When the fire was put off, Matthew looked around for his brother but saw nothing but the upturned and burnt staircases and the tarmac covered with foam. That had been a disaster, and amidst the confusion of the hijackers shooting at them and throwing grenades, he had lost his brother and feared the worst. Suddenly, a foam-covered figure rose up from the ground and took off his eyeglasses, revealing a pair of striking blue eyes. Matthew sighed in relief upon seeing his brother, apparently unharmed after everything that had happened. Alfred sighed and his shoulders dropped.
“Well that went well”
He mumbled bitterly as he dusted himself off and looked up to see the lights of the plane getting lost in the clouds of the darks sky. Matthew went over to his brother and with a handkerchief started to clean his face as much as he could, but Alfred made a face and wiggled away of his brother’s hands. He had always hated when someone else cleaned his face with a wet handkerchief, it had been a childhood trauma since he was around four years of age when they used to go over their maternal grandmother’s house and she would give them chocolate ice cream, when Alfred’s face became all stained with chocolate, their grandmother would lick one of her handkerchiefs and clean his face roughly, making him cry. It was funny for Matthew to remember.
“You’re still a kid”
He said fondly, both of them walking over to the tower to meet the Colonel, who was as frustrated as Alfred, walking from side to side like a caged wild lion in a zoo. When he saw the foam-covered blonde climbing the stairs to the tower, he felt relieved, but he didn’t want to show it in front of his underlings.
“Jones, good to see you”
He said simply, offering a seat for them both. Alfred refused but Matthew sat down.
“What is the situation, Colonel?”
“Well, after the disaster on the tarmac, we have little chance of mounting a successful rescue operation without risking the lives of the hostages. Let’s not forget that we have 39 souls on board that airplane”
“Like I could”
Alfred mumbled, but the Colonel noticed, nevertheless, he decided to not ask any questions, after all, it wasn’t his duty to know about his officers’ private lives unless it interfered with the job directly. He continued talking, pacing around the room.
“Anyways, I have spoken with the Mossad and they told me they have a man in Beirut that will help you guys rescue the Jewish hostages held there”
“What Jewish hostages?”
Matthew asked, confused. The Colonel sighed and explained to him everything Geneviève LaGarde had said to him and her brother in the lounge. Both brothers were surprised with the new information and realised that it had been because of that that their mission had failed so terribly.
“God damn it!”
Alfred said, pinching the bridge of his nose, shutting his eyes tightly. He had to contain his tears, because now, after knowing everything that he knew, he was even more worried to not see Arthur ever again. Those bastards could blow up the plane whenever they wanted and kill everybody on board. After all, they were prepared to die.
“The good thing... well, I’m not sure to call it a good thing, but they don’t have enough fuel to get to Beirut. They only have one hour of fuel, so our assumption is that they are going to land at the closest airport to Algiers in the Mediterranean...”
Matthew rolled his wrist issuing the Colonel to continue.
He said. Alfred sighed.
“It surprises me that they didn’t notice that and they noticed us... bastards”
Alfred said, annoyed, with his arms crossed over his chest and his cheeks puffed out like an angry child who is about to throw a temper tantrum. Matthew put his hand over his arm like he always did when Alfred was upset. It didn’t do anything, but it made him feel that his brother was there for him.
“The thing is that the GIGN won’t be taking part in the operation. Several of their men resulted badly injured during the raid and Major LaGarde has agreed to retire his unit, so we have to wait until the Delta Team arrives”
That had pissed the Colonel before and was now pissing Alfred and Matthew too, although the latter choose to not demonstrate it, whilst his brother did, and very much so. He laughed rolling his eyes.
“Oh my God, so we only had those frogs – that sounds like something Arthur would say, he thought – come and help us, but when the thing gets difficult, they just go away. That is how they deal with hostage situation in their country. What a motherfucking...”
“Jones, that’s enough!”
The Colonel snapped and Alfred sighed, leaving the tower.
“What the hell is wrong with him?”
He asked Matthew, who didn’t want to expose his brother in front of a conservative man like the Colonel who, even though he had proved to be on Alfred’s side several times in the past, would frown upon knowing that one of his best men was a homosexual and had a lover held hostage in that plane. Matthew wasn’t sure if Alfred’s need to rescue all those hostages answered a more altruist call or he just wanted to save his boyfriend.
“He... he has a lot going on”
The Colonel nodded and motioned Matthew to follow him out of the tower.
In the cockpit, there was tension between the hijackers – Sadiq and Gupta, who had chosen to accompany his leader wherever he went like a lap dog – and the pilots. Arthur was there to mediate between them. The Second Officer had informed Francis that they had hardly half an hour of fuel left and Sadiq was still with the idea of flying to Beirut.
“You don’t understand. If we continue to fly to Beirut we’ll crash in the sea and then you whole mission would have been in vain. Vous me compris?”
