Disclaimer: Don't own anything, except the idea, as usual.
Summary—A New Year's Eve party offers the chance Cait's been waiting for.
A/N: Just a little short story for New Year's Eve. Cait and Hawke aren't together in the beginning, as usual. References are made to I Want To Help and Let Me In. Enjoy, and Happy New Year to all my readers! –robertwnielsen
This is the year, Caitlin O'Shannessy thought as she got ready for the FIRM's annual New Year's Eve party. In 1988, I'm either gonna make String realize how much I love him, or I'm gonna go back to Texas. I'm through playin' around. Cait had suffered through Stringfellow Hawke's inattention, and sometimes downright rudeness, for the past two years, and had just about had enough. As she got dressed in the small bathroom at Santini Air, she made a few decisions regarding her relationship, or lack thereof, with Hawke.
Meanwhile, as String and Dom finished putting on their tuxes, Dom said, "String...got any New Year's resolutions?"
String thought seriously, then said, "Not...exactly, Dom." He had a feeling he knew what his surrogate father was asking him, and decided not to fall for it. "Just...thoughts, really."
"Oh?" Dom asked, by now extremely interested. "What sort of...thoughts, if you don't mind my askin'?"
"Actually, I do mind," String said, "but since you asked, I've been doin' a lot of thinking about...about Cait. And me. And, I think..." String was suddenly interrupted when he heard the restroom door open and saw Caitlin walk out. "Wow," String said, taking in the sight of his close friend in a knee-length aquamarine dress, with black heels. "Caitlin—you're—you're beautiful."
What did he say? Caitlin thought, shocked. Did—did String just say that I'm—beautiful? She blushed slightly, not exactly sure how to take what she'd just heard from the man she considered to be her best friend, even though she wished he could be more to her. "Um, thanks, String," she stammered, surprised that String had given her a compliment. "You look pretty good yourself." Oh, who am I kidding? He looks absolutely gorgeous, as always. Especially without those confounded shades he's always wearing. I'm sure glad I'm gonna be on his arm tonight, even if it is just as his friend.
For his part, Dom was left wondering what String had meant when he said, "I've been doing a lot of thinking, about Cait. And me. And I think..." Dom stifled a smile when he recalled seeing Cait walk out of the small bathroom, and seeing String's reaction to her dress. Well, what did you think, String? Dom wondered if String would ever finish that sentence, and exactly what Hawke would say if he ever did finish that sentence.
"Dom? You going to get Megan and then meet us back here?" String asked. Michael had told String that he was sending a limo for them to take them to the ballroom where the party would be held.
"Yeah," Dom said, smiling. "Be back in a few minutes," he said as he climbed into one of the patriotically-painted Santini Air jeeps, and roared off.
I wonder if he sees the humor in that. Hawke watched Dom drive away. Picking Megan up for a party like this, dressed like he is, in one of our jeeps. Well, I'm sure he's thought about that a few times today. Hawke suddenly found his attention drawn back to Caitlin. I never knew she had such great legs, Hawke forced his eyes away from her shapely legs, which were accentuated by the high heeled pumps she wore. In fact, I—I never really noticed how beautiful she really is. Hawke knew why he was reacting the way he was, of course—being so accustomed to seeing Caitlin in overalls, or a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, the sight of her dressed so formally was absolutely breathtaking. Of course, he knew their friendship couldn't be anything more than simply that, even though his older brother, Saint John, had come home a few weeks beforehand. Just then, Caitlin caught Hawke trying to avert his eyes from her legs, and smiled knowingly at him.
Caitlin couldn't help but notice that String was checking her out. In fact, she noticed the difficulty he was having keeping his eyes off her. And if it were any other guy doin' it, I'd be nervous as all get out. But, since it's String, I don't mind one bit. Well, it looks like I got your attention, String, Caitlin thought with a small air of satisfaction. She'd chosen this particular dress hoping that she would get a reaction like the one she received. Now, the question is, what in the heck am I gonna do with it? She knew, of course, about the curse that Hawke felt like he had on him—that everyone he loved, or in her case, might love, would die. But Saint John's home now, String. Caitlin recalled the day they'd found out he was alive. It turned out that Saint John had been the commander of an elite Special Operations Group, which was capable of many of the same types of missions that she, Hawke, and Dom carried out in Airwolf. Caitlin winced inwardly as she recalled the argument that had erupted when Saint John explained where he'd been all these years.
