Once upon a time a little boy burned his hand on his grandmother's open-flame stove and caught fire's attention.

Fire didn't think much of it at the time. Plenty of people burned. Some more impressively than others, and many more impressively than the boy. But fire had tasted his flesh, and fire never forgets the taste of something.

When the boy was older, he burned himself again, this time while playing with matches. This time fire got a better look and a better taste of him and decided that, yes, she liked it quite a lot. She remembered when he'd first burned himself, though he had long since forgotten, and she knew this would not be the last time. So she enjoyed the brief time they were together and, while he ran into the kitchen to get the first aid kit and bandage his hand, she drifted away and waited.

From then on, she took every opportunity she could to reach him.

When he helped his father and lit the barbecue, he would inevitably singe his fingers on the match. When he started a fire in the fireplace, the flames would shoot out of the hearth, almost like they were trying to grab him. After Christmas, the second the tree was dry enough, it would catch fire, even if nothing set it off. Several times his parents had to get the wiring to the house checked because of spontaneous electrical fires. His mother had to stop buying regular candles and instead had to make due with the flameless battery-powered kind because every time she'd light one, he would inevitably come running into the room with burns along his arms and hands.

"I didn't even touch it!" he'd cry. "It jumped at me!"

Fire didn't notice his distress; everything was distressed by her. All she knew was that every time she touched him, she grew more and more fascinated. Every time he burned, he grew more and more afraid. By the time he was grown and on his own, he was terrified of fire.

When he went to college, his first roommate -an avid smoker- had to petition to move out. His lit cigarettes would spontaneously catch fire and burn up when the young man obsessed by fire walked by. Lighters would light themselves, as would matches.

"The room is haunted," the roommate claimed, packing his things.

Before a word more could be said, the toaster sparked and smoke rose up out of it. The boy obsessed by fire sighed and watched his now-ex roommate run out of the room.

It wasn't until the boy was grown that fire realized how much she loved him. This was a new feeling for fire; she had never loved anything before. Plenty of people had fallen in love with her, but she had never felt it herself. But she loved the boy who was now a man. Loved him more than anything.

During his third summer at university, his friends took him camping in the mountains. It was the first time in years he had been near such a large open flame, and despite the assurances of his friends that nothing bad could possibly happen, and look, we're bringing an extinguisher just for you, he still remained nervous.

But the camp did not burn up in the night. They did not all die in their sleep when the still-burning coals were covered in ash to preserve their warmth. Their marshmallows didn't even burn when they made smores. Fire knew this was her one opportunity, and she was behaving herself. She waited.

The day after arrival, they left him alone at the camp. Donna and Jason were off making out, and Kevin had gone into town on a beer run. he was the only one left. He didn't mind, he'd brought a book. She stayed quietly smoldering in the coals until they had all gone.

He sat on one of the lawn chairs and started to read.

When she was certain they were alone, Fire made her move. She rose out of the fire pit and, with great effort, took the shape of a woman.

He stared, open-mouthed.

"You- you're-"

Fire smiled and flickered and held out her hand.

He didn't take it. Instead, he turned and ran, stumbling over the camp cooler in his eagerness to get away. She laughed and flew after him, leaving a flaming trail in the air behind her.

He made it only a few feet away before she caught him, wrapping her arms around him in an embrace. His skin blistered and burned where she touched. He dropped to the ground and rolled in the dirt, trying to put her out. She backed away. When he stopped, she dove on him again and grabbed his ankle. She dragged him towards the pit. He clawed on the ground and grabbed wildly at anything he could get his hands on. He tried hitting her with a camp chair, but it went right through her. When he threw one of his friends' boots at her, she just opened her mouth wide and devoured it whole.

When they reached the pit, she grabbed his wrists. He never stopped screaming, not until she'd taken him into the raging bonfire now erupting from the pit. She held him and loved him and basked in the warmth of that love until he was nothing but tasteless ashes.

She sighed, contented, but with the half-hollow edge that came with something completed. She sank quietly back into the coals and left, just as a few of his friends were returning to camp.

"Matt?" they called, treading unknowingly in the ashes of their friend.

Fire allowed herself to cool. The last thing she heard before the coals went cold and dead was the sound of her boy's friends calling his name.

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