Disclaimer: I don't own anything or anyone except Dhaun
Rewritten as of 9/10/08. Hope you enjoy it!
Artemis Entreri sat on his bed, staring idly at the pages of the book before him. In Jarlaxle's small stronghold hidden deep in the Moonwood, little seemed to happen. The atmosphere never varied from day to day, leaving almost nothing to prepare for—no insane drow priestesses, no interference from the guilds of Calimport. At first, Entreri had been a little glad of the peace and calm; now, tendays later, with nothing to do all day but train, he was growing increasingly bored. Jarlaxle had no strange excursions planned, either. Unfortunate, for once. And worst of all, Entreri was left alone with his thoughts too often.
He turned his head as Jarlaxle suddenly rushed by his door, carrying something awkwardly in his arms. Noting the urgency in his frantic stride, the assassin stood to follow, catching sight of the mercenary's back as he turned a corner. As Entreri stepped into the hall, another drow rushed by: Dhaun the healer, carrying vials and bandages in his arms.
His curiosity having reached its peak, Entreri trailed him to an empty bedroom in the living quarters, the bed now occupied by a smallish male drow, caked in blood. He was unconscious and breathing shallowly as Dhaun attempted to stem the flow of the blood from a long gash in the dark elf's arm. Jarlaxle crouched near the head of the bed, gently wiping away dried blood with a warm, wet cloth. Entreri stepped closer, nervous for some reason he couldn't identify.
"What happened?" he asked uneasily.
The mercenary turned to him, his face for once composed in utter sincerity. "It's Drizzt. He…he's hurt." He bit his lip and turned back.
Blinking, the human moved closer to the bed and examined the injured drow's face. It was Drizzt. Jarlaxle was right. A curious feeling overcame him—an odd mix of nausea and heartache.
"What happened to him?" He couldn't get his voice above a whisper.
Jarlaxle didn't turn away from the ranger. "He was barely conscious when I found him. Both his swords were missing. He was bleeding badly, and he was burned. I was surprised he recognized me when I picked him up. From the few broken words he could tell me, I gathered that he had been patrolling the area just outside the forest. Men found him—a group of drow-haters. They wore masks in case he knew them—and they knew of him but attacked anyway. I think he defended himself when it became apparent that nothing could be accomplished peacefully. He said he killed two of them, but that only made them angrier. They overpowered him. Tortured him. I think they raped him. He…." Jarlaxle's voice became choked, his eyes full of tears.
Entreri took the rag from the bald drow and began to help clean away the blood. "I'm going to kill them." There were unintelligible words carved into the young elf's torso, dirt and rocks clinging to the congealing blood. The sickening way his wrist was twisted suggested that it was broken. "Did you see them? Where did they go?"
Jarlaxle shook his head sorrowfully. "No. They just left him to die."
Entreri didn't say anything, trying hard to concentrate on his task, cleaning the blood from Drizzt's nose and mouth. He knew if he did anything else, he would fall to pieces. Still, though, he managed to ask the question that he already knew the answer to. "Is there any hope?"
Jarlaxle just shook his head again. "We…we hope he doesn't wake up. He'd be in so much pain. It'd better for him to pass as peacefully as possible."
Entreri nodded once, then readied the rag to place against a wound from which Dhaun was trying to pull a shard of glass. He locked the fingers of his free hand with Drizzt's good hand, gripping tightly.
Dhaun yanked the glass from the drow's body in one quick pull, but to everyone's appalled astonishment, Drizzt sat bolt upright with a shriek of pain and fell forward against Entreri.
"By the gods," Jarlaxle murmured, eyes wide.
Drizzt was trembling violently as he pushed himself up, fingers still entwined with the assassin's. His huge eyes looked around, unseeing for a moment, trying to assess where he was. At last he seemed to recognize Entreri and croaked out his name in a hoarse whisper.
Jarlaxle answered for him. "Drizzt…you're hurt. Do you remember anything that happened?"
The ranger stared at him for a moment, and then nodded almost imperceptibly. "Unfortunately." His voice was raw, likely from screaming, and something gurgled unpleasantly in his throat.
