Through My Eyes

Disclaimer – I don't own any of the characters depicted here – either Bellisario or Universal does – I'm just taking them out to play again.

Summary – Caitlin told Dom "I care about him too, you know. Probably more than you know," when Hawke was kidnapped by John Bradford Horn. What did she mean? And how would Dom feel about it?

A/N – This is an original story idea, based around the S3 season opener, "Horn of Plenty." Caitlin's announcement, "I care about him too, you know. Probably more than you know," was never really explored, beyond her actually saying it. This is my take on what Dom might have thought about what she said. Hope you enjoy it – robertwnielsen.

"Not 'we,' ME! The instructions say 'ME!'" I shouted at Caitlin O'Shannessy, who had come with me to meet Archangel and talk about String's kidnapping. I was talking about the videotape that Caitlin and I had received back at the hangar, where String outlined the instructions for his release—I was to deliver Airwolf, alone, to a specific spot, and then String would be free to leave with me in the Jet Ranger. But Cait immediately declared, "We gotta get the Lady!" Meaning, of course, that she wanted to be included in any rescue mission. What I wasn't exactly prepared for were Caitlin's next words to me.

"Dom, don't do that to me," Caitlin said, and I heard her voice wavering, as if she were about to cry. "I care about him too, you know. Probably more than you know."

I gotta admit, that startled the heck outta me—Caitlin blurting out that she cared about String. I mean, I knew she cared about himheck, even loved him—as a friend. Make that as a very good friend—but lately, I've wondered if it wasn't something deeper than just simple friendship. I don't have any real concrete evidence—at least, I didn't, until that comment from Cait—but the circumstantial evidence all pointed in that direction. But my mind was focused on getting String away from Horn, so I didn't process what Caitlin had said fully...and I also didn't answer her comment. But I did file it away for future reference. Then I heard Caitlin saying something about how people like whoever had String usually don't start things like this without knowing their targets, and that they must have known that String and I were the only ones who could fly the Lady, so that's how they knew that I could deliver her. And then Caitlin blurted out that she knew something that whoever had kidnapped String didn't know—that she could fly Airwolf. Well, it's true. String and I taught Cait to fly the Lady not long ago, in case something ever happened to one of us. Michael, however, was not a happy man when he heard that, but Cait told him that we'd taught her, and nothin' could undo that—which was the truth. Finally, Michael relented and let us go after String. As we flew to the spot where String was supposed to meet me, I told Cait, "We're going in, Cait. If you get hung up, remember the missile compartment. Understand?" Cait said, "Right," but there was somethin' about her voice that made me think she was scared. Glad I'm not the only one, I remembered thinkin' to myself as I got out of Airwolf and walked towards String. I remember when I stepped out of Airwolf and saw String—he looked fine, and we even exchanged a friendly thumbs-up, just before he pulled that pistol out of his bomber jacket and calmly pumped three shots into my gut.

I'll be perfectly honest—I don't remember much after String pumped those three shots into my gut. I was sure as hell glad they were only tranquilizers, though. I do remember waking up in that cell with the worst headache I have ever had in my entire life. Take the worst hangover you've ever had and multiply it by 5,000, Santini, I remembered thinkin'. Wow, that smarted. Almost enough to make me quit drinkin', I thought, dizzily, then added, almost. Just then, I heard somebody say "As soon as he recovers, I want him programmed just like Hawke." I knew then that String hadn't been in his right mind when he shot at me, and I was determined not to end up brainwashed too. So, I decided I'd better play possum as long as I possibly could—Cait was gonna have enough problems pulling this off with just String loopy...assuming that the antidote worked and brought String back to his senses. But if both of us were gone, mentally speaking, she'd never have been able to get us out alive.

And if String didn't make it for some reason, well, that woulda been the end for all of us. Not because Horn would have done anything—after all, he needed at least String and me to actually fly Airwolf, but Michael had told us that he was giving us 48 hours to rescue String, and then, he'd be hitting Horn's compound, in his words, "with everything I've got." And, with the FIRM's connections with the military—plus their specialized assassination team, the "Zebra Squad," which both String and I've seen in action up close and personal, I don't doubt that if we'd failed to rescue String, then all three of us would've been killed, and Airwolf would have been destroyed, in the raid that would've been launched against Horn's compound—a raid I'm still thanking my lucky stars that Michael didn't have to order launched. And, I remembered Michael's words when he gave Cait the serum back in his limousine—I had asked Michael if it would set String's head right, and Michael warned us, It's supposed to, but don't use it unless you absolutely have to. The reported side effects have been rapid drops in body temperature, and convulsions. And in about a third of the tests, death. I saw Caitlin's face turn whiteeven whiter than what's left of my hair—at Michael's last word. And now that I think about it, Cait's reaction should have been another indication to me of how she felt about String, but just like with her comment, I was too worried about String to ask her about it.

But I do remember laying there thinking about everything I'd heard—and seen—when we started this mission. Like I said before, I'd always suspected Caitlin felt something for String—something a lot stronger than the close friendship I knew they'd developed—and, the end of her comment, "probably more than you know," confirmed what I'd suspected. Even if that boy of mine is too stubborn, or paranoid, or whatever you want to call it, to recognize her feelings and acknowledge them.

I call String "that boy of mine" because, well—he has been ever since the age of twelve, when he and his older brother Saint John lost their parents—my best friend Alan Hawke, and his wife Jane. Maybe String's not my boy legally, but it all stems from a promise I made. Alan and I served together in WWII, flying B-17's and what not, and we kept in touch after the war, then wound up serving together again in Korea. And after Saint John and String were born, I promised Alan that if anything ever happened to him or Jane, I'd take care of the boys—raise 'em like my own kids. So, after the terrible accident on the lake where they lived, and String lives now, I did—raised those boys until they left for Vietnam.

