UNDERSTANDING COMES TO THOSE WHO WAIT
Steel surprises Silver when he gives him a gift. However, it is not the only way he surprises him.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2013. Word count: 4,150.
Silver opened his eyes and instantly knew he was alone. He sighed and sat up; he knew Steel never slept, but he wished he would at least stay in their bed until he awoke.
//Why didn't you say so?// Steel appeared in their bedroom. He was dressed, for him, casually given that he had yet to put his suit jacket or tie on. He had his hands behind his back and stood near to the wall, but not actually touching it.
Silver frowned. As much as he loved Steel and he did, as much as he was thankful every day that Steel was in his life, that they were joined in a way he was still learning about, the thing that still troubled him more than any other of Steel's abilities, was the fact that unless he consciously blocked Steel from his mind (something he still hadn't really learnt how to do) Steel could read his thoughts. And could do so even when they weren't in the same room or place.
"I'm sorry," Steel said.
The fact he had switched to actual speech rather than his preferred form of telepathy told Silver his lover meant his words. However, the fact he had said them at all rather proved the point.
Silver frowned again and then he decided that being irritated wasn't going to help anyone.
Fully awake now, even though he wished he wasn't, Silver tried to raise the barriers Steel had painstakingly taught him how to do, barriers which would keep Steel from being able to read his mind. Not for the first time he wondered why he bothered, given how poor he was at it and given that if Steel really wanted to, he could still break through. However, even lovers should have some privacy, shouldn't they? Should have some things they kept to themselv-
The look on Steel's face told him he had failed yet again. It was what he referred to as Steel's amused look. Not that any other of their fellow elements, with the possible exception of Sapphire, would believe that Steel could possibly be amused. However, he could - at least in his own way and now he was amused.
Silver sighed and glared at Steel who had the nerve to look slightly more amused. //I did not say anything,// he said, once more switching to telepathy.
"You didn't have to." The one thing Silver wasn't giving up on was trying to persuade Steel to speak normally when they were alone. And then he asked softly, "If I had have said something would you have remained in bed with me until I woke up?"
Steel stared at him for a moment and Silver had no idea what he was thinking. Then Steel shrugged and said, //Does it mean that much to you?//
//Yes.// Silver hoped that by switching to telepathy himself, Steel would realise quite how important it was.
//In that case, I will remain in bed with you until you awaken - unless there is an important reason for me to get up.//
Silver stared at Steel; he was more than a little surprised. //Thank you, Steel,// he said.
Steel merely nodded. For a moment he simply stood and stared at Silver; again Silver had no idea what his lover was thinking. The next moment Steel surprised him when he said, "I have something for you, Silver."
Silver looked at Steel, suddenly a little concerned. Steel's tone had been . . . Well, 'strange' was the only word Silver could think of to describe it; but that wasn't correct. "For me?"
Steel nodded and moved his hands from behind his back and moved away from the wall towards the bed and held out what he was holding. //Here.//
Silver automatically took the item which was loosely wrapped in tissue paper and pulled the paper off. It was a small, no more than two inches by two inches, woodcut; the image was of two men their hands outstretched to one another but between them was what looked like a ravine. It was simple, elegant, beautiful even. He gently ran his fingers over the figures as he stared down at it.
He looked up. //Thank you, Steel,// he said. //It's beautiful. But why?//
Steel glanced away from him for a moment. //I believe it is traditional to give a gift to someone whom you,// he paused, Silver wondered if Steel would for the first time ever say 'love'. //Care for.// It didn't really bother Silver any longer than Steel had never told him he loved him; he had shown him enough for Silver to know.
The very fact they were lovers, the fact that Steel had trusted him with the truth about himself, the fact that Silver knew the full extent of Steel's powers, something that not even Sapphire knew, something that only They knew, showed Silver that Steel loved him. He didn't need to hear the word.
Silver started just a little. He had heard the word through their telepathic link, but it was more than that; he had felt it in his mind as well. He was about to say something else when he saw Steel blink and stiffen slightly and seemed to become more of the man of steel than he normally was. Silver guessed They were communicating with Steel.
A moment later he started again as he 'heard' part of the conversation They were having with Steel. It was two words; that was all. //Now?// and //Yes.// How was that possible? Yes, he knew Steel and he were joined in ways that he couldn't really understand; in ways that none of their kind were ever joined. However, he'd been in Steel's presence many times when They had contacted Steel and he'd never 'heard' anything before.
Something made wary; something was different. He carefully put the woodcut down on the bedside table, got out of bed and put his dressing gown on as he watched Steel. He had closed his eyes and from across the room Silver could feel Steel had done his party trick - but why? Why would Steel need to or want to take himself down? And why so far? It had to be quite some way, given Silver could feel it from across the room.
