I'd see this day...but maybe it's going to happen. For the next three hours, I busied myself with paperwork for as long as I could, then did some cleaning on old 4-4 Charlie until I heard the Jeep pull up. Trying not to look like I'd been waiting for them, I positioned myself so I could watch, and waited for String and Cait. String jumped out first, then opened Cait's door for her. I...oops...sorry, Alan ole buddy...and you too, Jane. I meant—we raised him right, I said to myself, fighting to keep the grin off my face as I watched them walk, again arm-in-arm, over to Cait's car. Then—and this was a sight I'll remember for the rest of my life—I saw String take Caitlin in his arms and kiss her. Not a friendly peck on the cheek, like I've seen him give her in the past. This one looked like what Cait told me the kiss on the movie set was like. Except, I said to myself, barely able to contain my happiness, there's no director egging him on. Finally, after what I thought was far too long, they separated, and I could see the love on both their faces. String took the keys and opened Cait's door again, handing the keys back to her, and Cait got into her car and drove off. I tried to make myself look busy as String walked up, but the look on his face told me I'd failed miserably.
"Forget it, Dom," String teased me as we climbed into a helicopter so I could take him back to the cabin, "I saw you watching. So...did you like what you saw?" I was embarrassed that String had seen me watchin' him and Cait, but at the same time, I was happy at what I had seen...and, what I thought it meant.
"I'm not gonna lie, String...I did," I said, and I meant it. "Maybe..."
"There's no 'maybe' about it, Dom," String said, which surprised the heck out of me. "I never thought I'd say this again, after Gabrielle...but...damn it, I love her, Dom. I love Caitlin."
HALLELUJAH! I said to myself, but then I had to stop myself before I got too carried away. "Does...does Cait know that?" I asked, and part of me was dreading the answer.
String just looked over at me, smiled, and said, "Yeah, Dom. She does. I told her I loved her over dinner tonight. She didn't really need to tell me how she felt, of course...but, she did."
By now, I was dying of curiosity. "So...what else did you two crazy kids talk about?" I asked.
"Mostly about...the curse," Hawke admitted, and I began worrying. Don't tell me, after what I saw a little while ago, that he's gonna torpedo things right now! That'd just break Cait's heart right in two. And, I said to myself, as soon as she got over bein' angry at him, Cait would probably beat the crud outta String...and he'd deserve it, too.
"Dom...I told Cait why I felt the way I did about being cursed," Hawke continued, "but she finally interrupted me and pointed out the fact that she had been in three situations recently that could have killed her...but they didn't. And I admitted, she has a point there. She said a lot of the same things you did on Monday, too," Hawke added.
"What...things?" I asked, not wanting to breathe a mental sigh of relief just yet, but feeling a little better about the situation.
"About Gabrielle, Kelly, and my parents...and Saint John," String said. "She helped me realize that Kelly, and my parents were just accidents...and that we don't know what's happened with Saint John. I'm not saying the curse is broken, Dom...but it won't be consuming as much of my thoughts from now on," String said, then added, "I've got more...enjoyable things to think about, now."
"So...you give any thought to what Cait said the other day?" I asked, referring to her "accidental" (and I was having a really hard time believing that, for some reason) comment to her mother on Monday. Don't take that the wrong way—I knew the only reason she said that was to get her mother off her back...but it seemed to be having even more of an effect than I thought it would.
"Dom, that was the main topic of conversation at dinner tonight, after we talked about the 'curse,'" Hawke said to me. "Let's just say...if we're not married before Cait's mom gets here next week, we'll get married the day she comes, okay?"
"Okay, String," I said.
Well...by this time, I was glad I could see String's cabin, because I was getting too excited to concentrate on my flying for much longer...not to mention the tears welling up in my eyes. "Oh, String," I said, and blinked hard to try to clear my eyes, "I never thought I'd see the day...but dammit, it's about time!"
"Well, let's not jump to any conclusions, Dom," Hawke said as I set the chopper down. "I mean, there's a lot we have to get done, and not much time to do it...but..."
"Yeah, yeah," I mumbled as String climbed out. As I watched him walk back towards the cabin, I said to myself, We'll make it happen, String. One way or the other...we'll make it happen. And as I flew back to the hangar, my mind flashed back to when I got outta jail—I'd been arrested for my ex-wife's murder, but String was able to find the evidence to clear me. Anyway, the three of us were walking back to the hangar after String brought me back from jail, and I slipped away from Cait, and pulled a picture of my daughter, Sally Ann, out of my pocket, and stopped to look at it. As I remembered my daughter, I heard String's voice. "Hey, Dom! What's holdin' you up?" I looked up and saw String and Cait in each other's arms—just the way they should be, I remembered thinking.
Sure enough, the next day, Friday, we found out just how little time we had to work with – Cait got another call from her mother, and told us, after another lengthy discussion/argument, that her mother Maggie would be there on Thursday of next week. Six days, I said to myself worriedly. Guess I better make that call. I knew the risk I was taking as I dialed Michael's public line at Knightsbridge. He'll never let me live this down, I said to myself. The fact that I asked Michael for help...without anybody being in serious danger...I'm never gonna hear the end of this. Michael's voice snapped me out of my reverie just then.
