MY SHIELD AND MY SHELTER
Something is seriously wrong with Steel and only Silver can help.
An established relationship story.
Written: April 2012. Word count: 4,417.
Author's Note: // either side of words indicate when the characters are talking to one another telepathically.
Steel woke up and instantly knew something was wrong. The fact that he woke up, given he didn't sleep, told him that. He lay for a moment or two listening to the steady sound of Silver breathing beside him.
Before Silver and he had become lovers and set up home together, Steel had never bothered going to bed. However, Silver liked to have him by his side and somewhere along the line Steel had found himself doing things to please Silver, at times putting Silver's wishes before his own. But it worked both ways; Silver did things to please Steel, such as abandoning his over-fondness for antique items and not over-filling their home with bright, shiny objects. There were still more bright, shiny objects than Steel would have liked, but at least there were nowhere near as many as there had been in Silver's home.
He lay for another moment of two wondering why he had slept and wondering why he felt . . . He hadn't got a word for what he felt; he just knew something was wrong. Finally, he pushed the covers back on his side of the bed and without waking Silver got out of bed and left the bedroom.
By the time Silver put his hand on his shoulder, Steel knew that it wasn't just that something was wrong; it was that something was seriously wrong.
"You're warm," Silver said, and Steel could hear the surprise in his voice.
He turned around to look at Silver and nodded. //Yes,// he said unnecessarily.
Silver frowned. "Are you about to go on assignment?" Steel shook his head. "Then why are you so warm?" Silver took Steel's hand and made a noise of surprise. //Steel,// he said, switching to telepathy, which was always Steel's preferred method of communication, //what's wrong? Why are you so warm?//
'So warm' was, for anyone else, an exaggeration, Steel's body temperature was only slightly higher than was considered 'normal' for humans and for his fellow elements, but for Steel, who out of habit maintained his body temperature at that level unless he was alone or with Silver, the difference was considerable. //I do not know,// Steel replied, as Silver put his hand on his forehead and frowned.
"You must be sick," he said, and then added, "can you get sick?" He sounded dubious.
Steel shrugged. //I never have been and as far as I know, no I cannot. But I woke up, Silver.//
Silver stared. "But you don't -"
//Sleep. Yes, I am aware of that fact, Silver.// Steel's tone was clipped and he regretted it immediately; it wasn't Silver's fault. He took Silver's hand and noticed that as he did his own hand was shaking slightly. "Silver, will you let me," he paused, how did you ask the most important person in your life, the person you would give your own life for, the person you cared about, the person you made sure stayed out of the firing line when on assignment, if you could deliberately try to hurt them? Yes, Silver, like all of their kind, healed quickly, almost instantly, but the idea of consciously trying to crush Silver's hand, which he should be able to do without any effort, really didn't appeal to him.
Instead he let go of Silver's hand and turned towards a lamp. He hesitated just for a second; suddenly he wasn't certain he wanted to know. But he knew he had to know. He picked the lamp up, pulled the bulb and shade off and put both hands on the base and twisted one hand to the left and the other to the right. Nothing happened. He swallowed, tightened his grip and tried again; still nothing happened.
He was about to try for a third time when Silver took the lamp from him and held out his hand. //Do it,// he said softly. //Squeeze my hand.//
Steel looked into Silver's eyes that were the same colour as his name, sighed and took Silver's hand and tried to crush all the bones in it. As he tightened his grip, putting ever bit of his strength behind the attempt, he saw Silver wince slightly; he felt a couple of small bones break under his grip, but it wasn't how it should be. He should have crushed Silver's hand totally without exerting any effort at all; just as the lamp base should have now be twisted. He let his grip loosen and ran his fingers gently over Silver's hand, helping to speed up the automatic healing. He felt the bones reknit under his fingers.
"Take yourself down," Silver ordered, putting his other hand on Steel's shoulder. Steel stared into Silver's eyes and tried; nothing happened; he tried again; still nothing. The next second Silver dragged him into the kitchen and opened the freezer. //Try again.// Once more it was a clear order.
