The following day dawned sunny and beautiful, but Heero glowered at his breakfast. The students usually had day trips planned for their days off, why couldn't Duo just go with them? Heero preferred to work, especially on such nice days. The reason for his unwanted time off strolled into the dining area, whistling and cheerful. He grabbed some fruit and a roll and sat down across from Heero.
"Hey pal!" Duo greeted the other boy. "Ready for a big day on the town?"
Heero just grunted and took a gulp of orange juice. It annoyed him that Duo had just called him 'pal.' Duo knew his name; he could just as well use that.
Duo took a bite of the bun and chewed as he opened his bag. "Ok, I've got a water bottle, money, a beach towel," he mused, rifling through the contents, "a map, and a bartering tool." He winked and revealed a few packs of American cigarettes. "Father bought them for bargaining, not smoking. He said I could probably even barter my blue jeans!"
"Probably," Heero muttered. The cigarettes were actually pretty smart.
"I've got my swim trunks on under my shorts," Duo announced as if Heero cared to know. At least Duo was dressed much more appropriately for the weather now. Instead of black, he wore khaki cargo shorts that looked almost ridiculous on him with his skinny white legs, and the leather sandals on his large feet made him look extra dopey. Kind of like a puppy in its awkward stage with huge paws and ears. Duo had a white tee shirt on under his rumpled white button down. His sunglasses were hooked in the neck of his tee, and he had a floppy hat on top of his bag.
"So," Duo said, "can we go soon?"
"I suppose," Heero grumbled, standing up.
Duo laughed. "I know you're thinking about the temple," he said. Heero turned quickly to look at him. "I am too actually," he added.
"Then why don't we - "
"Because we can't work all the time!" Duo exclaimed, predicting Heero's reaction, "Besides, I promised your uncle I'd make you go out. He made me promise not to let you work."
Heero silently cursed his uncle. This was so not fair.
"Come on!" Duo said, heading for the doorway. "Hurry up, get your stuff!"
Heero grudgingly followed, saying, "I've got everything," as he slung a small bag over his shoulder.
Duo trotted on ahead excitedly, which annoyed him greatly.
"Slow down," he frowned, "you don't even know where you're going!"
"There's only one road outta here!" Duo threw over his shoulder and stuck out his tongue. Heero rolled his eyes and increased his pace to catch up.
Duo sensed Heero coming up along side him. He couldn't say he was very happy with Heero's attitude this morning. Every time he thought maybe Heero was beginning to like him, things seemed to turn around again. He usually had no idea what he'd done to cause it, but this time at least he knew it was because Heero would rather be working. He was determined to make Heero have a good time today, even if it killed one of them.
"What should we do first?" Duo asked as they walked up the dirt road. "We should probably get to the beach before noon."
"We can go there first," Heero thought out loud, "we'll pass through one bazaar on the way, so you can look around. After the beach, we can go to the main tourist areas with the temples and shops. There's an old tomb and a museum of artifacts from Ashkelon we can visit."
"Sounds good," Duo agreed.
It was a quiet fifteen-minute walk before they reached the outskirts of modern Ashkelon. They passed many people going towards the ancient city, which had been made into a national park and drew thousands of tourists. The area Harvard had been given to dig in was secluded and not open to the public, so they were not disturbed by the visitors.
It was blatantly obvious that the two boys were foreigners, and the two received a lot of attention for it. Heero tried to be patient while Duo took in the sights and looked at goods. Jay had told him that Duo hadn't traveled a lot, so all this was new to him while Heero had seen it all before.
Duo knew he was getting a lot of stares and whispers, but he thought it was just because he was American until Heero said, "they're muttering about your hair."
That hadn't even occurred to Duo. "Just tell 'em to fuck off, that's what I always do," he shrugged.
Heero frowned. "I, uh, can't," he admitted.
"You mean you don't know how to cuss someone out in Hebrew?" Duo asked, "You don't really know a language unless you can swear!"
That made Heero a little defensive. No one ever promised he was fluent in Hebrew, and Duo would be totally stuck if it weren't for him anyway. "It's not that important," he countered, "you don't know a language if you can JUST swear."
