Disclaimer – As usual, they're not mine...just playing with them again.
A/N – This is an original idea...I've done so many stories where String and Sinj are reunited just before String and Cait get married, I thought – What if Sinj came home while String and Cait were still dancing around their emotions? What would he do? Written from Saint John's POV. The character of "Ready to Rumble Romie" comes from my Class Reunion II story. As to a time frame, I figure this would be around the middle of S3. – Robertwnielsen
Summary – String's brother Saint John notices the chemistry between String and Caitlin, and decides to do something about it.
She's in love with him. I recognized the expression of a woman in love as I watched Caitlin O'Shannessy, the youngest employee at Santini Air, where my little brother Stringfellow Hawke and I both worked, staring at String as he walked out of the hangar. I don't normally like to assume anything, especially where String's concerned, but I hadn't needed to be around Caitlin and String for more than five minutes to see what Dom had told me about, shortly after I came back from the SOG (Special Operations Group) that I'd signed up with after being rescued from the NVA near the end of the war. The more time I've spent at the hangar over the course of the past six weeks, it's become oh, so obvious to me that Caitlin O'Shannessy has it bad for my little brother. I mean, the sexual tension between those two is so thick that could cut it with a knife. There have been several times in the past week alone that I've seen Caitlin look at String with an expression that seemed to scream, Kiss me, you idiot! Heck, to be perfectly honest, I was screaming, Kiss her, you TWIT! In my own mind. And, I found myself wishing I'd come back earlier, when String first met Caitlin, because they might already be married if I had. I mean, the fact that I was gone so long is probably one of the main reasons String keeps pushing Caitlin away. Not even he could be so dumb as to not see how much she loves him. Wait a sec. Never mind. After all, this is Stringfellow Hawke I'm talking about, and he absolutely could be so dumb—not to mention blind—that he can't see how much Caitlin loves him. Guess I'll have to stick my nose where it doesn't belong—again—and just hope he doesn't hold too big of a grudge about it later. It's not like he doesn't have other things to hold grudges against me for—like the fact that I stayed away for sixteen years.
I feel bad that I kept String and Dom in the dark for so long about where I was, and what I was doin', but when the CIA approached me after the rescue mission that freed me and about twenty other POW's from a prison camp in Hanoi, and asked me if I'd be interested in working covert missions, not only in Vietnam but in other "hotspots" around the world, I jumped at the chance. I figured String and Dom thought I was already dead, anyway. It took a while for String to forgive my decision, and he still brings it up now and then, so I guess I've still got some work to do.
But now, to the new object of my concern—Caitlin. I have to admit, Cait is a very attractive woman. In fact, if I didn't know she was head over heels in love with my kid brother, I'd be interested in her myself. But I couldn't do that to String. Besides, I could tell Caitlin only had eyes for String, even if the feeling wasn't mutual—but I sometimes got a vibe that maybe—just maybe—it was. I suddenly realized I'd found a new mission in life—get String to let go of these demons he's carrying, and maybe find happiness again, like he had with Kelly before we went to Vietnam, before the terrible car accident.
"Penny for 'em, Sinj?" Dom asked, having walked up behind me without my hearing him, but that wasn't really a surprise, since String got the super-hearing in our family...and I was wrapped up in my thoughts about String and Cait.
"Huh? Oh, sorry, Dom," I said, embarrassed. "I was just thinking. Cait really loves him, doesn't she?"
"Tell me something I don't know, Saint John," Dom said, with an expression that told me he'd been down this road a number of times in the past. "She's so head over heels in love with String that it's drivin' her crazy, the way he totally blows her off. I mean, she's even talked about goin' home 'cause she's so frustrated with him."
"Home?" I asked. "Where's home?"
"Texas," Dom sighed. I had heard about how Caitlin had come to California lookin' for String—I just hadn't known where she was from, until now.
"Well, we don't want that to happen, do we?" I asked, grinning at the man who had raised both String and me ever since our parents were killed in a freak accident up on Eagle Lake, where String lives now. "We just need to figure out how to get them together," I said, even as I noticed Dom shaking his head.
"Sinj," Dom began, almost sounding defeated from the start, "if I had a dollar for every time I've tried to get String to see reason about Cait, I swear I'd have me a whole fleet of top-of-the-line choppers, a real nice hangar to store 'em all in, and a full staff of full-time pilots, so that the four of us wouldn't have to do all the work around here!" Dom and I both laughed at his insinuation, even though I knew he didn't mean it as a joke. "I mean—why the hell he can't understand that what happened to your folks, and Kelly, were both accidents—and especially now, with you home—it's just totally beyond me!" Dom said, and I heard the distinct sound of frustration in his voice.
