Arthur was snapped out of his memories by the ding dong of the interphone, receiving a call from the cockpit. Lovino looked at Arthur – who must have had a dreamy expression in his face with the bear in his hands – strangely before picking it up.
He handed the phone over to Arthur, who put the bear back in his bag and closed it. He was called in to the cockpit immediately, so he crossed the cabin and, when he was about to pass First Class, he felt a hand grab his vest from one of the seats. He turned around and faced the Syrian hijacker. There was fear in his eyes. Not like the passenger he had met before, but there was still that lingering feeling.
He asked, annoyed. He didn’t have patience to deal with them anymore. The hijacker stuttered but spoke up, finally.
“A-Are we going to land now?”
Arthur looked down at him.
“I think so”
He then removed the hijacker’s hand from his vest and went over to the cockpit, where he could clearly hear the sound of slowing engines and could see dim lights through the glass. Sadiq was strapped in his seat with his life jacket on, grasping his knees. Francis turned around and faced him while the First Officer spoke, desperately, through the radio.
“Malta, please, turn on the runway lights!”
Not wanting to deal with another hijack situation, the Maltese airport authorities had decided to turn off the runway lights so they couldn’t land, but Francis was determined, and Arthur could see it in his face.
“Prepare the passengers for a crash landing”
Arthur gulped and nodded before leaving the cockpit. In the First Class galley, he grabbed the intercom and addressed the passengers and, much to his dismay, also the hijackers.
“Brace positions for landing!”
Lovino grabbed his brother, who was still praying on his knees with the rosary, and they both sat down and strapped themselves in the jump seat, putting their heads over their knees and grabbing their ankles. Arthur did the same in First Class. The passengers crossed their arms over the seatback in front of them and put their head between them. Arthur was prepared to jump off his seat and deploy the slides at the moment they crashed on the ground and so was Lovino. That couldn’t be said of Feliciano, who was sobbing and had trouble keeping his head down. His shoulders were trembling.
In the cockpit, Francis didn’t know whether he was descending on the runway or on the ground, but didn’t care, as long as he put that big bird somewhere safe and he wasn’t sure if landing on the ground next to the runway would be safe or not, but at least, they didn’t have that much fuel to create an explosion so big. When he felt the landing gear touch down the runway, he didn’t hesitate to immediately deploy full flaps, the spoilers and reverse thrust of the two only engines that were working. When the nose gear touched down the speed had been reduced and they came to a full stop in no time.
In the First Class galley, Arthur sighed in relief. They had made it to the runway safely without any lights to guide them, but he also knew that this nightmare wasn’t over, because, if they would have crashed near the airport, we would have had the chance to evacuate the passengers and then everything would have ended for good, but now, they were still trapped inside of a tube with twelve mad men ready to die.
The nightmare wasn’t over, indeed.
Three hours later, when both the Americans and the British commandos had arrived, the Colonel met with Brigadier Kirkland to discuss a plan of acti0n that would have his men injured or killed like it happened with the GIGN in that failed attempted rescue operation in Algiers the previous night. Alfred couldn’t keep the fact that he might be related to Arthur out of his mind, as he had some coffee, while his brother and Gilbert talked to the members of the brigade. They knew that the Prime Minister had personally come – with an interpreter – to the airport and the Maltese armed forces had surrounded the plane.
“Your attention, gentlemen”
Brigadier Kirkland said, addressing his unit. They all turned around like the Queen’s corgis. The Colonel spoke up when the Brigadier gave him the key. Kirkland looked like the usual snobby Englishman... although he looked more Scottish than English, but had a Londoner accent. Alfred didn’t even know there were different accents within the United Kingdom. He though they all spoke like Arthur did.
“The Prime Minister is trying to talk the hijackers into releasing the remaining hostages, but they won’t negotiate, so that’s when we come in action. This will be the plan: we have already spoke to the Prime Minister and he told us that they wanted to provide the plane with food and drinks in an hour, that will give us enough time to prepare the gear. Jones, you will have Section 1 and Williams, you will have Section 2, you will both have access to the plane through the catering vehicles, we will send you to the tarmac inside of them. Jones, you will go in through the First Class door, clearing the cabin and the cockpit, which is where the hijackers are according to the released hostages. Williams, you will go through the Economy Class door, you will be in charge of evacuating the passengers and crew. When you are done, meet Jones at the front. Got it?”
