Duo ditched his stuff at his tent and found a spot at the dinner table by Dr. Jay and Father Maxwell.
"You two were gone all day!" Jay observed.
"Did you have fun?" Father Maxwell asked.
"Yeah, we had a lot of fun!" Duo smiled, "but you'll never get Heero to admit it."
Rita and Jay glanced at each other and laughed. The other boy joined them, and Duo filled them in on the day's adventures.
"Duo, you forgot the part where you broke into the bell tower and got us kicked out of the temple," Heero reminded him when he was done. He felt Duo kick him under the table.
"Duo!" Father Maxwell admonished. Jay just laughed.
Duo laughed sheepishly. "I wanted to go up and play the bells," he explained, "I didn't think anyone would really mind."
Father just shook his head benignly. "Well, what did you play?"
"'Ode to Joy.' I got applause on the way out," Duo answered. The adults laughed. "And luckily, I had Heero to apologize for me!" Duo finished. Heero just looked at him out of the corner of his eye and shook his head.
After dinner, Heero excused himself and went to the bookshelf. He chose one and took it back to his tent.
Jay shook his head and said, "He never quits!"
"He even brought a book to the beach!" Duo said. "I took it away, though."
"Good," Jay grunted, "he works too much. All he thinks about is archaeology. He's just like his father."
"What was his dad like?" Duo asked, taking this chance. It certainly didn't look like he'd get any details from Heero.
"He started at Harvard when I was a teaching assistant," Jay recalled, "he was brilliant, as a protégé and a rival. We became good friends and worked on many digs together. He was meticulous and devoted, obsessive even. He never stopped working, all he thought about was archaeology. Until he met my younger sister, that is!"
"Heero gets his shyness from her, his father was very gregarious and out-going. Luckily the boy is level-headed like his mother. Heero certainly did inherit his father's passion for detail and head for space and synthesis, though."
Jay hated thinking of his late sister and brother-in-law like this, but they really could have bred a band of terrific little archaeologists. Heero was living proof of that. He had inherited the most intelligent parts of both, although he lacked his father's brash nature and his mother's kindness. That was a bit unfair, maybe. Jay knew Heero was not really unkind or cold, he was just shy and had unfortunately learned to be a bit distrustful of people.
"But a family couldn't keep Tomohiro Yuy out of the field. When Heero was three, he went off to pursue some work that took him to Cyprus, which was politically unstable in the early eighties. Invading Turks were destroying archaeological and culturally significant sites. Tom went missing after a few months," Jay continued crossly. "It was dangerous to go! It was irresponsible of him, if you as me. His body was finally found four years later."
Duo's jaw dropped, but he stayed silent, waiting for Jay to go on.
"Marie had fallen ill with Lupus, and she deteriorated after the news," Jay continued gravely. "She loved Heero, of course, he was her joy, but losing the hope that Tom was still alive took something out of her. She passed away within the year.
"So, Heero came to live with me when he was eight, and I didn't know what to do with him. I knew I'd be in the field all the time, so I never intended to have a family."
"It's a tough life if you want to stay in the field," Rita added, "I've lost two husbands to my career."
"That's right," Jay agreed. "I knew I wouldn't have time for a family. I couldn't think of anything to do with little Heero except buy him a trowel and bring him along! We've excavated several places, but Ashkelon has been his home for many summers now. I know he loves working with me, but I'm afraid it doesn't give him much of a chance to be around kids his own age," Jay said and looked at Duo, "the kind of kids who break into bell towers and get themselves kicked out of churches. Sometimes I worry he doesn't have enough friends in school. He spends so much time with me and the older students, I wonder if he has trouble relating."
"Well, I'm the opposite," Duo chuckled, "all the kids I live with are younger."
"Hey Duo!" a voice came from the basketball court. It was Amy. "We need one more! Wanna join in?"
"Go on," Jay shooed him away.
"Don't let that comment fool you," Father said after Duo had left, "Duo is very mature for his age; he's practically a staff member when it comes to taking care of the younger kids. They all look up to him."
"I believe it," Rita said.
"The season isn't close to over yet, but would you be willing to come back next year if I can find an excuse to fly you both out?" Jay asked, pouring the priest another glass of wine.
"Of course! But if you can only take one next year, I'll send Duo. I can only imagine how much better he'll be a year from now," Father Maxwell said.
Duo tied his shoes tighter and joined Amy's team.
"You've been in the temple forever," she complained, "when do I get you back in the library?"
"Yeah, you've been spending a lot of time with The Brat lately," Greg noted.
"He's not that bad," Duo insisted.
