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

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

Essence of Life

- 3 -

::I woke up to an empty bed of tangled sheets. The black shirt I had worn for him the night before had not disappeared... in fact, every single button was done up. The cuffs were exactly as I had arranged them. Increasingly anxious, I sniffed the air but detected neither the scent of sex nor of him. I almost cried. I spent most of the day curled up in his bed trying not to admit to the ever-strengthening suspicion that I was indeed losing my mind. It wouldn't have been so bad if not for these intermittent moments of pure, vivid sanity. The dream would have been perfect if I'd never had to wake up.::


<resume>


Late evening seeps into the sheet I've curled under and if I close my eyes I can almost hear Duo whispering to me from the shadows. Waiting for me to call him forth again.

Damn, it hurts.

I curl even tighter around the heartache that slowly, methodically consumes me. How had I let this happen? How could I have given myself so completely to an illusion?

There are "Hows" and there are "Whys" but after they've all been poured into the pain, there is even less left of me. There is no sound for this kind of despair. And there is no possibility of escape. No strength left for denial.

It is time to face what remains of my soul.

I crawl out of bed with no real goal in mind. I think I ought to take a shower. I think I ought to eat something. I think I ought to check my messages.

Heh. My messages. And why would I bother? Quatre only calls on Saturdays, Wufei on Mondays, and Trowa on late Thursday nights. I'm sure it's no coincidence that Trowa places his call at that time, offering his quiet support, attempting to warm me to Quatre's inevitable weekend petitions.

Trowa... of the three of them, he alone has never protested my obsession. He alone has respected my decision, my choice, my need. I find myself staring at the vid phone and thinking I might like to talk to him. But not right now. Later. Later, I will call him and wait for him to scrape the fragile, broken shards of my being back together.

I wander into the bathroom and relieve myself. I'm hovering in front of the dented metal sink, contemplating a shower. Contemplating something that will peel even just a little of this ache away...

And that's when I see it.

What forces my gaze to the age-speckled mirror, I do not know. But when my attention is snagged by a mark on my flesh I no longer doubt my sanity. No, now I only doubt the reality around me.

I stare, barely breathing, at the bruised patch of flesh beneath my Adam's apple.

And I know:

It had been real.

He had been real.

I stare at the contents of the apartment and my attention lingers on the rumpled bed linens. I feel surprisingly calm for having just realized that I hadn't imagined his presence. Duo had been here, had touched me, had taken me. And he had been so careful about it that I don't even feel sore.

I feel... cheated.

I feel... angry.

He'd fucked me, as I'd asked, and then he'd left. Just like that.

He'd left me to the silence and confusion and uncertainty.

Well, not this time.

I run through my routine of the night before. Shower and shave. These simple tasks require an incredible effort on my part to complete. My thoughts keep straying back to him. My emotions keep getting tangled up as their harsh ebb and flow draws my need and my anger into the same churning darkness.

Duo Maxwell, you will come to me tonight and you will listen to what I have to say.

With that thought, I imagine him, here and now. I borrow from my memories of his touch and scent and taste until I feel like my skin is the only thing keeping my emotions from launching into a glowing orbit around this accursed colony.

I am standing -- nude -- in the center of Duo's old apartment with the shirt I had been contemplating wearing for him clenched in my fist when I realize that I am no longer alone. Somehow, I just know.

I can feel the impalpable caress of his gaze on my bare skin from where he stands in my bathroom doorway. I tense even as I feel whole again. I don't hear him cross the room, but after he enjoys a moment of counting the water droplets clinging to the small of my back, he does. I close my eyes as the heat of him radiates against my skin. I remind myself that I am angry with him. And he will understand the full extent of my displeasure before I allow him to disappear again.

"You left," I say tersely.

"Did I?" he replies blandly.

Through teeth that feel fused together, I demand on a growl, "Why?"

He leans closer to me although a small, insulating layer of air still separates us. He inhales along the length of my neck, causing me to shiver. He says, "You weren't ready."

