"Heero, stop it!" Duo ordered before taking another bite of his banana. Heero gave him an annoyed look, but stopped incessantly clinking his spoon on his bowl.
"And that!" Duo added, referring to Heero's left foot, which he was shaking fast enough to move the entire bench. "We'll get there soon enough, can I just have some breakfast here?"
Heero didn't answer and kept on moving his foot just to annoy Duo. He wasn't even hungry this morning, he was too excited. He didn't understand how Duo could be so calm!
"You really need to chill out," Duo told him, "we still have a lot to do before we can begin taking the wall apart. I really hope you're not going to be like this the whole time. I'm not kidding about those tranquilizers." Heero didn't respond, just continued vibrating the bench with his frenzied foot. Duo sighed. Sometimes it was like talking to a brick wall.
Heero continued wiggling the bench until he leapt out of his seat. "There's Diana," he said, "I'm going to go ask if we can have a laptop and a camera." He was gone before Duo even looked up. Duo shrugged and finished his breakfast in blessed stillness.
When he got to the temple, Heero had the computer booted up and was photographing how the wall looked with the string grid. When he was finished, he tossed Duo a piece of chalk and a meter stick, and they marked off the grid onto the tiles.
When they finished, Heero photographed the entire wall again, and then started on the individual sections while Duo readied his drawing supplies. Heero had brought in a low ladder for him to sit on, and Duo set it up on the left most side.
"I thought I'd start at 1-1," he said, climbing to sit atop the ladder.
"Wait," Heero said, "I was going to get film pictures, too."
"Ok," Duo said, trying not to sigh too loudly. That seemed bordering on overkill, but you could never record TOO much. He had heard Jay sum it up perfectly, 'Archaeology is destruction.' He liked that saying. Once they started plucking tiles off the wall, there was no putting them back, so they may as well have as many pictures of the intact mosaic as possible. He moved the ladder back and Heero snapped the portion of the wall it would be covering and then got out of the way so Duo could begin.
Duo climbed the ladder and started drawing the first section. It was tedious work. He had been expecting that of course, this whole thing was his idea, but it was not only slow but difficult to draw every tile in the twelve-inch square. He didn't want to think about how many times he'd be doing this. Maybe Jay would let one of the artifact illustrators help them.
Heero finished photographing the individual sections and scanned through the pictures in the computer. They all looked pretty good, so he saved and named the files carefully. It hadn't taken him nearly enough time to finish that, he decided.
"Can I help you at all?" he asked Duo.
Duo paused in his work to push his hair out of his face and scrutinize his work. "It might be nice to have a smaller grid up here, maybe with one inch squares," he said.
Heero nodded. "I'll find you something," he promised, leaving the temple.
A short time later, Heero returned with a twelve-inch piece of clear plastic that looked like the kind used on overhead transparencies. On it was a carefully measured black grid with boxes of one inch. He handed the sheet and some masking tape up to Duo. Duo said it was perfect, taped it up over section 1-1, and then ruled the smaller grid onto the paper he was recording on.
Heero tried to further busy himself by gathering everything they'd need to take down the tiles. He was trying really hard not to rush Duo. He wished he could draw as well as Duo. Actually, he could record pretty well - accurately anyway. Maybe he could try his hand at drawing. He ran out again to find another transparency and make another plastic one-inch grid. It would go a lot faster if they could both draw, although they would need to work together to remove the tiles.
When Duo was finished drawing the first section, he handed his drawing down to Heero and asked, "So, you think it'll work?"
Heero looked up and compared to the actual wall. "Yeah, looks good," he answered.
"Want to climb up here and start the demolition then?" Duo joked.
"Isn't destroying the wall your department?" Heero deadpanned.
Duo laughed. "Do I really get to?" he asked.
"Sure," Heero said, "we can take turns. Try to pry them off one at a time, number the back, call it out, and I'll number the paper key."
"Ok!" Duo said excitedly. For all Heero's anticipation this morning, he was surprised he was getting to do this job. He was thrilled at Heero's sudden trust in him.
