If The FIRM Wanted Me To Have a Wife... Chap. 6

A/N—Thanks as always go to Riabhach, kaidiii, Ms. Anonymous, jareya, bamboozlepig, and OldSFfan for their reviews/feedback.

A/N #2—This chapter will close out this little story arc. Once again, a shout-out to VisualIdentificationZeta(VIDZ) for allowing me to borrow the original story, and I hope you've enjoyed the direction I took it, with the character POV's—robertwnielsen

Why can't he see it? I asked myself for about the thousandth time since I met Caitlin O'Shannessy a year ago. We were all up at Hawke's cabin—Dominic Santini, Caitlin, Michael, Caitlin and I, along with Lauren, Michael's prime pilot—and we were discussing how Robert and Bobby Phelps were doing since Robert had been released from the hospital, but I was getting the impression that Caitlin had other things on her mind. Or one thing...or person...in particular, I said to myself. Of course, I was thinking about Stringfellow Hawke, but I supposed that my original question—why can't he see it, that is—could also be applied to Michael...and how I feel about him—the fact that I love Michael the same way that I think Cait loves Hawke...but that's another story...for another time.

I think I've liked Caitlin O'Shannessy ever since we first found out she'd been hired by Dominic Santini last year. Her tenacity and take-no-prisoners attitude are qualities that I can definitely appreciate. And she knows how to relax and have a good time, too—I've seen it, at several FIRM functions that she's been a guest at, most particularly Judge Ronald Clevenger's retirement ceremony from the FIRM's legal team last year. Just then, I heard Caitlin speak up.

"Glad Robert and Bobby are doin' okay," Caitlin said.

"Yes," I replied, "I know Michael was concerned about that...and of course, I remember what Bobby said at the clinic."

"I sure hope Bobby didn't draw a picture of Catherine," Caitlin said, smiling at me. I recalled hearing about when Michael said he wished Robert Phelps would let him know the next time he got one of his "high-tech brainstorms," so that Michael could assign some people to keep their eyes on Robert and Bobby. Bobby glanced over at Catherine, who was sunning herself a few feet away, and said, "Like HER?" which caused everyone around him to laugh.

"Actually, I think he did," I said, smiling back at her. "At least, that's what I heard the other day."

But my mind was occupied with other matters—mainly, the attraction I sensed between Caitlin and Hawke, one-sided as it may have been. I recalled what Michael had told me happened at the clinic when Bobby gave Hawke a picture he'd drawn. Bobby had said, "You look good, when you smile!" And Caitlin, according to Michael, had a look on her face that seemed to say 'You're darned right, he does!'

And that's not the first thing I've heard...or seen...that's given me ideas that Caitlin has feelings for Hawke that are other than just friendship. I remember at Ronald Clevenger's retirement party from the FIRM, Caitlin had gone with Hawke—ostensibly as friends—but everyone there, including Ron, could see the expression on her face when Caitlin walked in on Hawke's arm, just like a scene out of an old movie—or out of one of those novels I enjoy reading—and then especially when Hawke asked her to dance towards the end of the evening. She looked exactly like a woman in love, I said to myself as I remembered Cait's expression. I also recalled how Michael told me, after he'd been rescued from Kinskov and Krueger last year, how every time either he or Dominic mentioned Hawke's name, Caitlin's eyes absolutely lit up.

Finally, I decided I needed to ask Caitlin if what I thought was true—that she was in love with Hawke. I looked around and found Dominic, Hawke, and Michael talking by themselves, and Lauren was engrossed in Hawke's art collection—not surprising, actually, since Hawke does have a very impressive collection, and Lauren had been an art student before she came to us. I was wondering how to suggest that Caitlin and I talk privately, but she beat me to it.

"Hey, Marella," Caitlin said, surprising me, "let's go outside and talk for a few minutes."

"All right," I said, realizing I'd just been handed a gift-wrapped opportunity. And I've never been one to let an opportunity like that go to waste. We walked a short distance away from the cabin—far enough, I hoped, that Hawke wouldn't hear any of our conversation—until I finally decided to ask what was on my mind.

"Caitlin, may I ask you something?" I began.

"Okay," she said in reply, and by the tone of Caitlin's voice, I got the feeling she was not exactly sure what I meant.

"How do you feel about Hawke? Really?" I inquired.

"I figured you knew," Caitlin said, and I could tell she was embarrassed by her feelings. "Marella, I love Hawke. I think I've loved him ever since the day I saw him in that jail cell back in Pope County. I dunno...maybe that's why I came back here to find him after his friend Jimmy got killed."

I knew it, I said to myself. "I figured as much," I said out loud. "I've seen the way you look at Hawke sometimes...especially after a mission, or something like that. And, there's what Michael told me after you helped Hawke and Dominic rescue him from East Germany last year."

"What did Michael tell you?" Caitlin asked, and I knew from the sound of her voice that she was not only extremely embarrassed, but very nervous about what Michael might have said to me.

"Nothing much," I replied, laying a hand on Caitlin's shoulder to relax her, "just that whenever he mentioned Hawke's name, your eyes would light up. Michael told me afterward that he got the feeling even then that you had feelings for Hawke." I could see by Caitlin's expression that she remembered how her face lit up when Hawke's name was brought up that day.

"Yeah. I mean—heck, Marella, you know what I mean," Caitlin said. "I've felt like that about String for a long time...when he kissed me on that movie set last year, even before the mission to rescue Michael, I really thought String felt somethin' more than just friendship for me. And when I thought...when I thought he'd died in my arms, after I gave him that antidote at Horn's compound, I realized just how much I love him." Caitlin sighed and shook her head before she continued. "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."

"Cait," I began, and I hoped Caitlin understood that what I was about to say...I didn't want to say, "I—I know how you feel. In a way, what you're telling me sounds a lot like the..." I cut myself off before I could finish my sentence, but I could tell by Caitlin's expression that she was curious, and that she wasn't going to let it go easily.

"Now, wait just a minute," Caitlin said. "You're not gonna put somethin' like that out there and just leave me hangin', I hope. What did you mean by that?"

"Nothing, Caitlin," I replied somewhat sheepishly, wishing I hadn't said anything.

"With all due respect, Marella—that's baloney," Caitlin shot back. "I told you how I feel about Hawke...so c'mon, out with it. You're obviously hidin' feelings about somebody...and, I think I've got a pretty good idea who that 'somebody' is. If I guess...and I'm right...would you tell me?"

I debated silently for a few seconds before I finally answered her. I wonder if she's figured it out, I said to myself. "All right," I said out loud. I know Caitlin O'Shannessy is a very smart woman—not to mention tenacious. In a way, I'm surprised Michael never recruited her into the FIRM as a field agent—she would have made a good one, I thought.

"You've got feelings for Michael," Caitlin guessed, and I hoped my expression didn't betray the answer, even though she was right. "You feel about Michael the same way I do about String—you love him, right?"

"Yes, Caitlin, I do love Michael," I replied, feeling embarrassed that my secret was out—and yet, relieved that Caitlin was the one who had figured it out. "I don't know when I fell in love with him...maybe that day at Red Star when Moffet stole Airwolf, and Michael threw me down onto the floor just before Moffet opened fire on the base—or maybe it was when Krueger and Kinskov captured Michael in East Germany...but somewhere along the line, I fell in love with Michael, just like you did with Hawke."

"Hey, Marella," Caitlin said, trying to soothe my concerns, "don't worry. Your secret's safe with me. I won't tell a soul...I promise."