"And I bet you haven't been helping the Father at all!" Amy scolded teasingly.
Duo laughed. That was true, he hadn't really helped translate since he had started helping Heero in the temple. In fact, he still had the floor translation to do. "Well, I'll be back soon," he said, "we're almost done in there."
"What are you finding?" Amy asked.
"Can we get this game going?" Greg asked impatiently. Duo and Amy both agreed to talk later and the game got started.
The next day, Heero and Duo got to work on the third wall of the temple. Almost every tessera tile on the wall was some shade of red, orange, or yellow. By afternoon, they had the wall cleared enough to see the dramatic picture created by the tiles.
"Gee, do you think this was a temple?" Duo asked, sarcastic tone lessened by awe.
Heero just nodded, still transfixed. The mosaic picture was a temple itself. In the picture, fires burned brightly in giant braziers on stands and hanging from the ceiling. Cloaked worshippers knelt and bowed. Every cloak was a shade of red and every face hidden by a hood. It was beautiful, evocative and mysterious; Heero didn't know what to make of it. It seemed to burn with a life of its own.
Without a word, Duo picked up his notepad and plopped down on the floor to draw. This was the most stunning mosaic yet. Heero turned on the light for him and then finished brushing off the wall. He swept up the dirt and screened it for good measure, although, like the other two walls, there was nothing in it. It was just dirt that blown in and built up. He took a bucketful over to the soil analysts anyway. They would float the dirt in water and be able to screen out even tiny particles that his dry siv missed. He also left a sample with the archaeobotanists for pollen analysis. He was hoping they could find pollen traces and be able to nail down a date range for when the dirt accumulated. When he returned to the temple, he took out his journal and the plans he'd made of the temple so he could add this new find.
About dinnertime, Duo set down his pencil and stretched.
"I'll paint this tomorrow," he said.
"You sure you're not getting burned out or anything?" Heero asked.
"No way, I can't wait to do this one! I like painting, and there's nothing this interesting to paint back home," Duo answered.
"You promised to do water colors for me," Heero reminded him.
"I'll get to it," Duo said, "maybe when we've cleared all the walls."
Heero nodded and shut his journal. They left the temple for dinner, but Heero's mind refused to come along. He was quiet at dinner as Duo told everyone about the new mosaic, and then he buried his nose in the books right away when the meal was over. Not long after, the urge to return to the temple became overwhelming. He got up and thought about seeing if Duo wanted to come, but he saw Duo was playing basketball and went to the temple alone.
He turned on the light and picked up a brush to clean off every last speck of dirt. He just couldn't leave it alone.
"I thought this was where you snuck off to," Jay startled him for the doorway a bit later. Heero turned around. His uncle lingered in the doorway, shaking his head. "You never quit, you're just like your father."
Heero glowered at him. He knew Jay and his father had been good friends, but sometimes, he had a feeling that statement wasn't a compliment.
"So this is it, eh boy?"
"Yeah," Heero said, turning back to the wall. Jay came closer and got a good look.
"Remarkable," he said.
"I don't get it," Heero said, "why use tiles on the wall and plaster on the floor? Why didn't they tile the floor and paint on the walls like they normally would?"
Jay shrugged. "That's for you to figure out," he said, "and remember, it may be something as mundane as have extra tesserae sitting around."
Uncle and nephew regarded the wall in silence for a moment before Jay asked, "So you'll be done in here after the next wall. Where do you want to be placed in the library?"
"Wherever I'm needed," Heero answered, "but remember I'll still have a lot of research to do for this find."
"Of course you will!" Jay barked in laughter. That sounded so typical of Heero. "All right, let's get back," he said walking over to turn off the light, "you know you're not allowed to be here after hours."
Later that night, Heero tossed and growled in his sleeping bag - he just couldn't fall back asleep. This often happened when he was really onto something exciting. The puzzle on the temple walls ate at his mind like constantly dripping acid. What did it all mean? He just couldn't wait to see what the last wall looked like.
On nights like this, he usually got up and tried to do something constructive. Lying there certainly wasn't doing him any good. He flipped on his flashlight and dug through his bag for a teeshirt and a pair of shorts to pull on over his boxer shorts. He grabbed his journal and headed for the dining area so he could study by propane lamp. Jay left a virtual library of books in there for the students to use.
Nearing the trellis, he slowed and turned off the flashlight. He ducked behind a palm, and confirmed that someone was already there. Not sitting at the tables, but sitting outside the trellis, leaning against it and
smoking? He looked at his watch, which he had gone to sleep wearing, as usual. It was 1:27 am. Who else would be up at this time? He inched closer and recognized Duo. Looked like he was smoking his bartering tool. Heero approached quietly, and when he was about five feet away he said, "Duo."
