- Death-Minor Character
- First Time
- Ménage or More
THERE YOU’LL BE
As Danny gazed at the horizon ahead of them he found himself wondering how strange it was that despite all of them being volunteers for this seemingly impossible mission each member of his crew was reaching differently to their impending task. Goose, normally so outspoken and positive, hadn’t said a single word since they’d taken off almost six hours prior. Anthony, who had never been one to suffer from self-doubt before, kept running through his part of their mission over and over again. O’Connor, their young navigator hadn’t stopped talking and asking questions, usually about things that had nothing to do with the raid. And Davies, the oldest member of their crew and tail gunner who no longer had a gun, had spent the journey carving an intricate pattern into his painted broomstick.
And then there was Danny who, despite how much he tried, couldn’t stop his mind from running through the event of the past few days, weeks, months…hell, years and decades.
There was only one constant to his thoughts.
His lips tingled as his mind brought his memory of the previous night to the forefront of his mind, prompting him to bring a gloved hand up to stroke his fingertips across his bottom lip.
It had been after their final briefing that Rafe had sought him out.
“My friends in the war department don’t want me to lead this raid because they say I’m too valuable,” Colonel Doolittle addressed the pilots who had taken over the carriers briefing room for the evening, each of whom listened intently to their commander, picking up on his frustration easily enough. “They don’t want me up in the air flying with the men that I’ve chosen, that I’ve chewed out, cussed out, pushed to the limit and that I’ve come to respect.”
Danny felt sick, his stomach churning uncontrollably.
“They want me to stand on the flight deck and wave you off,” Doolittle continued, ceasing his earlier pacing once he was back at the front of the room. “Well, I don’t see it that way.”
None of them were surprised.
They knew how they would feel if it was them being told that they couldn’t do complete the mission they’d been training for simply because someone in a smart suit said they were too valuable. Doolittle was a pilot, same as them, and had been flying for a hell of a lot longer.
“So I’m going with you.”
Relief coursed through his veins as he glanced across at Rafe, looking past Red who was sat in the seat between them; his life long friend appeared equal parts relieved and concerned.
“We take off tomorrow afternoon, drop our fire and head for China,” Doolittle continued as succinctly as possible. “Our mission is to hit military targets, aircraft and tank factories.”
“Colonel, you’ve given us the homing beacons, but you’ve also told us that China is overrun with Japanese troops,” an unfamiliar voice from the row behind him piped up. There hadn’t been time to really get to know everyone. “What do we do if the beacons are switched off?”
“You bring her down any way you can and do your best to avoid capture.”
Anthony spoke up next, fiddling nervously with the signet ring he wore on his ring finger,
“What do we do if our planes are damaged and we have to bail out over Japan?”
He was glad someone had had the nerve to ask the question that had been on all of their minds since they’d first been told exactly what their targets were going to be; ten military and industrial targets in Tokyo, two in Yokohama, and one each in Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Osaka. Danny and Rafe, much to their relief, would both be heading for Tokyo. There had been a moment where he’d thought they’d be assigned different targets, separating them during the raid, but Doolittle had wanted them to stay together, to stay with him.
“Well,” Doolittle sighed deeply. “In that situation, I can’t tell you what you should do.”
“What would you do, Colonel?”
Rafe sounded much calmer than Danny felt.
He suspected that if he opened his mouth to speak just then nothing would come out.
“I wasn’t built to be a prisoner,” their Colonel confessed at length, meeting Rafe’s gaze for a long moment before surveying the room. “So I would have my crew bail out , I’d find the sweetest military target I could and drive my plane right smack into the middle of it…”
Danny gut churned once more.
Would he be able to do that if such a scenario came to pass?
Would he be brave enough to face death in such a way?
He honestly didn’t know and that…that terrified him…
“But that’s just me,” Doolittle went on, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m 45 years old, I’m an old man. You guys have your whole lives ahead of you. What you do in that situation is entirely up to you. Now, get some sleep, gentlemen; we’ve got a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Whilst most of the others had leapt up from their seats, eager to retire to their bunks for the night, Danny lingered in his seat. He feared that if he attempted to stand just then he would crumple into a pathetic heap, betraying his fears to the men he was to fly alongside in battle.