And the three of us must have really blown it where String's concerned—I mean, I thought Alan, Jane and I raised him better than that—the way he treats Caitlin sometimes really makes me mad. And if Alan and Jane could see the way he treats her, I swear they'd be turning over in their graves, they'd be so furious with him. I mean, I guess I can sorta understand where he's comin' from, though—String thinks that he's cursed—that everyone he loves, or might love, will die. And, sadly, events haven't occurred that would change his mind.

First, of course, Alan and Jane were killed in a freak accident, when a drunk boater towing his girlfriend around on water skis plowed into the boat that Alan and Jane were riding in with String and Saint John. Then, just before he and Saint John left for Vietnam, String and his girlfriend Kelly, who, in all honesty, I thought String was gonna marry, were in a car accident—another drunk, he crossed the center line and hit String broadside—and Kelly died. Then, String and Saint John went down on the same mission in Vietnam. String got out, Saint John didn't. And finally, most recently, Gabrielle.

Gabrielle had flown Archangel, the Deputy Director of the FIRM, up to the cabin about two months after the theft of Airwolf, one of the fanciest, most high-tech choppers I've ever seen. I still remember when I first met Gabrielle, one day when I'd flown up to the cabin with a load of groceries.

"You coulda given me a hand!" I said to String after he met me at the cabin door. I'd just made my regular supply run, with groceries for String, and was more than a little irritated at his good-for-nothing blue-tick hound, Tet, who had been parked right smack in the middle of the dock, and stubbornly refused to move until I'd almost brought the chopper down on him. I almost landed right on top of the damned dog...woulda served him right if I had, I remembered thinking later.

"He's not big on helping hands," a female voice said, and I noticed a woman—a very attractive woman, I remembered thinkin' to myself—coming down the stairs from the sleeping loft, pulling on a sweater. When I saw the color of her sweater—off-white—I knew she was connected to Michael somehow, but that didn't seem to bother String in the least. "But, I am," the woman said to me. She must have noticed my shocked expression, because she smiled at me and tried to take one of the bags I was carrying from me. I think two things had shocked me—number one, she was coming downstairs from the bedroom, and number two, she was pulling on her sweater—what in the heck had been DOING up there, for Pete's sake? I remember how she tried to take one of the bags from me, but I told her, "I don't believe in women's lib." I don't think she was too impressed by that, though, especially when I said, "I like the sexes the way God intended them." In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have said it, but Gabrielle didn't seem to be bothered by it.

But, I was sure impressed with her. I still laugh when I think about how String introduced her to me after she echoed my last statement, rather sarcastically—"The way God intended them." I was really feelin' embarrassed at that point, but String kinda bailed me out.

"I wouldn't press him, Gabrielle. You won't like the answers!" String said. And that's how I found out who she was. I have to say that I liked her immediately. Maybe a little on the skinny side, but I figured a little of my Italian cooking would fix that. And I could see the effect she had on String—a lot like the effect Caitlin has on him now, or at least, the effect she would have on him, if he'd just pull his head out of his behind and acknowledge it.

I really thought Gabrielle and String would get married someday—that is, until I saw her as a dancer in the Red Castle club in Libya, and String told me that Archangel had sent her to help us get Airwolf out. Then, we found Gabrielle in the desert, severely sun burned and, I could tell, almost dead of thirst. And, from the way what little clothing she was still wearing looked, I had to hazard a guess that she'd been raped, at least once, which really made my blood boil—so I could only imagine what String was thinking—and feeling—when he saw her. We knew how she'd gotten there—one of Airwolf's regular crew had said, "Moffet's got that dancing girl from the Red Castle staked out to a sand dune somewhere, torturing her!" We finally found her, but it was too late. She ended up dying in String's arms there in the Libyan desert, and he hasn't been the same since.

Sometimes I feel like it was my fault. I mean, if I could've figured out Airwolf's scanners a little faster, maybe we could've gotten to Gabrielle in time. I know it's water under the bridge now, but I still think about it every now and then, and beat myself up over it. String keeps tellin' me it wasn't my fault—and on the one hand, I believe him—Moffet's the one who captured Gabrielle and then tortured her there in the desert. But on the other hand, she was alive when we found her—and, if I'd been able to get those scanners workin' and find her just a few minutes quicker, then maybe we coulda gotten her to a hospital, or somethin', —and maybe she'd be alive and with String now. I know I shouldn't keep beating myself up over it, and String keeps tellin' me that, but I can't help how I feel.

So I guess I can understand why he's so hesitant to let Caitlin into his life, but what I don't get is why String can't understand what the word 'accident' means. I mean, he's seen the reports on both his parents' death, and Kelly's. Nobody could have stopped those accidents, and String coulda been killed, too. Now, as far as Saint John is concerned—and if String ever heard me say this, he'd hate me for the rest of his life—yeah, I worry about him, and I miss him, but we don't know where he is, dammit. I mean, he might be alive and living under an assumed name, or alive and still being held by the North Vietnamese, I dunno—or, he could be dead. But until we find out, completely, one way or the other, there's a part of me that thinks that String shouldn't use Saint John as part of this "curse" of his. Like I said, if String ever heard me say that, he'd probably hate me for the rest of his life, but it needed to be said.