Steel sighed; he already knew that even having a heat-sink wouldn't help him. He'd never needed one; he just used one so as to keep his fellow elements from knowing the truth about him and his powers. Nonetheless, to oblige Silver, he put his hand on the cold side and concentrated; the weight of Silver's hand which still rested on his shoulder was reassuring and oddly comforting. As he pressed both hands now against the icy inside and forced his mind to think of ice and nothing else, he felt his temperature slip down very slightly; down to the normal temperature for a human and then down a little more. However, even after five minutes of trying, he couldn't even drop down to what was a normal temperature for him, let alone to the level that would freeze anything and everything he touched.
It was Silver who finally closed the lid of the freezer, took Steel's hand and led him back into the sitting room. He sat down and tried to pull Steel down next to him, but Steel shook his hand off and moved across the room. //Touch my mind.//
Steel whirled around. //No!// He spat the word through their link. //No, Silver. No more attempts; I cannot do it.// "Something is wrong," he said softly, his tone flat, as he came back to Silver, sat down slowly and took Silver's hand. "And I do not know what it is. Maybe I am -"
"No!" Silver said. "No. Steel. They must know what's wrong. You have to contact Them. Steel? Steel?" Steel felt Silver shake him, but didn't respond as his mind was bombarded by Them.
He wasn't sure how long he had just sat frozen whilst Silver kept on repeating his name and shaking him. But finally They let go of his mind and he fell slightly against Silver. "They do," he said, noticing his voice was slightly shaky.
"And?" Silver demanded, grabbing his hands and holding them.
Steel looked at Silver as he tried to find a way to answer the question; tired to find a way to tell Silver what he had to tell him.
"Steel!" True to his name, Silver was impatient; the quicksilver, flighty nature used to annoy Steel very much, even after they had become lovers, he still found himself mildly irritated by Silver's incapability of waiting for anything. Now he knew he'd miss it; it wasn't the only thing he'd miss. However, now wasn't the time to catalogue all the things he would miss when Silver and he parted and went their separate ways; maybe they would be sent on assignment together from time to time, but somehow Steel doubted They would allow that.
They had made it quite clear what Steel had to do; and it was a case of having to do it. No matter how much he didn't want to do it, no matter how much pain he knew it would cause Silver and himself, he had to do it. He was needed; he was important; he had to remain as he was; he had to continue to be the man of Steel; he was Their most powerful weapon; the only one who could stand against the Transient beings should they choose to invade. He may not like what he had to do; he may not want to do it; but he would. He had no choice. You do, the thought flashed through his mind, but he ignored it; he didn't have a choice.
//Steel?// The softness of Silver's voice through the link sent a flash of pain through him. //Tell me."
Steel gently shook his hands free from Silver's grip and instead he took Silver's hands in his, looked into the silver eyes he would never get to look so deeply into again, swallowed hard and keeping his voice low and level said, "It is you."
Silver stared at him, his look one of confusion and horror. "Me? But what have I done?"
Again Steel sought for the words to tell the man he had never said the word to, because he wasn't even certain he was capable of the feeling, but the man he loved, what They had told him. "I was never meant to," he paused and closed his eyes. Words were not what he was; emotions were, should be, foreign to him. But he had to try to find them, for Silver's sake, if not his. "I was never meant to be involved with someone," he finally managed; aware as he spoke the words they were completely inadequate.
At some level it almost amused Steel that Silver who preferred speaking to telepathy had resorted to it. He forced himself to continue to look at Silver, to see the anguish in the beautiful eyes, to know with each word he was doing what he'd failed to do physically, crush Silver. "It diminishes me," he said finally.
Silver just stared at him and shook his head. //How?//
"I . . . Silver, I cannot explain."
"Can't or won't?"
"Because They won't let you?" Silver tried to pull his hands from Steel. "Is that it, Steel, I'm not good enough, worthy enough, I'm a mere technician, I couldnít possibly understand. Is that it?"
Even though his strength was nothing like it should be, Steel still managed to hold Silver firmly. "No," he said softly. "It isn't that. I truly cannot explain, Silver. I don't have the words."
"Then show me."
Steel shook his head. "I can't. Silver, at the moment, I am incapable of doing anything I should be able to do. I - Silver!" he shouted, as Silver stiffened and cried out with agony, wrenching his hands from Steel's grip and putting them on his head.