The Colonel explained, but Gilbert spoke up with a confused expression on his face.
“Wait... what about the awesome me?”
“Well, the “awesome you” will have the third section and you will be in charge of rescuing the hostages from Beirut, so we are sending you there right away. Everything is arranged for you to meet with your contact from the Mossad at the airport”
The Colonel answered his question and Gilbert fist-pumped in the air with a smile on his face.
The Colonel rolled his eyes and, when the meeting was adjourned, Alfred went over to Brigadier Kirkland, nervous and shifting his feet. Matthew encouraged him.
“Um, excuse me, Brigadier”
Kirkland turned around from where he was pouring himself a cup of tea and looked at Alfred up and down. The truth was that he didn’t have tolerance towards Americans, he found them annoying and thought that the world would be better without them... either that, or the world would have been better if they hadn’t started that bloody stupid war against them for no apparent reason. That was all in Brigadier Angus Kirkland’s head as he blinked twice and ushered Alfred to speak with a silent nod.
Alfred scratched the back of his neck with a slight blush, shifting his foot from side to side. To the Brigadier, that was a pathetic display of emotions not proper of an American soldier, who called themselves the best of the world, and to his consideration, they could never beat the British Empire... which didn’t exist any longer, but... still.
“I was wondering, because of your surname and all... do you have any relation with Arthur Kirkland?”
Kirkland hadn’t heard the name of his younger brother in years, since he left home after their parents and entire family turned their backs at him. He had done it too, because he had given in to peer pressure, but either way, there was something wrong about Arthur telling the entire world about his sexual preferences. Something he didn’t approve. He composed himself and answered.
He left the room almost immediately after answering, leaving a dumbfounded Alfred behind. Matthew came up to him upon seeing the Brigadier leave so calmly.
“What did he say?”
Alfred turned around to face his stepbrother.
“Well... he said no”
“And do you believe him?”
“I... don’t know”
He truly wasn’t sure.
There was silence in the cabins; Arthur was trying to get some sleep at the front row of Economy when suddenly he felt someone sitting next to him. Expecting it to be Feliciano or Lovino, or even Francis, he turned around and was surprised to see Sadiq, looking up at the front, and Gupta sitting down on an armrest on the other side of the aisle, looking at them, throwing and catching his grenade in the air. Arthur sighed.
“What’s the matter? Do you want something?”
Sadiq turned to look at him, then.
“You don’t like us, do you?”
Arthur snorted and turned back to watch the closed window and snuggle underneath his blanket. They were in summer, but it was the early morning, so it was a little chilly inside.
“That’s a safe bet, mister”
Arthur said sarcastically, without turning around to see him as he spoke. Sadiq sighed and looked at Gupta. He knew that he had to approach Arthur somehow.
“Are you British?”
Arthur sighed annoyed and turned around, facing the hijacker. He nodded with a frown in his face. He turned around again and decided that that was the last time he was going to do so. He was getting dizzy.
Sadiq asked. Gupta didn’t understand anything of what they were talking about, but was interested in the flight attendant’s reaction.
Arthur answered. Sadiq smiled so he decided to ask another question.
“You work in the hub in London?”
He was cut off by Arthur, who turned around to face him – again – this time, more annoyed than before. How dare he try to investigate about his personal or professional life? It was his life, after all.
“Why are you doing this?”
Sadiq’s expression changed. He was confused. He didn’t know what Arthur was talking about.
“I want to get to know you”
Arthur sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I mean, why are you doing this to us?”
Sadiq frowned and turned to look at the front, to the First Class cabin. He intertwined his fingers over his lap. His whole body expression changed and Arthur could see that.
“That’s the only way they can hear us”
Arthur asked, confused.
Sadiq answered, as if it was nothing.
“The world needs to hear us, and this is the only way. They only hear this”
He said, taking out his gun. Arthur looked at it and then back at Sadiq’s face with an intrigued expression in his face.
“And the only way of making them “hear” is by depriving innocent people from their freedom? Do you think that’s what your leaders want? Do you think that...?”
Sadiq said, quite loudly, enough to make Arthur silent, but without yelling. He captured the attention of passengers and hijackers sitting in closer rows to them. Arthur sighed and turned around again, trying to get some sleep, when the Turk’s softer voice – now –interrupted his actions.
“Can you sing?”
Arthur turned around.
Sadiq looked at him with warm, chocolate eyes.