"Yeah, Michael...listen. We've got big problems."
"What? Has something happened to Hawke? Or Caitlin?"
"Both, actually," I said, and spent the next hour explaining the situation. Fortunately, String and Cait were away from the hangar, and since I didn't figure the subject of Airwolf would come up, I felt safe using an unsecured line. I had to laugh when Michael roared, "And WHEN was the wedding?" when I told him about Cait announcing that she had eloped with her best friend.
"Michael," I said, growing irritated, "there wasn't a wedding. That was just something Cait told her mother to try to get her to shut up. I mean, Cait's mom's been giving her grief about settling down ever since her plane got hijacked a while back."
"You do have problems," Michael said. "Actually, now that I think about it, Cait and Hawke the ones with the problem. Cait actually told her mother that she eloped?"
"Michael, String and I were sitting right outside the office when she said it," I answered him. "And I don't mind tellin' you, I think String was a little jealous, even though he knew it wasn't true. But, Michael...you know as well as I do that String cares about Cait...even though he's been too stubborn to admit it, until recently. And, since he's always called her his best friend, and vice-versa..." I just hoped to heck Archangel could see where I was going, and I wasn't disappointed.
"So, Cait's mom is coming on Thursday...do you want them to be married before she gets there...or would Cait like to have her mom able to witness the wedding?" Michael asked me. And I had to admit, I was surprised and relieved that Michael was thinking along the same lines I was. But his question opened up another can of worms that I hadn't even thought of. H mm...I hadn't thought about that, I said to myself. I mean, I know what Cait said, and all...but maybe...nah. Better we do this before she gets here.
"Well, I can see both sides," I said to Michael, "but I think it would be best if we got them married before Cait's mom gets here. Can we do it, Michael?"
"Well...it'll be tight...but I do know someone who owes me a favor...or five...let me give him a call, and I'll get back to you. You at the hangar today?"
"Where else would I be, Whitey?" I sneered.
"All right, Dominic," Michael replied. "Just don't go anywhere for a few hours."
Fortunately, Michael called me back in less than an hour and a half. His friend, a justice of the peace, would be available either Tuesday or Wednesday to perform the ceremony, and Michael said he and Marella could take care of all the arrangements. "And," Michael said with an air of mystery that I found extremely odd, even for him, "I might have a wedding present...or two...for Hawke. All right, Dom. Let me get some things rolling, and we'll talk early next week, all right?"
"Okay, Michael. And...thanks. I owe you big time," I said, knowing that Michael would never let me live this one down.
"Hey, Dom," Caitlin said a few minutes later as she walked back into the hangar. "Where's Hawke?"
"Oh, he had some things to do, so he bugged out for a while. Should be back..." Just then, I heard another Jeep pull into the hangar. "Speak of the devil," I said when I noticed String getting out.
"Hi, String," Caitlin said as she saw him walk up to us.
"Hey, Cait," he responded, and smiled at her.
"We figure out what we're doing about Cait's mother?" Hawke asked, and I shook my head, not wanting to tip my hand just yet, until I knew all the arrangements had been made.
"No...but then again, we've got a few days," I said, knowing that the ball was already rolling.
"Well then," String replied, slipping his hand into the pocket of his bomber jacket and withdrawing a worn-looking ring box, "maybe I should do this." He quickly opened the box as he dropped to one knee, and Cait's eyes, just as I thought they would, flooded with tears as String said, "Caitlin O'Shannessy, will you marry me?"
Caitlin nodded, tears flowing out of her eyes, and whispered, "Yes. Yes, String!" and allowed him to slip the ring onto her finger. Surprisingly, at least to me, it fit her slender hand perfectly. But, something didn't seem right. I've seen that ring before, I thought to myself.
Fortunately for me, Cait excused herself and went to the restroom to clean up, so I could ask String the question that had suddenly lodged itself in my head.
"Yeah, Dom," String replied. "It was Mom's ring. You remember the note that was with it, don't you? The one that said that whenever one of us got married..."
The memory dawned on me when I recalled String getting the box of personal effects, after the bodies had been recovered. "Oh, yeah," I said, embarrassed. "It just...surprised me, that's all," I added, but recalled the note that Jane had written, sort of a codicil to her will, that said that if she died before her sons got married, whichever of the boys, String or Saint John, got married first, should give his bride-to-be the ring. Now, that ring belonged to Caitlin.
"Good thing it fit," I remarked. If that ring fitting her finger isn't a sign that Cait and String belong together, then I'm Luciano Pavarotti, I said to myself.
"Yeah," String replied as he noticed Caitlin coming back, her makeup retouched, and all evidence of what had just happened, save the diamond now resting on her finger, erased.
"This'll probably go down as the shortest engagement on record," Caitlin said with a smile, "but..."
"I know, Cait," String replied, smiling at her as he took her in his arms. "And, Cait...I know you've been beating yourself up over what happened...but, I think it's all going to work out."
