by kiyala (樹夜蘭)
illustrated by pie派
This had been the worst week in Robert’s recent memory.
It had started with little things, small incidents that he could brush off individually. Things like the papercuts he kept getting from the documents he handled in the office, or the fact that he kept having to deal with the most irritating customer service calls while his colleagues only ever got the polite ones.
From there, it had been quick to escalate. The injuries he gave himself became more serious, and instead of one-off incidents, it would be small things chained together that got worse as they went. He would leave his umbrella home on a sunny day only to be caught in a sudden downpour; he would run for shelter, only to trip over and nearly fall in the way of a passing car. He’d just been clipped that time, but his luck had plummeted since then.
He’d been cooking when his stove caught on fire, which then spread to the rest of the kitchen before he could control it. He’d managed to stop it before the rest of his house had gone up in flames, but his kitchen was irreparably damaged. There was nothing to do but survive on takeaway until he could get it fixed and of course, with his bad luck, most of the restaurants nearby were conveniently shut whenever he visited. When he’d finally found a place to order dinner, they’d taken so long to make his food that he’d nearly passed out from hunger. He hadn’t thought twice before scarfing the food down and had thought that was the end of it.
Upon reflection, the food poisoning shouldn’t have been all that surprising. He had nothing but time to think about it now, confined to a hospital bed, barely able to move while the doctors conducted an array of blood tests on him.
This was Etienne’s doing. It had to be. The last time Robert had seen him, he’d been shouting, furious, hurt written plainly on his face. That had been a week ago, but Robert knew Etienne. Just because he couldn’t see Etienne didn’t mean Etienne wasn’t around.
As if on cue, he heard a soft, familiar sigh.
“Haven’t been particularly lucky these days, have you?”
Robert opened his eyes, but couldn’t see anyone else in the room. “I wonder why that is.”
“Hmm.” There was a light pressure at the edge of the hospital bed, like there was someone sitting there. “Maybe you used up all of your good luck. What would that leave you with now, I wonder?”
“Are you trying to kill me?”
“Oh, Robert.” Etienne chuckled. His face slowly grew visible, his skin a pale blue under the fluorescent lights. “If I wanted you dead, I would have killed you. I wouldn’t have been half as subtle about it, either.”
“Reassuring,” Robert muttered.
“And what makes you think I want to reassure you?” Etienne asked. He was leaning over Robert, fully visible, his weight on the bed heavier now. His eyes were entirely black, an indication of just how angry he was, despite his light tone. “I don’t think you quite grasp the situation you’ve gotten yourself into.”
“I’ve made a spirit mad at me,” Robert said. “That’s bad, right?”
“You know nothing,” Etienne snapped. He stood, the edges of his physical form blurring into the air around him as he floated around the room instead of pacing. “You used me and you feel no remorse for that at all, do you?”
“Little hard to find room for remorse when I just spent the last few hours throwing up. I’m in a hospital bed because of you.”
“If you think that’s the worst of it…” Etienne broke off with a mirthless laugh. “You don’t take advantage of a spirit without paying the price, human. Certainly not a spirit of luck. If you think that bad luck is the worst of your problems, you’ll quickly learn otherwise. You’ve used more than your fair share of my power and you’re bound to me now.”
“Bound?” Robert frowned.
“You’ll see for yourself,” Etienne gave him a sharp smile, slowly disappearing once again. “You won’t have to wait very long. That, I promise you.”
Then, just as he thought he’d completely recovered, he found that he was quick to tire. The nurses explained that it was simply because he’d gone for so long without leaving his hospital bed. A little bit of exercise would fix it, they told him, and took him for short walks around the ward. Robert found himself collapsing into bed after every walk, each one more tiring than the last.
Three days after Etienne’s visit, Robert found that he could hardly move at all. He could open his eyes, but he couldn’t lift his head. He could barely move his fingers, and his voice just wouldn’t cooperate.
The doctors were baffled, not understanding what was causing it or where Robert could have picked up such an illness. He was helpless, lying there as they discussed diseases, looking through his charts as if the answers could be found there. Robert knew otherwise. Whatever this was, it had nothing to do with the human world. This was Etienne’s fault, somehow. He was sure of it.
