HANDLED BY THE FORCES
Steel and Silver get sent on an assignment; one that is almost too much for Steel to handle. This leads to Steel having to take a surprising decision, one he says he had to do to save the situation - but what happens when the assignment is over?
A first time story.
Written: January 2013. Word count: 3,510.
"Explain to me again why you and not Sapphire are coming with me," Steel said staring and frowning at Silver.
Silver shrugged. "Because I'm male and she's female," he said. Steel glared at him. "Didn't They explain the assignment to you?"
Steel nodded. "Of course They did. However, I still do not see what the problem is."
Silver sighed. "Steel, for a entire community to suddenly become male only and for those males to form relationships with one another and for that community to grow at the rate it's growing isn't right."
"But why not?"
"Because humans aren't like that."
Steel stared at him. "But we do not have a problem with same sex liaisons."
Silver sighed. "No, we don't. And nor do some, a lot of, humans. But they can't all form them."
Silver rolled his eyes. Not for the first time he was stunned by Steel's apparent lack of basic understanding and his basic knowledge. For someone as intelligent as he was, for someone who spent as much time amongst humans as Steel did, he knew remarkably little about them. "Because they want the human race to continue," he said, suddenly wondering quite how much he was going to have to explain to Steel.
Steel frowned for a moment. Then said quietly, "Oh," Silver breathed a sigh of relief as from the look on Steel's face he did understand; he did know what Silver was saying; Silver wasn't going to have to start trying to explain human biology to him. Then Steel said slowly, "So this community is irregular?"
Silver nodded. "Yes. And I guess They think Time is involved in some way, which is why we're being sent. And I'm with you," he added quickly, "because no females are allowed in the new community."
Steel nodded again. "I wonder why They are so certain Time is involved?" he said quietly, so quietly that Silver thought he might be talking to himself.
Nonetheless he answered. "Didn't They tell you?"
Steel shook his head then said in a somewhat irritated tone, "They often do not tell us, they just tell us They think Time is involved."
Steel and Silver stood outside a door, Silver had the key and was about to unlock the door when he glanced at Steel, he seemed oddly distant - even for Steel. If Silver didn't know better he'd have said that Steel was nervous, on edge, but this was Steel. And yet Steel was looking around him and more than once his eyes seemed to become even greyer and more steel-like as if he was puzzled by something. Also, to Silver's surprise, he felt an icy chill emanate from Steel; of course he knew about what their fellow elements called Steel's 'party trick', he'd seen it more than once, but why did Steel feel cold now? How could that even be?
He was certain that whatever was troubling Steel, because as he stared at Steel he became quite certain something was troubling him, had nothing to do with the fact they were surrounded by men all of whom had formed liaisons with one another. As Steel had said that didn't bother the elements, at least not most of them and Silver knew it didn't bother Steel. But something clearly was troubling Steel and Steel being troubled made Silver very worried indeed.
However, they couldn't stand outside of their suite all day; they'd already managed to cause more than one eyebrow to rise when Steel had replied to the man who had given them the suite. In fact had it not been for Silver's hasty intervention, telling the man that Steel was a professor and a little eccentric, he believed they wouldn't be standing here at all. They would have been told politely - or not so politely - to leave the community.
Decision made he was about to put the key into the lock when Steel's hand clamped down on his wrist. "Wait!" Silver gasped; it was as clear an order as Silver had ever heard and the steeliness of Steel's tone when he'd said the single word seemed to echo around the hallway they stood in. But it wasn't the steeliness of Steel's tone that made Silver gasp; it was firstly the coldness of Steel's hand on his wrist and secondly the force with which he'd gripped, was still gripping, Silver's wrist. Silver was quite certain his wrist now had several broken bones in it.
Again he was surprised; shocked even. Of course he knew of Steel's strength; he'd seen him tie lift cables and other such displays of the great steely strength Steel had, but he'd never felt it and it wasn't the first time Steel had touched him. He was aware he gasped as the pain hit him. A split second later the grip that held him not only became warmer, but also looser as Steel held his wrist between both of his hands and gently rubbed over the broken bones as Silver felt them begin to heal.
