Author's Note: This is in the same timeline as Linndechir's story "Coming to Terms" and represents her version of Artemis. This scene is an AU scene that takes place in The Legacy when Artemis has infiltrated Drizzt's circle of friends as Regis.

I roleplayed Jarlaxle, and Linndechir roleplayed Artemis. She insists on a fluff warning.

Fluff warning.

There. Fluff has been warned.

Taking Off the Masks


Jarlaxle was reclining in his chair in his office when he received a message from one of his soldiers. He opened the note and read the expensive ink markings by candlelight. After a moment, he put his feet on the floor and sighed, crumpling up the note. Vierna wanted a summons so she could get a report on his progress with her 'plan of utmost importance'.

He settled his rainbow cape around his shoulders and set out.

He crossed the corridors of his domain until he came to Vierna's suite. He paused at the mouth of the smaller hallway, smiled ruefully, and looked up at the ceiling. Only for your daughter, he thought at the memory of Zaknafein. Then he readied himself and came up to the door of her chamber. He waited for one moment, then knocked on the door.

"Enter," Vierna's voice came from the other side. Even living at someone else's mercy, she still managed her female hauteur.

Jarlaxle tucked his smiles away for the time being and pushed open the door. He closed it behind him and bowed deeply. "I have come as you requested. What is it you desire?"

Vierna was pacing, and looked as though she had been for a while. She looked agitated and distressed, as if she hadn't slept in at least a day. Jarlaxle thought the pressure of her desire to avenge her House was weighing heavily on her. "Have you not told the human our plan?"

"Yes," Jarlaxle said, honestly surprised. He thought it best to remain subservient looking for now before he knew what she was thinking.

"Why has he not confronted my brother?"

"My dear, the time is not right," Jarlaxle said. "I assure you, when the time is right, Entreri will -"

He was unceremoniously interrupted. "You're allowing that human to set the pace for us? I don't think it wise to place that much trust in a male from a race that has a reputation for being so clumsy and stupid." Vierna's eyes flashed. "I trusted your assessment that he could handle a task so delicate, but if you want your reward, I think it best that you make sure he isn't incompetent. Jarlaxle, I want you to control every moment of his miserable life."

Jarlaxle straightened, kept the amusement out of his face, and gave her his sincerest and most reasonable look. "I will do whatever you require of me. If it pleases you, I could go to the world above and check his progress tonight. He should be in a place of complete privacy, where our exposure will not be at jeopardy."

Vierna nodded and turned away. "Go."

Jarlaxle bowed to her and swept out of the room.

If I were her father, I would have smothered her in her swaddling clothes, Jarlaxle thought once he was sure he was far enough away that she couldn't cast a spell and read his mind. I wouldn't fall for her sweetness as a child for a minute. He put on his best smile to every soldier he passed in the halls.

It was late in the evening, and "Regis" and his companions had all retired to their rooms. Artemis had taken off the mask as soon as he had safely locked the door of the halfling's room - he found it incredibly annoying to be trapped in that weak body. Though he should probably be grateful that the fat halfling was so obsessed with comfort that he had a human-sized bed in his room.

With a tired sigh he took off most of his clothes, keeping only his leather trousers and a thin silk shirt before he plopped on the bed. It was annoyingly soft, but at least big enough. Artemis hated being around Drizzt and his companions, hated playing that pathetic halfling all day, but as an advantage he could feel relatively safe at night in his room.

Therefore he simply put his dagger on the nightstand and made himself comfortable, lying on his back, dozing and relaxing a bit.

A little orange light disturbed the darkness in the halfling's room. It flickered, swooping down towards the floor, acting almost like an insect. Then it disappeared, and Jarlaxle was in its place. "Entreri?" Jarlaxle asked softly. He looked about the unfamiliar room, memorizing it in case he had to make an escape or fight.

He didn't think it was likely, but it was an ingrained habit.

Artemis sat up the moment he saw the light. He grabbed his dagger immediately, but he put it back when he recognized Jarlaxle in the darkness. Once again he was grateful for the earring that provided him with infravision. Still, he quickly lit a candle because he was more comfortable in the light.

"Jarlaxle? What are you doing here?" He sounded confused, and his voice was hushed - he doubted that anyone was awake now, but he didn't want to run the risk of some dwarf hearing voices in Regis' room. Artemis looked unusually casual compared to their previous meetings: his shirt was half-unbuttoned, he was bare-footed, and his hair wasn't tied back, but fell softly on his shoulders.

