by tag [tagwriter(at)gmail(dot)com]

Airwolf is copyright © Belisarius Productions and Universal Studios. No infringement of that copyright is intended by this story.
"Silences" is copyright © 2003, Trudy A. Goold.
Thank you again to Vathara, who betaed this story.

"Do you still expect people to read your silences?"

Stringfellow Hawke sat back in his chair and stared thoughtfully at the flames in the fireplace. The Ropers had left half an hour ago and he'd been trying to think about the situation with Ho Minh, and Ni Hong and Sam ever since. For some reason, however, his thoughts kept circling around to the question Ni Hong had asked when they'd seen each other for the first time in eleven years.

"Do you still expect people to read your silences?"

He'd lied to her, telling her that it was only when he didn't know what to say. The truth was, he did expect people – or, at least, people he knew – to be able to read what he left unsaid. Dominic could; and despite two years of not seeing each other, and a certain amount of distrust and dislike, Michael Archangel certainly could.

But then, Archangel had always been able to read him, from the very beginning. And he'd always been able to read Archangel – to a certain extent, at least.

I wonder what Dom would think if he knew that Michael asked me to take this mission because he suspected it involved something like Sam and Ni Hong's situation?

Not that Hawke had known that when Archangel had first approached him, though he had wondered why the Deputy Director of the Firm hadn't simply assigned it to one of his agents. Not all his angels were female or wore white, Hawke knew.

No, he'd figured it out during their discussion in Dom's 'office'. Archangel hadn't said anything directly, of course, but Hawke suspected the only thing that had surprised Archangel had been his immediate reaction to the knowledge of Ho Minh's existence. Certainly he hadn't been surprised by Hawke's determination to save Sam from facing a firing squad. In fact, Hawke had gotten the definite feeling that Archangel had expected it.

The abrupt sound of the radio buzzing interrupted his musings, and Hawke frowned, even as he reached out to answer it. "Yes?" he said curtly.

"Hey, String!" came Dom's voice. "You get things sorted out with the Ropers and Archangel?"

"Yes," Hawke answered, somewhat curtly. He wasn't in the mood to talk to Dom about Ni Hong.

"They still there?" Dom continued.

"Nope." Hawke paused, and then added, "Archangel left a few hours ago. Marella came back to pick the Ropers up about half an hour ago."

It was Dominic's turn to pause – maybe at the tone of Hawke's voice – and then he said, "Well, good. We got work to do tomorrow, so you need to get some sleep. I'll be picking you up just after sunrise."

"Work?" Hawke repeated, faintly surprised. They'd spent the past week dealing with Archangel's mission, and Dom hadn't been back at the airfield for more than five or six hours. How had he scared up a job for tomorrow so fast?

"Don't tell me you've forgotten already, String!" came Dom's exclamation. "We've got that stunt job for Universal Studios in the San Bernadino Forest, remember?"

Right. He had forgotten. Or rather, he'd forgotten that it was tomorrow. Too many things going on over the past week "Okay, I remember."

"So, I'll be over around 6am," Dom concluded. "You just remember to keep that mutt off the dock till then."

"Ah, c'mon, Dom, Tet isn't that bad," Hawke protested, a faint grin crossing his face. Truth was, he knew full well that Tet was that bad – but he had no intentions of ever letting Dom know that fact.

Then he abruptly remembered what Michael had said just before leaving. Hawke had no idea what it meant, but he had a feeling that it was a continuation of their constant battle of words. "Oh, Dom, I almost forgot – I've got a message for you," he added.

"A message? What is it?"

Hawke found himself grinning faintly. Whatever Archangel's comment meant, Dom's reaction was bound to be amusing – especially since Archangel wasn't available to be snarked back at. "Michael said to tell you that lemon juice works better."

There was a sputtering sound from the other end of the line. "Why, that... that... sneak! I told you he was tapping the phones!"

"Did I say he wasn't?" Hawke countered. "What did he mean?"

"Oh, no, String... this is between him and me," Dom said firmly. Then he added, in a quiet mutter, "Next time, I'll show him....

"Listen, String, you get some sleep, and I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

Obviously Dominic wasn't going to give him any more information on what Michael had been talking about. "Tomorrow," Hawke agreed, and clicked off the radio.

He then went back to staring at the flames, and trying to decide exactly what he thought about what Ni Hong had told him.

It wasn't easy.

At one point, he'd really loved her. He'd felt the echo of that love urging him on throughout the entire mission – the love, and the question about whether Ho Minh was really his son.

She'd made it quite plain to him during their short discussion earlier that it didn't matter whether Ho Minh's biological father was Sam or himself; that it was Sam who was her choice as her son's father.

She was right, Hawke admitted to himself. Too many people died around him; it wouldn't be fair of him to risk a child who might not even be his. And it had been obvious that Sam adored Ho Minh; he'd be a much better father for the boy, all told. Hawke would just have to settle for having the boy as a namesake – Poor kid! – and knowing that he would help, if it was ever necessary.

Then, as always happened, thoughts of Vietnam and family brought Sinjin to mind.

Sinjin, who had been haunting him worse than usual during this mission – especially after he'd found out about Ho Minh. Ni Hong's attitude and determination when it came to getting her son back reminded String inevitably of himself and his quest for Sinjin. In some ways, it had been like looking in a mirror; except that Ni Hong had at least known that her son was still alive.

String didn't have that much of a guarantee. All he had was Airwolf, and Michael Archangel's promises.

Archangel's promises.

Dom would have a fit if he knew that Hawke was trusting those promises – had trusted them since the first time he and Michael Archangel had met, ten years ago. He'd point out that Archangel was a spy; that you could never trust an agent to tell you the truth; that they had no guarantee that Archangel would keep his promises; that Archangel had gained what he wanted, which was String flying Airwolf for the Firm; that even if Archangel did intend to keep his promises, he would only give String answers when it was convenient for him....

Hawke had to admit to himself that all of that was true. Pretty much everything Archangel did was to benefit the Firm and the United States; but at the same time, Hawke knew that the spy had a definite sense of honour. Buried, perhaps, beneath layers of expediency, but still there.

Archangel wouldn't have let Hawke get away with his own plans for Sam Roper if he didn't still have that honour. He would have simply called in the firing squad and removed Sam – and possibly Ni Hong – from the base before Hawke could have done anything.

Hell, he wouldn't have brought Hawke into the mission in the first place if he didn't.

Besides, Hawke knew Archangel well enough that if the spy found out information about Sinjin's whereabouts, he would know – and, if need be, he would simply confront Archangel with that knowledge.

Hawke was surprised to feel a certain peace settle over him at that.

Looking toward the windows, he estimated it was going on 11pm. If Dom was going to be here at 6, he definitely needed his sleep.

Standing up, he called Tet, and headed upstairs. For some reason, he had the feeling he would sleep better tonight than he had over the past week.

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Last modified July 29th, 2003.
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