"Me too, String," she answered, wrapping her arms around him. "You know, I never told you this before...but..." she hesitated, and I could tell her nerves were getting the best of her when she continued, "but...ever since that kiss on the movie set...I've been...I've been dreaming about you. And, about us. And I've been hoping, and praying, that something like this would happen."
"Caitlin, you're not saying you said that to your mother on purpose, are you?" Hawke demanded, and I suddenly got concerned. Okay, forget concerned—I was worried sick when I heard String's tone of voice, and saw the look on his face. Dear God, please tell me this isn't all gonna fall apart, I silently prayed, closing my eyes. I mean, I could see why String was upset...Cait had made a really bad choice of words just then, but, Cait's not the kind of person who'd do something like that, I said to myself as Caitlin continued.
"String, no," Caitlin responded, and I could see the fear in her eyes. "No...I never would have done something like that to trap you...or anybody. I mean...you know I love you...and I've loved you ever since I met you...but I wouldn't...I couldn't...do something like that. You do believe me," she said, and I could see the apprehension in her eyes when she asked, "Don't you?" I gotta admit...I wasn't sure who was more nervous in the silence that followed—me, or Cait.
"Of course I believe you, Caitlin," String replied, and Caitlin and I both breathed sighs of relief. "I know you'd never have done something like this on purpose, and it's okay. Maybe...maybe this was supposed to happen," he continued. "Not this, specifically, but maybe...maybe we were supposed to end up together."
"That's what I've been tryin' to tell you!" I shouted, relieved that this concern was so minor. Caitlin and String both laughed, then String said, "Geez...we've got so much to do before Thursday if we're going to..."
"Um, String," I said, not exactly sure how I was going to tell him what I was about to tell him, "I...um...I called Michael earlier...and told him what was going on."
"You did, huh?" Hawke said, and I wasn't sure whether he was upset, surprised, or angry that I'd called Archangel. "So, what did Michael say?"
I had been worried how String would take the news that I'd involved Archangel, and continued, nervously, "Well...his first reaction was, 'And WHEN was the wedding?'..." Caitlin and String both laughed, and I continued, "but he told me...he told me that he's got a friend who's a justice of the peace, and he can marry you two either Tuesday, or Wednesday, depending...and then..."
"Then, what?" String asked.
"Well...then, Michael said he might...might have a wedding present or two for you," I said, and was relieved when Hawke and Caitlin both smiled at me.
"Wonder what he meant by that?" Caitlin asked.
"Your guess is as good as mine, sweetheart," I said to her. "String...I hope you're not upset that I called Archangel...I just figured with as little time as we've got..."
"I know, Dom," String replied, "and it's okay. Heck, Michael's probably the only person who could pull something like this off in a few days." We all laughed, and I was relieved that String wasn't angry that I'd brought Michael into this. "You know, Dom," String added, and I noticed a somber look on his face, "I might just have to ask Michael to be my best man...since..."
"I know, String," I said, knowing instinctively what he was thinking of. Saint John. He wishes Saint John could be here...hell, so do I.
"Dom," Caitlin said hesitantly, "I...um...I would be honored if you would walk me down the aisle at my wedding."
"Me?" I asked, surprised. Then, I understood why she'd asked me—Caitlin thinks of me as a father figure, and has practically since I met her.
"Yeah, Dom," she told me, taking my hands. "Look. You've been like a father to me ever since I came to California lookin' for Hawke...and you've been a wonderful father to String...and I don't have anybody here other than you, so I would really appreciate it if you did this for me...for us."
"Cait," I said, blinking back tears as I thought of my own daughter, Sally Ann, and how I'd never get the chance to do this for her, "I would be the honored one."
Over the next few days, surprisingly, the arrangements came together quickly. I called Michael back first thing Monday morning, and left word that the wedding would happen on Wednesday. Michael had agreed to be String's best man, and Caitlin asked Marella to be her maid of honor, since Erin, Caitlin's sister, thought that Cait was already married. Before we all knew it, Wednesday had arrived, and it was String and Caitlin's wedding day. I had to admit, I was as surprised as String when I saw Cait come to work on Tuesday, the day before the wedding, and then I was even more surprised when they went out again—that whole thing about the bride and groom not seein' each other before the wedding, and all that. But when I took String back to the cabin that night, he told me about somethin' that scared me to death.
"But," String said, sighing, "she did throw me a curve ball."
"What sort of...'curve ball'?" I asked, hoping like heck that Strong could understand how worried I'd suddenly gotten.
"She said...she said she thought I was just doing this out of some kinda...sense of honor, or something like that," String said, and I nodded understandingly. "I mean, I can understand why she'd feel like that...I don't pay her hardly any attention at all for months, and then, just in the past few days, I'm tryin' to make up for it. I could understand where she might have misgivings about it," he said.
"So?" I prodded String—I had to know where things stood.
"I told her the truth, Dom, like I always do...that maybe what I heard on Monday was like a clue to me...and then...something else happened," String said, and proceeded to tell me about the nightmare—which really shocked the heck outta me, since String's nightmare was almost identical to the vision I'd had about Cait bringin' some guy to the hangar and introducing him to me and String as her husband.
