by Jane Davitt

It's been years since Jim looked at Blair and felt that tightening of muscle, that shift of blood as his body prepared itself to pounce, ravish -- or hell, given the assured way Blair approaches sex, roll over, spread.

He's damped down the flames, extinguished the fire -- they're friends now; pure and cool, this emotion, strong, like rushing, racing water.

Friendship has been enough for a long time, and he's learned to be happy about the fog of stink surrounding Blair when he returns from a date, skin dirtied with alien prints and kisses, eyes sleepy, sated, sparkling.

Too risky to push Blair into more than they can handle; too dangerous to risk losing him, the way Carolyn slipped from his grasp. Jim knows he's not easy to live with; knows he's got habits Blair wouldn't appreciate. What a friend will accept, a lover will rage over. He's hurt Blair before, easily, thoughtlessly, and been wounded in return; the damage they could inflict if they...God, no.

Arguments clouded by sex withheld, used as a weapon, a bribe; compromises fuelled by lust and need, dignity lost... Jim doesn't want that.

So he's turned away, doused lust and longing -- and after all, Blair as a friend isn't second best. No way.

Then Blair turns to him one day, laughing, his head tilted back, the line of his throat exposed, and he's close enough that Jim can smell the heat of his skin, see the roughness of lips a summer sun has chapped, hear the sweet thud of each heartbeat.

Not ashes, dead, gray, light as dust.

Just embers, waiting for a breath to rekindle them to life, make them spark and burn.

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