If The FIRM Wanted Me To Have a Wife, Chap. 1
A/N—First of all, gotta thank VIDZ for permission to "Airwolf-ize" his great story If The Navy Wanted Me to Have a Wife. As usual, DPB or Universal owns the series, the characters, etc., I'm just taking them out to play again. As to a time frame, this will be set after the S3 episode Fortune Teller, and includes, once again, my character of Judge Ronald Clevenger.
A/N #2—Thanks as always go to Riabhach, Sirius7, Ms. Anonymous, jareya, bamboozlepig, and OldSFfan for their reviews/feedback.
Summary—Michael overhears a comment Hawke never meant anyone to hear.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen," Stringfellow Hawke said as he surveyed the gathering in the living room of his cabin—his surrogate father and mentor Dominic Santini, their co-worker Caitlin O'Shannessy, Archangel, and Marella—who all met after the completion of a successful mission for the FIRM, "I don't know about any of you, but I'm glad that whole mess is behind us, and that everybody's okay."
"You and me both, String," Dom piped up from behind the bar. "I was beginning to worry that we might not get there in time. Bobby's drawing really saved our tails—and his father's."
"You can say that again, Dom," String replied, smiling at his friend and mentor. After rescuing Robert Phelps from a group that was trying to steal his advanced aircraft designs, Hawke had invited the team up to the cabin for dinner to celebrate the fact that Robert had been reunited with his son Bobby a few days ago. Hawke smiled as he recalled how Bobby's drawing of the house where he'd been held had allowed them to rescue his father.
"Hey, I got an idea," Dom said. "Bobby, you saw the front of that house when they brought you there, didn't you?"
"You think you could draw it for me?"
"I need a paper!"
"No, no...I want you to take that graphic pad with the light pen, and you draw it right on there. I can see it right back here, on my monitor. Can you do that for me?" Bobby smiled under his flight helmet as Hawke handed the pad and light pen to him.
"Sure, I got one at home!"
"Great idea, Dom," String had said from the commander's chair. "We'll do a horizontal scan."
A few minutes later, Bobby finished his sketch.
"This is the house."
It hadn't taken long for Airwolf's scanners to find a match to Bobby's drawing, and for Dom to locate Robert and revive him. A few days later, Hawke smiled as he glanced at the pencil sketch Bobby had drawn for him and given to him at the clinic where Robert was recuperating. "You look good smiling!" Bobby had said, and Caitlin had given Bobby a look that seemed to say, "You're darned right he does!"
"How're they doing?" Hawke asked. "Bobby and Robert, I mean."
"Robert got out of the hospital yesterday," Michael said, smiling. "He and Bobby were headed up to Crystal Lake to go fishing, like he said that day at the clinic." Hawke nodded as he recalled hearing Robert say he was excited to be fishing with a full-fledged hero. "I'm surprised you didn't invite them up here to fish, Hawke."
"Guess I didn't think about it, Michael," Hawke replied as Caitlin and Marella walked away from the group to talk privately, while Dom and Hawke remained in the living room. Dom had something that had been on his mind ever since they'd rescued Robert and Bobby Phelps, and decided it was time to talk frankly with String about it.
"Y'know, String," Dom said, "I've been thinking...seeing how close Robert came to dying really made me stop and think about things...Robert's a lot younger than I am, y'know...and it'd just make me feel a whole lot better if...if I knew that there was somebody around who'd take care of you when I'm gone." Dom cast a glance towards where Caitlin and Marella stood talking, a gesture that Hawke did not fail to notice.
Not again, Dom! Hawke said to himself, sighing. He recalled Dom saying how Caitlin was "kinda cute," a year previously, after they'd first met her in Pope County, Texas, and the myriad of times Dom had tried to get Hawke to see Caitlin as something more than the good friend he already considered her to be. I'm not getting into this with you, Dom, Hawke said to himself.
"Dom," Hawke said, shaking his head, "I'm not getting into this with you again. You're still here, so I've got somebody to take care of me...and I like my life just the way it is. Plus..." Hawke stopped himself before he mentioned the curse he felt like he had on himself—that everyone he loved, or might love, would die. There's no way I want to add Caitlin to that list, Hawke said to himself, even as he noticed Dom's expression turn to one of anger.
Oh, for cryin' out loud, not that tired old excuse again! Dom shouted to himself, careful to keep himself from exploding. I'm really getting sick of that, String. Of course, he knew about Hawke's parents, Alan and Jane, and how they were killed in a boating accident out on the lake when Hawke was twelve years old. Then Hawke's girlfriend Kelly was killed in a car accident right before he and Saint John were supposed to have shipped out for Vietnam. And, his older brother Saint John had disappeared when he wasn't picked up after he and String went down on the same mission...but we don't know where Sinj is, String, Dom said to himself angrily, so as far as I'm concerned, he doesn't count! Dom knew that, if he ever said that aloud, String would probably hate him forever, so he kept his thoughts about String's older brother to himself...even though I know it's the truth, Dom said to himself.
Dom remembered Gabrielle Ademaur, the pilot who had flown Michael up to the cabin two years ago, to inform Hawke of Moffet's theft of Airwolf. I really thought those two were gonna get married, Dom said, before he remembered seeing her laying in the middle of the Libyan desert, severely sunburned and nearly dead of thirst. If I'd just been able to figure out those scanners a little bit quicker, Dom had said later, we might've been able to save her.
"Besides," Hawke said with a touch of humor in his voice, "you know the old saying—if the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would've assigned me one!" Out of the corner of his eye, Dom saw Michael react to Hawke's statement. I wonder...Dom said to himself.