He snorted loudly.
“No,” he confessed before he could think better of it. Mercifully by then they were alone but for Red, Anthony and Goose who lingered in the open hatchway. “No, I don’t think I am…”
Rafe’s handsome face twisted in concern.
“Guys, I’m gonna take Danny up to get some air,” he informed their friends a moment later, gesturing for them to leave the room with a nod of his head. “We shouldn’t be too long…”
“Ok-k-k-k-kay, Rafe,” Red responded with his signature stutter. “We’ll see you later.”
Once they were gone the older man hooked a hand under Danny’s arm and pulled.
“Come on, Danny.”
As it turned out fresh air did help calm his nerves, as did the fact that Rafe never let go of his arm until they’d crossed the deck to stand between where their planes were strapped down.
“I’m scared, Rafe,” Danny had blurted out before he could stop himself and once he’d started there had been stopping the words from tumbling out. “I’m scared we won’t be able to get the birds up in time. I’m scared the Japs will shoot us down before any of us even reach our targets. I’m scared that we’ll have to bail out or crash land over Japan or over the sea. I’m…”
Rafe had silenced him by pulling him into the tightest hug of his entire life.
He’d clung to his friend equally as tight.
“It’s okay to be afraid, Danny; fear keeps you sharp, keeps you alive,” Rafe had murmured, his lips so close to the younger man’s ear that they’d brushed across his sensitive skin. “But you can’t let your fear overwhelm you, control you. If that happens your fear can kill you.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to lose you,” Danny had confessed, his voice little more than a whimper as he’d pressed his face into the side of his friends neck. “I’m afraid I’ve already lost you…”
“No, Danny, you could never lose me.”
“Danny, I love you,” Rafe had announced simply, firmly, the words stunning Danny into silence as his body was manipulated so that their eyes could meet once more. “I’ve always loved you. You’re my brother, Danny; always have been, always will be. And…and I’ve been thinking about what you said, what Evelyn said and…and I don’t know why or how but…”
His heart had begun thumping harder in his chest with every word that his friend spoke.
“Rafe, what are you trying to say?”
“I think she was right, Danny. I think Evelyn was right.”
The words had seemed to tumble out of Rafe after that whilst he pulled Danny over to his aircraft, tucking them into its side close to the tail fins to hide them from any prying eyes.
“Danny, I can’t imagine my life without you or without her. When I think about my life after the war I see you there, I see Evelyn there. I see us all eating dinner together around my folks kitchen table. I see us going to the pictures together. I see us walking through the fields hand in hand, not just me and Evelyn but all of us, holding hands. I…I see the three of us in bed…”
“Just sleeping but…but maybe more…I don’t know…” Rafe had all but grunted out, his grip on Danny arms tightening to an almost painful level. “I’ve never thought of you as anything more than my brother until I found out…until Evelyn said…until you…and now I can’t stop…”
A growl, one of pure frustration, and then Danny had felt lips against his own.
“I don’t know what to think,” Rafe had panted against his lips, barely pulling back an inch so that his words ghosted over Danny’s tingling lips. “I’m…I’m gonna need you to explain a few things to me later on, Danny, but I know how I feel. I need you. I need Evelyn. I need us.”
“I need you too, Rafe,” Danny had gasped, his mind a whirlpool of thoughts as he was presented with the chance of having everything he had ever wanted. “I need Evelyn.”
A smile, hopeful and longing, passed between them as he’d repeated Rafe’s final words,
“I need us.”
“Well then, Daniel Walker, that means that we’re going to do everything in our power to survive this mission so that we can get home to our girl and figure out how this all works.”
There had been a second kiss, a little longer than the first, a little less surprising that neither of them had been able to resist following Rafe’s realisation and confession and then they’d been forced to part, heading inside. Rafe had gone off to grab a cup of coffee before bed, something that Danny could never do as it woke him up too much, whilst the younger man had penned a letter to Evelyn just in case; it had covered his feelings for her, his feelings for Rafe but done in such a way that censor checking his mail wouldn’t suspect anything more than brotherly love, his hopes for their future, the fact that he and Rafe had talked and had managed to sort a few things out before finishing up with his apologies if he was forced to give his life in order to ensure that this mission was successful and a request that should he fail to return to her that she was to do her best to move on and live her life to the fullest.
