Alfred was the first one to sit down at the empty conference room at around half past one in the morning, after having slept less than half an hour, with a cup of coffee in his hand. The conference room was not empty per se, as the Colonel was there, waiting for connection with General Honda from Washington. Finally, after waiting at least fifteen minutes and the arrival of both Matthew and Gilbert, the Japanese-American general appeared on the screen, with his usual emotionless yet stern expression and his impeccable uniform. It was obvious to the four men in the room that he hadn’t slept ever since the crisis began.
“Good morning, gentlemen. We have been informed that the hijacked aircraft just crossed Lebanese airspace heading west over the Mediterranean Sea, so it’s probable that they will land either in Libya or Algeria. We haven’t had a response from the Libyan government, but President Boumediene is ready to cooperate, so we are sending you to Algiers. Let’s hope that’s where the plane is heading. The Delta team is on its way”
“Thank you, General”
“Due to the amount of French citizens on board, and with the avail of the Algerian government, Lieutenant LaGarde of the GIGN would send his son’s, Major LaGarde, division with their best men, apparently the Lieutenant’s daughter, Mademoiselle LaGarde, was on board at the time of the hijack and has not been released in Beirut”
Matthew was quite pleased with knowing that the GIGN would also be involved in the rescue of the hostages. He was always thrilled to work with people from other nations and perhaps they could give them tips on how to handle the situation, as they had been in the business longer than the Delta Force.
“We’ll cooperate with them, General. When are they arriving?”
“They will be landing in Algiers in about two hours. You’ll be meeting with Major LaGarde at the airport upon your arrival. Good luck. That’s all”
The General said before closing communications. The Colonel turned around to face the three best men of his team. Alfred was ready to storm the plane at any time, Matthew was thinking the possibilities of a less violent intervention to negotiate with the terrorists and maybe recover the hostages from their control, and Gilbert was thinking whether he left Mrs. Weatherby enough food for Gilbird back in his apartment in New York.
“You heard the man, boys. We are departing for the airport in half an hour”
Everyone got up and went to get ready for leaving. Alfred couldn’t wait to see his loved one again. While walking up the stairs, he recalled a fond memory of them together, in a small, picturesque village in France.
They had been in a hotel, enjoying some quiet – they had to be quiet or else they would have burnt them alive. It was true, they were in France, but they couldn’t just flaunt it like it was nothing – couple time and Arthur had decided that he wanted to try a new recipe.
Hey, when in Rome, do as Romans do... and when in France, try to cook without burning the whole town. That was Alfred’s thought when Arthur took him grocery shopping to a street market he called marché... to Alfred, it was still a street market.
When Arthur’s shoelaces got untied, he had to stop in front of a doorstep to tie them up and that left Alfred to tour the market. There were a lot of alive disgusting things like lobsters... Ew. Suddenly, he found a woman yelling and looked around to see that Arthur was gone and he was lost in a damn marché.
“Pour les belles dames et les beaux messieurs ! De bons prix dans tous les étals du marché !’’
She said in a strange language, pulling him towards a stall. He was trying to wiggle out of her grip, but she was too strong.
“No! Help! Does anybody here speak my language?”
Alfred asked frantically to no one in particular, until he felt a small hand over his shoulder and turned around, still in the woman’s strong grip.
“Excusez-moi, madame. Il est Américaine”
The woman smiled and Arthur dragged him away from her, who carried on yelling. When they were as far away from the woman as they could be, Arthur whispered at Alfred angrily.
“What the bloody hell are you doing? I told you I was going over to the fruit stall. You never listen!”
He ended up dragging him all across the market – or marché – and Alfred was mesmerized by the softness of Arthur’s hand, then when his grasp loosened, he could feel the softness of his hairless arm. When they were done shopping, Alfred was the one to drag Arthur to their hotel room, where he threw him on the bed, leaving the groceries by the door.
Alfred spent all day and all night enjoying the softness of his lover’s body.
On board flight 103, almost everyone was asleep, except for Geneviève LaGarde, the daughter of the prestigious leader of the French GIGN, travelling on vacation to Greece. She was returning to New York after a well-deserved break from her stressful job as a broker in Wall Street. She was hoping to land soon, because she knew that her father – or her brother – would come and save her. How they were going to do that, it was still a mystery for her, but she didn’t give up on hope.