"Thank you, Caitlin," I replied, then added, "and yours is safe with me." We walked back into the cabin as I heard Michael saying, "I know, Hawke. Just...think about what I said, will you?" What did you say, Michael? I remembered asking myself. The look on Hawke's face seemed to me to be saying, Butt out, Michael...or something to that effect.

Just then, Michael came up and laid a hand on Caitlin's shoulder. "Caitlin, could I speak with you a moment? Outside?"

"Sure, Michael," Caitlin replied, and she went outside again with him. Now I was really curious—what would Michael be talking to Caitlin about, without Hawke and Dominic? Can't be about a mission, I said to myself. If that were the case, Caitlin would probably be the last to know. And...I still don't have any idea what's got Hawke so upset, I said to myself, knowing that if I dared ask him, I'd be taking my life into my own hands. I'd heard about how Hawke punched Michael two years ago after Michael told him that he'd sent Gabrielle 'on ahead,' after Moffet sank that U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of Libya. Of course, Hawke didn't know until he arrived at the Red Castle that Michael had sent Gabrielle in Angela's place, but Michael told me about their conversation—and the fat lip he got from Hawke. Don't get me wrong—I'm perfectly capable of defending myself, just like Caitlin is...but the thought of Hawke being angry with me, even if he didn't do anything physical, which I doubted he would, was still extremely frightening to me...Mainly because of the fact that Michael and I don't have a lot of friends, and I feel privileged to be able to count Caitlin, Dominic, and Hawke among those friends—so I'm not about to do anything that might jeopardize our friendship. Besides, I said to myself later, I can always ask Michael about it on our way back to Knightsbridge.

A few hours later, just as we were getting ready to leave, Michael said to me, "Marella...would it be too much to ask if you would stop and pick Caitlin up at her house in the morning? To bring her to Knightsbridge...alone?"

"Alone?" I repeated, surprised.

"Yes," Michael confirmed. "I...I have something I need to discuss with Caitlin, without Hawke or Dominic around." Michael noticed my confused expression and said, "I promise, I'll explain everything later." I nodded and went to talk to Lauren, as we were getting ready to head back to Knightsbridge. Just before we left, I heard Michael say to Caitlin, "Marella will see you in the morning." She glanced over at me and I smiled, and nodded subtly, so that neither Hawke nor Dominic could see.

Once we were in the helicopter headed back to Knightsbridge, my curiosity finally got the better of me. "All right, Michael," I said, "it's later...so what are you up to?"

"Marella, I have a story to tell you...that you probably won't believe," Michael said, and he proceeded to tell me about the conversation Dom and Hawke had. When he told me how Hawke had said, 'Besides, you know the old saying—If the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would have assigned me one!', I started to laugh.

"It is kind of funny, now that I think about it," Michael said.

"Well, Michael...you're right about one thing—I don't believe you," I said when I stopped laughing. "Hawke actually said that?" I asked.

"Marella, I was standing right there when it happened," Michael told me. "I don't think Hawke knew that I heard him say that...and...I got the strangest feeling that Dominic is on my side."

"Not surprising," I said, remembering how Michael had told me that Dominic had been pushing to try to get Hawke and Caitlin together romantically, practically since Caitlin's flight to Texas for her sister's wedding had been hijacked. "So, what are you going to do?" I asked.

"Simple," Michael replied. "Hawke said the FIRM would assign him a wife...so I'm going to 'assign' him and Caitlin to get married."

Well, at least you'll assign him the right woman, I said to myself, knowing that if Michael had tried to assign anyone else but Caitlin, Hawke would probably do something that would make the fat lip he gave Michael seem insignificant by comparison. To say nothing of what Cait might do, I said to myself, remembering what we'd talked about a few minutes ago. "So, that's why you want Caitlin at the office by herself in the morning?" I asked, wanting to make sure I understood everything.

"Yes, Marella," Michael replied. "While you're picking Caitlin up, I'll be talking to Zeus, and suggesting the idea to him."

"Well, Michael," I said, shaking my head, "I wish you luck...because I think you're going to need it." I smiled at him, a friendly smile that showed that I was concerned about him.

"I know, Marella," Michael replied, and the rest of the flight passed in silence.

The next morning, I made sure that I was at Caitlin's house bright and early. "So...you know what's goin' on?" Caitlin asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Michael explained what he's going to do on the way back to Knightsbridge last night." I smiled at Caitlin as she grabbed her purse and jacket, then we walked to the limo for the trip to Knightsbridge.

"Marella," Caitlin said to me as we left, "I gotta tell you—I thought this was a great idea Michael had, last night...but now, I'm thinkin' that if Hawke doesn't go along with the idea, I'm probably gonna pack up and head back to Texas. I just...I couldn't stay here, knowing..."

"I know, Caitlin," I said. "And we wouldn't blame you under those circumstances...but let's think positive, okay?"

Her expression brightened a little. "Okay," she said, and I thought I saw the beginnings of a smile. "And...thanks."

"Don't mention it," I said as the limo pulled into the garage at Knightsbridge. We got out and I said hello to Lauren, who was taking the limo back to the hangar to pick up Dominic and Hawke.

I ushered Caitlin into Michael's office, and the three of us began discussing the plan. "Michael," I said, "what did Zeus have to say about your idea?"

"Surprisingly, he went along with it," Michael said. "He thinks, as I do, that getting Hawke married might be the best thing for him. And," Michael said, smiling at Caitlin, "he also thinks Caitlin would be good for Hawke." I can't believe it, I said to myself. It's not often that Michael, Zeus and I agree on anything. I made a mental note to write that down as soon as I got back to my desk.

"Don't get me wrong," Caitlin said, smiling nervously. "It's not that I don't want to marry him, Marella...it's just..."

"I think I understand," I said, smiling back at her as we sat down. "You're worried about Hawke not going along with this idea...aren't you?"

"You guessed it," Caitlin said, nodding. "I mean, it's like I told you on the way here...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..." I sensed Caitlin's nerves catching up with her again, just like they had in the limo on the way over, and I moved to reassure her again.

"Cait, relax," I said as I brought her 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, and I looked at my watch, thinking that Lauren had probably arrived at the hangar by now. I can only imagine what Hawke's thinking right now, I said to myself. Especially since I'm guessing that Lauren said Michael wanted to see Hawke and Dominic, but they weren't going to wait for Caitlin. I just hope he's not too angry at Michael, I said to myself as I fixed another cup of tea for myself. And now...the hard part. The waiting, I said to myself, knowing it would take a couple of hours for Lauren to return with Hawke and Dominic. I glanced over at Cait, and I could tell she was nervous...almost to the point of being scared.

A couple of hours later, I heard the door to Michael's office buzz and Lauren ushered Hawke and Dominic in. Uh-oh, I said to myself when I looked at Hawke. The look on his face could have burned through lead, and now I started worrying about what was about to happen. I thought about my words to Caitlin a few minutes ago—I don't know why...but I think everything's going to be just fine, I had said. I sure hope I don't end up eating those words, I said to myself as Hawke realized that Caitlin was here with us...and he seemed to grow even angrier.

Michael started off by mentioning Hawke's comment from the night before, and once again, I saw how nervous Caitlin was becoming about the whole situation. At first, I don't think Hawke knew what Michael was referring to, but when I saw Hawke's face freeze in an expression of abject terror, I knew that Hawke had figured out what Michael was talking about. He's probably thinking, 'when will I ever learn to keep my big mouth shut,' or something like that, I said to myself as Michael continued.