"Dammit, Saint John, of course I've been lookin' for you!" String thundered, angrier than Caitlin had ever seen, or heard him. "You're my brother, for Pete's sake! The only family I've got left, besides Dom! Why would you think I wouldn't have torn North and South Vietnam apart lookin' for you?" String hoped Saint John could see, and hear his rage, both on his face and in his voice.
"I know, String, and the only thing I can say is that—I'm sorry," Saint John said, knowing those few words wouldn't be enough. "I'm sorry I stayed away so long—if I'd known how long you were lookin' for me, I would've insisted on more rights to communicate—but the SOG was under Top Secret Umbra classification—we couldn't communicate with anybody, String. And I wasn't the only one who left family behind that day." Saint John referred to the day when String had left him, along with nine other guys from 1st Air Cav, because the helicopter String was piloting was dangerously overloaded. Saint John, being in command of the squad, had ordered String to lift off, knowing that if String tried to take the rest of the squad, none of them would make it.
I—I thought they were gonna start a fist fight right then and there. Fortunately, String calmed down enough to forgive Sinj, and I think they're getting along better all the time. She liked to think she'd had something to do with the improvement in String's mood, especially after they discovered Saint John was alive, but she didn't want to take too much credit for it. Just then, String heard the FIRM's limo pull up outside, and saw Marella step out.
"Good evening, Hawke, Cait," Marella said, smiling. "Where's Dominic?"
"He should be here any minute," String said, glancing around. "He went to pick up his date for tonight. And may I say, you look beautiful this evening," Hawke added.
"We can wait," Marella said, then added with a smile, "Thank you, Hawke." A few minutes later, Dom pulled back into the parking lot and climbed out of his jeep, walking around and opening the passenger side door for Megan Ravenson, who climbed out, smiling.
"String! So good to see you again!" Megan said, drawing String in for a warm, friendly embrace. "And Caitlin, how are you?"
"Fine, Megan," Cait said, smiling at the older woman. The chauffeur stepped out at that point and opened the back door to the limousine, and Hawke, Cait, Dom, Megan and Marella climbed inside.
As they drove off, Hawke couldn't stop himself from staring at Caitlin, and he found himself fighting an emotion he hadn't experienced in a long time. It can't be. I can't be falling in love with Cait, can I? I mean, there's...He suddenly stopped himself from thinking about the curse, instead thinking about all the times since they'd met two years ago that Cait's life had been in danger, and yet, she'd survived each time. Heck, she was even in danger a few times back in Texas, before she even knew I existed. Hawke remembered how Caitlin had told him about being shot, as well as kidnapped, more than once during her time on the Texas Highway Patrol. Not to mention what Bogan's boys tried to do—more than once, actually. Hawke remembered when Cait had told him how she had almost been raped more than once by some of Bogan's deputies. She put those boys in the hospital. And that's where that nickname, 'Sweet Britches', came from. And I can appreciate why she hates it so much. And, of course—I know from personal experience what a good hand-to-hand fighter she is. He remembered how Cait had come into his room at John Bradford Horn's compound, and fought back after he attacked her. There was an imprint of the combat boot she was wearing on my chest for two weeks, after she kicked me in the gut. Hawke involuntarily winced at the memory. Caitlin noticed his expression out of the corner of her eye, and, just like she did back at the hangar, simply smiled knowingly, hoping she could hide her excitement.
"You okay, String?" she asked him, glancing over at him and laying her hand on top of his.
"Yeah," String replied, surprised that Caitlin had called him by his first name. She usually calls me 'Hawke'. Wonder why she changed just now? Then, he looked down at her hand on top of his. Why did she do that? Hawke glanced over at Caitlin, and noticed her still smiling at him.
