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A miniature alarm clock woke Kylie and Eduardo from sleep at seven o'clock. They were in a double bed in a ship's cabin, with square portholes looking out onto a sparkling sea. Kylie reached over to switch off the alarm, which she managed on her third attempt. Then she lay back down.

'Oh, Jesus – how much sleep did we get?' she mumbled.

'I don't know,' Eduardo said through a yawn. 'What time did we finish?'

'I didn't look at the time. It must've been a couple of hours at least. And then a couple more.'

'Time well spent.' He got up and made his way to the en-suite bathroom.

'Yeah,' said Kylie, smiling to herself. She waited for Eduardo to come out of the bathroom, then went on, 'It was very interesting, getting tossed around on the waves of the Mediterranean. I've enjoyed this boat trip. Up to now it's just been planes, trains and automobiles.'

'Right,' said Eduardo. 'And we didn't even have sex on any of them.'

Kylie laughed. 'We didn't? Not even on that steam train to Haworth?'

Eduardo laughed too. 'If we did, I don't remember.'

'Anyway, I'd better get up,' Kylie said, and didn't move for several seconds. Then she said, 'All right, this time,' got out of bed and went to take her turn in the bathroom.

When she reappeared, Eduardo was dressed, but even so he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her and said, 'How long until we dock?'

'About as long as it'll take us to have breakfast.'

'We could skip breakfast.'

'I already paid for it.'

'Oh, well, that's different,' said Eduardo, and let go of her. She started to get dressed while he stuffed a few things, including the mini alarm clock, into their bags. 'So we're docking at, um... City-Vity-Chechnya, right?'

'Yeah, that's right,' said Kylie.

Outside the bathroom was a tiny desk with just enough room for one person to sit, and on this desk was a leaflet. Eduardo picked it up, and read, 'Civitavecchia.'

'Whatever.'

'And then a train to Rome, wasn't it?'

'Yes.'

'How long does that take?'

'About an hour,' said Kylie. 'We can dump our stuff in the youth hostel after we arrive, but if we go straight back out again I think we'll make it in time to join the Rome-in-a-day walking tour.'

'Why do it all in one day?' said Eduardo. 'We're spending three days there.'

'So what? We can have, like, a whistle-stop tour to start off with, and then if we really like a place, we can go again and spend more time there. And there's some things I want to see that aren't on this tour as well. We only have three days, Eduardo – we have to get started and do things!'

Eduardo raised his eyebrows at the rising level of her voice, and said, 'I was only asking, babe.'

'Sorry,' said Kylie. 'It's just that we're getting so close to the end now; I don't want to waste any of the time we have left.'

'You make it sound like we have something terminal.'

'You know what I mean.'

'Yeah, I know,' said Eduardo, 'and you're right. Ready to go enjoy this breakfast while we still can?'

'Yes, I am,' said Kylie, as she finished putting on her shoes, and they made their way through the cabin door.

*

On the train to Rome, Kylie kept nodding off and then snapping her eyes open.

'Maybe we should just go straight to bed when we get there,' said Eduardo, from the seat opposite her. 'And straight to sleep, even.'

'No way,' said Kylie.

'Babe, are you sure about this walking tour thing? You don't want to get sleep-deprived and just suddenly keel over at an inconvenient moment.'

'I'm sure I'll be fine until tonight. It's just because I'm sitting here not doing anything. And it's the rocking motion of the train as well. I'll be wide awake once we're on our feet. Aren't you tired too?'

'Yeah, I am,' said Eduardo, 'but I'm keeping awake because I kinda need to go to the bathroom.'

'There's one behind me, isn't there?' said Kylie, looking over her shoulder.

'It's always engaged. And now there's a queue.'

'Maybe you should go join the back of it.'

'I'm not desperate,' said Eduardo, and leaned casually back in his seat to prove it. 'I'll wait 'til it's died down.'

However, there was a very long time during which the queue didn't get any shorter. Eduardo sat scowling at the constantly lit Occupato sign above the toilet door while Kylie drifted in and out of her doze. When the queue was down to one person, Kylie suddenly woke up with a start, and Eduardo laughed at the noise she made. She looked awkward, and laughed too.

'Have you been to the bathroom yet?' she asked, once they were over their mirth.

'No,' said Eduardo, as the last person in the toilet queue finally went in. 'I'll go after that guy.'

'We must be almost there by now. I wish I'd stayed awake,' Kylie said ruefully. 'Views from train windows are all part of the experience, you know. I'll probably never get the chance to see the route from, um... that port with the long name to Rome again.'

'It really just looked like the rest of Europe,' said Eduardo. 'Mainly the parts with farms and stuff.'

'How did we get so little sleep last night?'

Eduardo raised an eyebrow. 'Come on, Ky, you remember,' and he nudged her with his foot.

'Yeah, I know,' Kylie giggled, 'but we're not normally that bad, are we?'

'What do you mean “bad”? I thought we were pretty good.'

'Oh, stop it,' she said, laughing.

'Well,' Eduardo said pensively, 'you were talking about the added extra of getting thrown around on the waves. I guess that had something to do with it.'

'Yeah, maybe. Good thing neither of us gets seasick, huh?'

'A very good thing.'