"If the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would've assigned me one!" Hawke said, unaware that Michael had heard him. Actually, the old saying is, 'If the Navy wanted me to have a wife...' but you know something, Stringfellow Hawke? That's a terrific idea, Michael said to himself, turning to subtly glance outside at Caitlin and Marella. And I think I know the perfect candidate. Hell, she already cares about him. That much, I know. He subtly walked outside, along with Lauren, his pilot, curious to know what the other two ladies were talking about.
"Marella, you know what I mean," Caitlin was saying. "I've felt like that about String for a long time, I think ever since I came here from Texas lookin' for him. And when he kissed me on that movie set last year, I really thought String felt somethin' more than just friendship for me." She sighed and shook her head. "But who am I kidding, anyway? It doesn't matter how much I love String...he doesn't feel the same way about me, so I'm just kidding myself if I keep wishin' for something else." Michael was stunned, but not too surprised, at Caitlin's words. That just confirms what I suspected...she loves him. And, in my opinion, Cait would be good for Hawke. Well, Caitlin, Michael said to himself, be careful what you wish for. He silently turned and walked back to the cabin, plotting his next moves.
"String," Dom was saying, "why do you keep kicking yourself over Gabrielle, anyway? How many times have I told you, Moffet was out of his mind? Even if he did know you two were seeing each other, that's not why he killed her, for God's sake!"
"Dom's right, Hawke," Michael piped up. "Moffet would have killed anyone he perceived to be a threat, no matter who they were involved with. Remember, he almost killed me, Marella, Lauren, and everyone at Red Star the day he stole Airwolf." Michael glanced over at Hawke, and was not surprised to see Hawke's face darkening.
Whose side are you on, anyway, Michael? Hawke thought angrily. "I know, Michael," Hawke said out loud, and Archangel relaxed...just a bit. "But, it's really none of your business, you know." Hawke continued, glowering at the older man.
"I know, Hawke," Michael said, turning as Caitlin and Marella came back into the cabin. "Just...think about what I said, will you?"
"Sure, Michael," Hawke said with a shake of his head. "I'll...I'll think about it."
For his part, Hawke hoped Dom hadn't picked up on the sadness that was behind his statement. Sure, I've dated a few women, Hawke said to himself, but never anything serious. And, even though I'd never admit this to Dom, especially after I said that I liked my life the way it is...sometimes, I do get a little lonely. It...it might be nice to have someone. But who am I kidding? With all the baggage I've got, who'd want me? Hawke thought.
Caitlin noticed Hawke's expression just then, and guessed what he was thinking. Oh, String...don't you know how badly I want you? Even with all those ghosts from your past you carry around, there's nothin' I'd love more than to be your wife, if you'd ever pull your head outta your ass and realize how I feel about you? How much I love you, Stringfellow Hawke. Just then, Michael walked up and said, "Caitlin, could I speak with you a moment?" He led her outside for a few moments, and Hawke saw them walk out, wondering what Michael could be talking to Caitlin about that he wasn't involved in. A few minutes later, though, Michael and Caitlin walked back into the cabin, Caitlin wearing a very satisfied grin on her face. When Hawke asked her what she was smiling about, Caitlin replied, "Nothing much, String," and left it at that.
As Lauren, Marella, and Michael got up to leave later that evening, Michael leaned close to Caitlin and whispered, "Marella will see you in the morning." Caitlin nodded, subtly, and hoped that Hawke hadn't heard anything. As she and Dom left to go back to the hangar, Caitlin said, "Dom, I may not be at the hangar when you and String get there tomorrow. Somethin', somethin' came up."
Dom gazed at her, realized she wasn't talking beyond that, and said, "Okay, Cait...we'll hold the fort down when we get there, until you get back from whatever it is you're doing." Caitlin hated not being totally honest with the man who had become like a second father to her, but she felt like she didn't have a choice. Michael said to keep it quiet, Caitlin thought to herself as the helicopter landed back at the hangar, and she got into her car to drive home. Inside, though, she was a bundle of nerves at the thought of what Michael had told her. Knowing she couldn't drive home just yet because of the thoughts going through her mind, she sat for a few minutes and thought over what she and Michael had discussed.
"Caitlin," Michael began, "Hawke just made a...very interesting comment."
"Oh, really?" Caitlin asked. "What'd he say this time?"
Michael smiled. "Well, he and Dom were talking about the future...and how Dom wished there were someone around to take care of Hawke when..." He couldn't continue, but Caitlin instinctively knew what he was talking about. When Dom dies, Caitlin said to herself, then pulled herself back to the present when she heard Michael speaking again.
"Anyway," Michael continued, "Hawke said, and I quote, 'Besides, you know the old saying—if the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would've assigned me one!' Now, this may well be one of the craziest ideas I've ever had...but..."
Caitlin thought she'd explode, right then and there. "You're gonna assign someone to marry String?" She demanded, and Michael hoped Hawke hadn't heard her outburst.
"Well, in a manner of speaking, yes," Michael said, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "What I'm suggesting, Caitlin; I overheard you talking to Marella a few minutes ago, and I caught your expression back at the clinic when Bobby gave String his drawing. It's obvious to me how you feel about Hawke, and I have to say, you might be just the person to prove to him that this 'curse' of his doesn't really exist, so I was wondering if..."
Caitlin's expression turned from anger to shock. "Wait a second, Michael. You're not sayin' that you're gonna...order String to marry me?" While the thought of being married to Hawke was something Caitlin had thought about more frequently over the past few weeks, especially after she almost lost him to John Bradford Horn, she wasn't sure if this was the way she wanted it to happen.
"Not in so many words, Caitlin," Michael had said. "Hawke said the FIRM would assign him a wife, so, if you both are agreeable to this...assignment..."