"Wow," I said, shaking my head. "I can see where that would scare ya to death, String. But...ya gotta see it from Cait's point of view. I mean, it's like you're tryin' to make up for months of ignoring her all in a week's time, y'know? And that had to scare her, too. But, it sounds like things are okay," I said, then my expression turned serious again. "Are they? Okay, I mean?"
"Yeah, Dom," String said, and I automatically breathed a sigh of relief. "We're okay. Caitlin believed what I told her about the nightmare, and about my change in attitude. And, we still love each other, and we still want to get married," String said, smiling.
"Well, that's a relief," I said, and I knew String agreed with me. Then I said something that really got String to stop and think for a minute. "String...have you ever thought that two people who snap at each other for no reason are doing it to avoid their real feelings?" Out of the corner of my eye, I saw String's face scrunch up into that "deer-in-the-headlights" look that he gets when he's really thinkin' about something—and I knew String was thinking back over everything that he and Cait have been through in the few short months they've known each other, and how many times they've snapped at each other, for no apparent reason.
"You just might be right, Dom," String said as we landed at the cabin.
Wednesday morning dawned clear and beautiful at the cabin. I had stayed at the cabin with String on Tuesday night, and we were surprised early Wednesday morning when Michael showed up.
"Good morning, Hawke," Michael said, smiling. "I have to admit, I never thought..."
"That makes two of us, Michael," String said with a smile of his own, and I mentally added, you mean three of us, String.
"Don't get me wrong, Stringfellow...I've thought there was something between you and Caitlin ever since you all came after me in Germany that time," Michael said. "I just never thought..."
"Me neither," String said, and Michael and I both noticed the expression on his face. "If somebody had told me that Caitlin and I were going to get married, I would have said they were nuts. But...I don't know...maybe we're supposed to be together," he added. I thought back to how well Jane's engagement ring fit Caitlin's finger. That should've been a huge clue for ya, String, old buddy, I said to myself.
"Stringfellow...I have a present for you," Archangel said, perking my curiosity up as I recalled his words from a few days earlier. "Two presents, actually. First of all, I'm having your marriage records classified under a Top Secret Umbra classification. Now, it's not perfect, and someone with enough resources and ability would be able to uncover your marriage, but it will help," Michael said with the most sincere smile I recalled seeing from him.
"Thank you, Michael," String said, and smiled at the master spy. "Caitlin and I will definitely appreciate that." And so do I, I said to myself. Anything that helps keep Caitlin safe, I'm all for it.
"Hawke? Are you all right?" Michael asked, concerned.
"Huh? Oh, sorry, Michael," Stringfellow said. "I was just thinking...wishing, actually. I always dreamed that Saint John would be here...if I ever got married. But, I guess that's just wishful thinking."
"Maybe," Michael hesitated as we all heard the front door to the cabin open. It took me a second to recognize the figure standing in the doorway of the cabin, but when I did, I thought to myself, Dear God...I'm looking at a ghost! "And then again, maybe not. Here comes...my second wedding gift to you," Michael said, as I realized that Saint John was standing in the doorway of the cabin.
"Hello there, little brother," a voice that I quite honestly never expected to hear again was saying. "What's this I hear from your friend Michael? You're getting married?"
"S...Saint John?" Hawke whispered, and I was as shocked as String. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and what I'd just heard...but, I had to accept the evidence. Even though it'd been nearly sixteen years since we'd heard it, I still knew Saint John's voice as well as I knew my own daughter, Sally Ann's, voice.
"Yeah, little brother...it's me," Saint John replied, as String covered the distance between himself and his brother in three strides, and Saint John drew String to him in a warm, friendly embrace. "I'm home, little brother...and, from what your friend Michael tells me, it seems I've arrived just in time." He grinned at String, and I ran over and embraced him. I don't believe this, I said to myself. It's...it's a miracle! Saint John...alive...after all these years! I silently sent a prayer of thanks to Saint Anthony as Saint John, String and I hugged. Then, String showed me a folder full of medical reports that the FIRM's doctors had prepared, including DNA test results that confirmed Saint John's identity—and I was grateful that Marella had provided some notes to explain some of the medical jargon in the reports. Good thing she's become a 'doctor, doctor,' I said to myself, remembering how Marella had told us that when we were laid up in the hospital a while back, after that movie stunt went so wrong.
"Surprise," Michael said, and I could have sworn I saw "Mr. Clean" wipe a tear from his good eye.
"Michael...when did this...I mean...how did this..." String was as close to speechless as I'd ever seen him.
"We found Saint John three days ago," Michael replied. "We got satellite photos that showed us where he, along with nine of your friends from 1st Air Cav, were being held, in a prison camp near the border with Cambodia. We were able to get the Enterprise, the Wasp, and the Essex into position and mount a rescue. No casualties, either from the rescue team or the former POW's," Michael added.
"Well, Michael," String said, wiping the tears from his eyes, "I guess I won't need you to be my best man after all," and Michael smiled and shook his head.
"Little brother, it will be my pleasure," Saint John said with a smile, and the three of us went upstairs to get String changed into his suit. I know I should've left them alone...but I just couldn't. Seeing Saint John again after all these years...it's like a miracle, I said to myself.
