The ferry arrived in Iraklion and Wu Fei eventually joined them as they gathered their things to leave. They disembarked and found a bus to the southern quarter of the city. Heero wasn't sure where to get off, but he thought he recalled that the bus stop was the same as the same one as the obelisk monument. The guest house was not far away in a small square with a fountain. There was a map on the wall of the bus and he found a location that looked about right.
Duo knew he should be paying attention to where they were going as they got off the bus, but he was distracted by the sights and sounds of the city. It was early evening and things were really starting to get lively in the streets. Heero led them past shops and bars, outdoor markets and cafes. Duo wished again that they were here under different circumstances, he would have loved a chance to look around.
"Here, this is it," Heero said, coming to an abrupt stop. They were in a cobbled pedestrian square containing a fountain and a small church with a stone and white-washed plaster façade. It was just as he remembered it. He turned to the left of the church and scanned the row of buildings. Door number eighty-two was open and had flowers in the window box. That was definitely it.
They went inside and stood at the unattended front desk. Quatre rang the bell and a matronly woman appeared from the back. Quatre spoke to her and turned back to Heero with a frown. "She says the guest list is private," he said.
"Ask her if the Professor is staying here," Heero said to Quatre. "Tell her his nephew is looking for him."
Quatre spoke rapidly, trying to explain, and gestured to Heero. The woman cocked her head and squinted her eyes at him. Trowa held out the book jacket with Jay's picture and she peered at it. Quite suddenly, her face brightened and she began gushing in Greek,
waving her hands about, and quickly went around the desk.
"She says please wait a moment," Quatre relayed. "I think she remembers you."
The matron was at the old bulletin board behind the desk, flipping through several layers of photos of happy backpackers and tourists, smiling among piled ruins or at the beach. She pulled one photo out and brought it over.
"This is you and the Professor, isn't it? You were here many years ago, yes, I remember now," Quatre translated. The others looked over Heero's shoulder at the photo she'd stuffed in his hand. It was Dr. Jay and Heero, age sixteen or seventeen. Heero was quite a bit shorter then and Jay's hand was on his shoulder. They were standing in the square outside the guest house. Jay was laughing at something and Heero was smiling. Both looked like they'd been out in the sun a lot.
Meanwhile, the woman was kissing his cheeks and continuing endlessly in Greek.
"She's marveling at how you've grown, Heero," Quatre snickered as she pinched his cheek.
She stood back suddenly and put her hands on her hips. No one needed a translator to tell them her tone had changed to scolding.
"Where has the Professor been? Are you here for his things?" Quatre said, trying to keep up with her. "The maid said his room hasn't been disturbed in three days, we are worried!"
"Three days?" Heero repeated.
Quatre spoke to her, presumably explaining the situation, and her demeanor changed. She bustled in the direction of the stairs, waving them along behind her.
"She's taking us up to his room now," Quatre said as they climbed one flight of stairs. "She is concerned and wants to help us."
The woman opened a door at the end of the hall, speaking to Quatre as they entered. "She says nothing has been touched in a couple days. The maid didn't move anything except to make up the bed," he relayed. He spoke to the matron again for a few minutes as the others began looking around.
Heero found his uncle's laptop computer and opened it at once. He didn't see Jay's journal anywhere around, but he hoped his uncle would have something on the computer. Trowa and Wu Fei sat down on the floor and started looking through a stack of books. Duo tried to make himself useful by rifling through clothes and personal effects.
"Heero," Quatre said, "she says the tourist police station isn't a far walk, so I'm going to go there. Apparently, they'll have the local contacts to find him if he's turned up somewhere, or put out a watch bulletin."
"I'll go with you," Trowa offered, bringing the book jacket.
"Ok," Heero nodded. He swallowed, waiting for the laptop to boot up. Three days was a long time, in his opinion. He had figured that some of the two weeks of no contact was just regular Jay absentmindedness, but three days not seen at his room was not good news at all. A lot could happen in that amount of time. Heero tried the obvious files on the computer's desktop first. Jay kept notes and personal observations in his journal, but he would type them up every so often into a text document.
