Genre: Sapphire and Steel, Man from UNCLE (Foothills)
Word count 1180
Prompt: Sapphire, Matt Tovay, a cook book
gevr, I hope you enjoy your little tale and my thanks, as always, to my beta, sparky955
It wasn’t often that an Element had a day off. Usually they were kept very busy by the ones in charge and it wasn’t like they were human, not really. While they could assumed human form and could enjoy the many pleasures open to people, Sapphire had to admit there were many experiences she didn’t wish to encounter. Pain, heartbreak, and suffering were very low on her list.
Very high upon her list was finding a new cookbook. Lead was fun to cook for and she enjoyed it, but her repertoire was limited. Steel, when he did eat, didn’t seem to pay much attention to the food. His mind always was elsewhere, grappling with an assignment, be it old or new.
She slipped one book from the shelf and read the cover, The Joy of Cooking. It was very thick and seemed very concise. She flipped through the pages and frowned slightly.
“Do you cook a lot?” She glanced at the speaker, a thin, red-haired man, and smiled. His voice had a pronounced Italian accent and there was an openness to his face that she immediately liked.
She shook her head. “Not really. Not as much as I’d like.”
“Despite what it claims, this book, she makes you cry.” He picked a different book, its bright orange cover displaying a collection of dishes. “This one, she is not so precise, but brings no tears.”
Sapphire laughed. “I have no desire to cry over my pots and pans.” She replaced the book and examined the one he held. I have a friend who loves to eat and I thought I should make him something other than bacon and eggs.”
“Si, it is the truest path to a man’s heart.” He offered his hand. “I am Matt, by the way.”
“Hello, Matt, I am Sapphire.” She set the book aside and returned to looking. “Do you cook a lot?”
“Si, I am Chef de cuisine at a local restaurant.” He offered her a business card and Sapphire took it, reading it. “I am here with a friend of mine.”
“Taste. It sounds lovely.”
Matt handed her another book. “This one makes the years go away and you will think yourself a child again.”
Sapphire thought back to what could be equated to a childhood for an Elemental and sighed.
“Now I have made you sad.” He bowed his head and placed a hand over his heart. “Perdonami.”
“There is nothing to forgive, Matt.” Sapphire touched his arm and let his emotions flow to her. He truly was sorry and that made her even more empathetic with him.
“My childhood wasn’t bad, but my… mother, she was not a cook.”
“Aw, capisco. My mother, she tried, but I learned to cook for my own survival. I love her dearly, but she… struggled.” Matt pulled another book. “Does your friend like Mexican food?”
“He likes all food. He mostly enjoys the mechanics of eating.”
That made Matt cock his head. “That… I have never heard it explained so. Perhaps we concentrate on you, then. What do you like to cook?”
“I’ve done so little that I’m not quite sure.” Sapphire stared at the book spines. “I’m not even sure where to start.”
“Perhaps I can a help a little?”
“Don’t you have tasks of your own? Won’t your friend miss you?”
“He is well entertained at the moment. Helping someone see the enjoyment in cooking is my task, Cara.” Matt bent low to her in a bow. “It would be my pleasure.”
An hour later found them sitting at a table surrounded by stacks of books. Not just them, but a crowd had gathered as well, listening to Matt’s advice and observations, even occasionally asking questions. Sapphire didn’t mind in the least. The way people were responding to Matt made it a prime people-watching experience. Based upon their questions, she knew which ones she could ask and still seem, well, human.
Eventually, she ended up with three books, all of them fairly basic, but already firing her imagination. Lead was going to have such fun. She watched the other shoppers, happily scurrying away with their own treasures.
That’s when she realized hers were gone.
“Oh, no,” she whispered. She couldn’t believe someone had taken them. Worse, she couldn’t even remember their names to see if there were additional copies on the shelves. She turned and faced the grinning Matt. “Matt, my books, they have vanished.”
Matt handed her a cloth bag. “Not at all. Think of them as my gift to you. In addition to the ones you picked, I included another one. He is a bit of a bother in real life, but he writes well. Take them with my blessings. Your friend, he is lucky.”
Sapphire took the bag and felt a wave of relief at the now remembered titles. “May I at least buy you a beverage to thank you?”
“Maybe some other time. My friend is just finishing up and is anxious to get home.” Matt checked his watch. “And it’s time for me to start cooking, too. I promised him dinner tonight.”
“Your friend is lucky.”
“I think your friend, too, he is a lucky one.” Matt bowed again and took one of her hands to kiss the back of it softly. “Thank you for an enjoyable afternoon.”
She waved good bye as he headed back into the store and she, the exit, then she heard a voice, “There you are. What have you been up to all afternoon?”
“I have been helping a charming lady in distress. How is your signing hand, Cara?”
“I think something iced would help it.”
The voice sounded so familiar to her that she nearly turned back, but then decided against it. It was time for her to return to her own dimension with her treasures.
She was happily cooking away when Steel entered. She was expecting Lead at any moment, but was nevertheless pleased to see her partner. “Steel, did you have a pleasant afternoon?”
“Not really. What a mess.” He scowled and gestured to the collection of pots, bowls and food items, on the counter of the makeshift kitchen. “What are you doing?”
“I am cooking, Steel, but you should well be aware of that.”
“I don’t understand what you are referring to, Sapphire.”
She checked the heat on a pot, lowered it slightly, then wiped her hands on a towel and walked over to the table. Smiling she handed him a copy of a book.
“A Tasteful Proposition.” He read the cover and looked back at her. “I don’t understand.”
“Turn it over.”
Steel did and stared at a photograph. It was as if he was looking back at himself.
“That is the cookbook’s author. I wondered what you did with yourself on all those lonely afternoons.” She tried to suppress a smile and failed as Steel glared at the image. “Your secret is out.”
Steel permitted himself to assume an air of ennui. “Nonsense, I would never wear my hair that long.”