Disclaimer: Me no own GW. Me own this plot, which is non redeemable for profit.

Pairing: 1+2+1
Warnings: None

Author's Notes: So after a summer of deathfics, I find myself needing to get back to the basics. This is intended to be comfort food for the eyes. And hopefully, I can still write fluff after my long estrangement with happy endings. Criticisms and comments welcome. Enjoy.

Cotton Skin
by syrupjunkie

Heero didn't know quite how Duo had convinced him to do this, but the fact that here he was, waiting on the doorstep to Duo's apartment, duffel bag in hand, proved the American had an uncanny ability to move even the most stone hearted. Heero knew there was no use in prolonging the inevitable, sighed in resignation and knocked on the door.

The lock slid back with ease and the wood parted to give view to Duo on the threshold, Chinese takeout in hand, dressed from head to toe in red flannel pajamas. "Heero! Just in time. Come in. Take off your jacket, slippers're in the corner."

Heero sighed again, under his breath. He was wondering if there wasn't a reasonable excuse he could possibly pawn off on Duo. Today just wasn't the day for this. He craved solitude, the dimness of his apartment, the oblivion of sleep. His body ached with the remembrance of the past few nights, and crumbled under the longing for his own mattress and sheets.

"Hey, Heero. You listening?" Duo frowned in Heero's field of vision and placed a stern hand on his shoulder. "I'll get your jacket."

"Thanks," Heero mumbled, as he turned out of his jacket and loosened his tie. He toed off his leather shoes and slipped gratefully into the fleecy slippers Duo had pointed out to him.

Duo was already dumping his duffel bag on the couch and was pointing over to the kitchen with his chopsticks. "Drinks in the fridge. Got beer and some leftover wine in a box. Last time I have a fancy soiree..."

Heero followed the path of the waving sticks and ambled into the blindingly fluorescent kitchen. He pulled out a beer from the refrigerator and uncapped it on the counter. The slightly bitter liquid ran a cold trail down the center of his chest and burned warm in the pit of his stomach. His body curled around the feeling and begged for more. He let it savor the momentary relief, leaning against the counter, pressing the cool bottle over the skin of his face and every now and then taking deep satisfying droughts. His mind was wonderfully blank and he stumbled gratefully into a thoughtless void.

He resurfaced to Duo rummaging around in the fridge opposite him, pulling out boxes, opening them, sniffing them and dumping them onto the dining table or into the trash. Just as Duo was upending some chunky, greenish goop into the black bag, he looked over his shoulder and gave Heero look of disgust. "God Heero, you look even more like shit than this month old sour cream. All day debriefing?"

"Aa." Heero felt his own grimace surfacing, a mixture of physical soreness and mental exhaustion. Duo was looking at him expectantly and he sagged heavier against the cool stone of the counters. "Johnson was shot in the back during the raid. He's stable at the moment. We spent the day tracing the bullet and everyone's movements."

"That's tough." Duo closed the fridge door with a sucking sound. "Ramirez had that happen to him a couple of months back. Turned out it was a ricochet from his own gun. Must've had the worst luck in the entire Earth sphere."

"Aa. We traced it back to one of Mercado's snipers. It seems we failed in taking all of them out. Une wants logistics on overtime from now on to make sure it doesn't happen again. We're back to Kevlar too."

"Awesome." Duo dumped the contents of a random box onto a plate and broke it up with a fork. "Just imagine going undercover with that. `Oh no, Mr. Bad Guy, I'm not working for Preventers, I just have a naturally square chest.' Gotta ruin it for all us, don't you Heero?"

"Aa." Heero closed his eyes and rubbed them with his fingers, hard enough to bring flashes of purple light under his lids. He was too tired at the moment to deal with Duo's eternal cheerfulness.

"You know what, Heero? I think we'll wait on the food. You look like you really need a good, hot shower." Heero opened his eyes to residual spots across his vision and Duo coming towards him with a big towel. "You remember, right? Down the hall, on the left. Don't change the temp settings; they're perfect, you hear?"

Heero found himself obediently taking the towel and shuffling through the kitchen, through the living room where he picked up his duffel and then into the bathroom. His mind felt wooly and unmanageable at the moment, probably a mixture of beer on an empty stomach and 72 hours without sleep. He dared to spare himself a wry look in the mirror as he turned on the water. His features hung slack and heavy on his face, dragged down with the strain of the past few days. He was grateful when the horrible sight disappeared behind the veil of steam.

The sudden heat of the water on his body felt like throwing up after a bout of nausea. A little painful, some discomfort at first, but leaving the body with such a relief that could not be matched by anything else he could think of at the moment. Preoccupation with assignments and memories slipped off him with the dust and sweat. He leaned bonelessly against the cubicle, giving little attention to the soap and shampoo. He pressed his wet skin against the cool tile and the hot jets of water thumped into his back and ran over his chest and legs like the flush of a dangerous fever. It was indescribable, the coolness of tile against his cheek and the rhythmic, pounding water pressure. He was going to have to get a massage head too, he mused drowsily.

It wasn't to last though, as the water became steadily cooler and his brain was forced to regain some control over his body. He reluctantly switched off the shower and stretched his limp muscles into action again. The humid air of the bathroom settled around him like fog and he shivered despite himself at how quickly the heat of the shower seemed to leave him. He grabbed the towel off the rack and hastily dried himself off, lingering over the more sensitized parts of his skin, the softness of the towel making his nerves jump as it slid over his forearms and face. He considered briefly burying himself in the towel, but reluctantly gave up the idea when the air had become decidedly colder. Heero scowled at the ceiling, to the soft whir of the ventilation system. He stepped out onto the cold floor and unzipped his duffel, searching out his home clothes. The thought of tank tops and shorts and exposed skin, however, raised goosebumps along his arms and legs. Even the large T shirts seemed too cold for once.

