The American Embassy took immediate control of the situation and, upon the failure of the negotiations with the Lebanese government to act on their territory, they were allowed to take the hostages to the only ally of the United States in the Middle East, Israel, unbeknownst to them that there were a couple of Israeli citizens held on board that had been selected for God knows what. The ten freed women and children would be transported to Israel along with Feliks and Toris as soon as they were discharged and the latter was stable enough to be moved out of the hospital. At least they weren’t being kept prisoners anymore and the other flight attendants were glad for that. During the day, they were supplied, by airport authorities, food – not much, because the commercial routes didn’t fly to Beirut ever since the war began – and fuel, as the hijackers had demanded.
The night came. The heat inside of the cabin that had grown unbearable during the day the aircraft had been stranded, heating under the Lebanese sun, had subsided. The galleys had run out of ice and there was a strong smell of sweat inside the aircraft that was intolerable from Arthur’s point of view. The blonde flight attendant was unceremoniously laying over the rear galley’s jump seat, fanning himself with a sheet of paper he had found. The women passengers were using their hand fans and some of the men had taken off their shirts. Farah and Gupta were sitting in First Class, keeping a close eye on their prisoners. Gal was sleeping on her husband’s shoulder; she had cried herself to sleep. Roderick had rolled up his sleeves and Elisabetta had tied up her hair in a bun. Farah took off her shawl and her wig, throwing them aside and surprising some of the passengers in First Class. In the cockpit, Francis had taken off his tie and opened some buttons of his shirt to deal with the heat.
Suddenly, yells in Arabic and moving vehicles could be heard approaching the aircraft from afar and the passengers and crew got even more nervous. Gupta went running to the rear galley and grabbed Arthur by the arm, pushing him against the cabin door.
Gupta said. Arthur looked back at Feliciano and Lovino, who felt a droplet of sweat run down their temples when they heard the commotion outside. Arthur gulped and opened the door swiftly, only to be met by ten or twelve armed men in their jeeps, parked near the tail of the aircraft. Gupta pushed him aside and Feliciano grabbed his brother’s hand when they put up a stair and began boarding the airplane, yelling in happiness upon seeing Gupta, who hugged and kissed each one of them in both cheeks. They ran down the aisle towards First Class, where they met with Farah.
“Allahu Akbar, dear friends”
Upon hearing the commotion in the cabin, Francis got up and told his co-pilot and his flight engineer to stay there while he checked on the passengers and the hijackers. He opened the door and was met by a contingent of armed men in the First Class cabin. He approached Farah.
“What is going on?”
Farah turned around upon hearing the captain’s voice behind her. She tried to explain it to him in her poor English as best as she could.
“We wait for our leader”
She said before disappearing into the crowd. One of the armed men hit him across the face with his machine gun, throwing him to the floor for no apparent reason. Back, in the Economy cabin, Farah and Gupta were waiting for Sadiq, and when he arrived, with a belt full of grenades and a machine gun in his hand, all the hijackers started yelling, in Arabic:
“Sadiq is here! Our leader is here! Allah be praised!”
Sadiq smiled dapperly at the horrified flight attendants crouching in the corner of the galley and made his way through the men who had just arrived, to First Class, where he encountered the wounded captain and the six Jewish passengers. He turned around to meet Farah with a smile.
“Seems we have some dear friends with us, don’t we?”
Farah smiled and motioned for him to meet the captain, who was still recovering from the hit in the face with the gun. Sadiq held out his hand and Francis took it.
“Sadiq Adnan, pleased to meet you”
He introduced himself to the captain in perfect English, unlike his colleagues.
“Francis Bonnefoy, the captain of the aircraft... I... can’t say it is a pleasure to meet you”
Sadiq laughed and put his arm around the captain. Then, Farah and the other hijackers ordered the passengers of First Class to get up their seats and move to the back of the aircraft. Francis was confused and he addressed the hijackers.
“What are you doing?”
Francis asked, genuinely worried for his passengers. Sadiq, with his ever-present smile on his face, decided to answer instead of letting Farah do so, as she didn’t speak English as well as he did and could make himself understandable for the captain.