Caitlin thought about it...for about two seconds. "Michael, if this idea of yours works...and String doesn't decide to kill both of us, then next to String, you'll be my favorite person in this whole world," she said, smiling as she hugged him. I don't want to think about what might happen if this doesn't work, Michael said to himself, as his jaw ached from where String had punched him two years ago, after learning that Gabrielle was being sent to Libya.
"Of course, you'll be free to invite anyone you wish to witness the ceremony. In fact, once you two decide when you'd like to be married, just let me know, and my friend, Judge Ronald Clevenger, will perform the ceremony." Caitlin had smiled, knowing that this impromptu "assignment", if everything went as smoothly as Michael seemed to think it would, would give her the man of her dreams...forever.
Finally, she started her car and headed for home, anxious and hopeful all at the same time. As she drove, however, Caitlin couldn't help but feel a growing sense of dread over what Michael had said. Sure, if it works...I'll get everything I ever wanted, she said to herself when she got home. But if Hawke balks at the idea...he'll never speak to Michael...or me...again. And I just couldn't handle that. I—I don't even want to think about it, she said to herself later that evening when she climbed into bed. I'll just have to think positive, and hope for the best.
The next morning, when Hawke and Dom arrived at the hangar, Dom was not surprised to see that Caitlin hadn't arrived yet. "Where's Cait?" Hawke asked.
"Oh, she said she might be runnin' a little late today," Dom said, shaking his head as he and String opened up the hangar. "Said somethin' came up when we were flyin' back last night." String replied, "Okay, Dom. Whatever you say."
Meanwhile, at Knightsbridge, Caitlin had arrived and was discussing the plan with Marella and Michael. "It's not that I don't want to marry him, Marella...it's just..."
"I think I understand," Marella said, smiling. "You're worried about Hawke not going along with this idea...aren't you?"
"You guessed it," Caitlin said, nodding. "I mean...this idea of Michael's sounded great last night...but when I got home, I started worryin' about what's gonna happen today...and I think if things don't go the way Michael thinks they will, then I'm gonna probably pack up my stuff and go home...to Texas. I just...I couldn't stay here, knowing..." She felt her nerves getting the best of her again, and Marella tried to soothe her friend's worries.
"Cait, relax," Marella said, bringing over a cup of tea. "I don't know why...but I think everything's going to be just fine." Caitlin smiled nervously and accepted the tea, wondering what was going on back at the hangar. What's Hawke gonna say when the limo gets there? Caitlin asked herself, even as she tried to force herself to relax.
A few minutes later, String was surprised to see the FIRM's limousine pull up and Lauren step out, smiling at String and Dom.
"Mr. Hawke, Mr. Santini, Michael wants you at Knightsbridge right away." Lauren said, gesturing to the open door of the limo. Silently, both men climbed into the limo for the ride to Michael's headquarters.
"Lauren, what's this all about?" Hawke demanded. "And why didn't we wait for Caitlin?"
"That's for Michael to say," Lauren replied, and the conversation ended at that, much to Hawke's frustration.
By the time they'd reached Michael's office, Hawke was fuming, and Dom was more than a little concerned...and confused. "All right, Michael," Hawke said as they marched into his office, "what's so all-fired important that...?" He stopped as he recognized Caitlin standing a little ways away from Michael. "Cait? What are you doing here? And...how the hell did you get here before us?"
"Hawke," Michael began, sensing Cait's nervousness, "last night at the cabin, you said something...very interesting to Dominic." Hawke froze as he recalled the words he was afraid Michael was about to turn on him. "Besides...if the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would've assigned me one!"
Aw, no, Hawke said to himself. I didn't know Michael heard me say that. When am I ever gonna learn to keep my big mouth shut? He suddenly recalled seeing Marella whispering something to Caitlin before they all left last night, and recalled Dom telling him that Cait had said she had something to do this morning. Marella must've picked Cait up before we got to the hangar, Hawke said to himself, those pieces of the mystery falling into place.
"Hawke," Michael continued, "after what you said yesterday, the FIRM has decided that...you need a wife. So..." He glanced at Caitlin, who shyly moved towards them. "Since you two already know each other, and from what I've been told, there's definite attraction beyond simple friendship, I think it's only right..."
"Michael," Hawke said, the hostility in his voice obvious to everyone in the room, "are you ordering me to marry Cait?"
Marella suddenly recalled her words to Caitlin earlier—I don't know why...but I think everything's going to be just fine. However, as she glanced at Hawke, she said to herself, I may end up eating those words...Hawke's got a look on his face that could burn through lead. She pulled herself back into the conversation when she heard Michael answer Hawke.
Michael shook his head, remembering what Caitlin had told him. "Not so much an order, Hawke. I'd like you to think of this as an "assignment"...one that I think you'd be foolish to refuse." He glanced over at Caitlin and saw the combination of nerves, and her love for Hawke, evident in her blue-green eyes.
"So," Michael continued, "you two are to get married ASAP, and...at some point...start working on a future Airwolf pilot or crewmember," Michael said, noting the look of embarrassment that came over Caitlin's face.
"String," Dom cautioned, noticing his friend's expression, "I had nothing to do with this...you know that, right?"
"Yeah, Dom, I know," String sighed, then added, "And I don't blame you." If anything, I blame myself, Hawke grumbled quietly. It was my big mouth that started this whole mess. He turned on Michael. "All right, Michael. If that's the way you're gonna play it..." He stopped as Caitlin walked up to him, and stared deep into his eyes.
