Disclaimer

            I'm bored, and besides, I haven't decided what I really want to do with this story.  It's supposed to be a short one, but these things never actually go the way I want them to.  It's also supposed to be a yaoi (homosexual or slash) pairing between Entreri and Zaknafein so as to scare (some members of) my dark elf fiction list, but nevermind.  Anyway, I don't own TSR, or FR, unfortunately, because if I did I wouldn't have to slog away at earning this stupid degree.

            Oh yes, if anyone wants to bribe me to stop writing this story, feel free. : )

--

Part 1: Meetings in Madness

            "My, what a surprise," Jarlaxle said urbanely, regarding the dark elven male before him over his book.  "To what do I owe the honor of this visit, Drizzt?"

            Drizzt glared at him.  The centuries had managed to mature his features somehow to resemble his father more greatly, but had failed to dull the slightly crazed zeal in his eyes that was the only distinguishing factor that Jarlaxle vaguely remembered of his friend's son.  While stubborn Zaknafein had only taken a few decades to grow out of his adolescent madness, Drizzt seemed to still be enmeshed within it, setting out on escapade after escapade on unsuspecting evil.

            "You have not changed one bit," Drizzt said peremptorily, shooting Jarlaxle a look of barely concealed distaste.  The mercenary leader was comfortably ensconced in a luxurious room with all the trappings of wealth – bright satin, silk, velvet and brocade made up most of the decorative fabrics, and there was an uncomfortably heavy scent in the air, sickly sweet like barely rotten fruit.  The older elf was in a thick chair, legs propped up with laconic grace on an expensive mahogany desk, reading what looked like a run-of-the-mill cheap adventure story. 

            "I doubt you came through all my guards to tell me that," Jarlaxle smiled.

            "Your guards let me in," Drizzt said, his voice faintly disappointed, and for a moment Jarlaxle saw the ghost of Zaknafein in that attitude, a wolf betrayed of a good fight.  "They were even… polite… about it."

            "I would think so," Jarlaxle remarked, "For they are all well-mannered creatures."

            Drizzt crossed his scimitars, which gleamed in the dull light of the chamber like captured crescent moons.  "They will not stop me from killing you."

            Jarlaxle raised an eyebrow, as if he could not comprehend why anyone would want to kill him.  Or could.  "You came here to kill me?"

            "I came here to kill you if you did not tell me what happened to my father, or where he is now." Drizzt said shortly.  "I heard he appeared in Calimport."

            Jarlaxle chuckled, causing Drizzt to grip his weapons more tightly, as if for reassurance.  "Why did you not just ask?"

            "Well…" Drizzt looked embarrassed, but only for a moment.  "Sorry."  Drizzt was definitely becoming more like his father, Jarlaxle thought.  Zaknafein generally started most conversations with him via a death threat, as well.  Except that Do'Urden Elder never apologized.

            "No matter.  I will tell you what happened of date… then where he is now, if you still wish to know."

            "Of course I would," Drizzt said indignantly.

            "If you say so," Jarlaxle said, with that mysterious, irritating air he exuded whenever he was about to pull an ace.

**

            Nose wrinkling, the man remembered belatedly the reason why he'd given up the 'pleasure' of skulking in alleys to subordinates a few centuries ago and spent most of his current days in relative comfort around the apex of Calimport's greased-rung social ladder.  Until now. 

            The problem, he decided, probably started when demons began breeding with humans, because the sheer chaotic devilry of civilization now just had to be Abyssal in origin.  He was, of course, talking about 'lawyers' and the rest of the recently instituted criminal justice system in Calimport and all the major cities in Toril.  When he was young, the man thought, or at least, normally young, there was no Courts nonsense.  If you infuriated someone enough, that person would just take out a contract on you, and either one of you would die, depending on who had the better bodyguard or assassin.  That was fine by him, because he got paid, and, since he was good enough to be able to choose his jobs with discretion, it meant the occasional challenging fun accompanied with lots of money.

            Now, however…

            A sound – he froze against a grimy wall that had seen better, red-bricked times, and was now a solid film of gray-green filth and graffiti, regretting it instantly, hoping that he had not done irreparable damage to his clothes.  The edge of his dark gray cloak flicked aside to reveal a metal gauntlet of a strange pale-bronze color, haphazardly fused with curious dark gems that seemed to wink in the filtered light of the moon, like near-blind eyes.  A slithering, metallic rasp, as a short sword extended from his palm like a dealer producing a card, and eventually his sheathed, clawed fingers closed against the reassuring hilt of the blade. 