"Well, no, but I would say being able to sling fast and offensive insults is a sign of competency in a foreign language."
"Can you swear in all the languages you know?" Heero asked haughtily.
"Yup, I got it down in all the languages I speak."
"You don't really speak Latin or Greek, since they're dead languages," Heero reminded him rudely.
Duo then shouted several phrases loud enough to earn more stares, and laughed in a self-satisfied manner.
Heero glowered at him. It had been Latin, but all he'd caught was the word 'goat.' "What was that?" he asked, annoyed.
"That was me 'speaking' Latin," Duo grinned, "I said 'Shut the hell up you arrogant, idiotic bastard, go fuck a goat!'"
Heero glared at him as Duo walked on ahead.
With Duo looking around for gifts, it took them an hour to make it to the boardwalk that led to the beach. Heero rented an umbrella and they found a spot. Duo spread his towel and dropped his bag on it. He looked at the ocean longingly, but he wisely stripped his clothes off and applied sunblock first.
"Did you bring some?" Duo asked of the lotion.
Heero shrugged. "We won't be here that long, and it's not even a dangerous time of day," he said. His skin was also a bit darker than Duo's naturally, anyway. Although, that wasn't too hard since Duo was very fair.
"You can use mine if you change your mind," Duo offered, "you don't want to get cancer."
Heero shrugged and settled onto the blanket before pulling a book from his bag.
"I should have known," Duo rolled his eyes. It was one of the reference books from the collection Jay kept in the dining area for the students to use.
Heero shot him a glare before turning his attention to the book. Duo turned to the shore and soon started to run towards the water. The sand was HOT! He ran in above his knees and then dove in. He could hardly believe it - he was swimming in the Mediterranean! He had been to the ocean before, but this felt special. He swam out a ways until he couldn't feel the bottom and then just floated for a while on his back. The sky looked like the mosaic he had just painted, with a few clouds and shore birds. He never wanted this to end. He didn't want to go back to New York, to the orphanage and Mass and school in the fall. He wanted to stay here in the sand and the ruins, drawing and digging.
His eyes found Heero as he swam back in to shore. The other boy was still under the umbrella wearing all his clothes and reading. He looked bound and determined not to have any fun. Duo grinned to himself and grabbed a fistful of seaweed, which he hid behind his back as he trotted across the burning sand. As he expected, Heero ignored his approach, so he was able to snatch the book out of Heero's hand and drop the seaweed in his lap.
"Duo!" Heero stuttered in surprise.
"No working!" Duo teased, "I promised your uncle, and Duo Maxwell is a man of his word."
Heero made a grab for the book, but Duo held it out of reach. "I'm not working!" he growled up at Duo, "I'm
relaxing! Now give it back! You're getting saltwater all over the pages!"
"Oh I am, am I?" Duo said, hatching an evil plot. He took off in the direction of the water calling over his shoulder, "How about now?"
Heero was on his feet in seconds chasing the other boy. "What are you doing?!" he shouted as Duo ran into the water with the book.
With the book in certain danger, Heero yanked his tee shirt over his head and pushed his shorts down, leaving them both on the wet sand as he waded into the surf after Duo.
"Think I'll go for a swim," Duo mused as he held the book over his head and made his way out to where the water reached his chest.
"Stop it!" Heero demanded. "Just give it back to me!"
Before he could get close, Duo dodged to the side and then made his way through the water back to the sand before he took off running, knowing Heero was right on his heels.
Heero hated to admit it but Duo was faster than him. He was willing to bet, however, that he was stronger since he was bigger, so he decided to tackle Duo before the longhaired boy got too much distance on him.
Duo made a squawking noise and Heero grabbed him around the waist and sent them both face first into the sand. He certainly hadn't been expecting that! They tumbled a few times, but Heero was surprised how quickly Duo managed to throw him off and scramble away.
"Just give it back!" Heero ordered, chasing after him again.
"No! I'm keeping it for the rest of the day!"