Caitlin noticed Hawke's reaction to her use of his first name. It's working! God in Heaven, I think it's really working! And, she noticed he hadn't reacted negatively to her placing her hand on top of his. One of the resolutions she'd made before she came to the hangar that morning was that in 1988, she was going to be nicer to String, as part of her major resolution—to break through the walls that Hawke had built around his heart, and make him realize how she felt about him, and that it would be okay if he admitted he felt the same way about her. And besides, 1988's only a few hours away, so it won't hurt if I start now. She still remembered when Hawke lay in her arms at Horn's compound, unconscious after she had administered the drugs that she had hoped would counteract whatever brainwashing Horn had done to him. She remembered how she'd thought Hawke was dead, when he lay in her arms, unmoving, for several minutes. I—I really thought I'd lost him. Caitlin remembered. But fortunately, the antidote worked, and Hawke came back to us—back to me. Now, as she glanced at him sitting next to her, she wondered what thoughts were going through his head at the moment. Oh, no. Another very worrisome thought came into her head, What if—what if he doesn't feel that way about me? Caitlin tried not to let the worry she suddenly felt break through onto her face. I mean, I really don't know if he's just hiding his feelings, or if he really doesn't love me, the way I love him. Caitlin pulled herself out of her thoughts as she heard Megan talking to String.
"String?" Megan asked. "How's your brother doing?"
"He's fine," String replied, smiling at Megan. "He comes by the hangar almost every day, and I think he's really getting used to being free...without having to answer to anybody."
"That's good," Megan said. "And Le? How's Le doing?"
"Oh, he's fine," Hawke replied. "He's back with Saint John now, and becoming quite the ladies' man at school, from what Sinj tells me. Like father, like son, I suppose." String smiled again at the thought of his nephew.
"How about you, Cait?" Megan asked.
"Oh, I'm good, Megan," Cait replied. "Still workin' at the hangar with String and Dom, and still..." she stopped herself, causing String to turn to her, concerned.
Aha. You were going to say, 'still in love with String,' weren't you? Megan glanced at Hawke, then at Caitlin, and noticed Cait's hand resting on top of String's. She'd sensed something the first time she'd met Caitlin, at the hangar one day. You've got it bad for him, don't you, Cait? Well, I'll just have to see if I can help you out. That's my New Year's resolution. Just then, they felt the limo stop, and saw Marella and the chauffeur open the rear doors, allowing them to exit the limo. Hawke offered Caitlin his arm, which she accepted with a gracious, loving smile. Dom extended his arm to Megan, and she accepted as well, and the two couples walked into the ballroom where the party was being held.
"Happy New Year, Hawke, and Cait," Archangel said as they walked in the ballroom. Hawke nodded and said, "Same to you, Michael." Hawke even smiled at Michael, which surprised the older man.
"Caitlin, you look absolutely beautiful this evening," Michael said, smiling at her.
"Thank you, Michael," Caitlin replied as Michael turned his attention to Dom and Megan.
"Dom, Megan. Happy New Year to both of you," Michael said, smiling uncharacteristically at them.
"Same to you, Michael," Megan replied.
"Happy New Year, Michael," Dom said, surprising everyone by shaking hands with Michael.
Later in the evening, the couples paired off to dance—except, the pairings were not what Caitlin had expected—or wanted—when she found herself dancing with Michael, while String was dancing with Megan. It reminded Cait of that time when she was dancing with Villers, and String was dancing with Carter Anderson III's executive assistant, Rosalind. Just don't go shootin' String any dirty looks, like you did that night, Caity girl. Dom and Marella were also dancing together, but Michael knew Caitlin's mind was on one person in particular.
"Cait?" Michael said, concerned. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Michael," Caitlin said, fervently hoping that he wouldn't figure out she was lying to him. "Just—distracted for a minute."
Aha. And, I know why you're distracted. Aloud, he said, "So, did you make any resolutions for the New Year?" As if I need to ask. I should have asked, 'How many resolutions about Hawke do you have this year?', or something to that effect. I know Marella's got a resolution to try to get you and Hawke together. Michael remembered how Marella had mentioned it after Michael was rescued from East Germany, and the discussion that had ensued.
"A few," Caitlin replied, adding, "the usual, y'know—about work, my weight, and all those good things." She smiled at him, but Michael sensed the smile was somewhat forced.