            He could not remember what the blade had been called, or whether it had been a set with the gauntlet, that had been modified so many times over the years that it was now part of his left arm, and half-sentient, at that.  But he remembered the feel of it in his palm, its weight and swing, and its power…

            Cautiously, he looked around the corner.  Nothing he could see, but there were so many obstacles in the form of filling dustbins and rotting boxes that he could not take it for granted that he was alone.  He walked forward, taking care to scan the area neatly – sheer walls, empty fire escape ladders and platforms, boarded-up windows, glass stained mud-brown by the elements. 

            A flash of white from the front – he started forward, just in time to see a child-sized, hooded figure run away around the corner. 

            "Wait!" he called, not that it worked.  He sprinted over, and, in accordance with dramatic rules, was just in time to see the child disappear into a crowd, some of whom favored him with looks of vague curiosity that were immediately averted once they took in the gauntlet and the sword, as famous as their owner.  Entreri paused for a moment to look around wildly, scanning the faces of shopkeepers and dusty, weary travelers, brightly colored merchants with tight faces accompanied by burly armored bodyguards, footmen attending clattering carriages, blank laborers, sedan chairs, the noise surging like a tide and drowning out completely any sounds of little running feet.

            He bit out a curse and settled for looking at footprints.  Child-like and small, they triggered an alarm in his head, and he decided to take a drink on it and think.  It wasn't as though he had any other leads at the moment, and the Courts were still breathing down his neck.

**

            It had been a few days ago when he was suddenly summoned before the High Court of Calimport and told summarily that unless he were to catch the serial killer currently roaming around Calimport happily executing people at random, he would be charged on many counts of first degree murder and such and sentenced to death. 

In his astonishment, Artemis Entreri, the greatest assassin in Calimport history, could only gape at the Chief Justice, a wizened man with a piercing gimlet gaze, that, just decades ago, he would not hesitate to kill.  As it was, he'd listened to the rest of the verdict in a daze, but he did understand that if he ignored this, he would definitely have to change his face, maybe flee the continent, now that all the Faerun Courts were working with each other.  He'd never be able to do business in present days, if he were a highly wanted criminal. 

Everything had changed so much.

            As he'd said, it was no time to be an assassin.  All the old ones had either been sentenced or restarted their life in business. 

            His lawyer Nask, a stout, disconcertingly intelligent human who never failed to remind him of a bulldog, had 'advised' him to continue on the Court's wishes, renounce his name as an assassin, and fall under the Law.  The first he would do for now, the rest he would consider. 

            It wasn't even fun anymore.  He'd actually been sued once for assault when he'd threatened to dismember a snappish shop owner if he didn't tell him the location of someone's house, and he hadn't even touched said shop owner.  Nask had informed him that 'assault' also included 'verbal' and 'mental' injury.  Claims that he hadn't been using magic just made his lawyer give him a lengthy explanation of the terms that had left Entreri with a headache and a cynical disillusionment of the world. 

He'd almost wished that he had never come across the stupid jeweled dagger.  Absorbing so much life force into his body had left him with more or less eternal life, which meant he was more or less stuck with a world that no longer made any sense.

            Caught up in his misery, Entreri barely noticed the waitress fearfully place a tankard in front of him, but he took a sip of it, brooding melancholically.  Lawyers! He really should try and messily kill every one of them, only that for some reason those he really detested earned even more money than he did (and therefore had small armies of guards), and set up firms that produced even more of the disgusting creatures, that set up even more of the ludicrous laws. 

It was, he reflected bitterly, a nightmarish chain reaction.  Even the Dark Elves had withdrawn their interests in the Surface world, as far as Bregan D'aerthe was concerned anyway, something that armies and military threats had failed to do so in the past.

            "One day…" Entreri muttered under his breath, glowering at the crowd, and more importantly, at the black-and-white robed members.  The children in it reminded him of his mission.

            The serial killer was widely thought to be a shapeshifter of some sort, except that magical readings showed that there were actually two distinct presences in each crime scene.  There were nearly always a child's footprints, and always the track of boots, larger than a child's, but more slender and smaller than an average man's, but definitely masculine. 