“I want you to sing for me”
Arthur didn’t understand anything, so Sadiq, in order to get closer to him, decided to open up his feelings and memories to the flight attendant. The Turk sighed, looking at the front.
“When I was little, my first memories are my mother singing to me when I was upset. You are here. Sing to me”
Arthur didn’t know what to do, so he decided not to displease the hijackers and he began to sing the song he had sung to Alfred ever since they moved in, one of the few songs he knew and one of the most beautiful to him. He cleared his throat and began to sing with a very soft voice.
What do you see?
You people gazing at me
You see a doll on a music box
That’s wound by a key
He looked at them, afraid that that song would not appeal to them. He didn’t want to seem too feminine in front of these men who could, well, kill him. To his surprise, he saw how they seemed to enjoy them, because there were smiles on their faces.
How can you tell?
I’m under a spell
I’m waiting for love’s first kiss
Arthur saw how they were moving their heads from side to side like if they were little children, listening to their mother singing to them. He didn’t realise that the other hijackers and passengers could hear them over the deathly silence that reigned over the aircraft. Feliciano poked his head out of the galley.
At least there was some relief in that tense situation.
After the general rehearsal with the British commando on a grounded BOAC jetliner ceded kindly by the British government in order to prepare for the storming of the aircraft, Alfred went over to the snack bar inside the Terminal, which had been closed like the airport for the occasion – even though they didn’t count with the Maltese government’s approval – and was quickly followed by his brother. Alfred was pouring himself a cup of coffee but stopped abruptly and sighed. Matthew put his arm around his brother’s shoulders.
“I know it’s hard, but we did well in our rehearsal, you heard the Colonel”
Matthew said, hoping to sound comforting for his brother in distress. Alfred turned his to look at his brother, with tears in his eyes, threatening to spill. His upper lip was quivering.
“What if something goes wrong? What if I accidentally shoot him in the head? Oh my God!”
He started to hyperventilate and Matthew had to snap him out of it by shaking him slightly grabbing him from the shoulders. Alfred calmed down and began to breathe normally once again. Matthew relaxed.
“You will not. You are a great shooter, that won’t happen”
Matthew tried to calm him down, but there was still that question lingering on the blonde Canadian’s head...
What if something goes wrong?
Arthur kept singing, upon seeing that both Sadiq and Gupta liked it. He was beginning to feel nervous, but when the song ended, the both clapped vigorously with big smiles on their faces. Other passengers had also been a little bit tranquilized by Arthur’s soft singing voice. Gupta nudged Sadiq with a smirk on his face and his grenade on his hand. The Turk turned around to face him, his smile never faltering. Arthur was glad everything had turned out well.
“He sings nice”
He said. Sadiq nodded.
“He does... if he were a woman, he would make a fine wife”
Arthur’s small smile faltered upon catching that sentence with his little knowledge in Arabic. Gupta laughed and looked at Arthur with penetrating eyes, making the blonde flight attendant very uncomfortable.
“He doesn’t need to. Put a wig on him, and if he is on his stomach, you can pound him as a beautiful woman”
Arthur cleared his throat and got up, his face redder than a tomato. He put the folded blanket on the overhead compartment while Gupta and Sadiq checked his round bottom and he went over to the galley to have some water to cool off.
“Is everything okay?”
Feliciano asked, upon seeing the distressed face his co-worker was making and the way his hands shook when he poured himself water on the glass. Arthur turned to look at him and Lovino, who was also wondering what the hell was up with him.
And then he began laughing. It was a nervous laughter, and it was pretty contagious. A ding signalled them that the cockpit was calling and they stopped laughing. Feliciano wiped a tear from his eye and Arthur composed himself before answering.
“Stand by, the catering is coming from the port side”
Arthur hung up the interphone and addressed the Italian flight attendants. Feliciano was still chuckling and Lovino was looking at him as if he was a madman.
“Listen, the catering is coming, you two cover the port door and I’ll go to First Class. It was about time that we received some food. I’m starving”
Arthur said, rolling his eyes and going over to First Class. What they didn’t know was that the commandos had received the go-ahead when Sadiq had agreed to bring the food to the plane. On board the approaching catering vehicles were Alfred, Matthew and their respective units.
“Okay, gentlemen. It’s a go”
Brigadier Kirkland and the Colonel said at the same time. The units boarded the vehicles and Matthew approached his brother, grabbing him by the arm.