"Caitlin," Michael said, shaking his head at her, "from what I've seen, weight has never been a problem for you. So I don't think that's a resolution you really need to worry about." He was not surprised when Cait blushed a tiny bit, then they realized the song was ending. They separated, and Michael said, "Thank you for the dance, Cait. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to track down my wife."
"She's over there, with Dom," Cait said, and Michael saw Marella walking towards him.
"Sorry, Cait," Marella said with a grin, "but you've monopolized the best-looking man here long enough." She smiled alluringly at Michael as they moved out on to the dance floor.
"So, what were you talking with Caitlin about?" Marella asked her husband as they began dancing.
"Oh, just asking if she'd made any resolutions for the new year," Michael said, smiling at his wife. "And even though she didn't say it, I get the feeling that Cait's made at least one resolution regarding Hawke."
"I have the exact same feeling, Michael," Marella said to her husband. And I'll do anything I can to help Cait keep that resolution, too. It's the least I can do, after Cait helped Hawke get Michael back from Krueger, in East Germany. That's my New Year's resolution—helping Hawke see how much Cait loves him—and that it'd be okay if he loved her the same way.
You think Michael's the best-looking man here. Well, that's your opinion, Marella. Of course, you're Michael's wife, so it makes sense you'd think that. Caitlin's eyes focused on the man she considered to be the best-looking in the room. Hawke was walking over with Megan, when Dom stepped in front of him.
"String," Dom said, shaking his head at his younger surrogate son, "in case you forgot, Megan's my date for the evening. But," he said, casting a glance in Caitlin's direction, "I think I know somebody who could use a more...permanent dancing partner. If you know what I mean." Dom smiled at String and glanced back in Caitlin's direction as he and Megan moved out to the dance floor.
Yeah, I know what you mean, Dom. Hawke glanced over to where Caitlin stood, alone, watching Michael dancing with Marella, then turned her eyes towards Dom and Megan dancing together. Suddenly, her mind was filled with a vision—a vision of her and String dancing together, just as the clock struck midnight. In her vision, she glanced up at him with an anxious expression, and was rewarded beyond her wildest imagination when Hawke leaned down and—
"Cait?" She suddenly heard Hawke's voice in front of her. "You okay? Where were you just now?"
"Sorry, String," Caitlin said, embarrassed. "Just, lost in thought, I guess."
"Well, anyway," String said, smiling as he held out his hand, "would you like to dance?" He smiled at Caitlin, noticing her catch her breath, surprised.
The longer she hesitated, the more nervous Caitlin became, as she tried to find her voice. And I know Hawke's not gonna wait forever. Finally, she looked up at String, feeling like she could answer him. "String, I would love to dance with you," Caitlin said, nervously taking his hand and allowing him to lead her to the dance floor. As they began dancing, Caitlin nearly lost herself in the feeling of having Hawke's arms around her, the way she'd always wanted to. I could stay like this forever. Caitlin marveled at how well her body fit against his. This feels so right—like this is where I'm supposed to be. She felt herself relaxing in String's comfortable embrace, wishing this dance would never end. Well, I'll just have to make sure it's not the only one we share. Caitlin sighed contentedly, hoping that Hawke didn't hear the sigh over the song that was playing.
As he felt Caitlin's body against him, Hawke felt an emotion surge through him that he hadn't felt in a very long time. I hate to admit it—but holding Cait like this feels—good. He marveled at how well Caitlin's body fit against his own. It's like—like we've known each other forever. He considered how long they had known each other, and everything they'd been through together. And she's always been there for me, even when I wasn't expecting her to be. Hawke remembered how Caitlin had believed, as he did, that his brother Saint John was still alive. And she helped me that time last year on Sinj's birthday, and again on the anniversary of my parents' death—she was there for me. String thought about saying something, but realized the song had ended, and Caitlin was trying to slip out of Hawke's arms.
"Sorry, Cait," Hawke said as he let go of her, hoping she couldn't tell how his mood had just darkened. "Just—got caught up in the moment, I guess."
"Oh, that's okay, String," Caitlin replied, smiling at him. "I was—kinda caught up myself." She smiled at him, a friendly, sweet smile, as Dom came over and asked her to dance. Hawke smiled at them as they walked onto the dance floor, then Marella came over and asked Hawke to dance, since Michael was dancing with Lauren, his prime pilot.