"Cait's really thinking about going home?" I asked, surprised. If I've learned anything about Caitlin O'Shannessy in the few short weeks I've known her, it's that, even though she's from Texas, she's as stubborn as a Georgia mule. So I can't believe she'd just up and leave, especially from a job she seems to enjoy so much. There's gotta be more goin' on here. Finally, I looked over at Dom as he nodded at me.
"Yeah, she is," Dom replied, and I saw the frustration coming through his eyes. "I think the only reason she hasn't already left is, now that you're home, she's hanging on to a hope that String'll finally see reason. But even that hope's getting slimmer all the time, Sinj. And I really don't want her to leave, because she's a great mechanic, and a good friend to String, but—"
"You just think they could—and should—be more to each other," I said, smiling at our surrogate father. When Dom nodded at me, I understood why Cait was thinking about leaving. Now I get it—Cait doesn't want to stay here, being in love with String, if he doesn't feel the same way about her, I said to myself. It'd just be too hard on her, having to see him every day. But, Heaven knows, String's a lot easier to deal with, being around Caitlin, so there's got to be something I can do to help him see reason about her. I made up my mind to do whatever I could to try to help String pull his head out of his behind about Caitlin.
"You hit it right on the head, Sinj," Dom said as he gave me a friendly slap on the shoulder, along with a smile. I excused myself and caught up with Caitlin.
"Hey, Cait," I said, walking up beside her.
"What? Oh, hey, Sinj," she said, and I could tell from the look on her face that she was a million miles away.
"Where were you just now?" I asked, smiling at her.
"Oh, just thinkin'," she said, and the look in her eyes betrayed what—and who—she was thinking about.
"About String, am I right?" I asked.
"That obvious, huh?" She shot back, and grinned at me, but I could tell her grin was forced.
"Only to me and Dom," I said, then added, "or anybody else who might have looked at you, but yeah. It's that obvious. Dom even said you're thinkin' about going home, Cait. I hope you don't do that—String's so much easier to deal with when you're around."
"I appreciate that, Sinj, but I just get so doggoned frustrated," Caitlin said, with a tone to her voice that I hadn't heard before. I admit, I don't know her that well, but anger just didn't seem to suit the petite redhead standing beside me. But, String does. Out loud, I said, "Anything I can do to help?"
"I doubt it, Sinj," Caitlin said sadly, "but thanks for the offer. Dom's been tryin' to get String to see reason about me for the longest time—practically ever since that day my plane got hijacked when I was flyin' home for Erin's wedding," she continued, and suppressed a shudder. I could tell she was frightened by something that memory had dredged up, so I decided not to press the issue.
"Yeah, String told me about that," I said, knowing there were parts of the story that he'd left out. I suppose I'll get the rest of the story, someday, whenever String's ready to tell me. "So Dom's been trying to get you two together—well, what about you?" I queried. "You can't tell me you haven't at least asked String out, for heaven's sake."
"Yeah, Sinj," Caitlin replied. "I have asked him out, but there's always some excuse. He's either worried about Tet, or something here at the hangar, or somethin' at the cabin, but he just never seems to find time to worry about himself. And," she added, and I noticed tears forming in her eyes, "that worries me. I can't help it, Sinj. I—"
"You love him, don't you?" I asked, knowing how much I sounded like Harrison Ford from Return of the Jedi.
"Yes," Caitlin replied simply, even as she looked at me as if her loving String was the most obvious thing in the world—which, to Dom and me, and more importantly, to her, it was. "I've loved him since the day I met him, a year and a half ago. But it's like I've said before, Sinj—how many times can a gal smash her head against a brick wall like Stringfellow Hawke, before she winds up with permanent brain damage? Not to mention a whopper of a headache," she added with a grin that seemed to me to be more than a little forced.
"Well, Cait," I said, shaking my head, "would you like some help with my kid brother? I mean, he always listened to me when we were kids, so maybe he'd listen to me about this," I said, even though I knew the chances of String actually taking my advice were slim, at best, considering the rocky footing our relationship was on.
"Sinj," Caitlin began, and I could see she was conflicted about what she was about to ask me, "I don't wanna draw you into my problems. I—I'll figure this mess out on my own."
"Don't be ridiculous," I said, shaking my head firmly. "You've become a part of our little family, Caitlin, and if I can do anything to make that status more, permanent, then I will," I said with a smile, and gave Caitlin a friendly peck on the cheek as I noticed String walking back towards the hangar. Now I get it, I thought. I get why Cait's thinkin' about going home—it'd just be too painful, stayin' here, and having to see String every day, since she's so in love with him. Well, I'll just have to see if I can do somethin' to fix that!
"Hey String," I said when I knew he was close enough to hear me, "take a ride with me?" I motioned to one of Dom's choppers.
"What for, Sinj?" String asked, dumbfounded.
"Oh, just to catch up," I said, and hoped like hell that that confounded internal lie detector that my kid brother seemed to have wouldn't pick up that I was telling a major fib.