He did find a file that looked like it was the beginning of a journal, dated a week ago. The notes were short and cryptic, things such as weather conditions and parts of the Knossos ruins being closed. Heero frowned. Why would the ruins be closed? Why did it look like Jay had been going there almost everyday? That had to be where he was searching, but why? The land had been thoroughly explored. What did Jay know that he didn't?
Heero was pacing again. Duo figured it was something he did when he was thinking. He tried to go back to the book he was reading and not watch Heero. The book had long passages in ancient Greek, so Duo had been given the task of reading it for pertinent information. So far, he hadn't found anything Earth-shattering, none of them had. Everything in the room merely confirmed Heero's theories about Jay's intention to find the mythical labyrinth.
It was now well past midnight. The land lady had given them another room, and Wu Fei, Trowa, and Quatre had already retired there to get some sleep. Unfortunately, Quatre had not found out anything of much use at the tourist police. They had called hospitals and police all over Iraklion province and in major cities on the island, but turned up nothing. Quatre brought some food in and they spent the rest of the evening scouring the room.
Heero had been at the computer the entire time, systematically going through the files. Duo noticed he would get up and pace around for a while, and then end up back at the laptop. As predicted he sat back down after a moment. Duo got up from the desk with his book and sat next to him on the bed.
"Find anything?" he asked.
"Nothing we don't already know," Heero said and raked his hair out of his eyes.
"Same here," Duo said. "Want to quit for the night? We'll be going to the ruins first thing tomorrow, I'm sure that will shed some light on things. If he's been going there, maybe the staff would recognize his picture."
"He wrote that sections of the ruins and surrounding grounds are closed," Heero said, rubbing his forehead.
"We'll ask the landlady before we go tomorrow," Duo suggested.
"Oh, hey, there are some pictures from Ashkelon on here," Heero remembered. He pulled up a window and set it on slideshow. The slideshow started with the oldest pictures.
"How old are you here?" Duo asked, trying to check his smile. The picture was of the entire outdoor market complex. The students were working in several busy trenches, obviously the main focus of the picture. Heero was off to the side, barely in the frame, on his hands and knees in the dirt measuring something.
"That was the first year in Ashkelon, so I'm about eleven," Heero answered.
"Wow, you dug there for a long time, then," Duo commented.
"Before that, Jay had a site in Tuscany. I started there when I was seven," Heero told him. "We didn't have digital cameras then, so no pictures. Actually, I think your year was the first year we had them, so these early ones have to be scans."
Duo nodded, watching as the pictures changed. There was one of eleven-year-old Heero holding a statuette. His big grin showed a missing canine tooth.
"My first exciting find," he narrated.
Most of the photos were technical pictures being used for publications, but it was like watching a photo album of Heero growing up. Every summer he looked a little older, a little taller, though he always had the same unruly dark hair and piercing blue eyes.
"Hey, there you are," Heero broke in, pointing to the screen. It was a picture of the temple. Duo was sitting on the floor with his sketchbook, painting from the looks of it. He chuckled at himself, obviously suffering the throes of the adolescent awkward stage much worse than Heero had been. His arms or legs made it into a few more pictures. Heero was never far from him, and it reminded him of how they had stuck together like glue that summer.
"This is the rest of that summer after you left," Heero explained as more temple pictures showed up, minus Duo.
"So you did get that wall done," Duo noted.
"Had to recruit a team of students, but yeah, we did."
"Does that mean you couldn't sneak in at night anymore?" Duo asked, remembering with a smile.
"I couldn't do extra work, but that doesn't mean I didn't sneak in there at night," Heero replied.
Duo laughed. "Then why sneak in?"
Heero just shrugged.
