Disclaimers: Not mine!!

Pairings: 2+1/1X2
Warnings: AU, shounen-ai, romance, dirt, archaeobabble, ANGST, catholocism, adventure.

Author's Notes: Written for the GWYaoi.org Novella Challenge, but not finished in time for the deadline.

Summary: Duo and Heero meet as teenagers on an archaeological dig in Israel. Raised in the field with a trowel in hand, Heero is slow to see the skills Duo can bring to his work.

Part I
Chapter 5
by Granate

Duo brought his oil paints to the temple the next day and spent the morning painting the red wall.  Heero faced the other direction, clearing off the final wall.  The only sound was the scraping of Heero's trowel.  Duo was working very hard to get this painting perfect.  He could already tell it was Heero's favorite, and he was thinking about giving Heero the painting when it was finished.

When lunchtime came around, Duo got up to look at the opposite wall.  His breath caught and his heart skipped a beat.  It was the sea, much like the part of the Mediterranean he'd gone swimming in.  The blue-green waves appeared to roll and pound, although stilled for the picture.  The sun was either rising or setting in the background, but the majority of the mosaic was the blue and green colors that made his heart ache.

"What do you think?" Heero asked.

"It's amazing," Duo breathed, "I can't believe these mosaics have just been here all along under all that dirt!"

"Are you done painting?"

"No, but I need a break, can I help you clear the wall?" Duo asked.

Heero felt the corners of his lips tug upward slightly.  He could see how much Duo liked this wall.  "Yeah, after lunch," he said, and turned toward the door.

Duo followed him to the door and turned around for one more look.  He halted.  "Heero…"

Heero turned on the stairs.  "What?"

"It's the four elements!"

"What?" Heero asked again.

"The walls!  They make the four elements!  Look!" Duo exclaimed and pointed to each one, "earth, air, fire, and water!"

"I'll be damned…" Heero muttered, walking back down the steps.  Duo was right, that had to be the pattern.  He didn't know of Romans worshipping those four things as "elements" specifically, but they were important to daily life and that did seem to be the theme.

"And look!" Duo continued, "you enter through the Earth, and end up in the Sky, with the opposing forces of Fire and Water on either side of you!  That's incredible!"

Heero looked back toward the entry and then to the back wall where the alter had been - The Heavens.  Duo was right!

When they returned from lunch, Duo started on the other side of the wall from Heero.  Things were going fine until he hit a place that already had some tile missing.  As Duo dragged the corner of his trowel over it, a large chunk of tiles fell to the floor and broke apart.  Horrified, Duo clamped his hands over his mouth so he didn't make the high-pitched eep sound that nearly slipped out.  What the hell was he going to do?!  The mosaic now had a "hole" roughly circular and about five inches in diameter.  It looked huge!  Heero was going to kill him for this!  And just when he thought they were becoming friends...  Heero would kick him out for sure, if he didn't strangle him first.

"What was that?" Heero asked at the sudden noise.  He turned in curiosity when Duo didn't respond.  Duo was looking at him with gigantic eyes and the most miserable expression he'd ever seen.

"I, uh, I - " Duo stammered.  

Heero looked to the wall in front of the other boy and saw the large area of missing tiles.  He gasped and brushed past Duo to get a better look at it.

"I'm sorry!" Duo cried.  "It was an accident!  I'm so sorry!"  

Heero ran his fingers over the bare surface and Duo just about fell off his feet when Heero lifted his trowel and forcefully scraped more tiles off the wall.

"Heero!" he choked.  "What are you - ?!"

"Go get my uncle!" Heero told him.  "Now!"

Utterly confused, Duo ran out of the temple to the library.  He found Jay in one of the trenches looking at some recent pottery finds.  

"Dr. Jay!" Duo panted when he reached the older man.  "There's something in the temple you need to see!"

Jay handed the finds tray back to one of the students.

"Heero said he needs you right now," Duo continued before the professor could ask any questions.

"All right," Jay conceded gruffly and followed Duo back to the temple.

"I - I accidentally scraped some of the tile off," Duo admitted as they walked.

"Is that all?" Jay asked.

Duo faltered.  "Well, Heero told me to come get you," he said, "he was… emphatic."  

"Uncle, look!" Heero exclaimed when they entered the stone room.

"I know, Duo told me about the tiles," he said, coming down the steps.

"No," Heero said impatiently, "the light!  Look!"

"I'll be damned," Jay said as he peered closely at the wall.  It sounded much like the way Heero had said it a few hours ago before lunch.  Uncle and nephew looked at each other.

"What?" Duo asked, looking from one to the other.

"You didn't even look at what you found, did you?" Heero asked him.

"What I found?  I found something?" Duo asked.

"Look," Heero instructed him, moving out of the way.