            Witnesses often spoke of seeing a child-like figure hooded in dirty white, barefoot, running to or away from the scene, but this proved to be a useless lead, as much of the city's beggar children took to wearing the same sort of clothes.  People were, after all, less predisposed to trying violence against a potential shapeshifter, and were more inclined to give charity, in case they became the next victim, proving that the beggar children were definitely much smarter than, say, the city police.

            The tankard was empty.  Entreri gave it an accusing look, as if hoping that it'd fill up again, before dumping some change on the table and leaving into the crowd, in as foul a mood as he'd been in since the entire fracas.

**

            Blast it! He'd lost the child again.  Definitely the same one he'd seen in the alley.  He, or she, seemed to be following him with a canny intelligence and experience that did not fit his or her probable age.

            It was turning into a really stupid game of cat and mouse.  One thing he knew for sure was that the kid was definitely not one of the normal street children, all of whom knew who he was, and would not dare toy with him like this. 

            Skidding around a corner, slightly out of breath, all he saw was a thin, muddy brown alley cat, which regarded him with a reproachful look before disappearing into the dirty piles of none-too-fragrant refuse.  Entreri took the moment to swear colorfully in all the languages that he knew, and was just starting on Dark Elven when his sharp ears caught a snatch of conversation somewhere above him. 

            Half a conversation, anyway.

            "… I told you he'd know… well he's speaking your… all right, maybe… oh damn!" This last when whoever it was seemed to notice Entreri had stopped swearing and was looking upwards, weapons drawn.

            The same child, face shaded so much by the hood that he could only make out a defiant chin and dirty, small clenched fists, before the child squeaked and scrambled up through one of the grimy windows, into the darkness of the building.  Frantically, Entreri searched around for an entrance, found none, cursed again, and managed to haul himself up to the platform above via the slimy, jammed ladder let half-down to the street, somehow squeeze through the window, muttering about having to lose some weight, and found himself falling.

            Hands grabbed at nothing, and Entreri remembered belatedly one of the unwritten Assassin rules, to look before you step… the floor must have been gaping, rotted holes in areas, nothing but darkness below him… and there was a sudden horrible vision of eternal life ending in broken, ebbing pain alone, drowning in blackness…

            A callused palm caught his right wrist in a grip like a vice.  There was a grunt of effort above him as whoever it was absorbed the impact of the arrested fall and the assassin's full weight, said something unintelligible, then Entreri felt himself being pulled upwards.  Scrambling gratefully onto ancient wooden boards, he looked up warily into the face of his rescuer, and nearly fell backwards into the hole in surprise.

            A dark elf!

            There was no mistaking the ebony skin and the shock of silvery hair, the calculating, coldly intelligent eyes and the wicked twist to the sensual mouth.  A male, tall for his species, in adamantine armor… one of Bregan D'aerthe? No, that armor did not look like the mercenary group's uniform… Back on his feet, Entreri drew his weapons pragmatically, and then added, rather awkwardly, "Thank you."

            The male cocked his head curiously, as if not understanding, and the dim light through the window pushed the shadows and silver strands of hair away from his face.  Entreri blinked in astonishment – that such beauty existed in mortal form, even in that on an elf! It was hypnotic, the easy grace with which the male drew himself to his full height – half a hand or so shorter than the assassin… he found himself gaping, like some vulgar commoner.  A part of his stunned brain screamed for attention – there was something nearly familiar about the dark elf's features that eluded him.

            Then the elf smiled – smirked, really – did he notice? Of course he noticed, Entreri thought irritably – he, a master assassin, was rather disturbingly acting like a schoolgirl with a crus… oh no.   He felt with horrified fascination a warm flush begin to creep up his cheeks.

**

            Somewhere in an alternative dimension, the Author laughs evilly at the terror on all her non-yaoi readers.

**

            A child walked unhurriedly in the crowd, jostled and knocked around by the uncaring rush of people above her.  If anyone paid attention, they would have heard her muttering, apparently to herself.

            "…what did you do that for? … Yes, I mean your fighting him and beating him unconscious then leaving him there… no, of course I won't want you to kill him, why do you think I'm helping you? We have to get you out of… well he does have a connection to your friend… so I thought…there's no talking to you…"

            Rather irritated now, the child reflected on how normal children generally just had imaginary friends.  The imperative word, of course, in that sentence, was 'imaginary'.

**

            Entreri woke up in a dull haze of pain.  He was bleeding in multiple light gashes on his arms and legs, and his stomach and temple still hurt.  Vaguely he remembered a blur of speed and terrifying skill that dashed aside his defenses, arcs of silver crescents and wicked blades, then a knee in his stomach, falling on the ground, and the hilt of a sword approaching with purposeful momentum, then darkness.

