Drizzt and Artemis were left alone for the first time in a very long time. And, it was the first time that they didn't want to kill each other.
They were traveling along the Sword Coast headed North from Port Llast. Neither of them had a destination in mind, but both knew that traveling alone, again, would not be pleasant. Their need for each other, their one link to lives they once knew, remained unspoken. The others of their group had all gone their separate ways. Ambergris was off to reconcile with her clan, Afafrenfere to make restitution with his monastery, and Dahlia and Effron to travel together to make things right between the two of them.
Drizzt had thought that Artemis would depart as well, go back to Calimport and continue his career as an assassin. But when it came time for everyone to leave, Artemis stayed. It wasn't that he minded Artemis's presence, it simply perplexed him.
Artemis, on the other hand, had expected Drizzt to force him to go away. Where the drow was going himself, Artemis didn't care, so long as he didn't end up back in the Underdark or somewhere equally unpleasant. He didn't know why he followed Drizzt, all he knew was that he followed him.
With no direction, the two wandered the countryside at a leisurely pace. They didn't talk often, only enough to know which way they were going to walk that day or to know when to stop. They merely enjoyed the comfortable silence and listened the sounds of nature. So much had happened to them, not just over the past year or so together, but over the decades spent apart.
It was a lazy Summer afternoon when they had their longest conversation in weeks. They were camped next to a clear, cool river. There were a few sparse trees, but not enough to stop the sunshine from dancing along the ground. Today, instead of traveling, the human and the drow went fishing and foraging to replenish their low rations. Now, they sat on the riverbank, each with their own fishing pole, waiting for a bite. Drizzt sat reclined against a rock, while Artemis leaned forward, looking at the surface of the water with all the concentration in the world.
After half an hour or so of their usual silence, Artemis spoke. "I would have preferred to go hunting, I've never fished a day in my life and I'm finding it rather dull thus far."
"I thought you said that you'd never been hunting either," Drizzt retorted.
"I haven't. But I expect it to be much the same as hunting a person."
"In some ways, except you can't take down a deer with a dagger. You have to use a bow."
Artemis sighed. "Of course. Everyday I regret not learning how to shoot a bow."
"Truly?" Drizzt was curious. He and this man had been enemies for years, and now friends(?), yet he knew barely anything about him.
"No," Artemis deadpanned.
"Oh. Well, I was just going to say that I could teach you." Artemis turned to Drizzt gave him a quizzical look. "If you would like, that is," Drizzt finished lamely.
Artemis smirked at Drizzt. He had somehow flustered the drow without doing a thing. Drizzt ran his fingers through his hair, a nervous tic that Artemis had noticed long ago. He snorted before turning his attention back to his fishing line.
"Stop acting like a blushing maiden. It's frankly embarrassing."
Drizzt's expression instantly soured. He propped himself up on his elbows and fixed Artemis with a half-pout/half-glare.
"I was simply trying to be nice, unlike your unpleasant self."
Artemis laughed. "Is that the best insult you can come up with?"
Drizzt rolled his eyes. "Now you're just trying to irritate me."
"Oh, I'm always trying. But if you haven't noticed, I suppose I'll have to do better from now on."
"You ass," Drizzt said as he smacked Artemis on the arm.
"Ouch. Watch your language, you're supposed to be the epitome of heroics and goodness and whatever the hell else you do."
"Maybe I don't want to be a hero right now. Maybe, I just want to be Drizzt."
Artemis raised an eyebrow at Drizzt, but he had his eyes closed. One hand behind his head, and the other holding to his fishing pole. His snowy hair cascaded down over his shoulders, and his dark skin almost shone in the sunlight. Looking closer, Artemis noticed that Drizzt also had dark freckles spotting his cheeks and nose. Had the drow always had freckles? He couldn't remember.
"I thought you said that you were going to irritate me?" Drizzt said, breaking Artemis's train of thought. "I'm not feeling very irritated right now."
"I don't have to start right away. That would be too easy. I need to wait until you're vulnerable and off your guard." Artemis leaned back until he was laying right next to Drizzt against the large rock. Artemis still held to his fishing pole, but he had given up hope that he would catch anything, or, at least, anything soon.
"No rush then, take your time," Drizzt said. He stretched his limbs to their fullest extent and relaxed into the pebbly riverbank. He peeked at Artemis with one eye, and noticed how he close he was. He was maybe a foot away, maybe less. Drizzt's gaze fell upon the assassin's profile, and drifted along his steely gray eyes, prominent nose, and high cheekbones, then dropped to his strong jawline and soft looking lips, which —to Drizzt's surprise— were not set in his usual scowl. Drizzt turned his head to the opposite side quickly.