"Hawke," Michael continued, "after what you said last night, I've had some discussions with Zeus and the Committee, and the FIRM has decided that...that you need a wife. So..." I saw Michael glance over at Caitlin as she shyly moved towards Hawke. He proceeded to tell Hawke that it was obvious to everyone, at least everyone in the room, how Caitlin felt about him, which it was, and that the feeling was likely mutual, so it seemed like a perfect match. Michael and I hesitated, waiting for Hawke's reaction, and he didn't disappoint either of us.

When Hawke all but demanded to know if Michael was ordering him to marry Caitlin, the hostility in his voice was obvious to me, and I began worrying about Michael again. At least, if Hawke does anything, the security guards would be in here in a few minutes.

"Not so much an order, Hawke...consider it...an "assignment"...one that I think you'd be foolish to refuse," Michael said. I couldn't help but glance over at Caitlin, and I saw a combination of anxiety, nerves, and love for Hawke there in her eyes.

"So," Michael continued, "you two are to get married ASAP, and...at some point...start working on a future Airwolf pilot or crewmember," I said, noting the look of embarrassment that came over Caitlin's face. The FIRM has a euphemism for everything, I said to myself. Even having kids.

Dominic decided to comment at this point, telling String that he had nothing to do with what was happening. As much as I wish Dominic had joined forces with Michael...I understand what he's doing—he wants to make sure Hawke doesn't hold this against him...and to be fair, it is Michael's idea.

"Yeah, Dom, I know," String sighed, then added, "And...I don't blame you." Suddenly, Hawke turned on Michael, and his tone seemed to grow even more hostile. He stopped himself in the middle of a sentence, though, as Caitlin walked up to him, and stared deep into his eyes.

Finally, Caitlin decided to say something. "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, or the right time, 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. 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, String." When Hawke looked down at Caitlin, I wondered if he could see the love in her eyes as well as I could. And I've got to hand it to you, Caitlin...you knocked Hawke completely out of the proverbial ballpark, with all the times you've been in danger since you've known him...and survived, I said to myself. And that doesn't include all of the times she was in danger when she was a cop back in Texas...plus what I've heard Bogan tried to do to her, I said to myself as I remembered reading some of the information from Cait's background check—she'd been in danger a bunch of times back in Texas, and even died during surgery to remove a bullet, after she got shot during a routine traffic stop—but she's still here, I thought to myself, even as I heard Hawke drawing a breath like he was getting ready to say something. Here we go, I said to myself.

"Cait," Hawke said, hesitantly, "this is crazy...we can't get married just because we've been ordered to..." Finally, I got the impression that Caitlin had decided something along the lines of Okay, that's it. Enough is enough already when she 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. At that moment, I could tell she didn't care about anything...or anyone else. I got the impression that Caitlin had decided that she was going to convince Hawke how she felt about him, that she loved him, and she wasn't going to let anything, or anyone, stop her.

The longer Caitlin held the kiss, the more concerned about both Hawke and Caitlin I became. When she separated them, once Caitlin caught her breath, she 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?" I demanded, then continued, "I guess...I guess it comes down to one question—How do you feel, Stringfellow Hawke?" Caitlin released her hold on him and stepped back, waiting for his answer.

From the look on Hawke's face, I got the feeling that his emotions were more conflicted than at any time in his life. Or at least, any time since I've known him, I said to myself. I began wondering what he was thinking—whether he had really listened to Caitlin telling him how she was perfectly able to take care of herself, and that it would be okay if he loved her, the same way that she loved him.

Just about the time I thought Caitlin was considering saying something, Hawke turned to her and wrapped her in his arms...and I saw him smiling...something I've rarely seen from Hawke since I've known him. This looks promising, I said to myself, still holding my breath, waiting for Hawke's answer. Finally, he said, "Cait...I...I love you, too." And then, he kissed her again, much to the delight of all of us. Especially Dominic, I said to myself as I glanced over at him and noticed the grin breaking out across his face.

I couldn't believe what I'd heard—or what I was seeing. Finally! I said to myself when Hawke broke the kiss and I saw him smiling wider than I had ever seen him smile since I've known him. I suddenly felt myself feeling a lot better about this whole thing, when I heard Michael asking if Hawke would follow through with the assignment. I noticed Hawke hadn't let go of Caitlin, and was still smiling when he said, "Yeah, Michael, and...thanks. It might be the strangest way two people have ever gotten together, but for some reason, it fits. Don't ask me why."

"You might have a point there, Hawke," Michael said, smiling. "You just might have a point there."

Just before Hawke, Dom, and Caitlin left with Lauren to go back to the hangar, I smiled at Caitlin and said, "See? I told you so. Everything worked out just fine."

"Yeah," Caitlin said, and I was almost in shock that everything had worked out the way I thought it would. I saw Caitlin wipe a few tears out of her eyes and said, "And, thanks, Marella. I owe you one."

"Don't mention it," I replied. I was shocked, glad, and relieved that Hawke seemed to be taking this change in his relationship with Caitlin so positively. And when I saw Caitlin catch up with Hawke and slide her arm around his waist, and saw Hawke slide his arm around her shoulders, I knew that things were definitely looking up.

"Well," I said after the door closed behind Dominic, "that went much better than I expected."

"That makes two of us, Marella," Michael said, shaking his head. "I never thought Hawke would actually go through with it. But, you know something? They look good together. By the way...get me Judge Ronald Clevenger, would you please, Marella?"

"Yes, Michael," I replied, walking out of his office and back to my desk. I dialed Judge Clevenger's office, and a few minutes later, I heard Ron's voice.

"Judge Clevenger."

"Ron, hi...it's Marella," I said.

"Hi, Marella," Judge Clevenger replied. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Business, I'm afraid. Michael wants to talk to you," I said. I quickly buzzed Michael. "Judge Clevenger's on Line 2 for you, Michael," I said.

"Thank you, Marella," Michael said. I had to wonder what Ron would think about this idea of Michael's. Heck, I think even he noticed how Caitlin feels about Hawke, at his retirement party last year, I said to myself, even as I recalled seeing Caitlin walk into the reception hall, the night Ron retired from the FIRM, on Hawke's arm—I had never seen a woman look more in love than Caitlin did that night—like a scene right out of one of my novels, I remembered thinking to myself later. Then I remembered something—I pulled up my computer's journal program and typed in a note on today's date: Michael, Zeus, and I actually agree on something...that Caitlin and Hawke belong together. I think it's the first time we've actually agreed on anything. I gave the note a quick once-over, then saved it and password-protected the entry. Just in case, I said to myself.

A few minutes later, I heard Michael's voice on the intercom again. "Marella, could you come into my office?"

"Yes, Michael," I said.

When I walked back into the office, Michael proceeded to tell me that Ron would be able to marry Hawke and Caitlin a week from Friday. "Do we know if Hawke proposed properly?" I asked.

"I suppose I'll find out tomorrow," Michael said. "I'll be calling Hawke back at the hangar to let him know when Ron can perform the ceremony."

"Well, at least since he can't do it until next Friday, it'll give Caitlin time to get her family here," I said, remembering hearing about the argument Caitlin and her mother had when her flight to Texas had been hijacked. I don't know why, but I had a feeling that if Caitlin and Hawke got married and her family wasn't involved, they would both be in serious trouble.

"I think you're right, Marella," Michael said as I turned to leave.

"About what, Michael?" I asked.

"If Cait and Hawke get married, and her mother doesn't know about it, Cait could very well be a widow before the ink is dry on the license," Michael said.

