Summary: WW2 AU. Battle of Midway, June 1942. As the American aircraft carrier Yorktown is sinking, Sephiroth faces a choice between saving no one and saving an enemy.
Disclaimer: I own nothing or no one. Why would I need to, anyways?
A/N: Written as a Birthday fic and dedicated to my dear Sphinxofthenile. However, R&R is appreciated as always.
Warning: violence, angst, adult themes, light yaoi. And military stuff. Tonnes of it :)
PS. I know that airplanes are not made of steel. This is nothing but a 'romantic' metaphor :)
Short list of names, events, etc:
Midway Atoll - located in the North Pacific Ocean. In WW2 Midway was a convenient refuelling stop on transpacific flights, and was also an important stop for Navy ships, thus making it an important target for Japanese after the destruction of Pearl Harbour.
IFF – identification, friend or foe, a cryptographic system that enables military interrogation systems to distinguish friendly aircraft, etc. Radio based during WW2.
American planes – Wildcat (F4F fighter model),TBD Devastator (torpedo bomber model), SBD Dauntless A-24 Banshee (dive bomber model).
Japanese planes – Zero (Mitsubishi A6M fighter model).
Battle of Coral Sea – a Naval engagement, preceding the Battle of Midway, occurred about a month before. 'Yorktown' was hit by a bomb then as well.
Admirals – American: Chester Nimitz, Fletcher; Japanese: Isoroku Yamamoto.
MASTER OF THE STEEL BIRD
"Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" (A. Lincoln).
Flight of the steel bird.
The airplanes reminded Sephiroth of steel birds, mighty and deadly, with dazzlingly glaring feathers and oblong beaks, as he watched dozens of them line up for the takeoff run on the narrow perfectly straight runway of the aircraft carrier. They were creations of human mind, balancing on the evanescent brink between the impossible and freedom, dreams that were born through persistence and curiosity long after Icarus pasted up holes between feathers with wax and flew up to challenge the sun.
Only metal could not melt.
The engines' roar deafened Sephiroth for a moment when the first plane sped up and its undercarriage lost touch with the deck, scattering his waist-length silver hair in the vehement gust of wind. As usually, he fancied he saw metallic wings bend and flap in a haughty, nearly regal manner, clearly standing out against the hazy crimson-painted welkin.
The aircraft carrier crawled unhurriedly, like a caterpillar on the waters, very soon surrounded by dozens of whizzing sparks as pilots were performing their routine drill. Laterally the hulk of Yorktown looked invincible, crowned with the steel communication tower and her deck dotted with 5 and 1.1 inch calibre guns, but even with the layers of armour covering her engines the carrier had her weak vulnerable spots. Less than a month ago the floating steel fortress barely escaped her sunken sister's, Lexington, lot when a Japanese bomb exploded underneath her deck.
Sephiroth glanced at the skies with longing. That day wasn't his turn to fly the steel bird, however, he could at least watch, reminiscent of the sensations each flight stirred in him. Before he became the Lieutenant Commander he used to be a pilot or a bombardier on a TBD Devastator and, lying on the floor, looking down through the glass shielded chink, he felt as though the Earth belonged to him, so tiny, so frail it was with icy blue ocean waters dotted with small specks of ships.
He had the power to annihilate them with just one precise press of a button during one smooth straight-line run.
Straightening his always perfectly clean uniform, the Lieutenant Commander followed the reconnaissance planes with his always thoughtful emerald eyes, as they, one by one, disappeared in misty dusk.
"Lieutenant Crescent, Sir!" The hangar deck officer, Emerson, firmly held his hand to the peak of his black cap. Sephiroth dismissed the lower rank fellow crewman with a faint friendly smile.
"What do you think we shall find, Emerson?"
"Some Japanese bastards, Sir," the officer suggested with a wide grin. "It's time we hit them back and hit hard for the destruction of Pearl Harbor."
