I'm cold. So very cold. I never seem to be able to get warm. This thick blanket is wrapped around my body, and a colorful fire of orange, red, and white blazes in front of me, the mahogany wood underneath the flames turning coal black. The heater's on full blast, but warmth eludes me, dancing just out of my reach. My body's shivering, shaking terribly with cold, but that's not what worries me. I scoot closer to the fire, still bundled up in my blanket. The fire is radiating pure warmth and my body sort of feels it, but I don't. The warmth of the flames was only skin-deep. It doesn't seep into my bones, my very soul. I inch ever closer to the mesmerizing flames, longing for the end of the coldness inside me, craving for complete warmth. It is cold, so bitterly cold. My hand slips out of the shelter of the blanket, moving to the fire. I want―need―to be warm. Reason stops my hand. I need my hand to do things such as my job. I'm an artist. I sketched and painted portraits, scenery, buildings, anything that caught my eye. This hand is my livelihood.

However, logic is fighting a losing battle. The passion for art that once burned brightly in my heart is overshadowed by my desire for warmth, my practicality flying out the window along with it. My hand reaches toward the fire, toward the hope of warmth. It touches the fire and I feel nothing. I ease my whole arm into the dancing swirls of red and orange. My brain finally registers the foreign substance. That was when pain sears into my arm, my flesh roasting alive, the heat of agony seeping into me. It's excruciating, but I don't pull my arm out. I can't stop thinking of the heat speeding into me. It is so warm. By now, I don't care about losing my life, about the flames running up my arm, spreading to my torso, my legs. I want, need, the warmth. I lean closer to the fire.

Then, I fall.

I don't know how, but somehow I fall into the flames. Something pulls me in and drops me here. The ground beneath me is pitch black and I don't hear the heater anymore. The only sound that meets my ears was the crackle of fire. I'm not home anymore... However, I'm warm, so it's all good. I glance up to see myself surrounded by a circle of fire with only one opening. I can't bring myself to care. I'm warm.

A figure is at the opening of the fire, flames coating its lanky body. Its short red, not ginger, hair is on fire. Flames dance across its pale skin. Its pure onyx eyes are partially surrounded by fire. It doesn't look as if it is in pain, so I don't really care. I stare, bored, as it approaches slowly and holds out a hand to me to help me up. I shake my head. It doesn't matter to me whether I'm sitting or standing, but I don't feel like moving right now, even with its assistance.

"I'm good."

Not taking no for an answer, it pulls me up. When my wrist is caught in its grip, I see that my arm is ablaze. I look down at my body curiously, noting that it's encased in flames, but it doesn't hurt, so I don't really care. The person begins talking in a deep, projecting voice. I'm still not sure if it's male or female. Gender shouldn't be judged on voices. "Shannie, you truly wished for warmth despite the excruciating pain and the high possibility of death. Now you will forever possess it. Your flames can extend and retract at your will."

So I'm a superhero...?

It answers as if it read my mind. "How you use the flames is your choice." Then, its eyebrow twitches, possibly with annoyance. "Please stop referring to me as 'it'. I am a man."

Yup, it's definitely with annoyance. It got mad. It glares at me, anger crossing its face, its flames flaring up dangerously, as it takes a step toward me. Then, it closes its eyes and I can practically see it counting mentally to ten. Huh, how come I can't read its thoughts? I wonder idly. Its eyebrow twitches again. It gets angry easily... Its eyes shoot open and it scowls at me. "You know I can hear you. I'm a he, not an 'it'," it grits out through clenched teeth.

I shrug, not really caring. Hey, I didn't tell you to read my mind.

Its scowl deepens and the fire surrounding it burns ever so brightly. "Are you mute or something? Why won't you say things out loud?"

Why bother? It can hear me.

I walk around it, deciding to leave. This is boring. I always did prefer my own company to others. Home has to be somewhere. I'll get there eventually. The fire moves to close the opening it had walked through. I mentally shrug and lift my foot. It grabs my shoulder abruptly. "Your flames may not burn you, but mine can."

Aren't you nice?

Its face softens, anger leaving its eyes. The flames' lowering is another telltale sign of it calming down. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will if I have to."

Yes, violence solves everything.

"Dang it! Would you cut the sarcasm and just listen!"

Someone's a little loose with their temper...

"Ugh! Why couldn't I get someone nice and obedient? Of all people to get stuck with, I'm with her," it grouses, pacing back and forward angrily.

Well, I'm not exactly bouncing with joy here.

"My first assignment as a fiammetta is to mentor a fia. In case you don't know, a fia is a novice flame user and a fiammetta is a higher level than a fia. From today on, you're my pupil."