From the pictures, it seemed Heero hit a growth spurt at seventeen or eighteen. Duo got to see a few photos of the other walls in the temple coming down. The star pattern underneath was exactly as he and Heero had imagined. There were a few photos of the light hitting the stars perfectly.
"We finished the temple the summer after I graduated from high school," Heero put in.
"That's when National Geo came, right?" Duo asked.
"Yes," Heero nodded. Wu Fei and Trowa started to appear here and there. Heero went from being a little kid to one of the oldest students on the dig, not including the graduate teaching assitants. "During college, I worked in the trenches with the other students, mostly in one of the large houses, but one season I was in an unknown structure. Ended up to be a metal working shop," Heero explained. "You should have seen the slag we pulled out of there."
"I bet it was hard to wrap it up," Duo said.
Heero nodded again. "Yeah, but I was lucky it was ending my last year. I got to be there for the entire thing. That's why I never understood why he got so angry with me for leaving."
"Yeah. It wasn't like there was still work to be done in Ashkelon that I was abandoning," Heero said, watching the slide show start over.
Duo wondered what was going on behind those blue eyes as the pictures changed on the screen. He looked down at the bedspread and picked at a small hole, trying to remind himself why kissing Heero right now would be a bad thing. Was there really that much harm in showing Heero how he felt?
"You know, Duo," Heero said, and Duo looked up again. The slideshow was paused on a picture of them hard at work on the mosaic grid. "Having you there that summer really meant a lot to me," Heero told him, "it changed me, I realized how good it could be to work with someone, to trust someone and share the experience. I know it sounds dumb, but it was a breakthrough for me. I was able to grow so much after that. I feel like I should thank you for that."
Duo just nodded and looked back at the bedspread as his stomach tied up in knots. He had never felt more foolish. What was he thinking? He was not what Heero wanted - who Heero wanted. The old Duo had meant so much to Heero, but he wasn't that person anymore, he could never be. What did he have to offer now? He and Heero had almost kissed in London, but now he recognized that it wouldn't be right, the two of them clinging to the past like that. He swallowed, knowing that he had to put a stop to this.
"I'm sorry, Heero," he apologized, "I - I wish I was that person, but I'm not, I'm - I'm not
" The words just stopped coming and he looked at Heero miserably, looking for help, confirmation, anything.
All he got was a confused look. Heero's dark brows drew together and he tilted his head slightly. "Of course not," Heero said simply. "I'm not the same person I was then either. Not at all. I smoke when I drink sometimes, I laugh at stupid shit, I don't blush at the littlest things, I learned to play poker," Heero let the words trail off and a tiny smile curved his lips. It was the first smile Duo had seen there since they arrived in Greece.
Heero's fingers brushed Duo's cheek and found their way to his short ponytail. "Listen," Heero said, "maybe I haven't been clear, but I want to get to know the person you are now. Even if you don't know who that is, I want to be there as you find out. That is, if you want to know the person I am now."
Instead of answering, Duo kissed him without even thinking, all apprehension gone from his mind for the moment. He braced his hands in front of him on the bed and leaned into Heero's strong response as those fingers started to play in his hair. Heero's lips felt nothing like he remembered and it occurred to him that Heero was probably thinking the same thing about him. Losing his nerve just a bit, he awkwardly broke the kiss and sat back.
"Uh, I'm sorry, Heero," he said, eyes back on the bedspread as he came to his senses a bit. "Maybe I shouldn't have done that. I know you have enough to think about right now and everything, I just - "
"It's ok, Duo," Heero said, hand slipping from his hair to his shoulder and squeezing. "It's good to know that
whatever happens here, I have something to go back with."
Duo looked up and met Heero's gaze. Those intense blue eyes shimmered with so many emotions, Duo couldn't possibly hope to name them all. "Yeah," he swallowed again. He stroked his hand through Heero's hair and continued in a whisper, "that's what I wanted to say."