"Here, I'll climb up the ladder a ways so I make sure I number the right ones," Heero said. Duo was perched on top of the short ladder, and Heero climbed up a few steps to reach his level. He handed Duo a pointed trowel, the ink pen to number the tiles, and a plastic zip-lock bag. Duo numbered the bag Earth 1-1 and then the date.
"I'll try to go left to right, top to bottom," Duo said, feeling butterflies in his stomach as he positioned the tip of the trowel. There was no mortar or even much space between the tiles, but he managed to wedge the point at the side of the tessera and pry it off into his waiting hand. "Number one!" he called gleefully as he uncapped the pen. "We've finally started! I feel like we should have champagne or something!"
Heero marked the appropriate tile on the drawing as '1' and snorted, "We should save the toasting for after we're done." He and Duo both looked down the length of the wall and then at each other.
"Think we'll even finish this summer?" Duo asked. He popped off another tile. "Two," he said as he numbered it.
"I don't know," Heero answered, "I guess we'll be better able to estimate after we finish this section."
"Maybe we'll both actually be old enough for that champagne when the whole thing is done!" Duo ribbed. "Three."
Heero jotted down '3' and smiled just a little. Twenty-one was six years away. He tried to imagine spending the next six summers here with Duo. It sounded pretty good. Maybe they'd be in college together by then.
"Four," Duo said, plopping another tile into the bag. "I've never even had champagne, have you?"
"Huh?" Heero blinked out of his contemplation. "Oh, yeah, once. It was at a party last year when Jay finished a publication."
"Was it good? Five."
"Yeah, it was ok," Heero shrugged.
"Did you get drunk? Six."
Heero laughed out loud. "No! They only let me have one glass. Besides, it was a boring grown-up party. I think I was the only kid there. Jay's been dragging me to those things as long as I can remember. I really hated baby-sitters, so I just went everywhere with him."
"Have you ever been drunk?"
"I think so," Duo said, "me and another kid got into the communion wine one time. Eight."
"Yeah, we snuck into the church at night and picked the cupboard lock. Nine. We got in so much trouble!"
"What was it like?"
"Everything was kind of fuzzy and I felt really silly."
"So, it was good?"
"Ten. Yeah, it was fun at the time, but I felt sick the next morning and we got in deep shit."
"Is that the kind of thing you have to go to confession for?"
Duo laughed loudly. "Well, I don't recall God saying we couldn't get drunk, and he certainly didn't try to stop us, but we did have to confess and do penance for disobeying and, technically, stealing from the church. Eleven."
"So, you really don't believe in God?"
"Nope. From what I've seen, most people believe in God because their parents or somebody else was telling them about God since they were little. I guess it makes sense in their world, but I came off the streets. Twelve. When Father Maxwell first told me what God was, I was like, 'You gotta be kidding me.' It didn't make any sense to me; it didn't fit with what I knew about the world. Still doesn't. What about you?"
"I don't know."
"It's not really part of my life, I don't really think about it," Heero finished.
"Maybe that's a no, then," Duo suggested.
Heero absorbed this in silence as they kept working. When they were about half done, Duo offered to switch jobs. Heero extricated himself from the ladder and turned his attention to steadying it while Duo climbed down.
"Hey, Heero," Duo said thoughtfully. Heero turned back and froze when he found himself almost flush up against Duo. He felt like he couldn't move, as if his body had turned to stone. He felt stuck, even though it was he who had Duo trapped against the ladder. He could see a similar surprised expression in Duo's eyes. They were so close. Why was his heart pounding?
Heero's breathing was the only sound Duo could hear in the silence. It came soft and unconscious through his slightly open mouth. Why the heck hadn't Heero moved out of his way yet? He saw Heero's eyes flick down to his lips. Duo swallowed. He was unfamiliar with this feeling, but it struck some kind of chord in him. He ducked his head.
"I - I was just going to suggest that maybe when we get done with this one, we should try to put it back together using the key. Just to make sure it works," Duo suggested as he carefully side-stepped the other boy.