Upstairs, Saint John waited until String had finished dressing, then, as String began fiddling with his tie, Saint John shook his head and said, "Here, let me help you with that," and moved over to fix String's tie for him. A few seconds later, Saint John had coerced a perfect knot, and the three of us went back downstairs, then Saint John took the rings from Michael and put them in his own coat pocket.
A few minutes later, String heard a helicopter approaching. Michael limped over to the window and watched as the passengers climbed out, and herded Saint John, String, and myself towards the back door. "It's Lauren, Marella..."
"And Cait," String replied, knowing that Marella was to be Caitlin's maid of honor. Michael nodded as the four of us headed outside.
Knowing the tradition, I made sure to get String and Saint John out of the cabin as we heard Caitlin talking to Marella as they walked up the dock. "Look on the bright side," I said. "In a few minutes, you and Caitlin will be together, forever."
"Yeah," String said, and I thought I detected a note of anxiety in his voice.
"You're not having second thoughts, are you?" I asked, concerned.
"No," String replied, "not in the least. I mean, it might be a roundabout way of doing it...but I've realized something over the past few days...something that I think you, Michael, and Marella have tried to get me to realize for months. I realize that Cait loves me...and, that I love her. And, I always have," String said, with a smile that rivaled anything I'd ever seen from him in a long time—at least, since Gabrielle was killed. And it was then that I realized something—he's happy. For the first time since I-don't know-when, String is honestly happy.
"You're right, Dom," String said, snapping me out of my reverie.
"Right about what, String?" I asked him.
"I am happy," String said, and Michael and Saint John both did a double take.
"So now you can read minds, too?" I teased him. I remembered something that had happened a couple of years ago, on one of our first missions aboard Airwolf—String and I were outside of Airwolf, and I was telling him about a dream I was having, of cool, clean air at 30,000 feet. String just said, "Well, Michael oughta be calling soon," just as the alarm for the descrambler went off. As String went into the cockpit, I remember I rolled my eyes and said, "Now he can hear radio waves comin' in, too."
"Dom, I don't need to be able to read minds," String replied. "It's written all over your face." I smiled and nodded. Guess I never have hidden my emotions very well, I said to myself. Especially about things like this.
"I guess you're right," I said, smiling. "I haven't been able to keep a secret about things like this...especially when I'm excited. And today, I'm more excited than I think I've been in a long time," I said, grinning.
"Really? I hadn't noticed," String replied, still grinning. He turned to Saint John and said, "Hey, Sinj...don't forget to introduce yourself to Caitlin."
"Don't worry, little brother," Saint John replied, smiling at String. "I won't. I'm looking forward to meeting this girl you've found for yourself. Or, actually...the girl who found you, from what your friend Michael tells me." String, Michael and I all laughed at that, and I knew Saint John was right.
We hadn't been standing there very long, when the justice of the peace came around to the back of the cabin.
"Michael? We're just about ready," he said, then turned to Saint John and String.
"Which one of you is Stringfellow Hawke?" he asked.
"That'd be me," Stringfellow replied, stepping forward and taking the judge's hand.
"Mr. Hawke, I'm Ronald Clevenger, and I'll be performing the ceremony today. It's a pleasure to meet you," Judge Clevenger said. "And, I've already met your bride...quite the catch, if you don't mind my saying so."
"I don't mind," String replied. "Especially since it's the truth. And, it's nice to meet you as well, Your Honor," he added as they walked to the edge of the dock.
Michael had even hired a violin quintet for the ceremony, a touch even I hadn't expected. Marella came out first, with Saint John, then the familiar strains of the bridal march began, and I took Caitlin's arm to walk her down the aisle.
I knew just from glancing at String as we approached him, that I had never seen him happier. And I could tell just by String's expression that he had never seen anyone more beautiful than Caitlin, in the cream-colored dress that she wore. And, I have to agree with him, I said to myself as I gave Cait's hand to String, and the two of them turned to face the judge.
"Dearly beloved," Judge Clevenger began, "we are gathered here today to witness the marriage of Stringfellow Hawke and Caitlin O'Shannessy. From what I've been told, these two young people have had a long and...interesting journey to get where they are today." I saw Cait and String look at each other, and I could imagine the thought running through their minds, because I was thinking the same thing—Your Honor, you have no idea.
I held my breath when I heard the judge say, "Any person who can show just cause why these two should not wed...let them speak now, or forever hold their peace."
Finally, he continued. "Stringfellow Hawke, do you take Caitlin O'Shannessy to be your lawful wedded wife?" I silently released the breath I'd been holding, even as I saw Cait and String doing the same. I dunno why I'm so worried, I said to myself. It's just Michael, Marella, and Saint John here with us...and they wouldn't have any objections to seeing these two get married. Guess I'm just paranoid.
"I do," Hawke replied, smiling.
"Caitlin O'Shannessy, do you take Stringfellow Hawke to be your lawful, wedded husband?"
"Yes. I do," Caitlin said, and String could see the tears shining in her eyes, and I could have sworn I saw tears in his eyes, too. But they're happy tears, I reminded myself, knowing my eyes were full of them, too. Then I happened to glance at Marella, and noticed her eyes full of tears. Guess she's thinkin' about Michael, I said to myself. Well, maybe he'll smarten up one of these days like String did.
