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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.