Epilogue

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It was days since their weapons and equipment had been taken away, days since they had been given two generous rooms side-by-side in the palatial interior of Tandy's towers, days since Jarlaxle had been placed in a warm bed to recover from his head trauma…and days since Artemis had eaten or slept.

He had tried to sleep, and tried to eat. He couldn't.

Feelings of danger kept waking him up every five minutes, if he managed to stay asleep for that long, and he was compelled by a feeling he didn't understand to go to Jarlaxle's bedside and watch him from a chair. Inevitably, he would pass out from exhaustion there, only to wake up the next morning with a terrible taste in his mouth and the conviction that he hadn't slept at all. The blonde and blue-eyed Miranda, who turned out to be the maidservant of the entire tower, periodically deposited food and water in his room and in Jarlaxle's, but she never said a word. She took back Entreri's portion to the kitchen untouched most of the time.

Artemis force fed Jarlaxle soup and water every day, but found it difficult, since the drow had lived in paranoia for so long. Even unconscious and mostly dead, Jarlaxle fought him. Artemis relented more often than not because he feared subduing Jarlaxle would only injure him more severely.

He was left surrounded by enough food for two, and to him, it was tasteless, texture-less, scentless. He wasn't hungry, and there was no one to force feed him. Tandy certainly didn't care enough. If they died, that would be another way of solving the problem of what to do with her new servants.

So Artemis sat in a finely carved and upholstered chair, looking down at Jarlaxle's expressionless face as the drow still slept. He knew it was late morning only because breakfast was beside him, and it was cold. A Northerner's idea of breakfast: squeezed juice, fried cakes, eggs, and bacon. He couldn't eat it, and Jarlaxle wouldn't. He'd managed to shove two pieces of bacon, a sip of juice, and some pieces of egg down Jarlaxle's throat. The only comfort he derived from the act was that if Jarlaxle still struggled, it meant he was still alive.

The assassin sighed. Stubble grew on Jarlaxle's head, and was just barely long enough now to start forming little silver curls. Jarlaxle. With curly hair. He rubbed his eyes tiredly. He'd stared at every detail of Jarlaxle and the bed the drow was lying in, but now he examined it again, constantly having to force himself to stay alert. The cream comforter had tiny flowers printed on it, and the sheets and pillow were silk. Jarlaxle's pitch black skin stood out harshly against the bed, making him look like a strange, displaced creature.

Artemis passed a hand over his eyes. Well, maybe he was. Maybe things would have turned out for the better if Jarlaxle had stayed in the Underdark. In Menzoberranzan. In gender-based slavery.

"Alright, so I'm glad you came," Artemis murmured. "Will you just wake up and say something to me? I'm tired of sitting here watching you not move."

He almost fell off his chair at the sound of a weak chuckle.

Jarlaxle shifted minutely under the covers, eyelids flickering but not opening. "I'm sorry." He coughed, a wretched, dry sound. "I must have been very boring."

"I…" Suddenly, Artemis found himself at a loss for words. His throat was closing up, and a pulsing pain beat behind his eyes. He didn't know what to say. He fumbled, and came up with Jarlaxle's hand. "Don't…Don't do that again."

Jarlaxle laughed, and almost coughed again.

Entreri hastily let go of his hand and poured Jarlaxle a glass of orange juice from the pitcher.

Jarlaxle reached for it, but when he cupped his hand around the glass, his fingers were trembling violently. He hesitated. "I…I need…um…"

Artemis held onto the glass and brought it to his lips slowly, letting Jarlaxle guide with his hand. Artemis helped him sit up, and held the glass while Jarlaxle drank.

Jarlaxle let his fingers slide off of the glass. He looked away, and Artemis suddenly realized he was ashamed. Ashamed of his condition. Ashamed of the fact that he'd been so severely injured, but not killed.

"I don't care that you're weak right now," Artemis snapped.

Jarlaxle looked at him, startled. His mouth was open, but nothing came out. Then he began to tremble. "A – Artemis?"

The assassin let his glare soften at that reaction. He'd never seen Jarlaxle this way. Jarlaxle had always been untouchable, invincible, smugly victorious. Now he'd actually made Jarlaxle tremble. Jarlaxle was hurt. "Look at you…You look terrible."

Jarlaxle let out a startled little laugh. "Is that supposed to boost my confidence?"

"No, it's supposed to explain to you that you're laid up because you need to be," Artemis said. "You carried around so much miscellaneous garbage in your hat that you almost beat yourself to death with it when your hat exploded."

"My hat exploded?" Jarlaxle asked.

Entreri rolled his eyes. "I'll get you a new one."

Jarlaxle snorted. "If we ever get out of here."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Artemis asked. He should have expected pessimism from him. Somehow, he never thought he'd hear such a thing from Jarlaxle's mouth.

"We're captured," Jarlaxle said, passing a hand over his head and wincing. "We're in the House of a sorceress, and she's powerful enough to recover from what we did to her and catch up to us."

'House'? Artemis blinked. Either Jarlaxle was not fully conscious, or he needed his translating whistle more than Artemis thought.

There was a pause. Jarlaxle looked up at Artemis with a naked expression of pleading. "Tell me…Was there no chance of escape?"

Artemis paused. He remembered the door that should not have been there –the door with sunlight streaming around the cracks. Then he looked directly into Jarlaxle's eyes. "None."

It was a lie, but it was one Artemis was willing to say. Jarlaxle wouldn't understand the truth, and Artemis wasn't really sure he did either.

Jarlaxle settled back down and looked at the fine china on the end table. "If there were, you would have taken it," he said softly.

"Perhaps."

Jarlaxle smiled at him. "Perhaps?"

Artemis shrugged. He smiled himself, and then looked away. "Perhaps," he agreed.

"Why? What else would you have done?"

Another shrug. "Maybe I would have stayed by your corpse."

Jarlaxle shook his head and laughed. "Right."

Artemis' smile faded. He wished he could share his moment of indecision with Jarlaxle. He also wished that he had no secret to get off his chest and he could just smirk and agree with the mercenary.

He forced himself to say the right thing. "You're not that important."

He watched Jarlaxle's face… And Artemis wondered why he was disappointed when his lie went over so smoothly not even Jarlaxle could detect it.