As for Gabrielle, I've lost count of how many times I've tried to explain to String that Moffet was out of his mind. He woulda killed Gabrielle whether she and String were lovers or not—if he even knew that they were lovers. Come to think of it, I've probably said that to String at least as many times as he's tried to tell me Gabrielle's death wasn't my fault. Guess I'm tryin' to tell him that her death wasn't his fault, either. The problem is, neither one of us has been listening to the other—I haven't been listening to String, and I sure as hell know he's not listenin' to me. But, for whatever reason, String refuses to let go of these ghosts he's carrying, and I can already tell how much it's hurtin' Caitlin. I mean, I hate to admit it, but I've grown to love that little gal like she was my own daughter, and I'm not sure who String's attitude hurts more—Caitlin, or me.

But, I resolved something lying there in that bed—if we made it out of this alive, and String came back to us, I was gonna ask Cait what she meant when she said, "I care about him too, you know. Probably more than you know." Oh, I knew what I thought she meant, or at least, what I hoped she meant. I just didn't know if that actually was what she meant, if that makes any sense. And if she meant what I hoped, and thought she meant, then I'd do whatever I could to get her and String together.

Then, after we'd rescued String and were chasing down Horn, Caitlin said something else that got me thinking.

"I'll handle this, stay out of it. Horn's mine," String said coldly.

"I've got dibs on Angelica," Caitlin said, and her voice was colder than I'd ever heard it—even colder than String's. I don't think I've ever heard another human being sound that angry—or, that hurt. I remembered thinking to myself, 'why the heck would Cait call dibs on Angelica?' I had my suspicions, though—unless I missed my guess, I remembered thinking to myself later, Cait's jealous of Angelica. I knew String had been dating Angelica—John Bradford Horn's daughter—right before he was kidnapped—and, I had seen Cait's face a couple of times when String and Angelica left the hangar together. The phrase If looks could kill crossed my mind more than once—Cait's expression when she saw String and Angelica together was most definitely that of a very jealous woman, at least in my opinion.

A few weeks after we rescued String, Caitlin and I were alone in the hangar one morning while String was out doing some scouting for a shoot we had coming up, and I thought it'd be a good time to talk to Caitlin about what she'd said, and about some of the things I'd been wonderin' about.

"Cait," I said, not really sure where I was going, "can I talk to you for a sec?"

"Sure, Dom," she replied, with that "million-dollar smile" of hers. "What's up?"

"Well, do you remember what you said back in Archangel's limo?"

"You mean when I said I cared about String, too—probably more than you know, right?" she asked, and I saw the spark of recognition in her eyes.

"Yeah," I said, and my discomfort increased. "What exactly did you mean by that?" I asked her.

"Dom," she began, and I could tell she was as uncomfortable about this subject as I was, "I just—I meant that—geez, this is hard. I meant that I..." She stopped as her voice broke, and I saw tears coming into her blue-green eyes. When I saw her eyes fill with tears, I knew what she was trying to say. I knew it, I thought with an air of satisfaction. She loves him. Well, so much for not havin' any concrete evidence, I said to myself when I realized that her statement that day in Michael's limo had meant exactly what I thought it did—that Cait loved String, in a serious, romantic sort of way. Now, I've just gotta get String to realize it, and admit that he feels the same way about her, I thought.

"You meant that you love String, didn't you?" I asked, and saw the smile teasing the corners of her mouth.

"Yeah, Dom," she said, forcing her smile wider. "That's exactly what I meant. I mean—I realized when we got that tape, and learned that Hawke had been kidnapped, that I love Hawke, and that I have loved him for a long time. Probably ever since that kiss on the movie set last year."

I was stunned by this revelation, but not completely surprised. Like I said before, I've thought Caitlin had feelings for String that were more than just simple friendship. I smiled and nodded, saying, "And that's why you called 'dibs' on Angelica?"

"Yeah," Cait said, and her expression turned downright nasty. If looks could kill, I thought anxiously, I'd be dead on the floor right now. Thank goodness that look's meant for Angelica, and not me. Finally, I said, "Cait, look. It's not like I haven't had my thoughts about you and String, but do you really know what you're getting yourself into, feeling like that about him?"

"What?" Caitlin asked, surprised. "You mean that so-called curse of his?" I remembered having had a discussion with her about the curse String thought he had, shortly after she was rescued after the plane she'd taken to Texas was hijacked.

"Doesn't he get it, that if I hadn't known him, and you, Dom, when the plane got hijacked, that I'd be dead right now?" Caitlin demanded angrily.

"Cait," I said, trying to soothe her emotions, "I've been tryin' to tell String that ever since it happened. Not to mention what happened with Holly." I was referring to an incident shortly after Caitlin arrived here in California, when my niece, Holly Matthews, had tried to kill Cait because she wanted String for herself, and saw Caitlin as an obstacle. Holly was...well, she was nuts, to put it bluntly, and I haven't even thought about her since that psychiatrist came and picked her up. But now that I was being forced to think about it, I remembered something I thought before—even a crazy woman like Holly could see Caitlin cared about String as somethin' more than a friend. But then, what's that make me, if I couldn't see it? Then again, I couldn't see how nuts Holly was, either. Better question—what the hell does that make String, since HE obviously can't see how much Cait cares about him?

"Dom," Caitlin said, smiling, "it's okay. Sometimes women read things into other women that aren't really there. Even though in this case, it was."