He’d added it to the pile to be posted once the ship returned to port.
The radio crackled to life suddenly, breaking the silence they had been flying in for so long,
“That’s Japan right there, fellas.”
Doolittle sounded so calm over the radio, reassuringly so, and Danny could spot his plane up ahead. There were other planes appearing all around theirs, dropping out of the clouds just like they had moments before and he knew that one of them somewhere was Rafe’s, he just didn’t know which one. As they all settled into a simple formation Danny found himself guiding his plane into position to the right and slightly behind the leader right at the front.
In this position they would be one of the first to drop their bombs during the attack.
Whether or not this was a good thing had yet to be seen…
“Tighten up back there.”
His own positioning was as tight as it was going to get so he ignored that command.
“Man your guns!”
That, however, he could get behind.
“Okay, boys, get those guns primed and ready to fire,” he called out to his crew, nodding to Goose as his friend disappeared from his seat, crawling down the small gap to the nose gun. Their young navigator disappeared too, moving to get the remaining waist gun ready to fire. “Keep your eyes peeled for enemy fights; call out if you see any. Anthony, we good to go?”
“Yeah, you betcha…”
His friend’s words were confident; his tone of voice was not.
Danny decided not to question him just then.
“We’re in the enemy’s back yard.”
Yes, they were, and Danny sure as hell wished they still possessed all of their guns.
“What’s your favourite gun?”
Danny had understood his crew’s confusion.
Lieutenant Richards, the guy from Navy Aviation who’d helped them lighten their planes during their initial training, had appeared out of nowhere as they’d been frantically adding cans of fuel to their plane during their pre-flight checks and opened with that odd question.
“You wanna get off this deck, you give me one of those guns now. It’s still too heavy.”
It had been the fuel, Danny realised now, the additional fuel they’d been forced to add due to the fact that they had been forced to up their take-off and had been leaving the carrier earlier than they’d anticipated and were therefore further away from Japan than was ideal.
They’d needed to lose something to account for the weight of the fuel.
It had been his idea to replace the missing guns with broomsticks.
“Hey! I want you to go to the kitchen, get some broomsticks. Cut ‘em down, paint ‘em black and bring ‘em here,” he’d ordered one of the sailors helping them to load the heavy cans, the young man obeying without question. “You’re gonna put a broomstick where this gun was.”
“Yes, a broomstick. Trust me; you’ll be fine.”
Easy for him to say.
He wasn’t the one now flying over the coast of Japan with only one waist gun, the turret gun and the nose gun to defend themselves with; if an enemy fighter snuck up behind them or below them on the starboard side they’d be unable to do anything but pray for a miracle.
Danny was definitely as unenthusiastic about the idea as he had been when it’d happened,
“We’ve got broomsticks for tail guns!”
“Yeah,” Rafe had sighed deeply. “Maybe it’ll scare ‘em.”
He’d wanted to throw his arms around his friend, to hold him tight and never let go.
He’d shaken his hand, all the while staring at his lips as he remembered their kisses.
“You take care of yourself up there.”
“Yeah, I will,” Rafe had responded, his eyes filled with worry as their hands had clutched at each other’s for slightly longer than was appropriate. “Danny, be careful, you hear me?”
“I will. I’ll see you, Rafe.”
The radio crackled once more before Doolittle’s voice, now slightly agitated, sounded,
“Heads up, boys, heads up!”
This was it.
“Get ready, you suckers.”
Who was that?
He couldn’t tell…
His hands shook as he followed the lead planes flight path.
His navigator called out something, probably reassuring him that there were on target.
In that moment he could have said anything at all and Danny wouldn’t have noticed.
“Approaching targets for bombing raid.”
His lungs seized as he heard Colonel Doolittle’s announcement over the radio.
