Author's Notes: Okay, I tried to resist writing this. I really did. I mean, I've never even heard of video game slash. But the idea took hold and wouldn't let go, and so... voila. Caveat lector.

Gambler's Luck

By Rushlight


It wasn't like he didn't know that luck was a fickle mistress. Hell, he'd lived his life courting her favor in one way or another; he more than anyone knew that she couldn't be trusted. Still, it surprised him that she would have chosen to turn her back on him here, now.

And it shouldn't have.

Because it was true what they said, that pride always went before the fall. He'd been feeling invincible -- or at least lucky, which amounted to more or less the same thing. He'd survived the world's ending, after all. Survived it and thrived in it, and how many others could say the same? And he had friends again, friends who were willing to help him fight, help him win. They were taking their world back, one piece at a time.

So he supposed it wasn't too surprising that he'd felt the urge to celebrate a little. They were visiting Kohlingen while Locke used the Phoenix stone to try to resurrect his dear departed Rachel -- a waste of energy, Setzer could have told him, if he'd bothered to ask. Sometimes it was better to leave the past dead and buried. He knew that from personal experience.

Except, of course, for when the past refused to stay dead. But those situations were better left unspoken of.

In any case, he'd found himself in the small café Kohlingen boasted that evening, waiting for the others to return. It was nice to have an actual roof over his head again, instead of a tent, as well as warm food and the promise of a bed to sleep in. With sheets. The sense of pure decadence he felt at the thought almost made him laugh aloud.

He was well into his third drink of the evening when Shadow came inside and walked up to the bar. Which surprised Setzer a bit, because he'd always pretty much thought of the man as someone who preferred to sleep out under the stars. He was a deliberate cipher, and Setzer would be lying if he said he trusted him -- he'd fought for the Empire, after all, knowing full well what they stood for. No matter that Kefka had abandoned him and left him for dead; Shadow was still looking out for Shadow's interests. Not theirs.

Still, Setzer didn't object when Shadow stepped up to the table where he sat in the corner of the room, the ever-present dog following close behind. The place was nearly empty, as it was every night anymore. The shadows seemed to welcome him, as if they recognized him as more than their namesake. His ubiquitous black clothing soaked up the light, giving Setzer the impression that the light had simply chosen not to fall on him.

"You don't trust me." Shadow's voice was amused. He didn't ask for permission when he sat down, which irked Setzer a bit. "I don't blame you."

"We're fighting for a common goal," Setzer said, which was true enough. If nothing else, he believed Shadow wanted Kefka dead. "That's good enough for me."

Shadow nodded almost imperceptibly and turned to look out the window. Night was falling over the grounds outside, mercifully veiling the details of the blasted land. Even after a year, Setzer still couldn't get used to the sight of it.

"There's change in the air." Shadow had removed the hood and mask he wore when he was fighting, for which Setzer was grateful. There was something about this man that reminded him enough of silent death as it was, and Setzer was not a superstitious man. Shadow's features were softened by the lamplight, his sandy hair darkened. He looked... normal, and it was almost as if Setzer had never seen him fight at all.

Never seen him kill.

"Change is inevitable," Setzer said, taking another sip of his drink. He believed that, after all. Had to believe it, or he'd have gone insane a long time ago, trying to make his way in this new world.

The smile Shadow favored him with then was so slight Setzer felt he might have imagined it. There was something heavy in his eyes, something that refused to reflect the light around them.

"I don't suppose you have some suggestion for how we can pass the time until it gets here?" Shadow asked.

And if he'd been thinking more clearly, if he'd been less full of elation at their recent success within the Phoenix cave, Setzer might have thought twice before he proposed a wager. As it was, he was never without a deck of cards, and it had been a long time since he'd had the leisure to indulge in a game. It was something he'd been good at, once.

It actually surprised the hell out of him when he lost. And lost again. He'd never seen Shadow play before, but somehow he'd assumed the fighter-for-hire would be an amateur at best. After all, who'd have the time to learn cards when he was so busy learning ten thousand ways to kill a man with his bare hands? But as he seemed to do everything he put his mind to, Shadow played cards well.

Setzer didn't start to get worried until the third hand, and then it began to honestly occur to him that he was losing. Shadow sat leaning back in his chair across the table from him, eyes on his cards, as cool and detached as if they were having a casual discussion about the weather. Interceptor lay on the floor at his feet, dozing, but his tall ears twitched occasionally at the low clink of gold pieces on the table above him.