Francis said, pinching the bridge of his nose, annoyed to the brim with the hijackers’ demands. Gupta looked at Arthur, questioningly. He wanted him to translate, as much as he could, of what Captain Bonnefoy had said to Sadiq.
“Not enough fuel”
He struggled to say. Gupta got angry and pushed Sadiq away, taking the pin of his hand grenade off and almost choking Francis with his arm, putting the grenade next to his head. Arthur paled.
“Fly us to Beirut or we will blow the plane!”
He yelled in Arabic. Francis tried to wiggle out of the hijacker’s embrace, but couldn’t. Sadiq put his hand over Gupta’s shoulder and he turned around. Francis spoke up before Sadiq had time to.
“Tell your friend to put that grenade away because this plane is going where I say it’s going. Understood?”
He said. Arthur was marvelled. He had always thought that Francis was a coward, after all, he was so refined and so scared of anything that could stain his spotless designer clothes that he thought that, well... he would have been the first to freak out in a hijack situation, but during the whole ordeal, he had kept his cool, even when one of the hijackers had struck him in the head with a gun for no apparent reason. He was still a frog. A brave one, that is.
“It’s okay, Gupta”
Sadiq said calmly, so Gupta sighed and put the safe back into the hand grenade, stepping back and pushing Arthur aside so he could stand by the open door to the galley.
“Don’t talk to me like that, captain, because remember that we are in control and I can tell my friend, here, to place the explosives in the cabin and we’ll light up the sky like the Fourth of July, so try to keep your cool and remember who is in charge in this situation. Okay? Now, if we don’t have enough fuel to fly to Beirut, then we’ll fly wherever you think is viable and have the plane refuelled there before we continue to Beirut”
“What is the closest airport, Captain?”
Arthur asked, refraining from referring to him as “Francis” in front of the hijackers. He wanted to, at least, keep up appearances.
“Well, already passed Tunisia so our next option is Malta”
“Do you think they’ll let us land?”
Arthur asked, genuinely worried. Sadiq and Gupta were looking back and forth at them. Francis sighed, looking out at the dark sky.
“I really hope so”
Arthur nodded and left the cockpit to check on his passengers and flight attendants, while the hijackers were causing a stir in First Class. Some passengers were asleep, others were reading to keep their minds off the situation they were in, and some other were sitting there, emotionless, not being able to process what was happening. Arthur noticed that some of those men had been like that ever since the whole ordeal began. He went to the rear galley where Lovino was trying to give a glass of water to his brother, Feliciano, who was on the floor crouched in a corner, sobbing and trembling.
“I can’t handle this anymore”
Feliciano said in between sobs, Lovino turned around to look at Arthur in hopes the blonde would help him calm his brother down. Arthur grabbed the glass from Lovino’s hands and kneeled down in front of Feliciano, who looked even smaller than he was. He put his hand over his shoulder, like he had done what felt like a hundred times ever since the hijack began. He could feel it trembling.
“Feliciano, you must control yourself. I know it’s not easy, but let us help you”
Feliciano lifted his head from between his arms and took the glass of water with shaky hands, downing it quickly. He inhaled deeply and got up in wobbly legs, Arthur and Lovino held his hands as they made their way to the jump seat, where they left Feliciano gently.
“Are you better now?”
Lovino asked, a little annoyed at his brother’s hysteric behaviour, but, after all, hysteric or not, he was still his brother and needed his help more than ever. He might act tough, but when it came to his stupid fratello, he was a softie. He sat next to him and hugged him with one arm.
Arthur smiled and realised that that was exactly his situation with Alfred. He could be like a grumpy old man on the outside, always annoyed by whatever crossed his eyes and calling everybody ugly names, but when it came to Alfred... he was the sweetest person alive. suddenly, a half empty cup of coffee vibrating over the counter and heard one of the engines slowing down, so he ran to the cockpit, where the pilots were struggling to turn off a beeping alarm that tainted the instrument panel red.
“What’s happening, captain?”
“We are losing fuel. The number one engine is dead”
He turned around to face the dark sky in front of him and addressed his pilots.
“Engine restart checklist. Open the emergency fuel pumps”
Arthur bit his lip.
Inside the small private plane making its way over the Mediterranean towards Malta, the Colonel was in conference with General Honda from Washington as Gilbert was talking to Matthew about random things he didn’t understand and sometimes mixing his English with German accidentally, whilst Alfred was twisting a paper in his hands, thinking what the situation could be on board the hijacked airplane. Especially, how Arthur would be doing.
“The Maltese government doesn’t want to be involved in this situation. They won’t let the plane land, but we know that is either Luqa or ditching in the Mediterranean, and then the rescue operations would have to be carried out in a very different way”
Alfred got up, alarmed, and addressed General Honda unceremoniously.