"Stringfellow, take Caitlin's ring, place it on the third finger of her left hand, and repeat after me: With this ring..."
"With this ring..."
"I thee wed."
"I thee wed," String said, as he slid the ring onto her finger.
"Caitlin, take Stringfellow's ring, place it on the third finger of his left hand, and repeat after me: With this ring..."
"With this ring..."
"I thee wed."
"I thee wed." At this point, as Caitlin slipped the ring onto String's finger, I could see both Caitlin and String's eyes fill with tears. And I have to admit, mine did, too. Something dawned on me just then – how the heck did Michael have their ring sizes? I wondered to myself.
"Stringfellow, Caitlin...I now pronounce you husband, and wife," Judge Clevenger said, and I had to stifle a laugh as I saw String pull Caitlin towards him, and claim her lips with his own, just as the judge finished. "You may now...continue kissing the bride." Michael, Marella, Saint John and I all laughed as String and Caitlin kissed. Finally, they separated, as Judge Clevenger announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce...Mr. And Mrs. Stringfellow Hawke!" We all applauded as String and Caitlin kissed again, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Cait and String are married, I said to myself. And Cait's mom will never know the difference.
That was something Michael and I had talked about during the week. As far as Cait's mom and the rest of the world are concerned, they were married the Saturday before Caitlin talked to her mom and started this whole mess. Apparently, Michael had explained the situation to Judge Clevenger, and he had agreed to "doctor" the marriage record so that the dates would match up to what Caitlin told her mother last week, just in case Cait's mom got curious. Nobody but us would know the truth.
"Congratulations, Hawke...Caitlin," Michael said, as he shook String's hand, then gave Caitlin a friendly peck on the cheek. "I know I've said this before, but...I never thought I'd see this day. And may I say...Mrs. Hawke," and I noticed Caitlin blush slightly, "I don't think I've ever seen you happier."
"Thanks, Michael," Caitlin said, blinking back tears of joy as she gave Michael a quick peck on the cheek in return. "I can honestly say that I've never been happier, than I am right now."
"And I second that," String said, and I knew he was talking about both being married to Cait, and the fact that Saint John was home. "I think that for the first time in a long time, I'm truly happy. Thank you, Michael," String said, and wrapped the master spy in a huge hug.
"You're welcome, Stringfellow," Michael replied, and I remembered something I once said about him, during an Airwolf mission—"Behind that impeccable white suit beats a heart...of recyclable plastic!" Well...maybe he does have a heart, I said to myself. Well...it ain't the first time I've been wrong...and hopefully, it won't be the last, either.
"Um...String? There's someone here I don't know," Caitlin said, and I knew what was coming. Boy, are you in for a shock, Cait. I said to myself.
"Sorry, Caitlin," String said, and I could see him shake his head and turn to Saint John. I thought I heard String say something to Saint John, but I could have been imagining things. String turned back to his bride and said, "Caitlin Hawke, meet my big brother...Saint John Hawke." Saint John gave Caitlin a quick peck on the cheek and a warm, friendly embrace.
"String? This is Saint John?" Caitlin asked, and I had to stifle a chuckle. "When did...?"
"I was rescued about three days ago, Cait," Saint John answered her. "And, from what I see, it appears I arrived just in time." Turning to String, Saint John said, "Well, little brother...I have to say, your taste in women has definitely improved from what I remember. I think I'm safe in saying this...Mom and Dad would have approved."
"Thanks. I think," String said, laughing.
"String," Caitlin said, and pulled him closer to her body, "even though I've only just met him, I think you can take Saint John's word for it. I trust him," Caitlin finished, and winked at her husband.
"Well, that's a ringing endorsement, if I've ever heard one," Michael laughed, and noticed the rest of us joining in.
"I think you're right, Cait," String said, and we all laughed.
"Well, Saint John, it's a pleasure to meet you," Caitlin said. "I've heard a lot about you from String."
"Caitlin, I look forward to getting to know you better," Saint John replied, smiling at his brother and sister-in-law. "And may I say, welcome to our family."
"Thanks, Saint John," Cait said in reply.
Just before I took Saint John back to the hangar, I cornered Michael. "Michael, I've got a question: How in the heck did you have String and Cait's ring sizes, for Pete's sake?"
Michael grinned at me, that annoying, somewhat arrogant grin of his, and said, "Dom, we took those some time ago—I'd actually been looking for a mission that would require String and Cait to pose as a married couple—figured maybe that would give String the kick in the behind he needed. Problem was, I could never find the right mission." Something in Michael's expression just then told me that he was darned frustrated about not ever finding the right mission, too.
"I guess I can understand that," I said, and I meant it. "I'm just glad everything worked out for the best." All the same, I said to myself, it woulda been interesting if you had found a mission like that...but, I guess it doesn't matter now, I said to myself.
"So am I, Dominic," Michael said as we glanced over at the newlyweds, "So am I."