'Hasn't that person finished in the bathroom yet?'

'Oh... yeah,' said Eduardo, seeing that the sign above the toilet door was no longer lit, and getting to his feet. As soon as he had done so, however, the word Occupato lit up again, and he sat back down heavily, saying 'I don't believe this!'

*

A short while later, Kylie was on a walkway in an enclosed area of Rome's main rail station with her and Eduardo's luggage. She was causing some disruption to the people going to and from the platforms and the shops, as she had emptied half of her luggage onto the walkway and was frantically sorting through a sheaf of papers. Some yards away were some public toilets, from which Eduardo soon emerged.

'What the hell are you doing?' he asked as he rejoined Kylie.

'I'm getting my booking reference for the youth hostel so we can find it,' she said. 'I thought since we're short on time and this station isn't really all that central, I'd splash out on a taxi.'

'It would've been better to do this on the train, really, wouldn't it?'

'I only just realised I'd need the piece of paper,' said Kylie. 'I guess maybe I could've thought of it earlier if I'd stayed awake, but anyway, I've found it now. Help me put all this stuff back in.'

They stuffed Kylie's things into her large backpack, then Eduardo helped her to get it onto her shoulders before picking up his own. As they were making their way to the taxi rank, Kylie asked, 'What's Italian for please?'

'I don't remember,' said Eduardo. 'All I know is that it's very nearly por favor.'

'Right, right, right, it's per favore... I think.'

'I'm sure the cab driver'll know what you mean. What are you gonna do – just wave that piece of paper at him and say please in Italian?'

'I think that'll work just fine,' said Kylie. 'What won't be so easy is getting him to wait with you... or get her to wait with you... while I book into the youth hostel and dump our bags in our room.'

'This plan is starting to sound complicated.'

'It'll be fine. I can wave my piece of paper at someone in the youth hostel too, and maybe you can communicate with the cab driver. I'd say there's a pretty good chance cab drivers around here can understand Spanish.'

'What happens after you've dumped the bags?' Eduardo asked. 'Are you just gonna leave me in the taxi with the meter running?'

'No,' said Kylie, looking impatiently at her watch as they joined the back of a short queue. 'I'll come back and we'll get the guy to take us to the Colosseum, where we'll begin our tour of Rome.'

'Y'know,' said Eduardo, 'if we miss this walking tour of yours, I'm sure we can find our own way around just fine.'

'Yeah, I guess that's true,' said Kylie, and relaxed a little. 'It's just that the tour guides speak English, and I thought that'd be nice for us. Maybe we can even hook up with some other tourists who can help us communicate, like you did for Steph and Caroline in Spain.'

'And like your mom's friend Joanna did for us in France.'

'So she did,' said Kylie, looking a little sour-faced at the memory. 'Don't get me wrong, I love my mom, but I'm glad she's not here. For one thing, I'm pretty sure almost everybody's naked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling... and I seem to remember that Adam is not exactly well endowed.'

'If you're going to point that out,' said Eduardo, 'there's no point being glad your mom's not here.'

Kylie smiled and dug him in the ribs, saying, 'That's the last time I'll mention it, I promise. Oh, good,' as the man in front of them got into a taxi, 'we get the next cab!'

'Got your booking confirmation ready?'

'Of course.'

'Wouldn't it be terrible if there was a sudden gust of wind and it blew away?'

'Oh, Eduardo, don't!'

*

A short while later, Eduardo was paying a taxi driver within sight of the Colosseum. As the taxi drove off, Kylie appeared on the scene, saying, 'That didn't break the bank, did it?'

'I don't know,' said Eduardo. 'I lose track of what we've spent with all these different currencies.'

'They're going to introduce a single European currency soon.'

'Not this week, though, right?'

'Probably not,' said Kylie. 'Anyway, I got us on the tour.'

'Oh, good – it was worth the trouble and money.'

'Not that much trouble and money. We're setting off in five minutes. Here's your badge.'

'Oh, great,' said Eduardo, looking dubiously at the clip-on, laminated piece of paper with some kind of logo printed on it that Kylie gave him. 'What happens if you get caught on the tour without one of these?'

'I don't know,' said Kylie, taking his hand and leading him towards the Colosseum, 'but it can't be anything like as brutal as what used to happen right over there.'

'Right,' said Eduardo, 'all the lions and stuff. The Romans were just a bunch of dicks, weren't they?'

'They sure were.'

'I hope they didn't leave behind a lot of ghosts for us.'

'Oh, why should the ghosts here want to bother us?'

'I never would've thought Branwell Brontë'd want to bother us either,' said Eduardo. 'I guess Captain Gaspar makes more sense. But you just never know, do you? And we'd better hope there's not another time slip too.'

Kylie made a face. 'A time slip at the Colosseum would be pretty bad... and maybe the Roman Forum. But I guess the other places on this tour weren't that terrible in the past.'

'Even so,' said Eduardo.

'Yeah,' said Kylie, 'I know.'

*

After the Colosseum, the tour group visited the Vatican Museums. Their guide was an enthusiastic young woman who gave a little talk about the place, and then let the tourists wander around by themselves for a few minutes.

'Reminds me of school,' said Eduardo, with an exaggerated shudder, as he and Kylie wandered down a corridor lined with religious marble statues.

