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Old Flames

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Alexander thought himself sensible but knew himself, also, suggestible. He saw himself as loyal and dutiful, enjoying the basic sense of not letting people down, because why would you? But then there was Ben, and Ben wanted, putting him on the spot. Allowing him space, but always reminding Alexander that he wanted a reply and he wanted resolution to this, somehow.

He'd fallen into his double-act with David and felt no dissatisfaction with it, but then he would think on how much it seemed that Ben wanted him, really wanted him. He had this with David and he'd had girlfriends previously, of course, but this very active sort of a want was something he hadn't experienced before; he wasn't sure what to make of it, didn't know what to think. One had to be subtle, surely? Seduce somebody, romantically or professionally, with gentle possibility. And then there was Ben, stating his desires in no uncertain terms - stating his desire, and what he expected Alexander to do.

"I want us to work together," he said. "It has to be you."

It was almost a novelty, seeing somebody who knew exactly what they wanted and was unafraid to pursue it. It would have been something quite interesting to watch, had he himself not been the target of this. Sometimes it felt flattering and sometimes it felt ridiculous and all those times he would ask Ben: Why?

Ben would smile and look away, that one flaw in his plan. This was drive and instinct and if Alexander didn't understand, then he wasn't quite sure how to explain it. "I just think we'd be good together."

Alexander liked to think himself as being of sound mind, but couldn't resist falling for Ben's words. Maybe it would be okay to work together...? Perhaps they could be good together, but who would ever know if they didn't try? David would probably understand. Probably. It was just idle curiosity, just some material Ben had he wanted Alexander to look at, just this and that and it's nothing serious, so...? (Ben would fix him with those eyes and that look and even if he didn't say as much, this certainly felt serious. This sort of professional love-affair.)

('Affair' seemed the right word for it.)

Ben was determined and indeterminable, an unknown quantity. They worked together. They'd failed to adequately confront David on the matter, but they worked together. Just as Alexander had never felt himself so desired, so too had he never felt quite so inspired before, either. Ben's determination was infectious; whatever he said, Alexander wanted to believe. Every aim and every dream - they could do it, couldn't they? Of course they could. Of course they would. Ben said sometimes, at the height of his excitement, that they'd set the world on fire. Alexander wasn't really sure if this was a practical aim they could hope to achieve, but when Ben said it, he dearly wanted to believe it.

It was like fire, perhaps, in the way that it consumed and burnt everything. Alexander blamed himself as much as anybody; they were determined, but too dependent. Being so attached to the idea of being able to do it all together, the thought of anything separate to that became a stark and pointed fear. At some point, the ideal of the double-act had become everything, and Alexander didn't know how to extricate himself from it. Sometimes, he didn't know even if he wanted to. Sometimes he thought, maybe things are fine like this? Other times he would think, they definitely aren't. Perhaps it would be like this forever and maybe that was fine, or maybe it wasn't, and perhaps he had to be determined as well. Display the same emotions Ben had shown him, back when they'd first started. Thoughts of the world became distant, because everything was now about them and them alone; there was barely room to strike a match, and their world had become so very small.


Alexander stood by the window in Richard's office, observing the city over his cup of tea. Richard himself was occupied with paperwork at his desk, allowing Alexander the luxury of silence between them. Alexander took full advantage, staring out across the skyline and rolling thoughts across his mind; sometimes he would even speak, and in any other situation (or with any other person) the thought might have been a non-sequitur, but Alexander trusted Richard's intelligence for them both to remain on the same page.

A thought would stick, sometimes. Some line spoken long ago, some unrelated incident sparking off association in his mind and bringing that back to the fore, just for now. "... Ben said we could set the world alight, once."

Richard maintained the silence for a few moments more, signing off one page before shuffling it in with the rest. "Really?" He patted the sheets together, placing them down neatly. "Why would you want to do that?"


"Seems like it'd be pretty uncomfortable." He shrugged then leant forward, leaning his chin against his fingers. "You know what they say about playing with metaphors."

Alexander smiled, not quite feeling it, wondering what reaction he'd realistically expected.

He thought afterwards that, perhaps, Richard had been right - he had a habit of that, Alexander had noticed. If he were to torture it further, he'd sometimes think that he'd been burnt - but then, he carried no scar. It had hurt, at the time, but so too had he learnt, and wasn't that important too? Everything was a learning experience. Richard had no such lofty and untenable aims, and that also was something that Alexander admired. Richard knew what they could do, what they were capable of, what they could hope to achieve. He was grounded and he was happy, and Alexander simply liked that. Richard had always moved at his own pace and here, their paths had met. Reaching the same speed, aiming for the same destination, just for now. Richard kept his eyes on many different paths, but that didn't matter. Alexander wasn't so jealous as to begrudge him that, far from it - he felt grateful for these connections, now. One could make a connection without it becoming everything, after all. Never now so desperate as things had been back then. Alexander treasured the silence as much as anything else.

Alexander still met with Ben - infrequent now (as it had been constant then), but still treasured. They knew now the rather obvious logic that the world was bigger than just what they two could ever have had the potential to be, but some things took living through to really learn. They knew that now and more importantly, knew that it was no bad thing; that was simply how the world worked. They didn't have to work together all the time, and 'some of the time' could be just as precious. They had concepts to plan and scripts to write and Alexander would say something that made Ben smile, and - he'd see that spark from back then, just for a moment. That thing that had driven them.

Fire burnt, but this wasn't that. Something warm, but not dangerous. Had they ever been in any real danger? He'd admit sometimes, to Richard, that he'd liked that feeling. Liked feeling that they could have been. Richard said he understood, and Alexander didn't press him. Didn't mention it to Ben, either. Didn't feel he had to. Do you remember what you said, back then? Alexander found it hard to believe that Ben would have forgotten, but again, didn't feel the need to mention it. Of course he'd remember, all those things they'd wanted back then. All the things they'd thought possible. Back then, it had almost felt as if the world were ending - if they weren't to work together, then what else was there for them? Something had ended, but some things needed to. Something had ended but it wasn't the world, and it wasn't them. They'd burnt their ties to one another, because they didn't need them; they didn't need to be bound to be together, after all. And Alexander knew that they didn't need to set the world on fire, not so long as they had other flames to nurture.