Finally, after what I definitely considered the longest couple of weeks in my life, I left String and Caitlin at the cabin, and headed back to the hangar, and then home. Of course, I said to myself, tomorrow's a new day. Then, it dawned on me. Cait's mom is coming tomorrow. It'll be interesting, I said to myself, to see whether or not the newlyweds get any sleep tonight! No, wait. It'll be interesting to see whether or not I get any sleep tonight!
The next morning when I got to the cabin, I was surprised to find that Caitlin and String were wide awake. "Why so surprised, Dom?" String asked me. "We had a wonderful night."
I grinned knowingly at String and said, "Okay, but did you get any sleep last night?"
String grinned right back at me and said, "Yeah, we did. In...fits...and...starts...and...spurts."
I just bet you did, I said to myself as they climbed into the helicopter and we headed back towards the hangar. "Cait? You okay?" I asked, worried that she hadn't said word one to me.
"Yeah, Dom, I'm fine," Caitlin replied, gazing at her wedding ring. "Just..."
"A little nervous?" I finished for her.
"More like terrified," she said. "I mean, I know Michael said the records would look like String and I've been married for two weeks, but..."
"What, sweetheart? You don't trust Archangel?" String asked as he squeezed her hand. "I wouldn't worry about it, Cait. Everything's going to be fine. Trust me," String finished.
"I do trust you, String," Caitlin said as she gave him a quick kiss. "I trust you with my life...just like Dom does. And, I trust Archangel." I had to smile at that. We do trust String with our lives...just like he trusts us with his. I just hope... I had to stop myself as I brought the helicopter down for a landing. That kinda worryin's only gonna get me a lifetime full of bills! I said to myself as we climbed out of the chopper and opened the hangar, even though I wasn't expecting much business today.
"Saint John? What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Oh, just wanted to see if there was anything I could help with," he said. "Besides, it might give me a chance to get to know my new sister-in-law a little better." He grinned at Caitlin.
"Well, just remember, Sinj," String cautioned his older brother, "Cait's mom's due here any minute, and...well, you know..."
"Yeah, little brother, I do know," Saint John replied. "Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me. You've been happily married for...what? Two weeks now?"
"Yeah," String answered, and I could see the relief in both his and Caitlin's eyes. "But...what are you gonna say about..."
"Don't worry about it, String," Saint John said. "Your marriage took me as much by surprise as it did Cait's mom, since I only came home four days ago." He winked at String and Caitlin, and at that moment, I knew things would go relatively smoothly. At least, I hope they do, I caught myself thinking.
"By the way, Saint John, why didn't you introduce yourself to Cait yesterday?" String demanded.
"Sorry, String," Saint John said, embarrassed. "It just slipped my mind, that's all."
"Okay, Sinj," String replied, laughing. He turned to Caitlin and said, "Well, Mrs. Hawke, are you ready for this?"
"Ready as I'm ever gonna be," Caitlin replied. "I still can't believe it, String...we're actually married."
"You better believe it, Cait," String said, "because it happened, and nobodyis ever gonna take you away from me."
"I'm glad, String," Caitlin said as she slipped her arm around him, and I smiled as String slipped his arm around her, "'cause I ain't ever letting anybody take you away from me, either!" We all laughed as we went inside the hangar, and as I watched String with Cait, I realized something—he's finally found his soulmate, I said to myself. I mean, I thought String looked good with Gabrielle, but there's somethin' about him and Cait...it's almost like they're two halves of the same person, or somethin' like that.
A couple of hours later, we heard a car pulling up outside the hangar, and I quickly noticed it was a cab. Uh-oh, I said to myself. It's showtime.
Sure enough, the women that stepped out of the cab looked exactly like Cait's mom and her older sister, Erin; at least, the way I recalled them looking from pictures Caitlin had shown us. "Excuse me," the older woman said, "I'm looking for Miss..."
"Mom!" I heard Caitlin yell, and she was outside in a second to greet her mother, with String right behind her. "Mom, it's not 'Miss' anymore, remember? It's 'Mrs.,' thanks so much. And," she said, turning to String, who was just coming up behind her. "This is the man who made an honest woman outta me. Mom, this is my best friend, and now, my husband, Stringfellow Hawke. String, this is my mother, Maggie, and my older sister, Erin."
"Mrs. O'Shannessy," String began, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from correcting him. Fortunately, Cait's mom caught him before I could.
"Now you listen here, Mr. Stringfellow Hawke...don't you be callin' me 'Mrs. O'Shannessy,' for Pete's sake! First of all, nobody's called me 'Mrs. O'Shannessy' since my Patrick died when Caity was twelve years old! Second, you're a part of our family now, just like Cait's part of yours...so please...call me 'Maggie.' Or, 'Mom' would be fine, if you feel comfortable with that," she said, and smiled at String and Caitlin.
"Sorry, Maggie," String replied. "You'll have to forgive me if I slip every once in a while, though. I haven't..."
"I know, I know," Maggie interrupted. "You haven't felt like part of a family for a long time, what with your parents being...gone...and all. Well, it's like I said, Stringfellow Hawke, you're a part of our family, now. So we've all got some work to do." Then, she noticed Saint John and me standing a little ways away from the group. "I'm sorry, I don't think we've met, sir."