//Stop it!// Steel ordered. //You're hurting him. Stop it!// But They didn't stop; all he could do was to sit and hold Silver upright as he was given the information he had sought. He knew They had left Silver's mind when Silver cried out once more and slumped forward into his arms, half sobbing, half breathing as if he'd been running; he was shaking furiously.
Steel put his arms around Silver and held him, pulling him into a tight embrace, knowing it would be he last time he would be allowed to hold Silver. He said nothing, because there was nothing he could say; he didn't have the words. He doubted the words existed.
Finally, Silver stopped shaking, stopped sobbing and his breathing returned to normal. Steel went on holding him until Silver sat up and stared at him. "How do you cope?" he asked his voice hoarse. "How, Steel, do you stand Them invading your mind like that? How, Steel?"
Steel sighed softly. "It is not as painful for me, at least not normally. It doesn't hurt me, Silver. I'm sorry They did that; I'm sorry They hurt you."
"I had to know, didn't I?" Silver sounded rueful. "Just as I always have to know. I'm not sure I understand; I don't think it's possible for anyone to understand, but at least I know."
"Does knowing help?"
Silver shrugged. //Not really. No.// Then he swallowed and Steel saw his eyes become overly-bright with what he knew to be tears. //You're going to leave me, aren't you?//
Steel nodded. "Yes," he whispered. "I don't want to, Silver. I have to."
"Do you? Do you really?"
Steel nodded again. //Yes.//
//Can't we -//
Steel shook his head. //No. I cannot be who I am not, Silver. I have to end this. I have to leave. I'm -" He stopped abruptly.
"Too important." Silver spoke the words as if he was telling Steel what the weather was like. It was a statement of fact; not a question. It contained no hint of censor; no anger; it was what it was.
However, Steel couldn't answer. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I am sorry, Silver. If there was any other way . . ."
Silver stared at him and for the first time ever, Steel couldn't read his gaze, he had no idea what Silver was thinking, he just knew the steady stare discomforted him. "Silver?"
But Silver just went on staring at him. Then to Steel's surprise, he moved swiftly, put one hand behind Steel's head, pulled him towards him and kissed him - hard. Steel gasped as Silver's mouth attacked his with a brutality Silver had never before shown. He felt Silver's teeth on his bottom lip, felt his lip split under the attack and tried to pull away. However, Silver held on and went on kissing Steel until suddenly the kiss changed and became gentle, probing, questing and heavy with pain. Steel no longer fought the kiss; instead he kissed Silver back, filing away the intensity, the beauty he would never have again.
It was Silver who finally ended the kiss and pushed Steel away from him, holding him at arm's length whilst he once again appraised Steel. Then he stood up swiftly and moved away from Steel. He reached the door before he stopped walking. He turned around, looked once more at Steel and sent his final words telepathically. //I love you, Steel. I always will. Just remember that.// And then he had gone.
THREE MONTHS LATER
Steel stood in the middle of the room and looked around him, probing with his mind in an attempt to find the breach that had allowed Time to penetrate and begin to unravel the truth, replacing it instead with a series of lies, dangerous, insidious lies that sucked people in and ultimately made them destroy others.
He let his body temperature slip down several more degrees as he continued to probe and to search until he found what he was looking for. After that it was simple, a matter of mere minutes and the breach had been closed and an angry Time had been foiled and sent back. Once again they had won. But it was only a matter of time before Time attacked again; it always was, no matter what Steel did, no matter what any of them did, it was never enough to stop Time forever. It was starting to feel terribly futile to Steel.
With a sigh, he took a step forward and reappeared in his own apartment. Instantly he knew he wasn't alone. He turned around to find Silver leaning against the wall, apparently waiting for him. //What are you doing here?// he asked, forcing the simultaneous jolts of pain and pleasure that raced through him as he stared at his former lover.
Silver didn't reply; he just stared at Steel. His look was the same as the way he'd looked at Steel the last time he'd seen him. //What if I told you there was another way?//
Steel shook his head and frowned. "What?"
Silver forced a smile. "Come on, Steel, I thought you could recall all conversations? I thought you remembered everything. Isn't that part of your power?" Steel nodded slowly. "Well, then. Recall the last words you said to me." Steel blinked and to his surprise before he could speak Silver went on. "You said ' I am sorry, Silver. If there was any other way . . .' That's what you said, isn't it?"