            What had that elf done that for?

            In any case, if anyone could be the serial killer, that elf must have been it.  Other than a few apparently random defenseless civilians, the killer had also murdered several mercenaries known for their skills in magic and weapons.  Some of the pieces fit – the wounds, made by two keen, well-made swords, the precision, and the child. 

            The piece that fit the most was the sudden twist in the handsome face from one of indifferent contempt into sheer, bloodthirsty insanity, and the elf had charged him with a snarl, like a maddened beast, with an expression Entreri had seen before only in the mental ward of Calimport hospital, normally on those either dropped on their heads in birth, born wrong, or victims of torture.

            Entreri knew the value of keeping an open mind, but he decided to concentrate on this lead. 

            It had nothing to do with the elf's hypnotic beauty.  Nothing at all.

            Wearily, he picked himself up, wincing at the cuts, and somehow managed to get himself out of the window and back down to the alley.  After a few turns, he came upon an unlucky drunkard.

            "Wh'?" the drunkard mumbled, staring blearily at the assassin.  Entreri shrugged, and stabbed quickly with the dagger, shuddering as the life force drained into him and healed his wounds.

            Now he had to hunt.  He had lived in and explored Calimport for decades, and could hypothesize with some confidence where the elf and the child could hide out…

**

            Exhausted and frustrated, the sun setting lazily behind him, Entreri managed to drag himself up all the stairs of his organization's headquarters towards his bedroom, nodding at his subordinates.  It had been a week, with concerted efforts from lower minions, but there had been no sign of a dark elf anywhere in the chaos of the city.  It was as though he had vanished after the embarrassing trouncing he had given Entreri. 

            Headquarters was a blocky, ugly building with a peeling paint job near the commercial heart of Calimport, and handled the paperwork of all the businesses under Entreri's thumb.  Nearly all of them were legal, too.  In a sense, they were some indication of how the world was changing – the legal side of his business now made considerably more money than the illegal side, if you discounted the drug trade, which was partly legal anyway. 

            More importantly, the building was heavily guarded and thickly fortified with good masonry and protective wards, and his room was comfortably placed in a good position for retreating to or running from.  Entreri was actually rather proud of the place – he had a huge influence in the plans (which probably explained the lack of decoration and squat unloveliness about the area as well).

            On reflection, he probably shouldn't have made his room so high up. 

            Stumbling towards the door, he let himself in, and then leant against it until he heard the reassuring click of the lock.  Home at last!
            "What the…"

            The elf was perched rather precariously on the back of a stone chair, watching him with mild curiosity, arms lazily hanging to either side, like a gangly bird.

            "How did you get in here?" Entreri demanded, drawing his weapons, even though he knew they were relatively useless against the elf, especially in his exhaustion. 

            "Without much difficulty," the elf said, in heavily accented Common, and smirked.  Instinctively, Entreri braced himself, but no attack came.  "You humans do not know how to… make buildings."

            "Why are you hunting me?" Entreri asked, irritated at the jibe towards his architecture skills.

            "Why are you hunting me?" the elf shot back, apparently amused. 

            "Because you've been killing people in this city."

            "Why do you care? So do you."

            "At least I'm paid to do it."

            "And that makes a difference?"

            Entreri glared at the elf, deciding to ignore that question.  "What are you here for?"

            "I wanted to know if you still keep in contact with Jarlaxle."

            "Jarlaxle?"

            "Yes.  There is something I need him to do for me."

            "What?"

            "Separate me from the child's body."

            "Eh?" Entreri looked around a little wildly.  "I don't see any…"

            "So I can…" the elf leaped nimbly down onto the ground, long, silvery fringe shadowing his face.

            "Can?"

            "Destroy everything," the elf whispered, his smooth voice spicy with accent now a harsh rasp of hatred, and Entreri found himself looking into the maddened eyes of a beast.

**

            He came back into consciousness feeling submerged under a conversation.

            "… you did it again.  And scared him this time I think… well of course it was your fault, he didn't even attack you, not that you care of course… oh, um, hello."

            Something soft – he was on his bed, still fully dressed in armor, hurting again.  When his vision focused, he saw the child sitting cross-legged on the table in his room (didn't anyone know how to use chairs properly?), regarding him solemnly.  He… no, probably a she, now unhooded – had a shaved head with strange blue circular symbols painted onto it, and large serious eyes of the same color.  Nearly painfully thin, she smiled hesitantly at him.  "Hey.  Sorry about that."