Who died and made you king?

It grinds its pearly whites together. Then, it sighs heavily, rubbing its temples while miraculously holding in its temper. "This is going to be a long mission..."

Why did you approach me in the first place? Choose someone else

It snaps around, but not before I saw its face turn beet red. I tilt my head at it, vaguely curious.

Hey... you okay?

Suddenly flames swoop in to cover it and I black out.

-x-

I wake up in my bed. I wait, not bothering to open my eyes. Sleepiness still plagues me. I don't want to get out of bed... Laziness didn't help. There is no other breathing but mine. I don't sense any other presence besides mine. There is nothing but complete silence. Peace. I crack a smile. Alone at last.

Few days, then weeks, then two months pass by and it doesn't show up. I have gotten used to my flames (the way I got them never really crossed my mind more than once). I don't burn things as much as I did in the beginning. There isn't anything I considered valuable in this apartment, materially and sentimentally, so there isn't a problem with a few burnt items laying around the place. Mentor, my butt. I don't need one. I put a cornflower blue tea kettle on a solid white stove.

"I heard that." It appears, lounging on my window sill. This time, it's flame-free.

Good. Then leave.

It scowls as it sat up.

It didn't change at all.

"I'm your mentor. I demand the respect I deserve."

You're immature. You kidnapped and threatened me, but, sure, I respect you.

"Immature! I'm a half a century older than you!"

Wow... that's the thing you focus on. You are immature.

It glares at me.

I'm getting tired of this... Just leave. Slowly and lazily, I get up and push the person out the window. Its face is a somewhat interesting mixture of shock and rage.

"WHAT THE HE―?!" I shut the window, cutting off its scream. It sounds mad. It should be okay. He isn't human, right? If he isn't okay, then oops. I'll apologize if there is an afterlife, if I remember. Maybe I'd go down and check if he's alright. Then, the tea kettle whistles. Oh. My tea. I move away from the window, walking unhurriedly to the kettle. As I sit down on a comfy couch and sip my steaming hot chocolate tea, I wonder distantly if I forgot something. A wisp of chocolaty goodness drifts toward my nose. Mmm... who cares.

A few hours later, I'm lazing in bed, randomly sketching flowers instead of starting on that painting of that park Mrs. Delaney or Dowdy commissioned me to do when the door slammed open, rattling the assorted things cluttered on the shelves. I don't look up, just kept drawing. It isn't like there's anything to steal. I'm going to color this flower midnight blue. The last one was pale yellow. Then next one will be lavender. After that━

"What the hell is wrong with you?! You push me out a window and you just keep doodling! What if I got seriously hurt!?" Hmm... It sounds really mad. Why does it keep coming here? Is it homeless?

You're still alive, aren't you? So it's no biggie. I'm still drawing, half-heartedly listening to it with one ear. It snatches the sketchpad out of my hands. I look up. It looks a little worse for wear. Its clothes got ripped at some places probably when it caught in the branches of nearby trees as it fell from my five story apartment room.

"Look at people when they're talking to you! And yeah. We are actually dead. The only thing keeping you moving right now is our flames."

Hmm... so when I fell through the fire, I died and the flames enable me the ability to appear alive. Then I don't age anymore since technically I'm dead, so I'm like a ghost with a physical body that doesn't grow or rot. That's why it looks twenty-ish (my age) when it said it's fifty years older than me. I held out my hand to it. Sketchpad...

"You're not getting it back until you learn to respect me! How long are you going to keep up the 'it' thing?!"

Okay. Keep it. I lean toward my bedside drawer and pull out a fresh sketchpad. It drops the sketchpad in its hand and trudges over to the nearest wall. It starts banging its head against it. If there's any blood, you clean it. Can it bleed? I shrug, not thinking much of it, and go back to drawing, accompanied by the thuds of flesh hitting the wall. This one can be pale pink.

-x-

"Are you willing to learn now?" The person sighs, finally deciding to stop hurting my wall. Fortunately, there are no blood stains on it, so it's okay. At least he was quiet until he asked that question. This is exactly why I like being alone.

Working... Now, I move on to drawing comics to amuse myself.

"You're not working! You're just drawing to amuse yourself!"

I smirk. You know me so well. I get up with my sketchpad, pick up my colored pencils, and stroll out the door, heading to the park. The clouds are gray, looking like they might burst at any moment. The breeze feels nice. On days like this, there'll be fewer people at the park. With these conditions, I might as well start on my work. I can sketch out the layout of the park and find the perfect spot. Humming quietly, I stroll to the elevator, efficiently ignoring the one firing off question after question.