Jarlaxle had a little smile on his face.

He was aware it was there, but he didn't think it was doing any harm. He wasn't going to offend the human by smiling at him.

At the question, his expression turned rueful. "The demanding Lady Vierna suggested that I was lax in my duties for not checking your status in this mission and suggested I might not get paid." He shrugged and put on his most disarming look. "You know of me and my love for riches, so here I am." He gestured to the bed. "May I have a seat?"

That small, impudent request was one he felt fairly comfortable asking the human assassin at this point in their business relationship. Artemis Entreri did not seem to dislike him, and he was careful never to offend.

Artemis snorted; nothing offended him more than employers thinking he might not be up to the task ... It was probably safer he didn't have to deal with Vierna personally, but with Jarlaxle, whom he indeed respected and, yes, maybe even liked a bit.

Jarlaxle's question seemed to confuse the assassin a bit, but as the only chair in the room was ridiculously small Artemis saw no other choice but to nod. Once Jarlaxle had sat down Artemis said calmly, "You can tell her that everything is going according to plan; it just takes time. I've never failed, and I have no intention to change that habit."

"I know." Jarlaxle sighed. "You resent your capability being questioned. You are not used to having your worth questioned by a female every time she becomes impatient and makes up some excuse to become convinced that all of your efforts have been substandard." He looked at Artemis in the eyes. "I wish sometimes that I were human; your culture fascinates me. Being treated as an asset is very tempting as well," Jarlaxle admitted. "Her underage Highness is beginning to make me positively Lloth-struck."

He didn't know why he should admit such a thing to Artemis Entreri, who was a practical stranger, but he sensed that it wasn't unusual in human culture to sympathize with strangers. It was refreshing. He didn't see the danger in admitting such feelings in the presence of a like-minded male, given that he hadn't said anything truly important.

Artemis chuckled a bit, but his face became quickly as calm as usual again. For a moment he just looked Jarlaxle in the eyes - or rather in the eye, as the drow still hadn't taken off that annoying eye-patch. "There is nothing fascinating about humans. Most of them are weak, stupid hypocrites," he said, but his voice sounded tired rather than disgusted. Artemis hardly looked like he was keen on talking about other humans now. He liked talking to Jarlaxle, but that didn't mean that he wanted to satisfy the drow's curiosity about humans and the surface. "You do not question my capability?"

Jarlaxle's smile broadened. "People of your own race look weak, stupid, and hypocritical because you compare them to yourself, my friend. You could not help but see them as lesser, because they are, compared to you. I hope you take this in the spirit of a compliment." He chuckled. "I'd say you're almost drow." He grinned. "I know you think that a dubious compliment at best. What I mean to say is that your skills do not seem lacking to me in any way." He winked. "You'd have to be as skilled as you are to engage a fighter like the young Do'Urden and come away with your life. He was in the top of his class, and proved to be a fully grown drow's equal even before he went to the Academy."

Artemis wasn't exactly susceptible to flattery, but he didn't mind hearing Jarlaxle's words right now. Maybe because they sounded actually honest. At the last two sentences he couldn't help but grin, though. "Most humans who've ever heard of me would say that Do'Urden would have to be quite skilled to engage me and come away with his life." There was a nervous glimmer in his eyes, as if he doubted for a second if he could really beat Drizzt, but it was quickly replaced by the usual confidence. "Again, I can assure you and her that I will not fail at this. Now, if you don't mind, I would rather not talk about Do'Urden anymore. It's bad enough to see him all day."

Jarlaxle ruefully took off his hat and rubbed the back of his head. "My apologies."

He didn't think there was anything else to say to further the conversation, and he felt disappointed. He found himself casting second and third glances at the human's attire and the way his hair softly fell to his shoulders. It was as if... for that moment, he wasn't an assassin. He was just a man. A somewhat tired man, a tense man, an aimless man. Again, Jarlaxle was struck by his new friend's aura of aimlessness. He couldn't fathom how someone could be so totally afloat in a gigantic world and not have a tether and yet stay so sane as Artemis seemed to be.

The corner of Jarlaxle's mouth lifted. "I mean to pry - I cannot help it - how do you feel? What is it like wearing the face and body of someone you are not?" Even when he had done similar missions in disguise, it had always been short. A day or two at most.

Artemis just nodded briefly at the apology, somewhat confused to hear one, but not willing to think about it any longer. Jarlaxle's glances didn't go unnoticed, of course, but Artemis wasn't sure what to make of them. He told himself that Jarlaxle was just trying to read him, trying to find more information to understand his associate, nothing more.