"Well," String hesitated, but then noticed Dom motioning him towards me, "Okay, Sinj." I turned and gave Caitlin a subtle thumbs-up as String and I walked towards one of Dom's choppers, and she winked back at me in response.
I wish I knew what he was thinking. I strapped myself into the pilot's chair, and went through the preflight sequence. And, I wish to hell I knew how I was gonna do this, but I owe Cait that much, at least. From what Dom tells me, she's kept String sane ever since she came here. At the very least, I know he's a lot easier to deal with when he's around her. Finally the rotors had reached liftoff speed, and I pulled the cyclic, allowing the helicopter to rise into the sky. I turned to String and said, "Okay, little brother. Where you wanna go?"
"You're driving," String said, then added, "Some reason you wanted to go flying?"
Once again, I knew the fib I was about to tell could get me into a lot of trouble. "I just wanted to talk—y'know, brother to brother."
"About?" String demanded, and I recognized the tone of his voice. Even after almost sixteen years, I still know String like the back of my hand, and he knows me just as well—he suspects that there's more to this little jaunt than just a brother-to-brother chat. Well, I won't keep him in suspense.
"I'll give ya three guesses, little brother, but you're only gonna need one," I said.
"Oh, great," String said, shaking his head. "As if I don't get enough of this from Dom—and from Caitlin—now you're gonna start on me about her, too? She talked to you, didn't she?" String demanded.
"Yeah, String," I admitted, then added, "actually, I talked to her. I saw her staring at you when you and Dom left a little while ago, and I know it's none of my business, little brother, but I felt like I had to do something. She cares an awful lot about you, little brother. Hell, she told me she loves you—but she's getting awfully frustrated, because she thinks you don't care about her." I glanced hesitantly over at my brother. String didn't say anything, or take off his aviator shades, but I knew that what I'd just told him was causing him to think, and his next words confirmed my suspicions.
"Sinj, it's not that I don't care about Caitlin. I do. Probably a lot more than she knows, and definitely a lot more than I should. And, you're right. It is none of your business! I just..." I interrupted String before he could build up too much of a head of steam.
"HOLD IT! Just hold it right there, little brother," I said. "Did you say you cared about Cait?"
String hesitated before he answered me, almost as if he were wishing he could take back his previous comment. Finally, he shook his head and sighed, almost as if he were admitting defeat. Or, maybe—just maybe—String's finally acknowledging the obvious.
"Yeah, Sinj," he said, turning to glance at me, "I did say that. And if you breathe word one of that, or anything else I might say in here, to Caitlin, so help me, first, I'll deny I ever said it, and then you and I are gonna tangle, but..." String sighed and shook his head before he continued. "Yeah, Sinj. I do care about her. I think it started when her plane to Texas got hijacked, and I realized how close we—that is—I came to losing her. I'd thought about telling her how I felt before that happened, but when the plane went down, I realized I..." That does it. I knew the risks I was about to take, but I knew I had to say something. I don't recall ever getting as angry as I did, as quickly as I did—but this was serious.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, little brother!" I shouted, angrier at String than I'd been in a long time, since before I was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. "Now I know what Dom was talking about—this so-called 'curse' you think you have—it's a goddamned obsession with you!" I knew I shouldn't be yelling at String, but sometimes, yelling is the only way to get through my little brother's thick skull. I thought of old "Ready To Rumble" Romie, Staff Sergeant Romanski, our senior DI back at Fort Jackson—he used to yell at String and me all the time, 'course, he yelled at all of us. But it worked then—and, I sure as hell hope it works now.
"Sinj," String said, and I could tell he was getting angry at me, "you just don't understand. Everybody I've ever loved—Mom and Dad, Kelly, you; all dead."
"Well, String...either you and I are both having an out-of-body experience, or..." I tried to stifle a laugh at the ridiculousness of String's argument, at least where I was concerned, but failed, miserably. And all of a sudden, I got the sneaking feeling that String was leaving someone out—someone he loved very much, who had been killed like Mom, Dad, and Kelly all were.
"It's not funny, Sinj," String insisted, and I began to worry about what he might do, but then I saw it—the faintest glimmer of a smile—which quickly got bigger until String finally started laughing and said, "Okay, it is. But, Sinj, even though you're back, that still doesn't erase the fact that Mom and Dad and Kelly are dead. And I don't want to lose Cait the way I lost them."
I just about lost it, again. "For God's sake, String. Doesn't the word 'accident' mean a goddamned thing to you? I know you've seen the reports—both on the accident at the lake, and on the crash where you lost Kelly, and nobody could have stopped either one of those crashes, String! And let me remind you of somethin', little brother—you could just as easily have been killed both those times, too! And I could have lost you! Oh, yeah, one other thing, little brother. In case you forgot—they were my parents, too!" I suddenly felt the urge to set the helicopter down—I was getting a bad feeling that this argument was going to turn ugly quick.