"How the heck did you...oh, never mind," I said, surprised that Caitlin had somehow figured out what I was thinking. Although I really shouldn't be, I thought. She's a pretty smart cookie, along with being a great mechanic, so it's not all that surprising that she could figure out what I was thinkin'. Besides, it was probably written all over my face. And, I remembered when Cait was flyin' Carter Anderson III to that meeting, and got jumped by Robert Villers—the guy she happened to be dating at the time—and almost shot down. If String and I hadn't been waitin' with the Lady and gotten Cait's Mayday, Villers woulda killed all three of 'em, I thought, even as I considered the other side of that thought—of course, if she didn't know String, she probably wouldn't have even been workin' for me, and wouldn't even have been in that plane. And, I still remember what happened at String's cabin after it was all over...

String had taken his cello outside to play for awhile, and maybe try to cheer Cait up after what happened with Villers. I happened to listen to the conversation they were having.

"I'm through, Hawke. I'm through with people, with life, with work, with everything! That's IT!" I heard String play the beginning of a funeral dirge. "I'm gonna get on a plane, and I'm gonna just keep on goin' until the money runs out. Then I'm gonna walk! I'm never gonna stop long enough to get involved with anybody!" String played another melancholy snippet, one that I thought reflected Cait's mood perfectly.

"You think I'm runnin' away. That's what you really think." The snippet was a little more upbeat this time, and I swear, I heard Caitlin chuckle. Then, she said, "You came to my rescue again, didn't you?"

"Y'know, we really like having you around," String said, "but it wasn't us." Of course, I knew String had just lied right to Caitlin's face, but I also knew the reason why—we weren't completely convinced we could trust Cait—yet—and so String was determined to keep our Lady's existence secret for as long as possible.

That seemed to snap Cait right out of her funk. "Now, wait a minute! You wait just a minute! Do you mean that you're gonna sit there and tell me that I just imagined—well, that I didn't see—that there's no big, black helicopter? Now, can you do that?"

String chuckled and said, "I think she's feelin' better." I couldn't help but chuckle myself, as String played the opening bars of "The 1812 Overture." And Cait's facial expression said that she was pissed—which I could understand, given the circumstances, but I was still worried that Cait might take a swing at String—or, at me. It's all water under the bridge now, I guess, but it's still somethin' to think about.

Finally, I said, "Cait, don't worry. I give you my word—everything we've talked about today is strictly between you and me. I won't say a word to String."

"Thanks, Dom," Cait said. I knew she'd been worried that I'd say somethin' to String about what she and I were discussing—don't ask me how I knew—I just—did. But I knew I couldn't betray her confidence, and I wanted to make darned sure she understood that I'd keep her secret.

"Don't sweat it, sweetheart," I said, smiling at her.

Just then, I heard the Jeep pull into the hangar, and String got out.

"What's with all the long faces?" he asked.

"Nothing, String," I said, smiling at him. "Well, it's about closing time, so let's button this place up and get outta here, huh?" I hurried to finish the last few things I'd been working on and shut the hangar down, then String and I got into a chopper so I could fly him up to the cabin.

"So, everything look good for the shoot?" I asked, trying to keep the conversation business like.

"Yeah," String said, smiling; something he rarely does. "I can handle it myself. You and Caitlin don't even need to get involved." Then, I noticed his expression turn serious. "You got something else on your mind, Dom?" he asked, and I have to admit, I was more than a little startled.

"Nah," I said, hoping that String wouldn't pick up that I was fibbing. "Just a little worried about the location, that's all."

"Sure, Dom. Whatever you say," String said with a shake of his head. "Hey, what were you and Caitlin talking about when I came back?" I worried that maybe he'd figured out what we were talking about—and what his reaction might be.

"Nothing important," I said.

"You sure?" String asked, and I could tell he wasn't convinced. "Sure looked like it was important from where I stood. I haven't seen you two look that serious in a long time."

"String," I said, not sure how I'd keep the substance of our conversation secret, "it's nothing, okay?" I mean, I hated to lie to String like this, but I'd promised Caitlin that what we talked about would stay between us, and I wasn't about to go back on my promise, if I could help it.

"Whatever you say, Dom," String replied, and I knew from the tone of his voice that he wasn't convinced. By that time, thankfully, we'd arrived at String's cabin, and I landed on the dock so he could get out. Tet must be waitin' up by the cabin—or, he'sin the cabin, waitin' for String, I thought, noting that the dock was clear. So at least, I don't have to worry about landing on that sorry mutt.

"See ya in the mornin', String!" I shouted, waving at him as String climbed out and closed the door behind him.

"'Bye, Dom!" he shouted back, stepping back from the helicopter as I throttled it back up and headed back to the hangar, breathing a sigh of relief that String hadn't figured out what was really buggin' me, and I hoped like hell that he'd just leave it alone. But I know String—and I've got a bad feelin' he's not gonna leave it alone. Well, at least he'll be gone for a while tomorrow.

But that night as I drove home, before I went to bed, I thought about everything Caitlin had told me, and I realized why she called 'dibs' on Angelica—or at least, why I thought she called 'dibs' on Angelica—I actually was surprised I didn't think of it before. She thought String and Angelica—well—that they slept together. And, unless I missed my guess, Caitlin was jealous. Well, I thought as I went to bed that night, I can ask her about it in the morning after String takes off.

The next day, String had left to go do that shoot, and Caitlin and I were in the office alone again.

"Cait," I began, nervously, "when you called dibs on Angelica that time, were you thinkin' what I think you were?"

"Depends on what you thought I was thinkin', Dom," she said with her familiar million-dollar smile. "What exactly were you thinkin' I was thinkin', anyway?"