The next question seemed to take him completely by surprise, and for a second he just stared at Jarlaxle. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had asked him how he felt, even in such a more ... business-like context. Artemis didn't seem to know what to answer, and he opened and shut his mouth twice before he finally managed to speak again.

"It is ... tiresome. Paying attention to every move, every word, every glance, always afraid to give yourself away by some unimportant detail. And it is even more annoying to be around Do'Urden and his friends ... They're so light-hearted and trusting; I can't help but wonder how they manage to survive being this stupid."

Jarlaxle swallowed a laugh, knowing it would be too loud, and substituted it for a much softer one.

The next moment Artemis seemed surprised at his own answer; he wasn't used to any long conversations, but somehow the drow managed to make him talk. It should probably make him uncomfortable that he was so relaxed in Jarlaxle's presence, but it didn't.

As Jarlaxle mulled over that response, the outburst quality of it, he realized that he had picked Artemis' brain and found a very interesting revelation. Artemis had described nothing out of the ordinary for a drow soldier, and yet the assassin was surprised, anxious, overtaxed by the experience. He wasn't a guarded person by nature - not in the manner that he was describing around Drizzt's friends. Artemis, above all else, valued honesty. The kind of honesty that came with being true to one's personality. Lies the assassin of course would have no problem with, but a total act of the personality was something incompatible with the assassin's nature.

Jarlaxle had always thought before that such simple creatures would bore or disgust him. The inability to cope with falseness was a fundamental flaw when he found it in a drow. So, when Jarlaxle realized this about Artemis, he was surprised. Instead of his past experience of being disdainful, Jarlaxle found Artemis' troubles endearing.

Jarlaxle considered his words carefully. Inference was fine, even intended, but a direct reference to himself was surely too telling. Still, he wanted to show he understood. "Drow find that this way of life is expected of them. Many a soldier has cracked under the pressure of not knowing whether some subliminal slip will mean their life that day...and many drow die young, either because their nerve fails them and they do slip up, or because their inability to cope robs them of their sanity over time. The drow are a race of people that tend to die young- especially males."

He slipped Artemis a small smile. "If one does not learn to let off pressure, constantly being on guard leads to paranoia, and paranoia most often leads to death. One can't catch every plot on one's life if there are thousands to sort from."

Artemis seemed to consider Jarlaxle's answer for a while, calmly studying the drow's face. "It is not that difficult in the underworld of Calimport. The rules and mistakes may be different, but it's also a game of constant control and alertness. Still, there's a difference between avoiding general mistakes to survive, and having to impersonate someone else, their every quirk and habit."

He run a hand through his black hair, slightly annoyed by a strand that kept falling in his face. Then Artemis shrugged, and for a second there was an almost shy smile on his lips. "Then again, I know nothing about your society, so I can hardly compare it to mine."

Jarlaxle was fast learning the ins and outs of human conversation, so he almost made a polite denial at Artemis' last statement, but he stopped and thought about that. He realized Artemis was right. So right that an entrance to drow society would probably shock the assassin out of everything he'd learned in a lifetime. Drow society could eat Artemis Entreri whole.

"It is different," Jarlaxle admitted. Inwardly, he congratulated the assassin. A subtle shift from you to me. Clever. I must be making you uncomfortable now, or else you wouldn't redirect the conversation. Indeed, now it was Jarlaxle that was a little uncomfortable. He wasn't accustomed to feeling different or foreign. Entreri made him that way.

But something told him to push past the feelings of discomfort - that this was some sort of human bonding ritual. Jarlaxle cleared his throat. "The most important difference, Artemis, is probably that we males don't have any control over our own bodies. We are not seen as possessions, not exactly...except that when a female drow decides to bed us, she can conveniently forget we are independent people, capable of feelings, and wants, and desires that have nothing to do with her."

Well, said up front, and probably the less generalizing the better, Jarlaxle thought. One can't say I've been misleading.

He grinned. "In fact, one of the only good parts of having Vierna for a client is that she hasn't also requested personal commitments from me. If she did ask, I would be obligated to take to her bed."

Artemis stared at Jarlaxle in open horror now, and for a moment he almost seemed to think that the drow was mocking him, but the assassin realized that the drow was indeed serious. The very idea made him almost shiver - he knew what it was like to be forced into someone's bed, and he couldn't even imagine what it was like to run such a risk even as an adult.