Indeed, it was time, like a month ago when he lost his only friend during the battle of Coral Sea. There was time to cast away stones and time to gather stones, as Petty Officer Angeal Hewley used to say. The wound was still fresh and bleeding although before they said their last farewells his friend had told him it had been his time to go. Angeal simply felt it.
"I hope you are right, Emerson." Some of his feelings must have slipped through in harsher undertone, caused the man to look at him with confusion, but it wasn't the officer's fault. It was nobody's fault, unless he wanted to blame Hitler himself.
Suddenly Sephiroth wanted to fly his plane; he wanted to feel he had control over something, would it be a torpedo dropped to destroy a Japanese ship or just a feeling of a wheel turning in his hands and a steel bird obeying his master's will.
Flying, it was easy to forget about everything, to escape into a world of his dreams and expectations, into a world of elated feelings and hollow illusions.
Some drank vodka. Others smoked tobacco or marihuana.
He mastered and tamed the haughty steel bird.
As Sephiroth headed for the crew quarters, he felt the deck slightly wobble underneath his feet, a minor inconvenience any marine was able to deal with, yet when he was dispatched for holidays the ground still swayed for months. Before descending the tortuous stairs the silver-haired Lieutenant Commander shot one last glance at Yorktown which was inexorably speeding her passage through the dark Pacific waters towards her fate.
There was a time for everything.
…The light in the crew quarters was dim, small lamps hiding between bunks and behind the veil of thick cigarette smoke. As the floor gently quivered, the frail lights blinked, as though speaking to each other in a language no human being was ever able to comprehend. At the narrow bedstand his mates were playing Texas hold'em, a new variation of a traditional poker game, but no sooner had he entered than all marines jumped up and straightened, saluting him. At least, they maintained some discipline.
Having dismissed them, Sephiroth settled on his bunk and while his mates resumed playing, picked up a book and tried to read to occasional curses, laughs and loud idle talk.
It was Victor's Hugo 'The man who laughs', a tale of a man with a bizarre rictus smile carved into his face to his death, thus condemning him to laugh forever. This, two black and white pictures taken a while back at their home town in Virginia and a letter to his mother were the only reminiscent things left of Angeal. Sephiroth gave his friend a word he would send it to his mother after death, but days after days passed and young Lieutenant still could not compel himself to do it, knowing that the disastrous news will undermine Mrs. Hewley's already frail health. Having lost her husband, then her son, what was Jillian left to live for?
Sephiroth shifted his gaze to his mates and involuntarily heard scraps of their conversation. They were talking about the upcoming battle and he couldn't help but realize that they were right.
"Take all my shit!" Jethro Johnson, a sturdy young man, cursed under his breath and, having grabbed all his remaining tokens, angrily threw them into the pile in the middle of the bedstand. "After tomorrow I will not be needing it any longer!"
A marine to his right uttered a nervous laugh.
"You are damn optimistic about it."
"Optimism is rubbish. All optimists are already residing in Hell, Matthews. Rosso, Creg, Smith… I have a pair," he smiled wryly, forcedly, leaning against the chair's back to watch the third player with a straight flush collect all the tokens. "That is my damn luck, gentlemen. How many times did my father tell me to go to school? I didn't listen. However, if I did, I'd be in the Admiral's Nimitz shoes now and he'd be flying the accursed TBD devastator."
As cards were being dealt, Matthews interrupted the garrulous pilot, "Are you playing, Jethro?"
"No, I've lost all my shit. Unless you want my turn on that piece of junk tomorrow, I have nothing to offer. To the Japanese Zeroes we'll be sitting ducks, ready to be shot down as we come and I'd gladly trade my duties with anyone."
"Rumour has it that Admiral Nimitz knows about the disposition of their fleet. Shouldn't it make our task easier?"
"God bless Nimitz, Mathews!" Jethro made a gesture as though he was about to pray. "But Nimitz dictates his rules from the safety of an air base. To our government he is too precious, whilst we are just unlucky cannon fodder…"
The hitherto reticent marine, a bombardier if Sephiroth remembered correctly, didn't restrain himself, having jumped to his feet and in his leap nearly overturning the stand and ruining the game.