Etienne showed up that night, nothing more than a gust of wind that rustled the curtains of the closed window. It was dark, but Robert had the bedside lamp turned on. He could just barely make out the spirit’s outline, and he hated the fact that it immediately made him feel a little better.
“Here.” Etienne pressed something into his hand: a die, hard and plastic, with indented pips. “Roll it.”
Robert didn’t bother to question how he could summon the strength to move his hand. His fingers curled around the die and Etienne hummed in thought.
“What number do you want to roll?”
Robert huffed out a breath in lieu of a laugh and croaked, “One.”
“All right. Roll.”
Robert did, letting the die land on the mattress beside him. Etienne made a pleased sound, taking Robert’s hand, guiding it to the die. Stroking his index over the face of the die, Robert chuckled. “One.”
“Do you feel any better?”
“I…” Robert blinked when the word came much easier than expected. “I do, actually.”
Etienne sighed heavily, his hand becoming visible as it stroked through Robert’s hair. The rest of him became more corporeal as well, and Robert was struck by his incredible beauty, despite the fact that he was quite obviously not human. His clothes were loose-fitting, more ornamental than functional and his hair was long, fanning out around him and fading into the air.
His eyes, black with silver irises, were filled with a mix of frustration and relief. “You complete and utter idiot of a human.”
“What’s going on?” Robert found that not only could he move his head, he could sit up. He leaned back against his pillows, folding his arms across his chest. “Was that your less-subtle way of trying to kill me?”
“I told you that we were bound,” Etienne told him, not sounding particularly pleased about it. “You used me, far more than you should have, and now you need me.”
“Need you?” Robert raised an eyebrow. “And what do you mean by that?”
“You need my particular brand of luck. Catch.” Picking the die up, Etienne threw it into the air. It landed in Robert’s open palm, the one facing up again. “Without it, you wither away like you were doing before I came.”
“I need luck?” Robert asked, looking up from the die. “And that’s meant to be a punishment for using you too much?”
“Not my choice.” Etienne smiled sharply. “It’s just the way things work, between spirits and humans. One of the reasons we aren’t encouraged to fraternise with your kind.”
“Yet, you still decided that I was worth bending the rules for.”
“You give yourself too much credit,” Etienne snapped. “I get bored easily, and you humans always seemed so interesting. I suppose I’m paying for that mistake now.”
“So now… you have to give me luck whenever I want it.”
Etienne laughed loudly. “No. No, no, no. That’s not how it works. You have this backwards, Robert. I provide the luck whenever I want. You have no choice but to use it.”
Robert didn’t see the difference. Etienne’s smile held the promise that he would find out sooner rather than later.
When Etienne had woken up to what was happening, he had not been pleased. He’d made it abundantly clear that he had no intention of helping Robert again, and that was part of what made Etienne’s words so concerning.
Once Robert was discharged from hospital, Etienne did not waste any time. The day the doctors let Robert go, confused but relieved by his sudden recovery, Etienne was waiting for him at his house. Robert hadn’t been particularly surprised to find him there on the couch, but he hadn’t expected to be immediately herded out the door and to the nearest casino.
He found himself at the very same blackjack table where he’d first seen Etienne. Robert doubted that it was an accident, but Etienne said nothing, so neither did he. Etienne didn’t even speak to him as he played, winning against the dealer more times than he lost. The dealer smiled ruefully every time Robert won. They’d come to recognise each other over time, but Robert wasn’t in the mood to listen to the mutters of how lucky he was tonight.
Etienne—and most other spirits of luck, he’d once explained—had the power to make sure that the target of their luck did nothing but win round after round, but they’d quickly learned that this tended to get their targets into more trouble than it was worth. Robert found himself waiting for Etienne to stop caring about this one particular detail, but he didn’t, scattering enough losses amongst the wins that nobody grew suspicious.
It was a small mercy, considering that Etienne didn’t let him stop playing for hours. He moved from game to game, and if Robert refused, Etienne would leave. It only took a matter of hours for the fatigue to start creeping up on him again. It was enough to scare him into going wherever Etienne wanted him to, letting the spirit direct him to table after table.
“You should be happy,” Etienne told him, draping himself over Robert’s shoulders as he sat at a poker table. “A few weeks ago, you would have killed to win so many games. Don’t tell me it’s lost its enjoyment, now.”