"Hawke," Marella said as they began dancing, "I have to tell you—you and Caitlin looked absolutely stunning when you walked in this evening. Just like a scene out of an old movie, or something," she said, adding to herself, or like a scene out of one of those novels I like. And I could see how in love with you Caitlin was—is, I mean. And even though you didn't show it, Hawke, I get the feeling that you might be in love with Cait, too.
"Great party," Hawke said, smiling at Marella, even as he tried to steer the subject away from Caitlin. I know what you're doing, Marella. The problem is—it's working. I—I think it's really working.
"Yes, Zeus really outdid himself this year. So, Hawke," Marella said, sensing Hawke's diversionary tactic, and wanting to try to steer the subject back to him and Caitlin, "make any resolutions for the New Year?"
Not you, too, Marella. Hawke remembered how Dominic had asked him the very same question earlier in the evening. "A few," he said, and Marella thought she noticed something in Hawke's expression. "Especially concerning certain people we know." I wonder if I said too much.
Really? Marella dared to hope that she knew what at least one of those resolutions might be. H mm. Maybe this will be easier than I thought—if one or more of those resolutions is about Cait, that is. Just then, the song ended, and Marella walked over to Michael, as Caitlin thanked Dom for the dance and walked back over to Hawke.
"Almost time," Hawke heard Marella say to Michael, just as she heard a countdown begin over the loudspeaker.
"10...9...8...7...6...5..." Caitlin recalled the vision she'd had earlier in the evening and walked over to stand next to Hawke, as they counted down the last few seconds of 1987. "3...2...1...HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Balloons began dropping from the ceiling as the band began the familiar chorus of "Auld Lang Syne." Caitlin looked up and saw Hawke smiling down at her, just as he had been in her vision of a few minutes ago. Then, he wrapped his arms around Caitlin's waist, and gently pulled her closer to him, until finally, their lips met in a kiss that started off slowly, like the one they'd shared on the movie set some two years ago, but just like that day, String and Caitlin quickly lost themselves in the emotions of the kiss, their arms tightening around each other as if neither one wanted to let the other go—which, at least in Caitlin's case, was the truth. God, if I'm dreamin', please don't ever let me wake up! I want to remember this feeling—feelin' String's arms around me like this—for the rest of my life—in case—in case it never happens again. Caitlin suddenly hoped String couldn't feel how her mood had suddenly darkened.
As he kissed Caitlin, String felt something...different. He couldn't explain it, but he felt like something was changing in the air. It's like everything's okay. Hawke tightened his arms around Caitlin, and felt her arms tightening around him. And, I can't deny my feelings anymore. It's—it's time. Time to tell Cait exactly how I feel—that I love her. And, I hope she feels the same way about me. Hawke hoped that Caitlin couldn't sense how his mood had suddenly darkened, as he considered the possibility that she might not feel the same way about him, as he did about her.
"Dom, look over there," Megan said after she and Dom separated from their New Year's kiss, and Dom saw what was happening between String and Caitlin, and his heart leaped for joy. Thank you, God! And Saint Anthony, Saint Jude, Alan, Jane, and anybody else I forgot. Dom wiped a happy tear out of his eye at the sight before him, before he kissed Megan again.
After he and Marella separated from their kiss, Archangel glanced over at Hawke, and his jaw dropped in amazement. I don't believe what I'm seeing. Michael grinned as he saw Caitlin and Hawke kiss. Dammit, it's about time those two figure their feelings out!
"You noticed, Michael?" Marella asked her husband.
"Yes, Marella, I did," Michael said as he saw Caitlin and Hawke finally separate. "And I have to say, it's about time." Michael and Marella smiled at each other as they glanced over at Hawke and Caitlin.
"Happy New Year, Cait," String said, smiling. "And, there's something else I want to tell you."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense, String," Caitlin said, casting a loving smile at him. "What is it?" I sure hope it's what I think it is.
"Just that—I—I love you, Cait," String said, relieved that he'd been able to get the words out.
"String..." Caitlin said, even as her voice caught in her throat, "I—I love you, too." She pulled his head down to her and kissed him again, almost losing herself completely in the emotions of the kiss. I can't believe it—String finally told me he loves me! Finally, she separated from Hawke and, after she'd caught her breath, she said, "String—you don't know how long I've waited to hear you say that."