"Oh, just shut up, will you, Jethro," his yell rang more desperately than menacingly, "or I swear I'll cut your whining myself!"
The said man cynically, albeit lazily, shrugged him off, "Save your zeal for tomorrow, for we shall all burn in hell."
A curt chuckle followed.
Cannon fodder. Into those words so much cold bitterness was put, cold as dark ocean waters, it nearly tasted salty on his tongue. Formerly he told Angeal that the world consisted of illusions, of personal lies men convinced themselves of because it was simple and convenient, yet his friend was a hopeless idealist, to his death having believed in quixotic ideals he fought and died for.
Sephiroth could not. He has seen too much of it all, and yet fought only because the alternative was even worse.
The young Lieutenant closed his eyes, slowly falling asleep to the monotonous sounds of the monstrous engines and boilers that pushed the floating fortress towards her Japanese sisters.
Steel was about to battle steel.
The placid summer morning was drowning in clouds of dove-coloured smoke, bathing in blood-red sunlight, and, torn by the inimical sounds of whizzing planes, exploding bombs and machine gun bursts, blooming lavish crimson. The pristine ocean waters foamed and boiled, cleaved by the sterns of four aircraft carriers with the flags of the Land of the Rising sun, a bloody-red star of the day on the pure white linen, flying over them. They were Yamamoto's hope, pride and might, four enormous carriers with over three hundred planes stationed on their decks. They were his longest and deadliest battle ships, just like those drawn on a sheet of lined paper for an innocent children's game with the same redoubtable name, sea fight.
Akagi. Soryu. Kaga. Hiryu.
The blood sisters bore foreign names, which meant little to Americans when being pronounced, remaining only fremd series of sounds on their lips. However, to every Japanese citizen they lacked that mysterious foreignness, appearing for what they were. Akagi and Kaga owed their names to the mount and the province of the land of the rising sun, while the last two signified a flying and a blue dragon. Those were proud names.
Against them Admiral Chester Nimitz brought forward their American sisters, Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown, the carriers with the names possessing hardly any less hubris than those of the enemy.
The bloody slaughter was to decide and crown the victors.
On the wide deck of Yorktown a group of men lined up, all of them belonging to the VT-3 attack group under the direct command of Lieutenant Commander Sephiroth Crescent. His silver-haired frame haughtily towered above the thin line of pilots and bombardiers; as he slowly went by, peering into their anxious, tensed faces, the marines straightened, proudly holding their hands to the peaks of their caps. If it was time for them to die, they were ready to go yet not before showing the world that they were heroes, that they loved their country.
Did America love them? In just a couple of decades their names were to remain on the pages of text books schoolchildren will flip with tedium, their faces to fade on the television screens and what they tried to protect to become a mockery.
The heroes died twice.
Did he pity them or himself?
Sephiroth was passing his mates, legs carrying him along the line in long measured strides. He was speaking to them, fighting his own fright, which, like a malignant tumour was spreading in his body, tightening his chest. However, his deep voice rang with calm reassurance, whereupon their faces lit up, their fears mollified for they always believed him.
"Remember, America does not need meaningless sacrifices. Our duty is not to die out there, but to return to our families and loved ones safely. Our duty is to drop that torpedo and come back. Understood?"
Eyes flashing, it came out in one unified, proud, "Yes, Sir!"
Sephiroth halted, letting a wan shadow of a smile touch the edges of his lips. They needed it; if it helped them return, he would do even more. He would do anything, however, little depended on him personally.
"Do not try to outmanoeuvre the nimble Zeroes, or play dodge fighting games with them, for you shall fail, inasmuch as they are faster than our devastators, they are more agile and movable; so when you see a Japanese fighter coming at you or tailing your aircraft, dive immediately. Forget about the torpedo, do not hope our fighter escort will take care of the enemy; do not think, just dive!" Emerald eyes slid along the rows of pale faces, stern, starlight, as though trying to literally instil, grind these little wisdoms into the young and often careless heads. "This is an order, gentlemen. Understood?!"