"Well," I said, now feeling extremely uncomfortable, and wishing I'd never brought it up, "I kinda thought you were thinkin' that String and Angelica had—well, you know..." I couldn't bring myself to finish my sentence, and I was embarrassed.

"Yeah, Dom," Caitlin said, and her expression told me all I needed to know. "I thought they'd slept together. I mean, I saw Angelica walk out of String's room, and she had this look on her face like she was extremely satisfied about somethin'. And I thought..." Now, it was Caitlin's turn to be embarrassed and not finish a sentence.

"Well, sweetheart," I said, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder, "I'll try to ask String about it sometime, but I'm not makin' any promises. He may not remember anything that happened before you gave him that antidote, y'know." Although, Cait said String remembered shooting me, so who knows? And, I'm gonna have to be real careful when I do ask him about it so that he doesn't figure out why Cait's wonderin' about it.

"Yeah, I know, Dom," Caitlin replied, patting my hand, "it just makes me angry, y'know?" I had to admit to myself that yes, I did know Caitlin was angry over what she thought might have happened in String's room. Hell, knowing how Cait feels about String, and knowing what she thought might've happened between him and Angelica, now I was angry. And, it just gave more weight to what I thought—correction—what I now knew Caitlin meant by "I care about him too, you know. Probably more than you know."

That night when I took String back to the cabin, I asked him, "String, when you were Horn's prisoner, did you and Angelica—you know—"I couldn't bring myself to finish my sentence, again.

"Did we—sleep together, you mean?" String asked, and I nodded, sheepishly. He thought about it for a few minutes, then replied, "Not that I remember. I mean, I remember when she came into my room, we kissed a couple of times—a little making out on top of my bed—nothin' that Kelly's dad never caught us doing on a Friday night at her parents' house, but I don't recall actually being in the bed with Angelica—and certainly not sleeping with her. Why would you ask me somethin' like that, anyway, Dom?"

Oh, boy, I thought, even as I stifled a smile, remembering how many times Kelly's dad had told me about catching String and Kelly in—shall we say, a compromising position—let's just say that String's damned lucky to still be alive. But, I knew I had to be real careful what I told String—'cause I already feel like I'm betraying Cait's confidence, even bringin' this up, I thought anxiously. Out loud, I said, "Well, Caitlin was kinda wondering about that. You remember when she called dibs on Angelica?"

"Yeah," String said, and I could tell he was surprised at the direction the conversation was taking. "But why would Caitlin care whether Angelica and I slept together?"

"I dunno, String," I said, even though I knew perfectly well why Caitlin cared about it. Another fib I sure hope String never catches on to, I thought, even more anxiously this time—because I knew if he did figure out that I was fibbing him, String would probably never speak to me, or Cait, again, I thought to myself. Aloud, I said, "Maybe—maybe she was worried about you. Or maybe it was somethin' else, I dunno. But, c'mon, String. You can't tell me you've never noticed how attractive Cait is," I said, trying to change the subject.

"If I said I hadn't, you'd call me a liar, wouldn't you?" String asked me.

"You're darned right I would, buddy boy," I said, smiling at him.

"Yeah, Dom. I have noticed," String said resignedly, and I thought that maybe—just maybe—he was starting to acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla in the chopper with us. Hah. In the chopper, the hangar—hell, it'd be in the cabin if String would let it, I said to myself. I found myself hoping against hope, again, that String was thinking about Caitlin as more than just the friend—make that the good friend—that he already thought of her as.

His next words torpedoed that idea. "Dom, I can't think of Caitlin like that. I mean—she's my friend, yeah—and I care about her like that. But you know it can't be more than that. Especially not with..." Don't ask me why, but I totally lost my temper. Completely, totally lost it. Worse than I'd ever gotten angry at either String or Saint John.

"Oh, for the love of God, String!" I shouted. "Doesn't the word accident mean anything to you? I've looked over the reports on both your parents' accident and the one that killed Kelly, and so have you! And there was nothing—nothing, do you hear me, about either of those that was your fault! Now, Gabrielle, fine. If you wanna keep carrying the torch for her, that's your business, I guess—but, lemme tell you this, String. I know I've said this before, but this time, you're gonna listen to me, dammit! Moffet was out of his mind. A couple bricks short of a full load, cuckoo as a Swiss clock, goofy as a pet coon, or whatever the hell other cute little phrases you wanna use. Do you really think he killed Gabrielle just because you two were lovers, for God's sake? Do you think he even knew about you two? I suppose that's why he killed Angela, all those people at Red Star, the crew on that Navy destroyer, not to mention those Mirage pilots! I guess those were all your fault, too, huh?"

"Besides which," I continued before String could say anything, "do we really know, one way or the other, that Saint John is dead?" I stopped at that point, knowin' that my Italian temper had run away with me again—and, between that and my big mouth, I thought worriedly, you're probably gonna hate me for the rest of my life for sayin' that, String, but it had to be said. So whatever you do, I'm okay with it.

When he didn't answer me right away, I got worried. Finally, String sighed and said, "Yeah, Dom—you're right. We don't know what's going on with Saint John." I quietly breathed a sigh of relief, and just as I was about to say something, String continued.

"And, you're right about Moffet too. Gabrielle told me the same thing when I found her in that dressing room at the Red Castle. She told me that Moffet stole Airwolf and took her to Libya so he could do exactly what he wanted with women. And, there was no way he knew Gabrielle and I were seeing each other," String continued, and I had to wonder if String wasn't slowly coming around to mycorrection—our way of thinking. Caitlin's and mine, that is. By this time, we'd arrived at String's cabin, and just before he got out, I laid my hand on his shoulder and said, "String. I'm—I'm sorry for yelling at ya before. I shouldn't have done that."