Again with this not being ready business. Fuck that. And, while I'm at it, fuck him, too. In fact... the latter might actually help me get my point across with the least amount of fuss. I give in to my irritation and take control of this conversation. I turn toward him sharply. I study him through narrowed eyes as I crowd his space. He retreats a half-step. I pursue. Again he retraces his path. And again I follow, relenting only when I have managed to back him up against the wall. I brace myself over him with hands flat on either side of his shoulders. The darkness within me rolling and howling, I promise him in a low voice, "I'm ready now."

I do not wait for a reply. I push away from him. I turn. I reach between us and grasp his cock already hard and hot and slick. His breath shudders between my shoulder blades and against the back of my neck as I maneuver him into the cleft of my ass... and take him.

It hurts this time -- burns -- with no prep, but this is what I want. I want to ache, to feel the ghost of his presence inside me for a good twenty-four hours after the fact. Against my ass, the muscles of his pelvis tighten and tremble. I know I've managed to shock him. Surprise him.

I smile.

I lean back against his chest and reach behind me to grasp his hips. For a long moment, I simply enjoy the feel of him. But it's not long before I'm ready for more.

I fuck him. I rock my hips against him while my hands hold him against the wall. My movements are alternately teasing and powerful. He needs to understand that I'm the one in control here. And before I'm finished with him, he will.

I ride him as I like for an indeterminate amount of time. I'm loving the ache, the slide, the infinitesimal pause of deep connection but, unsurprisingly, I want more.

"You enjoying the fact that I'm doing all of your work for you?" I demand, pressing back against him with as much force as I dare.

"Mmm," he replies. The sound is neither an agreement nor protest. It is, however, a sound of pleasure, of smug satisfaction.

"You have a lot to make up for," I remind him.

"How's that?" he inquires mildly as his fingertips graze my arms.

I roll my hips. "I didn't tell you you could stop fucking me last night." It's only one of the reasons I'm angry with him and a minor one at that, but accusing him of leaving me to wake up to a cold morning-after will overexpose the almost-frightening depths of my feelings for him.

"You didn't tell me I couldn't," he reminds me.

I momentarily forget about the true motivations behind my present actions. I had wanted to bring them up at some point during his lesson. I'll get to them later. "Well, I'm telling you now," I growl as I slam myself back against him, "that you are going to fuck me until I tell you to stop."

His soft laughter is dangerous and perfect. His whisper is even better: "As you wish."

In the next instant, my feet leave the ground as his hips surge under me. His arms wrap around my chest and pull me back against him. It takes several deep thrusts before I realize -- rather dimly -- that he's arched his back and hips away from the wall. All his weight is on his shoulders which must be getting badly scraped up by the cheap paneling. I cannot imagine the latent strength of him that allows him to fuck me like this. I don't even try. I keep my hands on his hips and let my head fall back as he fulfills my request.

It's good. It's so very good.

But, eventually, I want more.

"Bed," I tell him, wanting this to last, wanting him to vary his strokes, wanting to be played with yet.

I gasp at the ease with which he leans away from the wall and navigates the both of us -- still joined -- to the bed. My hands leave his hips and I brace myself on the mattress. I waste no time in thrusting back against him, flexing my shoulders and pushing with my arms. His hands -- those incredible hands -- settle against my hips and he begins to guide me. What follows is even more incredible than the night before as he explores me with his cock. I feel as if he's mapping me from the inside out. The pleasure builds until I'm screaming his name. I come. I collapse. I don't even try to stop myself; it's either this or die.


<reset>


Consciousness returns with a rush of heat. I blink, momentarily confused as to why I'm lying on my stomach with my legs spread wide, but then I groan at the feel of a hard, thick shaft delving slowly and deeply into me. That's when it all comes back to me. That's when I know whose hot and humid breath is tickling the nape of my neck.

"Good morning," he whispers, withdrawing at a deliciously slow pace.

I shiver. "Shit," I mutter. "It's..." My voice hitches as he presses back into me. "It's not morning..." I gasp and he slides away again. "...yet, is it?"

He chuckles. "No. It's just after midnight."

"Damn," I purr. I must have been out for a couple of hours. Three at least. Which brings me to my next question... "Why... ahh... why are you still...?" Thankfully, he comprehends my fumbling attempt to ask him why he's still fucking me.