Already fuelled and fully armed, their devastators have been waiting for them on the runway. After the reconnaissance planes returned, Sephiroth received his orders to proceed with the attack on the Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu, and, being given the coordinates from the Rear Admiral Fletcher's stuff, in turn commanded the preparations to begin. They had to leave Yorktown as soon as possible, for at the moment, if attacked by the enemy's bombers, the planes possessed a bigger threat to the carrier than offered protection.
The cockpit was narrow; however, everything inside the steel bird was so familiar and habitual, that the Lieutenant didn't need to think of his actions. Having started the engines, Sephiroth let them warm up, watching the other TBD Devastators crawling on the runway and taking wing.
"I believe it's my luck to serve with you today, Sir!" His bombardier, a young marine and an orphan like himself, remarked cheerfully, whilst the third crewman, a gunner and a radioman, kept silence. He had a fiancée waiting for him in Kentucky, a young pretty girl who wrote him letters every two weeks.
Sephiroth had no one, not a single person awaiting his return. It made his foreboding contemplation of morose doom a lot easier to bear.
The plane's engines were roaring steadily now and, pulling the control column, the silver-haired Lieutenant guided it towards the runway. It steered smoothly, gently trembling underneath him with some inhuman cold eagerness. Sephiroth learned to feel his aircraft, as though it was his second skin, his armour and, obeying his commands, it finally taxied up onto the straight line which ended in the blue-green eternity of the ocean waters.
"Lets' do it, gentlemen," quietly whispering, Sephiroth closed his eyes for just a moment to gird up and pressed into the acceleration pedal.
The engines forcedly roared, revving up, propellers cleaving the air, the fuselage shaking as the devastator went off, hell-bent, rushed to the alluring end of the greyish deck, shooting upwards just a moment before its undercarriage would have slipped off the runway and it would have plummeted headlong into the avid ocean depths.
Fingers firmly clenching the cold curves of the control column, Sephiroth led the plane upwards and then levelled it out, reaching the steady speed, whereupon he could relax and look around.
By now Yorktown was a barely discernable dot on the wavy ocean surface. Through the glass shielding of the cockpit a seamless sky-blue eternity stared at him, bounded by two steel-blue wings and painted greenish underneath. The elated feeling of possessing the Earth returned, and suddenly there were no more tumours of fear or doubts eating him up from the inside. He was calm and imperturbable anew, hardly any different from the lifeless steel bird itself.
Sephiroth turned the Devastator, taking his place in the wedge-like skein that planes of his squadron formed.
"Good luck, Sir." Was it Jethro Johnson speaking?
"We'll all need it," a wry smile curving his lips, Sephiroth answered into the aero phone. Waves of feelings close to triumph rolled in, setting him free, deadly, bold and, as though answering his inner call, the devastator ebulliently roared, climbing upwards.
The Japanese squadron, Soryu escorted by heavy and light cruisers, came into sight shortly and only then did Sephiroth realize that something has gone awfully wrong. The skies remained empty aside from the planes of his striking force, the absence of the escorting Wildcats signifying that, having lost on their way, the fighters left the vulnerable devastators without any support.
"Sir, I don't see the fighters…" someone's voice reached his ears, distorted by the aero phone to the point when he could not recognize who it belonged to.
He's already noticed the flaw. However, it changed little. The Admirals' order had to be carried out or the whole battle plan would be rendered to shreds.
Even their lives were not worth it.
"We are going in!" Recovering, the Lieutenant ordered as calmly as he could, rapidly descending to prepare for the low, smooth straight-line run to drop the torpedo at the silvery dot below.
It didn't take them long to appear. There was a gunner's shout in his ears, "The Zeroes!" as the IFF picked up numerous foreign targets, as big as flies, yet growing larger with each second. Skirting the VT-3 striking force from the left, the Japanese immediately opened fire and at the same time the Soryu's deck guns returned to life, shooting spurts of flames at them. In the corner of his eyes a bright speck flared, chaotically tumbling down, engulfed in scarlet embrace of overwhelming fires. One went down, something cold and calculating told him. Who? Matthews? Jethro?