"Well," String replied, "maybe. Then again, maybe that was somethin' I've needed to hear for a long time. I'll—I'll see ya in the mornin', Dom," he continued, opening the co-pilot's door and stepping out, closing the door behind him.

As I flew back to the hangar, I thought about String's last words to me. Maybe. Then again, maybe that was somethin' I've needed to hear for a long time. Well, that's—encouraging, at least, I thought as I got ready to land the copter back at the hangar. I hoped String really had heard me and actually listened to what I'd said. And, I'd completely forgotten something—String owes Caitlin his life. If she hadn't found him and injected him with that antidote, then all three of us probably woulda been killed when Michael ordered the strike against Horn's fortress—I still remember him saying, "I'm giving you 48 hours, and then I'm hitting that location with everything I've got." And having seen Zebra Squad, the FIRM's special assassination unit, work up close and personal, I don't doubt that we all woulda been dead, and Airwolf blown into about a million little pieces, after that raid.

I gotta admit, I was more nervous when I flew up to the cabin the next morning than I've been in a long time. I didn't know what sort of mood String would be in when he came out, and I didn't want to take any chances, so I waited in the chopper for him, instead of walking up to the door to meet him, like I usually do. When I finally saw him come out, I didn't notice anything in his expression that said he was mad at me...but then again, he didn't seem himself, if that makes any sense. He climbed into the chopper without saying a word and strapped himself in, and we lifted off to head back to the hangar.

"Dom," String said after about twenty minutes, "you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, String," I said. "I was about to ask you the same question."

"Yeah, I'm okay, Dom," String replied.

"Look, String," I said hesitantly, "I'm—I'm sorry about what happened yesterday. I said it before. I shouldn't have yelled at you like I did, and, well... "

"Dom," String interrupted, surprising me, "I told you yesterday that I think what you said was something I needed to hear for a long time. I did a lot of thinking last night about what you said, Dom. And, I think things are gonna be different," he said, mysteriously.

"Different?" I echoed, surprised. "In what way, String?" I didn't really expect an answer, and wasn't surprised not to get one. I knew from lookin' at him that String was in his "deep in thought" mode, and probably didn't even hear my question, so I decided to drop the subject. Then, without warning, he turned to me and said, "'Goofy as a pet coon,' Dom?"

I laughed and said, "Heard that on TV somewhere, but it fit Moffet, don'cha think?"

"Yeah, Dom," String said. "It sure did."

When we got to the hangar, neither String nor I was surprised that Caitlin was already there, and everything was open for business. She was standing outside, like she usually does, and she waved as she saw us climb out of the chopper, like has happened a million times before since she came to us.

But all of a sudden, I turned and noticed String doing something he'd only done on a few rare occasions—he was smiling at Caitlin. And then, completely out of the blue, he said, "Mornin,' Cait." Just like that—without me having to prompt him with a stiff elbow to the ribs, like happens most of the time. He's never done that before, I said to myself, and I could tell by Caitlin's expression that she was even more startled at String's greeting than I was.

"Mornin', Hawke," Caitlin finally stammered, and I noticed she looked like she was about to faint. Easy, sweetheart, I thought anxiously.

"Cait? You okay?" String asked her, and now I was really surprised. String never did that before, I thought, surprised. I couldn't help but remember what he'd said on the way in. And I think things are gonna be different, he'd said. Well, I said to myself, you're certainly starting off a lot differently than I ever expected, String, and I think Cait notices it too. All the same, I was countin' my blessings that the doc had given me a clean bill of health a couple of days ago—what I just saw—and heard—coulda given me a heart attack, I remembered thinkin' to myself. I tried to temper my excitement, but I knew I was failing—miserably. I just hope it ain't too obvious to String and Cait, I thought.

"Yeah. I'm fine, Hawke," Caitlin replied. "Just a little surprised. You don't usually say 'good morning' first, y'know." And boy, did I know that was right. I think I could count the number of times String's said 'good morning' to Caitlin first, and without me having to elbow him in the ribs to do it, on the fingers of one hand, and still have fingers left over. Mama Mia, I thought excitedly, I think it might have worked! But, I also knew String like the back of my hand. He could flip out and go back to silent mode any second. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

I felt another major pang of regret for the way I'd yelled at String yesterday—but then, I remembered what he'd said then, and again this morning. What you said was something I needed to hear for a long time.

"String?"

"Yeah?" he answered me later in the afternoon.

"When you said that yesterday—you know...about what I said being something you've needed to hear for a long time—how many times have I tried to tell you the exact same thing?" I asked him, knowing it was a rhetorical question. If I had a dollar for every time I have tried to tell him that, Santini Air would be a much more upscale operation...I can guarantee that. And, he didn't seem to notice how excited I'd gotten when he'd said hello to Cait when we got to the hangar. Either that, or he did notice, and he's not letting it get to him, I thought.

"Dom," String replied, "I know how you've tried to get me to see sense about Cait practically since the day she got here, and I've been blowing you off most of the time. Especially after the hijacking." I could still remember what happened when Caitlin hung up the phone after talking to her mother.

"Y'know, maybe—maybe your mommy's right," I said. "You should be lookin' out for your future! And, there's a lot of guys out there."

"Oh, yeah? Where?" Caitlin had demanded. I simply pointed at String and said, "Well! Huh?"