Setzer felt curiously disconnected from the scene around him when he lowered his cards to the table for the final time. Shadow's face was expressionless as he reached out to slide the last of the gold pieces toward himself.

"I don't believe this is enough to cover what you owe me."

And yes, Setzer was well aware of that. Not only had he lost; he'd lost big. It was insane. That was the premier rule of gambling -- never bet more than you can afford to lose. And he'd broken it.

Shadow's eyes were cool. "I'm assuming you're able to pay the debt."

Setzer was starting to sweat now. Everything he had was tied up in the campaign against Kefka. And Shadow knew that, damn him. If this had been anyone else from their company -- anyone else -- Setzer knew the game would have been merely a way to blow off some steam. No one else would have taken it seriously, given the larger problems they were facing.

But this was Shadow.

Setzer glanced toward the window briefly, hoping he'd see one of their friends coming toward the inn. But no such rescue was in sight. Taking a deep breath, he turned to meet Shadow's eyes.

"Not at the moment," he said, keeping his tone casual. "After the war with Kefka's over, I'll be able to give it all to you. With interest." He smiled.

The look in Shadow's eyes did not change. "We might not be alive after the war."

Which was a good point, even if it was one that Setzer preferred not to dwell on. "Well, then you'd hardly miss it, now would you?" he said with a small laugh.

And now Shadow did smile, but there was nothing humorous about it. "Do you intend to pay your debt or not?"

"Look." Setzer dropped all attempts at lightening the situation and leaned forward in his chair. "You know as well as I do that I don't have that kind of money. Not after everything I've put in to help outfit our expedition to go into the Phoenix cave. I have nothing. So if you want to make good on your debt, it's going to have to wait until after the war. You have my word of honor that I'll pay it."

Shadow seemed to consider his words thoughtfully for a moment. "There's the airship," he said at last.

Setzer felt the first glimmering of anger at that. The airship was worth ten times what he owed, not to mention that it was his only remembrance of Daryl. "Don't be stupid. I'm not going to give up the airship when it's the only means we have of reaching Kefka's tower. Face it, Shadow. I'm sorry, but I just don't have what you want."

He shivered under the feel of Shadow's eyes on him, all too aware of the fact that they were the only ones in the room. Even the barkeep seemed to have disappeared into the kitchen for the time being.

Finally, Shadow leaned back and said, "I'll make you a deal."

"You're not getting the airship." And perhaps it wasn't entirely wise to press that point so adamantly at the moment, but the ship was his, damn it.

"I don't want your airship." There was something strange now in Shadow's eyes, something Setzer had never seen before. It made him feel cold inside, without knowing why.

"What, then?" Maybe this inscrutable crap came in handy out there in the world as a mercenary, but here in civilization it was downright annoying. "I don't have anything you want."

The corner of Shadow's mouth twitched, just slightly, as he held Setzer's gaze. "Spend the night with me tonight. Then we'll call it even."

It took a moment for Setzer to be sure he'd heard him correctly. Then, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

"That's my price. Take it or leave it." And now there was a different look in Shadow's eyes, one Setzer was entirely too familiar with. It was the look he got before he went up against an enemy in battle.

Setzer shivered. "You can't be serious. You want me to... what? Sleep with you?"

"Something like that." Shadow's voice was cool.

Intellectually, Setzer knew that men sometimes had relations with other men, but he'd never felt the urge to explore in those areas himself. There'd always been more than enough to keep him occupied within the world of strictly female pleasures -- a world of soft curves and sweet perfumes and moist, secret places. He'd always considered himself a bit of a ladies' man, and there were few cities on this continent even now that didn't know his reputation.

But this.... He wasn't sure he was capable of doing what Shadow was asking of him. He had an instinctive understanding of just what it was Shadow wanted to do to him, and the thought terrified him. And with this man in particular....

No. There had to be another way.

His hand was shaking when he reached for his drink. "Maybe I can borrow the money."

"By tonight." Shadow's expression was uncompromising. "I want my money by tonight."

Setzer cursed silently. "I can't have it by tonight."

"Well, then. I've named my price." He reached down to scratch Interceptor behind the ears.

Setzer could barely hear now over the roaring of his heart. This couldn't be happening. "Or what?" he asked, tightening his hand into a fist on the table in front of him.

The look in Shadow's eyes was so damnably cold. "I don't think you need to ask that. Do you?"

And this was a Shadow he recognized, the one who would kill without compunction, without regret. If Setzer reneged on his bet, Shadow would kill him, the war with Kefka be damned. If not tonight, then tomorrow. Or the next day. Or maybe the next.