"Can you remember what they looked like?"
Drizzt shook his head. "Not really. I…I was in too much pain." He slumped weakly against Entreri, still shaking. The assassin laid two fingers against the drow's neck; his pulse could barely be felt, and more blood was leaving his body every second.
"Thank you for saving me," he said softly, to all three of them.
Jarlaxle sighed heavily, looking down at the ground. "We didn't," he murmured, the sorrow in his voice unmistakable. Entreri cringed. Drizzt was already dead.
He stood, carefully laying the wounded ranger down among the bloodstained sheets. He shot a meaningful glance at Jarlaxle and gestured to the hall as Dhaun returned to his careful work.
"Is there really nothing we can do?" he pleaded when the door had shut behind them. "Is there anything at all?"
Jarlaxle looked close to tears as he whispered, "Not even the best healers in the Realms could help him now. He'll be lucky to live another hour."
Entreri sighed and buried his face in his hands. "Then please…give me some time with him. There…there're a few things I want him to know. Please."
A hand was laid gently on his shoulder, trying to offer comfort. "Of course, Artemis. Anything you need." Jarlaxle slumped to the floor, looking utterly defeated. "I'll be out here if you want me."
"Thank you." It came out as little more than a whisper. With a deep breath to steady himself, Entreri returned to the room.
Death hung ominously in the air, waiting for its chance. Dhaun had wrapped up all the wounds and had placed cool cloths on the burns to ease Drizzt's passing, but he couldn't stem the internal bleeding, nor could he diminish the horrific memories of torture.
"It's no use. Leave us," Entreri murmured in Dhaun's ear. The healer nodded slightly and left, abandoning his materials.
"Drizzt?" the assassin whispered, one hand gently brushing white hair crusted with dried blood away from the elf's glimmering eyes. "Can you hear me?"
A small nod. Entreri tried to smile, but it was hard. "Do you care if I…if I lay down with you?"
"No," Drizzt rasped, struggling to move over and make room. Entreri carefully laid down and pulled the drow's fragile body. He looked up, curiosity in his eyes.
"I don't want you to die," the man admitted softly.
"I don't want to die, either," Drizzt mumbled. His voice was weak, tremulous, and it broke Entreri's heart to hear it. He reached his good hand out from the blankets and sought the human's, gripping it as tightly as he could in his weak fist. "Entreri?"
"Artemis," came the whispered reply as the assassin dared to rest his cheek against the drow's head.
"Artemis. Thank you." Drizzt shifted his position with a wince and rested his head on the pillow, so close that Entreri could feel his warm breath on his face, his body pressing close.
He felt tears sting his eyes and he tried frantically to blink them away. He was holding everything he had ever longed for in his arms, but all his dreams were only moments away from dying a bloody death that was in no way deserved.
"I'll kill those bastards," Entreri muttered angrily. "I'll find them and kill them."
"Nothing." He brushed his lips over Drizzt's, savoring the feeling for a moment. The ranger didn't even seem to notice and lay there, unmoving. His breathing was less certain. "Do you want Jarlaxle?" he whispered into a torn ear.
Drizzt opened his eyes to stare at him. He didn't reply; when Entreri asked him again, those huge purple orbs welled with tears. "I don't want to die," he said again, hoarsely.
The human felt his throat close up, and he pulled Drizzt closer.
"B-but if I have to…I want to die with you beside me." The elf settled against him. "I…."
Entreri clung to the drow. "I know. Me too. You'll feel better soon. I promise." It was the only thing he could give the man he loved. Comfort, and that final vow. He kissed his temple gently; Drizzt looked up and managed a smile.
They laid in silence for only a few minutes more. Drizzt didn't move. He stayed where he was, tucked against Artemis Entreri, his long-time enemy. Entreri hated it. Everything about it felt so right, but it could never be his. He desperately needed a way to prevent the inevitable, but there was no hope. So he did the only thing he could—he appreciated the brief moment of happiness the gods had deemed suitable for him. And he felt almost peaceful, until he realized that Drizzt had stopped breathing.
He longed for the calm he had cursed earlier.