Steel nodded. "Yes."
"Did you mean it?"
For a fraction of a second Steel paused, then nodded. "Yes. Yes, Silver. I did."
Silver nodded. "In that case I repeat, 'what if I told you there was another way'?"
Steel just continued to stare at Silver. He heard the words; as words he understood them; but in meaning he had no idea what Silver meant. "I don't -"
"I know. They never told you. But they showed me."
//Showed you what?//
//Another way. A way whereby we can be together and you can still be you.//
Steel stared. "How?" he whispered. He didn't allow himself to hope that Silver spoke the truth; didn't dare to believe; why would They have showed Silver and yet not told him?
//Because it had to be he who made the decision.//
Steel jumped. //That's a very annoying habit you have.//
//We know.// Was it his imagination or did They sound almost amused? He glanced at Silver who now seemed frozen to the spot, staring at Steel, but it was clear to Steel that Silver couldn't see him. //What have you done to him?// he demanded, his fists clenching as if by their own accord.
//Nothing. He is unhurt and will remain thus. We have just temporarily frozen time.//
He felt the amused shrug emanate from Them. //He loves you.// Now they sounded curious and very amused.
//And you? Do you love him?//
//Donít you know?//
//Oh, yes, we know. We merely wondered if you knew?//
Steel sighed, clenched his fists a little tighter and said, //Does it matter?//
//To us? No. To him? Yes.//
//I don't understand.//
//Then tell me. And tell me what you meant when you said 'it had to be he who made the decision.// There was silence; Steel glanced at Silver and saw he still stood, static; clearly time was still temporarily frozen. He was about to ask again, when images hit his mind. He gasped and it was only his sheer physical and mental strength that allowed him to remain on his feet as the painful, searing images assaulted his mind. Then they'd gone. //No!// he cried. //No. I will not allow it.//
//It is not your decision to make.//
//Yes, it is.//
//No, it isn't.//
//He wonít survive.//
//Might isn't good enough.//
//His love for you is strong; stronger than we have ever seen or felt. His chances are good; very good.//
//But they aren't guaranteed?//
//Nothing is guaranteed. You should know that.//
//Then I will not let him do it.//
//How will you stop him?// How indeed? There was only one way. But even as he thought it, They came back to him. //By lying to him? We thought you were better than that, Steel. Sapphire once called your honesty 'pure'; was she incorrect?//
Steel closed his eyes. //Does he know the risks?//
//Of course. We showed him.//
//Let him go. Unfreeze time. Let me talk to him.//
//Very well. But this has to be decided today. One way or the other, Steel. We need all of you and one way or another we will have it.//
Steel felt time return to normal and turned to look at Silver who stood blinking at him, a slightly puzzled look on his face. "Are you all right?"
Silver nodded. "I think so. What happened?"
Steel shook his head. "They visited me."
"Oh. Do They do that a lot?"
Steel shrugged. "Sometimes."
Silver took a step towards Steel and took his hand; Steel let him hold it. "You're cold," Silver smiled and put his other hand on Steel's cheek. "You're cold," he repeated.
Against his will Steel smiled back. "Yes."
"Will I know when they visit you after we . . . ?"
Steel frowned. "I do not know. I don't believe so. Silver -"
"Will they visit me?" Silver's voice became slightly high.
Now Steel smiled. "Again I do not know. They seem to have developed a sense of what I can only describe as 'humour' since we last talked. They might find it fun to visit you."
Silver looked dubious. "Fun?" Steel nodded. "Will it hurt if they do?"
Steel sighed. Why couldn't Silver ask him a question he actually knew that answer to. Then he realised he did. "No. It won't, because it won't happen." He put the hand Silver wasn't holding on Silver's shoulder.
"You just said you didn't know if it would happen."
//That's not what I meant. What I meant, Silver, is that I will not permit you to -//
"It's not your decision. It's mine. And I've made it. You can't stop me, Steel."
Steel shook his head. //I can and I will. I will not allow -//
"Stop talking about what you'll allow me to do. You need me, Steel. You. Need. Me."
Steel frowned. "I don't."
Silver smiled. "Oh, yes, Steel, you do. They showed me. You need, what did they call it? Ah, yes, a shield and a shelter. I didn't really understand, but They showed me what would happen, what will happen otherwise."