As he pulled out his tank top though, he unveiled a swathe of navy flannel and felt a simultaneous spike of relief and irritation. But even through the annoyance of having his privacy invaded, he had to give Duo credit. He never lied, and he had promised Heero a proper sleepover party. Maybe, Heero thought, as he pulled out the top and bottom, maybe Duo's idea actually had some merit in it. He inspected it casually; it slipped on him a little large, but kept the coolness of the air from his skin.

He emerged from the bathroom lightheaded, with the memory of warmth, the feeling of the coldness of Duo's apartment and the indistinct smell of food. There was the low sound of the vid screen too, and he followed it into to the living room. Duo looked up as he entered and gave him an amused smile. "A bit big I think. But you actually look human for once, Heero."

Heero couldn't even manage to attempt a glare and dropped into the space next to Duo on the sofa. Just looking at the food spread out on the coffee table made his stomach twist in hunger and nausea. "You ordered this all tonight?"

"You kidding me?" as Duo snagged a slice of pizza from the plate in front of him. "All from the fridge, my friend. Pizza from last night, Chinese the night before, wings from this afternoon, and of course, freshly popped popcorn. All nuked to perfection. And to wash it down, lots of beer. Go on, dig in."

Duo stuffed nearly half a slice of pizza into his mouth and Heero could only watch in uneasy fascination. This wasn't even remotely the type of food he ate, swimming in grease and additives. And yet, he was starving, having survived on minimal field rations the better part of three days. Seeing as how Duo was quickly starting to make a dent on the spread, he reluctantly appropriated his own stash and began methodically to eat. It wasn't bad, really, predictably oily and in some cases definitely had an aftertaste of being past its prime, but it was hot and steaming and with the beer, it laid solid in his stomach. Before he knew it, he had accumulated a small pile of bones from the wings and polished off a plate and half of chow mein. He was full and slightly queasy and to his right, could make out Duo still happily chomping his way through the rubbery crusts of day old pizza. Just the sight of eating made him push away his plate and collapse back against the couch. The fullness in his gut sent a hazy feeling of lethargy through him, and sinking into the cushions on an overloaded stomach, watching the lights on the ceiling, Heero reflected that he was feeling rather good despite it all. But then there was Duo's hand, waving inches away from his face, fingers long and monstrous. "What?"

"Come on Heero. It's a party; you can't sleep at nine. Besides, I went and rented us a movie. Come on, get your sorry ass up."

The sound of footsteps on the carpet, receding. Heero found he couldn't move, his body having molded to the cushions. The click of a vid disc and the subtle whine of the machine loading. The lights now began flickering against the off white of the ceiling, and the paint was dimming, graying right before him. Something didn't add up in the slow connections of Heero's mind. He shut his eyes and forced himself to sit up, the blood rushing away from his head like birds from a tree, and leaving him feeling off-centered and disoriented. Only when Duo managed to plop back down next to him, did he realize that Duo had dimmed the lights in the apartment. The movie was already in the previews and there was a folded blanket next to him on the sofa. He shivered then, with the thought of the lights off and the chilliness of the apartment all around him. Gone were the small fortifications of alcohol and food and the last vestiges of the hot shower. He opened up the blanket and wrapped it tight around himself. It was made for a winter, stuffed thick with polyester and shielded him perfectly from the cold. In fact, it was amazingly warm and Heero could feel the tension begin to drain out of him again. This time it was a drowsy feeling, the way his limbs began to leaden and slump, how his bones hunched over and his eyes seemed determined to shut.

He felt himself leaning, off balance, but couldn't stop himself. He tipped slowly to his side, shifting against the cushions as his head fell onto the back of the couch. He breathed the faint musty smell of the fabric and unconsciously rubbed against it, as it made a wonderful friction against his skin. His eyes were utterly refusing to open.

His body sagged even more, and Heero fuzzily could just feel the movement of his body twisting a bit more and his head rolling off the back of the couch onto something much sharper and harder. He willed open his eyes a crack and blurrily made out Duo's face close to his own, distorted and moon-like, as if he had been smeared across a window pane. "Duo?"

"Heero?" Duo's voice sounded from so far away. Heero leaned closer to the sound. "Heero," Duo's voice came again, closer but still as if it were filtered by a long distance. But then Duo's voice was so close to him, right against his mouth, warm breath smelling of pizza and Tabasco. And then Duo's mouth was on him, like a drink of water. "How come we've never done that before, Heero?" And another kiss that didn't seem like a kiss, that wound around Heero more like a rope of feathers, like being trapped under the weight of a comforter in winter.

Heero savored the warmth, burrowing into the feeling, and having the blanket pull tighter against him. He was leaning more heavily against Duo, so much that both of them slipped off the back of the couch and onto the sofa cushions. The feeling of sliding up against Duo's chest made Heero shiver, especially the way it rubbed the warm cotton along his face and neck and hands. Heero nuzzled instinctively against the flannel of Duo's pajamas and rested his full weight onto Duo, let his body melt like a puddle. Duo's fingers teased the edge of his hairline at the back of his neck and settled over the small of his back. Heero could foggily make out the rumbles and bangs of the movie and the heavy bar of Duo's arm securing him, but they were quickly fading away into thick silence. Heero slept.


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