She felt a finger tapping her shoulder and she turned to the side, to see Natalia Arlovskaya holding out a miniature bottle of vodka for her, she was sitting on the window seat, one seat apart from Geneviève. She was a Belarusian young woman who was following Toris on her quest to find her stepbrother and love interest Ivan Braginsky. Her pursuit had driven her to that ill-fated flight, and only alcohol could keep her from jumping one of the hijackers.
Geneviève nodded at Natalia in acceptance and took the bottle from her hands. She drank a sip and cringed at the taste, much like Arthur had done when Lovino had prepared those drinks in the galley, hours ago. They noticed that the women were covering their hair and that Arthur was walking up the aisle, speaking to the female passengers, followed by one of the heavily armed hijackers. When he got to their row, he spoke in a very gentle voice.
“Please, cover your hair”
Geneviève quick and emotionless as always, untied her red neckerchief and covered her head with it. Natalia was confused.
“Why do they want that?”
She asked, always defiant. The hijacker glared at her.
He yelled in Arabic, making Arthur cringe. He addressed her again, trying to calm the hijacker’s mood. The truth is that they were discontent with their western customs: men and women sitting together, using the same lavatories and the women wearing their head uncovered. While the plane was under their command, the passengers and crew would have to play by their rules.
“Please, do it. Don’t make them mad”
Natalia sighed and covered her hair. Arthur continued his round in the cabin until he reached the last row and went into the galley to meet with his flight attendants. The hijacker that had been following them, left for First Class. Arthur sighed and rested against the door. Lovino was sipping a cup of coffee to keep himself awake and Feliciano was still sleeping, strapped in the jump seat.
Arthur had been carried out of the galley by the hijacker that had been following in the cabin and dragged to First Class, when he was told, barely, what they wanted him to do and why they wanted him to do it.
“They wanted me to make sure the women covered their hair”
“Uh! Then you should cover your head, too”
Arthur glared at him and they both laughed. They had grown to be pretty amiable to each other in that closed environment. They weren’t friends, but they now had a good, healthy relationship. Lovino offered him some coffee. Arthur groaned and rolled his eyes, advancing towards the coffee maker.
“Oh, yes, please. I can’t be on my feet any longer. I feel like I’m falling asleep standing up”
Lovino chuckled and poured him a cup, while he sipped his lukewarm coffee. He hummed.
“So, tell me about your boyfriend in the states”
Arthur’s eyes lit up upon the mere mention of Alfred, of whom he had thought ever since the hijack began. Now he had the chance to speak about him with someone else and he wouldn’t waste it. He left the cup on the counter. Upon seeing that Arthur was immersed in his thoughts, he decided to ask.
“How is he... physically?”
“Well, um, he is tall with a very cute smile, blue eyes, blonde hair and glasses that make him look like the smartest person... which he is not”
They both shared a giggle and Arthur sipped his coffee.
“He is somewhat clumsy and infantile, but he is very mature in some situations. He is a very nice lover, he is very considerate... although he is a little self-centred and claims to be a hero so, yeah, he tries to solve any situation and he ends up making it worse than it already was”
Lovino rolled his eyes and sarcastically said.
“Sounds like quite the catch”
Arthur chuckles and finished up his coffee.
“No, really... actually, he... he is the only man I’ve ever been with”
Lovino raised an eyebrow, sipping his coffee, not taking his eyes off Arthur, who was starting to feel rather uncomfortable for being looked so closely.
Lovino asked and Arthur turned red from the neck up.
“W-What the bloody hell is that question?!”
Arthur asked, clearly embarrassed. Lovino nodded to himself: yes, yes it was. Arthur decided to explain.
“No... Yes... I mean, no... Wait! I’m not a harlot...”
“Take it easy, fairy boy, I’m not judging you”
Lovino said, upon sensing Arthur’s discomfort on the matter, so he decided to change de subject in order to continue the conversation and entertain himself and get to know his purser, in the meantime. When he was about to talk, Arthur sighed and rested his hands on his knees, his head down. He straightened up suddenly, his messy blonde hair moving wildly.
“I meant he was my first and only lover, so far... a-and I want to keep it that way. Alfred is great, but he is too young for me, and sometimes, I’m afraid he’ll notice that and leave me for someone younger and more attractive”
Arthur felt tears forming in his eyes and blinked several times to avoid them from spilling out. Lovino noticed this and rolled his eyes. He hated when people got emotional in front of him, but now he was like seeing a marble statue cry. He never would have imagined that the stone that was Arthur Kirkland, purser of Pan Atlantic Airways flight 103 from Athens via Rome to New York, would crack up in front of someone as Lovino. He sighed and left his cup of coffee on the counter before grabbing Arthur from the shoulders, looking at him straight in the eyes.