Heero cleared his throat and got his mind back on track. "That's a good idea," he agreed as he offered the papers out to Duo. "Maybe we could even make Jay or one of the students do it. Your drawing is perfectly to scale, they could put the tiles directly on the paper."
"Yeah, that would be a good test," Duo nodded and took the papers. He had left his supplies on top of the ladder and Heero climbed up to take his place. Duo scaled the first few steps just as Heero had so that he could watch the tiles and mark them correctly on the paper. He diligently recorded as Heero removed the tesserae, and tried not to think about the brief encounter between them. It had felt kind of like how it felt when you were about to kiss someone, but that was a really dumb conclusion because
Because it was Heero. He decided it was nothing, just the weirdness of being so close to somebody.
Heero couldn't just forget about it, and that was confusing in itself. It had just been a few seconds, why couldn't he stop thinking about it? Because he had felt something, that's why - a tension, a magnetism. It would have been so easy to just lean a little further and
It unsettled him when he finally figured out what he had been feeling.
"You know, one person could probably do both these jobs," Duo said, breaking the silence.
"Yeah," Heero agreed, grateful for the distraction from his thoughts, "we may as well finish it this way today, but then maybe you could get ahead on drawing the sections and I could work on taking them down."
"That would work," Duo said, "you'd have to give me time, though! No rushing!"
"I know," Heero said sheepishly, "I've also been thinking maybe I can try to draw some. Yours would be better, but you might get sick of doing it."
"You would do fine at it," Duo encouraged him, "you draw to scale very well, and that's all that's really important in this. You should give it a try."
"Hopefully, Jay will send some students over here when they start finishing in the library. That probably won't be until August, but it's better than nothing."
"Otherwise, we really would be here for six years!" Duo joked. He didn't really want anyone else to help them, but they sure could use it now that they had this huge project.
They were finished with the first section before dinner and Duo had time to start drawing the next. They triumphantly presented both tile bag and scale drawing to Dr. Jay as they waited for the meal to be served.
"So you think you've got it all worked out," the man said, putting his round spectacles in place.
"Duo, did you draw this?" Father Maxwell asked of the scale drawing. Duo said he did. "You boys have done some excellent work," Father said, "you have a lot to be proud of." He helped Jay place a few of the numbered tiles and it didn't take them too long to have the whole paper covered with the small colored tiles.
Jay cocked his head. "There. Is that how it looked?" Most of the tiles were blue, as the section had been mostly sky.
Heero and Duo looked at each other and shrugged. "Pretty much," Duo answered.
"Well, I'd say you have a pretty decent system here, then," Jay announced.
Duo and Heero looked at each other and grinned.
Duo awoke that night feeling too alert to go back to sleep. It annoyed him how Heero's oddball schedule was beginning to affect him. He found shorts and a tee shirt and snuck through the moonlit campsite to the temple. He was surprised to find that Heero was not there. He just sighed and turned on the lamp. He had left his supplies there, so he got to work finishing 1-2, the next section.
Not much later, Heero appeared in the doorway. "Can't sleep?" he asked.
"Nah, you've got me all mixed up," Duo accused teasingly, "I see you're wearing actual shorts tonight."
Heero shot him a withering look. "Thanks for noticing," he said dryly. Duo just chuckled to himself. "You're almost done with the next section?" Heero asked.
"I was thinking I might try to draw a little," Heero ventured.
Duo looked up. "Yeah? Get up here and try 1-3."
Heero found another drawing board and some paper and climbed up the opposite side of the ladder as Duo. There wasn't room for both of them to sit on the top, so Heero had to sit on one of the steps.
"It'd be cool if we could get metal scaffolding in here or something," Duo said.
"Especially if Jay's going to send more students," Heero agreed. He didn't really like that idea. It would help them get more done, but he didn't want anyone else in here, just Duo. It had taken him long enough just to get used to working with one other person, he didn't know if he could handle many more. Plus, more people meant it would be difficult to hide the evidence that they worked here after hours.
They worked quietly, and Duo checked on Heero's drawing every now and then.
"I don't know," Heero complained, making a face at his diagram when he had a few rows of tile drawn, "I just don't think I trust it."
