This is a revised version of the fic I wrote a while back for the prompt "sellswords, domestic fluff." Takes place after "That Curious Sword" but before "Wickless in the Nether."
Artemis Entreri glanced up from the paper in front on him, studying the blank walls as if they would provide a solution to the problem he had encountered: he didn't know how to end this particular letter.
One week ago, he and Jarlaxle had arrived in Heliogabalus. They had found a job (which had turned out to be a trap.) They had gone through a window (trapped) and opened a wardrobe (trapped) and fought someone who called himself "Netherese." Entreri wasn't even going to think about what that might mean, since he was sure that any investigation into the matter was sure to also be a trap. (Presumably, this meant that Jarlaxle was out investigating it right now and would return soon with mysterious enemies on his heels.)
Three days ago, Jarlaxle had declared that if they were staying in the city (and he seemed to assume that they were), they should find cheaper long-term accommodations.
Two days ago, he and Jarlaxle had found and paid for a loft that had a terrible view of the market but had defensible windows. (Jarlaxle had insisted on the proximity to the center of town. Entreri had insisted on a building without extended eaves, since they made it far too easy for potential enemies to break in.)
And one day ago, Entreri had realized that he wanted to tell someone about all of this. And so he was writing a letter.
My dear Dwahvel…
He'd had to omit parts, of course. If it were somehow intercepted, nothing in the letter could suggest where he'd actually gone. But even so, he found that it went past the bottom of the page and that he'd had to finish writing on the back of the paper. He'd said almost everything he needed to say, but it felt incomplete. He glared at it and considered whether to rewrite it so that the whole thing fit on one side of the page.
The air pressure changed as Jarlaxle came into the room. Not by opening the door of course – Entreri wasn't sure if the drow even knew how to get past the traps that he'd had put above it or if he just took pleasure in going right past them – but by using the portable hole. This time, he entered to the left of the door itself. Last time he'd been three feet to the right. Entreri considered the practical options for trapping the wall as well as the door, then realized that Jarlaxle was carrying a basket.
"More cupcakes?" he asked. Not that he was excited for them, but he'd been focused on the letter and hadn't eaten yet.
"No, but it is a gift from Piter." Jarlaxle smiled and overturned the basket onto the bed. A small black bundle of fur tumbled out and examined the room with bright yellow eyes. It looked up at Entreri, took a few fumbling steps forward, then batted at the edge of his paper, slightly smudging the ink. Entreri moved his ink bottle out of safety and glared at Jarlaxle.
"You got us a cat."
"No, Piter got us a cat. He said it would help with the vermin."
"Vermin?" Entreri smirked. "Yesterday you said that rats were cute."
"That was before I learned that they chewed on clothing." Jarlaxle held up the edge of his cloak for inspection. It had been gnawed along the edges, leaving jagged holes and threads where the embroidery had been.
There was still a small black paw resting on his letter. Entreri poked the offending paw with the end of his pen. The kitten whirled about to chew on the object, further crumpling the paper.
Jarlaxle, perhaps wanting to keep his vermin-control alive longer than five minutes, scooped up the kitten and put it on the floor.
"Go," he said. He pointed at the wall where the rats seemed to have their nest. "Destroy the enemy."
Instead, the kitten rolled onto its back and started batting at the edge of a blanket that was hanging off the bed. Jarlaxle frowned at it.
"Have you ever encountered a cat before?" Entreri asked, smoothing out the paper.
"I've seen Drizzt Do'Urden's panther in action." Jarlaxle winced slightly. "Quite closely, in fact. It was impressive. This would seem like a miniature version of the concept."
"If you are very lucky, your newest recruit to Bregan D'aerthe will manage to find the rats. I do not think that that is a battle it will win, though." He eyed the small scrap of fur (which was now rubbing against Jarlaxle's boots) and decided that it depended on the nature of local rats. Calimport rats could definitely win against the kitten, but perhaps Heliogabalus rats were less competent.
The kitten had started climbing up Jarlaxle's leg. The mercenary pried its claws out of his pants and set it on his shoulder.
"It is cute, though," he said, studying it.
"That is what you said about the rats." Entreri smirked. The kitten was eyeing the feather on Jarlaxle's hat with wide-eyed fascination. In the interest of distracting Jarlaxle from the imminent threat to his hat, Entreri picked up his pen and tapped the letter. "Should I pass along any messages from you to Dwahvel?"
"Just my regrets that I never got to meet her in Calimport." The kitten was trying to balance on its hind legs, one paw extended after the bobbing feather. "She seems like a delightful-" the kitten pounced, knocking off Jarlaxle's hat and falling to the floor. The mercenary looked at the hat, at the kitten (who was now chewing on the end of the feather with glee), and finally at Entreri.
"You could have warned me."
"At least it did not go after your jewelry." Jarlaxle winced and put one hand protectively over a dangling earring.
"Would it?" He was studying the kitten, which was now in a enthusiastic wrestling match with Jarlaxle's hat. That feather would probably never be the same and Entreri decided that the kitten was allowed to stay.
"Yes. They'll chase anything."
Jarlaxle pulled out one of his daggers and flicked his wrist, elongating it to a sword. Entreri raised an eyebrow, but Jarlaxle just flicked the tip of the sword in an arc over the kitten's head. Attention drawn by the movement, it released the hat and sat up, head tilting to follow the motion of the blade.
"Do not kill it," Entreri said. "The rats would have done more damage."
"Relax, abbil. I'm not going to kill the creature, no matter how destructive it may be." Something glittered in the mercenary's eyes and it made Entreri wonder how Jarlaxle could still be so fond of a little scrap of claws that destroyed anything that got too close to it, but he decided not to ask.
Jarlaxle sat next to him on the bed and kept playing with the cat, keeping the bright tip of the sword constantly out of reach. Satisfied that Jarlaxle knew what he was doing, Entreri turned back to the problem of his letter.
He didn't have a second piece of paper to rewrite it on. But all the extra space at the bottom still seemed empty, somehow. Beside him, Jarlaxle laughed as the cat jumped after the sword.
First making sure that Jarlaxle's attention was fully occupied by the kitten, Entreri turned slightly and picked up the pen. It was easy enough to capture Jarlaxle's posture and pleased expression in a few deliberate strokes. The cat was harder, since it was moving, but he thought he managed to portray it well enough. It was an amusing image, if nothing else. As an afterthought, he included the destroyed hat in the background.
He just needed to wait for the ink to dry before he folded it. Before he got the chance, Jarlaxle glanced over and saw the sketch. His eyebrows flew up in surprise and he smiled.
"That is quite good."
Entreri shrugged. "It's been a useful skill on occasion. There have been times it helped to have a drawing of the person I needed to track down."
"Still." Jarlaxle put away his sword and looked around at the bare walls. "We could make these walls far less boring."
"I am not painting your portrait on the walls of our apartment."
"It would be a much better view than the one we have now."
Entreri shook his head and folded up the letter. Then he glanced at Jarlaxle.
Notes: Literally every person I know who owns both a cat and a sword has done what Jarlaxle is doing. It's good practice for point control and reflexes. Admittedly, my sword is dull and tipped with rubber, so I'm not as worried about hurting my domestic fluff.