Suddenly Steel opened his eyes and Silver gasped as he saw they had changed from their usual steely colour to ice. Steel began to move towards him and he took a step backwards and another and another and another until he felt the wall behind him and he couldn't go any further. And then Steel was in front of him and Silver felt the blast of ice hit him, chilling him, burning him even with the coldness. He was scared, not for himself, Steel would never hurt him, but for Steel. Even he could only take himself down so far before he needed help to bring himself back again - and Silver was sure Steel had gone way beyond that point.
The next second the fear changed and he felt afraid for himself. "Forgive me," Steel whispered in a voice that was nothing like his normal voice, a voice that was as cold as the hand which covered Silver's mouth and nose.
Silver opened his eyes and instantly knew he was not alone. He knew something else as well: the person with him was not Steel. Nonetheless, it was his lover's name he whispered. "Steel?"
He felt a cool hand on his forehead and stared up into Sapphire's somewhat reddened eyes. He had never seen her look anything other than perfect. But now - now she looked deeply saddened, her make-up was a little smudged and her hair looked flat. As he stared at her he saw tears in her eyes. "Steel's dead, Silver," she said, her voice strained. "I'm sorry," she added.
He shook his head and wished he hadn't. //No.// He didn't know why he switched to telepathy only that in some way it connected him with Steel. //No.,// he said again. He didn't believe her; he couldn't believe her; he wouldn't believe her. He would know; he was sure he would know if Steel was no longer in existence.
A tear slipped down her cheek and she wiped it away and then took his hand and held it between both of hers. "I'm sorry, Silver, but it's true. Steel is dead."
Although he still refused to believe her, Silver asked, //What happened?//
"I - We don't really know. We - Lead, Jet, Copper and I - were sent to your apartment. We found you on the floor in the bedroom; you were unconscious and for a moment we were afraid you were dead. But you weren't. You -"
"On the floor in the sitting room. He . . . He was frozen, Silver. Completely frozen; ice surrounded him. He . . . Lead tried, he did what he could, he warmed him up. But . . . It was too little, too late. He's dead and we know he tried to kill you. We all believe something must have happened to him; something that made him attack you, as he did and something that forced his body temperature down to the level that killed him. He tried to kill you, Silver," she said again.
Silver was getting tired of hearing those words. //No!//
She smiled a little sadly and lightly touched his nose, he hissed at the touch. Until that moment he hadn't realised how much his nose, lips and chin hurt. "He tried to suffocate you, Silver. Didn't he? He tried to kill you."
Silver shook his head. //No.//
She sighed. "Silver talk to me, talk to me properly."
//It's easier this way; it hurts less. My lips,// he added. For a moment he felt the edge of something or someone touch his mind, but it had gone the instant he felt it. Maybe he hadn't felt it, not really. //Look, Sapphire, if Steel had wanted me dead; I'd be dead - we both know how strong he is. He could have snapped my neck with one hand.// It was mostly true, apart from the fact he knew exactly how strong Steel was - Sapphire only thought she knew.
Once again she gave him a sad smile. "Then why did he put his hand over your mouth and nose?"
Silver stared at her. //I don't know,// he was finally forced to admit.
"I don't want to believe he tried to kill you, Silver. Steel was my partner for so long; we worked well together; I trusted him with my life on more than one occasion. I cared about him deeply - you know that. But . . ." She trailed off and sighed. "I'll miss him."
//He is not dead.//
"Oh, Silver, we found him. We - Look, why don't you go back to sleep. Rest and we'll talk later."
He nodded. //Yes, I'll do that.// He closed his eyes and began to regulate his breathing. After about ten minutes or so, he heard the door open and close; he waited another minute or two before he opened his eyes just enough to see that the chair which Sapphire had been sitting on was empty.
Carefully he sat up and looked around him. He didn't recognise the room he was in, but that wasn't of any importance. What was important was what had happened and why Steel was faking his death - because Silver was quite certain his lover was still alive.
He got off the bed, moved over to the arm chair that was on the other side of the room, sat down and began to catalogue quite how he knew Steel was still alive. He really didn't have much to go on. He was still dressed only in his dressing gown, as he'd been when Steel had put his hand over his mouth and nose and he'd been found on the floor. But Steel had asked him to forgive him, something he couldn't do is Steel was dead. And there had been the snippet of the conversation Steel had had with Them which Silver had been party to.
Steel was alive. He had to be. Or was he just - Silver pushed the 'wishful thinking' thought from his mind. He had to believe; he had to. If only there was something more concrete than four words which he could cling onto.
