Come Back To Me
A/N—As always, shout out to jareya, bamboozlepig, Ms. Anonymous, Riabhach, and OldSFfan for their feedback.
Disclaimer—Don't own 'em, just having a new playdate.
Summary—Hawke's been injured in a motorcycle accident and is clinging to life. Written from Caitlin's POV.
Come on, String, I remembered saying to him just before he left on his motorcycle. It's pouring rain out there...things are getting slick. Wait just a few minutes, I said. But, as usual, that stubborn mule wouldn't listen to me. He had to run this errand, to go pick up a part that Dom had been waitin' on, and he told me he wouldn't be long, just before he kissed me goodbye and roared off on his motorcycle.
That was four hours ago, I said to myself, staring at the white walls of the hospital room. I was there, along with our son, Jimmy, String's brother Saint John, and Dom, the man who raised String and Saint John after their parents had been killed in a boating accident up on Eagle Lake, where String and I live now. And even though we got him here as fast as we could...especially without Airwolf...we don't know if String's gonna make it.
I couldn't help but cringe at the irony of the situation—String had denied us the chance to be together for three years, after I first met him down in Texas, because he was afraid that anyone he loved—or, in my case, might love—would die, so he kept pushin' me away, even though I tried over and over again to get him to understand how much I loved him, and that it'd be okay if he loved me. And even though I thought I was gonna go crazy from getting so frustrated with him, I kept after him—until he finally figured out his feelings about me, and we fell in love and got married. Now, I'm sittin' here holdin' String's hand in the hospital, and the doctors have told me there's a very good chance that String isn't gonna make it through the night—somethin' about brain damage and his heart not workin' right, if there is any brain injury—and that's where the irony part comes in. It just strikes me as incredibly ironic that, after all his worryin' about losing me,now I'm the one who could lose him. And to be honest, I don't think I could take that. I shuddered as I recalled how the policemen had told me about the accident.
"Mrs. Stringfellow Hawke?" the officer asked as he walked into the hangar.
"Yes?" I replied, then noticed the officer's expression. "Something's wrong, isn't it?"
"Ma'am, your husband was in a motorcycle accident," the officer said, and I gasped audibly as Dom placed his hands on my shoulders to steady me. "Somebody crossed the center line and plowed head-on into his motorcycle...we think the other person was drunk. Your husband's being airlifted to..." The officer hesitated for a moment, but I knew where String was going.
"Foxbridge Clinic," I said, and the officer nodded. Foxbridge was a clinic that the FIRM operated—String, Dom, and I have all been there before for one reason and another, and we're on a first-name basis with all the staff there, so I knew String was in the best of hands, medically speaking. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Marella's there with him. Dom did tell me she's now a 'doctor, doctor,' after all, so I'd be shocked if she's not helping take care of String—and, at least we'll have a friendly face when we get there. I know how the ambulance crew knew where to take String, because it's on all our drivers' licenses—Dom's, String's, and mine—that if we're in some kind of accident, Foxbridge is where we should go. I let the officers lead me to the squad car, and we drove to the hospital. And as we drove, something the officer had said rang in my head—we think the other person was drunk—which really made me angry. After all, it was a drunk boater who took String's parents out on the lake, and a drunk driver killed Kelly, String's high school girlfriend. Now—now it looks like everything's comin' full circle, I said to myself.
"Mom? Dad—Dad's gonna be okay, isn't he?" Jimmy asked, bringing me back to the present.
"I—I dunno, Jimmy," I said, not knowing how else to answer him. "The doctors did everything they could. It's—it's up to your dad, now." I knew my eyes were full of tears as I looked at our son, and I didn't care—especially when I saw the tears in Jimmy's eyes—those icy blue eyes that remind me so much of my husband.
"Cait," Dom said from a few feet away, "String's a fighter. You can't—you can't give up on him."
"Dammit, Dom, I'm not giving up!" I shouted, more harshly than I'd intended. Dom and Jimmy both stepped back, and I could tell how shocked they both were.
"Sorry, Dom," I said, knowing my face was turning red. "And you, too, Jimmy. But you guys should know me better than that. After everything we've been through, I promised String when we got married that I'd always be here for him...and I will—no matter what. I'm not giving up on him." I glanced back at my husband, then turned to Dom.