The boy jumped up, startled, and immediately tried to hide the cigarette behind his back.
"Heero! Holy Jesus and Mary, you just about scared the living shit outta me!" he gasped, heart still racing. "What are you doing out here, man?"
"I couldn't sleep, so I was going to look over a few things," Heero answered. "I could ask you the same thing, but I think I know
" He made an exaggerated attempt to look behind Duo's back.
"Oh, heh," Duo answered nervously, "yeah, I don't do it often. I swear! And never onsite. I swear, Heero!"
"I do not care how you choose to give yourself cancer," Heero shrugged, remembering Duo's obsessive use of sunblock. He really didn't care. He knew some kids his age who smoked. He was neither shocked nor appalled, even though Duo lived in a strict Catholic orphanage. Or maybe because Duo lived in a strict Catholic orphanage.
Duo sat back down with a huff and was silent a moment before taking another drag on the cigarette. He didn't cough or anything, just inhaled and exhaled. Heero was perplexed, Duo didn't seem much like himself.
"Something bothering you?" Heero asked.
Duo felt like throwing out a rude "Oh, so you noticed?" wise crack, but refrained. Heero did not deserve the brunt of his frustration. "Yeah, don't worry about it. I'll be fine tomorrow," he answered, waving a dismissive hand, "you should go work on your thing."
"Why don't you help me?" Heero asked. "You know the temple almost as well as I do."
Duo looked up in surprise. Heero sounded serious. The dark-haired boy moved to a table without waiting for an answer, lit a propane lamp, and sat down. He did not need to look to see that Duo had reluctantly put out the cigarette and followed him in. He sat down across from Heero a moment later, but didn't say anything and didn't reach for any of the books. His mood had Heero slightly alarmed; he'd never seen him like this.
"You are really down," Heero observed, "you'd better tell me what's wrong."
Duo tried to snap himself out of it. "I'm sorry, I'm not even helping! God, I'm such a pain!" he exclaimed. "Sorry, man."
"Don't be sorry, just tell me what's bothering you," Heero insisted. He couldn't believe himself, he'd never practically begged someone to tell him their feelings before.
Duo sighed. "It's stupid. I don't want to bore you with it. I should just go to bed," he said and started to get up.
"Duo, sit down," Heero said.
Duo did. Heero looked at him expectantly.
"Ok," Duo started, "I was playing basketball with the students today, and I was about to make a lay-up when Greg yanked my braid and pulled me down."
"That's a foul," Heero frowned.
"I know! It hurt and I ended up on my ass! Then he just laughed and stole the ball. I was so embarrassed, and the other students laughed too. I got so mad I had to leave the game. I mean, the guy is like twice as big as me! What an asshole!"
"Yeah, he is," Heero agreed, "he's the one who started calling me 'The Brat' last year."
"Really?" Duo asked.
"Yeah, they think I don't know."
Duo frowned darkly.
"Think about it this way, Duo," Heero said, "he's probably sick of losing to you. You won money from him at poker, and I heard you translated that manuscript he'd been working on. You are good at a lot of things, it will naturally inspire jealousy, even in someone ten years older than you." Heero paused. "I get that a lot too. I usually just stay away from the students, because I know they will automatically resent me."
Duo didn't say anything for a moment, he just observed the boy across from him. Heero was actually being supportive; Duo was kind of surprised. His expression was honest and almost sad. That explained why Heero preferred to work alone.
"Yeah, I bet you do get that a lot," Duo agreed. Heero was a damned good archaeologist. "It must be rough sometimes."
"Yes, but the work keeps me going. I love it too much," Heero answered quietly. His hushed candidness made Duo smile a little, but he had more on his mind.
"I know it was a stupid thing," Duo said apologetically, "it's just that, well, I really hate it when people pull my hair. It's just such an easy target, you know? I get picked on a lot because of it. I've learned to just deal, but today I just
lost it. Sometimes, I'll fight, but not with someone that much bigger than me."
"You've been in fights?" Heero asked. He suddenly recalled how Duo had so easily thrown him off when he tackled him at the beach. He'd never been in a fight before, he hardly ever shouted. If things started to get aggressive, he just walked away.
"I haven't lived in that orphanage all my life, you know," Duo bit out, sounding almost irritated with Heero. This was the side of Duo that Heero had been curious about. He was sorry Duo had to be hurt for him to find out about it, but he was not going to let this opportunity pass.
"Where did you live before then?" he asked.
"On the street," Duo answered evenly.
"But how?" Heero asked in surprise. How could a kid survive on the street?