That Jarlaxle could grin about this confused Artemis even more, and he couldn't find anything amusing in the drow's following words. Actually, he was so shocked that he hardly noticed that Jarlaxle was using his first name. He stayed silent for several minutes, until he suddenly looked at Jarlaxle again, the dark gray eyes still a bit widened. "How can you be so calm about that?" he asked, content that he had found a way of answering without expressing his own thoughts.

Artemis' sudden change of expression had startled Jarlaxle. Though he was sure he didn't show it on his face - he was much too experienced for that, much too savvy - he felt a shock course through him at the look Entreri was giving him. The drow mercenary felt hot all over and realized that he was embarrassed. For himself. Entreri was looking at him as if he'd said something inappropriate, the kind of thing that offended Artemis' culture. He hadn't meant to cause such violent rejection on Artemis' part.

He held his grin, he knew that he did, but in the silence Jarlaxle somehow felt hurt. This was beyond uncomfortable. It was long-forgotten shame.

"I - I don't allow it to disrupt my life," Jarlaxle said, a knot in his stomach forming at the sound of his own excuses. He detested that stammer that came into his voice. "No one does." He shrugged. "I take my own partners whenever I can. A willing partner," he added. "I don't see the point in bedding with someone who doesn't find one agreeable. That seems more an insult than a pleasure. Some males conduct themselves no better than the females, of course, but that tends to be out of the ignorance that comes with constantly being scooped up out of the street." His heart was beating harder than he had felt it in a long time, and it hurt.

Jarlaxle's words reassured Artemis at least slightly - he could live with an associate who had no choice but to accept the females' whims; he couldn't have lived with an associate who was a rapist himself. The assassin nodded a bit, still extremely uncomfortable with this situation.

He would never be able to talk about what happened to him as a child, and it irritated him that it seemed so ... normal to Jarlaxle. Again he didn't say a word for a while, just stared at Jarlaxle and then at the floor, then back at Jarlaxle. "Those willing partners ... do they tend to be male or female?" The question had left his mouth before he had realized what he was saying.

While he could claim that he was simply curious about the details of drow society, he knew too well that his question was far from innocent. And he was sure that Jarlaxle knew it as well. Embarrassed by his own words Entreri mumbled a quick apology under his breath, his gaze returning to the floor.

Oh, but his ignorance is painful. The question surprised a genuine smile out of Jarlaxle. The question to him meant that his offense of bringing up the subject was forgiven. He even laughed a little at Entreri's reaction to his own words. "I don't mind at all, my friend, not at all." He put his hand on the assassin's arm, hoping to reassure the man out of his unexpectedly human bashfulness. He withdrew his hand quickly enough, so that it didn't become a threat.

"I find females unwilling to surrender control, and while that does not mean males are willing to surrender the little control they have, male partners are usually more willing to learn how to negotiate such arrangements without resorting to violence or intimidation," Jarlaxle said kindly.

Jarlaxle's short touch set off a surprisingly strong reaction, as a short shiver ran through Artemis' whole body - and the assassin hardly looked as if he felt threatened. Artemis was almost grateful for Jarlaxle's next calm, almost harmless words, as they allowed him to calm down. Artemis looked at Jarlaxle and nodded; the words made sense to him given what bit he knew about drow society.

This time he really offered no answer. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know more about this, and he was definitely not going to tell Jarlaxle about his own preferences. As if he hadn't shown them already clearly, a sarcastic little voice in his head remarked, but Artemis decided to ignore it.

Jarlaxle gave in to the fact that he found Artemis madly attractive at the moment. Especially so willing and compliant as he was right now, half dressed and talking and offering emotional reactions. Drow never did; it was the one thing they kept hidden from all other drow, regardless of their turmoil. Jarlaxle found something arousing about the assassin's openness.

A human assassin, he thought in an attempt to stave it off. He was suddenly aware he should have left almost half an hour ago. Instead he had been sitting and talking. But he's so elf-like, the primitive part of his brain answered, eyes wandering over Artemis' delicate frame.

Jarlaxle felt the heat coming back into his cheeks. "I would like it very much if you were willing." He was embarrassed again. The unfamiliarity was what he was sure was the culprit. He didn't know how to ask a human for sex. He barely knew Common. Without his translating whistle, he would be linguistically crippled.