Soft lips? What? Drizzt thought. He was very disturbed by his mind; to think anything about Artemis was soft or sweet or whatever felt entirely, utterly, wrong. It was probably nothing. Just a random, intruding thought.
He yawned. The sun was making him feel lethargic. A little bit of a trance couldn't hurt…
"Watch my line, Entreri? I'm going to rest a bit."
"Tsk. Saddling me with your work… shame on you."
Drizzt shrugged. "I'm feeling lazy today. Feel free to be lazy with me." With that, Drizzt allowed himself to slowly drift off, ignoring whatever Artemis was going to say next, if anything at all.
Artemis shook his head disapprovingly. He couldn't believe this drow could be so laid back and so uptight at the same time. It made him look hypocritical. The vision he'd had of Drizzt since the moment they met, didn't match the image before him. In fact, Drizzt hadn't truly matched his old heroic self in all the time that they'd traveled together. He'd been reluctant, depressed, and so very angry. The latter two he blamed on the influence of Charon's Claw and Dahlia. But that same reluctance was there. Maybe that had always been there. Artemis didn't know.
But it made Drizzt more… human, if that could be said about a dark elf. He felt more grounded, less lofty. Namely, Artemis wanted to punch in his face a lot less. The urge still arose, but no more than it did for anyone else.
Artemis didn't know how much time passed as he sat lost in thought, but he was brought out of it when he felt Drizzt grab onto his hand. He was still in trance, Artemis could see when he looked over at him, but he had closed the small distance between them and practically pressed up against Artemis. He started to pull away, but Drizzt's grip tightened. Artemis could have yanked his hand away, but something in his unconscious stopped him.
Drizzt's hand was smooth, and gentle. The few times he'd held hands with another, it was out of necessity, not intimacy. It felt… nice. For the first time in a long while, Artemis felt comfortable. Nothing could worry him. He shut his eyes, and just let himself let out all his tension. He didn't let himself think about anything. Not past traumas, not the implications of his fledgling feelings, nor the worries of what's to come. He simply existed.
Drizzt was the first to come to. The sun was just setting, the orange light reflecting across the river.
The first thing he noticed was his proximity to Artemis. The second thing he noticed was that they were holding hands. The third thing, was that Artemis was waking up as well.
Drizzt jolted upright, already in a fluster. But, with a gentle squeeze of his hand, Artemis stopped his racing thoughts and heart dead in their tracks.
"Your laziness is contagious." Artemis sat up and turned to Drizzt. Steely eyes met lavender for mere heartbeats before breaking away.
Drizzt pulled his hand back from Artemis's now loose grip. "I'm sorry. I didn't— I was—" Drizzt sighed. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I'm the one who should be apologizing."
"What? Why—" Drizzt's question was interrupted as Artemis suddenly lunged toward him, eyes closed tight, until their lips met.
Drizzt sat in shock. But, after a few long seconds, he closed his eyes as well and kissed back. It felt like an eternity that they locked lips, giving and taking, pushing and pulling, but in reality it couldn't have been longer than a minute or two. Artemis's lips were just as soft as Drizzt had imagined them to be. They melded perfectly to Drizzt own lips, and he lost track of where he ended and Artemis started. The only hint that Drizzt had of who he was kissing so intimately, was the scratchy goatee brushing against his face, but something inside him took the sensation and made it feel all the more desirable.
Artemis had no idea what he was thinking. He had just let go of all his inhibitions in that one instant, and now he felt like there was nothing else he'd rather be doing in the world. He brought his hand up along Drizzt's side, feeling every lean muscle in his torso, and finally stopping in his long hair. With his eyes closed, Artemis could almost pretend he was kissing some woman, not Drizzt. But he knew Drizzt too well to delude himself so. His scent, that earthy woodsy scent, was overwhelming at this intimate distance.
Just as soon as it started, it was over. Both males gasped for air as if they had nearly been drowned. Their eyes met again, but instead of only a quick meeting, they stayed awhile. The dying light of day reflected once more off their wide eyes, before disappearing beyond the horizon.
"No apology needed," Drizzt whispered.
After a few final breathless moments, each of them stood and walked the short distance back to their camp in silence. Once there, they had a cold dinner of the last of their rations by the fireside.
"Today was a waste," Artemis said as he took a bite out of some dried meat.
"Yes," Drizzt said, "It certainly was."