Back and forth.
Back and forth, back and forth, again and again. That's all it had ever been between them. Back and forth. Why should this day be any different? Because, every time, as soon as one thought he was breathing the air of victory, the other pulled him right back down into the drowning waters of combat. Back and forth between them.
The sky was bleeding into night. The two ships circled. Their weapons fired. Their shields were whittled down. The dogfighter's dance was reaching its climax.
One of them knew that one more hit would destroy his ship. And his enemy was on his six. He came up with a desperate course of action. He grabbed his parachute and his glass cutter. As that final shot approached his ship, he jumped out. The air blew him backwards. His ship disintegrated before his eyes. His journey was not over.
He blinked and the enemy's ship was below him. He grabbed on just outside the left laser cannon. The force almost dislocated his arms. But his gamble had worked.
His enemy's ship turned around. He was likely trying to get another look at the remains of his ship. They had surely hit the ground by now.
Doing his best against the wind, he climbed over the gun while his enemy was distracted. He placed himself behind the cockpit. He pulled out his glass cutter. He began working.
That's all their lives have been, too, up to this point. Back and forth. One of the combatants, his mom had died, then he recovered. Then his dad died, and again he recovered. For the other, both his parents died at once. He recovered on the streets. He nearly failed the Academy, then he recovered. His team was turned down by the Cornerian government in favor of the other's, but he recovered. And whenever he was shot down, he impeccably recovered every time.
Both of them knew plenty about the back and forth. The only thing that never came back was their friendship.
One of them noticed his enemy trying to cut open his cockpit. He pulled out his blaster. He fired upwards, melting the glass. The enemy dodged. He pushed on the yoke, sending his ship downwards. He needed to land soon.
His enemy pulled out his own blaster. His enemy fired it downward randomly. He was alive due to his reflector. His ship's controls were dead. He bailed out. He swung wildly with his fists as he jumped, attempting to knock the other out of blaster range. He hit his enemy's blaster instead. It flew away into the sky, never to be found.
His ship plummeted to the ground, uncontrollable. He had his blaster ready. His enemy was nowhere to be found. Just the darkening of the sky.
Back and forth, just like always. Wouldn't be a rivalry without it. But it seemed this battle would extend long into the desert night.
They both knew plenty about coming back from the brink, too. Andross had made it all the way to Corneria, but he had helped them come back from the brink. Andross had almost destroyed Sauria, but again he had come back. And once again, the other one somehow came back from the brink after every single crash. Two tendrils of smoke rose into the sky. Tonight was no different.
One of them, angered by the loss of his blaster, was nonetheless perfectly positioned. He saw his enemy below him. He streamlined his body to catch up with him.
He did just so as his enemy pulled the cord on his own parachute. The jerk of his parachute coupled with this surprise made his enemy drop his blaster. It shattered against the ground several seconds later.
His enemy tried to shake him off. He wouldn't let go. They were too close to the ground now; he wouldn't be able to open his own in time.
He tried to climb high enough to snap his enemy's neck. His enemy blocked him. Blocked him for just long enough for them to hit the ground. They tumbled apart. He charged at his enemy as he unhooked his parachute. His enemy noticed this and ducked. The momentum from his charge took him right over his enemy. He tumbled again. He stopped face-up on his enemy's parachute.
Back and forth, hand-to-hand combat edition. It wasn't the first time they sparred this way. It was the most serious time. One had learned a lot from his time on Sauria. The other knew a lot from his various crime sprees.
One of them waited for his enemy to recover. His enemy stood up, moved off the parachute. They stared at each other. Then they attacked.
The dance of the dogfighters was replaced by the dance of the martial artists. Both dodged, blocked and attacked as night fully replaced day. They bounced off each other for ten minutes.
One of them threw a quick right jab. His enemy dodged and tried to knock him off his feet. His enemy succeeded with one foot, but not the other. Both spun around. They faced each other again. This time, there was no pause.
His enemy tried for an uppercut. He stepped out of the way. He finally had an opportunity. He plunged a fist full force into his enemy's stomach. The rush of air suddenly evacuating his enemy's lungs hit him in the face. He didn't stop. He threw punch after punch. He hit the nose and it splattered blood. He hit a right hook and broke off a fang, splattering blood again. He hit his enemy's solar plexus to try and keep him from breathing. He finished with an uppercut, sending his enemy flying away. His enemy landed twenty feet away with a thud.
His enemy coughed, regaining breath and losing blood. He could have walked over and killed his enemy right then. He didn't. He wanted his enemy to be fully aware during his last moment.
Then he noticed a glint. His enemy had pulled out a knife. He scrapped his original plan. He charged while his enemy was still standing up. He thrust his claws outward. When he felt flesh there, he swiped.
For a second, they both thought they had done it. They thought they had won. Then they both felt blood beginning to fill their lungs. They started coughing it up, spraying each other with red foam and wasting energy. Each had a sharp object in their chest.
They remained balanced against one another, like two cards in a pyramid shape. They breathed the shallow breaths of the dying. They stood there, each looking into the distance behind their enemy. They had not a grimace of pain or the anger of defeat on their faces; rather a look of mild surprise.
As we've learned, back and forth.
One of them raised his head, rested his muzzle on his enemy's shoulder. He looked sideways so he could see his enemy's face.
"Well done, Wolf," he whispered with a smile. There was the sound of gurgling in his weak voice.
"…You too, Fox," his enemy whispered back.
Their balance failed. Their pivoted away from each other, landed with their feet facing each other. Lylat had set, but Solar was sitting at the zenith. They both looked up at it. They both died.
Why it was that day that they met up, both with the intention to kill the other, when they had met up so many other times and let the other go free and alive, what had pushed them over the edge… well, that's anyone's guess. But if one thing is certain, they were equals in death.