Author: The Manwell
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Formatting Notes: ::narration:: //memories & thoughts//

Essence of Life

- 2 -

::I brewed and drank two full pots of coffee from the small travel-sized coffee maker that gurgled dangerously on the abandoned card table before I decided that Duo's presence and his touch had not been a hallucination. If I looked at each bit of evidence independently, I could convince myself that it had all been a vivid dream generated by my subconscious yearning to see him again. But taken together...::

::Duo Maxwell had been here. Right here. And he had touched me. Spoken to me.::

::I wanted to believe it. So I did.::


<resume>


"Yuy. You look like shit."

Today must be Monday. Wufei always calls me on Mondays. Probably because Quatre calls me on Saturdays and spends the following day ranting at Chang about my ever-accelerating descent into the realm of the unreasonable.

I resist the urge to rub my face briskly. Any attempt I wish to make at restoring the circulation to my cheeks has to wait until I've managed to piss Wufei off enough to get him to hang up on me. It should only take about five minutes. I wonder if I can beat my time from last week.

Hm.

Mission accepted.

"I see you've made the hostage negotiations team at HQ," I drawl. "Your sparkling wit and flawless decorum are wasted on weapons smugglers."

He blinks at me. His expression is nonplussed. "When was the last time you slept?"

I swallow back a laugh and my automatic reply: I haven't slept a whole night through since Duo had vanished. But he doesn't need to know that.

"When was the last time you minded your own business?" I snark.

He snorts. "Once upon a time, I was allowed that luxury."

"Well then let me give that sweet time right back to you. Consider it a belated Christmas present."

"I don't celebrate over-commercialized holidays, Yuy."

"And I don't tolerate pushy assholes trying to dictate my life."

Wufei slams his fist down on the surface of the desk, rattling his vid phone. "Damn it to hell!" he swears. I'm somewhat fascinated by the stray wisp of hair that's tumbled loose of his ponytail and the slight flush across his cheekbones. "Between you and Winner I am this close to throttling someone! The only thing that saves either of you is that I can't decide who should have the honor of being first!"

I'm a little impressed by this small rant. I hear myself say, "Preventer agents know all the best places to hide dismembered bodies."

He makes a brief, disgusted sound in the back of his throat. "You humor leaves much to be desired," he informs me.

"Duo never had a problem with it."

"That's because he never heard it!" Wufei forces himself to take a calming breath. "You need help, Yuy. Let him go."

I narrow my eyes at him, channeling my hostility. I go with the first thing that comes to mind. I start to sing, "This is the song that never ends..."

"Yuy..."

"Yes, it goes on and on my friends..."

"Yuy!"

"Some people started singing it not knowing what it was--"

"Heero!!"

"-- and they'll just keep on singing it forever just because..."

The inarticulate growl is the only warning I have before the vid screen goes blank. I halt my rendition of the hideous tune and smirk.

Mission completed.


<reset>


Quatre had once told me in a moment of startled honesty that he'd always thought of me as a "glass half empty" kind of guy.

"Why do you say that?" I'd asked. At the time, I'd considered myself just as optimistic as any one else.

He'd glanced away to survey what little he could see of the room behind me through the vid connection. "You know as well as I do that the chances of Duo coming back to his old apartment are--"

"Pretty damn good," I'd finished for him. I hadn't wanted to hear it. I'd just given up on tracking him electronically. I'd visited every location on Earth and the colonies where I'd known he'd been. That is, I'd gone back to every place -- every ghost of a moment -- I'd shared with him. I'd stood on the docks where he'd shot me. I'd slunk through abandoned halls to a once-detention cell where I'd nearly shot him back. And I'd visited all the moments before, in between, and afterward.

Not one of those places had looked as I'd remembered them. Not one of those places had delivered Duo to me. Only silence. This apartment had been my last chance. I'd sworn not to let it go.