Heero pulled Duo into his arms and hugged him for just a moment before kissing him. He directed the kiss this time, and he let himself enjoy Duo's mouth for just a short time before he pulled away. He knew himself. He was stressed out, internally upset, and worried sick. He would seek physical comfort right now if he could and that was most definitely not something he wanted to do to Duo. They would have their chance, but it wasn't right now.
"I should do a little more research," he said regretfully and picked up the computer.
Duo tucked a loose strand of his hair behind his ear and nodded. "I think I might try to sleep unless you need me to do anything," he said.
"Get some rest," Heero insisted, getting up. "I'll take this to the desk, you can sleep here."
Duo agreed and went to brush his teeth. He came back to the bed and collapsed onto it feeling good, but no less worried.
When he woke the next morning, Heero was awake. Either he had not slept, or he had not slept for long. Duo sighed and Heero looked up from his book.
"You're awake," Heero said.
"Yeah, what time is it? Anyone else up?" Duo asked.
"It's almost eight o'clock, haven't heard from the others yet," Heero answered.
Duo grabbed his bag and got up to make use of the small bathroom attached to the room. He came out clean, brushed, and dressed in no time. "Think I'll go get pastries and coffee for everyone," he said.
"You won't be able to talk to anyone," Heero reminded him.
"Minor details," Duo said with a wave of his hand. He grabbed some money and the room key before leaving the guest house. The sun was just coming over the tops of the buildings and the narrow side streets were still cool and shady. Birds twittered and chirped from nests in alcoves and roofs. Shops were just opening up for the morning. Neighbors greeted each other and said good morning in loud voices. A woman was watering the flower pots on her front stoop. A kid on a bike clacked past him. Duo stopped to pet a grey cat enjoying a patch of morning sunlight. He felt oddly at home here. He had felt the same way in London, his adjustment to life there had been almost immediate. It had only been two and a half weeks since he left Maxwell's, was it just too early for homesickness? Somehow, he doubted it.
Perhaps part of it was that he felt very at home with Heero. It seemed strange that they got along so well after ten years and so many changes. Sure, they had their disagreements now and then around the apartment, but it always worked out. He found himself wondering what it was going to be like to live together now. Things would be a little different after last night. Heero's kiss had been
Well, it ranked as one of the best physical experiences of his life to date. He knew that was pretty pathetic because it had just been a kiss, and a short one at that. He wished he had more experience in the realm of relationships so he'd know better what to do when the time came for their second chance. He reminded himself that a lot could happen between then and now.
He left the purring cat and continued on his quest for pastries. He was concerned about getting lost, but he soon found that he didn't have to wander too far from the square to find a bakery. As he had hoped, pointing and smiling worked almost as well as words when it came to making selections, and the Greek word for coffee was close enough to the English. He got everything wrapped up, paid for it, and easily found his way back to the guesthouse by the fountain. He let himself back in and delivered breakfast to Heero first, since he looked like he could use the coffee.
"Thanks," Heero said appreciatively as Duo handed him the steaming plastic cup.
"You should have gotten more rest," Duo chided gently.
"Couldn't," Heero said with the shake of his head.
Duo set his own breakfast on the desk and went to knock on the door of the next room. Wu Fei answered and he brought the goodies in. Wu Fei and Quatre were both dressed and the shower was running
"The landlady said the ruins open at nine, so we should be on our way soon," Quatre said after a long gulp of coffee.
"Heero's been ready to go since last night," Duo remarked.
"I thought he was going to sneak over there with a flashlight in the dark," Wu Fei said before biting into a pastry.
"No kidding. I don't think he slept last night. Anyway, meet in the other room when you guys are ready," Duo said.
When everyone had convened, they set off. Heero stopped by the front desk and turned to Quatre. "Would you ask the owner why some of the ruins are closed?" he asked.
Quatre spoke to her and then told Heero, "A recent earthquake made some of the area unstable. There were a couple landslides and they are still cleaning up. Unsafe areas have been closed off."