“Everything’s going to be alright, bro. I promise you”
Alfred smiled sadly, a droplet of sweat was running down his forehead into his gear.
“I know, bro. Good luck”
“Good luck to you too”
Matthew patted him on the back before entering his vehicle. Alfred pulled down his protector and entered his one too.
Nearly 1200 miles eastbound, in Beirut, a surprise attack was planned on the old abandoned building right in front of Father Karpusi’s church. A helicopter carrying Gilbert and one fourth of his unit was advancing over the cloudless sky, followed by a vehicle on the ground, covering all angles before the attack.
And then, suddenly, bam! A gas bomb exploded in the courtyard coming from the helicopter.
Gilbert made a sign to his men to jump down the ropes and he followed suit. The charges of explosives set on the heavy metal doors blew up and the men on the ground charges against the terrorists shooting at them from the inside.
The hostages heard the commotion and the shooting from outside. The door opened and Farah duck behind it, pointing her gun outside and shooting occasionally. Screaming and gunshots could be heard from outside.
Elisabetta yelled at her husband, who pushed her head down as well as his’ when the shooting came to their room. Farah was shot instantly, wounded but not killed and the commandos entered the small concrete room.
“Everybody hands on your heads!”
One of them yelled and they all complied. Gilbert entered the room and began laughing his strange laugh. He took his radio.
“Zone 2, this is Zone 1. The perimeter is clear. We’ve found the hostages and seem to be ok”
He kneeled down and pulled up his protector to talk to the hostages.
“I hope you don’t mind all the shooting. We just came to rescue you”
He laughed again, but the hostages didn’t have the heart to laugh. They had been saved, finally. They all hugged and kissed each other and Gilbert grinned out and inwardly.
Arthur opened the door of the port side of First Class and Feliciano opened the door in the Economy galley upon seeing the vehicles approaching. When they were in place in front of each open door, it was when Alfred’s fear materialized. Now was the time.
Suddenly, and not for the first time, it was as if all hell had broken loose. The doors of the vehicles opened and several armed commandos stormed the plane, causing confusion and a slow response from the hijackers upon the detonation of several smoke bombs which clouded their visions. Arthur was petrified and suddenly pulled out of the way and into the cabin by one of the men with an American flag badge on his arm. He pulled up his polycarbonate visor, revealing to be Alfred.
“You gotta get out of here!”
Arthur was confused when the gun battle began. Alfred forced him down and pulled down his visor, pushing him towards the Economy cabin, where there was chaos too, as Matthew’s unit was trying to get the passengers off their seats. Arthur closed the curtain, then realising that that wouldn’t do anything to protect them.
“Deploy the slides!”
He yelled at Feliciano, who was confused at everything that was going on. Suddenly, gunfire penetrated through the Economy cabin and Arthur pushed everybody down. At that moment, Vash could only think of Lilly and how he would never see her again. He was trying to keep her hair clip in his hand. She had given it to him before leaving the airplane and was the only material thing she had of her on board, and was trying not to lose it in the confusion. Feliciano and Lovino were ushering the passengers to jump off the slide deployed from the starboard exit.
They yelled along with Matthew, whose unit had already gone to the front to help Alfred’s. There was a big explosion and Arthur wanted to go check if Alfred was alright, but Matthew pushed him off the slide. Feliciano and Lovino helped him up, but he wanted to get back.
“Alfred! Wait, no...!”
“You’ll see Alfred later, now move your ass!”
Lovino yelled as he pushed Arthur away from the plane. The evacuation had been successful. Arthur looked up and saw the international television from all around Europe and the world broadcasting the assault.
Inside the plane, Matthew’s unit had practically shot dead all twelve terrorists in the First Class cabin whilst Alfred was engaged in a gun battle with Sadiq and Gupta. The pilots were trying to make themselves as small as they could in order to not get shot by the hijackers. Gupta threw his hand grenade at them.
Matthew yelled and threw his brother back, receiving all the impact of the explosion.
At the early morning hours of the following day, after watching the news about the successful rescue of the hostages in Malta, all the passengers’ wives, young sons, daughters, mothers and grandmothers along with authorities of the Israeli government were present at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv waiting for the military plane to arrive.