"I know, kid," Dom said as he laid his hand on my shoulder. "It's okay. We—we're all worried about him."
"Like Grandpa Dom said, it's okay, Mom," Jimmy said, walking over and hugging me. "I know you're just upset 'cause Dad's hurt. But he'll be okay. You'll see."
"Thanks, Jimmy," I said. "I needed to hear that. And it means a lot that you guys are all here."
"Where the heck else would we be, Cait?" Saint John demanded. "String may be your husband, but he's still my little brother, and Dom's other "son," so there's nowhere else we'd be." I smiled and nodded at Saint John.
"That's right, Caitlin," I heard Archangel saying from the door. "We're all very concerned about String."
"Michael," I said, moving towards him and allowing him to embrace me, "Thank you for coming. I'm just so..." I couldn't finish my sentence as I felt my emotions begin to take over again.
"I know, Cait," Michael said. "I know. What have the doctors told you?"
"Nothing much," Dom replied. "Just that they don't know when, or if, String's gonna wake up."
"I tell you what," Michael said, "let me go find Marella. I think she was talking with String's doctor, and I'll see if she's found out anything. Oh, one other thing—I can promise you this—we've brought in the best specialists in the country to help Hawke with anything he might need when he wakes up"—I took special notice when Michael said when String wakes up—Thanks for bein' so positive, Michael, I said to myself. "And, I personally guarantee that you'll never see a bill for anything Hawke needs. I've already talked it over with Zeus, and we figure it's the least we could do, after everything Hawke has done for us." He smiled at Dom and me, but I could tell the smile was forced.
"Thanks, Michael," I said as he walked out of the room.
"Aunt Cait?" Le Van, Saint John's son, came into the room a moment later. "What's wrong with Uncle String?"
"Le," Dom said, knowing how emotional I was, "Didn't Saint John tell you? Your Uncle String had a motorcycle accident, and they don't know if he's gonna make it." Dom lowered his head, even as Le walked over to stand with Saint John. Just then, Marella walked into the room, along with Michael.
"Well," Marella said, "from what Dr. Jackson has told me, Stringfellow may not have as hard a road ahead of him as they originally thought. He broke several ribs when he fell off the motorcycle...other than the head injury, that's the worst of the physical damage." I felt myself relaxing—a little—at that. Broken ribs mend, in time, I said to myself, but then I realized Marella had more to say.
"What they can't say one way or the other is if there's going to be any brain damage—and if there is, what effects that might have on Stringfellow. The problem is that the longer he goes without waking up, the more potential damage could be done to his brain," Marella said, and I nodded, remembering a year previous, when String and I both suffered injuries that caused us to lose our memory. String's was actually worse than mine—he had a movie accident and wound up unconscious in the hospital for two days before he finally woke up. But then he didn't remember who I was, or Saint John, or anybody except Dom. He promised me, dammit! He promised me he'd never leave me alone like that again! I said to myself angrily. What really made me angry was the fact that I didn't know who to be angry at, if that makes any sense. I mean, even though I know some drunk idiot had crossed the center line, I had the feeling String was pushin' the limits of what he could do on that damned motorcycle—'cause he was tryin' to get back to the hangar, and to me, as quick as he could—even though we've been married for over eleven years, he hates to leave me alone for very long—and, I have to admit, the feeling's mutual. That's how much we love each other.
Finally, Dom convinced me to head down to the cafeteria—I'd been at the hospital for over four hours, and finally realized just how hungry I was, even for hospital food. But like I said before, even though he was unconscious, I hated to leave String...I wanted my face to be the first thing he saw when he woke up. Just as I finished the burger and fries I'd ordered, I heard the hospital PA system—Doctor Jackson, Code Blue, Room 1535! I felt a cold bolt of fear rush through me when I heard the room number. "That's String's room!" Dom shouted, and we bolted for the elevator. I have to admit, I was wonderin' if my lunch was about to come back on me, but somehow, I held myself together.
By the time we reached String's room, we saw what I recognized immediately as a crash team—I remember seein' those when I was on the Highway Patrol back in Texas—with a defibrillator, rush into String's room. Marella came out to stop Dom and me from going in, and I screamed, "What's going on with my husband, dammit?"