I thought Caitlin was gonna die of embarrassment right there, but she didn't. Another little clue how she felt about him, even though that was about a year before String was kidnapped by Horn. "Yeah. I have been kinda pushing that, and, I'm sorry, String," I said. "But, String...you and I know I'm not gonna live forever...and it'd be nice if—twenty years or so from now, when it is my time to go—it'd be nice if I knew there was somebody here lookin' after you, y'know?" And if that somebody happened to be Caitlin, then so much the better, I thought, even as I wondered what was goin' on in String's head.

String laughed, something I hadn't seen or heard him do a lot of, until recently. "Twenty years, huh, Dom?" Then he turned serious. "I know what you mean, Dom. And I appreciate it. But let's not get carried away here, okay? You know me better than anybody. I've got a lot of issues to work through, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, I do know that, String," I said, and embraced him. "And I'll—I'll try to be patient, and not push you so hard, okay?"

"Okay, Dom," String said, and we left it at that for the day.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I definitely noticed a change in String. I mean, he was smiling almost constantly now, and he and Caitlin were growing closer all the time—so much so that when he finally asked her out on a real date, one night after we closed up the hangar, I had to ask him what had taken him so long.

"Dom," he had replied, "you know I was always the stubborn one."

Boy, did I know that, I said to myself. "Well, String," I said out loud, "I'm just glad you finally came to your senses, y'know?"

"Yeah, Dom," he replied. "I do know." I have to admit, I watched String and Cait walk out to one of my Jeeps, and I felt a surge of pride when I saw String open Cait's door for her, just like I taught him, and Alan had before that. Heck, I remember String as a kid opening doors for his mother, after Alan and I taught him that a gentleman always opens doors for a lady, especially a lady important to him. Okay, Cait's not really String's lady—yet—but it sure looks like it's headed in that direction, I thought excitedly, even as I allowed myself a moment of pride at String's actions, since Alan and I both taught him that. We raised him right, Alan old buddy, I thought proudly, even as I wiped a tear out of my eye as I thought about my best friend, and what he and Jane must have been thinkin', if they could see what was happening. I sure hope you and Jane are happy, buddy. Because I sure am. But I'll bet neither one of us is as happy as Caitlin, I thought.

But the real show happened when String and Cait came back. I heard the Jeep pull up, and tried to make myself look busy, shining a spot on 4-4 Charlie, but I was really watchin' String and Cait out of the corner of my eye, and they didn't disappoint me. I watched String and Cait walk arm-in-arm to her car, and then just before String opened her door for her, he kissed her. And this wasn't a friendly peck on the cheek, like I've seen String give Cait a thousand times. This one looked like the type of kiss Kelly's dad used to tell me about catching String doin' with Kelly—the ones that coulda gotten him killed. Or, it looked like the one he finally gave Cait on that movie set, after that director practically twisted poor String's arm off to do it right. Too bad that movie director ain't out there, I thought, remembering how hard he had to push String and Cait to make their kiss more "realistic." 'Cause what I'm seein' is about as real as you can get, I thought excitedly. And once again, I felt myself wondering whether Alan and Jane could see what was goin' on—and I got the funniest feeling that if they could see it, they were as happy as two peas in a pod, or somethin' like that. And I'm absolutely thrilled, I thought happily, even as I began worryin' about both String and Cait—c'mon, you two, breathe, for Pete's sake! I thought, suddenly growing anxious. When String and Cait finally separated, just from the looks on both their faces, I knew a miracle had happened. He finally acknowledged the obvious—how much Cait loves him, and that he loves her, too, I thought, relieved, as Cait got into her car and drove off, and I saw String walking towards me.

"Did you two kids have a nice time?" I asked String as we climbed in the helicopter and I started up the engine.

"Yeah, Dom," String said, shaking his head, "we did. And we each learned something."

"What would that be, String?" I asked, even though I was hoping—and praying—that I knew the answer. I mean, I thought, based on what I'd seen just before Cait left, that String had finally seen the light and told Cait he loved her, and that Cait had finally been able to tell String that she loved him, just like she'd told me in the hangar the other day, and in a roundabout way, what she'd said that day in Michael's limo the day we met to plan out how we were gonna rescue String, but I wasn't about to assume anything. Because if I was wrong, I'd end up lookin' like a complete ass, and even though String was the only one who woulda seen it, I still didn't like the thought—besides which, if I was wrong, String would never let me hear the end of it.

"We both learned that we love each other," String said, smiling. I got so excited, I darned near lost control of the helicopter. Thank goodness String's ready to take control if I do lose it, I thought, but I stayed in control, even as my excitement finally got the better of me.

"YEE-HAA!" I shouted, grinning. "Oh, String, that's a load off my mind!"

"Well, Dom," String said, trying to caution me, "let's not be too hasty. I mean, you know me better than anybody—you know that I've got a lot of issues to work through, right?"

"Yeah, yeah," I said. I hoped my tone of voice didn't make String think I was brushing his comments aside—I wasn't—so I added, "But at least, now, you've got somebody to work through those issues with you, String. That's gotta make you feel good."

"It does, Dom," String said as we landed on the dock back at the cabin. I couldn't help but notice a certain expression in String's eyes as he got out of the helicopter and stepped back so I could head back to the hangar. If I'm not mistaken, he's lonely, I thought, and wondered as I flew back—how long is it gonna be before Cait moves into the cabin with String? Or at least until she starts spendin' her nights with him, I thought.I have to admit, I was grinning like the cat that ate the canary, all the way home, I was so happy. Finally, String's taken the chance to love somebody again, I thought excitedly, remembering how guarded he'd been with his emotions after Gabrielle was killed. Sure, he had a few flings, but nothin' serious, until now, I thought, remembering how they'd looked when they were kissing out in front of the hangar. Don't ask me why, but I got the funniest feelin' that there was gonna be a wedding in the future. The not-too-distant future, I'll bet, I thought happily as I fell asleep that night.