//That's only if we return to the relationship we had.//
"Will you stop switching from speech to telepathy, Steel, it's very annoying. Choose one and stick to it!" Steel raised an eyebrow. "I'm sorry, but I'm not like you. My mind doesn't work at the speed yours does or in the way yours does. I find - But that's not the point. The point is, Steel, you need a shield or whatever it is, whether we return to our relationship or not."
"What do you mean?"
Silver sighed. "Once you crossed that line, once you . . . Didn't They show you?"
"Apparently not." Steel frowned and reached out with his mind. He found he wasn't altogether surprised when They refused to answer him.
"Come here," Silver pulled Steel's hand and dragged him towards the sofa. Steel let himself be pulled across the room, despite how easy it would have been to prevent it. "You're back to normal, right?" Silver asked, sitting down and puling Steel down with him. Steel nodded. "Then read my mind; it'll be quicker."
Steel paused for a moment before looking directly into Silver's eyes. Then despite not needing to do so, he put his fingers to Silver's temple, he didn't fail to notice the shiver of pleasure that passed through Silver as he touched him, he also gripped the hand that was joined with Silver's more tightly and he concentrated. As he slipped into Silver's mind, he almost expected Them to intervene and stop him. But They did not.
He saw, he felt what They had showed Silver. He felt the pain Silver would have felt when They had bombarded his mind with the information and he felt the anger rise within him. It was only when he heard and saw in Silver's mind the gasp Silver made that he swiftly loosened the grip he had on Silver's hand. //I'm sorry.// He sent the message into Silver's mind. And read Silver's 'it's all right'.
Finally the pictures faded and he took his hand from Silver's temple and instead cupped Silver's face. "I'm sorry They hurt you," he said.
Silver shrugged. "It wasn't too bad."
Despite everything Steel laughed. "You should know better to lie to the person who has just been inside your mind," he said.
Silver smiled for a moment. Then it faded and he looked away from Steel's gaze. //I am sorry,// he said.
Silver shrugged. //Seducing you. Making you . . . Care for me. If I hadn't, then you wouldn't need to me. Wouldn't need to be sheltered. What does that mean exactly, Steel? I mean I know what They told me, what They showed me, but I'm not sure I understand exactly what I would be.//
//It's not easy to put into words, I'm not even completely certain myself. They are not always the clearest communicators and I'm used to dealing with them. We would be joined in a way that is not usual, a way that is not known. We would be two, but also one. And you're no less confused, are you?//
Silver smiled. "No." Then he said again, "I am sorry, Steel."
Steel shrugged and stared at Silver. Finally he said softly, "I'm not. At least for my part I'm not. For you -"
"I'm not sorry for me. I just meant if I hadn't -"
"Made me fall in love with you?" Steel spoke softly and tried not to smile at the look that appeared on Silver's face.
"You love me?"
Steel shrugged again. "As far as I understand the concept, as far as I am able to understand it, then yes, Silver. I love you." And even though it was unlike him to initiate any form of intimacy, he leant forward and kissed Silver's lips.
Silver put his arms around Steel, deepening the kiss, opening Steel's mouth with his and letting his tongue slip inside. "Well," he said, finally breaking the kiss and staring at Steel, every emotion he felt clear on his face. "When do we start?"
//Whenever you wish.//
"Steel? Did you . . . Did They . . ."
Steel nodded. //Yes. I did. They did.//
Silver glanced around him. "I really hope They won't make a habit of this," he said.
Steel smiled a little.
//Are you ready?//
//Yes,// Silver said.
//Wait.// Steel sent the single word to Them and to Silver.
//Did you know this would happen, before Silver and I . . ."
//No. We did not, Steel. Had we known, we would have prevented the relationship. We would prefer you to be as you were; we would prefer you to act alone; to not need Silver. We do not like it, it changes things; we do not like change. But we have no choice. We need you. You need Silver, therefore this must happen. We did tell you that you could not prevent it.//
//Why didn't you tell me the full story earlier?// His answer was a mental shrug and he knew that was all he was going to get from Them.
//Now are you ready?//
Steel sighed. //Yes.// He took Silver's hand in his and turned to face his lover; his shield; his shelter. //We are ready.//
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