"Cait, easy," Marella said, even though she knew she was fighting a losing battle. "Hawke—Hawke went into v-fib, so you'll have to stay out here for a moment. But they'll take care of him." V-fib, I knew, was a very dangerous condition—String's heart was basically fluttering uncontrollably—and I knew they only had a few seconds to jump-start it.
"400 watt-seconds!" I heard from String's room, behind the door.
"400!" came the reply.
"All right. 1, 2, 3, CLEAR!" I heard the paddles as they delivered the jolt to String's heart.
"No conversion!" someone yelled.
"Hit him again!"
"1, 2, CLEAR!" The sound of the paddles jolting String's heart felt like a kick right to my gut...kinda like I imagined String had felt all those years ago at Horn's compound, when he was brainwashed and attacked me...and I kicked him in the gut just before I injected him with the antidote. Just then, the door opened, and I braced myself for the worst.
"Mrs. Hawke...he's okay," Dr. Jackson said, and I let out the breath I'd been holding, even as Dom and Saint John did the same. "It was close, God, was it close! But we got him back. He—he's still unconscious, but he's breathing on his own." Dr. Jackson opened the door, smiled, and said, "You can go see him now."
"Thank you, Doctor," I said as I walked into String's room. I noticed the ventilator tube was gone, which made me relax—a little—but I could tell things weren't much better than when I left for lunch. I couldn't help but worry that Jimmy was gonna grow up without a father—and that I'd be facin' the rest of my life alone—if String didn't make it.
"Dang it, Hawke," I said as I grabbed hold of his hand again, but used his last name to let him know just how ticked off I really was, "didn't I tell you to wait before you tore off on that confounded motorcycle? Didn't I? You know I hate bein' right, especially now." I stopped talking for a minute as my emotions bubbled to the surface again, but when I felt Dom's hand on my shoulder, I felt like I could continue.
"String, please come back to me. I—I can't go on alone, you know that. I—I need you, Stringfellow Hawke, and I love you." I gently kissed his hand as I waited for some sign—any sign—that he'd heard me—but there wasn't one.
"Cait," Dom began hesitantly—I think he was nervous that I was gonna go off on him again—but I didn't think my emotions would even allow for that much of a release. "Why don't you go back to my apartment for a while? There's food there, at least better than that stuff they serve down in the cafeteria...and the hospital will call us if anything happens, or Marella will," he said, but I shook my head angrily.
"No. No, Dom. I'm not leaving my husband," I said, turning so I could look him in the eyes.
"Okay, kid," Dom said, sighing. "I guess I understand. But I'm gonna take off for a few minutes and bring back somethin' decent to eat. You okay?"
"Yeah, Dom," I said, even though we both knew I wasn't. "And, thanks." He nodded, tears streaming down his face as he turned and left the room. My emotions finally got the better of me and I began to cry, burying my head against String's chest.
I don't know how long I sat there, wondering what was going on, but finally I smelled something—Dom's spaghetti. "Smells like food," I said, smiling.
"Yeah," Dom replied. "It is food. I told you I was bringin' something better to eat. Any change?"
"No," I sighed. "I—I thought I felt something right after you left, like String was waking up. But it was just my imagination." Dom dished up the food he'd brought and we ate in silence, glancing over at String occasionally to see if anything had changed, but the persistent rhythm of the machines he was hooked up to kept going like some kind of cruel metronome, or somethin' like that.
The hospital set up cots in String's room, so Saint John and I could sleep—we told Dr. Jackson that at least one of us would stay in the room with String until he woke up—and I gotta give Dr. Jackson credit—he knew from experience not to argue with either one of us. I think somebody put a note in each of our files—Dom's, String's and mine, that is—not to keep any of us away from anyone who was in the hospital. That's what I heard, anyway. Dom finally convinced me to lay down on the cot and try to sleep. Easier said than done, I said to myself when I lay down and closed my eyes, knowing that I wouldn't get much rest.
Surprisingly, I slept longer than I thought I would—at least, I think I did. When I woke up, I saw a nurse looking at the instruments above String's bed, and making a few notes on his chart—and, I realized I was alone in the room, except for String and the nurse. Dom, Saint John, and everyone else was gone.
Just as the nurse turned to leave, though, I heard the door open and saw Dom, Jimmy, Le and Saint John come in. "Any change?" Saint John demanded.