"By stealing. I was in a gang, kinda like that book, Oliver Twist. We conned and pick-pocketed, somehow scavenged enough to eat. We were picked up by the police finally, and split up into different orphanages. I was about seven at the time. Isn't that funny? I don't even know how old I am!"
Heero did not think that was funny. Sometimes, when he and his uncle weren't getting along, he felt very alone without his parents, but at least he had SOME family.
"You see, when I got there, all I had was my hair," Duo continued, "it was dirty and gross, but it was mine, and I wouldn't let them cut it off. I guess I made quite a stink about it. Father loves to remind me of how bad I was when I first came. I was so bad, no one wanted to adopt me, so they just let me stay. They said I could finish out high school."
Heero nodded, absorbing all that. "What will you do after that?" he asked.
"This!" Duo's face suddenly transformed into a wild grin, one much more like what Heero was used to seeing. "At least, I hope," Duo continued, "I'd like to go to college. I do well in school, with any luck, I can get a scholarship somewhere."
Heero thought for a moment. "I'm sure Jay would write you a good recommendation. Maybe he could even get you into Harvard."
"Really?" Duo asked with widening eyes.
"I think he would, he's very impressed with you. He's always saying," Heero did a gruff impression of his uncle, "'We need more students like that!'"
"Do you think that's where you'll go?"
"I'm sure he wants me to," Heero sighed, "and it would be stupid not to since I could go practically free as the kid of a faculty member." Heero paused for a moment. "This is going to sound spoiled to you, but sometimes I wish I could go somewhere else, you know? I've been digging with Harvard for seven years! I love it, and I love the site, but sometimes I wish I could have other experiences, too."
"That's not spoiled," Duo said, "and you're already so good, I bet you could get in, like, anywhere!"
"Maybe," Heero shrugged, "oh, hey, do you have any of the floor translated yet?"
"Yeah, a bit of it," Duo answered, "but I don't quite understand it. I only recognize half the words, and some of them don't seem to be in the right context. It's something about the progress of the sun and the traveling stars."
Heero thought about the star-shaped cut-outs in the domed ceiling. Duo mistook his silence for disappointment.
"Maybe that's what they worshipped there?" Duo offered.
"Don't worry about it. Just let me know if you get it figured out," Heero said, "Are you ready to do some research now?"
"Yeah," Duo said, and smile coming to his lips. "Thanks for listening, Heero. You're nicer and more understanding than I thought you were at first."
Flustered by that statement, Heero blushed slightly. "So, do you want to help me, then?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Yeah, what did you have in mind?" Duo asked eagerly.
"I was just going to go through these books for possible references or cultural significance of the mosaic pictures. I'm not sure it'll really tell me anything, but I felt like I had to do something."
"Ok," Duo said as the split the books between them. "Do you do this a lot, working at night?" he asked.
"Not a lot, but I can't sleep when I get really excited about something," he admitted. "Sometimes, I fall asleep, but wake up later. That's what happened tonight."
"You know, you probably work at this eighteen hours a day," Duo reasoned.
"I know," Heero shrugged, "but there is still so much to figure out."
"You're just really intense," Duo said, "you like to finish something completely before you quit."
"Yes," Heero agreed.
Duo said nothing more and they got to work. They flipped through illustrations and read passages, searching for any clue about the mosaics on the wall. At about 4:00, they hadn't really found anything, but neither felt the time had been wasted. Duo decided to turn in and convinced Heero to do the same.
"I'm the one who has to deal with you if you're cranky tomorrow!" he joked. Heero just shot him a dry look as he collected the books and put them back on the cinder-block shelves.
Duo silently slipped back to his tent without a flashlight. He found his way around in the dark quite easily, a survival skill he had honed and used to his advantage as a child. He crawled into the small dome tent and zipped it back up, feeling surprisingly happy. It amazed him, since he had been in such a dark mood before. Heero had let him talk, though, and actually listened to him. He hadn't expected the other boy to care, but Heero had helped him come around. And then he'd requested Duo's help! Duo had enjoyed the peacefulness, and he'd loved the books.
He tried not to let himself think too much about the chance of going to Harvard, it was too exciting. Heero might be right, if he really impressed Dr. Jay, and worked hard, he could have a future here. Maybe they'd invite him and Father back next year too. There was no guarantee, but it was a possibility. The idea of coming back here and maybe going to school with Heero was exciting. Things hadn't started out so great, but he felt Heero was really starting to open up. He had thought that Heero was slowly warming to him, but after tonight, he might really call them friends. Duo didn't want to go back to the library now, he was looking forward to finishing the temple with Heero.