"String," she began nervously, "There's...somethin' I've been meaning to tell you for the longest time...but I never found the right way to say it. But now," she paused for a minute, gathering her courage, then continued, "considering what just happened, I feel like I want to say it—I love you, Stringfellow Hawke...and I've loved you since the day I came back here lookin' for you, last year." She paused for a moment, then continued, "And I know what you're worryin' about—the curse. But, String...look at the times I've been in danger since I've known you...Holly, the hijacking, Villers, and that other air service we were investigating...not to mention what happened with Bogan when I first met you...when Jenkins and Del Lomo kidnapped me...and of course, when you were kidnapped by Horn, I was the one who rescued you, Stringfellow Hawke...and even after all that—I'm still here. And...you love Bobby...and Le Van...and most of all, Dom...and they're all still here. Look—I won't make any promises, like I know happened before...but, String, I know this much—I know how I feel about you, and that I'd like nothin' better than to spend the rest of my life—however long that is, with you." When Hawke looked down at Caitlin, he saw the fear...and the love...shining together in her eyes.
"Cait," Hawke said, hesitantly, "this is crazy...we can't get married just because we've been ordered to..." Caitlin suddenly reached up, wrapped her arms around Hawke's neck, and pulled his head down to hers, capturing his lips with hers in a deep and passionate kiss, not caring about the three people staring at them. At that moment, the entire universe centered around her and Hawke, and she had only one goal—to convince Hawke, even though they were being ordered, or, in Michael's words, "assigned" to get married, that she wanted to be with him, to be married to him, more than anything she'd ever wanted in her whole life.
When she separated them, once she'd caught her breath, Caitlin said, "Oh, to heck with the 'assignment,' String! I love you—and I want to be your wife. What difference does it make how it happened anyway?" Caitlin demanded, then continued, "I guess...I guess it comes down to one question—How do you feel, Stringfellow Hawke?" She released her hold on him and stepped back, waiting for his answer.
If Caitlin could have seen inside Hawke's mind and heart at that moment, the confusing whirlwind of emotions that he was experiencing would probably have made her sick to her stomach. I mean...I care about Cait as a good friend...but love? He sighed internally and admitted, Yeah. I do love her...and I've loved her practically since the day she came lookin' for me. I've just...I've just been too stupid to admit it...until now. And, she's right, Hawke admitted to himself, feeling the walls he'd built around his heart crumbling, she has stayed alive, even with everything we've already been through...not to mention that she was the one who convinced Michael to let her and Dom rescue me from Horn...and, she does know karate. I felt that myself not too long ago, Hawke said to himself, remembering the kick to the chest Caitlin had given him just before she administered the antidote to the brainwashing drugs Horn had used on him. And, she's right about the rest...about Bobby, Le Van...and Dom. They are all still alive. Suddenly, he felt the air in the room change, and he knew what he had...what I want to do, Hawke corrected himself.
"Cait," Hawke said, moving closer to her again and taking her in his arms, "I...I love you, too." He lowered his head to her and kissed her again, to the delight of everyone else in the room.
"So, you'll follow through with the..."assignment," Hawke?" Michael asked when they separated again.
"Yeah, Michael," Hawke replied, shaking his head, "and...thanks. It might be the strangest way two people have ever gotten together, but...for some reason, for us, it fits. Don't ask me why."
Laughing, Michael replied, "You might have a point there, Hawke. You just might have a point there."
Just before Hawke, Dom, and Caitlin left to go back to the hangar, Marella tapped Caitlin on the shoulder, and when Caitlin turned around, Marella smiled and said, "See? I told you so. Everything worked out just fine."
Smiling, but with tears in her eyes, Caitlin replied, "Yeah, it did—and, thanks, Marella. I owe you one."
"Don't mention it," Marella replied, happy and relieved to see that Hawke seemed to be taking this change in his relationship with Caitlin positively.
The next day, Hawke proposed properly to Caitlin, with his mother's engagement ring that he'd received when his parents died. There was a note with her personal effects, saying that if she died before either of her sons married, whichever of her sons, String or Saint John, got married first, should give the ring to his intended. "So," String said as he slipped the ring onto the third finger of Caitlin's left hand, "now, the ring belongs to you."
"Oh, String," Caitlin said, wiping a few tears out of her eyes with her right hand, "it's...it's beautiful. And I can't believe it...it fits perfectly." She threw her arms around String and kissed him again.
"String," Dom said after they separated, "did Michael say how soon you should get married?"
"He did say ASAP," Hawke replied, just as they heard the phone ring in the office. Dom walked over to the office and answered it, Hawke and Caitlin following close behind.
"Santini Air," Dom said, then brightened. "Oh, hello, Michael," he said, then covered the phone with his free hand and said, "Speak of the Archangel." Hawke noticed the emphasis Dom put on Michael's name. "Yeah...well, they're officially engaged now...String gave her a ring this morning, so I guess..." Hawke suddenly grabbed the phone out of Dom's hand.
"Michael. Yes, Cait and I are officially engaged...I think the sooner, the better, but I also think we ought to give her family a little warning," Hawke added, remembering some of the discussions that Caitlin and her mother had recently been having, most of which had quickly turned to arguments.
"Well," Michael said after a few moments' pause, "would next Friday be too late?" He'd called his friend Judge Ronald Clevenger on another line, and a week from Friday was the first time that the judge had available.
"Cait?" Hawke asked, covering the receiver with his hand for a moment. "Michael says a week from Friday...would that be too late? Or, too soon?"
"As far as I'm concerned, not soon enough, String," Caitlin replied, then added, "but it's okay...I'll have to call Mom when you're done talking to Michael anyway, and tell her."
"Michael," Hawke said, turning the phone back to him again, "a week from Friday will be fine. All right, Michael. Thank you." Hawke hung up the phone and glanced at Caitlin, whose eyes were shining with anticipation.
