Sapphire looked at her reflection in the mirror as she brushed her hair. She'd been so distracted lately that it wasn't amusing any longer. She didn't know what was wrong with her. A certain amount of distraction was allowed due to their human condition, but she was finding herself given to daydreams and that would not do. If They found out, she might face retraining or even decommission as an active agent. That would never do.

Sighing, she put down the brush and removed her robe. Sliding in between the sheets was a tactile delight she always anticipated, that first little shiver as the cool sheets brushed against her skin.

Sleep didn't elude her for long this evening. It had been a difficult assignment. They had not been as successful as she'd have liked. Certainly they assured the time continuum would continue as needed, but at the cost of a young woman. It didn't seem entirely fair.

She was walking through unfamiliar streets, glancing at her reflection in the polished surface of the windows as she passed them. She turned a corner and there was a woman, shouting at a young boy. He was no more six or seven.

"What has gotten into you? Answer me!" There was a slow shake of the boy's head. "Steel, I demand you tell me why you did that!"

"Time is evil and must be contained."

The woman grabbed the child by the scruff of his neck and Sapphire winced. It certainly would explain why Steel didn't like anyone touching his neck. She had to suppose these images were true, a result of her connection with her partner.

"Carbon, what's wrong?" The voice boomed and Sapphire watched Steel cringe.

"Your son is refusing to explain how the parlor clock ended up in pieces all over the carpet."

"Answer your mother, boy."

"No." Steel drew himself up as only he could and stared at the man.

His answer was reward with a sharp cuff. "No, what?"

"No, sir." Iron's hand clasp into a fist and pulled back to strike. Sapphire sat bolt upright in bed.


"Sapphire?" Steel's voice was thick and she realized she'd woken him up. He seemed to be sleeping more and more these days. In another moment, she found herself in his embrace and she settled down against him. "You're trembling? What's wrong?"

"What were your parents like?"

"My parents? I don't understand."

"What were they like?" she repeated, afraid of the answer. "Were they kind?"

"I don't know that any child thinks their parents are overly kind. They saw that I was fed, clothed and properly trained to assume my duties."

"Did they love you?"

"I never asked." He stroked her hair. "But I am assuming they must have, in their own way."

"Do you have any brothers and sisters?" She took his arm, finding the strength in it both familiar and comforting.


"Are they agents?"

"No, they were considered too pure to be effective. Only I was deemed to have the proper combination." He looked down at her and shook his head, so reminiscent of that little boy. "What is wrong, Sapphire?"

"I had a nightmare…" She pulled away from him, sitting up in the bed. "I saw your parents beating you. You were so small, but so defiant."

"Sapphire, my father was Iron; I, no matter my age, knew better than to be defiant to him. But rest assured, he never beat me… never did either of my parents raise a hand against me."

"I want to believe you."

"Sapphire, I was conceived to be an Element. Even Iron knew better than to engage Them and Their plans for me."

She settled back down against him and let her finger drift across his skin. "Steel, have you ever thought what our children might be like?"

"That is impossibility, Sapphire. We are not compatible and They would never permit such a thing."

"Pure conjecture on my part, indulge me." Sapphire let her hand drift downward.

"I would imagine that our daughters would be beautiful and intelligent, like their mother, and our sons would be stubborn and defiant, like their father."

"I thought you said you weren't defiant."

"Against my father." He kissed her head. "Why do you even ponder such things?"

"I'm pregnant."

Steel sat bolt upright in his bed and looked around. He was alone. He was always alone…


Yes, Steel?

Are you awake?

I am.

Is something wrong, Sapphire?

Other than not feeling very well, I am fine

What's wrong?

I'm sure it's nothing. After all, we don't get sick. Are you all right?

Steel's thoughts were racing now and he looked down at his hands as they clenched the sheet. Ihavenoidea.