'Your school was not like this!' said Kylie, laughing and giving him a playful nudge.

'I didn't say it was. I just said this place reminds me of it.'

'Well then,' said Kylie, as she stopped by one of the statues, 'I guess this one must look kinda like the Madonna and Child you defaced with your correction fluid.'

'Actually, no,' said Eduardo, looking with interest at the statue. 'There were definitely no statues where she actually had her nipple in his mouth.'

'No? What about pictures of it?'

'I don't think so.'

'I know there are some classical paintings of Mary breastfeeding. What's the point of keeping that kind of thing out of schools? It's the most natural thing in the world!'

'How about we don't get started on that stuff?' said Eduardo. 'It could lead to all kinds of deep and complicated discussions that we're both too tired for.'

'I'm sure you know,' the tour guide suddenly said behind them, making them both jump, 'that over the years, the men of many Catholic churches have claimed to hold a phial of the Virgin's milk within their walls.'

'Of course,' said Kylie. 'They all used to claim they had everything, didn't they? Jesus's blood, his tears, his foreskin...'

Eduardo looked queasy.

'Oh, wait, sorry,' said Kylie. 'Maybe I'm being offensive.'

'No, no,' said the guide, waving her hand dismissively. 'I am a Catholic, but it does not offend me to acknowledge that the Catholic Church was once very corrupt. But returning to the point, there is a story that a statue of the Virgin came to life and squirted her milk at Saint Bernard, and this is what the priests claimed to possess. I always found that idea very strange.'

'That is strange,' said Kylie.

'And if it was true,' said Eduardo, 'I wouldn't count that as Mary's actual breast milk.'

'No, I agree,' said the guide, and laughed heartily. 'It should come from the breast of the Virgin herself and not a statue, no?'

'Yeah, it should,' Eduardo said adamantly.

'Well,' said the tour guide, 'back to the meeting point in five minutes.'

'Okay,' said Kylie, and smiled at the guide as she wandered off. Then, turning back to Eduardo, she said in a low voice, 'Whatever the truth of the whole thing, I don't for one moment believe that Mary was a virgin.'

'You know what?' said Eduardo. 'My grandparents' copy of the Bible said that Mary and Joseph were soon to be married, and the Archangel Gabriel told her she'd have a child who'd be the son of God – you know, just what everyone knows it says – but Gabriel never said one word about Mary getting pregnant before she was married, or Joseph not being the biological father.'

'Oh!' said Kylie, looking absolutely amazed. 'Eduardo, you could be onto something!'

'I mean,' Eduardo went on, 'it makes sense, doesn't it? If it was true... and I don't believe in the son of God thing, but if it was true... choosing a pious young couple to conceive on their wedding night seems like a pretty good way to go, right?'

'Yes... yes, it does. But... that's huge!'

'No it's not. Let's get back to the meeting point.'

*

The next stop on the tour was the Sistine Chapel, where the tour guide again gave a talk. She spoke only in English, and everyone in the group listened attentively.

'Michelangelo painted the ceiling between the years of fifteen-oh-eight and fifteen-twelve,' she informed them. 'At this time he was known and highly respected as a sculptor, but he had no reputation as a painter. It is said that he was commissioned to paint the ceiling due to the influence of two of his rivals, who hoped he would fail. But as you can see, he did a pretty good job!'

The guide waited expectantly, and a few members of the group tittered politely.

'The ceiling is now one of the most famous painted interior spaces in the world,' the guide went on, 'arguably the most famous, and it is a highly important work of the High Renaissance. I am now standing underneath the beginning of the Creation, where God separates light from darkness...'

Again, when she had finished, the tourists were allowed to wander around for a bit. Kylie and Eduardo gravitated in the same direction as another couple, a man and woman about their own age.

'Being reminded of school again, babe?' asked Kylie, looking at Eduardo.

'Not really,' said Eduardo, who was gazing up at the Garden of Eden. 'I was just wondering what kind of fruit that is Eve's holding.'

Kylie and their two contemporaries gazed upwards.

'It's not an apple, is it?' said the woman. She spoke with a Canadian accent.

'No,' said Eduardo, 'I don't think so.'

'Isn't it supposed to be an apple?' asked the man, also Canadian.

'It doesn't say anything about an apple in the Bible,' said Kylie. 'It doesn't say what kind of fruit it is. We all just think it's an apple because of illustrations like this... only not this. But other things like it.'

'I always kinda thought,' said Eduardo, 'the Bible did say what kind of fruit it is. I mean, it says it's the Fruit of Knowledge; I never understood why anyone thought it should be a fruit we have vnow. It makes more sense for it to be its own species that only ever existed in the Garden of Eden.'

'Wow, Eduardo,' said Kylie. 'You'll have revolutionised the whole Bible by the end of the day, and you don't even believe in what it says.'

'I don't believe that story,' said Eduardo, 'and I don't buy into it as an allegory, but I can still speculate about it.'

'I think you make a good point, Eduardo,' said their female companion. 'So do you think, like, Michelangelo thought the same thing and painted an imaginary fruit?'

Once again, the tour guide suddenly cut across their conversation, this time with, 'It's figs.'