Silver shifted on the chair as something in his dressing gown pocket pressed into him. He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out the woodcut. He smiled as he stared at it. That proved Steel was alive; Steel had put the woodcut into his pocket to let Silver know he wasn't dead. Now all he had to do was figure out what was going on. Why had Steel made it look as if he had tried to kill him? Why was he faking his own death? How was he able to fake death? Why hadn't They intervened?
Silver's head throbbed and his nose and mouth really did hurt from the ice burn, but he decided those things were a small price to pay for - Well, for whatever his part was in this whole thing. He stood up and stretched and as he did he felt something in his other pocket of his dressing gown. Swiftly he pulled it out. It was another woodcut. This one had the same two men with their hands outstretched towards one another, but this time their fingertips touched. Beneath the figures the word 'WAIT' had been carved.
It was even more evidence, if Silver had needed any, that Steel was not dead and that the whole thing had been some elaborate act, played out by Steel for reasons only he knew. Well, him and They - Silver had to believe that They were involved in some way or other, if only from the words he had heard. So he had that much figured out at least, so where did that leave him? What did he do? Simple: he did as Steel had bid him do: he would wait. No matter how long it took, he would wait for Steel to return to him and explain everything and in the meantime he would - exist.
FOUR MONTHS LATER
"Come and have dinner with me, Silver," Sapphire smiled as she spoke.
Silver shook his head. "Thanks, Sapphire, but I won't. I just want to go home."
She sighed softly and took his hand. "Silver, it's been four months. You -"
"Yes?" Silver asked politely.
She gave him a faint smile and shook her head. "It doesn’t matter." She leant towards him and gently kissed his cheek. "When you're ready, we'll have dinner."
He nodded. "I'd like that, Sapphire." He spoke the truth, because when he had dinner with Sapphire, Steel (even though he didn't eat) would be there as well. Steel would be back with him and he'd know why Steel had done what he had done.
He turned to go but Sapphire caught his arm. //Silver?//
He glanced at her. //Yes?//
//I . . . I miss him too. We all do.//
He gave her a small smile. //I know.// He gently extracted his arm from her hand, took a large step and reappeared in the apartment he and Steel had shared.
"Well, Steel," he said, going into the bedroom and unknotting his tie. "I'm waiting." He dropped his tie onto the bed, opened the drawer of his bedside table and carefully took out the woodcut of the two men touching hands. The other one stood on top of the chest of drawers where he could see it easily from the bed. He gently caressed, as he did every time he took the woodcut out, the two figures before sighing softly and putting it back into the drawer. "When are you coming home to me, Steel?"
He felt what he hadn't felt for four months: Steel's mind! He felt . . . He felt amusement - Not just any amusement but Steel's amusement. He whirled around and stared. There in the doorway of their bedroom stood Steel.
He looked as he had always looked yet nothing like it. He had always been pale, but now he looked beyond merely being pale; he appeared to be exhausted; his eyes never normally talkative were completely silent and flat and empty. He looked - vulnerable, Silver realised.
"Steel? Is it really you?"
The faintest hint of a smile twitched Steel's lips. //What do you think?//
Silver suddenly realised he'd been standing just staring when what he really wanted to do was to go to Steel and put his arms around him and kiss him. He made himself move. Suddenly he was partly afraid he was hallucinating and seeing what he wanted to see. He feared that because even though he'd been certain Steel was still alive, the four months had been very long and there had, he was now prepared to admit, been times when he had found himself believing that maybe, maybe it had just been wishful thinking on his behalf and that Steel had . . . That Steel was . . .
//No, Silver. I wasn't dead. You were correct. I didn't die.//
Silver now stood in front of Steel and for the first time since they had become lovers he found he didn't know how to touch Steel. He didn't know if Steel wanted him to touch - Steel took Silver's hand and linked their fingers together. Silver had to bite his lip to prevent himself from gasping aloud. Steel's normal temperature had always been lower than the rest of his fellow elements and the humans he spent so much time around, that had been one of the many things only Silver knew about Steel, but now it was even lower than that.
//I'm sorry,// Steel said, //I can't make myself warmer at the moment.//
//Why not?// Silver was concerned.
//I'm too exhausted. But don't worry, it will pass. I will return to normal.//
//Can I do anything to help?//
"You're here," Steel said softly, //That helps.// And for what was the first time ever since they had become lovers, it was Steel who put his lips on Silver's and kissed him. The kiss lasted for no more than a second or two. Silver knew he couldn't have stood for it being any longer, given how cold Steel was. His hand was like ice and he knew he'd have to take it away from Steel's very soon, but he didn't want to. He'd put up with the pain for -
Steel carefully let go of his hand. "Hurting you won't help me. I did that once." Steel's tone was flat.