It was followed shortly by,
“Open bomb bay doors.”
His heart began to thunder inside his chest.
“Open bomb bay doors.”
Flipping the required switch Danny listened to the metal groaning as the bomb bay doors opened below them, exposing the ordnance they carried so that it could drop when ready.
“Anthony?” he found himself calling out. “How are we doing?”
“We’re doing good, Danny, doing good…” Anthony responded somewhat tightly from where he’d joined Goose in the planes nose, gazing down through the bombsight. “Target in sight!”
Whether or not anyone heard the utterance that escaped him Danny would never know as at just that moment Doolittle’s voice came blasting through the radio louder than before,
“Drop your ordnance!”
Despite the fear still causing his lungs to spasm uncontrollably Danny didn’t even hesitate to give the required command as clearly as he could, both to his crew and through the radio,
There was a clicking noise from deep within the plane and then Anthony was calling out,
Rafe’s voice, familiar and reassuring, came over the radio next as he called out,
“Bombs away! Bombs away!”
“Two away!” Anthony called out, drowning out the last bit of Rafe’s order, Seconds after a second clicking noise had sounded. A third and fourth followed. “Three away! Four away!”
That was it.
They’d dropped all of their bombs.
Danny couldn’t stop himself from pulling open the window to his left and leaning his head out, glancing below just in time to see the corner of a factory get torn open by an explosion.
The sight of the red, orange and yellow flames and the black smoke hitch emanated from them brought back a series of unpleasant memories from the attack on Pearl Harbour, as did the sight of men no bigger than an ant at this distance running desperately for cover.
His radio crackled with Doolittle’s relieved voice,
“We caught ‘em by surprise.”
Yes, they had, although some of the bombs were a little off target as Danny had been; clipping the ends of buildings and exploding rather than destroying the building entirely.
The raid was successful, nonetheless, and now it was time to head for home.
Or rather, the relative safety of their allies in China.
“We got our targets,” Doolittle continued. “Good job, raiders.”
Of course it was then, just as they all let out sighs of relief, that the Japanese opened fire.
Danny fought to keep the plane steady as they were hit by multiple pieces of flak, holes appearing all along the fuselage and most worryingly along their right wing and the tail.
Thankfully the bomb bay doors closed fully when he flipped the switch back to its original position, returning the plane to its more aerodynamic shape and giving him better control.
“We got flak everywhere!”
He barely registered Rafe’s sharp voice coming through the radio, too focused on keeping his plane airborne and his crew safe. Anthony had already crawled back out of the nose, his handsome face paler than Danny had ever seen it, and was manning the waist gun. Another hit almost tore the joystick out of his hands, prompting him to turn to O’Conner who stood looking lost having been mani the waist gun until Anthony had shoved him out of the way.
“O’Conner!” Danny called out to him. “Go down there and relieve Goose!”
The radio crackled around Doolittle’s voice as he called out his latest order,
“I want everyone to separate!”
Easier said than done, given the circumstances.
A pain filled yelp escaped him when he felt something slice along his cheek, the ping of metal striking metal somewhere behind him letting him know that a piece of flak must have come in through the open window beside him and missing his head by mere millimetres.
He brought a shaking hand up to check on the state of his cheek, finding blood on the tips of his gloves fingers when he brought them away from his cheek. A cold shiver ran down the length of his spine as he realised how close he had just come to not making it home alive.
“Hey,” Goose grunted as he dropped down into the co-pilots seat. “You hit?”
“S’just a scratch,” he responded dazedly, using the side of his thumb to wipe away the worst of the blood running freely down his cheek. “We gotta try and get out of this shit, Goose!”
“Okie dokie, then.”
“Help me pull her up into the…”
“We got a fire!” Anthony called out, his voice filled with panic as the latest piece of flak passed through the fuselage, clipping some wires. “We got a fire! It’s an electric fire…”
Danny glanced back over his shoulder, eyes going wide at the sight.
Was that their radio?
Had they lost their radio?
“We got a fire back here!” Anthony reiterated in his panic, grabbing the fire extinguisher by his feet and aiming the small stream of water directly at the fire. “I’m gonna sort this out.”