Robert scowled, not responding, and turned his attention back to his cards.
It continued this way for weeks on end. Any time Robert had to spare was spent gambling. Etienne would sometimes reward him at the end of a long night by pushing him into his bed and crawling on top of him. As much as Robert wanted it—and loved it—there was an underlying bitterness that tinged it all, that he couldn’t ignore no matter how hard he tried. Before Robert had taken things too far, before any of this, they’d both been happy. Etienne was still bending the rules by letting a human see him and Robert was still benefiting from it, but it hadn’t mattered then. They’d enjoyed spending time in each other’s company and Robert felt like they’d lost that.
It was difficult to cling to such thoughts when Etienne had him pinned down to the bed, arse in the air. Etienne was insatiable; gentle but just rough enough to be what Robert liked. They’d always matched each other in bed perfectly and while that hadn’t changed, Robert could feel the shift in their dynamic with every touch, every kiss. Etienne said jump, and Robert didn’t even have time to ask how high?, before he was scrambling to obey, hoping only that it was high enough.
It took a month of this, a month of being at Etienne’s beck and call, before Robert snapped.
They’d just come home from another long night out at various casinos, moving from table to table, and then between establishments so that nobody took too much notice of Robert. He’d grown considerably richer over the past few weeks, but none of that meant anything to him when Etienne was holding him against the wall, kissing him with an authority that Robert wasn’t happy to give him.
“Enough,” Robert growled, pushing Etienne away just long enough that he could take advantage of the spirit’s brief surprise, switching their positions. He growled, kissing Etienne’s lips hard enough to bruise before trailing little bites down his neck.
“You’re feeling bold today.” Etienne’s voice was even breathier than normal. Robert pushed him against the wall even harder, knowing that Etienne could escape whenever he wanted simply by making himself incorporeal. He didn’t, though, and that pleased Robert more than he was willing to admit.
“I’m sick of this,” Robert muttered. “I’m sick of you holding all the cards, treating me like I’m a puppet to follow your every direction.”
“I let you play by your own rules before,” Etienne pointed out. “You saw how that went. You couldn’t help yourself, could you? You like it when I moderate your luck for you, but given the opportunity, you just use it all, without thought for the consequences.”
“I didn’t get caught.”
“You idiot.” Etienne switched their places again, holding Robert against the wall with a grip so tight that his feet were being lifted off the floor. “That’s all your tiny human mind can think about, isn’t it? The immediate consequences, the things that happen to you, and you alone. You didn’t even stop to think that using such great power would have its own repercussions. We have this bond now, and you still don’t give it any thought, do you?”
“This bond is all I think about,” Robert snapped. “The fact that you pull on my chain, and I follow like the dog that you’ve made me.”
Etienne laughed harshly. “If it were that simple, I would have left you to wither long ago. Do you think this bond only works one way? Why do you think I keep coming back to you, Robert? Why do you think I came to you in the hospital at all?”
Robert frowned, not understanding. Etienne rolled his eyes, taking a step back and folding his arms across his chest.
“You make me feel, Robert. Granted, recently it’s been a lot more anger than anything else, but the fact still stands that this puts you above almost every other person I’ve interacted with during my existence.” With a sigh, Etienne added, “I need you as much as you need me. That’s what a bond is. I could get my strength from giving other people luck, but it’s not going to compare to lending my power to you. Your victories are my victories, and that’s never been truer than it is now.”
“What does that mean?” Robert asked, his eyes narrowing.
“It means, you incredibly dense fool, that being away from you hurts me, the same way it hurts you. It means that, despite everything, if I didn’t have to be with you out of obligation, I’d be here out of my own free will.”
“…You really have a way with words, don’t you,” Robert deadpanned.
“You are frustrating,” Etienne grumbled, holding the sides of Robert’s face and pulling him into a kiss that lacked the bite that it usually had these days. The kiss turned gentler, almost tender as they held each other close.
“…Are we still fighting?” Robert murmured between kisses.
Etienne nipped Robert’s lower lip gently. “What do you think, genius?”
With a grin, Robert ran his hand down Etienne’s chest. The spirit’s clothes dissolved away into the air under Robert’s hands, until he was entirely naked. Etienne smirked at Robert, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and leading him towards the bedroom.