At around seven o’clock, the Aviocar of the Maltese Army, escorted by the Israeli Air Force, landed and taxed towards where they had been told that the remaining hostages and the international television would be waiting. Feliks kneeled down to hug Lilly and smiled at her before standing up and putting his arm around a now-recovered Toris, waiting for the other flight attendants. He had been ecstatic when he found out about it through the BBC News channel on TV. He didn’t like staying at Israel... the language was too difficult. Suddenly, he was caught off-guard when something warm pressed against his cheek and he turned around to see a smiling and blushing Toris.
“I hope its ok...”
Before he could finish the sentence, Feliks slammed his lips to his’ ignoring the scandalized looks the other passengers and Israeli policemen were giving them. Toris put his arms around the Pole’s tiny waist and he sneaked his arms around the other’s neck. They broke the kiss, panting when the people started cheering as the plane’s door opened and the hostages started coming out. They left the happy couple staring into each other’s eyes behind as they ran to their loved ones.
Vash wiped the tears from his eyes as he embraced his little sister Lilly and lifted her up in the air. Feliks grabbed Toris’ wrist and guided to where the Italian brothers were and Arthur, resting his head on Alfred’s shoulder and his arm around his waist. They embraced each other and some tears spilled.
Henei ma tov umanaim
Shevet achim gam yachad
On a smaller plane coming from Beirut came Gilbert’s awesome unit and the Jewish hostages on its way to Tel Aviv. The Edelstein couple was happy to be alive and Elisabetta grabbed Gal’s hand, who was also holding onto her husband. The other two men were smiling and shaking each other’s hands.
Henei ma tov umanaim
Shevet achim gam yachad
They were all happy and thankful to be alive. Roderick, who up until then had been a little reluctant to his wife’s romantic advances, couldn’t wait to get home and spend a night loving each other and kissing her all over.
Arthur opened the door to their apartment, extremely tired, after a long meeting between the crew of flight 103 and Pan Atlantic executives. He had managed to get a month off before starting to work again like normal. How would one emotionally recover after having a gun to his head in one month apparently wasn’t on the executives’ minds. He heard rustling in the kitchen and the TV on in the living room. He raised an eyebrow as he locked the door.
“I’m in the kitchen!”
He said from afar and walked further into the flat, where he found Matthew eating some pancakes with maple syrup and strawberries to the side – after all, it was still early – watching the news about the “Rescue of the Century” as the media called it. He turned around upon hearing light footsteps closer to him and smiled at Arthur, wiping the syrup from the corner of his mouth, politely with a napkin. He had always been a polite eater, unlike his brother.
“Oh, hi, Matthew. How are you today?”
“Well, as fine as one could be with three broken ribs”
He said nonchalantly making Arthur smile. He squeezed his shoulder and went into the kitchen, where he saw Alfred arranging a tray with a burger, some fries and a glass of Coke. He looked around and didn’t find the kitchen completely burn by Alfred’s stupidity, but then, Matthew acted as the wise voice as always.
“I cooked it!”
Arthur sighed. Alfred hugged Arthur around the waist and lifted him up in the air.
“Git, what the bloody ‘ell are you doing?!”
Alfred laughed that annoying laugh and put him down, kissing him deeply and leaving him a little dizzy. He would never admit what his kissed did to him in front of the loud American. He wouldn’t hear the end of it.
“There is a message from Feliks in the phone. Hear it”
Arthur went back to the living room and saw that there was one message in the answer machine. He heard Feliks’ cheery voice through the phone and smiled.
“Like, hello everybody, this is Feliks...”
“... and Toris”
Came Toris’ quiet, obviously embarrassed voice, and a giggle from Feliks in the background. He kept on talking.
“I want you to know that Toris as I are now dating and would love to go on a double date with you guys tomorrow. We made reservations at Lillie’s. I know how much you like British food, Arthur, and I know how much you like to please Arthur, Alfred – inside and outside of the bed”
Feliks said before laughing, making Arthur blush furiously. When the message ended, he turned around and slapped Alfred slightly and went to the kitchen to make himself some tea. While waiting for the kettle to whistle, he began thinking.
Life was slowly starting to normalize.
When he returned to his job as a flight attendant again a month later as did the Italian brothers, and was happy to know that the relationship between Feliks and Toris had bloomed. They were so much in love that they would have married each other if, well... if it would have been legal. He was also disappointed to know that Feliks had quitted his job and become a full-time housewife at his’ and Toris’ house, like he had always wanted.
And, so, my dears, they lived happily ever after and that glorious day of summer in Malta was always remembered like America’s greatest achievement and the day Arthur learned to value more his relationship with Alfred.
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