'Oh, figs!' said Kylie. 'Because of the fig leaves! That makes sense!'

'Are you sure it actually says fig leaves in the Bible, Kylie?' their male companion said jovially.

'Actually, Max, I am sure,' Kylie answered in the same tone. 'Um... I think.'

'It does,' said Max's girlfriend. 'I'm sure of it.'

'Thanks, Eugenie,' said Kylie.

'It's true,' said Eduardo. 'It specifically says that Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves. Way to make kids ashamed of their bodies, huh?'

'Not everyone uses the story to teach kids like that,' said Max. 'I mean, I don't think religion and holy texts and stuff are bad in themselves. It's what people do with them that matters.'

'Oh, yeah, absolutely,' Eduardo agreed solemnly.

'Do you believe in God at all, Eduardo?' Eugenie asked.

Eduardo didn't answer straight away. He thought for a moment, then said, 'I didn't used to, but these days I'm pretty much open to anything.'

'So,' said Eugenie, 'you could be wrong about the Bible.'

Again, Eduardo took a moment before he answered, and this time he was so pensive that Kylie began to look eager and expectant. Then he said, 'Sure I could.'

'This is getting a little too deep now, guys,' said Max. 'The point is, Michelangelo didn't have the same idea as Eduardo about the Fruit of Knowledge.'

Kylie raised an eyebrow. 'That's the point?'

'It's not the point of life,' said Max. 'It was the point of that conversation.'

'Well,' said Eugenie, starting to giggle, 'getting back to the fig leaves, I can see why Adam wanted to cover up. He's very small, isn't he? I mean, you can't even see it from down here!'

Eduardo and Kylie both rolled their eyes and exchanged a look.

'He's probably a grower,' said Max.

'Sure to be,' said Kylie. 'I mean, I'm no expert, but I think when they're... well, y'know... they're all pretty much the same size.'

'Yeah, actually, that's true,' Eugenie said solemnly. 'Isn't it, Max?'

'It is, actually, yes,' said Max.

'You're joining in with this, huh?' said Eduardo to Kylie, giving her a playful nudge. 'You said you weren't going to mention it again.'

'Oh?' said Max, collapsing into fits of giggles with Eugenie.

'He means Adam's,' said Kylie, as Eduardo began to look uncomfortable. 'I wasn't going to mention Adam's again. And I didn't – not specifically.'

'Wait, wait, wait,' giggled Eugenie. 'You were talking about Adam's junk before we even got here?'

'Actually,' Kylie said airily, 'I was.'

*

The next stop was the Trevi Fountain.

'During the Baroque era,' the tour guide explained, standing in front of the elaborate water feature and speaking over the sounds it made, 'competitions to win the commission of such structures were very popular, but the designer of this fountain was not in fact the winner of the competition. The winning design was by Alessandro Galilei, a Florentine, and there was outrage in the city when the news spread that a Florentine had won. Therefore Nicola Salvi, a citizen of Rome, was awarded the commission.'

'Wow,' said Max to his companions in a low voice. 'That's crap.'

'It was a long time ago,' said Kylie. 'That doesn't make it okay, of course, but it's not surprising.'

'There are legends about throwing your coins into the fountain,' the tour guide continued. 'The first is simply that if you throw your coin from the right hand over the left shoulder, it guarantees you will return to Rome. The second legend says that you should throw in three coins. The first coin ensures you will return to Rome; the second ensures a new romance, and the third ensures marriage. Possibly this was an invention of whoever got to keep the coins.' Again, she waited for the more polite members of her audience to laugh before continuing. 'Nowadays, all the coins are collected each day for charity, so please be generous in throwing yours.'

So saying, she stepped aside to allow her group to flock around the fountain. A few hung back, including Eduardo, Kylie, Eugenie and Max.

'I don't know yet if I want to come back to Rome,' said Kylie. Then she looked at Eduardo and, smiling, she added, 'And I definitely don't want a new romance. I like the one I have.'

'So what do you do if you want the marriage but not the new romance?' asked Max.

'I guess,' said Kylie, 'you use your free will and decide to get married, if and when you're ready.'

'Y'know,' said Eugenie, 'I wouldn't feel right not throwing anything into the fountain, especially as it's for charity.'

'I know what you mean,' said Eduardo. 'I'm gonna try a regular wish with one coin. Then if the legends are true, it can't mess with any of my relationships – it'll just mean I come back to Rome someday.'

'I'll go with you,' said Eugenie. 'Maybe I'll see what happens when I put two coins in,' and she winked at Max, which thoroughly puzzled Kylie.

Max laughed at the expression on her face, and said, 'I'm fine with that.'

'Oh, hey, it's none of my business,' Kylie said hastily.

'I mean,' said Max, as if she hadn't spoken, 'she's kind of wishing for me too.'

'Really, Max,' said Kylie, 'this isn't any of my business at all.'

'Don't you believe you can love more than one person at the same time?'

'Not like I love Eduardo, if that's what you mean.'

'Well, that's nice, I guess,' said Max. 'So, um... I hope that means I didn't put my foot in it when I mentioned marriage. I know really that you're not supposed to ask people about that stuff.'