"I've gotta call Mom," she said excitedly, disengaging herself from Hawke and picking the phone up again. A few moments later, she heard her mother's voice. "Hello?"
"Mom? Mom, it's Cait."
"Cait? Caitlin? What are you doin' callin' me like this, for heaven's sake? You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, Mom...I'm not hurt. In fact, right now, I'm the happiest gal in the whole wide world. I hope you're sittin' down, Mom...'cause you're not gonna believe this." She took a deep breath, then, feeling Hawke's arm around her shoulders, she plunged ahead. "Mom...Hawke and I...we're getting married." Caitlin suddenly jerked the phone away from her ear as a blood-curdling scream erupted on the other end.
"Mom? Mom, are you all right?" Caitlin asked, more than a little concerned.
"Yeah, Caity, I'm fine; except I think my hearing's goin' in my old age. Either that or I'm just goin' plumb loco...but I coulda sworn you said that you and that Hawke fella were getting married." Caitlin smiled, having expected that her mother wouldn't believe her announcement.
"Your hearing's just fine, Mom," Caitlin replied, even as she stared at her engagement ring. "And no, Mom...you're not goin' crazy. Hawke finally came around to our way of thinking...and we're gonna get married a week from Friday. And, I'd sure love it if you and Erin could be here."
"Oh, Cait," her mother replied, and Caitlin could hear the tears in her mother's voice, "you better believe we'll be there! A stampede of buffalo couldn't stop us from comin' to see you get married! Heck, Erin's probably gonna want to be your maid of honor...Cait, I'm so happy for you, I could just bust! Um...is that Hawke fella there?"
"He's right here, Mom," Caitlin said, handing the phone to String. "Mom wants to talk to you," she said, smiling and slipping her arm around String's waist, to let him know she was there for him.
"Stringfellow Hawke, welcome to our family!" Caitlin's mother shouted. "You don't know how long I've been hopin' I'd be able to say that!"
"Thank you, Mrs. O'Shannessy," Hawke began, but Caitlin's mother interrupted him.
"Hold it right there! Don't you be callin' me 'Mrs. O'Shannessy,' for Pete's sake, Stringfellow Hawke!" Caitlin's mother retorted. "You're a part of this family now, like I said before...so you call me 'Maggie' from now on, you hear me?"
"Okay, Maggie," String replied, smiling down at Caitlin. "Listen, there's one thing. I know you're probably thinking about having a big church wedding and all that...but I'm not real comfortable with churches...I was thinking just Cait and me, Dominic, you and Erin, along with a couple of friends of mine, and a justice of the peace, up at the cabin...if that's okay with you."
"Well, Stringfellow," Maggie sighed, and Hawke immediately began to worry, "that's not the first choice I would've had for Caitlin's wedding, but if that's the way you two want it, then okay. So Caitlin says it'll be next Friday?"
"That's right," String replied, adding, "We'll do a rehearsal at my cabin on Thursday, and I'll be sending plane tickets for you, and Erin tomorrow."
"That's mighty nice of you, Stringfellow Hawke," Maggie said, then added, "Let me talk to Caitlin again, please?"
"Sure, Maggie," Hawke replied, handing the phone back to his fiancé.
"So, we'll see you then, Mom?" Caitlin asked.
"Yep...Erin and I'll see you next Thursday, Caitlin," Maggie replied. Suddenly her tone turned decidedly dark. "Oh, no...Caity girl...I just had a terrible thought. This happened awful sudden like...and I'm just wonderin' about something. You're not...?"
"MOTHER!" Caitlin shouted, embarrassed, as she knew what the next word out of her mother's mouth would have been—pregnant. "No, Mom," Caitlin said, embarrassed, "I'm not pregnant...and I'm sorry for yelling just now."
"Oh, that's okay, Cait," her mother replied. "I'm just...relieved that you're not getting married just 'cause you're pregnant. But, I sure hope that's not gonna be a permanent condition, now that you're getting married?"
"Mom, that's really none of your business," Caitlin replied, now even more embarrassed.
"All right, Cait," her mother replied, not entirely satisfied. Then just like that, her tone brightened again. "I'm so happy for you, Caity girl! And your daddy would be happy, too, if he'd been here to see this day."
"I know, Mom," Caitlin said, her voice shaking momentarily. "I know. Okay...we'll see you then, Mom. Love you, too. 'Bye!" Caitlin hung up the phone and turned to Hawke, her eyes shining again.
"Something wrong, Cait?" String asked.
"Oh, Mom was just sayin' how she thought we were only getting married 'cause I was...pregnant," Caitlin said, embarrassed. "And also how much she wished Daddy could be here to see me get married and walk me down the aisle," Caitlin added, "which reminds me...Hey, Dom!" She called out to Dom, who was standing a few feet away from the office.
"Yeah, Cait?" Dom asked as he walked up.
"Dom," Caitlin said, taking hold of his hands, "There's something I'd like to ask you."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense, kid," Dom replied, smiling. "Ask away!"
"All right," Caitlin said nervously. "Dom, I would...I would really be honored if you would walk me down the aisle at our wedding." Dom was startled at the request, and didn't respond immediately. Finally, he felt like he could answer Cait.
"Me?" Dom said after a moment. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure, Dom," Caitlin replied, smiling warmly at him. "I mean, you've been like a father to me ever since I came here...not to mention pushin' as hard as you did to try and get String and me together...and you've been a wonderful father to String...so...would you do this for String...and me?" she asked, smiling at him.
"Cait," Dom said, his eyes watering as he thought of his own daughter, Sally Anne, who he'd never be able to walk down the aisle. Finally he said, "Cait, the honor would be all mine." He pulled her into a warm, friendly embrace as String moved up to him and said, "Thanks, Dom."