"You asked me not to stop until you told me to," he reminds me in a voice that is pure sin.

"Hm..." I murmur. I like this arrangement. I like it a lot. But now I'm curious. "And just... how long...?"

Again, he understands the intent of my fractured question. "I never stopped, Heero."

Oh, fuck.

Oh, damn.

Oh, hell yes.

I groan. "That's... mmm... not... ah... possible..."

He continues with his slow, deep, even thrusts. "Oh, it's very possible," he assures me. And I just can't resist daring him, "Then show me."

And over the next hour and half, he does just that.


<reset>


Damn it, I must have passed out again. I surmise this because, when I open my eyes, I'm wrapped in a strong embrace and reclining back against a strong chest. I'm very happy to discover that I'm still impaled on him. I turn my face toward his neck and place a gentle kiss on his skin.

"Morning," I murmur and smile when his soft laughter bounces me against his torso.

"Morning," he replies, leaning down to kiss my shoulder.

I lean back against him completely and sigh with contentment. I consider asking him to continue where we'd left off when I'd passed out on him the second time but I wince when I contract my internal muscles around him experimentally.

"In pain?" he inquires sounding, for all the world, like he's worried about me.

"Yeah," I agree happily. It's a good hurt. A very good hurt. I'm going to be feeling this for way more than twenty-four hours. But I think I got my point across. After all, here I am waking up in his arms.

For a long moment, he simply traces the edge of my ear with the tip of his nose. I take this opportunity to gather my wits and as each layer of understanding comes to me my frown only deepens.

"Duo..." I begin hesitantly.

"Yes?"

"What's going on here?" I ask. "What...?" My voice trails off before I can finish my thought: //What are you?// Because one thing's for sure: no normal man could manage to do what he'd done to me last night. For the entire night. I'm so engrossed in absorbing the implications of what I've experienced that the sound of his voice almost startles me.

"Did you know that people in ancient times believed that a man could cheat death if he knew the name of the entity -- be it called angel or demon -- sent to collect his soul?"

I blink at the abrupt change of topic but I decide to go with it. With his cock still inside my ass, it's not like Duo's going anywhere. I'll get my answer eventually. I shake my head.

"It's not true," he continues, "not entirely." His palms smooth over my skin in a leisurely glide. "You see, Heero, in order for the name to have any power, it must be freely given."

"Hm," I say, not knowing what other reply would be appropriate.

He presses a kiss into my hair and inhales my scent with single-minded thoroughness. "You fascinated me from the moment I saw you," he admits. "And it frustrated me to no end that I did not know who you were." His arms tighten briefly around me. "And before I knew it, I had indulged in a human custom and offered you my name."

I stiffen at his odd choice of words. //Human custom.//

Duo laughs quietly. "And I offered it to you of my own free will in an effort to learn yours. But you thwarted even that attempt. In fact, you kept your name from me for so long that it became irrevocable."

"What did?" I hear myself ask a little breathlessly.

"If you had given me your name immediately after I'd offered mine, nothing would have happened. But you chose not to. And that's when it began." Duo collects my hands and interlaces our fingers. "Did you feel it? The connection between us growing stronger with every minute that passed?"

I tremble. I do know precisely what he's talking about, but until now I'd believed I'd been the only one to feel it. "If you felt it too," I venture, "then why did it take you three years to come back?"

"Heero," he drawls in my ear, "I never left. I was simply waiting for your call."

"My call," I echo, hardly daring to believe what I'm hearing...

"I gave you my name and you accepted it, but I had to wait for you to be ready before I could come to you."

"I don't understand," I tell him with a frown.

"I have not lied to you, Heero. I am the god of death. And the power I have given you comes with great responsibility. Until a few days ago, you wouldn't have been strong enough to withstand it."

My fingers tighten around his. "Power..." I whisper. Turning, I dare to meet his gaze. I risk drowning in those beautiful eyes as I ask the question he's waiting for me to utter, "What power is that?"

"Power over your own death," he murmurs back. "Over me."

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