"What do you mean?" Duo asked, looking closely at it.
"When you draw it, I know that I can tear the wall apart and we still have an accurate picture. I'm not sure I trust mine. I might be missing a tile or something," Heero frowned.
"Well, keep at it," Duo insisted, "if you're really worried about it, we can both do diagrams. You should keep it up, though. You'll get the hang of it."
They worked for just a couple hours, and Duo managed to get 1-2 finished before he could barely keep his eyes open anymore.
"Hey Heero?" he asked as he climbed from the ladder, "If I promise to come here again tomorrow night, will you go to the beach with me again tomorrow?"
"Damn it," Heero swore. He'd forgotten that the following day was another day off.
Duo laughed at his response. "Come on," he begged, "I'll buy you ice cream again!"
"All right," Heero sighed. At this point, he couldn't get much done without Duo so he may as well go too. "And you don't have to buy me ice cream," he added.
The following morning, the first thing Duo did was make sure Heero wasn't bringing a book or any work. Heero had left his bag on a chair when he went to get some breakfast, so Duo rifled through it.
"Duo!" Heero rebuked when he came back to the table, "get out of my bag!"
"Just making sure you don't have any unauthorized work materials," Duo joked, zipping the bag again.
They walked to the beach again and rented an umbrella like the last time. Duo didn't have to throw seaweed at Heero to get him to come in the water, but he started a seaweed fight anyway. They laughed and fought and Heero tested just how good Duo was in a fight by jumping on him every chance he got. Duo was able to squirm away every time, even when Heero used all his weight to try and pin him or hold him.
Without thinking, Heero grabbed Duo's braid as the other boy tried to roll away from him. He immediately remembered Duo saying how much he hated that and let go.
"Sorry," he apologized as he sat up on his knees.
Duo just shrugged and gave him a little lopsided smile. "It's ok," he said, a little out of breath from their play, "I know you don't mean nothin' by it." He got up and led the way back to their umbrella.
"How do you do that?" Heero panted when they collapsed on their towels.
"Do what?" Duo asked, squeezing his braid out onto the sand.
"Get away so easy."
"I'm a scrapper, always have been," Duo laughed, "usually, outrunning people is my strategy, but you're fast."
"Did you really have to outrun people?" Heero asked quietly.
Duo looked like he wasn't going to answer that, but then he said, "I'll tell you about it if you tell me about your dad."
"My dad?" Heero repeated in bewilderment.
"Yeah, Jay told me what happened on Cyprus," Duo admitted.
"Then you already know everything," Heero said simply.
" Duo struggled, "you to tell me about it."
"Come on," Duo persisted, "or my life as a street rat shall forever remain a mystery to you."
"Ok, but you go first," Heero finally agreed.
"Well, I told you I was in a little gang. The older kids ran it. We did all kinds of quick scams, pick pocketed, begged, whatever brought in some money. I wasn't real good at begging, so I picked pockets. The big kids knew places that would give us scraps of food or those Salvation Army places where we might get clothes sometimes. We didn't eat or live real well, but we survived and we kept away from the really dangerous people. Sometimes kids would come back beat up, and it was bad when someone got sick, but I don't remember anyone dying. I don't know, it seems so long ago now. I was about seven when we were caught, I only have few memories of it."
Logically, Heero knew he could believe that Duo was not lying, but all this was so hard to swallow. He could barely fathom it. "Where did you live?" Heero asked.
"Abandoned buildings, mostly. We didn't stay in the same place long and kept off the streets at night. I remember that it was scary not knowing where you'd stay the night or what kind of person you might bump into and what might happen if you got caught alone. The big kids told all kinds of horrible stories to scare us."
Heero dug his hand into the sand and pushed it back and forth. He really couldn't imagine what it must have been like. "Do you remember anything before that?" he asked.
Duo frowned and shook his head. "Nope. No family or anything. I don't even remember how I got to be part of the gang. They probably found me somewhere. I was pretty lucky, really. You know how it is - maybe my mom was a drug addict and let me wander away one day, or maybe she just abandoned me."