Was it a good idea to put water on an electrical fire?
Surely that would make it worse…
“It’s not working!”
Yup, the water had made it worse.
“Use your hands!”
“What?!” Anthony screamed in response to Goose’s suggestion. “I can’t…”
“Smother it with your gloves!”
Danny was too focused on flying the plane to notice if Anthony did as he was ordered.
The radio crackled to life, the sound significantly worse than it had been before.
“Get into the clouds, Danny,” Rafe ordered him. “Right now! Get up…”
Another burst of flak caused the entire plane to shake as O’Conner called out frantically,
“I’m getting peppered up here!”
“Just hope they don’t hit a prop…”
Another burst of flak and then Danny heard two words he’d hoped never to hear,
It was O’Conner down in the nose of the plane.
He sounded so frightened.
Danny grunted, struggling to pull the plane up even with Goose’s help,
“They’re gonna year this plane apart…”
“We gotta take it up,” Rafe’s voice crackled weakly over the radio. “800 feet.”
Danny found himself nodding in agreement even though Rafe couldn’t possibly see him.
“Get into the clouds, Danny, right now,” Rafe continued frantically. “Get up in that soup!”
“Alright, were gonna pull out of this, Goose,” Danny grunted, desperately trying to drag the now badly damaged nose of the plane up. Beside him Goose did the same. “Come on…”
It was a miracle that none of them were shot down as they fled their target areas, especially as some of them found themselves targeted by a handful of enemy fighters, as well as the fact that none of them were attacked directly from behind; they could only assume that the broomsticks masquerading as tail guns were as effective as they’d been promised. Danny’s plane wasn’t the only one to suffer damage before they could pull up into the safety of the clouds although it was equally miraculous that none of them lost an engine or a propeller.
“Anthony, get down there and help O’Conner,” Danny ordered once they were flying over what appeared to be a village surrounded by luscious green fields, not a single soldier or a gun in sight. His friend nodded, scrambling down towards the nose. “Anthony? How is he?”
Without their navigator to guide them they’d have no choice but to stay close to another plane, putting them both at risk should they come under attack on their way to China, and with their radio potentially damaged they wouldn’t be able to make contact with anyone.
“Rafe?” he called out into his radio. “Rafe, we’ve lost our navigator.”
“Ok, Danny, then you stay on my tail,” Rafe responded instantly. “We’ll do this together.”
Some of the panic eased inside of him following his friend’s reassurance.
He could do this.
They could do this.
They proceeded southwest off of the south-eastern coast of Japan, just as they had been instructed to, and across the East China Sea towards eastern China. According to the plan several fields in the Zhejiang province were going to be rigged so as to guide them in using homing beacons. They would then be recovered and revealed by members of the Chinese resistance so that they could continue on to Chongqing, the wartime Kuomintang capital.
“I could use some help getting O’Conner out of the nose!”
“Goose, go help Anthony.”
His friend didn’t hesitate to obey, patting Davies on the leg as he squeezed past the oldest member of their crew who’d abandoned his broomstick in favour of manning the turret gun.
As they flew on towards their secondary target destination the weather began to rapidly deteriorate, making it a little bit more interesting than any of the pilots would have liked.
“All ocean, no land,” Danny muttered, checking the device mounted to the fuselage beside him which was meant to pick up the signal from the homing beacon. “Homing into nothing.”
“Even if we make it to the coast I don’t think we’re going to have enough fuel to reach our intended destination,” Anthony reported from behind him, holding up a single can of fuel. “Given that this is our last can of fuel; the rest have already been emptied. We’re screwed.”
“We’re not screwed,” Danny growled. “It just means that we might have to get creative…”
Such a polite way of saying they were going to have to crash or possibly even bail out.
“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” Colonel Doolittle’s voice crackled over the radio suddenly, breaking the radio silence they’d been flying under. It surprised them all to hear the words so clearly, given that Anthony had literally used a wad of chewing gum in attempt to repair some of the damage done to the circuitry. Nothing could be done about the damage from the fire, however, nor the fact that most of the dials had been broken off. “You’re all brave souls, amongst the bravest that I’ve ever had the privilege of flying with. But we’re on our own.”
