Epilogue

For the first week of their journey together, they were largely silent. They shared meals, and took turns keeping watch over each other, and did all of the things that Drizzt would have associated with his friends. Except talk. Though there was no conflict between them, Drizzt felt, unsurprisingly, a lot of tension. He didn't know what he had expected to be doing once he had sent his friends away, but it wasn't this day in and day out silence.

So, he tried to fill it. They were only a handful of days from Mithral Hall, and the closer they got, the more Drizzt aspired for some kind of neat resolution that would fix everything and tie together the former assassin with the rest of the elven ranger's life. He made repeated offers to put Artemis up at Mithral Hall, or to show him how good it felt to do things to help other people, like save caravans from orcs and defend villages from bandits and goblins. He was rebuffed. He got the sense that Artemis wasn't talking not because he didn't have anything to talk about, but because he didn't want to talk about what was on his mind.

And when it came to what was on Artemis' mind, Drizzt didn't know if he dared to talk. He sensed that the time had past. They had seemed unnaturally close for enemies when they had been imprisoned in their cell at Luskan, drawn together by some other force. But now that force was gone, and it was just him, and a tired old human who had once been his greatest enemy.

Drizzt mulled it over again as they walked side by side through the woods. He could sense getting closer to home – like a tug on his heart.

"Jarlaxle seemed mightily happy to see you." His mouth decided for him, like it always had. He tensed and waited for a response – even a violent one.

Artemis said nothing. He kept walking, eyes set straight ahead. The silence was cold. Drizzt rubbed his arms and buried himself in his cloak, trying to tell himself that it was just that the wind had picked up.

"That wasn't the problem."

Artemis took so long to speak that Drizzt was surprised when he heard the assassin's voice. His head snapped up.

"That was never the problem." Deep lines of pain were engraved on Artemis' face. His voice rumbled in his throat. "Jarlaxle has always been happy to see me."

Drizzt stopped him from walking away by putting his hand on his arm. He was conscious that he could lose his hand that way, and would have before their understanding so recently. "Then, why?"

Artemis shut his eyes. "Because he never goes away. He has to see into the heart of me and disassemble the gears like a gnome with his machinery. But I'm not a machine, I'm a human being, and I need to live." His voice rose the more he talked, and his fists were clenched so tightly that they almost broke the skin of his palms. "In his friendship, he is bent on destroying me!"

When he opened his eyes and looked at Drizzt, there was a flicker of desperation in them bordering on madness. It took Drizzt aback. "I can't go back to that." Artemis swallowed hard. "No matter how he apologizes to me."

Drizzt was staring into the abyss of his eyes. He had the mad compulsion to hug Artemis. It was only held back by his certainty that Artemis would impale him on his sword long before realizing that the elf had meant no hostility. "I, for one, am no one to force you to do that," he said softly.

Artemis looked at him as if he'd never seen him before. His deeply confused gray eyes probed the ranger so intently that Drizzt felt…an almost sexual kind of invasion of space. The feeling he had of being naked under his clothing. Drizzt shook the feeling off and returned his gaze.

"Take me back to Mithral Hall," Artemis said, his voice almost inaudible. "I will stay a while."
"I promise you that it won't be a cause for regret," Drizzt said, squeezing his arm and letting go before Artemis could find offense.

His gray eyes pierced him. "Don't tell me that."

"I won't make you regret your decision."

"Don't tell me that."

Drizzt lowered his head. He looked away first. "Fine. Should you regret another attempt at rebuilding a life, I am sorry for causing you this trouble."

"It's not a worse trouble than any other I have faced," Artemis said. "Don't worry about it." He tried to smile. "That's my job."

Drizzt pulled up the courage to smile back.

Artemis didn't punish him for it.