(A/N: check end of chapter.)
Sunlight streamed through the trees into the camp of the Companions of the Hall, who lacked one important member and an extraneous assassin. Catti-brie searched the camp and immediate area frantically, Regis and Bruenor searching a bit further out, and Wulfgar searching the path ahead of them as far as possible for tracks. The camp was completely upturned in their search.
"Drizzt!" Catti-brie shouted for perhaps the hundredth time that morning.
She couldn't believe that Drizzt was gone.
Entreri… I promise that you will not make it out of this unscathed. She thought.
Catti-brie raked over the campsite again for any evidence, anything at all, that would denote where Artemis could have taken Drizzt. No bedrolls. No packs. No tracks. The only thing left behind was Artemis's horse, sans saddlepacks. She knelt next to the area where Artemis and Drizzt had slept, inspecting the ground. Right as she was about to move on again, she spotted the small glimmer of a gemstone covered by snow. She picked it up and found it to be a jeweled earring. She turned it over in her hands, confused. No one in the traveling group wore earrings, but maybe the object was already here. She just couldn't shake the feeling that she had seen an earring like this before… Her thoughts were interrupted by her companions arriving back in the camp. They all shared the same worried expression.
"There are no tracks," Wulfgar started, "it's as if they flew, or teleported."
"Damn assassin! I betcha that he used magic!" Bruenor accentuated his exclamation with angry gestures.
"I agree, they must have used magic. They're nowhere near here," Regis said. "But I've no idea how."
Catti-brie looked down at the earring in her hand. It was a deep ruby red, and shiny gold. It seemed to buzz with energy, as if it were filled with magic. She gasped as it hit her where she'd seen the earring.
"Didn't Entreri say that Jarlaxle was with him before?" Catti-brie asked.
Jarlaxle sighed and placed a hand to his cheek. He leaned against the door frame, right behind where Drizzt stood in front of the open window. The curtains fluttered in the freezing wind, and the noises of the streets drifted in.
"I had a feeling he would react this way. Oh well, I'll bring in someone else, more dangerous perhaps, be harsher, and see if that works," Jarlaxle muttered. Drizzt turned to face Jarlaxle.
"What are you talking about?" Drizzt asked. Jarlaxle's gaze shifted to Drizzt. His fingers absently rubbed at an empty ear piercing. He appeared to have temporarily forgotten that the young drow was still there. He smiled down at Drizzt.
"I'll only tell you if you promise not to tell your babysitter," Jarlaxle said.
"My—?" Drizzt cut himself off as he realized Jarlaxle was talking about Entreri. With a slight pout, Drizzt nodded. "I promise."
"Good." Jarlaxle swept him up into his arms, eliciting a small squeak. Jarlaxle sat on the bed, the one Drizzt had woken up in, and placed him on his lap.
"Artemis has been a lot happier lately, don't you think? Or at least, less dour," Jarlaxle said. Drizzt tilted his head, a confused expression on his face. Jarlaxle chuckled and continued.
"He has, trust me. And it has something to do with a certain little drow."
"What?" Drizzt couldn't comprehend Entreri being happy because of him, not unless it was because he was dead. "How?"
"Through being forced to watch over someone other than himself."
"I'm still confused, why would that change him? He hates me."
"No," Jarlaxle chuckled. "He doesn't hate you. He never has. He's been jealous of you, but he's never hated you. Hell, I bet he wishes he could be closer to you so that some of your charm could rub off on him."
Drizzt scrunched his nose at that. He highly doubted that Entreri secretly liked him. The thought was too weird for him.
"I'm not saying that Artemis would admit it," Jarlaxle continued. "And he probably doesn't even realize it himself, but I've spent a long time around him and I can just tell that he's not as heartless as you and he think."
"I guess… that makes some things make more sense," Drizzt admitted. He settled more into Jarlaxle's arms, a bit more comfortable with the older drow as his motives were starting to become clearer.
"Is that why you abuct- aduc-" Drizzt sighed, "took me away from my friends? So that 'Treri can keep being happier?"
"Not exactly, but close. I'm sure you don't want to be an infant forever, and I'm sure Artemis would get sick of you eventually, but I want to convince him of his own feelings. If possible, I'd like to get him to verbalize them as well." Jarlaxle readjusted Drizzt on his lap as he spoke. He wasn't used to holding young children, and Drizzt could sense the discomfort in Jarlaxle's hold on him. "You could also use a break from almost dying every time I see you."