"Yeah," Caitlin replied. "Thanks, Dom."
A few days later, everyone was surprised to see the FIRM limousine pull up to the hangar again.
"What now?" Hawke demanded as Lauren stepped out.
"Michael would like all of you to come to Knightsbridge immediately," Lauren replied as she opened the rear door to the limo. Without a word, Hawke, Dom, and Caitlin climbed in and the limo started off toward Knightsbridge.
"I don't suppose it would do any good to"—Hawke started, but Lauren cut him off.
"Michael will explain when we get there," Lauren said, effectively ending the conversation.
By the time the trio had reached Michael's office, String was once again fuming. Caitlin reached for his hand and took it in her own, and when Hawke turned to look at her, she smiled up at him and said, "Relax, String." He forced himself to calm down, even smiling slightly at Caitlin as Michael walked into the office.
"Relax, everyone," Michael said, smiling at the group. "This isn't a mission. This is—well...consider this...a wedding present, Hawke." He stopped as the doors opened and Marella led another man into the office.
String looked at the new arrival for a moment, not believing what he was seeing. "S—Saint John? Is it, really you?" Hawke asked as he fought back tears. I've gotta be sure, Hawke said to himself, remembering how a group of terrorists had disguised a man as Saint John before, as part of a plot to steal Airwolf.
"DNA tests confirm it, Hawke," Marella replied, knowing what String was thinking. "This is Saint John Hawke—no doubts about it this time."
"Yeah, little brother," the man standing in front of him replied. "It's me. I'm home, String." Without thinking, String let go of Caitlin's hand and ran over to his older brother, engulfing him in a friendly embrace which Dom joined a few seconds later. The three men held each other for several minutes, until String finally said, "Cait...come over here. Saint John...meet Caitlin O'Shannessy...my fiancée."
"It's a pleasure...hold it. What did you just say?" Saint John demanded, confused. "Fiancée? You're getting married, little brother? Man, I have been gone a long time!" Everyone laughed as Saint John continued, "Well, Caitlin...first off, let me say, it's a pleasure to meet you, and welcome to our family. String, there has got to be a story behind this."
"Yeah, Sinj, there's a story behind it all right," String acknowledged. Marella brought in coffee for everyone, and String told Saint John the story of how he and Caitlin had met, and were just a few days away from being married. Of course I have to leave out the part where Michael "assigned" us to do it, String said to himself, smiling, but that's just details.
"Well," Saint John said when the story was finished, "I'm sure surprised at this news...I mean, after Kelly, I didn't think you'd ever get this serious about anybody again, little brother...but I'm looking forward to your wedding day next week. You're getting married at the cabin, then?"
"Yeah, Sinj," Hawke replied, "and I would really like it if..."
"You even have to ask, little brother? It would be an honor," Saint John replied.
"I just have one question, Sinj," String said. "Where have you been all these years?"
Saint John went on to explain how, after being freed from the NVA prison camp, he'd planned to come back to the States and reunite with String and Dom...but during the debriefings, agents from another division of the CIA had stopped him and the other members of 1st Air Cav that were rescued with him, and suggested they form a kind of clandestine ops unit—capable of recon, strike, and a multitude of other operations. "I figured you and Dom thought I was dead anyway, String," Saint John said sorrowfully, "so I didn't see the harm in it. If I'd known how long you've been looking for me...I never woulda taken the assignment...or I would've found a way to get back here a lot sooner...anyway, a few days ago, some of Michael's people found us, and informed us that our services were no longer needed...so, here I am. And," he said, smiling at Caitlin, "it appears I've arrived just in time."
"Saint John," String began, and he saw his older brother tense up, "I hope you realize that I should be absolutely furious about all this...but, I—I just can't be. Heck, if the roles were reversed, I might've done the same thing. So...I forgive you, Sinj...I'm just glad you're home!" String smiled at his older brother, and Saint John, relieved, returned the gesture.
"Michael, who the hell is this, and what the hell did he do with my kid brother?" Saint John demanded, but everyone saw the spark of humor in his eyes. "Oh, I'm just kidding you, String...but," he continued, glancing at Caitlin, "I think I know what's happened here. Caitlin, whatever magic you've worked on String, please, don't ever stop."
"Don't you worry about that, Saint John," Caitlin replied, smiling at String's older brother. "After everything I've been through to get this guy, I'm not letting him go for a long time!"
"Well, I'm glad to hear that," Saint John said, smiling at both String and Caitlin.
"Saint John," Marella said, knowing there was a discussion that needed to be had, "I—I have some things I need you to look over. Could you come with me, please?"
"Sure, Marella," Saint John said, winking at String, Dom, and Caitlin as he stood up. As soon as the door to the office closed, Michael turned back to the group.
"Well...first of all, Stringfellow, I have something to tell you—even though our deal is now moot, with Saint John being home, I had a long discussion/argument with Zeus yesterday—and, I'm pleased to tell you that he came around to my way of thinking...that Airwolf, in the hands of you three, is the best field tool we have. So, for our purposes, she's all yours...provided you continue flying her, as needed, for us." Michael waited a few moments to gauge everyone's reaction, and was not surprised to see their jaws collectively drop.
"You're—you're serious, Michael?" Dom demanded. "The Lady...is ours, just like that?"
"Yes, Dominic," Michael replied. "I'm serious. Now, that doesn't mean another agency like the DOD, NSA, or CIA might not try to recover Airwolf, like Bogard's Department of Public Security did...but it does mean that I can run official interference for you. Now," Michael continued, "I know you've probably been wondering what Marella and I will say to Caitlin's mother on Friday." Hawke's nod confirmed what Michael had been thinking. "Well, for that day, we will just appear to be old friends of your father's...nothing more, nothing less."