"No, Sinj," I said, shaking my head. "He—he hasn't woken up. I—I'm really getting worried, Dom. The longer it takes before he wakes up..." I couldn't finish my sentence as I felt another surge of emotions coming over me.
"Cait," Dom said hesitantly, and I got a feeling about what he was thinking by the tone of his voice, "I know you said you're not gonna leave String, but you need to go for a few minutes. You look like you didn't sleep a wink last night, and Sinj & I can keep our eyes on String and the boys. Go on, Cait."
"No, Dom," I said insistently. "I'm not leaving my husband. Period. End of sentence," I said, and hoped that the tone of my voice and my expression would convince Dom of my intentions.
"Cait," Dom said, and I could tell he was beginning to get frustrated, especially when he raised his voice to me, "you're upset, I can tell. I know you're worried about String, but there's no point all of us stayin' here. I've got food there at the apartment, and Marella told me a few minutes ago that she'll call the apartment if anything happens, so go. Take some time and..."
"No," I insisted, unconsciously raising my voice to try to get my point across. "I appreciate what you guys are saying, but I'm not leavin' my husband," I said again, knowing I was repeating myself, but I had to get it through Dom's head that I was gonna stay by String's side...no matter what.
"Cait, Dom. Will you two quiet down?" I suddenly heard. "I've got a bad enough headache as it is."
"Be quiet, String," I said, not completely making the connection. "Dom and I..." Suddenly I realized that String had said something. "String? You're awake?"
Dom ran outside and hollered at the first nurse he found. "Nurse! Get Dr. Jackson in here!"
"String, how're you feeling?" I asked, gazing into his eyes.
"Hungry, and sore. Not to mention a splitting headache that you and Dom almost made worse," String said as Dr. Jackson came in. He'd actually been heading for String's room and heard Dom bellow at the nurse, so he came right in.
"Mr. Hawke, you're awake?" Dr. Jackson said. "And I heard you say you're hungry...that's a good sign." He quickly checked out String's eyes, then Dom and I helped String get out of the bed.
"Mr. Hawke, I know you're not a big believer in God, but I've gotta say that I think somebody was watchin' out for you," Dr. Jackson said as we helped String back into the bed after he walked across the hospital room, without help. Dr. Jackson continued, "You don't seem to be suffering any of the normal symptoms of head trauma—nausea, disorientation, amnesia..." I caught my breath at that, remembering how String had lost his memory after that movie stunt went so wrong a while back. I said a silent prayer of thanks that String seemed to be okay...and when I looked over at Saint John and Dom, it looked like they were doing the same thing. I thought about what the doctor had said—I think somebody was watching out for you—and even though String would never admit it, I had to agree with Dr. Jackson. Whoever it was—Saint Anthony, God, Kelly, Gabrielle, Daddy, or even Mr. and Mrs. Hawke—thanks, I said to myself. Thanks for watchin' out for String and bringin' him back to me okay.
"Now, I'll see about getting you something to eat...in the meantime, relax...get some rest," Dr. Jackson said.
"Rest?" String said disgustedly as Dr. Jackson left the room. "Good grief, I spent the better part of a day unconscious. What the hell do I need more rest for?"
"Relax, String," I said. "The doctor's just tryin' to help."
"I know, I know," String replied, "but I'm okay, Cait. A little sore, but I'm okay." I had to admit, I was relieved that String appeared to be okay, and that he appeared to have all his proverbial marbles.
"Hey, little brother," Saint John said as he walked over to the bed. "Glad you're back with us."
"I'm glad to be back, Sinj," String said, forcing a weak smile at his older brother. "Sorry if I scared anybody, especially you, Cait," he said, rather sheepishly.
"Well, String, I hate to say I told you so, but..." I said, hesitating.
"You—you're right, Cait," String said, surprising all of us, including me. "I should've been more careful. I should've waited before I took off like that. So again, I—I'm sorry."
"Apology accepted, String," I said, smiling. "Just promise me you'll never do that again."
"I—I promise, Cait," String said. "I'll be more careful in the future."
"Good," I said. "And I don't intend to let you forget that you said it, either."
"I know you won't," String replied. Just then, an orderly came in with a tray for String. He put the tray in front of String, who grimaced.
