While working on a more ponderous story, I had this little ficlet running around in my head. It follows my story, "All in the Family."

Disclaimer: These characters and original scenario belong to the copyright holders, Bellisarius, etc. I'm just getting the characters off the shelf so they get to play for a while. "Blackjack," the transitional episode between Season 3 and Season 4, was a mess. So I start with the idea that it's television and no major, regular cast character ought to die. The 4th season characters are very appealing and so I like to keep them right along with the characters from the original series. Rabbi Marsha (Moishe) Elizabeth Dalton and Tiger the tabby cat are original characters.

Michael and Marella, A Very Modest Proposal

Sunday dinners up at the cabin were becoming a tradition. Tonight's dinner had been a simple spread of make-it-yourself sandwiches and potluck side dishes. Beer but not hard liquor was served during the meal, then coffee, tea, and soft drinks, since the guests had arrived by helicopter and had to fly home. A pot of coffee sat on the propane stove. Stringfellow Hawke and Caitlin O'Shannessey were gracious and unobtrusive hosts. Old friends, and new friends becoming old friends, felt comfortable sitting about playing games, talking, and listening to good music on Hawke's stereo. Hawke had relaxed enough to enjoy the company of his friends without fleeing to the solitude of the dock by the lake to play his cello for the resident bald eagle.

Once the dishes were cleared, Hawke's son, Le Van, set up the chessboard on the table to return to the chess match with Jason Locke. Jason was convinced a thirty-nine-year-old senior field agent for the Central Intelligence Agency could beat a thirteen-year-old boy at a game of strategy like chess. So far Le was proving Jason wrong. Jason's girlfriend, Rabbi Marsha Elizabeth Dalton, or Rabbi Moishe as almost everyone called her, tried to keep her kibitzing under control. She adored Jason, but he could be an old stick and watching Le counter his every move was gratifying, not that she would ever tell Jason that.

The Scrabble players set up their game on the card table. Mike Rivers and Jo Santini had drawn Ellie McNeal into the match. Saint John Hawke held Ellie's son Joshua in his lap but declined to play. Sixteen years as a prisoner of war in Southeast Asia seemed to have sapped his facility with English. It was more fun to pick on Mike and cuddle the sleeping child, all the while letting his left hand drift down Ellie's back, then return to her shoulder to play with her hair, worn loose and much longer than when they had become lovers half a lifetime before in Da Nang.

Dominic Santini and Toni Donatelli played cards but poker was more fun with four players. Eventually String and Cait sat down to make up a foursome. For such an expressive and voluble man, Dom had a surprisingly good poker face. They were playing for pennies and nickels, and his pot had grown to where the stacked coins were starting to fall over toward Toni.

Out of the way of the quiet hubbub, knowing the evening would have to end soon so everyone could go home and get ready for the work week, Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III and his aide, girlfriend, confidante, muse and brilliant factotum, Doctor Marella Bouvier, sat together on Hawke's old beige sofa. Le's cat, Tiger, displaced from his usual spot on the sofa, had stalked upstairs to the loft and looked down between the posts of the railing, green eyes bright in his gray and white-striped face. With Marella held close to him, Michael leaned back to listen to the Preservation Hall jazz playing softly on Hawke's stereo. Marella was from New Orleans and he knew how much she enjoyed the music.

Michael, code-named Archangel, was the deputy director of a division of the CIA. He was senior to all of the operatives in the room. At one time he would have never socialized with his underlings. Mind drifting with the music, Michael tried to put his finger on what had changed, to recall when Hawke's near-hostility toward him had turned to friendship, or to try to figure out when Hawke, after years as a bitter recluse, had created this strange, ad hoc, unrelated, yet warm, extended family. Surely, the change began even before Hawke's long-missing brother, Saint John, was rescued in Laos. Now, Hawke and Cait were engaged. Other members of the Airwolf crew seemed to have marriage on their mind. There was a time when the threat of marriage would have sent Michael running for cover. CIA policies tended to discourage office romances. But that was all right now. Marella had moved in with him. She was finishing her final year of residency before becoming a board-certified pediatrician. She had resigned from the Company. Michael was no longer her supervisor. There were no more reasons or excuses to wait.

"Do you remember how Cait and Hawke got engaged?" he asked Marella softly.

"Right here on the sofa," she reminisced. "Sweet and informal, as they always are."

"Sweet isn't a word I'd apply to Hawke," he grumbled.

"He's your best friend," Marella countered. "You just don't want to admit it."

"He didn't even get down on his knee to propose to her," Archangel complained. "After everything he put her through."

"I think Hawke's proposal was exactly right for Caitlin. Exactly what she wanted."

Michael grimaced. "Well," he said, "here's how I think you'd want it." He got down onto his right knee, despite his bad left leg. His right hand dug into his jeans pocket. He produced a small, royal blue, silk-covered box and opened it. A white gold ring with a large and brilliant white diamond lay in the velvet lining. "Marella," he said, voice deeper than usual, "would you please forgive me for taking so long to acknowledge how much you mean to me and how much I love you. Would you, could you possibly," suddenly, this most confident of men stumbled over his words. "Marella, would you please marry me?"

Marella's eyes were bright with joy. She said gently, "You know I love you. I have loved you since I first met you, since you hired me, since you taught me everything about being an agent, since you helped me to go to school and you let me know how much you respected me for my achievements, and since you risked yourself to save me at Red Star. Joyously, Michael, yes I will marry you. Yes, I will, yes." She held her left hand out and Michael slid the ring onto her third finger. "It fits perfectly," she told him.

He rose and pulled her up to stand by him. "Perfectly," he said, and pressed his lips to hers. She was so tall he hardly had to bend to do it, so slender that he felt as if his arms could break her if he clutched her too tightly. But he knew her tensile strength. He had relied on it.

Someone behind them cleared his throat. Michael slid his arm around Marella's waist and turned so that the two stood together. He realized that everyone in the room was looking at them. "Yes, Dom," he said, "we're engaged to be married."

Dom clinked a spoon against the tumbler that held his diet soda. "I shouldn't say, 'it's about time.' But it is about time. Or long since time. But now that you've come to your senses, I propose a toast. Because pilots can't drink and fly, we'll stick to the non-alcoholic stuff tonight, and make up for it some time soon." He raised his glass. "To Michael and Marella, may their children take after their mother."

Laughter and congratulations were loud enough to send Le's cat, Tiger, running back upstairs to the loft. Under cover of the clamoring voices, Michael nodded meaningfully at Moishe and whispered into Marella's ear, "Thank you, my love. And it turns out, we know a rabbi."