"Earthquake?" Heero repeated. "Come on!" he said before bolting out the door and down the stone steps. Quatre quickly thanked the woman and then the others dashed after Heero, who was all but running across the square in the direction of the bus stop.
"What is it? Did you figure something out?" Wu Fei asked when they caught up to him.
"He's gotta be out there," Heero said, "he was probably hoping that the earthquake opened something up. He could have been looking out there and gotten hurt, he might still be there!"
His big hurry paid off and the right bus arrived just when they did. Heero fidgeted during the entire bus ride. He would probably have preferred to run to the ruins himself. Was it the caffeine? Duo thought not, he was a graduate student after all, he had to be pretty much immune to the stuff by now.
Heero was not at all shy about pushing through the crowd to get in line at the ticket counter when they arrived at the ruins. The five of them bought tickets and entered.
"Let's show his picture to some of the security people," Heero suggested, "maybe they've seen him around." He very nearly dragged Quatre over to any security personnel he saw and shoved the book jacket at them.
They struck out the first three times, but finally found one guard who recognized Jay's picture.
"Yes, I've seen him, a few days ago," Quatre translated as the guard rubbed his chin and peered at the picture. "I caught him in a restricted area and he said it was an accident, so I just brought him back. But when I caught him jumping the fence again, I had to give him a warning. Didn't see him again after that."
"Where was this?" Heero asked. Quatre asked the man and he pointed to the far eastern end of the park.
"There, where the landslides were," Quatre said. He thanked the guard and they all tromped down to the other side of the site.
Duo tried to get a good look at the enormous palace complex as they walked around it. Tourist season had not yet gotten under way and it was still early in the day, but there were a few other visitors milling around. Heero was contemplating the chain link fencing blocking off the more dangerous areas. It was only three feet tall, but there were too many people about. How were they going to slip onto the other side? It was hilly around the area and there were trees and shrubs, but five of them jumping the fence would be pretty noticeable.
"We'll have to go one at a time, maybe from different places," Trowa said quietly as if he could read Heero's mind.
"Leave it to me," Duo said. "I'll create a distraction, just go as soon as no one is looking. I'll catch up as soon as I can."
"What? Duo-" Heero tried to say, but Duo was already on the move. He disappeared into the nearest entrance to the gigantic palace and reappeared after a moment on one of the open porticos on the second floor. For a minute, he just looked around, doing an excellent impression of a tourist. Suddenly he tripped and landed with a loud yelp, grabbing his ankle. Tourists stopped what they were doing and looked over. The ones near him came to his aid and several guards rushed to his side. Heero moves as if to go up there, but Wu Fei grabbed him.
"This is our chance," he whispered and one by one they hopped over the low fence and darted down a steep hill. Once they had convened out of sight, Heero surveyed the area. There were more danger signs and fencing as one looked away from the ruins. If they followed the signs, they would soon be away from the park and deep in the rolling hills.
"I'm going to go further out," Heero said. "At least one person has to stay and wait for Duo."
"I will, but how will we catch up?" Wu Fei asked.
"Just follow the 'Danger' signs," Heero said with no hint of sarcasm.
The other three took off and it seemed like eternity to Wu Fei until Duo came scuttling down the hill, but it was only fifteen minutes.
"Sorry!" he panted. "They were really concerned about my 'injury' and wouldn't take their eyes off me. They almost called an ambulance! Hey, where are the others?"
"They went on ahead, we're supposed to catch up."
"How?" Duo asked.
"Following the 'Danger' signs," Wu Fei said dryly.
Duo grinned. "So that's what those signs said," he quipped. They hopped over a few more low fences and began to see where the landslides had been more serious. It began to seem to Duo like they would never find the others. They wandered around and finally saw Trowa, who was approaching them with his finger to his lips.