"Sorry, String," I said, shaking my head. I know how bad hospital food can be, and I suddenly felt kinda bad that Dom and I had finished the spaghetti Dom had brought yesterday. String actually ate most of what they brought, a fish sandwich and fries, but I could tell he wasn't impressed.
"Hawke?" Marella said as she walked into the room. "You're awake?"
"Yeah, Marella. I'm awake, and it seems, other than a few busted ribs I feel every time I breathe, that I'm okay." He smiled up at us, and Marella and I returned his smile.
"That's good," Marella replied. "Dr. Jackson told me you were awake. Are you sure you're okay?"
"I seem to be," Hawke replied. "Everything still works, physically and mentally, so I think I should be able to get outta here soon."
"That's true," Dr. Jackson said as he walked into the room. "We'll keep you overnight, just for observation, but unless something goes drastically wrong during the night, I think you'll be fine to go home tomorrow."
"Thank you, Doctor," I said.
"Anytime, Mrs. Hawke," Dr. Jackson replied as he, Dom, Saint John and Marella walked out of the room, leaving me alone with my husband. I finally gave in to the emotions that I'd been fighting since we brought String into the hospital, and I kissed him, a deep, loving kiss that almost became something else, but I pulled away from him before I allowed it to go too far.
"Sorry, String," I said, "but it wouldn't be good if Dom, or Michael, came in here and..." I hoped he could understand what I was getting at—I wanted him—I wanted him desperately, as a matter of fact, but common sense told me that any activity of that sort would have to wait until he was out of the hospital.
"I know, Cait," String said, and I was relieved that he seemed to be thinking along the same lines that I was. "Besides," he continued, "I'll be outta here tomorrow, and if I know Dom, he'll probably want us to stay away from the hangar for a least a couple days. So, we'll have plenty of time."
"M mm. I like the way you think," I said, catching myself when I heard the door open again and saw Dr. Jackson walking in.
"Sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to let you know that unless something happens during the night, I'll be releasing Stringfellow first thing in the morning." I felt an enormous sense of relief at his words. "Mr. Hawke, I know I said it before, but I have a feeling somebody was watching out for you."
"You might be right, Doc," Hawke said, surprising me. "You just might be right."
Later that night, at home, Jimmy said, "Mom? It's sure gonna be good havin' Dad home tomorrow, isn't it?"
"Yeah, Jimmy," I said. "It sure is." I said a prayer before climbing into bed, thanking God that String had come back to us—to me—and I promised myself I'd do whatever I had to to make sure that String never had an accident like this again.
"Oh, by the way, Mom," Jimmy said, "I hate to say 'I told you so,' but..." I couldn't help myself—I grabbed Jimmy and hugged him—hard.
"Yeah, you did, Jimmy," I said, laughing. "You told me String was gonna be okay, and he is. Y'know," I said, looking him in the eye, "you're a pretty smart cookie."
"Guess I take after you then, Mom," Jimmy said, grinning at me as we hugged each other.
The next morning, I insisted on holding String's hand as he was wheeled out of the hospital. Jimmy was there with me, and Dom was going to bring us all back to the hangar.
Before String came down from his room, I stopped Dr. Jackson. "Dr. Jackson...thank you for taking such good care of my husband," I said.
"It was my pleasure, Mrs. Hawke," Dr. Jackson told me. "I'm just glad everything's okay. You'll bring Stringfellow back if there are any problems?"
"You can count on it," I said as I saw the nurse pushing Hawke out of the elevator. I saw him smile at me and walked over to grab his hand, keeping pace with the chair until String was finally able to get out. I could only imagine the argument between my husband and the nurse when the chair was brought into his room, but the nurse didn't show any frustration with String. That's her job, I said to myself as we pulled away from the hospital in one of Dom's jeeps.
When we got back to the hangar, Dom said, "Okay, you two. Get outta here. And I don't want to see you back here for at least a week. Capice?"
"Don't worry, Dom," I said. "You won't." We walked over to the chopper, and String surprised me by taking the pilot's seat.
"String? Are you sure?" I asked, concerned.
"I'm fine, Cait," String replied, and the look in his eyes was all the confirmation I needed. I got Jimmy situated in one of the passenger seats, then climbed into the co-pilot's chair as String got his clearance from the tower, and after starting the engines, lifted the chopper into the sky, pointing it toward home.