Silver knew what he referred to. //Yes.// Steel frowned and raised an eyebrow. //Before you . . . Before you . . . You said 'forgive me'. I do. I forgive you Steel.//
Steel smiled and the complete emptiness in his eyes just for a moment fled and Silver saw quite how much Steel cared about him - loved him. "Thank you."
"Can you tell me why?" Silver asked slowly; he expected the answer to be no.
However, to his surprise, Steel nodded. //Yes. You have a right to know. But not just now, Silver. Now I need to . . . I need to rest and regain my strength and power.//
FOUR DAYS LATER
It had been a long four days for Silver, in some ways the days had seemed to go by more slowly than those during the four months Steel had been away from him. He had never seen Steel so - mortal came the closest to describing him. He was without power or strength; it all seemed to have been drained from him and Silver had feared, more than once, it would never return.
However, slowly what made Steel Steel began to return, and now as they sat on the sofa Steel said it was time he told Silver what had happened; why he had done what he had done and why he had had to stay away.
"A month before . . . Before I made it look to our fellow elements that I had tried to kill you, They discovered that one of Them was rogue."
Silver stared at Steel in shock. "How is that possible?"
"Even They don't know that. They needed to draw the rogue out and that was where I came in."
"I didn't know They could separate themselves; I thought They were well They," Silver said, frowning at the complexity of what he'd just said.
"Nor did I. As you say, I thought Their essence was all of Them. However, They were able to do so. They contacted me as They normally do and told me of Their plan. It had to appear as if I had died, because without me our world and Them were lesser and vulnerable to an attack. They believed that the rogue would act and They would know for certain, and then we could destroy the rogue and once more our world would be safe."
Silver shivered just a little and took Steel's hand. "Where were you?"
Steel was silent for so long that Silver believed he wasn't going to answer. He was about to ask another question when Steel said quietly, "I was here, but I wasn't. I was with Them in a way I have never been. I was alive and yet I was also in a way dead. I was linked to Them in a way I never wish to be again. They used my power, my strength; They drained me of everything I had and took even more. They kept me at the temperature I was at when Sapphire and the others found me. They showed me things I didn't know I could do - and never wish to do again. I'm sorry, Silver," Steel gripped Silver's hand a little more tightly. "What I am saying makes no sense. All you really need to know is that we won; the rogue has been -"
Steel fell silent for a moment and stared into Silver's eyes before saying, //Destroyed.// Silver felt the word as well as hearing it and gasped as for a fleeting moment, so fleeting he wasn't certain it had happened, he felt what Steel had felt.
//Why did you have to . . . Do what you did to me?//
Steel sighed. //Because I couldn't tell you what I had to do in case - Silver, They can touch your mind if They wish to.//
"What?" Silver was horrified. "How?" He tried to stand up.
Steel simply used a small amount of his tremendous strength to keep Silver next to him. //Because of us,// he said simply. //They feared if you knew what was going to happen the rogue might find out from you. I didn't wish to hurt you, but -//
//You had to.// Silver suddenly felt quite calm. After his initial reaction he realised he was calm about the whole thing. He couldn't change it, he wouldn't change it - at least he wouldn't if it meant giving up Steel because he had no intention of doing that. Knowing that They could pop into his mind whenever They wished to was a small price to pay for loving and having Steel.
//Yes. Yes, Silver, I had to - and I would do it again.//
"The woodcuts, were they your idea?" Silver deliberately switched to actual speech rather than telepathy.
Steel looked a little abashed. "Yes. I hoped you would understand them and somehow know I wasn't dead."
Silver smiled. "I did. I knew you weren't dead, Steel. I knew it even before I found them in my pockets. But weren't you worried that the rogue might tap into my mind and know I knew you weren't dead?"
"No." Steel spoke firmly.
Silver waited for him to elaborate; Steel didn't. "Why not?"
Steel looked at Silver and smiled; he only ever smiled when alone with Silver and even then it was barely a smile. He took Silver's face between his hands and put his lips on Silver's and kissed him. And as he kissed him Silver felt and saw images in his mind; images of how much he loved Steel and, somewhat to his surprise, images of Steel's love for him. And he knew. His love for Steel was so deep, so intense, so real, so beyond rational explanation, that he could never believe in Steel's death.
"Come," Steel said, breaking the kiss, standing up and pulling Silver up with him. //It has been a long and lonely four months.// He linked his fingers with Silver's and led him to their bedroom where both woodcuts now stood on the chest of drawers.
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