Setzer pushed his hair back out of his face with one hand and glanced toward the window again. "You can't make me do this. Please." He could feel his face heat with the knowledge that he was begging.

Shadow didn't say anything; he just leaned back in his chair and watched him. Waiting.

For the first time, Setzer seriously considered doing violence here tonight. His hand fell into his lap and moved to touch the hilt of his sword, caressing the worn leather softly. But of course Shadow's hands were already out of sight beneath the table, and Setzer knew full well the skill he was capable of.

And even if he were to win such a battle between them, what then? They still had Kefka to fight, and their chances of succeeding at that were slim enough even with Shadow here to help them. Without him, they might not have any chance at all.

Setzer let out his breath in a soft curse, closing his eyes.

"I already have a room upstairs," Shadow said mildly. "Number six. You can follow me when you're ready."

Setzer listened as Shadow's chair slid away from the table, hearing a faint jingle of chain as Interceptor rose to go with him. His face was burning now, but he couldn't bring himself to open his eyes.

There was a soft clicking of claws on the wooden floor, swiftly fading, and then there was nothing. Setzer opened his eyes after another moment to find the chair across from him empty.

The smoke from the lanterns was burning his eyes. Outside the window, the night looked impossibly dark, filled with vague and menacing shadows. For one wild instant Setzer considered just getting up and walking out of the inn, maybe going out to look for Locke and the others, maybe heading out to the airship to spend the night there. There was absolutely nothing forcing him to go upstairs.

Nothing except for the memory of cold dark eyes, and the knowledge that Shadow wanted what he was owed. And even if they left tonight, all of them, what would it gain them? Without Shadow's help, it was likely they all could die.

Would die, at least some of them.

At least him.

"Damn it," he said, pushing back from the table. He felt numb, but there was really nothing else he could do. He'd gotten himself into this, hadn't he? And how difficult could it be? He could do this, whatever it was Shadow wanted from him.

He could.

He didn't bother knocking on the door of room number six when he reached it. The door opened easily, creaking only slightly on its hinges, and he closed it firmly behind him when he stepped inside.

Shadow was seated on the edge of the bed, pulling off his boots. There was a single lamp lit on the table under the window, creating a thin nimbus of light that reflected off the glass. Interceptor looked up when Setzer entered, whuffing softly, and he froze reflexively just inside the door.

"Interceptor. Stay." Shadow's tone was sharp.

Setzer hesitated, swallowing against the dryness in his throat. Impossible, that he'd fought dragons and armies of the fucking undead, and now this was terrifying him.

"I don't know what you want me to do," he admitted quietly.

Shadow's expression was surprisingly gentle. "You can start by taking off your clothes."

Again, Setzer felt his cheeks flame. Setting his jaw, he shrugged out of his long coat and moved to lay it across the desk against the wall. The best he could probably hope was that this would be over with quickly. He could feel Interceptor's eyes on him, watching him steadily as he removed his belt and sword.

He knew perfectly well what most people saw when they looked at him. He'd had enough lovers comment on the delicate beauty of his features, the unusual moonsilver color of his long hair. But never had he felt so excruciatingly aware of it, of the fact that others found him beautiful. "Pretty as a girl," one lover had laughingly said to him, years ago, and the memory made him shiver.

It wasn't just Interceptor's eyes he could feel on him.

He peeled off his outer tunic and set it aside. He wasn't wearing his armor, here in the safety of the town, and the loss made him feel naked, even though he wasn't. He hesitated before taking off any more clothing, resting his hands on the back of the desk chair, and breathed out slowly.

Shadow was silent behind him.

And damn Shadow anyway, for putting him through this. Setzer clung to his anger as he pulled off the rest of his shirts, baring his chest to the cool air of the room. This close to summer, there was no need for a fire, and he found himself wishing suddenly that he could feel cold, or hot, or anything other than the strange numbness that was crawling through him.

"Turn around." Shadow's voice was soft.

Slowly, Setzer obeyed. Shadow had put his own weapons aside, on the floor next to the window. Far enough out of reach of the bed to make Setzer smile grimly and wonder if the gesture was meant to comfort him or make him feel even more helpless.

He tensed when Shadow stood and crossed the room toward him, bare feet padding silently against the rough rug that covered the floor. Setzer shrank back despite himself when Shadow's hand lifted toward his face, but the soft slide of fingers over his cheek was gentle.