"Duo," Heero growled.
"Uh oh, you better go get your clothes!" Duo exclaimed, pointing to the waves that were pulling Heero's shirt and shorts out with them.
Heero rushed over and retrieved his wet clothes and angrily squeezed them out as he walked back to the umbrella and towels. Duo was waiting for him.
"The book is safe," he said, noting Heero expression, "it's in my bag. Hang your clothes over the top of the umbrella and let's go for a swim!"
Heero wrung them out one more time and laid them in the sun over the umbrella before following Duo to the water. He thought he may as well since he was wet already.
"Let's see how far we can swim out!" Duo suggested. He was already swimming and Heero had to move quickly to catch up. "Look, there's the buoy line! Let's see if we can reach it!" Duo said once he'd caught up.
"Race ya," Heero said, diving under. Duo didn't bother to respond before taking off. He was comfortable in the water but Heero was a better swimmer, and Heero was waiting when he reached the buoys.
"You're fast!" Duo panted as he treaded water. Heero just shrugged. "So, what was in the book?" he asked.
Heero snorted. "You won't let me read it, but you want to know what I was studying."
Duo grinned as he bobbed in the water. "Yeah."
"I was just looking for anything on the use of mosaic as wall decoration. It's just odd," Heero said. Duo nodded thoughtfully.
"So, what do you think the mosaics mean? So far, we have the earth and the sky," Duo said.
"I don't know, I guess we'll have to wait to see what the other two are," Heero replied.
"Does that mean you're done with the temple when you uncover the walls?"
Heero frowned. He hadn't really thought about that. "Yeah, I guess so. It's our rule that we stop digging if we reach a floor mosaic, and I really doubt there'll be anything under the walls."
"So you'll probably join everyone in the library?" Duo asked.
Deeper frown. "Probably, but there will still be a lot of research to do about the uses of the temple through the different occupations," Heero answered.
Duo chuckled. "You really don't want to work with everyone else, do you?"
"Not really," Heero replied cryptically as he turned and started swimming back to shore. Duo followed and they dried off when they reached their spot on the sand.
"Are you ready to go?" Heero asked.
"Sure," Duo answered, "we've got plenty more to do today!" He started packing up his things and heard Heero groan. "Clothes not dry?" he asked.
"No," Heero grumbled.
"You can wear one of my shirts and your swim trunks look enough like regular shorts to be passable," Duo suggested. "Which one do you want?"
Heero chose the button down shirt and put it on over his bare skin. He left a few buttons undone and rolled up the sleeves, trying to get comfortable in somebody else's clothes. Duo took his soggy shirt from atop the umbrella and squeezed it out before fastening it to the top of his backpack.
"If we put your clothes on top like this, they may dry in the sun as we walk around," he said.
"Our backpacks will get all wet, then," Heero replied.
"Would you rather have them IN your backpack?" Duo asked.
He had a point. Heero managed to find a way to fasten his wet shorts to his own pack. He stood and put the bag on his back. "I think we should hit the museum before the afternoon crowds," he said.
"Then lunch?" Duo asked hopefully. Heero gave him a weird look and just nodded as he pulled the umbrella out of the sand.
The museum was only a twenty minute walk and a ten minute wait in line. Instead of buying tickets, Heero showed them the same special permit that allowed Harvard students to enter the national park. He said something in Hebrew and motioned to Duo. Duo hoped it was 'He's with me,' not 'This idiot was trying to steal artifacts, please have him arrested.'
"Harvard has uncovered so many artifacts for them, that we get into the museum and tourist areas of the ancient city for free with our passes," he explained to Duo as they were let in.
"So, most of what you find ends up here?" Duo asked.
"Much of it. Jay and the officials have some kind of deal worked out, so we do get to bring some things back to the states," Heero replied.
Without even being asked, Heero guided Duo through the museum and explained as they went. Much of the exhibits had plaques in English, but Heero knew information beyond what was provided for regular visitors.
"Thanks for the Heero Yuy Special Tour, how much do I owe you?" Duo joked as they left two hours later.