            "Where's that elf?"

            "Um.  This is going to be a little hard to explain."

            Entreri forced himself into a sitting position.  "I have time."

            "Okay… I know this is hard to believe, but I was created by a group of wizards for some unknown purpose, then one day they put me under a spell and I woke up with Zaknafein in my head…"

            Zaknafein, Zaknafein… that name seemed familiar… vaguely, he realized the girl was still talking.

            "…So we've been trying to find a way to separate, because even though he's inherently likeable, he's also really psychotic."

            "You have a good vocabulary for a child."

            "That's insulting."

            'Sorry."

            "The wizards put an intelligence upgrade in me, apparently, so it's okay," the child grinned.

            Entreri sighed.  Wizards? Dual personalities? Intelligence upgrade? Someone had probably stolen this plot from a lot of those banal rubbish fantasy stories.

**

            Somewhere in an alternative dimension, the Author considers murdering her characters for far too much analytical criticism.

**

            "And where does Jarlaxle fit into this?" Entreri asked.

            "Well, Zaknafein says that untrustworthy as he is, Jarlaxle knows a lot of things and a lot of people, so…"

            "True.  Er… Jarlaxle retired from the Surface decades ago, and I don't know if I can still contact…" Entreri paused when he saw the girl frantically waving her hands at him.  "What? What?"

            "You still possibly can contact him right?"

            "Er, probably, possibly…" Entreri frowned irritably, realizing that he was beginning to panic from the words of a tiny child, which wasn't helping his image very much.  "Why would I want to contact him?"

            "Because if you can't, Zaknafein just said that he might as well kill you," the child said, still gesticulating.

            "Ah." This was turning into a really miserable day.      "Can I have some time to think this over?"

            "No." The child squeaked when she realized that her voice had changed, turning into Zaknafein's masculine purr.  She muttered something, and then grinned sheepishly at Entreri, her normal voice returned.  "Sorry about that.  My name's Sam."

            "Sam?"

            "Yeah, I know it's a boy's name, but those wizards were actually intending to call me Doreen, so…"

            "My name is Artemis Entreri," Entreri said, deciding to sheathe his weapons, in case their intimidating nature tipped the shape scales over into Zaknafein's favor.  Besides, if she changed back to Zaknafein anyway, chances were they wouldn't do much good.

            "I know that already," Sam said with a smile.

            "Quite.  And… one question… when you change into Zaknafein, where does he get all the armor and swords from?"

            Sam shrugged.  "We both don't know.  I think it's probably one of those convenient story devices."

**

            Somewhere in an alternative dimension, the Author readies a thunderbolt.

**

            "Oh, and Zaknafein says he wants to talk to you."

            "So long as it's just talk," Entreri said, with a forced grin.  "I doubt my pride has recovered from the previous 'talks'."

            "Really sorry about that," Sam said apologetically, "But due to his, um, stay in Hell Zaknafein is now quite um, insane," She paused, turning her head to the side, as if listening to something, then added "But you are…! And tends to switch without much warning.  Since you're just about his only hope of contacting Jarlaxle, he probably won't kill you." She smiled brightly.

            "Probably?"

            Sam deflated a little as she realized that the last rush of words hadn't slipped past the assassin.  "Well, he's been in my head for a month or so and even I can't tell."

            "Can he be… fixed?"

            Sam hesitated, and then chuckled.  "Zaknafein says he's not a tool to be broken and fixed, but personally I hope so.  Was hoping that Jarlaxle would know how to do that."

            "What does he want to talk to me about?" Entreri tried stalling for time.

            "He said he'd tell you when he's talking to you… okay, I'm going now.  See you later."

            "Wait… where do you go when you change?"

            "Somewhere nice and quiet where I can't see or smell the blood.  Normally I don't stay with him and eavesdrop." Sam pulled nervously at one of her fingers.  "I don't really like what he does."

            Before Entreri could open his mouth again, there was an odd distortion in the air around Sam that made his eyes water if he attempted to stare at it, then a strange feeling of juxtaposition or replacement – then Zaknafein sat on the table in her place, chain mail clinking as it settled.  "Vendui, Entreri."

            Entreri decided to sit down on his bed in resignation.  "Vendui, Zaknafein.  You wished to speak with me?"