"I am sorry," Steel said, looking down at Silver's wrist rather than at Silver. "I -" He stopped speaking abruptly and slowly raised his head to look at Silver. Silver met the steady, steely stare, but said nothing. He didn't know what to say, what to ask. "Something is wrong," Steel said slowly as he stared at Silver.
The iciness that had emanated from Steel as they'd stood outside the door had now vanished - but Silver wasn't under any illusion that he'd imagined it, just as he hadn't imagined how cold Steel's hand had been when he'd crushed his wrist. Now Silver had to stop himself from asking if Steel meant with himself or if he was referring to their assignment. "That's why we're here," he settled for saying.
Steel stared at him and nodded tersely. He suddenly seemed to be aware he was still holding Silver's hand and let go of it and held out his hand. "Give me the key." Again the order was quite clear. Silver handed it over and watched Steel turn it over his hand before putting it in the lock; he hesitated for a second and Silver was quite certain he saw Steel compose himself and he definitely felt the temperature drop again.
Steel turned the key in the lock and Silver heard the door unlock as Steel took the key from the lock and pushed the door open and took a step inside and then another and then a third. Silver followed him, closing the door behind him. He heard Steel gasp and turned to see Steel swaying on the spot as he held his arms slightly out from his body.
Acting purely on instinct, Silver reached for Steel, but stopped as Steel barked, "Don't touch me!" His voice was so harsh that Silver obeyed without thought and watched as Steel steadied himself; he stopped swaying and brought his arms back down to his sides. "Stay here," he said firmly and began to walk across the room.
However, that was one order Silver wasn't going to obey and he followed Steel. Although Steel turned and glared at him he didn't say anything else. Silver watched as Steel stopped just in front a door that led further into the suite. He heard what he would have said with anyone else was a soft gasp, but as it was Steel he rejected it. As Steel closed his eyes and raised his hands, Silver took a step closer to Steel and now it was he who had to stop himself from gasping aloud at the intense icy chill that emanated from Steel.
Even as he watched he saw Steel's skin turn even paler, saw his hair stiffen and even saw what he thought was ice crystals appearing on Steel's jacket. He saw Steel take a deep breath and let it out Silver watched the mist come out of Steel's mouth; watched him take another one and finally watched as Steel put his hands on the door.
Steel's eyes shot open as his palms made contact and this time there was no mistaking it - Steel did gasp. He let his hands rest on the door for no more than a second before he pulled them off and took two steps backwards, staggering slightly. Once more Silver reached for him and this time Steel didn't stop him. As Silver caught Steel's arm and hand the coldness of his skin nearly burnt Silver. He had to bite his lip to keep himself from crying out and had to force himself not to let go as the ice bit into him.
After a moment or two and just when he thought he'd have to let go of Steel, he felt the ice begin to diminish and watched as Steel's hair softened again. Finally Steel stood upright; he still looked far too pale, even for him, and although he wasn't as cold as he had been, he was still far from a normal temperature. //Thank you,// he said.
Silver sighed silently. He had wondered how long it would be before Steel switched to his preferred method of communicating. Silver didn't really care for telepathic communication, apart from anything else it was difficult to get any actual tone to the words, so it was easy to misunderstand something; it was lacking in emotion - which is why he thought Steel preferred the method. //Did you find anything out?//
Steel nodded. //They were correct. Time is involved. We need to work quickly. It is growing stronger all the time.//
//What are you going to do?// Silver deliberately chose 'you' rather than 'we' as he doubted his skills would be of any great use.
//I have to contact Them,// Steel replied, //I need Lead. I cannot do this without him.//
//May I ask you something?//
Steel looked at him. //Yes, I can do my 'party trick' without the need of a heat-sink. Yes, I can bring myself back up if I do not take myself down too far. Yes, my body temperature is much lower than is normal for humans and our fellow elements. Is there anything else you wish to know?//
Actually, there was a great deal Silver wanted to know, but this was not the time or the place. He shook his head and at the same time said, //No one else knows, do they? Not even Sapphire?//
Steel shrugged. //They know, but other than that, no. It is of no importance. Now I must contact Them.//
Silver watched as once more Steel stared into the distance. He watched as a slight frown appeared on Steel's face; he heard again the half gasp; he watched Steel's skin grow paler; he felt the air around them cool rapidly as Steel once more let his temperature plummet; he watched Steel close his eyes; the watched the frown deepen.