Quatre hadn't understood that. He still doesn't. He just doesn't realize that I can't leave. That if I were to walk away now, there would be nothing left for me. Nothing at all.

I'm scared.

God, I'm scared and I wish to hell Duo were here so I could have something strong and real and damn-near indestructible to hold on to.

I stare at the soft skin of my inner forearm. I remember that touch. I remember the sound of his voice. It's all so clear. Terrifyingly clear. And even though I've spent the last thirty-six hours trying to come to a conclusion about that touch, when it all boils down, all I've got left is a need to hear his voice again, feel his skin again, become lost in the smell of him again.

I need this.

I need to lose my mind to him.

I shiver at how calm I feel in my contemplation.

Insanity. It's something I never thought I'd court. But if it brings Duo to me, then there's not much choice for me, is there?


<reset>


I watch the sunset on yet another day without him. Somehow, the approaching darkness always allows me to feel his presence easier and I revel in it. All day I had been wondering if he is, in fact, a ghost, but something in me warns against hastily labeling what I have experienced.

A touch. I had experienced his touch, nothing more, nothing less.

But I want more. I want so very, very much more.

And I'm finally ready to do whatever it takes to have it.

I think -- fleetingly -- of what Quatre would say if he had the power to know my thoughts and intentions. Part of me is disappointed that I won't be able to shock and annoy him with the levels of my impracticality. But mostly, I feel the way I feel about everything else that touches my life but has nothing to do with Duo: I don't fucking care.

I had spent all afternoon planning this: what I would wear, where it would happen, how I should begin...

I start with a shower. I don't want Duo to see me with greasy, tangled hair and a five-day-old beard, now do I?

I don't remember the last time I performed this grooming ritual in its entirety and I feel myself getting impatient with the amount of time it takes. I shower. I shave. I towel my hair dry because I don't own a blow-drier... and if I did, I doubt I'd waste another ten minutes standing in front of this corroded mirror styling my hair.

I don't bother pulling on any underwear or jeans. I don't own the former and I have none clean of the latter. I throw on a black, button-down shirt. This one reminds me of the garments Duo used to wear during the war. It has a high collar like the old priest's shirt, but no notch through which to show the white mock turtleneck he used to wear. I carefully roll up the sleeves. I secure every button down the front. I smooth out the sheets on the bed. I lie down and draw in a deep breath.

I had decided after my third mini-pot of burnt and bitter coffee that I will attempt to recreate my experiment. I will build his essence once again. I will call him to me as I had the night before. And when he comes to me, I will not let him startle me. I will not break my concentration. I will not let him go until I have had him.

I close my eyes.

I begin.

Once again, I am on the beach. My leg is throbbing where the broken edges of bone grate against each other but I do not reach for it. I feel the wind against my abraded skin. Tiny grains of sand cling to my elbows and knees. The sun is almost painfully bright and I could grow to both love and hate the incessant twinkle of its reflection off of the bay.

I hear the sound of his voice as he advises me to find alternate methods of killing myself since jumping from the fiftieth story of a high-security military facility doesn't seem to do the job. I listen at the soft sounds of his steps as he approaches. I think I can hear every grain of sand that brushes against his black boots.

And then I see his smile. That barely-there, tentative smile as he reaches for my right arm. His lips form the word "trust." His breath delivers the word "friend." I barely hear him. I am draped carefully over his strong shoulders. I am shivering at the feel of his sun-kissed hair against my inner arm. I am both dying and being reborn with every brush of his fingertips over my wrist.

Duo...

I do not twitch -- I do not even open my eyes when I feel a second set of fingertips ghosting over my left wrist.

Duo...

Those phantom touches travel up to my elbows where they dance across my skin at the borderline of my rolled-up cuffs.

Duo...

"You're really here," I whisper, awed and trembling.

"I'm really here," he confirms and the sound of his voice draws forth a shuddering gasp from me. He does not ask me what I want or why I have called him. My intentions are clear in the absence of the majority of my clothing. But just in case he has any doubts, I very slowly and very deliberately pull my legs apart.

