Arthur saw things in the fire. The flames of hell and the light of heaven, the warmth of His love and the burn of eternal damnation. Mostly though, he saw the gypsy boy Alfred.
Alfred, the one who danced with the devil, agile and quick, the sway of his hips and the flow of his body as smooth as his water. His skin was bronzed and tawny, freckles dotting his cheeks and nose as though he'd been kissed by the sun himself. And exposed─ he was so exposed.
His flesh drew the eye more so than the golden chains and bracelets that wrapped his wrists and ankles. Those were merely bait, the more links and bells the more elaborate the lure. But his body was the hook. He could work each muscle expertly, a shimmy of his shoulders and you were caught, a flash of tanned thigh and that was it.
And the gypsy boy knew it. He'd caught Arthur looking and stilled him with his sky-blue eyes, thick lashes fluttering and lovely. Alfred's tongue had darted out, licked at his plump lower lip. Then there'd been the glimpse of white teeth biting at the pink flesh.
A jolt had skittered through Arthur's spine at the sight, his heart seizing with an ache that was pure pleasure. But his cheeks had flushed, and Alfred had seen. He threw back his head with a laugh, his voice like a siren's, a clear beacon more beautiful than birdsong, the call of an incubus and an angel alike.
The devil was beautiful, and it danced for him, and him alone.
Alfred was temptation incarnate, long limbs and soft skin, wrapped in colored silks and scented with spices. Arthur could smell him as Alfred danced for him, undertones of frankincense hidden amidst musk and sweat.
And Alfred had laughed as Arthur blushed, mocking and sweet, hoarse around the edges and a purr at the end. It thrummed in Arthur's veins and clouded his head, muddled his thoughts with heat and passion and notions that were a sin to entertain.
When he closed his eyes now, Alfred was there, his image seared into the backs of his eyelids, his form twisting like the flames that were promised to all gypsies. And Alfred was young, still able to attain salvation. He had strayed from the righteous path, but Arthur could save him. He was not yet a mad dog, too far gone for anything but the relief of the hangman's noose.
Yet he was the one leading Arthur closer and closer to damnation, taking him to toe the line of the fallen. He attacked Arthur's thoughts with the relentless energy of those driven by the devil, his image a constant in Arthur's mind.
Arthur didn't want Alfred. Arthur needed Alfred. To say he wanted was to say that flora wanted sun, that lungs wanted air. To say he wanted was to belittle the fire consuming him, burning his will like kindling and consuming him whole.
And as the flora would receive the sun, and lungs would breath, Arthur would have Alfred.
He'd have him sprawled across his bed, golden hair tousled and mussed, blue eyes half-lidded and hazed with lust. The sheets would be rucked up about his body, his silks hiked up, leaving nothing to the imagination. And Arthur would bathe Alfred's soft inner thighs with kisses, bite and taste and have.
Alfred would beg for more, lips reddened and full while he spoke in short, wanton gasps. His chains and bracelets would catch in the sheets as he writhed under Arthur's touch, the curve of an ankle or hip memorized by Arthur's fingertips, committed to memory like so many verses and psalms.
And in the end Alfred would be sated, body spent and fire damped. Arthur would keep him, trap him in amber and preserve him forever, a specimen under a needle, kept safe behind glass, seen but never touched. Kept from the fires of hell, he'd see Arthur for what he was, a kind soul in a cruel world, a shepherd to the lost, and a savior.