Trying to distract Arthur long enough to snag a book from his vast library had been a more daunting task than Alfred had originally expected. Arthur was meticulous about his collection and especially protective of the books he claimed held powerful and dangerous magicks — so of course Alfred couldn’t just ask for the book he wanted.
No, he had no choice but to be sneaky.
But it’s hard to be sneaky when someone puts scones in front of you and watches you like a hawk, waiting for you to eat them; and if Arthur’s boyfriend Francis hadn’t shown up when he did, Alfred’s fairly sure he wouldn’t have gotten away with the book at all.
Instead he had managed to shove it under his hoodie and dismiss himself before anyone could ask about the sudden bulge he was sporting.
And that’s all that’s really important.
The idea to raid Arthur’s spellbooks had come to the blonde late one night as he sat at home, dejected after another date gone wrong. He seemed to have bad luck no matter who he chose to go out with and it was maddening; they never kissed him goodnight or took his calls the next day.
Alfred simply couldn't figure it out.
Yet that night, shortly after settling into bed with his laptop, stumbling through randomly generated Internet pages had brought up something that piqued his curiosity:
Lonely? Want the perfect lover? the site had asked in bright red lettering, splashed across a black background, Try summoning an incubus/succubus lover today! Click here for more information.*
The website wanted three installments of $39.95 for the secrets, easily accessible in PDF format, but Alfred realized he could do one better.
Grinning to himself, Alfred lets himself into his home, tossing the thick tome on to his sofa. He’s already alight with nervous energy as he starts to clear a space to work, helping him plow even faster through more clutter than he's willing to acknowledge.
Extra research had yielded answers to some of Al's more rudimentary questions — what do I need for the ritual? what will happen? — and fifteen minutes later, he's built an altar, of sorts. In the middle of the floor lies a silver tray; on it a large, blocky purple candle (the closest he could find to the recommended black), three thin, red reeds of incense, and a bowl of dried, crushed rose petals.
The roses are his own idea; romantic, right?
“Okay,” Alfred says aloud, trying to steady the jittering in his belly. There’s nothing to be afraid of, he reminds himself. If Arthur can do magick, it can’t possibly be that hard.
Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he bends and lights the candle first, then the incense. A sweet, spicy scent begins to fill the air, like cinnamon candy, strong and rich. In merely a few seconds, it’s all that Al can smell, blocking out even the crushed roses.
He grabs his stolen book from the sofa, seating himself cross-legged in front of the silver tray. The book makes a creaking noise as he opens it, the leathery binding creasing neatly. Shortly after skimming the first paragraph of the first page, Alfred groans, looking up to the ceiling with a long-suffering expression.
Damn it, of course the book isn’t in English.
Of course it’s in Latin, the language class he paid approximately three percent attention to, four years ago. The class he’d only passed with Arthur’s help to begin with.
Alfred takes a deep breath, then looks back at the book in his lap, determined. I’ll figure it out.
He leafs through pages until he finds what looks like a table of contents. At least that’s standard. The foreign smell of the incense is dizzying, makes it harder to focus on the equally foreign words in front of him, but halfway down the page Al exclaims, “A-ha!”
Amor incantatores a.
Alfred knows what that means.
Grinning again, confidence back, Alfred flips to the page number designated. There isn’t much on the page, only five or six lines of text, but the words are long and complex. Following the text with an index finger, he says the words of the first line slowly, carefully. The tip of his tongue tingles by the end of it and he pauses briefly to lick his lips and force the sensation away.
But the electric, buzzing feeling spreads down his neck as he continues, wrapping around his spine, tugging at the core of him beneath his bellybutton. Giddiness follows, until Alfred finds himself trying to suppress a giggle at concubinalis salax voluptarius, simply because of the shape his lips take as he mouths the words.
Then, as he reads the last word, the dizziness, the giddiness, and the buzzing abruptly drain away. Neither the candle nor incense remain alight, and the bowl of roses has tipped, scattering its contents over the silver tray and onto the carpet.
Yet Alfred sees nothing else, in front of or behind him. He glances down at the book; no changes there either. He frowns and rubs at his eyes, feeling suddenly empty and exhausted. Did I mess it up? Maybe when I…
He’s too tired to think about it right now. Maybe after a nap.
He’s asleep as soon as he hits the sofa.
Alfred doesn’t immediately want to open his eyes. Warm and dark, he’s comfortable, but the niggling sensation doesn’t quit, so he finally opens them, sitting up in bed as he does so. The odd fuzziness of the world around him, as if his glasses are gone — he touches his face; they are — takes a backseat to the soft, pleasant voice in his ear and strong arms draping over his shoulders.
“You’re finally up, Alfie?”
“Huh? Alfie?” Al turns his head towards the voice, getting a clear glimpse of wavy blonde hair and full, attractive, pink lips. Familiar, somehow. It makes Al feel fluttery inside. “Nobody’s ever called me that.”
“I will, if you want me to.” With fingers drumming against where they rest on Alfred’s stomach, the voice continues, “I’ll do a lot of things, if you want me to.”
Several clear images flash in Alfred’s mind’s eye: the both of them walking and laughing together; curled up in front of a television together; fingers grasping, tangling together; mouths pressing wetly together; kissing and kissing and gasping a name; Matthew.
Al exhales sharply and pitches forward, sudden want coiling in his belly. Pulling out of Matt’s embrace feels like wading underwater, his whole body resisting it until he’s turned around, facing wide, impossibly violet eyes. He feels drawn to them, hypnotized by them. Even as he’s asking why do I feel like I know you?, he’s climbing onto Matthew’s lap, encouraged by the blonde’s smile and his open arms and the warmth he radiates.
This time the answer rings in his mind, as if it originated there.
You called for me.
Matthew’s palms are on his cheeks, warm and soothing, guiding him into locking gazes. Al’s whole body throbs with need and anticipation. There is only the smallest of spaces between their mouths; it would take Alfred no effort at all to close the gap, to let instinct take over and—
Kiss me, and I’ll never leave you.
Alfred startles awake to the sound of metal hitting the floor, followed by a soft curse. “The hell?”
He stumbles off of the couch and toward the noise — the kitchen — half bleary-eyed, nearly tripping over his silver tray — fuck, I need to pick that up — on the way. He stops cold at the threshold, heart hammering in his chest as fragments of his dream rush at him from every corner of his mind.
It worked. The ritual worked. The ritual worked and I summoned an incubus and holy shit — “Matthew,” Al breathes, mouth agape.
The call of his name makes the blonde turn around. “Oh! Hey Alfie,” he says, regarding Alfred with a fond, seductive smile. It would have made Al’s knees go weak if he weren’t already gripping the door jamb with all his might. “I was just going to make you some breakfast. Pancakes sound alright?”
Frozen in place, he can only nod.
There’s no way he’s going to be able to explain this.