"Duo!" Heero said, eyes wide.
"What? You get used to the idea, trust me," Duo said with a bitter edge to his tone, "I've thought up worse scenarios than that, if you want to hear them."
Heero frowned. Duo didn't like talking about this, obviously. He seemed kind of withdrawn now, which was a shame because they had been having a good time. Heero decided to change the subject. "I know it's not the same, but I always felt kind of abandoned," he offered.
"By your dad?" Duo asked.
"Yeah. I mean, he had a wife and a kid, but he took off to do something he knew was dangerous for the sake of his ideals," Heero answered.
"Do you respect his decision?"
Heero thought about that. "Well, sort of. I mean, I understand that the cause of archaeological preservation was important to him. I really do understand that, it's just - shouldn't things be different when you have a family to think about? Shouldn't he have been there to take care of my mom, and teach me to read or ride a bike or go fishing?"
Duo nodded glumly. Those things had never even been part of his growing up, so he'd never expected them, but he knew how it felt to be deprived.
"It was probably worse on my mom. She wasn't sick until he left, Jay said. That's when she started to have the Lupus symptoms and was diagnosed. Stress can cause the flare-ups. It'd go in waves; she'd be fine for a while, and sometimes she'd get real sick. Jay said it was the worst right after my dad went missing. When they finally confirmed that he was dead, she really went down hill. I was still little then, so I couldn't help at all. My grandma helped a lot, but when mom died, she knew she wasn't able to raise me all by herself, so Jay took me in."
Duo had known a lot of hardship in his own life, but it still made him sad to hear Heero talking so frankly about the deaths of his parents. He could only speculate about his parents. He didn't know which was worse.
The other boy was quiet, so Duo assumed he was done talking. They'd both held up their ends of the bargain. "Hey, wanna go get ice cream now?" Duo asked, cracking a grin.
"Yeah," Heero said. They packed up their belongings and headed back into town. After that, Heero suggested the tomb they hadn't gotten to see last time, and they spent the rest of the afternoon there.
Heero fidgeted his way through dinner and retired to his tent rather early. Duo still found his impatience amusing. Duo had tried to interest Heero in a poker game, but the other boy couldn't be torn from the books. Duo ended up looking at a few scrolls with Father and then going to bed himself. He set his alarm clock so he wouldn't sleep through, and then placed it under his pillow. He woke when it went off and crawled into some clothes before sneaking off to the temple. He found Heero sitting atop the ladder, removing tiles from section 1-2, and labeling them on the diagram Duo had finished the night before.
"How's that working?" Duo asked
"Just fine," Heero said, "a little bit slower with one person, but I think it will save time in the long run because you can be free to draw."
"Right," Duo said, gathering his supplies, "you want me to draw 1-3?"
"Yeah," Heero said. He still didn't trust his own drawing. He turned back to the wall and continued on as he had been, working and thinking about Duo. It was common for him to over-analyze everything and the brief incident between the two of them was no exception. He had to roll it over and over in his mind until he understood it, every impulse, every nuance. As of yet, he had not succeeding in understanding.
He really didn't like this. He didn't like his thoughts straying out of his control. He didn't like that he'd never kissed anyone before, and so he wasn't even sure if that's what he was feeling. What was more, boys were supposed to kiss girls, not other boys. If boys kissed other boys, it meant they were homosexual. Heero didn't like to think that he was gay, but lately, he had been thinking about how it would feel to kiss Duo. To kiss anyone, really. It was such a big deal to the kids who did it. Was it really that great? Heero thought it probably wasn't. If he just wanted to try it with Duo, did that mean he was gay? He trusted Duo, after all, and felt he could tell him things he normally wouldn't tell anyone. He told himself that it didn't matter because it wasn't like he was going to. It would be way too embarrassing to ask. Duo would probably think he was crazy and weird. Then Duo wouldn't work with him anymore, and he didn't want that.