Painted on the bare spot that Duo had uncovered was half of the outline of a five-pointed star, and the light from the ceiling cut-outs filled it perfectly.  He gasped.

"What is it?" he asked, looking to Heero.

"I think it's a calendar of sorts," he answered.  "Look, here's the corner of another star," he said, pointing to what was indeed the tip of another star nearly covered by the edge of the tile.  "It's the progress of the sun and the traveling stars, Duo!  I bet, if we cleared these walls, we'd see how the light from the ceiling could be used to keep track of time.  Maybe not just weeks, but hours!"

Jay rubbed his goatee.  "It certainly seems possible," he said.

"But we can't tear down these mosaics!" Duo protested.  Heero looked over at the Fire wall.

"He's right," Dr. Jay said.  Heero looked back to the bare wall, torn.

"Can we remove the mosaics from the wall in their entirety like that mosaic of Alexander the Great?" Duo asked.

Jay frowned.  "The mortar is too crumbly.  Besides, Alexander the Great was actually a floor mosaic, and they just cut it right out.  The mortar is several inches thick," he explained.

"Maybe we could take them down and reconstruct them?" Duo suggested.

Jay and Heero both laughed.

"No, it might be possible!" Duo insisted.  He thought furiously for a way it could be done.  "What if we - if we divided the mosaics into grids with sections maybe twelve by twelve inches and then drew the relationship of all the tiles in each section.  Then we could number each tile and remove it.  Each section could be bagged together, and you'd have a sort of 'key' to reconstruct the mosaic!"

"I don't quite follow," Jay said.

"Ok," Duo said, marking out a square on the tiled wall with his fingers.  "If I or someone else could draw all the tiles in this section to scale, you could number them individually and on the paper, then remove them to be transported and rebuilt!"

"That would take a lot of time," Heero said skeptically.

"You wanna see what's under here, don't you?" Duo shot back.  He was more and more confident this would work and that he could do it.

Heero looked to his uncle.

"I don't know if anything like this as been attempted before, but it may possible," Jay said, "I'm sure the authorities here would have a fit if we destroyed the mosaics.  I'll try to get someone out here tomorrow and make sure they approve of taking these apart and rebuilding them."

"Do you really think it could work?" Heero asked when Jay had left.

"I'm sure of it!" Duo said excitedly.  "We may not finish them all this summer, but it can be done!"

Heero observed the other boy.  Duo was positively buzzing with enthusiasm.  

"We can do this, Heero," he insisted.  

Heero nodded slowly.  He was placing his trust in Duo, but he found he didn't really feel nervous about that.  Maybe they could do this.

"Do you want to keep scraping, or go back to painting?" he asked, his mind back on the current task.

Duo laughed.  "Maybe I'd better go back to painting," he joked.

Heero shrugged.  "Do what you want."

"You mean you're not mad?"

Another shrug.  "Accidents happen sometimes."

Duo just snorted and got back to his painting.  If he hadn't found that star thing, Heero probably would have killed him.

Heero finished the wall that day, but Duo didn't quite finish his painting, so he continued the next morning.  The room was finished and they couldn't do anything until an official approved their reconstruction plan, so it gave Duo a chance to catch up and start the final wall.  He and Heero also worked on the protocol for deconstructing the mosaics.  

"How should we mark off the grid?" Heero asked as he surveyed one wall.

"Nothing permanent, obviously," Duo thought out loud as he painted.   "What's available?"

"The string we use for baselines?" Heero suggested.

"That's a whole lotta nails in an ancient wall," Duo reminded him.

"Yeah…  We could tape the string down."

"Would be ugly if it got messed up."

Heero thought again.  "What about marking right on there?  Maybe… chalk!"

"Do we have any?"

"Yeah, I think so.  If not, we can probably find some in town."

"Yeah, that sounds like it'd work, but we have to be really careful not to wipe it off."


"I was thinking we should photograph the sections, really close up, life size to match the drawings.  We should get an inch on either side too, so you can see the relationship with the surrounding sections," Duo said, not looking up from his work.

"That's a good idea," Heero agreed, "I'll see if I can get one of the digital cameras and a laptop.  We should probably have a label identifying each section right in the photograph.  How should we label them?"

"Hmmm…  Maybe by row and column?  Like Water Wall, row 1 column 6.  We could shorten it to just W 1-6 or something like that."

"How should we label the tiles?  Just with numbers?" Heero asked.

"It'd be best to label them with wall and section too.  Do you think they're big enough?"

Heero took a very close look.  "If you write real small you could probably fit the section number plus maybe a three-digit tile number."

Duo nodded.