That new expression was back in Shadow's eyes now, and Setzer closed his eyes against it, not wanting to see. His heart was thundering so loudly he felt sure even Shadow would be able to hear it. He held his breath as the fingers on his cheek moved slowly downward, trailing over his jaw, his neck, his chest, the side of his arm. Feeling his skin.

"Come to the bed."

A slight tug on his arm reinforced the command, and Setzer hesitated only briefly before obeying. Make it quick, he pleaded silently, feeling tears prick against the backs of his eyelids. Oh dear gods, please, make it quick.

He sat on the edge of the bed to pull off his boots, not looking up at the black-clad shape in front of him. Shadow was moving now, pulling off his own tunics, and Setzer closed his eyes again.

A hand under his chin turned his face upward. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Setzer blinked rapidly to clear the tears from his eyes, feeling irrationally angry at himself for letting the other man see his distress. "Let's get this over with," he said, more sharply than he'd intended. But that was good; let Shadow hear how furious he was with this arrangement.

Shadow nodded, stroking a thumb lightly up the side of his jaw. "As you wish."

As much as Setzer had tried to tell himself he'd be able to handle this, he was completely unprepared for the reality of it when Shadow leaned down to kiss him, pushing him back with gentle implacability against the mattress. The room seemed to spin around him, and Setzer struggled despite himself, tearing his mouth away to gasp when he felt Shadow's hands close with iron strength around his wrists.

"Wait," he said, panicking, but Shadow wasn't stopping. A brief tug, and he was draped almost fully across the bed as Shadow's body moved down to cover him, chest to chest. Setzer tried to pull away, but Shadow was just too damned strong, and he swore loudly at the feel of Shadow's teeth when they settled against his jaw.

"Are you going to fight me?" Shadow murmured against his skin. He wasn't even breathing hard, damn him, and Setzer felt like he'd just run a marathon.

"No. Yes. I don't know." Setzer was panting hard now, staring up at the ceiling and straining hard against the hands that held him. "Let go of me, damn you."

"You don't have to be afraid." Shadow's mouth slid down over his throat, nipping lightly, and then not so lightly, raising gooseflesh against Setzer's skin. Setzer tried to pull away, feeling his wrists bruise under the grip that held them. He'd been insane to think he could ever willingly submit to this. Already, just from this, he felt lost in his panic, his terror. Impossible to think he could submit to anything more.

And then Shadow was moving again, reaching for something beside the bed on the floor. Setzer tried to twist away, but it was like battling granite, like trying to squirm out from underneath something that was more mountain than man, even with only the single hand holding onto him now. He made a small sound of frustration when Shadow returned to him, lean hard body settling down over him once again, and this time he felt the definite evidence of Shadow's arousal, pressing hard against his thigh.

"Gods," he whispered, turning his face away. He was shaking now, and he couldn't stop, couldn't contain the wild fear that surged through him. Shadow was really going to fuck him. Had perhaps wanted to do so for a very long time.

He almost didn't notice when Shadow reached up toward his hands again, but then he felt the soft slide of fabric against his skin as Shadow's black cloth belt cinched tight around his wrists. He stared up at Shadow in alarm, but Shadow's face was utterly implacable.

"You bastard." All thoughts of simply submitting so he wouldn't prolong his agony were forgotten now. "Let me go."

Shadow's eyes were dark as they gazed down at him. "Do you really want me to?"

The question made Setzer pause. He'd almost forgotten why he was here, that he'd agreed to whore himself to pay off his gambling debt. Gods. He sensed suddenly that Shadow would set him free now, if he wished it, but that his debt would remain unfulfilled.

And Shadow might very well just take what he wanted, before killing him later.

"No." He barely recognized his own voice, and he closed his eyes when Shadow bent down to bite at the edge of his collarbone, marking the skin there. His back was arching now, and he moaned softly when Shadow's mouth moved down over his nipple, tonguing him wetly.

The heat in his face deepened when Shadow murmured, "Do that again."

Fuck you, he wanted to say, but didn't. He might have given up rights to his body to Shadow for the night, but he'd be damned if he was going to moan on command for him.

Even without looking, he knew that Shadow was amused.

Shadow slowly released his grip on Setzer's wrists, indicating with subtle pressure that they were to remain pressed against the pillow above his head. Setzer kept his eyes closed when Shadow's hands made their way down over his sides to the lacings of his pants.

"Quick, you said." Shadow's voice was low. "It'll hurt more, if we do it that way."

"I don't care." And he didn't. He just wanted this to be over, his debt repaid.