Six months later...

I cannot believe this is happening, I thought happily as I watched Saint John fixing String's tie in the bedroom of the cabin, before he married Caitlin. Not only is String getting married—which I never thought would happen after Gabrielle got killed—but, Saint John's here to see it. Saint John had come back to us about five months ago, and told String and me that he'd been recruited by another division of the CIA to work in "hotspots" around the world—not too much different from what String, Caitlin, and I were doing with Michael's FIRM. Saint John also told us that the unit he was leading was classified Top Secret Umbra, which he explained as the highest security classification in the country. Once I'd heard that, I knew why String had so much difficulty finding out where Saint John was, and what he was doing. But, some people from the FIRM had caught up with Saint John and convinced him to come home, saying that his services were no longer required. String hadn't been too crazy about the idea that his older brother was working undercover for so long, but Caitlin and I finally got him to understand why Saint John chose to do it. And after a couple of knock-down, drag-out screaming matches that I unfortunately had to referee, they made their peace about a month before String proposed to Cait.

The night String proposed, now that was a night I'll never forget as long as I live—and, I'm sure I'll be tellin' Alan and Jane about it, if I see them again someday after I'm gone. I remember String telling me that he'd invited Caitlin's mom, and her older sister Erin, out to California for something, but he wouldn't tell me what, even the day they showed up at the hangar. I have to admit, though, that I kinda got a suspicion when String pulled me aside and told me to take Cait's mom and sister up to the cabin, and to stay, 'cause I'd be makin' dinner for everybody that night. But I sure as hell wasn't about to assume anything, especially where String's concerned, 'cause you know what they say about "assuming" things—and the last thing I wanted was to be wrong, and look like an ass in front of String, Caitlin, and her family, so I kept quiet. String and Cait came up a couple of hours later, and I could tell from her expression that Caitlin didn't have a clue what was going on in String's head, either. But I also knew something else—the minute Cait saw her mom and sister, she got worried sick. I was just wishing I knew what the heck was goin' on, so I could ease Caitlin's mind a little bit. And mine, I remembered thinking later. I mean, even when Maggie and Erin had arrived at the hangar, I had to tell them that I didn't have a clue why String had flown them out here from Texas, and all I knew was that I'd be flying them up to String's cabin after we closed down. As we flew up to the cabin, Maggie and Erin were talkin' about why they thought this was happening, and I got the distinct impression that they both were wondering if String was gonna propose tonight. That makes three of us, I thought, confused.

I remember as we sat down to dinner, I thought to myself, String, you're not gonna...are you? Don't ask me why, but I got the funny feelin' that String was gonna ask Cait to marry him. I don't know where that came from—but it seemed to fit—he flew Caitlin's mom and big sister—the only family she's got left—out to California from Texas, then invited us all up to the cabin, So what the heck else could he be planning? But I knew that look I saw on String's face as he and I cleared the table—he wasn't talking, and if I had asked him about it, I knew I woulda been taking my life into my own hands. And String made us wait until after we'd had dinner to spring his surprise on us—first, he asked me to fix everybody a glass of champagne, which surprised me, then he unveiled his little surprise when he got down on one knee and asked Caitlin to marry him. Now I know why Mama always said I never woulda made it as a doctor, I thought, 'cause I've got no patients—err—patience. I remember the look on Cait's mom's face—Other than Caitlin, I don't think I've ever seen anybody happier—well, except maybe me, but I couldn't exactly see my own face. Later on, when I got ready to take Maggie and Erin back to the hangar so they could catch a cab back to their hotel, I almost asked Cait if she was coming with us, but I caught something in her eyes that said she had other ideas. Yeah, right, Santini, I thought, stifling a laugh. No way she's comin' back with you. In fact, don't be surprised if she moves in here permanently. Which she did, the next day, after she confirmed my suspicions—that she and String had slept together. Why am I not surprised? I thought, knowing that Alan and Jane had done somethin' similar after they got engaged. Like father, like son, I thought with a silent chuckle.

Now, as String and Caitlin stood in front of a judge on the dock at the cabin and took their wedding vows, along with Saint John and me, Michael, Marella, and Caitlin's mother Maggie and older sister Erin, I couldn't help but think about how Caitlin had dropped that bombshell on me almost a year previous, when she said, "Dom, don't do that to me. I care about him, too, you know. Probably more than you know." Well, Mrs. Hawke, I thought, smiling, as String and Caitlin kissed each other for the first time as husband and wife, if I didn't know what you meant that day in Michael's limo, I sure as hell know now. And I gotta thank God for letting me live long enough to see this day. I felt like God could take me right then, but I changed my mind, and hoped like heck that he wouldn't. I wanna see my grandkids, if that's okay with you, God, I thought happily when I fell asleep that night. A couple of kids with Cait's red hair and String's eyes—yeah—that'd make everything just about perfect, I thought as I fell asleep. I thought about how I'd seen String and Cait's relationship grow ever since he finally acknowledged how he felt about her, and I realized that String and Cait loved each other the same way that Alan and Jane had. Which doesn't surprise me in the least, I thought, happier than I've felt in a long time. I'm just glad I got to see this happen, like I said before. And I knew that String was finally, and truly, happy—and that made me happy.