Sephiroth shook his silver head, once more concentrating on the controls because a dark blue and green speck flitted towards them. His devastator turned, dived abruptly at a nearly straight angle in the air, giving him the usual tingling along the neck, and thereupon a loud burst cut through his ears. The gunner opened fire at the Zero, which persistently hung on their tail; the Japanese returned the favour by activating his wing guns and aiming gushes of flames at his devastator.
Sephiroth swiftly and mercilessly turned the control column, sending his airplane rolling and whirling and out of the line of the Zero's fire. The world swirled before his eyes in a maelstrom of blurred images, blue blending with green, sounds merging into a meaningless cacophony, sunlight blinding him for an instant; someone, a bombardier or a gunner, uttered incoherent yells, meant to attract his attention, yet no sooner than he levelled out his plane again did the Lieutenant heard the exclamation, "One down!" The fire form their guns must have hit the Zero and sent it to the icy hell of the Pacific ocean waters. Sephiroth took a deep shaky breath, clutching the control column with force. Hands and legs were turning rigid from the strain. He could not afford himself to make a single mistake. He had only last hundred pages left to read in Angeal's book. Will he ever finish them? The thought was untimely and irrelevant, yet so human, as was fright. He could not afford himself to be human. Not now.
Later. Just a tiny bit later.
The struggle with the Japanese Zero carried them out into the open sea, away from the Soryu and the rest of the squadron, so Sephiroth abruptly pulled the control column towards himself to turn the bird around.
The devastator approached the carrier again, dived, slowing the pace, still devouring the distance between them too fast. Calmer, smoother, Sephiroth ordered himself, emerald eyes narrowed, calculating. The bombardier had to drop that torpedo onto the Japanese ship and damage her enough to repay for the heavy losses the Imperials inflicted on his squadron.
His hands were shaking and beads of sweat covered the marble forehead.
The torpedo left the safety of their plane, yet Sephiroth had no time to see whether it hit the carrier for utter mayhem ensued thereupon. The three Zeroes emerged from the misted expanse of the skies, having snatched at his already slightly frayed devastator as hounds into vulnerable bleeding prey.
The next moments blurred, slipping between dark blue fuselages and green shapes with polished black cowlings, American and Japanese, as Sephiroth was desperately trying to throw off the pursuers. Spurts of flames were gushing from the wings and cowlings, scratching his fuselage, longer tongues blossoming into greater gouts of fires and smoke as they hit again and again, sending one of the Zeros tumbling down in a heap of burning metal and human flesh.
"Holler 'nough, will you already!" The gunner screamed, his yell enraged and pained as, Sephiroth knew, the machine gun was turning sizzling hot in his hands. The burst turned into nearly deafening squeal when the Lieutenant sent his devastator nearly straight upwards and then something hot burnt his cheek, and the air in the cockpit went still. Having shot an evanescently short glance backwards, Sephiroth only saw a gaping hole in the glass shielding and a blooming crimson rose on the windscreen as his gaze returned to the scene in front.
"Winchester," he called out the gunner. "Winchester!"
"Dead, Sir," the bombardier replied somewhat helplessly. Sephiroth straightened the plane, harshly snapping at the latter's sloth. Every moment counted!
"Then take his place, God damn it!"
"Right away, Sir," the youth's mumblings drowned in an unpleasant screech as bullets hit their wing. It wasn't bad, it couldn't be.
In the meanwhile the Americans were losing plane after plane to the Japanese Zeroes. Out of twelve devastators of the torpedo squadron VT-3 only four remained in the air and, judging by the trenchant silver line of Soryu unhurriedly steaming forward, none of the torpedoes hit. Wildcats remained lost in the vast expanse of cerulean skies and hope they will show up soon was dwindling with each moment.
He refused to join this macabre mayhem.