Danny had to take a deep breath following their commanding officers statement.
His hand shook as he reached out to pull the photograph free, bringing it close so that he could see all three of their faces clearly, tracing a fingertip across first Evelyn, then Rafe.
He wasn’t going to give up hope.
Not when everything he could ever want was so nearly within his grasp.
Night was rapidly approaching, the sun sinking down into the horizon, and they had already put their last can of fuel into the engines. Were it not for the tail wind they’d caught as they came off their targets, which increased their ground speed by twenty-nine miles-per-hour for seven hours, they probably never would have made it to China at all. As it was the longer that they went without sighting land the more serious they became about the possibility of having to ditch, even going so far as to preparing O’Conner’s unconscious body for the jump.
Danny was just beginning to give up on what little hope he had left when Rafe called out,
“I see the coast!”
And there it was, appearing beneath the clouds they were flying over like a mirage.
It was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen.
“Copy that, Rafe,” he responded, his voice thick with relief. “We’re gonna make it.”
“Danny, follow me now,” Rafe ordered. “We can make this. I can see the coast right now.”
The plane ahead of him began to dip into the clouds, prompting him to follow suite.
“It’s only a few miles out,” Rafe continued reassuringly. “Follow me.”
“We’re following you, Rafe,” Danny called out. “We gotta fins a soft landing spot.”
There was some muffled talking over the radio, Rafe talking to his crew and then,
“I see rice paddies right there. We’ll bring it in right here.”
“Oh, God, engine ones dead,” that was Red, his distinctive stutter completely absent for once as he confirmed that Rafe’s plane was as low on fuel as theirs was, more so as they still had both engines working for the time being. “We’re gonna loose engine two any second.”
“We can make it in. Easy. Pull it back,” Rafe ordered tightly. “We’ll glide in, go in on fumes.”
Beside him Goose’s brow furrowed deeply,
“Can you even glide in one of these?”
“I guess we’ll find out…”
The two planes began to make their descent, heading towards the open fields, when…
Rafe sounded utterly terrified as he screamed through the intermittent radio.
“We got Jap patrols all over the place! There’s Japs everywhere!”
That much further behind them Danny and his crew couldn’t see the soldiers that Rafe was talking about but they didn’t doubt him, not when his voice cracked from his level of fear.
“Danny, land somewhere else!”
Danny was reluctant to abandon his friend but his common sense won out, forcing his hands to move before he had even made a firm decision to pull his plane out of the gentle decent.
“We can’t just…”
“Strap yourself in, boys! We’re coming in hard!”
Rafe’s desperate voice cut off whatever Anthony was going to say just then.
“We’re a dead stick…”
His knuckles strained from the way he was clutching desperately at the joystick, trying to keep his hands from shaking as he brought his plane around so that they could see Rafe’s.
“Hold on, boys! We’re going down! Watch the trees!”
They struck the ground with an almighty crash, flames shooting up and bits of metal flying off of the plane as it gouged a furrow out of the previously pristine ground of the rice paddy.
“Shit!” Anthony cried out sharply. “Look!”
It took Danny a moment too long to realise what Anthony had been drawing their attention to and in that time it was already too late; the Japanese had entered the rice paddy and had opened fire on the crew as they climbed out of the wreckage that was once their plane. He could see Rafe, taking charge and urging his crew to take cover as best they could but from their vantage point Danny and his friends could clearly see that they were outnumbered.
“We can’t just leave them!”
No, they couldn’t.
Gritting his teeth Danny brought the plane around and lined them up with their targets.
“Hold onto something…”
Putting them into a dive which was far too steep to be deemed safe for a manoeuvre that would probably end in a crash landing he waited until he was certain that he wouldn’t hit any of their countrymen before squeezing the trigger and opening fire with the twin guns.
He had barely any time to celebrate the bullets finding their intended targets, the ground surging up towards them so suddenly that he could do nothing but close his eyes and pray…
~ * ~