"How did you know what I was—oh, never mind," I said, amazed at how well Michael could pick up on my feelings. Just another reason why I think we belong together, as much as Hawke and Cait, I said to myself as I left his office.

The next day when Michael and I arrived at Knightsbridge, it was all I could do to keep from calling Judge Clevenger right away. Finally, though, I couldn't resist, and dialed his office.

"Judge Clevenger," I heard.

"Hi, Ron...it's Marella again," I said brightly.

"Hi, Marella," Ron said. "So...am I going to be reserving a date for a wedding soon?"

"Well," I said, just as I heard my intercom buzz. "Hold on a second, Ron...Michael just buzzed me."

"Sure thing, Marella," Ron said.

"Marella, get me..."Michael began, but I interrupted him.

"Judge Clevenger's on Line 3 for you," I said. "I had a feeling you might be calling the hangar and speaking to Hawke, so I took the liberty to call Ron back myself."

"Thank you, Marella...I owe you one," Michael said. As I went back to work, I thought to myself, Actually, that's another one you owe me, Michael...and I plan on collecting, sooner or later. Now that things seemed to be moving in the right direction with Hawke and Caitlin, I was seriously thinking about how I was going to broach the subject of my feelings for Michael to him.

All the same, though, I can't help wondering about Hawke—I mean, everything I saw when they left the office the other day was extremely encouraging—but I know him. Stringfellow Hawke can flip out and go back to full-blown silent mode faster than Airwolf can accelerate to Mach 1...so I knew that until they actually exchanged rings, everything with him and Caitlin was still 'fluid,' as we like to say in our business. In other words, things could fall apart at any moment, under any circumstances.

Just then, my intercom snapped me out of my reverie. "Marella, could you come in here, please?"

"Yes, Michael," I said.

Michael's first question surprised me. "Marella, do we still have...?"

"Yes, Michael," I interrupted him, almost instinctively knowing what he was asking me. "In their personnel files. Including their ring sizes, if I'm not mistaken."

"What?" Michael asked. I think Michael knew our files on both Hawke and Caitlin were complete, but I got the feeling he was surprised to find out that information was in there. But he shouldn't be, I said to myself. After all, he's the one that requested it.

"I think so, Michael," I replied. "You remember what you said a few months ago...how you wanted to find a mission that would require them to pose as a married couple for cover...I think you said that maybe that would be the kick in the behind that Hawke needed, to get him to realize how Cait felt about him? Well, we couldn't very well assign them a mission like that if we couldn't provide wedding bands for them, now, could we?" I smiled inwardly as I recalled just howfrustrated Michael had gotten over not being able to find a mission that would require Hawke and Caitlin to pose as husband and wife. Now it looked like we wouldn't have to.

The way Michael smiled told me that yes, he did recall having that discussion with me in the office several weeks prior. "Now that you mention it, I do recall having that discussion. Little did I know we'd end up using the information...for real," Michael said. "And, you'll take care of...?"

"Yes, Michael," I replied, smiling at him. "I'll take care of everything that needs to be done. In fact, I was just on my way to lunch...I'll probably be a little later than usual, though, since I've got other things to take care of."

"I understand, Marella," Michael said, smiling. "Take all the time you need."

"Thank you, sir," I replied, then turned and walked out of Michael's office.

My first stop was to a local jewelry shop that I frequented—in fact, the owner had set several rings aside for me to choose from. I gave the owner Hawke and Caitlin's ring sizes, and he produced a lovely matching set of gold bands. "Perfect," I said as I paid for them.

"You finally taking the plunge, Marella?" the owner asked, startling me.

"No," I sighed, a little more emotionally than I intended. "Not...yet, anyway."

"Well, keep a good thought," the owner said. "It'll happen for you...sooner or later."

"I certainly hope so," I replied, taking the bag he handed me and leaving the store. The next item on my agenda was looking for a wedding gown—and I have to say, that depressed me almost more than picking out the wedding bands did. I mean, it's like I told Caitlin at the cabin that night—I love Michael the same way she loves Hawke, and I want nothing more than to be married to him. I just wonder if it's ever going to happen, I said to myself sadly after I purchased the dress for Caitlin, then headed to a restaurant for lunch before I went back to the office.

A few hours later, I returned with the items I'd purchased while I was out—"I think she'll approve," Michael said after I showed him the ring set and gown that I had selected.

"I certainly hope so," I replied, hoping that Michael hadn't caught the sad tone of my voice. Well, if he did, he probably wouldn't do anything about it, anyway, I said to myself sadly.

A few days later, we received an unexpected, yet welcome surprise—Stringfellow's brother Saint John had been located, alive. Saint John, we found out later, had been freed shortly before the "war" ended, but during his medical and psych debriefings, some agents from another division of the CIA had approached him, along with the rest of the former POW's, and suggested that they form a kind of Special Operations Group, or SOG as we call them. This unit would be capable of a multitude of missions—from search and rescue to reconnaissance, strike, even deep infiltration and extraction—in a way, not too much unlike the variety of missions that Hawke, Dominic, and Caitlin perform with Airwolf. I have to admit, when I heard Michael send Lauren to pick up Hawke, Dom, and Caitlin, I was nervous—I mean, I had a feeling Hawke would be happy when he learned that he'd been right all along, and that Saint John was alive...but I also knew that when he discovered what kind of work Saint John had been doing, any relief and happiness Stringfellow Hawke felt over being reunited with his brother would dissipate quickly.

Two hours later, when the door to Michael's office buzzed open again, the first thing I noticed was Hawke's expression—I was afraid of this, I said to myself. Just then, Caitlin reached for Hawke's hand, and said, "Relax, String." And just like that, I saw the tension ease out of Hawke's body, and he was even able to smile at Caitlin. It's already working, I said to myself, marveling at how quickly Hawke seemed to calm down.

"Relax, everyone," Michael said as I stepped out of the office. I met Saint John and said, "We're ready. Are you?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," Saint John replied as the door buzzed again, and I led him into Michael's office.

By the looks on String and Dominic's faces, I gathered they thought they were looking at a ghost. Finally, String stammered, "Saint John? Is—is it really you?" Of course, I remembered how two years ago, a group called the Schwartzkrieg had disguised a man as Saint John, and convinced Hawke that Dominic and Michael had been killed as part of the mission to rescue him—but it had all been an orchestrated plot to steal Airwolf and return her to Libya. I remember meeting with Dominic to try to get Hawke back after we learned that his helicopter had crashed. So I understood Stringfellow's hesitancy, and moved to reassure him.

"DNA tests confirm it, Hawke," I said, and I was relieved that we had gotten the results back before this impromptu reunion. "This is Saint John Hawke—no doubts about it, this time." Hawke dropped Caitlin's hand and ran over to hug his older brother, and Dom joined them a few seconds later. Michael and I glanced at each other, then at Caitlin. At first, I have to admit, the way Hawke just let go of Caitlin's hand and ran over to his brother seemed awfully rude...but then I thought about it for a minute. He hasn't seen Saint John in sixteen years, I said to myself. I'm sure Cait understands that. A sideways glance at Caitlin confirmed my suspicions—she seemed to understand that String needed this time with his older brother. Just then, String said, "Cait, come over here. Saint John...meet Caitlin O'Shannessy...my fiancée."