'No, you're not,' said Kylie, 'but I think you got away with it. I mean, maybe we'll get married someday and maybe we won't. We'll have to see what we feel like.'

'But you do want to stay with him forever?'

'Absolutely. We're buying an apartment together.'

'Well,' said Max, nodding solemnly, 'that's commitment all right.'

Eduardo, meanwhile, had been throwing a coin into the fountain and wishing for something so earnestly that it kept him in a sort of trance, from which he emerged only when Eugenie laughed good-naturedly at him.

'Something you really want, huh?' she said.

'Yes,' said Eduardo.

'Well, don't tell me, or it won't come true.'

'I never tell anybody what I wish for.'

'Do you believe the fountain works?'

'You wanna talk about my beliefs again, huh?' said Eduardo. 'Well, like I said, anything's possible.'

'There's a lot of things I could wish for,' said Eugenie, looking pensively into the water. 'Some big things, and some little things. Like, since Max and I got here, I've been kind of wishing for someone to hang out with who can speak Italian.'

'That rules me out, I'm afraid,' said Eduardo.

'Do you speak Spanish?'

'Yes.'

'Fluently?'

'Sí, señorita, hablo español con fluidez.'

'Well,' said Eugenie, 'Spanish is pretty close to Italian.'

'So's French,' said Eduardo. 'I'll bet you and Max between you have more than a smattering of that.'

'Ah oui, monsieur, je parle couramment le français,' said Eugenie. 'But Spanish and Italian are more like each other than French, as a general rule.'

'If you're asking if we'll hang out with you,' said Eduardo, 'that's fine with me, and probably Kylie too, although I wouldn't dream of putting words in her mouth.'

'Aww, you're a sweet boyfriend,' Eugenie smiled at him.

'Yeah, well, growing up I had some great examples of what not to do.'

'Oh yes? Are we talking Catholic school again now?'

'Not specifically,' said Eduardo. 'Anyway, forget it – it doesn't matter.'

'I guess when a bunch of Catholics built this fountain,' said Eugenie, taking out her coins at last, 'the kind of new romance they had in mind was pretty different to what I'm thinking.'

'Well,' said Eduardo, glancing over to where Max was talking to Kylie, 'that's none of my business.'

'Could be,' said Eugenie, as she deftly tossed two coins into the fountain. Then, turning to rejoin Max and Kylie, she winked at Eduardo as she passed him. He stood there a moment, looking utterly baffled, before following her.

Chapter Text

There were several more stops on the walking tour, including a lunch stop, and Kylie and Eduardo hung out with Eugenie and Max at all of them. They ended up at the Piazza Venezia, with the four of them standing right underneath Mussolini's balcony, while the guide collected the tourists' badges and accepted their thanks.

'So, what now?' said Eugenie, once she had been relieved of her badge. 'Not a deep philosophical discussion about fascist dictators, I hope.'

'I don't really know anything about Mussolini,' said Eduardo.

'I know a few things,' said Kylie, 'but I'm really tired. I didn't get much sleep last night.'

'Does that mean you don't want to go for a drink or something?' said Max.

'Sorry,' said Kylie. 'Not tonight. Not for me, anyway. I can't speak for Eduardo.'

'Hey, come on,' said Eduardo. 'Three's a crowd.'

'Well –' Eugenie began.

'And I'm really tired too,' Eduardo went on hastily. 'I mean, I'm really tired.'

'That's cool,' said Max. 'Can we meet up tomorrow?'

'Sure,' said Kylie, while Eduardo stood by looking awkward. 'What did you have in mind?'

'We thought maybe we'd get a train to go see Pompeii,' said Eugenie. 'I mean the ruins, obviously, and maybe the modern town too if we have time. You can do that in a day from here.'

'Sounds cool,' said Kylie. 'Shall we meet back here tomorrow morning?'

They continued to make arrangements underneath the balcony until they were all reasonably happy, at which point Kylie produced a useful street map while Eugenie and Max, with their arms around each other, headed for the bright lights of the city hub.

'Friendly, aren't they?' said Kylie, in a tone that indicated this might not be an entirely good thing.

'What do you mean by that?' Eduardo asked guardedly.

'Did you get the feeling...?'

'What?'

'Oh, never mind,' said Kylie, and turned her attention to her map. 'Now, we should be able to walk to the hostel from here...'

*

The atmosphere was much more relaxed back at the youth hostel. Eduardo was in bed and beginning to drift off to sleep when Kylie came in with her sponge bag.

'So,' she said energetically, as she climbed into bed beside Eduardo, 'tell me about the Bible.'

'I don't remember every word, Ky,' said Eduardo, forcing his eyes open, 'but if you can be more specific...'

'I mean tell me what you think,' said Kylie, giving him a playful slap. 'I know you were thinking all kinds of deep thoughts at the Sistine Chapel, even if you didn't want to tell Eugenie about them.'

'Oh, I don't know,' said Eduardo. 'I mean, she was right – I could be wrong about the Bible.'

'But...?'

'But,' said Eduardo, sitting up a little with a resigned look on his face, 'I think it's unlikely that I am wrong... just about that. I mean, for one thing, the Bible's changed over the centuries, and not just because of all the times it's been translated.'

'What do you mean?' Kylie asked interestedly.