In the corner of his left eye the engine was dripping with black greasy smoke, but at least it wasn't emitting helpless choking sounds as it did when about to shut down. The airplane continued flying steadily. Sephiroth pushed the acceleration button, meaning to cut his way through the rows upon rows of Zeros and into freedom. To a prudent observer this could have seemed a suicidal intention, however, in Lieutenant's state it hardly mattered. A feeling he was invincible and immortal suddenly supplanted the antecedent despair to which he nearly gave in, now straightening in the chair and abandoning any thoughts of jumping off the plane to intentions of guiding the steel bird against the enemy.
The bombardier must have followed his order for the machine guns again chocked with bursts that served if not the purpose of rendering the Zeroes harmless then at least keeping them at a safe distance.
Sephiroth pressed the acceleration button all the way down and as the wounded plane swept past the group of Japanese fighters, finally noticed the quickly augmenting steel line, emerging from underneath the veils of battle smoke, and as the skies were dotted with the whizzing Dauntless Banshees and Wildcats, croaked into the aero plane, "Pull out," unsure whether he was heard or not and whether there was anyone left to hear him.
He had done everything he could, everything that was in human power. It was time to return to Yorktown.
A random gush of machine gun fire lashed the devastator, having hit its fuselage, and an acute yell followed.
"I've been hit," the bombardier let go of the gun and helplessly groaned. "Sorry, Sir, I can't keep firing. Hurts like hell… my shoulder…"
Mercilessly biting his lower lip, Sephiroth forced a feignedly cheerful yet much needed, "Don't apologize, Gibson, just hold on!"
The control column, heated with his sweating palms, turned rabidly; with one of its engines nearly dead the devastator lurched, climbing upwards with whatever last strengths it had, leaving the shrouded with thick smoke battlefield behind and as Sephiroth shot one last glance at the carnage below, he realized that their sacrifice wasn't all vain. A macabre scarlet flower was blooming where Soryu proudly towered above the ocean only a moment ago. One of the dive bombers must have hit its deck with the bomb when it was most vulnerable, preparing to launch fuelled Zeros to counter the new threat.
Of how he got back to Yorktown nearly no memories remained. There was blackness in front of his eyes, as the cowling began to sink and the smoke from the burning left engine misted the windshield. The horizon was swiftly plummeting down, yet they held until the grey outlines of their aircraft carrier came in sight.
As soon as the undercarriage of the burning plane touched the deck, crew members with hoses hurried towards them. Having pushed the glass shield ajar and coughing from the acrid smell, Sephiroth nearly tumbled out of the cockpit, however, soon getting back his self-mastery. He had a wounded bombardier on board.
The gunner was dead, his body sprawled on the floor where Gibson left him, his pale face already having tinged yellow, erasing any traces of prettiness from his youthful face. The bullet hit the gunner in the chest and an ugly dark spot has spread across his uniform, soaking cloth in blood. His fiancée will live to see him, however unfortunate, in a coffin only.
The bombardier was slightly luckier, receiving a bullet in his shoulder and now helplessly rested against the back of the chair, gasping and chocking with blood that was profusely seeping from the corner of his mouth. As the Lieutenant seized him by his uniform, the marine's hands clutched his collar, utterly wild eyes focused on the marble face, and he heard a faint, pleading, "Help me… please…"
He screamed while Sephiroth was dragging him out of the plane, however, the silver-haired Lieutenant ignored the yells, having helped the bombardier to get out of the devastator and passed him onto the other crew members.
One more plane from the VT-3 striking force came back to Yorktown that day. Two more pilots were fished out of the icy cold water later on. One of them was Jethro Johnson.
None else survived.
Alone, Sephiroth awoke on his bunk when the first bomb had hit Yorktown. Violent shudders ran through her hulk, followed by another, stronger series as the second bomb penetrated the carrier's defences. The floor underneath his feet swayed, lights were knocked down and darkness fell, swallowing the small room on the third deck.
Sephiroth leapt up to his feet, blindly groping for some support, and, having clutched the steel railing of his bed, followed along the row of bunks until it led him out into the scarcely alight corridor.