"Fiancée?" Saint John demanded. Oops, I said to myself, knowing I'd forgotten to mention that little detail. "Fiancée? You're getting married, little brother? Man, I have been gone a long time!" We all laughed at Saint John's statement, knowing it was the truth. Saint John said that it was a pleasure, and welcomed Caitlin to their family, then he said that there had to be a story behind what he'd just heard, and all of a sudden, I saw that Michael had gotten nervous, and I knew why—considering that a lot of the "story" centered around the FIRM, and Airwolf.

"Yeah, Saint John, there's a story behind it, all right," String said as we all sat down, and I brought coffee in for everyone. String then began telling an...abridged version of the story of how Caitlin had come to California looking for him, to tell him about his friend Jimmy dying. And even without either Michael or me even mentioning our concerns, Hawke edited his story expertly, conveying the essential details without letting anything slip about his association with the FIRM or Airwolf.

Saint John then said he was surprised to find out that his brother was getting married. He mentioned String's old girlfriend, Kelly, and how Saint John thought String would never get this serious about anyone again after she had been killed. I glanced at Michael, and I wondered if he was thinking of Gabrielle, the pilot who'd flown him to Hawke's cabin two years ago to inform him of Moffet's theft of Airwolf. I had been as surprised as anyone, with the possible exception of Michael, to learn that Hawke and Gabrielle had become lovers, but it certainly explained why Hawke was so bitter after he came back from Libya, and hid Airwolf.

Then, I heard Saint John asking String if his wedding would be at the cabin, and I think he started to ask Saint John to stand with him, as his best man...but Saint John seemed to know what was coming.

"You even have to ask, little brother?" Saint John replied, smiling. "It would be an honor."

"Then, I just have one question, Sinj," String replied. "Where have you been all these years?" Okay, everyone, I said to myself. Get ready for World War III.

Saint John proceeded to explain how he'd been approached, along with several other members of 1st Air Cav, to form the elite SOG force I mentioned before—and even though neither Michael nor I had mentioned our concern about Stringfellow's reaction to this news, Saint John seemed to anticipate it, and had an answer.

"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, then I swear 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." I couldn't agree with you more, Saint John, I said to myself, smiling.

"Saint John," String began, and just like that, I felt myself tensing up again, "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!" I felt myself relaxing as Stringfellow smiled at Saint John, and I saw Saint John smile back at String—he was relieved that String seemed to be taking his news so well, but I could tell at the same time, he was confused.

"Michael, who the hell is this, and what the hell did he do with my kid brother?" Saint John demanded, but Michael and I both heard the humor in his voice, and I thought Stringfellow had, as well. "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 Saint John. "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 Caitlin and String. Then he asked, "What do you mean, 'after everything I've gone through to get this guy', anyway, Cait?" I noticed Michael tense up, and I instinctively knew what he was suddenly concerned about.

"Oh, just all that talk about him havin' some kinda cockamamie curse on him," Caitlin added, and I think she realized the slip she'd almost made. I heard Michael sighing with relief as I came back over to the table.

"Saint John," I said, "I—I have some things I need you to look over. Could you come with me, please?" Saint John stood up, winked at the group still seated at the table, and followed me out of Michael's office. Fortunately, I did have a few papers that I needed Saint John to look over, because I knew what Michael wanted to do—he wanted to inform Hawke about the conversation he'd had with Zeus recently, and the fact that Zeus had finally realized that if Hawke followed through with their original agreement, the FIRM would never see Airwolf again. Michael had gotten Zeus to agree that Airwolf, in the hands of Stringfellow Hawke, Caitlin O'Shannessy, and Dominic Santini, was the best field tool we had...so they would continue flying her, as needed, for us.

"These are the papers I was talking about, Saint John," I said, handing him a stack of documents. He quickly scanned each one, signing the ones that needed to be signed, and finished just as Michael led Stringfellow, Caitlin, and Dominic out of his office.

As the foursome left, I noticed Stringfellow...it is going to be strange, thinking of him as something other than just 'Hawke,' like I have for the past almost three years...but I can't call him just 'Hawke' anymore...anyway...I noticed that Stringfellow and Caitlin were still holding hands, and while I was happy for them, I must admit to feeling a slight pang of jealousy. Michael informed me that on Friday, if anyone from Caitlin's family should ask either of us how we know Stringfellow, we would simply say that we were old friends of his father's, and leave it at that. Sounds like a good idea to me, I said to myself when Michael told me about it.

When I went to sleep that night, I couldn't help but remember the day that Senator Dietz viewed the weapons demo...the day Moffet stole Airwolf. I had just finished describing Airwolf's capabilities to Senator Dietz, ending my spiel with the line, "In other words, Senator—Airwolf is a Mach one-plus chopper...that can kick butt." I then smiled, warmly, at both Senator Dietz and Michael. But that smile was meant more for Michael than for the Senator, I said to myself sadly, remembering that Michael seemed too preoccupied with Senator Dietz's badgering over the fact that the FIRM had, in secret, developed a tactical weapon. I have to admit, I felt a surge of satisfaction when Michael told Senator Dietz, "A billion dollars, Senator. Give or take a few cents," when Sen. Dietz asked what the FIRM wanted, in exchange for turning the prototype aircraft over to the Department of Defense, to let them take credit for it.

Finally, Stringfellow and Caitlin's wedding day had arrived—the ceremony was a small one, there at the cabin—myself and Michael, Caitlin's mother Maggie and her older sister Erin, Saint John, Lauren, Saint John's son Le, Dom, who volunteered to give Caitlin away, and of course, the bride and groom. I was not in the least surprised when Dom gave Caitlin's hand to Stringfellow, to see her eyes full of tears, and the careful job my assistant, Jacqueline, had done with Cait's makeup was completely ruined. What did surprise me was the fact that Stringfellow's eyes seemed to be full of tears as well. I had to admit, I was fighting tears myself—not just for Stringfellow and Caitlin, but also because I wished so badly that Michael would pull his head out of the sand...and his ass...and realize how I feel about him. Maybe...maybe that could be us someday, I said to myself as Judge Clevenger introduced Mr. and Mrs. Stringfellow Hawke, for the first time.

Dominic had taken it upon himself to fix dinner for the small party, and when we were finished, Michael, Lauren and I left the cabin to go back to Knightsbridge, and home. When we returned to Knightsbridge, Michael asked me, "Marella...are you okay?" Darn it. He noticed, I said to myself.

"Yes, Michael...I'm fine," I said. "Just...real happy for Hawke and Caitlin." I did it again, I said to myself, not catching my "Hawke" slip, until the words were already out of my mouth.

"If you say so, Marella," Michael replied...but something in his tone of voice told me he wasn't completely convinced. When I went to bed that night, I finally let loose the emotions I'd kept pent up all afternoon and evening, as I cried myself to sleep.

Eight months later, we were all back in Michael's office, conducting another of our post-mission debriefings. After the specifics of the mission were discussed, the topic of conversation shifted to Stringfellow and Caitlin's marriage...for a moment. Then, Dominic made a comment that definitely got my attention.

"Michael," Dominic suddenly burst out, "what about you? Why haven't you ever gotten married?"

"I guess I never found the right woman," he replied, unaware of the reaction his comment had caused in me. I did my best to conceal my reaction to Michael's comment, and I thought I did a pretty good job—until I noticed Cait staring at me.

Michael's comment got Hawke's attention, and he proceeded to tell Michael that he didn't believe that Michael had never found the right woman—probably some reference to the fact that there are so many attractive women working at Knightsbridge—at least, that's what I thought at the time, and the feelings of jealousy and depression that I'd been fighting since Stringfellow and Caitlin's wedding suddenly returned.