I gotta admit, I had my hands and feet ready to take control if something went wrong, but String was in complete control. It's like—like he wasn't even hurt, I said to myself, taking a moment to realize just how lucky we both were.
Later that evening, after Jimmy had gone to sleep, it was just String and me outside, wrapped in each other's arms. Finally, I turned in String's arms, and he caught the expression in my eyes before I kissed him. He quickly scooped me up in his arms and took me back into the cabin, not stopping until we'd reached the sleeping loft. I felt our emotions building quickly as we undressed each other, but I suddenly felt like I had to say something.
"String, are you sure you're up for this?" I asked. He pressed himself against me and left no doubt in my mind that yes, he was up for anything I wanted.
"Does that answer your question?" String asked.
"M mm. I guess it does," I replied. "But, can we not talk anymore?" I asked, and was relieved when String lay me down on the bed, joining me a moment later, and making his intentions known without saying a word.
When it was over, all I could think was how much I'd underestimated how well my husband had recovered from his accident. I smiled with satisfaction, and felt like I was finally able to relax...but there was one other thing I needed to do.
Hawke's birthday, six weeks later
"Happy birthday, Dad!" Jimmy said as we gathered in the living room. We were all there—Dom, Saint John, Le, Michael and Marella, along with Jimmy and me—we made it kind of a combination of String's birthday, and celebrating the fact that he'd survived the accident without any serious complications—which was confirmed to us both the day before String's birthday, when I took him back to Foxbridge for a full checkup. They did every scan they could, and found no lingering evidence of any brain damage from the accident.
"Thanks, Jimmy, and Cait," String replied. "I'm just relieved I'm okay."
"Not as relieved as I am," I said, smiling at String as I handed him a package. "From me."
"It's heavy," String replied. "What on earth..." I knew I had puzzled him, which made me happy. I glanced over at Saint John and Dom, and subtly nodded. String finally got the package open, and realized what it was.
As he picked up the helmet, String looked up and smiled. "Cait, you know I don't like to wear a helmet when I'm on my bike, unless.."
"'Unless,' nothing, Hawke," I said angrily. "You might not be so lucky next time. Consider this just a little bit of insurance." I knew, of course, that String's bike had been replaced, thanks to the insurance, and there was no way I was going to let my husband continue riding without a helmet. Having come so close to seeing him suffer a serious injury, or worse—to losing him entirely—I wasn't going to take any chances. "No arguments, Hawke. Understand?" I really hated to use his last name twice like that, but this was serious—so I pulled out all the stops to make sure I got my point through Hawke's thick head.
"I understand, Cait," String replied, causing me to sigh with relief. "I don't like it...but I understand. I know how much the accident scared you. I'll wear the helmet, okay?"
"Okay, String," I said as I smiled at him.
Later that evening, after Dom took Saint John and Le back home, String and I were outside the cabin again, wrapped securely in each other's arms. I said another silent prayer of thanks that String was okay. Aloud, I said, "Well, String. I hope you had a happy birthday."
"Yeah, I did," String replied, turning me in his arms to face him. "And, I'm glad I got to spend my birthday with all of my family."
"Yeah," I said, snuggling closer to String, "me too. I'm just glad we got through this okay."
"Me, too, Cait," String said. "Me, too." Just then, I noticed String's eyes get real serious. "Something wrong, String?" I asked him.
"Cait, I have a confession to make. When that car hit me, I was goin' a little fast. I was tryin' to get back to you as soon as I could, and I guess I pushed it too far." He lowered his head, but I caught his chin with my hand and forced him to look me in the eyes. "Cait, I'm sorry."
I knew it, I said to myself, remembering how I'd thought the same thing that day in the hospital room. "Well, I can't say that I'm surprised, String...just...be more careful from now on. Okay?"
"Okay," he replied simply, and smiled at me. And then I noticed—something. I wasn't sure what, but something seemed, different in String's eyes.
Suddenly, I felt String scoop me up in his arms, and I immediately knew exactly what he was thinking—especially since it's exactly what I'm thinking, I said to myself as we headed for the sleeping loft. Once String had set me back on my feet again, I quickly moved into String's arms, not wanting to waste the moment, and String responded, moving us toward the bed before he took my lips with his, and then there was no more time—or ability—for either one of us to say anything more.