Heero opened his journal to write everything down as Duo continued painting.  This was going to be a momentous project.  He wondered if Duo really understood that.  Duo's method sounded plausible, but the time it was going to take…  Between the full-scale drawing of every tile in a section, the labeling of every tile, and just how careful they were going to have to be, it was going to take a long time.  He wondered if they'd get even one whole wall done this summer.  Then of course, they would have to reconstruct the whole thing!  He wanted to do this so he could study what was underneath, but he couldn't deny that the task was daunting.

He also couldn't deny that he was glad this meant he didn't have to go work with everyone else in the library.  The library was an interesting excavation site, but he'd rather work alone.  Having Duo with him was actually turning out to be pretty good, and he was also glad Duo was going to stay in the temple with him.  It seemed this was as much Duo's project now as it was his.  Duo seemed really dedicated to removing the mosaic.  Of course, they hadn't even started yet.  He hoped Duo's attitude wouldn't change.

In his journal, Heero wrote down everything they'd decided so far and brain-stormed for things they hadn't thought of yet and possible problems they might run into.  He ran and found chalk to test it on the tiles.  It worked great - it was visible enough on the tile and still wiped off easily.  He drew plans and diagrams of how they should mark the grids on the wall and how the photograph labels should look.  He found a fine-tip permanent pen that would be suitable for marking the backside of the tiles.  He wanted to have a complete protocol ready when Jay brought an official, so he wrote down step-by-step instructions.  Of course, they would be perfecting the method as they went.

"I want to have one wall with a grid when Jay brings the archaeologist; do you think that's ok?" Heero asked.

"Yeah, go for it," Duo answered.  "Which one do you think?"

"Maybe the Earth wall, with the door.  It's the smallest."

"That works," Duo said.

Heero left and reappeared with a meter stick, string, tape, a plumb bob, and a T-square.  He was going to tape lines up with string first so he could get the lines really straight and then draw the chalk lines.  He only had half of the string grid up when Jay and Rita came in, leading one of the national park's official archaeologists.  Heero recognized him and greeted him politely in Hebrew.  Duo got up to join the others.

Heero showed the man the star outline they had discovered in the hole Duo had made.  The light wasn't in quite the right position, but the man understood what it was.  Then Heero showed him the grid and explained the deconstruction method he and Duo had laid out.  Jay was very proud of his nephew -  Heero didn't seem nervous at all as he presented the plan, and he was well prepared.  The method sounded rather polished to him as well.  He had a feeling that Heero used his experience to help give structure to Duo's ideas.

The Israeli archaeologist regarded the two boys skeptically, but agreed that it seemed like it could work.  He was also very curious to see the possible calendar that was covered by the tiles.  He approved of the plan to take apart one wall, and bring it back to Harvard to reconstruct it.  If all went well, then they would be allowed to deconstruct the other three.  The museum in Ashkelon would keep two, and Harvard could have two.  

Jay left with the park official but Rita stayed behind to look at the walls.  

"Earth, air, fire, and water," Heero told her.  She looked at him and then the walls.

"You're right!" she noted.

"Duo figured that out," Heero said.

She smiled at him.  "He's a good kid, isn't he?" she quietly asked Heero.

Heero nodded.

"You think you guys can do this?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's going to take some time, but it'll work."

She nodded and knelt to look at Duo's painting.  "That's beautiful, Duo!" she exclaimed, "I think you've gotten better!"

"I think so too!" he said happily.

"You guys keep me posted," she said, rising and turning to leave.

"Rita's the coolest ever," Duo said once she was gone.

"Yeah," Heero agreed as he went back to carefully taping string.  "She's the closest thing to a mother I've had in a long time.  Her kids are older than me, but they're pretty nice too.  I don't think they're as into archaeology, so they don't come here.  I used to see them a lot in Cambridge before they went to college."

"So, what's with her and Jay?" Duo asked.

Heero made a face.  "Who knows," he said, "he says they're 'intellectual partners' or something."  Heero rolled his eyes.  "I think they should just get married or whatever it is old people do, but Uncle Jay has said he doesn't want to get married.  Rita keeps seeing these men who don't end up being compatible with her career, so it never works out."

Duo snickered.  "They'll probably end up together when they're like eighty or something," he joked.

"I know," Heero griped.  He wasn't sure what he thought of his uncle's decisions.  On one hand, Jay was trying to preserve a wonderful friendship and a valuable professional relationship, but on the other hand, when you know someone is so perfect for you, shouldn't you grab the opportunity?  He didn't really know - he was only fourteen and he'd never been in love.  It wasn't like Jay talked to him about these things anyway, he was just an observer.

Duo finished his painting before dinner time.  He stood and stretched.  Heero picked up the painting for a look.  It was perfect, like the others.

"I think I'm gonna go see if Father needs any help, I haven't been over there all week," Duo said.

"You're coming back here tomorrow, right?" Heero asked immediately.