"Hey, Marella," Caitlin said, and I hoped Hawke couldn't hear her, "you okay?" I could see the concern in her eyes, and I knew I had to be honest with her.

"No, I'm not," I said. "I just...I can't believe Michael would say something like that."

"Doesn't he know how you feel about him?" Caitlin asked.

"Well...no, he doesn't," I admitted, and the realization hit me like a burst of chain gun fire from Airwolf. Now, I understood why Michael had made the comment he had, and I resolved, one way or another, to let him know exactly how I felt about him.

"Well, Hawke," Michael replied, smiling at both Hawke and Dominic, "I guess I'll say the same thing to you that you said to Dominic a while back—if the FIRM wanted me to have a wife, they would've assigned me one!" I caught myself when I heard Michael utter the same words that Stringfellow had eight months ago. And, I also knew that the only person who could do to Michael what he had done to Stringfellow Hawke would be Zeus. But the odds of that happening are slim...and none, I said to myself dejectedly. And, I think slim is gone.

A few weeks later, during another of our after-mission discussions, Lauren informed us that Zeus wanted to see Michael and me in his office...immediately. Michael hesitated, then asked if Zeus would mind if the Hawkes and Dominic came with us, and Lauren said she didn't think he would mind.

Zeus greeted all of us, paying special notice to Caitlin's new last name, which she acknowledged with a polite nod and smile directed back at Zeus, then he proceeded to try to tell all of us to relax—which, I could tell, really made Michael nervous...and that, in all honesty, made me nervous—the only time Zeus has ever told either of us to relax has been when he was about to drop a serious bombshell on us.

"What is this all about, Zeus?" Michael demanded. I have to admit, I was curious as well. Zeus rarely interrupts an after-mission discussion like this, I said to myself.

"Michael, relax," Zeus replied, with an uncharacteristic smile. "Actually, though, this does concern the both of you. You see, Michael," Zeus continued, "the Committee has made a decision recently. We have decided"—Zeus hesitated for a moment, much as I guessed Michael had eight months ago before he sprang the "assignment" on Hawke—"that you need a wife."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Well...so much for my theory that Zeus wouldn't do something like this. Would Michael go through with it? And marry me, that is, I asked myself. He...he doesn't even know how I feel about him. Well...I'll just have to show him how I feel, I determined.

"Nonsense, Michael," Zeus replied, shaking his head. "After considering how much marriage has improved Mr. Hawke's disposition"—Zeus nodded at Caitlin, who merely smiled and nodded back to him—"The Committee has decided that you might benefit from a similar...assignment." He caught the expressions on both Michael's face, and mine, and moved to reassure us.

"Archangel...surely you don't think I had anyone else in mind than Marella for this...assignment?" I wondered if my expression just then told him all he needed to know. "Archangel...it's obvious to me how you feel about Marella...actually, it's probably obvious to most everyone in this room," he continued. "And I have a hunch that the feeling is mutual between the two of you. So...I expect the two of you to get married, ASAP, and to begin working on...shall we say...the next generation of Deputy Director? Or maybe the next generation of the Deputy Director's personal aide?" Like I said before...I love the FIRM's euphemisms for having kids, I said to myself, knowing that my expression was bordering somewhere between anticipation and shock. Michael's face, however, was as red as Caitlin's hair, and I imagined that this conversation was not doing his blood pressure any good.

"Zeus, you can't be serious," Michael protested, completely ignoring my expression. "I mean, yes, I did the same thing to Hawke...and I'm pleased to see how well that has worked out, but you can't seriously think that I would..." Michael stopped himself as Hawke walked up to stand next to him.

"Michael," Hawke said, "at least think about what Zeus is suggesting. You never know," he continued, winking at me, and then at Caitlin, "you might wind up as happy as we are." Hawke turned and smiled at his wife, even as he noticed Dom trying to stifle a laugh from behind them, and Michael finally lost the tenuous hold he had on his temper.

"Mind your own goddamned business, Hawke!" Michael roared, angrily. I have to admit, his tone of voice and volume startled even me. Then I noticed Michael getting embarrassed, and I guessed that he recalled Hawke saying almost the same thing to him eight months ago, when this whole thing started.

"I'm sorry, Hawke," Michael quickly said, and I wondered whether he realized how hostile he really sounded. "That was uncalled for."

"Apology accepted, Michael," Hawke replied. "Guess now you know how I felt eight months ago." Once again, I found myself marveling at how easily Stringfellow was able to forgive Michael for getting angry.

"As a matter of fact, Hawke, I do," Michael replied. He quickly turned back to Zeus.

"Zeus, if there's nothing else..."

"No, no, nothing else. You're all dismissed," Zeus said, then added, "Archangel, think about what I've said...because I expect a decision within 48 hours."

"So, Michael," Hawke said when we were all back in Michael's office, "what are you going to do?"

"I...don't know, Hawke," Michael replied, and I hoped he hadn't noticed my expression turn decidedly downcast at his statement. "I honestly don't know."

"Well, Michael, you only have 48 hours to figure it out," Hawke said with a smile. "So don't take too long thinking it over. Let me give you a small piece of advice—go with your feelings...that's what I did eight months ago. And," he smiled at Caitlin as she walked over to him and they slipped their arms around each other, "I can honestly say I've never been happier."

"I can see that," Michael said, grinning. "And personally, I hope I never stop seeing it. All right, Hawke...I'll think about it."

Hawke, Caitlin and Dom left a few minutes later, leaving Michael and me alone in the office, and Michael's temper boiled over once again. "I can't believe it! He was spying on me! ME, for God's sake!" Make that, Michael's temper exploded again, I said to myself, more frightened of him than I'd ever been. Almost before I knew what I was doing, I spun on my heel and fled from his office, slamming the door behind me. By the time I got to my desk, I was a nervous wreck, and I had to go to the ladies' room for several minutes, so no one would see me crying.

I decided the best course of action would be avoidance—I didn't want anything to do with Archangel, after what had just happened. And I was also thinking about my future with the FIRM, and with Michael—I couldn't continue serving as his personal aide, knowing how I feel about him, if he was going to be that hostile towards me.

Guess now I know how Caitlin felt, I said to myself that night as I once again cried myself to sleep. Maybe...maybe I'll get a happy ending...just like she did. I...I sure hope so.

That night at home, I found myself thinking about Michael's actions at Red Star, when he grabbed me and threw me down on the floor just as Moffet opened fire...and I realized something...even as I was hearing the screams of the injured and the dying all around us, I was wishing that we were somewhere else...so that Michael could...make love to me. I know that sounds incredibly selfish, but I can't deny that was how I felt.

The next day, I continued avoiding Michael as much as possible, and finally, just before we left for the evening, Michael cornered me. "Marella...may I speak with you for a second?"

"Yes, Michael?" I replied. I had tried to keep my nerves from carrying through to my voice—but Michael's expression told me that I'd failed, miserably.

"You've been acting awfully strange today, Marella—is something wrong?" Michael queried, and the concern in his voice was obvious to me.

"I'm—I'm sorry, Michael," I stammered in answer to him, "I just thought it would be better if I avoided you until you made up your mind."

"Ah, yes...the 'assignment,'" Michael sighed, then he surprised me by taking hold of my hand. "What do you say you come to my house for dinner tonight...and we can discuss it further?"

Fighting a wave of tears, I glanced down at our joined hands, nodded, then whispered, "I—I think I'd like that, Michael." Just before he let go of my hand, I noticed something—Even with the differences in our skin tones...I couldn't tell where my fingers ended and his began. Now I know we belong together. And tonight, one way or the other, I'm going to make Michael see that, too.