"Sinj, I didn't mean it like that," String said after we'd both unstrapped and climbed out of the helicopter, and my fear about this argument turning ugly lessened, just a little. "I just—hell, I don't know what I mean!" When I heard the snarl come back into my brother's voice, I started wondering if String might actually take a swing at me.
"I know, String," I said, trying to lighten the mood. "It's just that I worry a lot about you, little brother. When I see someone like Caitlin, who's obviously, for whatever reason, head over heels in love with you, and you barely even give her the time of day. It's no wonder she's thinkin' about leaving."
"Head over heels, huh?" String said, smiling. "You do know she rarely wears heels, don't you?" He grinned when he said it, and I realized the unintentional pun I'd made.
"You know what I mean, wise guy," I said, and String nodded. I gave my younger brother a friendly slap on the back, glad that, at least temporarily, our old, teasing banter was back.
"Yeah, Sinj, I do know what you mean," he said, and smiled at me. "And listen, I'm sorry for what I said before. And I promise—I'll try to change my attitude about Cait, but I just wonder if it isn't—"
"It's not too late, little brother," I said, shaking my head emphatically. "She told me just before you got back how much she loves you, and I think that if you give her a sign or two that she's not wasting her time—or her love—on you, that everything will be fine. I mean, that's the main reason she's thinkin' about leaving—it'd just be too hard on her, comin' into the hangar and seein' you every day, knowing how she feels about you, and the fact that you don't return her feelings. And, think about this for me, String. You love Dom, and you love my son Le, and they haven't died on you. Plus," I grinned at my younger, and slightly confused, brother, "even though you didn't know where I was, I never died, String. And I know I'm one of the big reasons you think you had this curse." I saw String nod, with that thoughtful expression that told me that he was at least thinking about what I'd told him.
"Sinj," String asked me, "why are you doin' this?"
"Because you're my little brother, String, and I love ya," I said, pulling him into a warm, brotherly embrace. I continued, "And I don't like seein' you hurting the way I have ever since I've been home, especially when there's no need for it. String, it hurts when people die, especially people we love. I hurt when our parents died, too. Maybe, maybe that's why I volunteered for that SOG duty after I got bailed out from the POW camp, I dunno. Even though it had been a long time since they died, I was still hurtin', and I thought I could bury the pain with the work I was doing. I admit it, though—I was bein' selfish, not thinking about you or Dom all those years, and all I can do is offer my apologies again. But the point I'm tryin' to make here, little brother, is that you can't keep pushing people away all your life. Trust me on this, String. And I'll tell you somethin' else, too—as good-looking as Caitlin is, you're just damned lucky that nobody else has tried to make a move on her!" I smiled when I said it, but I think String got the point.
"Actually," he said, shaking his head, "a couple of guys have. But they didn't last."
"Oh, yeah. Dom told me about that guy—Robert, wasn't it? And then the guy who tried to ask Caitlin out when her plane got hijacked—I wonder why she didn't go out with him?" I teased.
"That's—actually a very good question," String answered me. "She said he seemed nice enough, so I dunno why she didn't go out with him after they got rescued. Plus there was..." The way String cut himself off in the middle of his sentence made me wonder who he was thinking about, but the look in his eyes told me that whoever it was, they had tried to hurt Cait—and that String had taken care of it.
"String, do me a favor," I said. "Promise me you'll tell me the whole story about that, someday?" And whoever that last guy was you were talkin' about. He obviously did somethin' real wrong, just by the look on your face.
He hesitated, then nodded. "Okay, Sinj. I promise." Then, the two of us climbed back into the chopper and headed back to the hangar.
Just before we landed, I glanced over at String, and I could tell something was going on in his head by the look on his face—I just didn't know what. I quickly canceled the landing clearance I'd just requested and turned the chopper away from the airport again.
"What's the deal, Sinj?" String demanded.
"You look like you still have something you need to talk about, and that's why I asked you to take this ride with me, so talk, little brother," I said.
"It's just—I dunno," String said, "How do I know that Cait..."
"Stop it, String," I interrupted him. "First of all, it's obvious to everybody around here—Me, Ev, Dom—even that 'Michael' guy that I've seen around here—the one who tracked me down, and sent those people to convince me to come home—how Caitlin feels about you, and there are no guarantees in life," I continued. "This chopper could develop engine trouble and go down, and we could both buy it; or you and Dom could buy it flying you back up to the cabin some night, or to the hangar in the morning. Not to mention that motorcycle of yours," I said, noticing the reaction that last statement had generated in my little brother.
"You're not gonna start in on me about my bike, too, are you?" String asked. "Caitlin gives me grief about the bike all the time, especially since I don't wear a helmet." He stopped himself just then, and I could tell he was thinking about his last statement.
"You mean," I said, grinning, "she worries about you?"