There was another heartbeat's pause. "As you wish."

And then his pants were being pulled down over his legs, and he had to consciously restrain himself from kicking out. Still, Shadow's weight never truly left him, and then it was back again, covering him from ankle to shoulder.

"Please," he whispered, without knowing what he was asking for. Shadow's hands were heavy against him, not ungentle but still so very cold.

The silence seemed thick now, layered, as Shadow's mouth moved over the slope of his shoulder, teeth grazing occasionally across his skin. Shadow's hips ground down hard against his crotch, the rough fabric of his pants almost painful as it rubbed against Setzer's bared flesh. There was something disturbingly masculine about the weight that bore down on him, crushing the breath from him, and then there was no more time to think because Shadow's tongue was in his mouth.

Setzer had never felt possessed before, owned, like he was a thing to be used for carnal gratification. It was not a feeling he enjoyed. He had to force himself to lie pliant as Shadow's mouth moved over his, stroking deep with his tongue in a gesture that seemed nothing other than pure declaration of his dominance.

"Roll over." Shadow's voice was slightly breathless now, his customary calm broken. Perversely, this proof of his humanity made Setzer feel even more frightened.

Shadow pulled back just enough for Setzer to obey his command. It took a moment for Setzer to steel himself to do so; he almost wished Shadow would just manhandle him into the position he wanted, instead of forcing him to take a willing role in his own claiming.

The sheets of the bed felt cool against his chest, his thighs, molding to the shape of him as he settled against the bed. He could feel Shadow's heat against his back, even though there were still several inches separating them, and he buried his face between his raised arms, hating the constriction of the bindings around his wrists. Shadow's hand slid down over his side, over his hip, until one blunt thumb pushed in between his legs, pressing against the back of his balls.

Setzer gasped and clawed at the headboard, feeling his entire body go tense at the disturbingly intimate touch. But then Shadow's weight was there again, holding him down, smothering him, and there was a hand fisting hard in the back of his hair, pulling his head back.

"Spread your legs." The words were a soft breath across his cheek, branding him with their heat. Setzer hesitated, feeling completely unable to do as they commanded, but then he let go with a shuddering sigh and obeyed.

And Shadow wasn't even going to take off the rest of his clothes for this, was he? For some reason, the thought made this seem even more degrading, and Setzer pressed his face hard against the pillow to hide the heat of humiliation that flamed in his cheeks. He could feel Shadow's hand against his ass now, moving to unclasp the front of his pants, and Setzer made a low sound in the back of his throat when he felt the first hot press of Shadow's erection against his skin.

"Quick, you said," Shadow said against his ear, and then there was a thumb working into his cleft, stroking the small opening there. Setzer flinched away from the touch, but there was nowhere to recoil to. Nowhere to go.

"No," he whispered, but then the thumb was breaching him, pressing into him with a relentless implacability that took his breath away. He pressed his hips down hard into the mattress, trying to get away from it, but it didn't stop what was happening to him.

It hurt. Somehow, he hadn't expected that, and he belatedly remembered Shadow's admonition that doing this quickly was going to be painful for him. He jerked his head back, wanting to take it back, because he didn't want this, didn't want it, and he could barely breathe now through the dense fog of panic that enveloped him.

"Breathe," Shadow rebuked him calmly, and the thumb pulled out slightly and then drove in again, even deeper this time. "Just keep breathing."

There were tears staining Setzer's cheeks now; he could feel them, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He felt spitted open, flayed and vulnerable, as if his entire world had narrowed down to the feel of the flesh stretching his ass. He felt like a whore, bought and paid for, and somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered if Shadow had orchestrated this entire evening, or if he'd simply taken advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself.

"Good," Shadow whispered, rubbing his cheek against Setzer's. His hand was still clenched tight in the back of Setzer's hair, holding him where he wanted him. "Good boy...."

Setzer cursed low under his breath, trying not to feel the thumb that was slowly fucking him, stroking hard against his inner muscles. Another hard stroke and the thumb was gone, and his thighs shook with relief at its sudden absence.

The respite was short-lived, however. Shadow's fingers curled over his hip, pulling him up to his knees, and Setzer acquiesced with another low moan, hating the vulnerability of this position. His fingers curled against the headboard, straining against the belt that bound them, as Shadow urged his knees further apart.

Another fleeting bite to his shoulder, not gentle, and then Shadow was draped across him, hard body pressing down against his back. Setzer gasped for breath, feeling dizzy, and fought the urge to buck him away.