That night as we ate, Michael decided to ask my feelings about Zeus' assignment.

"So, Marella...I guess you have a few...questions about why I asked you to come here this evening," Michael said nervously, and I thought to myself how nervous he sounded—a lot like a teenaged boy on his first date—and certainly more nervous than I've ever heard him sound.

"That's an understatement, Michael," I replied, and smiled at him to calm his nerves...and mine, I said to myself. "You've never invited anyone to your home for dinner...even Hawke. It...surprised me, I'll have to admit."

"Well," Michael replied, "I've been thinking a lot about what Zeus told me yesterday...and...I came to realize something last night."

"What was that, Michael?" I asked anxiously, and I wondered if Michael had finally realized what I hoped he would.

"Marella...I realized last night that...that I love you," Michael said, and I felt tears flood my eyes. "And, I've loved you for a very long time. I've just been too stubborn, or stupid, to admit it, until now."

"Oh, Michael," I replied, knowing my emotions were shining in my eyes, "I love you, too. I think I've loved you ever since that day at Red Star...and I've been hoping for a long time to hear those words from you." I was ecstatic, yet surprised, when I saw Michael stand up, walk around the table to where I sat, then he took my hand and pulled me from my chair, and kissed me. And I couldn't help noticing that we fit against each other, perfectly. Now, I know we belong together, I said to myself, feeling the emotions of the kiss washing over me with every second that we held each other. As if I ever doubted it before tonight. Finally, Michael separated us, knowing that we needed to breathe as much as we needed each other.

"There's something I never told you about that day at Red Star," Michael said after we had separated and caught our breath.

"What, Michael?" I asked him, anxiously.

"There's...a reason I did what I did, Marella," Michael continued. "I—I just couldn't imagine my life without you. Even then...I was in love with you."

"Michael...I have a confession to make," I said, smiling at him—the special smile that I knew would forever be reserved for him—"I've loved you since that day, too. Guess we were both just too stubborn to admit it."

"I guess so," Michael agreed.

"So...what do we do now?" I asked. "There is still that assignment we have to think about."

"Well, I think we need to get to know each other better...on a more personal level," Michael said. "I mean, we've worked together for the past three years, but we still don't know each other beyond that...and I think even though we know how we feel about each other, we'd only be doing ourselves a disservice by getting married too soon."

I moved closer in Michael's arms, then replied, "I like the way you think, Michael...I just hope it doesn't take too long." Then I kissed him again.

"By the way," Michael said after I let him up for air, "I...I owe you an apology for my outburst yesterday afternoon...it was...uncalled for, and I'm sorry if I frightened you."

"Thank you, Michael," I said, relieved that he'd realized what I was feeling. "Apology accepted." I smiled at him, a similar smile to the one I gave him and Sen. Dietz that fateful day at Red Star. Except this time, it's all for Michael, I said to myself.

By the time I went home, several hours later, I was feeling a combination of extreme happiness and profound disappointment—happiness because Michael and I finally knew how we felt about each other...but disappointment that things...hadn't gone further between us. Oh, well, I said to myself as I climbed into my bed alone that night, there will be time for all that...later. I sighed happily, the extreme happiness taking over my mind once again as I wondered what the future held for Michael and me.

Two days later, the day after Michael was supposed to have given Zeus his decision on the 'assignment,' I heard Zeus angrily page Michael to his office, and when he didn't ask me to go with him, I got concerned. Okay, forget concerned—I was worried sick. I didn't know what frame of mind Zeus might have been in, and I was afraid for Michael.

A few minutes later, though, Michael returned, and he seemed happy with the way things had gone.

"Well? How did Zeus take the news?" I asked him.

"About as well as could be expected," Michael replied, shaking his head. "Zeus is none too happy that I found...shall I say, a loophole in his assignment. But, like we discussed at dinner the other night, we don't know each other well enough, personally, to think about marriage. Although," Michael continued, and I noticed a mischievous grin crossing his face, "I don't think it's going to take too much longer."

"I like the way you think, Michael," I replied, moving closer to him. Remembering where we were, I placed a friendly kiss on his cheek before I walked out of Michael's office, giving him a show as I swayed my hips ever-so-seductively as I walked out.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we began seeing each other, personally, almost every night, and every night it became clearer to us just how much we loved each other. One day, during another post-mission conversation, Hawke noticed something.

"Michael, you seem...different," Hawke said in Archangel's office.

"In what way, Hawke?" Michael asked innocently.

"I can't really put my finger on it...but something's different about you. You seem...I don't know...happier, I guess," Hawke said hesitantly.

"Well, Hawke," Michael said, glancing at me and smiling, "I am happy...I'm happier than I've been in a long time. I think...I think Zeus might have had the right idea."

"I heard that, Michael!" Zeus' voice came over the loudspeakers in Michael's office.

"I know, Zeus," Michael replied to the air, and I suppressed a grin. "I suspected you might be listening in—that's why I said it." I noticed Michael couldn't help himself—he'd grinned at Hawke, Dom and Caitlin. Then, surprisingly, Michael proceeded to invite them all, including me, to his house for dinner the next evening.

"Shall we say...around 7:30?" I asked.

"Sounds good, Michael," Hawke agreed, and Caitlin nodded her agreement.

"Good...I'll see you all at 7:30 tomorrow, then." I said with a smile.

"Michael? What is this about?" I demanded, with a smile.

"What do you mean, Marella?"

"You inviting us all over for dinner tomorrow night," I said, still confused. "Are you planning something?"

"Maybe," Michael said, with an air of mystery that I should have expected from him, given his position and everything—but it still irritated me. The next day, I tried numerous times to get Michael to tell me what was going to happen tomorrow night at dinner...and I tried all my feminine wiles on him. Of course I knew I was fighting a losing battle—Michael has had classes in resisting torture, after all, the same as I have—I hoped that he didn't consider anything I was saying...or doing...to be torture, though. But no matter what I tried, Michael refused to break, telling me only, "It's a surprise, Marella," just before we left Knightsbridge for the day.

Then, just before I left, Michael said, "I'll see you at 7:30 tonight, then?"

"Yes, Michael," I replied, more confused than ever.

I arrived at Michael's home a few minutes before 7:30, and was not surprised to find that no one else had arrived yet. Once again, I tried to get Michael to explain what was going on, but all he would tell me was, "Have patience, Marella." Which, I have to admit, really got me curious—I mean, I began wondering, with the people we consider our closest friends in the world there with us, would Michael finally get around to asking me to marry him?

A few minutes later, Caitlin, Stringfellow, and Dominic arrived. Caitlin quickly walked over to me and said, "You okay?" She must have seen something on my face, I said to myself, deciding I'd be honest about my feelings.

"Not really," I admitted. "I'm just so...nervous. I've been wondering all day why Michael decided to do this tonight...and I still haven't figured it out. I mean...I know what I hope Michael's planning to do, but I'm still nervous...especially if he..."

"Well, Marella, I wouldn't worry about it," Caitlin replied with a smile. "Hawke hasn't been able to figure Michael out, either. And, don't worry," Caitlin added, "If Michael doesn't propose tonight, I'll make sure and tell him what an idiot he is!" Caitlin and I grinned at each other as Hawke and Michael came over to them.

"And what are you ladies conspiring about?" Hawke asked, slipping his arm around Caitlin's shoulders as she slipped hers around his waist.