“Look, I’m going to feel really awkward saying this, but you are attractive. And he is not going to leave you, at all. He – sigh – won’t find anything better thank you. I assure you”
Arthur’s eyes lit up and he hugged Lovino tightly, making him even more uncomfortable.
“Thank you so much”
Arthur kissed Lovino’s cheek, forcing him to pull the Brit away and slip away from his strong embrace. Arthur was still smiling like an idiot and Feliciano was still sleeping... like an idiot.
“Hey, no homo, fairy boy!”
Arthur laughed until he felt something. They were losing speed and the landing gear was down. They were landing God knows where. Lovino noticed too.
“Strap yourself in”
Arthur said before heading into the cabin to tell the passengers to fasten their seatbelts. Lovino sat down next to his brother, and, once everybody else was strapped in – he didn’t bother telling the hijackers, he couldn’t care less – he sat down in one of the empty seats at the back of the cabin, near the galley. He was slightly scared, he didn’t know where the hell they were in but he wouldn’t let it show.
He was the Chief Steward, after all, the most high-ranked person in the airplane after the pilots, but under the circumstances, he was ready to put that in jeopardy.
The military plane landed from Tel Aviv at around three in the morning. In the tower of Houari Boumediene International Airport in Algiers, the air traffic controller turned around, once receiving the confirmation that the plane was on the ground, to face Major LaGarde, a young blonde who was waiting impatiently, tapping his foot on the floor and his arms crossed over his chest. He and his team had arrived several hours ago and had been waiting for the leaders of the Delta Force. The American Ambassador on Algeria was on his way from his residence.
“Major LaGarde, the plane has just landed”
The air traffic controller said in a thick Arabic accent. The major nodded and left the tower without further ado, on his way to the tarmac to meet the Colonel.
“Major LaGarde, I presume. Pleased to meet you”
The Colonel shook hands with LaGarde, as did the rest of the team, introducing themselves. Alfred had a sudden pang in his chest, as the major looked much like Arthur: he was blonde – his hair was neatly coiffed, unlike Arthur’s – he was short, perhaps the same height as his lover, but he had the brightest blue eyes one had ever seen, whilst Arthur’s were green. He was very pale, he glowed in the lights that illuminated the tarmac.
While they were walking, the major was speaking with the Colonel about the current situation, Alfred, his brother and Gilbert walking behind them.
“I took the liberty to speak with some of the hostages via conference from Tel Aviv and they said that there were two hijackers, a man and a woman, and that they were armed but not too much, just a couple hand grenades and a gun, which the woman was holding. I believe that a rescue operation, carried out well, can be effective and the hostages would be released in no time”
He spoke with an aristocratic French accent. Alfred smiled, that guy surely reminded him of Arthur and his refined manners.
The Colonel and LaGarde continued the talk about how to plan an effective rescue operation on board the plane once it landed and the Delta Team arrived at Algiers and Matthew asked, several times and with no answer coming from his superiors, if they couldn’t get to an arrangement with the hijackers to release the hostages. He was always looking for the peaceful solution.
Perhaps that job wasn’t for him.
The feeling inside the cabin of the plane touching down on the runway woke up the majority of sleeping passengers and the crew. Feliciano yawned and rubbed his eyes before getting up when the plane came to a full stop. Arthur and Lovino also got up and headed for the galley. The blonde flight attendant checked his watch.
“It’s 3 AM. My God, don’t they ever sleep?”
Arthur asked annoyed to no one in particular as he took out a miniature bottle of vodka from the cabinets. Feliciano poked his head out of the galley and looked into the cabin.
“Are they still here?”
Feliciano asked, rolling his eyes and with a sigh upon seeing the hijackers in First Class through the open curtain.
“No, they are their stupid brothers”
Lovino said sarcastically before pouring himself a glass of orange juice.
Feliciano asked curiously. Lovino sighed and rolled his eyes before answering his dumb question.
“No! Only I have a stupid brother!”
Lovino said angrily before smacking Feliciano over the head. Arthur rolled his eyes and, when he was about to drink the vodka, Natalia appeared in the galley and snatched it out of the flight attendant’s hand.
“Thank you, I needed it”
She looked at the glass of orange juice Lovino was holding in his hand and snatched it also.
She walked out of the galley, mixing up her drinks, leaving the three dumbfounded stewards. Apparently, alcohol was the only thing that could lighten the mood in such a situation and everybody knew it.