"Yeah," String said, and grinned back at me, "something like that." I could tell that our conversation had done some good by String's reactions. At least he doesn't want to kill me. That felt like progress in my book.
"Sinj," String said, "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" I asked, innocently.
"Sticking your nose into my business—again," String said, and I thought I heard a little anger creep back into his voice.
"Older brother's prerogative," I said, grinning, then decided I better turn serious, so I set the chopper down again.
"Look, little brother," I said after I'd released my harness and turned towards him, "I know that you don't think I have the right to butt into your personal life like this, and you're probably right. It's your life, and if you want to spend it alone back at the cabin, playing your cello and staring at eagles, I guess that's your prerogative, too; but listen to me. For once in your life, String—listen to me. Take it from somebody who knows—being alone sucks. And you might be missing out on a wonderful relationship—the kind of relationship Mom and Dad had, you know?" I could see by the look on String's face that he was upset by my mentioning our parents, but Mom and Dad had a love that I thought you only saw in the movies, and I get the impression Caitlin loves my kid brother the same way—if he'd just pull his head out of his ass and recognize it.
"And by the way, String," I added, "don't worry. The things we've discussed here will stay here, just between the two of us. I give you my word," I said, hoping that he'd believe me. With what I did, staying away from him all these years and not even letting him know that I was alive, I guess I could understand why String might not trust me.
"Okay, Sinj," String said as I strapped myself back in and started the chopper back up. His expression and the tone of his voice indicated to me that he was at least going to give me the benefit of the doubt...which, in fairness, is all I could have asked of him.
"Besides," I said as we headed back to the hangar, "you can't tell me you've never noticed the way Caitlin looks—wait, never mind. I guess you can tell me you've never noticed the way Caitlin looks at you sometimes."
"You're right, Sinj," String said, "I hadn't noticed. Or maybe I did notice but decided to ignore it, I don't know."
"Well, either way, I hope you'll start noticing," I said, glancing over at String and grinning at him.
A few minutes later we were back at the hangar, and Dom pulled me aside to ask how things had gone. All of a sudden, I saw Caitlin smile at String, and I felt myself get excited when I saw String smile back at her and slip his arm around her shoulders, steering them away from us. Caitlin slipped her arm around String's waist as they walked away, and I thought, damn, maybe my little brother DID listen to me for a change! He certainly noticed Cait smile at him just now!
"Well," I said, watching String walk away with Caitlin, "I think they went okay. At least, I think String decided to listen to me. You saw how he reacted when Caitlin smiled at him just now. As for what else might happen, we'll just have to wait and see." I smiled at Dom as we went back to work.
"Oh, I noticed, all right," Dom said, "but you know what I always say, Sinj. 'Never assume anything, 'cause it just makes an ass out of you, and me!" I laughed, remembering how many times Dom had told String and me that, but I had a feeling that I was right about String—that he really had listened to me when we went on that little helicopter ride. Of course, if I'm wrong, then I'll end up looking like an ass, just like Dom said, but I have a feeling I'm not wrong, I thought.
Over the course of the next few days, I started noticing changes in my brother's attitude—for one thing, I saw him smiling more—actually, a lot more, especially at Caitlin, which made her smile, too. And he was paying a lot more attention to her—little things at first, like always saying, "Good morning, Cait," with a smile on his face, which Dom said he rarely did before our conversation—and then, String started talkin' to Cait a lot more, buying her lunch, and what not. But when I saw him kiss her—really kiss her, that is—for no reason, just before he and Dom left for a quick shoot, I started thinkin' that maybe—just maybe—that stubborn mule of a younger brother of mine had finally taken my advice to heart.
"What the heck did you say to him, anyway, Sinj?" Caitlin asked me as we watched Hawke and Dom fly away. I dunno why, but I got the distinct impression that Cait was more than a little dizzy from that good-bye kiss—if that's what it was.
"I just told him the truth, Cait," I said. "I told him that everybody around here can see how much you love him, and we had a serious discussion about this "curse" he thinks he has, and how you just might be the one to prove to him that it doesn't really exist. You seem like the kind of girl who knows how to take care of herself," I said, and smiled at her.
"Well," Caitlin said as she smiled back at me, "Like I told that guy on the plane—I do know karate—and, I give free samples." I noticed her smile turn decidedly mischievous when she said it.
"So I've heard," I said, recalling the time String had told me about her saying that to a guy on the plane she was taking home to Texas for her sister's wedding. "I don't think I need a sample, but I'll keep that in mind."