Suddenly Steel opened his eyes shook his head and took several steps away from the door at the back of the room and once more Silver watched him concentrate until he slumped slightly, taking a few steps back to rest against the wall. Silver was more than a little concerned as he saw a faint crack appear in the wall and heard a noise come from it. "What's the matter?" he asked, walking towards Steel.
//I cannot reach Them. It,// he gestured towards the closed door, //is too strong. We really do not have much time.//
Silver stared at him. "Do you really need Lead to insulate you?"
Steel nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. Even I have my limits and the level to which I need to take myself down to in order to freeze It is far below the level I can bring myself back from."
"Can I do anything to help?" Silver asked the question more out of good manners than for any other reason. To his surprise he saw Steel glance away from him and saw a faint hint of colour touch his cheeks. //Steel?//
//I need additional telepathic powers to contact Them. There is one way, but . . .//
Steel still wasn't looking at him. When he replied to Silver's surprise he chose to speak. "It would involve me joining with you mentally." Silver just stared at him and waited. "I would be able to read your mind, but, well, I can do that anyway."
"You can?" Silver exclaimed.
Steel nodded. "I don't. But I can."
"Is there anything else you can do?" Steel just smiled a little. "Oh," Silver said. "Well, go ahead."
Steel once again switched to telepathy. //It is not that simple. In order to join with you mentally, in order to add your telepathic abilities to mine I would need to -"
Silver gasped as an image, projected he assumed by Steel, appeared in his mind; an image of him in Steel's arms with Steel kissing him. //Is that the only way?// he demanded.
Steel looked at him, holding his gaze in the steady way Steel seemed to do everything. And yet Silver thought for a second or two, no more, he saw a hint of compassion in the steady gaze. "Yes," Steel said softly and to Silver's ears the tone was faintly apologetic. "I am afraid so," he went on confirming Silver's thoughts. "I need that level of connection in order to harness your abilities. I am sorry," he said.
Silver frowned. "So you lied." He spoke flatly.
Steel sighed and shook his head. //No. But sometimes it is not possible for me to lock all thoughts out, especially when the other person is projecting them so . . . So clearly and is not using any kind of barrier to prevent someone from reading his mind.//
//I didn't know I had to! How was I to know you could -// Silver stopped speaking abruptly. This was pointless; all they were doing was wasting time. So Steel knew how he felt about him; so what? Did it really matter? No, at least not when they were faced with saving lives. "Do it." He kept his tone free from emotion as he stared into the steel grey eyes.
"Are you sure?"
He nodded. He wasn't; but there was no other way. //Yes.//
Steel hesitated for a moment then said in a far softer tone than Silver had ever heard him use. "I can remove the memory afterwards."
Steel nodded. "Yes. If you wish me to."
Silver wondered just what the true level of Steel's powers was, and he wondered if he would ever know. "Well?" he said, "what are you waiting for?"
The next second he felt Steel's arms around him and Steel's mouth on his - and it was nothing like he'd ever dared to imagine it might be. It wasn't just that in his fantasies Steel's temperature was normal whereas the lips that kissed his were far colder than any that had kissed Silver before, as was Steel's skin where it touched Silver's, and as Steel pulled Silver nearer to him Silver felt himself shiver just a little. Also, the power and strength with which Steel was holding him, supporting him, was far greater than Silver had imagined. But it was more than that it was - he couldn't even begin to explain it; he just knew.
//This is unexpected.// Silver started as he heard the voices in his mind - voices he assumed to be Them.
//It was necessary.// That he knew was Steel's. //I needed the additional telepathic power to be able to contact you. Whatever is here is far stronger than I have ever felt. I need Lead and you had better send Zinc or Mercury with him, for the same reason as you sent Silver with me.//
//Can you succeed?//
//Don't I always?// Silver would have sworn he heard the faintest of touches of humour in Steel's voice.