“We are taking them away... to a better place”
“No, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. These are my passengers and I won’t...”
Sadiq laughed, once again and tightened his grip around Francis’ shoulders.
“Captain, you have to understand that you are not in control now, and messing with us and our decisions could get you killed. Understood? Great!”
Without waiting for an answer from Francis, Sadiq left, laughing his butt off, making sure that the passengers were taken to the rear galley, where Arthur realised they wanted those hostages off the plane, so he decided to ask Farah, who was helping them down the small stair that connected the open cabin door to the tarmac, where Gupta was pushing them into a van. He tapped her shoulder and she turned around.
“What do you want?”
“What are you doing with those hostages? Are you setting them free?”
She said, simply, and upon seeing the Edelstein couple walk by, Feliciano ran up to them with tears in his eyes. He grabbed Farah’s arm trying to stop them from conducing them to what would be their certain death.
“You can’t do this, these are our passengers and you don’t have the right to...!”
Arthur put his hand over Feliciano’s mouth, effectively shutting him up, and another in his waist, walking him to the other side of the galley. He knew what they were going to do with those hostages, but tried to avoid them doing the same with Feliciano. When Roderick walked pass them, he sent a sad look to his former pupil before going down the stairs, followed by his wife, who was in the verge of tears and waved at Feliciano, who sulked in a corner, crying. Lovino slid a hand through his face in anger and Arthur didn’t know what to do. This whole situation was beyond him.
“Close the door”
Farah said, once all the passengers were out of the plane and driven away from the tarmac inside of the white van. Arthur nodded and closed the door when he saw the stair being taken away from the plane. Lovino gave his brother a glass of water to calm him down.
“Dad was right about this profession”
Feliciano said with a glimpse of a sad smile in his face, as tears continued to fall down his cheeks. Arthur stopped Farah, who was about to return to First Class. She turned around and with her look, she asked him what the hell did he want.
“Excuse me, w-what are you going to do with my passengers?”
Upon seeing that she didn’t understand, he tried to translate as much as he could.
“Them passengers... what you do?”
“Nothing that concerns you”
That answered worried Arthur more than it should have, so he slid through the crowded aisle until he got to First Class. Several armed hijackers were enjoying the ample seats and ringing the service bell constantly. Arthur was forced from one place to the other and finally, ended up bringing champagne and caviar to those savages, as Arthur’s mind described them.
Feliciano and Lovino had started the dinner service in the Economy cabin, but it wasn’t enough for everyone, even though the cabin was not as crowded as it was when they left Athens. Some hijackers snatched the trays from the stewards’ hands to eat it themselves standing in the aisle.
They had no manners, and that slightly made Arthur remember Alfred when he ate. That brought tears to his eyes, but he wiped them away quickly before serving the most expensive champagne to one of the rudest hijackers.
It was also night time over the Mediterranean Sea, where a small American military plane had been circling around Lebanese airspace ever since it was denied permission to land. The Colonel of the Delta Force had tried, by all means, to contact Beirut Tower and land the plane, even though their petition to storm the plane on Lebanese soil, coming directly from the White House, had also been denied almost instantly. They were running out of fuel, so they decided to land in Tel Aviv and have access to Beirut by land.
In the cabin, Matthew and Gilbert were sleeping, but Alfred couldn’t close his eyes as he was watching a picture he had taken of Arthur which was in his shaky hands. He tried his best to avoid crying, but he couldn’t, once he saw Arthur’s beautiful face and he wondered when he would be able to see it again in person. He remembered fondly their last time together before he departed to Europe.
It had been a couple days after the election of Harvey Milk in San Francisco, and so the straight public was not all too tolerant with the homosexual community, even though it had been declassified as a mental illness – thank God for that – so Alfred and Arthur were walking down Central Park, licking their cones of ice cream watching people and dogs go by. Alfred remembered Arthur had got a cone of chocolate ice cream with sprinkles and he had got a simple vanilla one, he would have got the same – with much more sprinkles, mind you – but he didn’t want to appear as a glutton in front of the boy he had a crush on, so he decided to play it safe. He had kneeled down to pet a Golden Retriever and caress its’ tummy for a couple and Arthur had clearly said, in a grumpy tone, once he was done with the dog and they carried on walking down the stone path:
“You won’t touch me with that hand”
Arthur scooted away from Alfred when he, teasingly, tried to touch his face with that dreadful hand, according to the grumpy Englishman. Arthur ran his ice cream over the tip of his lover’s nose. Alfred was one of the few “blessed” – we could say – people to be able to lick the tip of their nose, so he did exactly that, tasting the chocolate ice cream with sprinkles, his favourite flavour. Arthur didn’t know whether to laugh or be disgusted, so he just laughed with a disgusted face, making Alfred laugh too.