"Good." Caitlin said with a grin. "Sinj, thank you for everything you did. I know String's change in attitude is because of whatever you said to him on that helicopter ride. And," she continued, and I thought I noticed something different in her eyes, "I think it's working. A little while ago, String told me..." I heard Caitlin's voice crack, and I saw the tears welling up in her eyes. I began to get concerned about exactly what my little brother had told Caitlin that was generating such a reaction in her, especially with the positive signs I'd seen since we had our talk. After a few minutes, though, Caitlin smiled, and as she wiped her tears away with the back of her hand, she said, "Sorry, Sinj. I just got emotional there for a second. What I was tryin' to say was—A little while ago, String told me he loved me, and that he's loved me for a long time. He's just been too stubborn, and stupid, to admit it, until now."
"That's great, Caitlin," I said, giving her a friendly peck on the cheek. "I thought when I saw him kiss you a little while ago that something had changed, and I'm glad I thought right," I said, smiling at her, and I realized that the tears I'd seen a moment ago were happy ones, brought on by the change in Caitlin's relationship with String. And of course, I already know about him bein' stubborn—and stupid. Heck, I've been tellin' String that for years. "Now, you just promise me one thing, okay?"
"If I can, I will."
"Promise me you'll take care of String, and that you'll keep that smile on his face. It looks good, don't you think?"
"Oh, yeah," Caitlin said with a smile of her own. "It looks really good. And I promise both you, and Dom, that I'll take care of String, and I'll keep him smilin' for ya." We busied ourselves with work on some of Dom's other choppers until he and String came back. We walked out of the hangar and met the helicopter, and I was not surprised at all to see String and Caitlin exchange a deep, warm, and loving embrace.
"All right, all right!" I said, smiling. "Much more of this sweetness, and I'm gonna start getting cavities!" We all laughed as we walked back into the hangar, and I couldn't help but notice the expression on both String and Caitlin's faces. I wonder—what the heck is going on in your head, little brother? I don't know why, but I got the funniest feeling that String was thinking about taking his relationship with Caitlin to the next level—and, I couldn't have been happier.
That afternoon during lunch, I overheard Caitlin tell Dom the same thing she told me—she promised Dom that she'd help us take care of String from now on. I could tell Dom was relieved—I know he's been worried about what String would do after he died, and I think Dom felt like he could relax, knowing that Cait and I would be here to look out for String from now on.
A few weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, after we'd shut the hangar down for the weekend, I noticed String and Caitlin getting into a chopper together, and I assumed they were headed to the cabin. What really caught my attention was when I noticed String loading a couple of what looked like suitcases into the storage compartment of the chopper. Why would they need suitcases? Unless...I cornered Dom just before he left, to see if he knew what was going on. "Dom, do you know anything about this?"
"All I know, Sinj, is that String told me he was gonna take Cait up to the cabin for the weekend—whatever they're going to do up there, we'll just have to wait and see." The words for the weekend definitely caught my attention—I couldn't believe String was actually going to spend an entire weekend with Caitlin, alone, at the cabin. And, I knew just by Dom's expression what he thought was going to happen, but I also knew we'd have to wait until Monday morning to find out what actually did happen—which would make the upcoming weekend the longest in both Dom's and my life.
By the time I got to the hangar Monday morning, and found Dom already there, I wasn't sure who the bigger nervous wreck was. I mean, I spent the whole weekend worried sick that Caitlin's gonna come in, by herself, and tell Dom and me about some fight that she and String had, and that whatever might have been starting between them was over; and I could tell just by lookin' at him that Dom was thinking the same thing. Although now that I think about it, how the heck would Cait get back to civilization from the cabin, if she and String did have a fight? I remembered wondering later, and I have to admit I had a vision of Dom and me suddenly hearing Caitlin's voice, full of tears, on the CB radio asking Dom to come and get her, because she and String had some huge fight. Then I had to stop myself—Duh, Sinj. That was dumb. After all, Caitlin is a pilot, so if they did have some kinda fight, she could just take the chopper and fly back herself. And that would serve String right, if they did have a fight and she did decide to strand him up at the cabin. 'Cause I sure as heck wouldn't want to go up there and get him, and I don't think Dom would, either, under those circumstances, he'd be so mad. I mean, Dom loves Caitlin like she's his daughter, which explains why he's done as much as he has to try to get String to see sense about Cait. And maybe—just maybe—he finally has seen sense about her—with a little help from me. I noticed Dom standing near the CB radio. I knew what Dom was thinking, mainly because I was thinking the same thing—he wants to call them. But, I also knew that if Dom did call them, String would never forgive him. Besides, I thought, if I know String—and even after sixteen years away from him, I think I still know him—they're on their way back here right now. So we'll see 'em soon enough.
"Dom, relax. You know what worryin' like that's gonna get you, don't you?"
"Yeah, Sinj. A lifetime fulla bills! And I've got enough of them already! It's just hard, not knowin' what happened up there, y'know?"
"Yeah. I do know. But I also know that worryin' about it isn't gonna get them back here any faster." Dom had to agree that I was right, which I knew from experience that he hated doing.