In an unsettling way, it did make some sense to him. He liked Duo more than anyone else he knew. He had a few friends at home, but he didn't feel as close to them as he did to Duo. He had come to enjoy working with Duo. They had some important things in common and he felt Duo's dedication to archaeology and to the temple was on par with his own. Even though Duo teased him, he thought the other boy understood his passion. But why would that make him want to kiss Duo? It had been a passing thing, he decided, a fluke.
Duo could practically hear Heero's mind spinning. That usually didn't unnerve him so much, Heero was always thinking too hard about something, but Duo wasn't in the mood for silence tonight, not when there were too many places he didn't want his mind to wander.
"So, have you been finding anything in the literature about uses of this structure after the Roman period?" he asked.
Glad for the reprieve from his thoughts, Heero talked to Duo about the little he'd found, and his own speculations. He found that talking didn't really affect his concentration much, which was good. They agreed to stop for the night when they started to get tired. Heero climbed down from the ladder and put his supplies away. He heard a pencil clatter to the ground at the base of the ladder and knelt to pick it up. His hand collided with Duo's and he looked up just in time to stop before they bumped their heads. He blinked and held his breath unconsciously. It was like an electric current had shocked him when their hands had touched.
Duo's wide, dark blue eyes were caught in a look of surprise and his heart hammered in his chest. They were close again. Heero looked terrified, and a question was written all over his eyes. Those eyes unconsciously flickered down to Duo's lips. Duo closed his eyes and turned his face away.
"Heero," he whispered.
"Huh?" came Heero's bewildered reply.
Duo looked up at his friend again. He had to say this, even if it got him punched in the face and thrown out of the temple. He had to. "Do you
do you want me to kiss you?" Duo breathed.
First all the color drained from Heero's face, and then it was replaced with a deep pink blush.
"I mean, this is getting weird
" Duo stumbled.
Heero looked down at the tiled floor and whispered, "Yes."
Duo blinked. Had he heard right? "You do?"
Still looking down, Heero nodded slowly, causing his hair to flop over his eyes.
They both sat down where they were and Duo leaned toward him a little. "So, you won't hit me if I
" Duo trailed off uncertainly.
Heero's face snapped up. "I wouldn't - " he said, and then stopped abruptly when he found himself nose to nose with Duo again. He swallowed.
The other boy grinned apologetically. "Sorry," he said, "I'm just, um, nervous."
Heero nodded almost imperceptibly and just looked at him, lips still parted slightly. Duo swallowed and leaned forward to slide his hand along the side of Heero's neck. There was a moment of awkwardness when their noses bumped, but Duo thought to tilt his head. Heero made a soft, breathy little noise of surprise when their lips finally met. Duo gave him a short kiss and then sat back again. Heero's eyes opened slowly.
"Was that ok?" Duo asked apprehensively. Heero hadn't really responded at all.
"Yeah," Heero nodded. He noted Duo's unease. "Did I
do it wrong?" he asked, cheeks coloring all over again, "I've never
"No!" Duo exclaimed. "No! You didn't do it wrong at all!"
"We could try it again," Heero suggested.
"Ok," Duo smiled readily, "you can kiss me this time."
Heero nodded in acceptance. He felt jumpy and unstable, but he leaned forward and tilted his head. Duo stretched his neck to meet him, and he felt the same jolt when they made contact. He was supposed to be doing the kissing this time, but Duo's lips moved, over-taking his again. It was then that he supposed Duo was more experienced at this. He weakly tried to imitate Duo's movements. He felt kind of self-conscious, but the kissing felt good and he liked the way Duo's hand had settled on his neck again. He did not want to pull away, so they kissed for longer.
Duo finally leaned back and watched Heero's lashes rise again.
"How was that?" Heero asked.
"That was good, Heero," Duo said with a shy smile. Heero didn't think he'd ever seen Duo being so shy before.
"We should get some sleep," Heero said, "but we can do that again later. If you want!"
"Ok," Duo agreed, successfully hiding his disappointment. "Heero? You can kiss me whenever you want to, ok? You don't have to ask."
Heero ducked his head to hide his smile. "Ok," he said. He was glad that Duo liked it too. He definitely wanted to do it again, but despite the offer, he wasn't sure he had the guts.