Heero made a little huffing noise that sounded like it wanted to be a laugh, and then asked, "You want to get lunch?"
Duo nodded enthusiastically and followed Heero two blocks to a deli. They got sandwiches and ate them as they walked.
"Want to tour a temple?" Heero asked.
"The biggest temple in the city is right near the Byzantine church ruins, and then we can hit another outdoor market on the way back," Heero said.
"Why, Heero, I see a career as a travel agent ahead of you," Duo remarked with a grin. Heero didn't say anything and led the way to the ruins.
"You don't have a camera?" Heero asked as they wandered the ruins. Duo just shook his head as he inspected a flaking wall painting. Heero pulled his backpack around and dug around inside. "Here," he said, handing Duo a disposable camera, "I didn't take any pictures yet, I don't need it."
Duo slowly took it. "I can have it?" he asked. Heero shrugged and turned away to put his pack on straight.
Duo snapped a few pictures. "Wish I'd had this at the beach!" he called to Heero, who had roamed away, "I'd have taken a picture of you under that umbrella reading, and then trying to fish your clothes out of the ocean!"
Heero had knelt to inspect something on the floor and looked up to glare at Duo. Duo took a picture and then grinned at him. Heero glowered and distanced himself farther from the other boy. Maybe the camera had been a mistake. He stepped over a wall and ventured into the back of the old church. He was checking out a vestibule and hadn't seen Duo in about ten minutes when he heard a click behind him and saw a flash.
"What?" he growled, turning around.
Duo grinned. "You just look funny with a pair of shorts on your backpack," he explained.
"It was your idea!" Heero said, flustered. He hated how easily Duo made him feel this way. He unconsciously reached around and touched the shorts. They were still wet. Duo's stupid idea wasn't even working!
"I know, but it looks funny!" Duo laughed, as he wandered away again. "I had to get a picture for posterity's sake, you understand."
When they had their fill of church ruins, they went to the temple. It had originally been built as a Christian church, and then converted for use as a Jewish temple. There were no guided tours, but they picked up maps and brochures on the way in. Heero insisted on following the numbers on the map exactly from one end of the temple to the other. They were on the second floor overlooking the main hall when Duo stopped and studied his map intently for a moment.
"What?" Heero asked, coming back since he had gone ahead.
"This should be it," Duo said, pointing to a narrow door in the corner.
"Should be what?" Heero asked.
"The way to the bell tower."
"They have one?"
"Yeah, here on the map," Duo said, pointing to it. Then Duo turned to try the door, which he found was locked.
"We're probably not supposed to go up there," Heero reasoned.
Duo didn't say anything, just fished something out of a small pocket in his backpack. He went back to the door and it opened for him this time.
"You picked the - !" Heero exclaimed.
"Shhhh!!!" Duo interrupted him. "Come on," he whispered, slipping through the door. Heero looked around nervously and then followed, shutting the door behind him.
"Duo, we shouldn't be here," he said firmly.
"I just want to see the bells," Duo said, already climbing the old wooden stairs. Heero cursed to himself and followed before someone could notice what they were doing.
The bell tower was up two flights of rickety, open stairs. The space was hot and dusty, and lit by stripes of light created by the wooden slats in the large windows. The bells were very high up in the cupola, suspended on braces and linked with wires and different mechanisms to a large thing that looked like an organ against one wall. Instead of keys, it had large wooden levers.
Duo dug out his camera and took a few pictures.
"I thought there would be
ropes," Heero remarked, staring up at the bells.
"Like 'The Hunchback of Notredame?'" Duo laughed. "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" he shouted as he exaggeratedly limped around.
"No, you ring the bells with this," Duo explained, sitting down on the stool in front of the levers. "What should I play?"
"Nothing," Heero answered, "come on, Duo, you've seen the bells, now let's get out of here."
"I want to play something first," Duo said, handing Heero his camera before arranging his hands on the levers.
Heero took the offered camera. "You know how?" he asked in surprise.
"I live in a Catholic church, you bet I know how!" Duo answered. "Now what should I play? I take requests."