Dom and I finally decided we'd just have to wait for them to come back. Our tension increased a hundred fold when we heard the helicopter come in about an hour later, and I thought they would never come out after String set it down; but I was relieved to see both String and Caitlin in the helicopter, which meant that they were still at least talking. Then I noticed something—both String and Caitlin had very satisfied smiles on their faces. Hurry up, you guys! Now I understand why Mom always told me I'd never be a doctor, 'cause I've got no patients—err, patience. But in this case, I felt justified in being so impatient—Dom and I needed to know what had gone on up at the cabin over the weekend. Finally, they got out of the helicopter, and when I saw String wrap his arm around Caitlin's shoulders, and hers automatically go around his waist, I knew that Dom and I'd been worried about nothing. And when I looked over at Dom and saw the grin on his face, I could tell he was just as relieved as I was. And by the expressions on their faces, I got the distinct impression that String and Caitlin did a lot more than talk up at the cabin over the weekend. I couldn't place it, but I had the feeling that something in their relationship had definitely gone to the next level, which was later confirmed to me by both String and Caitlin. And that confirmation gave me the distinct impression that we were gonna be planning a wedding before long.
Six Weeks Later...
Well, I was right. I smiled as I helped String fix his tie. You never could learn to do this right, little brother. I'm just glad I'm here to help. Here we were, Dom, String, Michael and me, all at the cabin, getting ready for my kid brother's wedding—something I thought, to be perfectly honest, would never happen, especially after the terrible accident that took Kelly, right before String shipped out for 'Nam. Some people might think that it's a little weird, String and Caitlin getting married only six weeks after they "officially" got together, but, as Caitlin pointed out to me, they'd been together unofficially for a year and a half before that, so it all averaged out.
Michael seems like an okay guy—he's a little mysterious, but I guess that goes along with his job—String told me a little more about the government agency that Michael works for—of course, I knew a little about it, since it was people from there that found me and convinced me to come home, and I know about the helicopter, too. I've even flown in her a couple of times. Damned nice piece of machinery, I've got to admit. The first time I saw her, I remembered thinking, If 1st Air Cav had only had a few of those back in the day, the NVA wouldn't have stood a chance. And, I finally got the whole story about the "other guy" that had hit on Caitlin—a guy named Ken Sawyer, who was using Cait to get close to String (and to Airwolf, which had been his real target) as part of a plot of his involving stolen nuclear detonators. Once again, I found myself wishing that I'd been here to help—Caitlin would never have gotten involved with a guy like Sawyer, who sounded like the absolute definition of the word "creep"—among a few other words I could use to describe him—if she'd known how String really felt about her. And, Caitlin told me why she never went out with the guy who asked her out when her plane got hijacked—she didn't think it'd be fair to the guy to go out with him, when her mind would have been on String the whole time. Which makes perfect sense.
And I realized something when Caitlin told me the story about her plane getting hijacked—if she hadn't known String that day, she'd be dead right now, along with the rest of the passengers and crew on the plane. When I mentioned that point to String a few days before the wedding, he acknowledged that Dom had tried to get him to understand that, but, not surprisingly to me, String was too stubborn to admit it. After I heard how her plane crashed and sank in the middle of the ocean, I understood why Caitlin reacted the way she did when she'd mentioned it before. I can imagine she was terrified. Heck, I woulda been scared too—even if somebody hadn't been dropping depth charges and trying to blow up the plane, I remembered thinking later. That day, Caitlin owed String, Dom, and Airwolf her life. And the people who hijacked that plane didn't pick it because Cait was on board, or because she knew String. It was just incredibly bad luck for her. But it worked out in the end.
And, I was right about String 'forgetting' to tell me about someone who he'd loved, and lost, that day we were in Dom's chopper together—her name was Gabrielle Ademaur, and she was Michael's pilot who flew Michael up to the cabin to inform String about Airwolf being stolen. I remember asking String about her once after Dom mentioned her to me, and I finally got String to tell me the whole story. Then, I proceeded to tear apart his argument that Gabrielle got killed because she was in love with String. From what String and Dom told me about this Moffet character—the one who designed Airwolf and then stole it during a weapons demonstration—he would have killed Gabrielle whether she and my brother were seeing each other or not; if he even knew they were involved. Moffet sounded out of his mind, I remembered telling String, and String reluctantly had to agree with me, especially when I reminded him about Moffet trying to kill him and Dom after they stole the helicopter back, not to mention how Moffet killed all those people during the weapons demo when he stole Airwolf, along with the crew of the Navy destroyer he sank, and everyone else he'd murdered.
"You know I always hated it when you were right, Sinj," String had said to me.
"Yeah, little brother, I know," I replied, grinning at him. "I'm just glad you get what I'm saying to you. And besides, do you realize how absolutely arrogant that sounds, thinkin' that Gabrielle died because she was in love with you?"
"I never thought of it that way, but you're—you're absolutely right." I was able to relax a little after that.