Duo laughed.  "'Course!  I don't want you messing anything up," he teased.

"Very funny," Heero said, handing the painting back, "and you still owe me watercolors."

"I know," he chuckled, "I'll do them."

Duo left and went to the library.  Things there were really coming along.  The big tent was buzzing with activity and students filed in and out of their trenches with buckets of dirt.  Duo kind of missed the dirt and the bustle, but what was going on in the temple was fascinating too.  Amy found him before he even got in the tent.

"Hey!  You're back!" she said happily.  "Come on, I need someone to screen."

"I came to help Father," Duo explained with a smile.

"Aww, come on, come with me for an hour," she pleaded with exaggerated eyelash batting.

Duo laughed and agreed.  He screened for artifacts in Amy's trench for an hour and then went to help Father with translating.

"Duo!" he exclaimed, eyes crinkling.  "How have things been in the temple?"

"Deconstruction was approved," Duo told him excitedly.  "We're going to start tomorrow.  Do you need any help?  I'm sorry I haven't been helping you at all!"

"It's all right," Father assured him, "but I have a few things for you if you'd like.  Oh, have you seen the unrolling process yet?"

Duo hadn't, so he spent some time with Hans, the chemist, and then sat down with Father to help translate and record.

Heero didn't show up for dinner, so Duo offered to go get him.  Heero was still in the temple, of course, finishing the grid.  He was kneeling on the floor with a piece of chalk in his mouth.  He held the string of the plumb bob and the lead weight at the end hung perfectly vertical.  He was beyond anal about making sure the grid lines were absolutely straight.  Duo watched him with a grin before speaking.

"You know," he said casually from the door, "the saying is 'measure twice, cut once' not measure five times, tape, retape, straighten, take down, measure again, retape."

Heero sat back on his heels and removed the chalk for his mouth.  "It has to be absolutely straight," he reminded Duo.

"I know, I was just teasing," Duo said, coming in.  "Do you realize you're not going to get any food?"

Heero looked at his watch and made a surprised face.

"Come on, leave that for tomorrow," Duo coaxed, "let's go eat."

Heero looked back at the T-square for a moment, but got up and followed Duo out.  At dinner, they explained their plan to Rita and Father, and after dinner, Duo sat with Father to work on a few more translations.  Heero went back to his tent for his journal.  He wanted to go back to the temple and finish the string grid, but he knew he wasn't really supposed to after hours.  There were other things to do, anyway.  He got his journal and went back to the table and sat next to Duo.  The other boy smiled to himself but didn't say anything.  Heero detailed how he was setting up the grid and Duo worked on translating a scroll.

Duo startled awake that night, and then couldn't remember why.  He cursed and looked at his alarm clock.  It was two in the morning, and he felt wide awake now.  He thought he'd get up and go to the bathroom.  Maybe Heero will be up, he thought as he crawled into some clothes.  Camp was completely dark, but on the way back to his tent, he could see a faint light coming from the direction of the site over the small hill.  Damn, they hadn't left the photographer's lamp on in the temple, had they?  He hurried down the path toward the temple.

He wasn't all that surprised to find Heero in there, agonizing over the plumb bob again.

"Someone needs to give you some tranquilizers," Duo chuckled from the doorway.

Heero jumped and looked at Duo with a panicky expression.  He was wearing a green tank top, black boxer shorts, sandals, and a watch.  Duo laughed at him.

"Look at you, you're in your underwear!" he teased.  "Pray this does not make its way into the Harvard prospectus."

Heero's face flushed immediately and he looked furious.  "What are you doing here?" he asked defensively.

"I got up to go to the bathroom and saw the light.  I thought maybe we left the lamp on," Duo yawned, "and what are YOU doing here?"

Heero's eyes stole guiltily to the meter stick and the string.  He didn't answer, as it should have been obvious.  

"I know, I know," Duo sighed, "you're obsessed."

Heero's shoulders slumped slightly.  Duo didn't have to make it sound like a bad thing…

"I wanted to finish the grid so we could get started right away tomorrow," he explained, "I couldn't sleep again, so I just came here."

"Well, I'm up now," Duo reasoned.  "Can I join you?"

"You mean you're not going to tell my uncle?" Heero asked, brightening.

"You're asking if I'm going to tell on you?" Duo burst out laughing.  "No, of course not!"


"I'm going to run back for my paints, and I'll start your water colors, ok?  Do you have your journal?" Duo asked.

Heero nodded and Duo snuck back to his tent for his paints.  He returned and set to work on the Fire wall.

It was silent for about ten minutes before Duo burst out laughing again and said, "You could have at least put shorts on!"

"It's not like I was expecting someone to show up!" Heero groaned.  He hated how Duo embarrassed him so easily.  No one else was able to do that.  It made him feel funny.

on to chapter 6

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