“It would make our lives much easier if you could learn to undress that quickly as well,” Etienne mused, unbuttoning Robert’s shirt with practiced ease, pulling it off and discarding it on the floor before going down on his knees, undoing Robert’s belt and then his pants. He never wasted much time on this, but he seemed to love the way Robert’s skin felt under his hands, judging by the way he would always stroke Robert’s stomach, his sides, his thighs, anything he could reach, once he was naked.
“On the bed. Lie down on your back.”
“Still giving orders?” Robert chuckled, setting back on his bed.
“You’re still following them.” Etienne smiled sweetly. “Give me your hand.”
He took hold of it as soon as he asked, taking the bottle of lube from Robert’s bedside table, squirting it into both of their hands, slicking their fingers. Robert let his hand be guided until he had two fingers in Etienne, stretching him slowly.
“Keep them there,” Etienne whispered, squeezing Robert’s wrist. Robert nodded shakily, not daring to move his fingers at all.
Then he felt Etienne’s long, thin fingers sliding alongside his. Etienne sighed breathily, scissoring his own fingers. Robert’s fingers slid deeper and he couldn’t resist the urge to curl them just slightly, knowing the reaction it would elicit.
Etienne cried out, his back arching, his free hand grabbing Robert’s shoulder.
“This is a nice change,” Robert murmured, pressing kisses along Etienne’s jaw. “I like it when you come apart on my fingers.”
“I like it even better when I can come apart on your cock,” Etienne replied.
“Mm, you don’t need to ask twice.” Robert kissed him hard, withdrawing his fingers and slicking his cock.
Etienne pushed him down to lie on the bed, straddling him and sinking down on his cock, making a quiet, satisfied sound when Robert was in to the hilt. The pace he set was slow, to the point that it was nearly torturously so. It couldn’t have been enough for Etienne; it certainly wasn’t enough for Robert. Still, Etienne continued to roll his hips, a playful smirk on his lips, like he was waiting to see which of them would lose their patience first.
Robert wasn’t remotely surprised that it was him, holding Etienne by the hips and thrusting into him with a little more force. Etienne gasped sharply, picking up his pace. He had his hands splayed on Robert’s chest to keep himself balanced, fingertips digging into the skin underneath. Robert was sure there’d be marks tomorrow—he hoped there would be. He hadn’t liked Etienne marking him when there was still that undercurrent of anger between them, but he could feel that it had dissipated now.
Etienne’s cries grew louder and louder as Robert fucked him harder. Rolling them over so that he was on top, Robert thrust into Etienne relentlessly, both of them gasping into each other’s mouths.
“Robert,” Etienne cried urgently, fingers digging into the skin of his back. Robert didn’t pause once, fucking Etienne through his orgasm, until he followed soon after.
“Oh,” Etienne whispered, pleased. “Oh, that feels much better.”
Robert simply smiled, kissing Etienne’s forehead before going to get a damp cloth to clean them up. Etienne lay back in bed, letting Robert attend to him, watching him fondly.
“Bond or no, we can do this.”
“Hm?” Robert asked, curling up on his side, pulling Etienne close.
“There’s no point in staying apart when we both end up hurt because of it,” Etienne murmured. “But there’s no reason we can’t work together. I won’t force you to use all your luck at casinos; I’ll scatter it through your day. Little things that nobody else will think twice about. You don’t try and use more than your fair share of luck. We’re both happy.”
“Mm,” Robert hummed, resting their foreheads together. “I do like the sound of that.”
Robert was sitting at the blackjack table. It was the same blackjack table that had started this; the first place he’d seen Etienne. He’d developed some kind of attachment to it and he would have felt embarrassed about it if not for the fact that Etienne seemed to share it.
After three winning hands in a row, Robert knew that Etienne was around. There was no point in looking; Etienne always showed up only when he felt like it, but he wasn’t surprised at all when he felt the light breeze by his shoulder.
“Miss me?” Etienne asked, only semi-corporeal, draping himself around Robert’s shoulders.
With a smile, Robert hummed the affirmative, quietly enough that the others at the table would think nothing of it.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear,” Etienne told him, squeezing his shoulders affectionately, “tonight is your lucky night.”