I could tell String was at least accepting what I had told him, whether he agreed completely with me or not. I suppose that's all I can ask of String, considering everything I did. I knew there was no way I could ever completely make up for having let Dom and String think I was dead for so long, but I also knew one other thing—I was gonna spend the rest of my life trying to make up for it. But, when String told me that I was right, something he rarely did, I knew that he had seen the truth in what I told him.
But today isn't for talking about helicopters, or spies, or spy agencies. Today is a celebration. A celebration I didn't think I'd ever see happen. And what really makes me happy is that Dom and I are both here and able to see it. I was going to be String's best man, and Caitlin's older sister Erin, who I found to be very attractive herself, was going to be the maid of honor. It was a simple ceremony, just the bride and groom, me, Erin, Erin and Cait's mom Maggie, Michael, Marella, Dom, a judge, and my son Le, who had come to live with String and Caitlin a year or so ago. And as I helped String get ready to get married, I found myself thinking about how I'd watched his and Caitlin's relationship grow, and I realized that I was absolutely right when I thought she loved String the way Mom and Dad loved each other. Heck, even Le knew it. I remembered him saying something to me about it one night at home, before String and I took that helicopter ride.
"Dad? Why can't Uncle String see how much Cait loves him?" Le had asked me.
"I dunno, partner," I said honestly. "Heck, even you see it, don't you?"
"Yeah," Le admitted, shaking his head. "Every time I see them together, I can tell how much Caitlin loves Uncle String—but, he's just bein' too stubborn to see it."
"Tell me something I don't know, kiddo," I remembered saying.
Then Le proceeded to ask me if I thought it'd be okay if he started sayin' "Aunt Cait" whenever Cait and String were around—and, after I thought about it for a minute, I decided it was a good idea. At least, it couldn't hurt, I remembered saying to myself. Sure enough, though, Cait asked me about it a few days after Le started saying it.
"Sinj, why is Le callin' me 'Aunt Cait' all of a sudden, especially when String's around? Doesn't he get it? I'm not his aunt—that would mean I'd either have to be your sister, or..."
"Or married to my brother," I said, grinning at her. "Cait, Le asked me if I thought I was okay with him sayin' that when String's around—he's thinkin' maybe it'd give String an extra kick in the butt, about his feelings. Don't hold that against Le, okay?" I asked, concerned that Cait would hold Le's comments against him.
"Why would I go and do a fool thing like that?" Cait asked me, smiling. "I was just wonderin' about it, that's all. Actually," she said, a hopeful smile on her face, "I kinda like the sound of it. And, I hope it works." She smiled at me, and I knew there was nothing to worry about.
"That's good, Cait," I said as we got back to work.
Then last week, when I told Le that Caitlin was about to 'officially' become his Aunt Cait, he said, "Guess Uncle String finally smartened up, huh, Dad?"
"Yeah, Le," I agreed. "I guess he finally did. I wonder if you calling Cait 'Aunt Cait' all this time had anything to do with it." Le's reaction told me he didn't know, either—but, we can always pretend it did. And I don't think either Cait, or String, would disagree with us.
Finally, as Michael came back to tell us that things were just about ready, I said, "Well, little brother. I never thought I'd see the day when you would actually get married, but here we are."
"Yeah," String said, and I could see the love he had for Caitlin written all over his face, "I just can't believe she stuck around long enough for me to get my head pulled outta my ass. By the way—thanks for that, Sinj."
"No problem," I said, laughing. "You woulda done the same for me, little brother." He smiled and nodded, just before he gave me a huge hug. I was glad I'd been able to help String see what was so obvious to everybody else around him—how much Caitlin loved him, and that it would be okay if he loved her back. And I was also glad String didn't want to kill me for butting into his life the way I had. Finally, I said, "I hate to say, 'I told you so,' little brother, but..."
"Yeah, yeah," String said, smiling at me. "You did tell me so. You, Dom, Michael, Marella, and just about everybody else we know. And, you were all right," he said, embarrassed.
"Well, you always were the stubborn one, little brother," I answered him, and I was happy that we were back to somewhat of a normal brotherly relationship. That's somethin' else I owe you for, Caitlin. I knew that it was her being in String's life that had helped him get over some of what happened between us.
I couldn't help but notice the way Erin kept staring at me all through the ceremony, and I got the feeling that she might...nah. That's just my imagination. Or, my ego talking.
By the time the wedding was over, and I'd returned home, I had a feeling—a feeling that String's life was a million times better, now that he'd finally decided to face the proverbial 800-pound gorilla that was his feelings about Caitlin. And, when I went to sleep that night, I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before I became an uncle, and Le wound up with a little cousin...or two. And I don't know why, or how, but as I lay there falling asleep, I just knew that somehow, everything was going to be just fine. Not just for String and Caitlin—but for all of us.