"That's an exa- exer- that's not true," Drizzt said.
"It is and you know it. You're reckless, but that's what makes you so much fun." Jarlaxle ruffled Drizzt's hair.
"Hey!" Drizzt pushed Jarlaxle's hand away. He smoothed down his hair, but several strands had already freed themselves from his ponytail.
"Now, what do you say about helping me in my crusade against Artemis's steely heart?"
Drizzt sighed. He was sick of being a baby, but if staying like this could help turn Entreri to good, then he could sacrifice his comfort for a little bit longer.
"Wonderful. On a related note, how do you feel about dragons?"
"Dragons?" Drizzt asked in alarm. Jarlaxle's widening grin did nothing to assuage Drizzt's sudden distress.
Artemis didn't know where he planned to go. He drifted through the streets, from shadow to shadow, from alley to alley. He finally knew which city Jarlaxle had whisked him away to though: Neverwinter. He'd only been here once, and that was from when he was chasing Regis so many years ago. There was no snow or ice anywhere, but chill winds still tore through the city.
Artemis watched people wandering the streets, looking at marketplace goods or rushing to and fro with various errands. More than that, he noticed how many parents with children walked about. He'd never paid much mind to them before, but now they were all he could notice.
Children ran through the streets, chasing each other and playing games. Others were holding tight to their mother or father's hand as they were brought along for who knows what. Artemis looked down to his right, where Drizzt usually stood close beside him, almost wishing he were with him. He felt a twinge of guilt.
I left him with Jarlaxle. He's probably going to kill him. I need to go back.
Artemis struggled to shake the thoughts away, but they kept following him as he wandered through the markets. His mind wouldn't stop coming up with horrible scenarios involving Drizzt getting hurt. Why wouldn't his mind just leave him alone!
As Artemis wandered, a certain merchant's stall caught his eye, distracting him temporarily. The banner promised "Fine toys of excellent quality" and, upon closer inspection, Artemis had to agree with the claim. Carved wooden animals and blocks of intricate design dominated the selling tables. Interspersed among them, were plush toys of animals, monsters, and people. One plush toy in particular caught Artemis's eye, and he wanted to laugh as soon as he saw it. He walked up to the merchant running the stall, toy in hand and ignoring all the stares from concerned mothers around him, and purchased it.
He made his way back to the small apartment building that he and Jarlaxle lived in for now, his troubling thoughts pushed away but not gone, with a toy for his young drow charge.
I don't care if he likes it or not, I just want to see his reaction. Artemis told himself, trying desperately to justify in his own mind the spontaneous kindness. It didn't work very well.
After Jarlaxle's little talk that ended on a vague promise of future threats for the greater good of Artemis's potential reformation, Drizzt was left to his own devices. Jarlaxle was around, but he seemed to really not want to be bothered. He was looking at maps and papers and talking to someone via a communication gem.
Jarlaxle did set out some finger foods for breakfast, which Drizzt appreciated, but he felt a little upset about being ignored. Not only that, but Drizzt was a bit shocked at himself for missing Entreri, and how he would give all his attention to him while he fed him. More embarrassingly, he missed being held in Entreri's lap while the assassin gave him some milk afterward. Instead, Drizzt was left to eat alone.
He tried to entertain himself, but there wasn't anything in this apartment that would keep his attention. He left Jarlaxle where he worked in the living area and went into the bedroom. He dug through his pack and found a few of the little toys that had occupied him before, but right now they seemed dull. Right next to his pack, was Entreri's pack. It was tantalizing. What was in there? There might be nothing, but, on the other hand, there could be something. After a few moments of internal debate, Drizzt dragged the pack closer. He glanced behind him toward the door and then at the window. Jarlaxle was still busy, and the window was shut tight.
Drizzt undid the clasp, fumbling for a bit, and flipped it open. At first, Drizzt was rather disappointed. Clothes, an extra pair of boots, a bedroll, and some rations dominated the majority of the pack. A small pouch had some earrings in it, and Drizzt recalled seeing Entreri wearing them a few times. He dug deeper, pulling things out and tossing them aside. At the very bottom, he found two things of interest: Guenhwyvar's statutte (which Drizzt was very excited about), and a small flute. He could sense the magic emanating from it, but he had no idea what it did. Nor did he know why Artemis had a magic flute. He played a few notes on it quietly. Nothing happened.