"Come on, everyone's up here. Stay quiet," Trowa ordered. Without questioning, Wu Fei and Duo climbed the hill after him and crouched in the tall grass next to Quatre and Heero. Duo saw immediately why they were being so quiet. Two men stood at the base of the hill, talking. After a moment, one turned and went away, up another hill further to the east.
"I didn't catch it all," Quatre whispered to them, "but they mentioned a cave, and 'goods' and the other man said something about keeping on the look out before he left."
The man at the base of the hill was grumbling something in Greek as he lit up a cigarette. When he put his matches away, he drew something out of his pocket - a golden figurine about six inches tall in the shape of a bull.
"They're looters," Heero said through clenched teeth. He didn't know how he knew, but a sixth sense was tingling. "We must be close, we have to question him."
"How are we going to do that? If he's truly on the look out, then he'll go tell the others as soon as he sees us, and we'll never know what's going on. Besides, we don't know how many of them there are," Wu Fei pointed out.
"Allow me," Duo said, "I'll get you an opening to surprise him, just wait for it." He
plucked the Knossos map from his pocket and strode down the hill, waving his arms. Heero didn't want to let him go, but didn't have much of a choice.
"Hel~lo!" Duo called to the Greek man in exaggerated English, "I'm lost! Can you help me? Which way to the palace?"
The man looked surprised and didn't know what to do for a moment beyond stuff the golden bull back in his pocket. Duo approached fearlessly, gesturing to the map. "I'm lost!" he repeated. "How do I get back to the palace? It's dangerous out here! They should really put up some signs or something..."
Heero gritted his teeth at the top of the hill. The Greek scratched his head, not knowing what to make of Duo, but didn't seem to find him a threat. They watched as Duo pointed in all directions and managed to maneuver the Greek so his back was to them. This was their chance to take him by surprise.
The other four crept down the hill as quietly as they could. Trowa caught Heero's eye and Heero nodded. As soon as they were close enough, they jumped on the Greek and tackled him to the ground. There was a minor scuffle and rapid fire Greek curse words, but they got the man to the ground. Heero pulled the bull figurine from his pocket.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
Quatre asked since it didn't appear that the man spoke English. "He says he bought it," the blond told Heero.
Trowa kept a knee on the struggling captive's thigh and produced the bookjacket. "Have you seen this man?" he asked.
The man shook his head, claiming that he hadn't.
"Liar," Heero hissed and yanked his wrist up. "This is Jay's watch!" he told the others as he started to unfastened it.
The Greek man took advantage of his free arm and managed to shove Heero away. He began fighting Trowa off and Heero scrabbled back into the fray. Heero clonked him on the back of his head with the golden bull and he collapsed to the ground. Everyone was silent for a second.
"He's out cold," Trowa said, slapping the man's face a few times.
"Now how are we supposed to question him?" Wu Fei carped.
"He was going for a gun!" Heero said in his defense. He grabbed the man's belt at the hip, rolled him over slightly, and produced a gun from the back of his pants. Heero noted that the safety was on and the chamber was full, but he didn't like the spin this put on the situation. If these men were armed and they had encountered Jay... That could have a lot of possibilities, all of them bad.
"What are we going to do with him?" Quatre asked.
"We'll have to tie him up," Wu Fei said. Trowa undid the man's leather belt and pulled it off. Heero finished removing the watch and shoved him onto his front so Trowa could bind his wrists with the belt.
"You seem awfully practiced at that," Duo noted with some amusement. Trowa just gave him a look.
"We have to be close," Heero said, standing up. "You guys decide what you want to do with him, I'll go scout the other side of the hill." He took off to the east, in the direction that the other Greek man had gone. He climbed the same hill the other man had climbed and hurried to the bottom. It didn't take him ten seconds to recognize the very obvious opening at the base of a spread of low hills to the south.
Further explanation still to come! Knossos links:
[ British school at Athens ]
[ bsa quick time virtual tour ] *_*
[ info and pics ]
[ nice palace pics ]
[ crete and Minoan stuff ]
[ more palace pics ]