            "In part." Zaknafein nodded.  "I know you have had dealings with my son."

            "Your son?"

            "Drizzt Do'Urden."
            "Drizzt is your son?" Entreri blinked.  "So that is why your name sounded so familiar…"

            "Quite.  I gathered while in Hell that he is somewhat notorious now in the Surface world."

            "You could say that," Entreri said diplomatically.

            "And you are his enemy."

            "Used to be," Entreri corrected quickly.  "We went our own ways after a few years."

            "Ah? He never did like wolves."

            Entreri frowned.  That appeared to be a non sequitur as far as he was concerned.  "I am not sure about his disposition towards canines."
            Zaknafein slid off the table and walked – stalked actually – towards him.  "I was not talking about canines."

            Entreri reached for his dagger, and then froze when he suddenly felt the tip of one of Zaknafein's swords at his throat.  A quick glance at Zaknafein's face showed that the amiable, somewhat benign expression of mischief had not changed.  Was this some new sort of game…?
            Or was his mood just about to change?
            "You need not look so frightened – I am not about to kill you," Zaknafein said, the sword edge moving up along Entreri's jaw line to just over his eye.  "Or ruin that pretty face."

            Pretty face?
            "Speak for yourself," Entreri said, a little breathlessly.  If he drew his weapons while ducking to the side he might… end up with a punctured eye and probably accidentally cut himself in the process.  Not good at all.

            "All elves are 'pretty', but there always seems to be something attractive about you humans." Zaknafein said idly, as if he were talking about different breeds of rabbits or something. 

            "Then why did you kill so many?"

            "I have killed far more elves in my lifetime than you humans," Zaknafein replied, avoiding the question.

            "I was sent by the city Council to try and kill you."  Entreri said, hoping to prod out some other sort of reaction, and simultaneously praying that it wouldn't be the homicidal one.

            "Try? Well, you have tried.  You can tell your 'Council' that much," Zaknafein said, a little cheerfully.  "You lack technique and a good teacher."

            "And your centuries of experience."
            Zaknafein moved the blade to lift his chin with the flat of the sword, and then turned it such that Entreri could just feel the faintest line of pressure from the edge, and cold metal against his Adam's apple.  "I did not spend all my centuries doing that."

            "No?"

            "I also learnt a lot about this," Zaknafein whispered, abruptly leaning downwards and claiming Entreri's mouth in a rough kiss, tongue exploring his depths.  Stunned, Entreri dared not move in any case, as the edge of Zaknafein's sword was still far too close to his neck for his own comfort.  And it wasn't as though he wasn't enjoying… no.  Instinctively, he jerked backwards away from the gesture, wildly trying to retreat as Zaknafein climbed onto the bed after him, his predatory grin somehow managing to enhance his attractiveness.

            Following narrative causation and evil Author whims, Entreri's shoulders felt the cold rough stone wall behind him, and he tried to scramble out left, cursed and kicked when Zaknafein caught his right wrist in an ironic parallel to the previous meeting in the broken house, missed, fell onto his side, and to complete the circle of bad luck felt the elf lock his arm behind him and press down on his legs in a very efficient restraint.

            "Let me go!" Entreri tried the one line most people use (ineffectively) whenever cornered. 

            "Why? I'd just catch you again." Zaknafein said matter-of-factly, and then proceeded to remove the jeweled dagger, examine it curiously for a second, and then toss it aside.  The same fate occurred to Entreri's scabbard and any number of throwing knives, until the elf was relatively satisfied that the assassin was now relatively unarmed except for the angrily clenching gauntlet.  Then he leaned back, sword-tip back at the assassin's Adam's apple.  "Now take off your clothes and armor."

            "What?"

            "You heard me."

            "Sam!" Entreri attempted to appeal to the last person who could probably help.

            "She can't hear you, assassin."  Zaknafein smiled again, like a hunter poised over prey.  "No one can."

**

            The Author pleads guilty towards using stereotypical devices in her dialogues.  What the hell, this wasn't meant to be serious anyway.

**

            A short and somewhat horrified while later, Entreri attempted another appeal, this time towards Zaknafein's potentially rational side.  "Look, if you wanted something…"

            "Shut up," Zaknafein growled.  

            "Zaknafein…"

            "I told you to shut the vith up."  To emphasize this threat, the blade drew a thin line of blood on his neck.