'Well, somewhere,' said Eduardo, 'I've seen a version where it did say Mary was pregnant before she got married, and it was a newer translation than my grandparents' one. So, I'm sorry, but somebody must've added that at some point.'

'You don't have to apologise to me, babe.'

'And what's more, it only makes sense that this person added it because they had the same idea I did, and they didn't like it. And then who knows how much had been added before that, by the time they got around to printing that copy my grandparents had? Then besides all that, everybody knows the Bible contradicts itself, don't they? So it can't all be what God wants. And look, I know a lot of people find the Bible very helpful and they use it well, and other religious texts too. But they still have to use their own judgement to pick out the parts that work for them, don't they? I mean, nobody ever references “Slave, submit to thy master” anymore, so... well, you know.'

'Yeah, I know,' said Kylie, snuggling up to him. 'Sweetie, I'm sure if there is a God, She agrees with me that that's a very sensible outlook you have.'

Eduardo chuckled and put his arm around her. 'I hope so. Maybe She even thought it was funny when I added leaky nipples and a milk moustache to that statue at school.'

'Probably,' said Kylie. 'In fact, I hope She appreciated it. I don't want to believe in any God that wants educators denying there's any such thing as breast milk, and making kids ashamed of their bodies. I'll bet that never worked on you, did it?' she added mischievously, and began snaking her arm under the covers.

'Whoa. What happened to being tired?' said Eduardo, though he suddenly didn't sound tired at all.

'That can wait,' said Kylie, and kissed him.

*

In the morning, they found themselves under Mussolini's balcony again, waiting. They were silent, though more than once Eduardo looked at Kylie and seemed about to say something before changing his mind.

'Eduardo,' Kylie said at length, 'you look like you have something to say. Do you?'

'I don't know,' said Eduardo. 'I'm kinda starting to wonder if they're not gonna show now.'

'They're only a few minutes late. Why – is it them you want to talk about?'

'I don't know. I was just thinking...'

'Come on, sweetie, spit it out.'

'When we were throwing coins in the fountain,' Eduardo said slowly, 'Eugenie said something really weird. I mean... I think she did... I'm not sure.'

'Ah,' said Kylie. 'I wonder if it was the same kind of weird thing Max said to me.'

'What was that?'

'I can't remember exactly how he put it, but I kind of got the impression that he was trying to find out if you and I would be open to going to bed with him and Eugenie.'

Eduardo's eyes widened. 'What, like... all four of us?'

'I don't know,' said Kylie, 'but that was the impression I got.'

'Then why the hell did you agree to meet up with them again this morning?'

'Well, we can always say no, and anyway I wasn't sure. Why, what impression did you get?'

'I don't exactly know,' said Eduardo. 'Eugenie didn't say much; I don't know what I thought she was suggesting! And I didn't give her a chance to say anything else after that “three's a crowd” comment last night, did I?'

'Oh yeah,' said Kylie, 'I guess she did seem like she had something to say about that. I hope they wouldn't really have invited you to do anything without me – that would not be okay!'

'And what,' said Eduardo, his voice beginning to rise in pitch, 'a foursome would?'

'Max was talking about loving more than one person at the same time,' said Kylie, 'and I wouldn't want to make any judgements about that, but in this case... well, there's no way either of them has had time to fall in love with either of us, never mind both of them with both of us. It'd just be a few cheap thrills before we parted ways, wouldn't it?'

'Thrills for who?' Eduardo said shrilly. 'Not for me, that's for damn sure!'

'Not for me either,' said Kylie. 'At least, not if we're really talking about a full-on ménage à quatre.'

'What's that supposed to mean?'

'Well, maybe two couples, same room, different beds...'

Eduardo stared at her. 'Are you serious?'

'I don't know,' said Kylie. 'I'm not uncomfortable with the idea, but I'd have to think about whether or not I'd be prepared to do it in real life.'

'Please don't think about it,' said Eduardo. 'I am uncomfortable with the idea.'

'You are, huh?' Kylie said teasingly, and dug him in the ribs. 'I didn't realise you were such a prude.'

'Yeah, well, there are people who'd call you a prude for not wanting to get into bed with them both.'

'True.'

'Anyway, I like my privacy, okay?' said Eduardo. 'And I like our privacy. I mean... with you and me... it's special, isn't it?'

Kylie smiled at him, clearly touched. 'Of course it's special, sweetie. Okay, you're right – I wouldn't want to do anything like that at this stage in our relationship.'

'Then I'm very glad we're past the stage where you would have!'

'Might have. I really don't know if I'd have gone through with it, babe.'

'Look,' said Eduardo, really agitated now, 'what the hell are we still doing here? Let's leave before they show up.'

'Too late,' said Kylie, and raised her hand to wave at Eugenie and Max as they approached.

*

A short while later, the four of them were sitting on a train, Eduardo opposite Eugenie and Kylie opposite Max.

'The interesting thing about Roman Pompeii,' Max was saying, as he consulted an information leaflet, 'is that after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the city wasn't just destroyed but preserved by loads and loads of layers of ash. So all their, like, art and stuff survived.'

'I'll bet not all of it did,' said Eduardo.

'Well,' said Max, 'enough of it.'