Do I imagine his gasp of surprise?

I shiver as he leans closer, his lips barely tickling the edge of my ear. "Heero..." he breathes and I hear the reverence in his voice. He wants this. He wants me. If his voice had not told me so, the heat of his lips would have. I moan as they drift up along my jaw. I tilt my head back. I need this. I need whatever he will give me.

"More," I beg quietly. My blood seems incapable of following a simple route through my veins and arteries. It buzzes and churns through my body, both speeding my breathing and slowing the flow of time around us.

His fingertips abandon the delicate flesh of my inner arms and trace twin, tiny circles across the backs of my knees. His thumbs smooth over the tops of my thighs. He applies no pressure, but I bend my knees, opening myself completely to him. I had been serious when I'd told him I wanted more.

His hands glide slowly -- so slowly, agonizingly slowly -- toward the inside of my thighs. His palms are hot and rough as they travel up... up...

I'm panting hotly with the anticipation.

"Duo..."

"Any special requests?" he purrs.

"I..." My breath hitches as he carefully brushes his thumbs along the crease where my thighs become groin.

"You...?"

"Ah... hah... I..." Those delicious hands slip under my thighs, urging my legs up and even further apart. "I'm-wearing-too-many-clothes," I gasp out in a barely intelligible rush.

His fingertips brush against the curve of my ass. "Surprisingly," he replies slowly, "I agree with you."

Those incredible hands retrace their previous path before removing their touch entirely. Without such all-consuming distraction, I am suddenly aware of the gentle texture of the cotton shirt against my half-hard cock. I moan. And then I moan again as I feel the slight breeze from his hands against my hot skin. Somehow, he manages to slip the lowest button free without grazing my flesh. I want to complain but he's just so fucking good. I manage a breathy cry instead.

It takes a tiny eternity for him to release each of the small, black buttons holding the fabric over my quivering abdomen and aching sternum.

"Leave... leave the top one," I request, loving the way the cotton slides teasingly over my nipples.

"As you wish."

Oh, I love the way he breathes that promise to me.

"You like that, huh? The sound of my voice in your ear, the weight of my... promise?"

I shiver. I nod. "...Yes..." I shift further down the bed, my hips seeking a different kind of weight altogether.

He leans over me and for a moment I'm transfixed by the slide of bare skin against my inner thighs. It takes me several seconds of marveling at the strength of the body pressing against me before I realize I'm feeling Duo's slender hips settling between my legs. My entire body liquefies in a hot, instantaneous rush. I somehow manage to arc toward him, yelling wordlessly at the slow rock of his pelvis that brings his cock into contact with mine.

Oh, fuck.

Oh, yes.

"Duo!"

"Mmm..." he replies before delivering a tiny lick to the underside of my jaw. I can't describe the sound I make as his sharp teeth scrape briefly in a shy nip.

This is it. Something inside me snaps and I hear myself direct, "Kiss me and then fuck me. Now."

His lips brush against mine as he hums his compliance. The vibration is subtle and maddening. I offer my mouth to him, welcoming his touch. Needing it more than I need his cock. He caresses my lips until they are pliant and thrumming. He gently nibbles first the upper then its counterpart. So gently, he draws my lower lip out and down until I'm pouting for him.

Duo...

The tip of his tongue, so warm and teasing, glides along the sensitive inner lining of my lips. My mouth trembles open on a needy sound but he takes his time. So much time. Ages of time. He teasingly licks the corners of my mouth, bathing in every humid pant of breath. Fuck, it's like he has all the time in the world. It's like he could play with me for a decade without stopping. The thought winds me even tighter.

"What did you think just now?" he whispers, no doubt feeling the increased firmness of my cock against him.

"Hmm... you," I tell him.

"Me... what?" he insists affectionately.