This was it. It was almost done with, and then this entire nightmare would be over. Setzer clung to that truth as Shadow's heavy cock pressed in against him, filling him slowly, its passage eased only by the thin layer of spit Shadow had seen fit to provide. And this was so much worse than the thumb, as the pain radiated through him in scintillating waves, his body protesting the unwanted intrusion as much as his mind was.

"Breathe," Shadow told him again, curling an arm underneath Setzer's waist to steady himself. He was breathing hard now, muscles straining where he was pressed against Setzer's back.

"Fuck you," Setzer whispered in reply, not sure if the words were even audible. The pain was ratcheting up his spine to the base of his skull, pulsing with every breath he took.

And then Shadow was moving, and Setzer's world seemed to white out around the edges. It seemed an unnecessary cruelty that the pain did seem to fade after a while, and he was left numb with the feel of Shadow's cock moving in and out of his ass. Impossibly, he felt a tingling of arousal when Shadow touched a spot deep inside him, and he fought against it, feeling sickened.

Shadow was panting hard against the back of his neck now, pressing Setzer's face down firmly against the pillow with the hand still knotted in the back of his hair. The harsh flex of his muscles was frightening in its strength, its inevitability, and Setzer keened low in his throat as the residual pain mingled with that strange flare of pleasure inside him. He kept his eyes closed, breathing hard as Shadow used him, and silently prayed for it to be over.

Shadow came with a soft groan, muffling the sound against the side of Setzer's neck. Setzer shuddered when he felt the sudden heat spread inside of him, and the knowledge that he'd just been filled with another man's come made him feel suddenly wild with a high, keening panic he couldn't control. He tried to twist away from Shadow's hands, bucking at the hard weight on his back, and Shadow chuckled softly as he moved to hold down his wrists once again.

"Whoa there." Shadow pulled out of him with a roughness that made Setzer cry out, and then he was being flipped over onto his back and covered again, helpless beneath the weight of the other man's strength. "Relax. It's over."

"Fuck you," Setzer hissed, beyond the point where he could think of any more articulate insult.

The look on Shadow's face was vaguely bemused. "I'm not going to let you up if the first thing you're going to do is go for your knife."

It took a few more deep breaths before Setzer's panic receded enough for Shadow to tentatively release the grip on his hands. Shadow moved away and drew up to his knees on the bed, straddling one of Setzer's splayed thighs. Setzer stared up at him, pulling his bound hands down in front of his chest.

"Is that it?" he asked, hating the way his voice wavered when he said it.

Shadow nodded seriously, reaching down to untie the belt around his wrists. "Your debt's been paid."

Paid. Fucking bastard. Setzer slid out from under him and crawled off the bed, hunching nearly double at the sudden pain that pierced through his lower back, centering in his ass. Clenching his teeth against it, he straightened with an effort and walked over to fetch his clothes with as much dignity as he could muster.

He was just shrugging into his shirt when Shadow drew his attention again. "Here," Shadow said, and Setzer turned just in time to catch the small vial the other man tossed to him.

It was a healing tonic. Flushing, Setzer wondered if any of the warm slickness he could feel leaking down the backs of his thighs might be blood.

He didn't say anything as he continued getting dressed, and as soon as he was covered to the bare minimum, he scooped the rest of his clothes up in his arms and turned to leave.

"Tomorrow we'll probably be heading into Narshe." Shadow's voice was even, calm, as if they hadn't just had sex on the very bed he was sitting on. When Setzer turned to look at him, he saw that Shadow was leaning back against the pillows at the headboard, one leg crooked up in front of him in an indolently casual posture. He hadn't even bothered closing the clasp on his pants.

And maybe he didn't see anything at all unusual about forcing one of his traveling companions to consent to sex. The thought made Setzer feel cold inside, in a way he didn't think would ever allow him to feel safe again.

"Yes," he agreed, casting one last glance at Interceptor where he lay by the window. "We'll be going to Narshe."

And then he left, closing the door behind him. The hallway was silent and filled with chasing shadows, lit only by the large hanging lamp at the end of the hall.

It wasn't like he could afford to let his personal feelings get in the way of their larger goal. They still had a war to fight, after all. A war to fight, and a world to save. Tomorrow, he'd be forced to fight alongside Shadow again, and he'd have to pretend that none of this had happened.

But someday, he vowed. Someday, he would no longer be relying on Shadow's aid, and then there would be a reckoning.

Maybe then, Lady Luck would be smiling.


The End

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