'You know what I'm really looking forward to seeing?' said Eugenie, turning to Eduardo and Kylie with a mischievous grin on her face.

'From the look on your face,' said Kylie, 'I imagine it's the Lupanar.'

Eugenie laughed. 'Damn, how do you even know that's a thing?'

'Kylie knows everything,' said Eduardo.

'Not everything,' said Kylie. 'I just happen to've picked some things up.'

'You have, huh?' said Eugenie. 'So, Eduardo, do you know what a lupanar is?'

'No,' Eduardo said with a shrug. 'Something about wolves?'

'Well,' said Eugenie, 'wolf-den is one translation, but in this case what it really means is... Kylie?'

Kylie looked cautiously at Eduardo, and said, 'Brothel.'

'Oh,' said Eduardo, 'I see.'

'Know what I read once?' Kylie went on. 'Livy wrote that the wolf part of the Romulus and Remus story may've been misconstrued; it might not have been a wolf that was said to have raised them but a prostitute, because in Etruscan society prostitutes were called “she-wolves”, hence this “wolf-den” thing. And Livy was an actual Roman, not someone in the last couple of centuries trying to be smart. But no one took any notice of that idea, did they?'

'Didn't they?' said Max.

'Well, no,' said Kylie. 'All anyone knows now is the wolf story, and we all say it's pure fiction, but there could be some truth in the idea of a prostitute raising the founder of Rome, couldn't there?'

'I guess so,' said Eugenie. 'It doesn't really matter now, though, does it?'

'No, I guess not,' said Kylie, deflating a little. 'I just find that kind of thing interesting is all.'

'I thought it was interesting, Ky,' said Eduardo.

'No you didn't,' said Kylie, smiling gratefully at him.

'I did!' Eduardo insisted. 'I'm learning so much on this trip.'

'Well,' said Eugenie, 'soon you're going to learn what Romans did in brothels.'

'I think I can figure out for myself what Romans did in brothels,' said Eduardo.

'Yeah, but there's pictures,' said Eugenie, 'so, like, you'll know specifically what they did.'

'Oh,' said Eduardo.

'Oh!' Eugenie echoed, and started to laugh.

Kylie frowned. 'Come on, Eugenie, don't get like that.'

'Like what?' Eugenie giggled. 'Oh, look, I'm sorry – I'm not laughing at you, Eduardo.'

'Good,' said Eduardo, 'because I'm not being funny.'

'Well,' said Eugenie, 'you kinda are. I mean... well, I think maybe you were more affected by Catholic school than you realise.'

'What do you want me to say?' said Eduardo. 'Ooh, I can't wait to see the Roman porn? I don't have any strong feelings about it either way.'

'Really?' said Eugenie. 'So you're not being all shy and embarrassed?'

'Genie, come on,' said Max, starting to look a little uncomfortable. 'He can be shy and embarrassed if he wants to.'

'I can,' said Eduardo, 'but I'm not.'

'Good,' said Eugenie, 'because y'know, in the Sistine Chapel, you said you were open to anything.'

'I said I pretty much was,' said Eduardo, 'but I was talking about God at the time, and ghosts and demons and stuff like that.'

'That's all, huh?' said Eugenie, and then looked at Kylie. 'How about you, Kylie? Are you pretty much open to anything?'

'Sorry,' Kylie said baldly, 'I'm getting a little bit lost now. Do you mean sexually, Eugenie?'

'Um,' said Eugenie, looking somewhat taken aback. 'Okay, I guess I do, yeah.'

'Then no,' said Kylie, 'there are some things I'm not open to.'

Eugenie opened her mouth to respond, but Max got in first with, 'I think there are very few people who are open to absolutely anything, huh? Oh, hey, you know what else is interesting in Pompeii?' and he hastily took up his leaflet again. 'The, um... the Beware of the Dog sign!'

*

'Okay,' Kylie said later, when she and Eduardo were standing over the Beware of the Dog sign, 'that is kinda cool.'

The sign was in fact a floor mosaic just inside the entrance of a stone ruin. The dog itself was depicted as large and black, straining at a chain and looking very fierce. Beneath its forepaws at the bottom of the picture were the words CAVE CANEM. When Kylie looked up from the mosaic, she turned her eyes towards the door leading into the main body of the building, but then Eduardo began to stroll back outside, so she followed him.

'This place really is well preserved,' he said, looking around at the practically complete buildings. 'I never would've imagined all this.'

'I can't wait to find out what it was all used for,' said Kylie. 'Where's Max gotten to with his flyer?'

'Maybe they're avoiding us,' said Eduardo, 'now we've implied we're not into moresomes.'

Kylie laughed. 'Moresomes! Where'd you hear that?'

'Just around.'

'Okay, I won't ask any more. But if I were Eugenie, I probably would.'

'You're not Eugenie,' said Eduardo. 'You're you, and I'm glad.'

'Aww, that's sweet,' said Kylie, and wrapped her arms around his waist.

'So,' said Eduardo, putting his arm around her and looking out to the horizon, 'there's Mount Vesuvius. You could see it from everywhere around here, couldn't you?'

'I'm sure you could,' said Kylie. 'We'll find out for sure when we've walked around the whole place.'

'It must've been terrifying. More than terrifying.'