"Thank you, Michael," Hawke said, relieved that Michael had thought about what he would say if Maggie, or Erin, became curious. "We appreciate that." He glanced over at Caitlin and saw her smile at him.
Over the course of the next week, Saint John started coming to Santini Air to help out, and saw String and Caitlin going out somewhere every night. As the nights went on, Saint John realized how much Caitlin and String loved each other, and the effect that their relationship was having on his younger brother, and one night, he stayed with Dom until String brought Caitlin back from a date.
"Can you believe it, Dom?" Saint John asked one night. "String's face has got to be killing him from all that smiling. But it does look good, doesn't it?"
"You better believe it does, Sinj," Dom said with a smile of his own. Thank you, God, for letting me live long enough to see this, Dom said when he heard the Jeep pull up, and saw Hawke kiss Caitlin good-night. Now, if you don't mind...I'd like to hang around long enough to see my grandkids. Is that okay, God? Dom recalled Michael's words from a few days ago—"...at some point...start working on a future Airwolf pilot or crewmember." Although, I'd prefer a little granddaughter—with String's eyes and Cait's red hair. That'd be nice...is that okay, God? Dom said to himself, hoping he knew the answer. And besides...girls can fly, too—Cait's proof enough of that, Dom added to himself.
On the night before the wedding, String took Caitlin up to the cabin, where her mother, Erin, Saint John, and Dom were waiting for them, along with Judge Clevenger. The rehearsal did not take long, and everyone soon sat around the dinner table enjoying Dom's spaghetti and garlic bread.
"String," Maggie began hesitantly, "There's something I need to say to you. I—I owe you an apology for all the mean things I ever said...or wrote to Cait about you. I can see now that you're a danged good man, Stringfellow Hawke, and I'm proud—and very happy—that you're gonna be part of this family."
"Thank you, Maggie," String said with a smile. "And I accept your apology, even though I don't think I really deserve it. Let's face it—I was being incredibly stupid about Caitlin for a long time...and you were just telling her, and by extension, me, how you felt." Maggie smiled at him as they finished dinner.
"That's mighty nice of you, String," Maggie replied. From the look on her mother's face just then, Caitlin knew Maggie was re-evaluating her whole opinion of String. Thank goodness, Caitlin said to herself. String and my mom getting along is just another worry off my mind.
Later that evening, Dom took Maggie, Erin, Saint John and Caitlin back to the hangar, leaving String alone in the cabin. He took a quick look around the cabin as he realized how his life was changing...and it's a good change, he mused to himself as he went upstairs to bed. Like I said before, Hawke said to himself as he fell asleep, it's a weird way to do it...but I'm happy to be marrying Cait...maybe this is what was supposed to happen.
The next morning, Hawke was showered and dressed in a sweater and jeans when Michael, Dom and Saint John arrived. Michael had assured Hawke a few days prior that their marriage records were being sealed with a Top Secret Umbra classification. "It's the least I can do," Michael had said, "after sort of forcing you into this." Michael had grinned nervously at Hawke, and was relieved when Hawke grinned back at him.
"Thank you, Michael," String replied. "Cait and I appreciate that."
"Mornin', String!" Dom called out. "You ready for this?"
"Yeah, Dom," String replied. "I'm ready. I never thought this would happen...but I'm ready."
"Come on, String," Saint John said, slapping his younger brother on the back, "let's get you upstairs and changed." The two men went upstairs to the sleeping loft, Dom following close behind.
"Ah, String," Dom said a few minutes later as they finished dressing, "it was a good day when Cait came to the hangar looking for you...even if you were too bullheaded to realize it." String smiled as he began fiddling with his tie, and Saint John moved to help him.
"Here, let me help you with that," Saint John said, shaking his head as he fastened the tie. "I gotta admit, String, you clean up pretty nice." Saint John teased his younger brother as he slipped on his jacket.
"Thanks...I think," String replied, grinning. He turned to Dom and said, "You're right, Dom...and as far as my being bullheaded...well, that's just...me, I guess." Saint John and Dom both laughed, but they both knew String was right.
An hour later, String turned his head towards a sound only he could hear. A few moments later, Saint John and Michael caught the sound of a helicopter coming towards the cabin. "Promise me you'll show me how to do that someday, little brother," Saint John said as Michael moved towards the window to check on the new arrivals. A moment later, he was herding String, Dom and Saint John towards the back door. "It's Cait and the family," Michael said simply, knowing that Lauren, Marella, and Judge Clevenger would be arriving shortly also.
Later, Erin came around to the back of the cabin. "There you guys are," she said, smiling at String and Saint John. "I've been looking all over for you."
"No wonder you couldn't find us, Erin," String replied with a grin. "We haven't been all over." Erin stifled a grin as she turned to String.
"String, I've got somethin' I forgot to tell you last night," Erin said, and both String and Dom immediately tensed. "I'm sure glad you came to your senses about Cait...but I'm only gonna warn you once—you hurt her, and I'm comin' back here to beat your brains in myself! I taught Cait everything she knows about fightin', I'll have you know!" She smiled when she said it, but the seriousness of her statement wasn't lost on String.
"Erin," String replied with an easy grin, "I understand...and just for the record, I don't plan on ever doing anything to hurt Cait...it sure took me a long time to realize it...but I love your sister very much. But I'll say this—if I ever did do anything like that...I wouldn't stop you from doing whatever you felt like you had to do." Hawke's smile just then served to reassure Erin, and she smiled warmly back at him.