//Whenever you need Lead it is more dangerous. And we -//
//Need me. Yes, I know. I am confident.//
//Aren't you always?//
Silver blinked; who'd have known it, not only did Steel seem to have a hint of a sense of humour and even other emotions; They did too. As he stood still involved in the kiss, he wished he could take pleasure in getting what he had wanted almost from the moment he had met Steel, but how could he? It wasn't real, was it?
//Do not forget I can read your thoughts.//
Silver started slightly as Steel spoke directly to him. //Can They?//
//Lead and Zinc have been assigned.//
For a moment Silver felt Steel gentle the kiss and the embrace until he finally somewhat slowly Silver felt, took his mouth from Silver's and gazed at him. Silver saw something flash through the steely gaze that he couldn't identify, but then it had gone and Steel was once again - Steel.
"Do you wish me to remove the memory?"
Silver stared. "I don't know," he said. "Can I decide later?"
Steel nodded. "I should remove all traces of what you know about me," he said quietly. "But I," he paused for a moment and said softly, "trust you not to share with others what you know."
Before Silver could say anything, there was a knock on the door. Steel strode across to it, opened it and Lead and Zinc came inside. Silver was a little amused to see that whilst Lead seemed relaxed and smiling and big just as he always was, Zinc seemed a little uneasy.
HALF AN HOUR LATER
Steel had done his thing; Lead had done his; Silver had stood with Zinc and just waited for Steel to succeed and for things to return to normal - for the irregularities to be put right and for the human world to once more return to how it had been.
As he waited, wishing he could be doing something other than just waiting, he idly wondered what the human race would think if they knew quite how often the elements 'dropped by' to save them; appeared in their world to best Time.
TWO MONTHS LATER
Silver sat in his home, his mind going as it so often went to thought of Steel and all kinds of what ifs. In the end he had decided not to allow Steel to wipe the memory of them kissing from his mind; he felt it wasn't necessary for Steel to do so. After all he knew why Steel had kissed him; he knew it hadn't been real; he knew it couldn't be real. How could it be? Why would Steel even -
//If it is going to be real, I will have to teach you how to block certain things at least from your mind.//
Silver started and jumped to his feet as Steel's voice appeared in his mind. "How?" he demanded, suddenly realising and repeating the question telepathically. //How?// Then he added quickly, //Where are you?//
//Outside your door. May I come in?//
//Most people knock,// Silver muttered, hurrying towards his front door and opening it. Steel shrugged. "Well are you going to come in?"
He led Steel into the room he'd been in before Steel had arrived and suddenly stopped dead, causing Steel to bump into him. Silver vaguely noticed that Steel's temperature was at the lower level, but pushed it to one side as something hit him. "What did you mean by 'if it is going to be real?" he demanded. "And," he went on, without giving Steel time to reply, "how did you know what I was thinking? And -" he broke off; he was sure there was a third question but he suddenly couldn't remember what it was.
Steel stared at him. "It seems," he said, his voice low, "that joining with you in order to utilise your telepathic powers and enable me to contact Them, means your mind is even more open to me that it usually is. I no longer have to be in the same place as you are to 'hear' what you are thinking."
"Is that usual?"
Steel glanced away for a moment, before looking back at Silver. //I do not know,// he said. //I have not . . . // He trailed off and looked back at Silver.
"Oh," Silver said and then suddenly realised the implication of what Steel had said. "So you know what I'm thinking all the time, do you?"
Steel shook his head. "Fortunately, I am able to block it for the most part. And I will get used to it, but I really will have to teach you about blocking your thoughts." Silver stared at him. //I presume you do wish it to be real?// Steel actually sounded a little amused.
Silver swallowed hard and then nodded. "Yes," he managed his voice somewhat shaky. "Of course I do. But what about -"
Steel's lips on his silenced not only his words but for a moment he stopped thinking anything and just lost himself in the kiss and the way Steel was holding him.
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