            Definitely a highly awkward position, Entreri thought through a haze of panic.  Pinned face-up now, naked under an obviously mad dark elf that smelled not unpleasantly of leather, metal, sweat and something fiercely wild, irrationally alluring… he could not stifle a moan at the next kiss, even with metal at his throat and chain mail against his chest.

            "Where are your teeth, little wolf?" Zaknafein murmured, licking down his throat and briefly rasping his own teeth on the skin over his jugular vein.  Entreri froze over the veiled threat in this act, but Zaknafein merely nipped playfully at his neck, brushed soft lips against the stinging wound, then continued downwards with painful slowness licking, biting, sucking, until Entreri was a groaning, writhing mess, couldn't think, couldn't resist…

**

            To the relief (and disappointment) of the list members, we draw our attention away…

**

            Entreri woke up first, and wondered, as he tested to see (out of habit) if he was still alive, why he did not even feel like killing Zaknafein at all.  That in itself was strange, since he generally absently just thought of the ways he could kill someone whenever he saw anyone.  It was an automatic result of his job.

            And, after all, he was sore in dozens of areas and still bleeding from some, and the perpetrator was sound asleep with him, arm lightly draped over his chest, handsome head tucked under his chin. 

            Why did Zaknafein trust him that much, all out of a sudden? Or was he just far too exhausted?

            Probably unlikely, and besides, Entreri did not want to dwell far too long on that thought, as it brought back embarrassing memories that his body informed him were not all unpleasant, even though a lot of them hurt.  Was this some sort of flaw in his own psyche?

            Far too many questions in the morning.  Entreri considered trying to get out of bed to the private bathroom, weighed the chances of Zaknafein waking up if he shifted, then decided irritably that he didn't care.  Perhaps it was an after-effect of the night, but he was feeling incredibly light-headed and disinclined to accommodate.  There was something else about the idea of 'morning' that pulled at his attention as he cautiously moved the elf's arm off his chest, and then realized it was sunlight.  Dark elves were averse to sunlight, weren't they?  He reached out and touched the rope of the closed curtains, twining it in his callused fingers, then sighed irritably as he found that he couldn't bear to pull it open and flood the room in searing gold. 

            Muttering darkly to himself, he edged as quietly as he could to the edge of the bed, then yelped when something grabbed his arm and yanked him backwards, sprawling him in an undignified manner over Zaknafein's lap.  The elf grinned wickedly at him, now sitting up.  "Where are you going?"

            "To wash up," Entreri said, trying to free his arm from Zaknafein's grip.

            Zaknafein frowned at him, as if not understanding.

            "To… bathe?" Entreri ventured a synonym.

            "Ah." Zaknafein smiled again, somehow making the assassin feel even more discomfited.  "Then I'd come with you."

            "Um.  I normally bathe alone," Entreri said, knowing that he was already on the losing end of the conversation.

            "There is always time to learn new habits," Zaknafein purred, emphasizing his point by using his other hand to explore.  Entreri caught it quickly with his gauntleted hand. 

            "No."

            "No? That is not what you said a few hours ago."

            "That was a few hours ago."

            "You want a good reason for me to bathe with you?"

            "If you put it that way, yes."

            "It is good to see that you wake with your reason," Zaknafein said, letting go of his arm, then reaching somewhere between the bed and the wall.  With a sinking heart, Entreri watched him point the still bloody blade at his neck.  "Is this a good enough reason?"

            "Fine.  Put that away." The assassin was astonished that his voice was steady.

            "But if you need more convincing later…"

            "Please."

            Zaknafein stared at him long enough for Entreri to feel distinctly uncomfortable, and then he smiled and left it on the covers as if he didn't care a whit at all.  Entreri sighed again.  He had the horrible feeling that weapon or not, Zaknafein could still best him in combat.

**

            "So you'd stop all the killing?"

            "Why do you ask?"

            "Well, Council requires that I stop the serial killer."

            "I believe you said that your Council merely told you to 'try' and stop the killer," Zaknafein pointed out from his cross-legged seat on the private dining table in Entreri's apartment.  It had been a few days, and the dark elf had shown no intention of leaving, to mixed feelings on the assassin's part.  It was somewhat intimidating (naturally) having to live with an insane murderer, and the madness itself was somewhat unnerving – there were considerably more aspects to it, including the rather violent and inexplicable mood swings.

            To show the strange nature of human feelings, Entreri still woke up with a greater sensation of peace next to the dark elf.  It was as though, lying in the darkness with darkness, he somehow moved nearer to his light.