Disclaimer: If I owned Forgotten Realms and Artemis and Jarlaxle, do you think they'd be in this mess?

Discarded Muse

Jarlaxle smiled, but his smile was his shield. He looked away, uncertain if he ever had to look again. The sight was burned into his mind. The confirmation of everything he feared, everything he dreaded to know.

The crystal reflected the image of Artemis Entreri, walking to the door of The Copper Ante, exhausted but exhilerated, allowed in. Out of the corner of Jarlaxle's eye, he saw the interference caused by Mistress Tiggerwillies' magical shielding. His spell signal survived long enough to produce the flickering image of Artemis and Dwahvel embracing, Dwahvel tackling his waist and hanging on, her feet dangling off the floor.

Jarlaxle found himself wiping his mouth with one hand, trying to erase the frozen smile on his lips, the culmination of centuries of subterfuge, of knowing when to show submissiveness. He could not help the urge to roll over now; it was too late. He'd had his chance. He hadn't been able to make Artemis stay.

Licking dry lips, he crossed to the center of the room and turned off the crystal. Before he could see them kiss. Their expressions were unguarded, each of them starry eyed, flushed. The look between a man and a woman was the same regardless of race, a physiological response.

Though the scrying crystal had been absent of sound, Jarlaxle was so used to reading lips that Artemis' words had been clear, mouth forming the words that stabbed Jarlaxle in the chest from thousands of miles away. 'Dwahvel, my friend, I have come home. Does this disrupt your plans?'

Automatically his eyes had flicked to Dwahvel to read the response, his lungs freezing. 'Artemis Entreri!' she'd squealed, laughing. And then she'd teased him, teased him as Jarlaxle had a thousand times, but with the bold open-hearted quality of halflings. 'Yes! In the best kind of way!'

Jarlaxle knocked the scrying crystal off its stand before he could think and punted the globe across the room. It knocked off the wall with a hard, glassy sound, protected by a spell. At least he wouldn't break his toys.

A sob exploded in the soundproof room. Jarlaxle shuddered. He hated that sound, hated the loss of control it meant. His heart was tearing itself apart in his chest. Artemis called Dwahvel 'my friend'. Unironically.

All the years he'd assumed Artemis Entreri incapable of those words, always reading in between the lines. All this time, believing he was building a friendship with the assassin, a relationship he could never have with another drow, but he could have now because, after all, Artemis was still human, despite the man's lack of compassion or humanity. The closeness, the shared laughter, the sense of partnership. The faith that despite their misunderstandings, Artemis ultimately understood and respected him.

Don't you see? I am your muse. His earlier words echoed in his head.

How many times had he heard Dwahvel's name? It seemed a thousand times, always present. The reason they didn't go back to Calimport right away had been for her sake. The reason Artemis chose a wintry wasteland as far away as possible was for her sake. He'd wanted to give Dwahvel a chance to stabilize her business, and Jarlaxle had agreed, thinking privately that this decision showed the secret, true Artemis Entreri, the man who could care for others. Selective, special others.

Jarlaxle pressed on the corners of his mouth with his hands, forcing the paper thin smile down. One other, as it turns out.

Going to Calimport right now and destroying Dwahvel's business would only prove the point Artemis had thrown in his face: you're drow. You don't know how to be anyone's friend. Outbursts of jealousy and rage were childish in the estimation of the human race.

Jarlaxle exlosively paced throughout the scrying room, biting his thumb, a fraction of control away from making himself bleed. What was he supposed to do? In the human estimation of things, what could he do to prove he was Artemis' friend? There had to be something. He could end this. The pain he felt could go away. If he could just think of the right solution, everything would be okay.

It had to be. He couldn't imagine life without Artemis Entreri.