Heero was crouched under the brilliant sun in the roofless basilica, absorbed in inspecting the carvings of a frieze that had fallen from two, maybe three stories up - depending on how many levels the ancient building had had, which was very much up for debate. Footsteps from behind broke his concentration.
"He's here," the student said.
"Thanks, Jess," Heero replied as he stood and brushed his hands off on his shorts. He quickly made his way around a pile of stone rubble and down the ancient street that was now overgrown with grass. The rest of his small survey team was in the forum he passed on his way to the equipment area they'd set up under a canopy, much the way Jay had always done it. It was the end of the first week of the dig and the only person who had not arrived yet was his photographer, Duo Maxwell.
Duo had indeed written him letters every week after they parted, as promised. His letters were beautiful, expressive, and tended to be long. He would write something to Heero almost every day in journal style prose, and then send them all together about once a week. He included a lot about his attempts at deciphering Linear A, outlining problems or expressing frustrations. It reminded Heero of the way he had written Duo's letters before, when he would sneak back into the temple at night alone and pour everything into the letters to his absent friend. The mail was delayed of course, but Heero still felt like he was keeping up with Duo. He wrote back but not with the style and beauty of Duo's letters - and lacking the little Minotaur doodles in the margins.
Any amount of soul searching Duo had been able to do while in London was far exceeded by what he was doing in Greece. He worked hard, but he was able to travel a little bit, to Athens and a few other islands. He included a couple small watercolors since he "owed" Heero paintings. Heero treasured Duo's letters. When they arrived, he would wait to read them until he was curled up in bed. He could honestly say that he had fallen in love with the vibrant, thoughtful, perceptive man who had written those letters, and now he was about to meet him.
Heero tried to ignore the tight feeling in his stomach, but his pace quickened when he saw a figure waiting for him at the nymphaeum across the street from the equipment room. The man was wearing a brown fedora and had two familiar duffle bags slung over his shoulders. Duo saw him and broke into a huge smile that Heero felt himself reflect back without second thought. Duo took off his sunglasses and let the duffle bags thump onto the ground. The first thing Heero did was give him a hug that might have seemed a bit too long to anyone else watching, but didn't feel nearly long enough at all to him.
"Hey," Duo said, sounding a little breathless as he hugged back.
Heero finally released him. "Congratulations on Linear A," he said as he removed the fedora.
Duo grinned wildly. "Thanks! Worked my ass off to get it done before I had to leave, the other guys thought I was insane."
He didn't look tired or haggard, though, Heero thought. Or insane. He looked happy, vivid, alive. His skin has some color to it; his hair had grown. Heero reached back and tugged the stubby little braid Duo had managed to twist his hair into.
"Well you did great, it's all anyone's talking about," Heero told him. After the initial excitement, many of the experts and scholars had dismissed Duo's proposed Linear "Rosetta" as unhelpful, unclear, or too brief to be of any real use. Duo had refused to give up and basically taken on the project by himself. It was true that the tablet only gave him a few syllables, but for Duo, it was a place to start. He had published his paper only a couple weeks ago and was already being heralded as a genius by just about every archaeology and linguistics publication Heero had seen.
"Oh well, if I hadn't done it, someone else would have eventually," Duo shrugged.
"So what now? Isn't there a lot of translation to do still?" Heero asked.
"I've got someone making the translation software, so anyone with tablets should be able to translate it themselves, which is good because I won't have time to go around doing all of it. King's is gonna want a piece of me this fall after I skipped out on them," Duo chuckled, "I've already gotten a call about teaching a course this fall. I guess they've decided to overlook that fact that I don't have a Bachelor's degree."
"Good," Heero said approvingly.
"Where can I dump my stuff?" Duo asked, reaching for the duffle bags.
"You can put it in the equipment room for now," Heero answered, grabbing a bag. "Did you get a lot of interviews done while you were in the States?" he asked as he led Duo into the storage area.
Duo had not come to Libya from Greece, he had come from Connecticut. Jay had returned to Harvard to make some preparations and brought Duo back to help him. Duo had done some work for him, it was true, but Heero knew it was just Jay's excuse to use his research funds to bring Duo back so he could take care of some of his own business there. From the sound of it, his uncle had become something of a mentor to Duo despite not being in exactly the right field. He'd frequently brought Duo down into the labyrinth with him, and Duo would describe these ventures in detail for Heero in his letters. Jay would be returning to Crete soon with Trowa, Wu Fei, and a few other students.
"Yeah," Duo nodded, "quite a few. I might be doing phone interviews from here now and then. National Geographic wanted to set something up and when I told them I was going to be in Lepcis Magna with Indiana Jones for the next eight weeks, they were more than happy to take up my invitation for a visit." He snatched the fedora back and zipped it safely into one of his bags.
Heero groaned at the reference. He'd heard plenty of it for the last two months at King's. He changed the subject. "So how's Jay?" he asked.
"The old goat is fine, he sends his love," Duo grinned.
"I doubt he said that," Heero snorted.
"Of course not," Duo laughed. "He said, 'tell my worthless nephew to hurry up and finish in Libya.' Gee, do you think he wants you back in Crete?" he joked.
Heero smiled and shook his head as he stowed Duo's bags under a table. His uncle knew that he would be here at least until he earned his PhD, which would likely be another three or four years. At least it was good to know he had a place to go when he was done. Maybe he could coax Jay into coming to Libya for a visit before they had to go back to their respective homes in the fall.
"Oh, I didn't have time to get any supplies or even a tent," Duo said.
"That's fine," Heero replied, "we're renting a small house not far away."
"A house? That's cushy Heero, you'll spoil them," Duo joked.
"You haven't seen the house yet," Heero replied and Duo laughed as he came nearer.
"What's this?" Duo asked, hooking his index finger in the loop around Heero's left wrist, next to the ever-present watch. "Looks like baling twine," he noted, although it had clearly been softened by longtime wear.
"It's not just any twine," Heero said proudly, "it's the string used by Theseus to solve the labyrinth."
A grin grew on Duo's lips. "Really? Is that some of my twine? How'd you get it? Even I never saw that spool again, the authorities kept it in place."
"There was some in my pocket from when I cut it to tie up that guy. I found it when I got back to London," Heero explained.
"And you've been wearing it ever since?" Duo surmised.
"I promised I'd be waiting for you," Heero said.
Duo used the twine loop to bring Heero's hand to his face. Heero cupped his jaw and leaned over to kiss him. Duo kissed back and he realized just how much he'd missed Duo. Letters were one thing, but having him here in the flesh was quite another. Duo's tongue begged entrance at his lips and he gratefully allowed it. His arms wrapped around Duo's shoulders and he felt a hand on the back of his neck, sliding into his hair. He could so easily get lost in this, he wanted to, but he knew he should be giving Duo a tour and making introductions. They could have a proper hello later when they were alone. He broke the kiss but his arms refused to let go.
"People want to meet you, Theseus," he said, though he'd rather be kissing Duo than showing him off.
"Ok, Indy," Duo teased. Heero tugged his braid again and let him go. He led Duo out of the equipment room and out into the bright sunlight. "We're sharing rooms at the house, I hope you don't mind bunking with me," Heero said when Duo fell in step with him.
Duo caught his eye and replied, "I think I'll survive."