However, as Drizzt contemplated the flute, he heard the door in the main room open and shut.
"Hello, Artemis. Have a nice walk?"
"As good as any walk through freezing weather."
Drizzt frantically grabbed Entreri's things and shoved them back into the pack haphazardly. The only thing he kept out was Guenhwyvar's statuette, which he promptly slipped into a pocket. As soon as everything was back in place, he shoved it away and grabbed his own pack to dump out on the floor. He didn't even bother closing Entreri's pack. He knew he wouldn't have time to fiddle with the clasp as Entreri entered right that moment.
As soon as Artemis entered the bedroom, he knew something was off. Drizzt didn't even look up as the assassin entered. The young drow looked very focused on his set of wooden rings toy. A quick glance around the room told Artemis everything he needed to know. His pack was on its side with its contents spilling out, and Drizzt was purposely avoiding his gaze.
"Did anything interesting happen while I was gone?"
"No," Drizzt answered quickly.
And now he was lying.
"Are you sure? Intersting things always seem to be going on with you or Jarlaxle."
"I— I'm sure." The little drow sat still now, toy forgotten. He brought his thumb up to his mouth, a clear sign of discomfort. Artemis felt some irritation. Why couldn't Drizzt just stop causing problems and being so stubborn?
"I'm done playing." Artemis picked Drizzt up and placed him on his feet, facing the assassin. "Why were you going through my things?" Artemis asked sharply.
Drizzt opened his mouth to reply, but he couldn't find his words. He really didn't know. He was bored, and he missed Entreri. Now Enteri was angry, and he knew he hated him. Ever since Drizzt had been transformed, Entreri had done nothing but complain about the situation and belittle him. Drizzt felt hot tears sting his eyes. He rubbed them away with his hand roughly. He was so sick of crying all the time, but he just couldn't help it.
As more tears streamed down his face, Drizzt crossed the few steps separating him and Entreri and wrapped his arms around the man's legs.
"S-sorry…!" Drizzt cried.
Artemis sighed. He picked Drizzt up and pulled him in to his chest. He sat down on the bed, rubbing Drizzt's back and rocking him.
"Stop that, I'm not upset over something as ridiculous as a backpack, and you shouldn't be either."
Drizzt buried his face deeper into Artemis's chest, the crying letting up a little. He suppressed a grimace as felt his shirt getting damp from the inevitable tears and snot.
"Come on, you're always telling me how you're not a baby. Time to prove it. Calm down." The comforting words felt unnatural in Artemis's mouth, yet, somehow, they felt right. It unnerved him.
It paid off, as the sobs turned into nothing but an occasional sniffle. Now is as good a time as any to give Drizzt the gift I bought for him, Artemis supposed.
"I have something for you," Artemis said. He readjusted Drizzt on his lap to face forward. He leaned down and grabbed the burlap sack that his purchase resided in for now. He handed it to Drizzt. "Take it."
Drizzt looked up at Entreri with confusion. This was out of character for the assassin. Although, everything felt out of character lately. He took the bag cautiously and pulled his gaze away from Entreri. Slowly, he opened the bag. He reached inside tentatively, and he felt something soft and fuzzy. Out came a miniature plush horse— no, a unicorn. In Drizzt's hands, he held a child's version of the symbol of his benevolent goddess.
"You can find a lot of things in markets."
Drizzt stared at it for a moment longer before bursting into laughter. It was ridiculous! Why would such a thing be made? And it looked so funny, too. Its mane was dyed blue, the proportions were all wrong (its head was huge and the legs dangled strangely), and, to top it all off, it sported a wide, goofy grin.
He heard Entreri chuckle. Drizzt started a bit in surprise. He hadn't ever heard such a genuine sound from Entreri before. He liked it.
Their laughter died down after a few minutes.
"Thank you, I love it," Drizzt said. He paused before hugging Entreri tightly. The assassin froze. He patted Drizzt on the back awkwardly. As soon as Drizzt released him, he set the young drow down on the ground.
"Go play now before I put you down for a nap."
As Drizzt ran off, unicorn plush secured under one arm, Artemis wondered how his life possibly came together to lead him to this sickeningly sweet domestic scene.
(A/N: Have some fluff for Christmas. Also, title change. I never liked the original title, but I couldn't think of a different one. Now I have. Yay.)