And he was just beginning to think it was the end of the battle for him.
People were screaming somewhere ahead and above. If he remembered the layout of the ship correctly, the cries were heard from the boiler's area which could mean that the engines were hit.
Without losing any more time, Sephiroth ran towards the exit. The least of all he wanted to be trapped in the burning husk of a dying ship.
A third bomb hit Yorktown shortly afterwards, cutting the ground from under his feet and with the sharp pain in his back and head the world turned into an opaque hollow.
When, lying by the convoluted stairs, the silver-haired Lieutenant awoke for the second time the corridor was filled with acute sounds of the evacuation signals. While he was unconscious the aircraft carrier must have been mortally wounded by either Japanese bombs or torpedoes or both.
With a faint groan Sephiroth reached out for his head, feeling a wet clot between his fingers and a spark of pain as he touched the wound on the top of his head. The world gave a lurch as he tried to straighten, grapping the handrails, yet the vision cleared after he made himself take a couple of steps. Staggering, the Lieutenant Commander of the defunct VT-3 squadron reached the upper deck only to see the last evacuation boats being lowered along the offside and bear away.
Agonizing, the enormous hulk of Yorktown was drifting in the ocean without any control, like a lone speck lost in its vast expanse. It was careening as well, making it harder for him to stroll towards the hangar in a desperate hope to find at least one fuelled plane.
The hangar floor was dotted with burned corpses and melted debris from the fuselages of the exploded planes. Tottering, Sephiroth headed past them towards the Wildcat in the furthest corner of the huge premises.
The fires have been recently raging inside and a huge hole gaped in the roof, likely, damaged by one of the bombs. By the only plane left intact more bodies lay. For some reason Sephiroth halted by them, noticing two dead marines pierced with steel debris and a third man who, judging by the uniform, appeared to be one of the Japanese pilots who was, likely, fished out of the waters with the rest of American crew. When Sephiroth bent over him to touch his pulse, he felt the latter's heart faintly throbbing under his fingers.
He was alive.
The enemy was alive.
Sephiroth's first thought was to finish him off to avenge the loss of the squadron, yet something held his hand, forestalling from delivering the death blow. Why were they enemies? Only since the Japanese Emperor decided to join his forces with Hitler against the American president? Governments waged wars. They, citizens and patriots, were grinded for their greed or whims.
Right now they were not enemies but rather pawns who ended up in the middle of worldwide mayhem.
Resolutely Sephiroth picked up the man with bloodied auburn hair and with much ado dragged him into the Wildcat, having taken a seat in front and started the engines thereupon. Fickle lady luck was on his side when familiar roar filled his ears and the plane slowly crawled into the opening. Only then Sephiroth suddenly remembered he had left the book with Angeal's pictures and letter in his room, yet it was too late to return.
The plane eagerly soared upwards, leaving mortally wounded Yorktown together with a part of his life behind forevermore. Looking down at the hulk helplessly drifting below, Sephiroth couldn't help but ruefully think that she had lived and fought beautifully.
As did Angeal.
… They landed on a small unmanned island in the Midway Atoll when Sephiroth could no longer fly. The strain of the earlier battle together with the wound on his head told upon him and, afraid he would faint and lose control of his steel bird, the Lieutenant decided to go for an emergency landing.
As soon as the undercarriage touched the sand covered shore and the airplane froze with its cowling stuck in the tangle of lianas, his head dropped onto the control column and, enfeebled, Sephiroth let his shoulders stoop and his hands slip off the panel. Then he vaguely remembered someone's strong arms wrapping around his neck followed by sensation of floating in thin air. A scrap of blue skies flashed in-between silver tresses scattered on his face and then there were eyes, bright and bottomless, overshadowing even the eternity of cerulean welkin whenever the man he saved bent over him. And as, having gently placed him onto the sand, the stranger whispered, "Sleep, you deserved it," Sephiroth thought he heard unearthly music, so warm the words were, so emollient, and with a faint smile he let his eyes close anew.