'Yeah.'

'For that dog too.'

'If he still lived here at the time.'

'He had to, didn't he?' said Eduardo. 'I mean, the sign was here when the volcano erupted, so that must mean the dog was here too.'

'I don't know,' said Kylie, 'because it's a floor mosaic. You can't just take that away like a sign on a gate, can you? So what do you do if the dog dies, or if you're a new owner moving in with no dog of your own?'

Eduardo was silent for a moment, looking puzzled and thoughtful. Then he said, 'I don't know. I don't guess it really matters now, though, does it?'

'Not much,' said Kylie, 'but anyway, you're right: it seems likely there was a dog here at the time of the eruption. Poor thing. Well, poor everybody. A lot of terrifying things happened in Roman times. I wonder if it somehow makes it better that this one was an act of nature.'

'Nature, huh?' said Eduardo, smiling wryly. 'Not God?'

'Well, anything's possible. It'd be a shitty thing for anyone to do deliberately, though, wouldn't it?'

'You could go to my old school if you wanna hear some answers to that.'

'Oh, that's okay, babe. After all, the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.'

'That was Plato, wasn't it?' said Eduardo.

'Close,' said Kylie. 'Socrates.'

'Damn.'

Suddenly Max appeared beside them, saying, 'Oh, there you are, guys. And I think this is where the Beware of the dog sign is, right?'

'Yeah,' said Eduardo, 'we've seen it. But we only went into the vestibule so we haven't seen the rest of the place yet.'

'Who lived here besides the dog, Max?' asked Kylie.

'Let's see,' said Max, consulting his leaflet. 'This place is now called the House of the Tragic Poet, because of the floor mosaic depicting actors gathering backstage, which makes historians believe that an important writer might've lived here.'

'So basically,' said Eduardo, 'nobody knows.'

'Guess not,' said Max. 'Well, how could they? Shall we go inside and take a look?'

'Sure,' said Kylie. 'Where's Eugenie?'

'She said she wanted to look around the House of Sallust a little more,' said Max, looking a little awkward. 'Look, I'm sorry if she was... I mean... I was just telling her I thought maybe she should've dropped it sooner on the train.'

Kylie looked abashed. 'Is that why she wants to look around the House of Sallust a little more?'

'I think maybe, yeah,' said Max.

'Sorry if you guys have fallen out over us,' said Kylie.

'Oh, don't be silly,' said Max. 'You're just not into it, and your reaction was calm and reasonable.'

'Can we not talk about it anymore now, please?' said Eduardo.

'Absolutely,' said Max, and gave him a hearty clap on the back. 'Oh, and look, here comes Eugenie – and I don't think she'll want to talk about it anymore either.'

'Hey,' said Eugenie, pulling up beside them and looking very cheerful. 'So, into this one next?'

'Yep,' said Max. 'The Beware of the dog sign is in the vestibule, and when we get all the way in, we should find a floor mosaic depicting actors gathering backstage.'

'Oh, cool,' said Eugenie, with a slight roll of her eyes. 'That's exactly the kind of fun I wanted to have with these guys.'

Max gave her a warning look and shepherded her inside the building. Eduardo and Kylie also exchanged a look, this one very awkward, but then suddenly Kylie started laughing and said, 'Oh, come on, let's get in after them. I am completely confident that's the last we'll hear of it now.'

*

Some hours later, back at the youth hostel, Kylie was reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in bed when Eduardo got in beside her.

'How're you finding it?' he asked.

'Well,' said Kylie, 'I haven't gotten very far, but I think there's way too much boring detail about the Quidditch World Cup. If the rest of the book's like this, it could've been half the size.'

'You're right about that. I can't wait to hear if you have the same problems I did with the rest of it.'

'How are you finding The Tenant of Wildfell Hall?'

'I can see why some people like it,' said Eduardo, 'but those classics are all so long and wordy, aren't they? And there aren't even any vampires in this one... are there?'

'No,' said Kylie, laughing and putting down Harry Potter, 'but there are a lot of interesting themes about morality... maybe kinda relevant to what we've been talking about lately.'

'What, you mean with Gilbert so desperate to find out all about Helen's secrets, he's going to discover she's into group sex?'

Kylie laughed again. 'I thought you didn't want to talk about that anymore.'

'I can't think of anything else to say about it anyway,' said Eduardo. 'What are we doing tomorrow?'

'There are some museums and galleries that weren't on the walking tour,' said Kylie. 'We could see some of those in the morning, then have a nice big authentic Italian lunch somewhere, and then see what we feel like after that. Not all our plans are set in stone, sweetie.'

'No?' said Eduardo. 'They were to begin with.'

'Yes, well, I anticipated that I'd want to slow down when we were getting near the end... just, you know, see how the mood takes us... give ourselves some flexibility. Because after tomorrow...'

'Yeah, I know. Last stop, Cologne. We're going by plane, right? How long does that take?'

'Just a couple of hours.'

'So quick?' said Eduardo. 'That's too bad.'

'You've sure changed your tune since a few weeks ago,' said Kylie.

'Yeah, well, a few weeks ago I didn't know the time would fly so fast.'

'I knew it would.'

'There, you see?' said Eduardo. 'You do know everything.'