Actually, I do, Cait. String decided not to voice that thought aloud. He glanced up at that moment and saw Dom, Megan, Michael and Marella standing in front of them, all four smiling at the events that had just taken place. "H mm. It looks like we've got ourselves an audience, Cait," he said, embarrassed. But, it's sure nice to know Cait and I are on the same page.
Caitlin looked at her four friends and said, "I don't care, String. All I care about is that we know how we feel about each other. And, listen—I know, you're worried about the curse. But, I believe in you, String. And I believe in us. We'll make this work—I know it." She smiled up at him, and the love and confidence in her eyes were all the reassurance String needed.
Caitlin noticed that String didn't leave her side the rest of the evening, and held her hand all the way back to the hangar. Guess I was wrong. String does love me the same way I love him! Oh, Mom's gonna flip when she hears about this!
Guess I was wrong. And I've never been happier to be wrong, about anything. Hawke smiled the rest of the evening, and was still smiling later, as the foursome rode back to the hangar in Michael's limo. He and Cait had shared many romantic dances after the first one, and String felt the love between them growing stronger every minute they were together. Cait does love me the same way I love her. And I've gotta admit, it feels good having somebody in my life like this again—and, it feels even better that Cait is that woman.
After the limo had dropped Cait, Hawke, Dom and Megan back at the hangar, Dom took Megan back to her apartment before he took String back to the cabin. String walked with Caitlin over to her car and said, "I completely forgot to ask you, Cait—what was your New Year's resolution?"
"Funny you should say that, String," Cait replied, smiling at him, "because it's already come true. My resolution was that I was gonna either make you see how much I love you—and that it'd be okay if you loved me the same way—or else I was gonna finally do what Mom's been buggin' me to do for so long, and go home to Texas. But now," she said, smiling up at String, "I won't have to. But, I've gotta warn you, String—I'm callin' Mom as soon as I get home tonight, so be ready the next time we see each other, 'cause I've got a feelin' she's gonna be real happy about what happened tonight!"
"I'm sure she will be, Cait," String said as he pulled her into his arms again, "but, I'm betting she won't be near as happy as we are." He smiled down at Caitlin and kissed her good-night, the kiss becoming so passionate that Caitlin knew her toes were curling inside her shoes, and she thought she felt her brain short-circuiting. If heaven doesn't feel just like this—the feeling I get with String's arms around me—then, I'm not goin'! When String let her go, she shook her head slightly to clear the daze she felt herself in, and then said, "That's a bet you'd win, String," Caitlin said, her emotions shining in her eyes. "'Cause I'm probably the happiest gal on the face of the Earth right now. Well, good night, String. And—I love you." She smiled at him as he opened her car door.
"I love you, too, Cait," String replied as she climbed into her car and he shut the door. Caitlin started the engine, and String stepped back so that she could leave to go home, just as Dom came back from taking Megan home. Once they were in the air headed back for the cabin, Dom said, "String, I've gotta tell you—I'm real happy things worked out like they did! I was beginning to think you'd never come to your senses about Cait, and I think—I think you and Cait are gonna be real good together."
"Me, too, Dom," String said, smiling at him. "And, you remember when we were getting dressed earlier, and you asked me about New Year's resolutions? Well, I just made one. I resolve that before the year is out...Cait and I are going to be married."
"That's great, kid!" Dom shouted, smiling, as String's cabin came into view. I'll bet that resolution comes true long before the end of this year. I just—I just wish your mom and dad could see it. But if I know Alan, he and Jane are probably grinning like two cats that ate a pair of canaries right about now. Aloud, he said, "Well, Happy New Year, String!"
"Happy New Year, Dom," String said as he closed the passenger-side door. He stepped back as Dom throttled the helicopter up and lifted off, heading back towards Van Nuys. As he walked back to the cabin, String realized something. I miss her already. When he went to sleep that night, he found himself dreaming of a day he never thought he'd see—but a day he hoped was not too far in the future. The day he and Caitlin became husband and wife. Soon, I hope. Hawke smiled at the vision in his mind's eye as he dropped off to sleep. Very soon.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!