"Sorry, Mom," Caitlin said. "Mom, Erin, this is Dominic Santini, our boss...and this other gentleman is String's brother, Saint John Hawke."
After another round of handshakes, Maggie said, "Saint John...wait a second...Caitlin, wasn't he the one...?"
"Yes, Maggie," String replied. "Saint John was the one who was MIA in Vietnam for so long. He didn't get to see us get married, either. He just came home about four days ago."
"That's right," Saint John said, and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. "I was surprised to find out String had gotten married," he continued. "I hadn't even known he was involved with anyone."
"Well, Saint John, we've all got something in common!" Maggie stated. "'Cause Erin and I sure didn't know anything about your brother, here. Caitlin," Maggie continued, and I felt myself getting nervous, "don't you ever pull something like this again. You hear me?"
"Don't worry, Mom," Caitlin replied. "I think I'm safe in saying that I won't be runnin' off to get married again." She looked up at String and smiled at him, and he smiled back at her. "I think I hit the jackpot." Ha. I don't think, I know you hit the jackpot, Cait, I said to myself.
"Listen," String said, surprising all of us. "Why doesn't everybody come up to the cabin for dinner tonight?"
"String, I think that's...mighty nice of you," Maggie said, then frowned. "Just...how are we s'posed to get there? I thought Cait said this cabin of yours was way out in the middle of nowhere."
"Don't worry about that, Maggie," I said, smiling. "I'll take care of everything."
Now that that's over with, I said to myself, the six of us sat around the office and talked for hours, since we didn't have any business on the schedule. Finally, at about 3:00, Erin excused herself and called a cab, so she and Maggie could go back to their hotel for a little bit.
"Okay, Mom," Caitlin said as she hugged her mother and sister goodbye, "we'll see you at the cabin around 7:30?"
"Sounds good," Maggie answered, and smiled at Stringfellow again. "String, it's sure been nice meeting you...and your brother, and Dom."
"Likewise to you, and Erin," String replied just before their cab arrived. Once they had driven off, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.
"Well, we're not outta the woods yet," Caitlin said. "Remember, there's still dinner tonight."
"True," I said, then smiled. "String...you want me to...?"
"Sure, Dom," String replied. "We'll make it spaghetti night."
Later that afternoon, Cait and String went back to the cabin. I brought Maggie, Erin, and Saint John up at 7:30, and ushered them all inside.
As they looked around, I could tell Maggie and Erin were mesmerized by the paintings which lined the walls. "String, these paintings are beautiful!" Maggie exulted. "And, Saint John tells me...they're all originals?"
"That's right, Maggie," String replied. "Our grandfather collected them...for our grandmother."
"Well, your granddad had good taste in art, String," Maggie said, and I could tell she was impressed, even as I went into the kitchen to start on dinner. String brought out a bottle of wine and fixed everyone a drink, then he, Caitlin, Erin and Saint John sat around the living room to talk.
"String, I owe you an apology," Maggie said, startling me, along with String and Caitlin. I couldn't help myself—I had to come out and listen to what Caitlin's mom was saying.
"For what, Maggie?" String asked, even though I think he knew what she was going to say.
"You know I've said, and written, some...well...not very nice things about you to Caitlin...and, I apologize," Maggie said, noticing the smile on String's face. "And...I hope you can forgive me for bein' such a danged fool."
"Maggie, there's nothing to forgive," String said, and smiled at her. "Listen...I don't blame you for what you might have thought about me until today. I mean, if we had a daughter, and some guy was treating her like I've been treating Caitlin until a couple of weeks ago, I would have been just as upset as you were. So, I accept your apology, even though it's not necessary," String said. Ah, we raised him right, Alan, I thought again, even if it did take him two years to get his head out of his ass about Cait. Alan and I had always told String not to hold a grudge, especially about something like this, and I was relieved to see he wasn't holding anything Maggie had said—or written—about him against her.
"That's mighty nice of you, String," Maggie said, and I could tell she was reevaluating her whole opinion of her new son-in-law. Suddenly, I heard Hawke saying something about a daughter, and I thought to myself, Good grief...they've only been married 24 hours, give or take, and they're already trying to get Caitlin pregnant. On the other hand...a surrogate grandkid or two to spoil...with Cait's red hair and String's eyes; yeah, that might be nice before I go. And, I added to myself, he's absolutely right. I don't want to imagine some guy treating any daughter of String and Cait's the way String had been treating Caitlin up until recently. Hell, if String didn't kill the kid, I probably would. On the other hand, if they do have a daughter, and she finds a guy like String or Saint John, then that little lady'll do just fine.
A couple of hours later, after dinner and another round of conversation, I took Maggie and Erin back to the hangar, where they would catch a cab back to their hotel. As I drove home and went to bed that night, I said a silent prayer to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of miracles, along with Saint Jude, the patron saint of hopeless people. At least...at least now, I know that String's got somebody to take care of him, after I'm gone. Who woulda thought...that a little white lie would make two of my favorite people in the world so happy? I asked myself. And thank you, God, for letting me live long enough to see this day, I added to myself as I fell asleep that night, knowing that my boy was finally, and truly happy.