“Ditching? Does that mean... landing in the water?”
General Honda was taken aback by Alfred’s sudden reaction towards him and he just nodded, making the blonde feel even more worried about his lover’s well-being aboard that aircraft.
“Anyways, the 3 Commando Brigade of the United Kingdom is ready to help and on its way to Malta. You are supposed to meet with Brigadier Angus Kirkland in...”
At that moment, Alfred stopped listening to whatever the General was explaining because the man who was supposed to help them rescue the hostages could be, in any way, related to Arthur and that struck him like a load of bricks in his head. He would have never imagined that situation in a million years... well; he would have never imagined that Arthur’s flight was going to be hijacked in the first place either.
“... Do you understand, Colonel?”
General Honda asked flatly. The Colonel nodded before answering his question.
“Check in when you are in Malta”
“Will do, General”
The General closed communications and the Colonel sat back in his seat, sipping a cup of coffee. Matthew excused himself from the conversation he was forced in by Gilbert, who was sweating profusely, by the way, and went over to his brother. He put a hand over his shoulder and kneeled next to his seat, while the blonde’s puzzled look was lost somewhere in outer space.
“Al, did I hear Kirkland? Isn’t that Arthur’s surname?”
Alfred was still beyond shocked and confused by everything that General Honda had said before in the conversation with the Colonel: the ditching, the familiar surname... he just nodded and turned to look at his brother’s purple eyes.
“Y-Yeah... did you hear about the ditching?”
Matthew nodded, too, sadly. In their heads there was still the ghost of flight 980, which had ditched in the Caribbean seven years ago killing 23 people on board. He wasn’t sure how a water landing would turn out for flight 103. It was a big plane, it could either land like a feather or it could break into pieces upon touching the water and that was their biggest fear.
Alfred didn’t want to lose Arthur, and that was a fact to him and his brother. But, the truth, that he had never told Matthew or his parents or even the unit’s psychiatrist, was that he, before he stumbled upon Arthur and started a relationship, had thoroughly considered the fact of killing himself because he felt worthless. Arthur, without knowing it, had saved his life, and that’s why he was so important to him.
In the cockpit of flight 103, there was a deathly silence between the pilots, Arthur and Sadiq. No one dared to talk, not even through the radio. Arthur heard the Second Officer gulp and Francis casted a sideways glance to his co-pilot, before focusing on the dark skies in front of him. Feliciano and Lovino were helping the remaining passengers to seat on the back of the plane as instructed by the other hijackers in the cabin. Suddenly, the number two engine started losing power and the same alarm went off immediately.
“It’s number two, sir. We still have no response from Malta”
The First Officer said, over the sound of the beeping alarm. Arthur covered his ears and was about to leave the cockpit, when Francis turned around to face him.
“Arthur, prepare the passengers for an emergency water landing”
Arthur took his hands off his ears. He was in disbelief. He had never heard of a water landing in the history of Pan Atlantic and never thought he would have to endure one either.
“You heard me. Make something out of that useless display of femininity to show the safety features and prepare the cabin for a water landing. If we don’t get to Malta, we would have to land at the sea. We don’t have other options”
Francis said, clearly annoyed. Arthur huffed and looked down at Sadiq, who was twisting his gun in his hands, obviously nervous about the whole situation. Arthur nodded and went back to the cabin, where he found his flight attendants, standing in the aisle.
“What the hell is going on?”
Lovino whispered angrily and Arthur pushed them both to the galley. He closed the curtain and spoke, also in a whisper.
“The captain wants us to prepare the passengers for a water landing”
Feliciano yelled and his brother put his hand over his mouth. He tried to explain as calmly as he could the current situation to them, but they could see his hands shaking. Lovino nodded and, after a while, a teary-eyed Feliciano nodded too and went to the cabin. Arthur grabbed the interphone of the First Class galley and addressed the passengers.
“Gentlemen, we are experiencing mechanical difficulties and we are forced to make a water landing in the Mediterranean Sea. Please, remain calm and do exactly as we tell you. Life jackets are located under your seats. Place your head through the hole and adjust the straps at the sides. To inflate them, pull the red chord or blow air into the tubes the way the flight attendants are demonstrating...”
From his place in the First Class galley, he could see Feliciano and Lovino putting on their life jackets for the passengers to see in the middle of the aisle, like they did during the safety demonstrations at the start of every flight. Suddenly, they could hear another engine losing power and the lights inside the cabin blinked.
“Do not, I repeat, do not inflate them before leaving the aircraft. When the sign is given, get in brace position: put your head over your knees and grab your ankles. The slides can be used as...”
Feliciano ran to the galley, in tears, clearly upset, while the passengers were putting on their life jackets. Some of them got even more nervous. The hijackers also used the spare life jackets on themselves. Arthur sighed.
He hoped everything went well so he could see his baby again.