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Chemical Bonds

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He thinks it should work. His relationship with Jet. She is calm, subdued even, with none of the vain glittering of the other mineral compounds. (He thinks briefly of Sapphire, who at least has some right to be vain). Nor is she untouchably superior like Diamond, though Carbon is her primary progenitor. Jet is dignified and aloof, but still accessible--a contradiction perhaps, but an attractive one.

Steel first notices her at a party. Sapphire has been pestering him to attend one, and he finally agrees to go as her bait. "I thought the word was date," Steel remarks, somewhat irritated by the fuss she makes over how he's dressed.

"If you were my date, that would imply we're lovers, or are going to be." Sapphire brushes a bit of imaginary lint from his jacket collar. "And though you're my partner and I love you, I don't think we'd be compatible as a couple. Do you?"

Her remark doesn't help improve his mood, but the truth is that Steel has also considered the possibility and duly dismissed it. His love for Sapphire is too precious to burden with a physical relationship.  "What are you baiting?" he asks, reaching for his topcoat.

Sapphire smiles, a subtly mischievous smile that shows the best and worst of her personality at the same time. "We'll see."

The party is dull for all the reasons Steel knew it would be, with lots of talking and laughing and silly nonsense. He wishes Sapphire hadn't talked him into coming, but as she is across the room and engaged in laughing conversation with several other Elements, he can't even tell her I told you so. So he stands stiffly at the wall--not in a corner; he's been an Operator too long to fall into that trap--and watches the frivolity without bothering to mask his annoyance.

He notices Jet quickly, because she is the single point of calm in the coruscating throng. Her simple black gown is a relief to look upon.

When she catches him staring she gives a slight smile and comes over to stand beside him.

Steel thinks he should apologize, but she speaks before he can. "You look as comfortable here as I feel. I wouldn't come, but Diamond insisted, and--well, you know how it is with progenitors."

"Not really."

She smiles again, a flash of white against her dark skin. "Yes, I know. Metallic compounds seldom do."

Not sure how to respond, Steel says nothing. He expects Jet to fill the silence with chatter, forcing him to either make conversation or find a new quiet spot to stand, but she seems content to simply stand and watch the mingling crowd.

Apart from a few brief comments, they barely speak at all. By mutual agreement they leave early, together, and as Steel opens the door for her Sapphire (and Silver, the flash bastard) catches his eye.

Not a total waste of an evening, he admits grudgingly to her sly smile, unable to shake the feeling that she planned this and equally unable to explain why.

Jet's flat is a reflection of her personality, simple, unadorned, spare. It is not as Spartanly bare as Steel's, but she seems to have as little tolerance for unnecessary clutter as he does. As a researcher, she seems to bring work home with her, but her desk and the shelves of material are neatly ordered.

She offers him coffee, which he declines. "I don't drink."

Unlike others, even Sapphire, she accepts this with no complaint and fixes a cup for herself. She drinks it black. They sit so closely on the couch that Steel can feel the warmth of her thigh through his trousers, and talk about their very different kinds of work until she puts down her empty cup and kisses him.

Steel seldom indulges in relationships of this sort, because he doesn't see the point of such shameless physicality. He's still not sure he understands the purpose, when there is no creative intention, but as he cups Jet's breasts and listens to her sigh, he acknowledges that there is a certain appeal to the act.

He admires the contrast of their skin in the dim light of the bedroom. She is even darker than Lead, and where they touch Steel looks as pale as Radium. Jet's body is softer than most mineral compounds, but the uniqueness appeals to Steel. He finds it difficult to stop simply touching her, but she doesn't seem to mind--laughing softly when he finds a ticklish spot, sighing when he rouses her.  When his fingers slip between her thighs, she moans, a full, throaty sound that goes straight from his ears to his groin. Touching her is no longer enough, and Jet draws him up to kiss as she spreads her legs.

Steel continues to see Jet when he is around. Being an Operator, and increasingly busy, that isn't as often as it could be. He thinks Jet misses him when he is gone, though she is blessedly circumspect about their arrangement.

The first indication he has that she may want more from their association comes when Lead tells him, in the middle of a mission, that Jet sends her love. Sapphire hides a smile, but the news freezes Steel for a moment until he can force it out of his mind and continue with the task at hand.

When the mission has ended, Steel confronts her. "Do you want to bond with me?" he demands, perhaps a bit more sharply than the situation calls for.

Though his words could be taken as an invitation, his tone is anything but. Jet's calm seems strained, but she meets his abruptness with a level gaze and says, "I've been giving it some thought, yes."

"I haven't."

"I never thought you had." Jet rises from the couch, crosses to Steel but does not touch him. "It's just something I wondered about--whether we could have more than just this occasional meeting. Something more permanent."


Jet sighs and looks weary, though it is Steel who has just returned from assignment. "Because I care about you," she says carefully.

"That's not what you told Lead."


"Do me?" The word in a romantic context is strange; Steel has only ever used it before on Sapphire. With Jet it seems out of place, alien.

With a look Steel can't interpret, Jet reaches up and touches his cheek. Her hand is too warm, and he wonders if his cheek feels correspondingly chilled to her.

"I do." She sounds sad.

Steel's chest tightens. The exhaustion of the past two missions is catching up with him, and he feels brittle. "I can't bond with you," he tells her. He cant explain why. He's not even sure himself.

"I know. You'd better go." Jet lowers her hand.

As he opens the door, Steel glances back at her. She stands where he left her, still and watching him. Neither of them can say a word, and Steel is glad for that, because he doesn't know what words would be appropriate if he could speak.

The next mission comes too quickly. His patience is even shorter than normal, and he has so much trouble focusing on the here and now that he ends up hyperfocusing and missing the larger picture. He makes unforgiveable mistakes and agrees to the premature death of an innocent in return for his life and Sapphire's. She is angry with him for it, too. Guilt and relief gnaw at him with equal force, and he goes home feeling coldly, impotently furious with himself.

He is surprised and not surprised when Sapphire shows up at his flat that night with a bottle of wine. She doesn't press him to drink, but he does anyway. Her voice as she speaks of her plans for their overdue down-time washes over him without sinking in, and he knows this is her way of letting him know she forgives him.

Steel feels warmer than he has in days.