"I'm glad we understand each other," Erin replied, smiling, then she drew String into a friendly embrace. "And last night, it was obvious how much you and Cait love each other. Welcome to our family, String. We're sure happy to have you!" Her expression grew puzzled as she separated and noticed Archangel. "I'm sorry, sir...I don't believe we've met."
"Sorry, Erin," String said. "This is Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III...he's a friend of my parents'." Hawke said as Michael came forward and shook hands with Erin.
"A pleasure to meet you, Erin," Michael said.
"Likewise," Erin replied, then turned back to String and Saint John. "All right, you guys...it's about time." String smiled as he and Michael headed towards the dock where Judge Clevenger stood, while Saint John and Dom walked with Erin to the cabin to line up for the start of the ceremony.
String couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Caitlin on Dom's arm a few minutes later. The dress she wore was a simple white column of silk, with a cream-colored shawl over her shoulders to protect them from the slight breeze coming off the lake. As Dom approached and gave Caitlin's hand to String, he noticed the tears in String's eyes, but wasn't surprised by them. Hawke took Caitlin's hand and they turned towards the judge.
"Dearly beloved...we are gathered here today to join these two young people in the bonds of marriage," Judge Clevenger said. "From what I've been told, String and Caitlin have had a long and...interesting journey to get to this time and place, together." Hawke smiled at Caitlin and wondered if she was thinking the same thing he was—You have no idea.
"I've been informed that String and Caitlin each have something they'd like to say," the judge continued.
"Cait," String began, "I know I've done a lot of things wrong...and if I could take them back, I would. But I promise you—from this day forward, I will do everything in my power to make it up to you. I love you, Cait...forever and always...and I promise that I will always be here for you...no matter what." String glanced down at Caitlin and saw the tears of joy and love shining in her eyes.
"String," Caitlin replied, "you know how I feel about you—I told you before that I have loved you since the first day I saw you back at the hangar. And I am so proud, and so happy to be here with you today, and that we're going to be together forever. I love you, String...always, and forever...and I promise you that I will always be by your side...to love and support you...no matter what."
"Stringfellow Hawke," Judge Clevenger said after a moment's silence, "do you take Caitlin O'Shannessy to be your lawful wedded wife? Do you promise to love her and comfort her, all the days of your life?"
String smiled and replied, "I do."
"Caitlin O'Shannessy, do you take Stringfellow Hawke to be your lawful wedded husband? Do you promise to love him and comfort him, all the days of your life?"
Caitlin looked deep into String's eyes, and with tears of love and joy shining in hers, she replied, "Yes. I do."
"The rings, please," Judge Clevenger said, as Saint John handed them over.
"Stringfellow, take Cait's ring, place it on the third finger of her left hand, and repeat after me. With this ring..."
"With this ring," String replied.
"I thee wed."
"I thee wed." String slipped the gold band onto Caitlin's finger.
"Caitlin, take Stringfellow's ring, place it on the third finger of his left hand, and repeat after me. With this ring..."
"With this ring..."
"I thee wed."
"I thee wed." Caitlin replied as she slid the ring onto String's finger.
"Then, by the power vested in me by the great state of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," Judge Clevenger finished, as String pulled Caitlin into his arms and kissed her. As the small crowd burst into applause, Judge Clevenger said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Stringfellow Hawke!" They kissed again as the applause rang out across the lake.
"We made it, String," Caitlin said happily after they separated.
"Yes, we did, Cait," String replied, smiling at her. "Now...we're together forever."
"I love you, Stringfellow Hawke," Caitlin said proudly.
"I love you too, Caitlin Hawke," String replied, even as he thought about the chain of events that had led them to this point. This is what was supposed to happen, String thought to himself. Caitlin and I...we belong together. And now...we are. The newlyweds happily accepted congratulations from everyone present, and then moved into the cabin where Dom had made dinner once again.
"String," Saint John said several hours later as they prepared to leave, "congratulations. I have to say...I think Cait's good for you. I don't remember the last time I saw you so happy."
"Thanks, Sinj," String replied, smiling. "I don't think I've been this happy for a long time. I'm especially happy that you were able to be here today," he finished, drawing his older brother into a friendly embrace.
"Me too, String," Saint John replied. "Me, too." Finally, Michael, Erin, Maggie, Dom, and Saint John had left, and Caitlin and String were alone at last, standing on the porch of the cabin wrapped in each other's arms as they looked out over the lake. Suddenly, Caitlin turned in Hawke's arms and kissed him with everything she had, pouring all the love she felt for him into it, and she was relieved when she felt him returning her passion with his own. When she separated them, she hoped that Hawke would be able to read the desire in her eyes.
Without a word, String scooped his bride up in his arms and headed upstairs to the sleeping loft. As he he set Caitlin back on her feet, their feelings for one another erupted again in a passionate kiss. When they separated, Caitlin shyly grinned and said, "Just...be gentle, okay? It's..."
"I know, Cait," String replied, smiling. "I know."
Later, Caitlin was snuggled tight against String's body, feeling his arms wrapped around her as she began drifting off to sleep. I can't believe this has happened, she said to herself as she slipped into sleep. I'm Mrs. Stringfellow Hawke. He's mine...finally. And I'm his...forever. She smiled as she felt sleep claiming her, knowing this was exactly where she belonged...and who she belonged with.
I never thought I could be this happy, Hawke said to himself as he began drifting off to sleep. But I know Caitlin and I belong together. Hawke smiled as he recalled the words that started this whole chain of events. "If the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would've assigned me one!" Well...at least they assigned me the right one, String said to himself as sleep finally claimed him. I...I can't imagine my life without Cait. And now...I don't have to. As he slipped deeper into sleep, Hawke felt something change in the air in the cabin, and somehow, he knew that everything would be all right. For now...and for always, Hawke said to himself happily.