"Oh, girl talk, String," Caitlin replied, smiling at him. "Nothin' you'd be interested in." String simply smiled and nodded as we headed into the dining room for dinner.

I kept trying to get Michael to disclose what he was up to all through the meal, but every time she brought it up, Michael simply smiled and said, "Later, Marella." Finally, I gave up until we were back in the living room after dinner.

When we had retired to Michael's living room, I began thinking to myself, Okay, that's it. I'm losing my patience here. Michael must have seen how frustrated I was getting, because he quickly asked Dom to fix everyone a glass of champagne, which really got me curious. Finally, when we all had our drinks, Michael sat me down in a chair at one end of the room, and I felt my emotions rising again. My suspicions, hopes, and dreams were finally confirmed a moment later when Michael slowly got down on one knee, holding a small maroon velvet box which I saw contained a beautiful diamond engagement ring. I felt tears flood my eyes when Michael said, "Marella...will you marry me?"

I couldn't find my voice for a minute...actually, probably longer than Michael would have liked. Finally, though, I thought I could answer him. "God, yes, Michael! Yes, of course I'll marry you!" I furiously wiped the tears out of my eyes with my right hand as Michael slipped the ring onto the third finger of my left hand, then drew me to my feet and kissed me, as I heard Dominic, Stringfellow and Caitlin applauding.

"Congratulations, Marella...and you too, Michael!" Hawke exclaimed, as he shook Michael's hand, then gave me a friendly kiss on the cheek. Dom did the same, and Caitlin embraced both Michael and me.

"I hope this isn't going to be too long of an engagement, Michael," Hawke said with a grin.

"I'll be calling Judge Clevenger first thing tomorrow," Michael replied, and I decided there was something I needed to do. As Michael, String, and Dominic talked, I pulled Caitlin aside and asked her, "Cait...would you consider being my matron of honor?"

"Absolutely," Caitlin said, grinning, just as we heard Hawke agree to be Michael's best man.

"Then this will work perfectly," I said as Caitlin and I came over to them, "since Cait agreed to be my matron of honor. And, I have one other request. Dominic...would you"—I wondered if he knew what I was asking, but he simply smiled and said, "The pleasure...and the honor...will be all mine, Marella."

"Thank you, Dominic," I said, still not believing that everything had fallen into place tonight.

"We'll let you know when we'd like to get married, Hawke," Michael said as they shook hands once again.

"Okay, Michael," Hawke replied, then added, "and congratulations again."

"Thank you, Hawke," Michael said, smiling, "and good night."

As we watched them leave, I hoped that Michael could pick up on what I was feeling—now that we were engaged, I wanted him...desperately. As soon as the door closed behind the Hawkes and Dominic, I grabbed Michael and kissed him with everything I had, and quickly felt him returning my passion with his own. When we separated, I hoped he could read the desire in my eyes, and he did without me having to say a word, scooping me up in his arms and carrying me to his bedroom, where we made love all night long...actually, until early the next morning, which caused us to be late getting to the office. When we did, though, the first thing Michael did was call Judge Clevenger, to see if he could marry us a week from Saturday, which, to be honest, I thought wasn't nearly soon enough—but, it was the soonest we could work everything out with Ron, and the Hawkes, so I figured I'd just...deal with it.

As we stood at the door of Hawke's cabin and waited for the ceremony to start, I remembered getting dressed with Caitlin in the bedroom of the cabin, and I think she noticed something wasn't right with me. "You okay, Marella?" Caitlin asked, worriedly.

"Yes, I'm fine, Cait," I replied, smiling at her. "Just..."

"A little nervous?" Caitlin asked, and I don't think she was surprised when I nodded affirmatively.

"Don't be, Marella," Caitlin said, smiling at her friend. "Everything's gonna be fine today...you'll see. I felt the same way eight months ago, before I married String."

"I certainly hope so, Caitlin," I said as my personal assistant, Jacqueline, put the finishing touches on our makeup. Then I added, "And I remember how you were the day you married String...you didn't seem nervous at all."

"Then I guess I hid it well," Caitlin said. "I may not have looked it, but that day, I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs!" Caitlin and I both laughed.

"Well, Caitlin, you did hide your nerves well that day," I agreed, and I hoped I'd be able to hide mine as well, when the ceremony started.

"Y'know, I dunno why we went to all that trouble," Caitlin said, smiling again. "That makeup's probably gonna be ruined before the ceremony even starts."

"You're probably right, Cait," I agreed, taking a few final, deep breaths. "Okay," I finally said, "go tell Dom to get everything ready, all right?"

"Sure," Caitlin replied, and went downstairs.

A few minutes later, Dom escorted me to Michael's side, and the ceremony began. And just like Caitlin had figured, my eyes were full of tears, and my makeup ruined. But when I looked up at Michael, I saw his good eye had tears in it as well. Finally, after we had exchanged vows and rings, I heard the words I had begun to think I would never hear—"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Coldsmith-Briggs!" Once again, I heard our dearest friends applaud as Michael took me in his arms and kissed me. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that, I said to myself. Finally...I'm Mrs. Coldsmith-Briggs. I'm Michael's wife. We finally separated and began accepting congratulations from the small group, which I noticed included Zeus, once again uncharacteristically smiling.

Zeus stepped in front of us, and I couldn't help but notice that he was smiling. "I told you this before, Michael, but it's about damned time! Now, I have one other...small request," he continued.

"Yes, Zeus?" Michael asked, concerned.

Zeus simply shook his hand and said, "Don't make me have to chaperone any rooms back at Knightsbridge when you return from your honeymoon in two weeks. We have closets for that." He gave me a friendly peck on the cheek, and smiled at both of us again. Personally, I was shocked that Zeus would make an insinuation like that, and I let him know it.

"SIR!" I cried out, shocked. "You can't believe that we would behave unprofessionally while at work!"

"Actually, I don't believe you would, Marella," Zeus replied. "Nor would Michael, I don't think."

"No, Zeus. We will maintain the highest possible professionalism at all times while in the office, you have our word," Michael said.

"I'm glad to hear that," Zeus replied simply. I couldn't help but wonder what Michael might do, though, when we were at work, if our emotions threatened to take over for our normal good judgment.

Later that evening, after we had left the cabin and returned home, Michael carried me across the threshold of our home, smiling at me as he did so. Once he'd set me back down, our feelings for each other erupted once again in a passionate kiss. Finally, Michael separated us and said, "Welcome home, Mrs. Coldsmith-Briggs." I hoped he noticed the smile come to my face when I heard my new last name.

"Thank you, Michael," I said, and I wondered if he saw the tears in my eyes. "I never thought I could be so happy."

"I'll do my best to make sure you stay happy for the rest of our lives, Marella, my dear," Michael replied.

"And I'll do the same for you, my love," I promised him, just as he swept me into his arms and carried me to the bedroom, where we proceeded to show each other just how in love we were.

Later that evening, as I fell asleep wrapped in my husband's arms, I thought back to the few simple words that started this whole thing—You know the old saying: If the FIRM had wanted me to have a wife, they would have assigned me one! I couldn't keep a few tears from my eyes as I felt Michael's arms around me, and I wondered what might have happened if neither he nor Hawke had uttered those words. I guess I'll never know, I said to myself happily as I slipped into sleep, but not before I took one last look at my engagement and wedding rings. Who would have thought that a few simple words could make four people so happy? I asked myself as I fell asleep wrapped in the embrace of the man I loved, the man who I would forever call my husband. Thank you for making me your wife, Michael, I said to myself with a contented sigh as sleep finally claimed me.