"Duo, seriously, we really should get out of here," Heero said again.
"'Ode to Joy' is always a favorite, and it looks like they have enough bells for all the notes," Duo observed.
"Duo, no - " Heero protested one more time before Duo started. When the bells pealed, he covered his ears with his hands and there was a mass pigeon exodus as they flapped through the broken slats. The ringing hurt his ears, even covered by his hands, and the vibrato shook the very floors, but Heero was fascinated by the pulleys, gravity weights, and levers that moved or struck the giant bells overhead.
Neither of them heard the security person tromping up the old stairs a few minutes later, but Heero saw the man when he reached the top. Heero shouted as loud as he could to warn Duo, but he was drowned out by the massive bells. The man put his hand on Duo's shoulder, and Duo stopped and looked up at him. Heero rushed over and apologized in Hebrew. The man took them both by the arms and pulled them down the stairs. Heero barely had a chance to grab Duo's bag from the floor.
There was clapping for Duo's playing as they were dragged through the main hall, Heero apologizing profusely all the way. Duo shouted his thanks and waved to the other tourists with his free hand. They both apologized again as they were dumped outside. The man let them go and straightened.
"Not bad," he said to Duo in English, "but not allowed." Then he went back inside.
Duo laughed and grinned at Heero. Heero laughed too.
"That was incredible," he admitted.
"Yeah," Duo agreed, "did you get any pictures?"
"A few," Heero replied, handing the backpack and camera back.
"Any of me playing?" Duo asked.
Heero laughed. "You're such a prima donna," he said as he started walking.
"Well?" Duo prodded, catching up.
"Yeah, one," Heero answered, shaking his head.
"Cool. So, what did you tell the security man?" Duo asked as they walked to the near-by shopping district.
"I told him the door was open, and we were lost and thought it was part of the tour," Heero said.
Duo tipped his head back and laughed. That was surprisingly spontaneous for Heero.
They explored the outdoor market for the rest of the afternoon. Heero lost Duo for a few minutes, but then the boy reappeared with shaved ice for the both of them.
"I thought you'd like lemon, is that ok?" Duo asked.
"Yeah, thanks," Heero said as he took the cone Duo offered.
"This is thanks for the museum tour and apology for breaking your record of never getting in trouble," he joked.
"I get in trouble!" Heero said defensively.
"Sure," Duo laughed, completely unconvinced, "when was the last time?"
Heero frowned as he thought. He couldn't think of a particular incident. "Well, I get in trouble with Jay a lot," he tried.
Duo chuckled and licked his shaved ice. "Yeah, I guess you kinda do," he agreed. "What's that he's always saying? 'Just like your father!'"
Heero groaned out loud. Did Jay really say it so often that other people noticed?
"So, what's your dad like?"
"He was an archaeologist too," Heero said blandly.
"Was?" Duo asked, looking at Heero.
Heero looked away and pretended to be interested in a lamp at one of the booths.
"So, it's just you and your mom?" Duo asked.
Heero didn't turn around. "Just me and Jay," he corrected.
"Oh, uh, I'll shut up now," Duo grimaced. He felt bad for inadvertently bringing up something that might be painful, but it was interesting to learn that Heero didn't have any parents either.
Heero walked past him without a word, licking and biting unconsciously at his shaved ice. Duo took a picture. Heero snapped his head around to glare sternly at Duo, who took another picture.
"Stop it!" he growled.
Duo just laughed hysterically.
"What is so funny?" Heero demanded.
"You! You're just funny!" Duo grinned.
"I'll take the camera away," Heero threatened with another glare.
Duo covered his mouth with his free hand and tried to quell his laughter. "Yes, Sir! Understood, Sir!" he deadpanned, shoulders shaking with laughter.
Heero huffed disgustedly and walked away. Ok, so the glares weren't working. He just ignored Duo and tried not do anything "funny" that Duo would want a picture of.
They finished their shaved ice and started back to camp around dinnertime. Heero went directly to his tent to unpack his things and change into different clothes. He untied his shorts from his backpack and found that they were dry.