"You... toying with me, teasing me, taking me," I rasp.

"Is that all you want?" he asks in a slightly teasing tone.

I smile at the soft laughter in his voice. "You are all I've ever wanted."

And then he's filling my mouth, hot and thick and wet.

Duo...

The taste of him... My mind shatters as it attempts to catalog his flavor. I can only roll his tongue with my own, suck it between my lips, memorize his unique blend of ingredients. I move beneath him, coaxing his mouth to move into mine over and over again. This is what I want. This is what I want him to do with me. This is why I called him here. This is why I can't let go of him.

Another millennia passes before he releases me. My mouth is almost numb from the flood of sensation it has received. Dazed, I can only mouth his name over and over again as he draws the patch of skin beneath my Adam's apple between his lips and sucks hard. I'm mindless in my need. I rub against him wantonly.

"Fuck me already, damn it!" I demand.

His mouth releases the patch of now-raw skin on my throat. He moves over me -- down me -- like a waterfall. I think I feel one of his hard nipples against the length of my cock as he slides over my body. I toss my head back, my hands fisting in the sheets. He captures my erection between the palm of his hand and his hard chest. His breath pools in my navel as he rocks slowly over me.

"You're not ready for me, Heero."

I frown, trying to make sense of his words. I'm all but screaming for him at this point and he thinks I'm not ready? With one of his shoulders beneath my thigh and one hand pushing my other leg open, I'm too lost to verbally object. And then he grabs the right half of my ass and squeezes deliberately. The pad of this thumb settles against my entrance and I shout his name as the movements of his body rock me against it. The pressure is so sweet...

"I don't care," I mutter. "Want you..."

He doesn't respond right away. Maddeningly, he pulls back. I sense him crouching between my splayed thighs, memorizing me.

"Duo..."

"If you want me," he replies, carefully articulating every word, "then watch me."

Oh fuck, he has no idea how much I want to. But... "Can I?" I ask, hesitating.

"If you want me," he insists.

And I do -- more than anything -- so I open my eyes. The room overflows with shadows. I can barely discern the slightly paler form kneeling over me.

"There," Duo purrs. "Beautiful." I shiver, my eyes nearly rolling back into my head as he easily arranges my legs to accommodate his hips. I can feel him, slick and hot, drawing small, massaging circles against my entrance with the head of his cock. I encourage him with a groan and lean into his hands.

He opens me gently, methodically, coaxing and teasing. He continues those tiny circles, sliding deeper into me with every rotation. And just when I've felt the head slip completely inside me, he withdraws and begins again. How long this continues I don't know. He drills carefully into me and withdraws perhaps half a dozen times... maybe more. I'm losing my mind, panting, begging, reaching for him.

"You're not watching me, Heero."

I lick my lips and force myself to look -- really look -- at him. And what I see...

Oh, fuck.

Oh, fuck, he's just how I remember plus three years that had to have been pure hell to have gotten him in such good physical condition. Once I'd been stronger than him, but now I highly doubt that's the case. His dark eyes regard me with a mixture of humor and affection. Those eyes... that tiny smile... Holy shit, I'm on the edge right now just from looking...

"Watch," he whispers and I force my gaze downward just in time to see the muscles in his abdomen contract as he surges so steadily forward. Into me. Completely into me.

I scream.

I come.

I hear my own voice claiming him: "Mine!"

"Yours," he echoes, still hard and hot and deep inside me.

I claw at consciousness, not ready to relinquish the exquisite perfection of him. "More," I demand, voice hoarse. I want to feel the burn and slide. I want to be rocked in the wake of his strength. I want to ride his desire. I want to have him and have him and have him until I'm raw from the friction and my voice is gone.

His voice comes to me as if from a great distance yet it echoes in my ears, intimate and warm, "As you wish."

And then he begins to move. I cling to him until I pass out beneath him. Perhaps I cling to him thereafter. I don't remember.

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