They spotted an almost empty playground and Alfred pulled Arthur towards it. The Englishman, obviously as expected from a proper gentleman, didn’t want to go to that playground, but as soon as Alfred forced him into one of the swings and started pushing it, he began enjoying the ride. In no time, the blonde was giggling like a child, showing off that beautiful smile that Alfred loved so much.
“Tell me how much you love me!”
Alfred said, with a smile on his face. Arthur spun his head around, still smiling but with a frown.
“I won’t do that, you git!”
“Aw, come on, Artie! You know you want to!”
He yelled and Arthur laughed out loud, looking up at the bright blue sky framed by the tall green trees.
“I love you, git!”
A girl approached them, while Arthur was flying in the air and took out her camera, pointing at them. She yelled at them.
“Hey! Can I take you a picture?”
Alfred said, happily, but Arthur wasn’t thinking the same, as he immediately said:
But the girl did it anyways, and she gave the picture to them. Once they had had their fair share of fun in the park, they decided to return to the apartment they had been sharing for over a year and Arthur noticed the way Alfred was looking at the picture in his hands.
“I love you”
“I hate you”
Arthur said, without taking his eyes off the road and Alfred laughed, leaning his head against the smaller man’s shoulder. They walked like that, green leaves falling on their way, framing the perfect scene in Alfred’s mind.
“I love you, Artie”
He mumbled before starting to cry. Once he began, he could not stop. His sobs took over the silence in the aircraft. He couldn’t wait to get there and save his beloved Brit.
The plane took off around midnight and most of the passengers were asleep and the crew could not keep their eyes open. Arthur was called to the cockpit by Francis. He had told his Italian flight attendants to have some sleep while he kept an eye on the passengers. He crossed the cabin, avoiding contact with any of the hijackers standing in the aisle. When he arrived at the flight deck, he was mesmerized by the stars in the clear dark sky, there wasn’t even a cloud in sight. He focused on Sadiq sitting in the spare seat next to the door with his grenades and his machine gun in hand and with that annoying smile in his face.
He said without looking at him, his eyes fixed on the night sky through the windshield. Sadiq clicked his tongue and nodded, looking down at the floor.
Sadiq said, thoughtfully, repeating the name over and over inside his head. Francis turned around, ignoring Sadiq and addressed to Arthur. He was worried for his passengers back there, but he was even more worried for the passengers that had been forced off the plane during their stay at Beirut, although he was glad they had left that city.
“How is everything back there?”
Arthur sighed, but he didn’t want to show weakness in front of the terrorist, even if said man was a nice person... who was carrying more weapons than Fort Knox.
“Everything’s alright. Most of the passengers are asleep”
“And what about Feliciano and Lovino?”
“They are asleep, too”
There was a moment of silence in the cockpit that was only interrupted by the sound of the roaring engines, then, Francis laughed and everyone turned to look at him in awe. Nobody had any idea of why was he laughing, given that the whole situation was not laughable at all. Arthur crossed his arms over his chest and frowned.
“What are you laughing at?”
Francis stopped laughing gradually and wiped the tears from his eyes. He looked up at Arthur.
“You used to be the “Iron Lady” of the pursers, and now, you let your flight attendants sleep during their work hours. That’s an amazing change”
Arthur huffed and exited the cockpit with a loud slam of the door. Sadiq smiled.
“He didn’t seem to happy”
Outside, in the First Class lounge, and laying over the cockpit door, Arthur thought back to what Francis had said and the Italian brothers sleeping while twelve armed men were on board the plane with an unknown destination...
... and he couldn’t help but laugh too.