Artemis had completely tensed up under Jarlaxle's gaze, not sure how to handle the situation. While he suspected that Jarlaxle might be attractive under all that jewelry and the gaudy clothes, his reason told him that it was a very bad idea to sleep with a business partner. He was too professional to even think of it.

His own thoughts were interrupted by Jarlaxle's unexpected suggestion, and Artemis stared at him, dumbfounded. He might have expected a touch, a compliment, not something this blunt. He knew he should feel insulted, but he found that he wasn't. Artemis cleared his throat. "Is it common among drow to do this with their associates?" It calmed him a bit to ask this - he needed to know what Jarlaxle would think of him if he agreed. On the surface he would lose face accepting such a proposal, but maybe it was normal among drow.

Jarlaxle looked away, offended before he could think about it. Damnit, there was that shame again. He wanted to punch something in frustration. He knew that he couldn't hide the pain from his face this time. He'd let too much of his mask slip. His senses were overwhelmed by the sensation that his cheeks were burning. "I am not exhibiting unprofessionalism."

Vierna should have worried about me. I'm the incompetent one.

Artemis was confused by the embarrassed expression on the drow's face and his stilted answer, and he hesitated again. He scratched his chin and bit on his bottom lip, but he quickly made up his mind. The situation could hardly get any more embarrassing than it already was, for both of them. They might as well try to get something out of it.

He looked up again and softly lay his hand on Jarlaxle's wrist, callused fingers warm on the smooth skin. Then he let his hand slowly slide up to Jarlaxle's shoulder, his touch feather light, as if he was afraid that the drow might feel cornered. "It's all right," he said, surprised how husky his voice sounded, surprised at these downright ridiculous words.

His second hand moved to Jarlaxle's knee, softly resting on it, and Artemis just looked at Jarlaxle, waiting for a reaction - and hoping that this reaction wouldn't be anger, panic or scorn.

Jarlaxle was as surprised to feel Artemis' hands on him as he had been to hear Artemis say gems were not entertaining or useful. He turned to Artemis with his mouth hanging open. "I thought you found the idea repulsive."

Artemis smiled a bit, but it was an insecure smile - not only because of the situation, but also because Artemis wasn't used to smiling. "I don't. I just didn't expect you to ... be interested," his voice became lower with every word. It had taken all of his courage and determination to touch the drow, and now his unfamiliarity with this kind of situation was coming back.

Jarlaxle started to laugh, then bit his tongue. He winced. He couldn't let his feelings blind him to the fact that he was feet away from people who would love to tear him apart. He'd been telling Artemis only a short time ago that drow had to be focused. Where was his focus?

He couldn't help grinning, though. "Be interested? When I was the one that asked you for your bed? What kind of nonsense is that? You're not thinking clearly."

Jarlaxle leaned forward and raised an eyebrow suggestively, hoping to charm Artemis' discomfort out of him. "If I wanted to, I could find a way to have you right now without even taking off our clothes." He rested a hand on his belt, festooned as if always was with magical items. "I have my ways."

"I meant before that," Artemis mumbled embarrassedly, before he too grinned a bit. "And you can't ask for my bed and expect me to think clearly." Jarlaxle's next words seemed to add to Artemis' discomfort rather than take it away, and the assassin frowned a bit, before he said, "Or you could simply take off my clothes."

Artemis definitely preferred that to having Jarlaxle wave around with magical items.

Jarlaxle's smile fell a little. "I was...what is that word? Joking? Does that word make sense?" He shook his head. "Never mind," he said to himself.

Artemis just raised a brow and nodded, almost automatically confirming that the word really existed. He didn't know what to say, though, so he simply focused on his right hand, still on Jarlaxle's shoulder. He let his fingers slid over the smooth skin of the drow's biceps, still hesitating to do anything more.

Jarlaxle blew out an explosive sigh and looked him in the eyes. "I have wanted you so much," he said, feeling as though he had to explain his actions. "I had never dared get this close before, and after our deal, I won't be seeing you again. Human lives are so short, my life is so long in comparison, and all the rest of these things I've been thinking. I couldn't ask you before, and I wasn't going to ask you now, but since it all worked out so well..."

He slid his arms around Artemis, feeling unimaginably awkward, and kissed the assassin on the lips. Artemis' facial hair was strange and rough. Oddly enough, that was exciting to him.

Artemis just looked at Jarlaxle during his little explanation, not quite sure why the drow was saying this. Did it really matter now if they would see each other again or not? Artemis felt almost grateful that Jarlaxle didn't expect a reply and just kissed him. He slowly laid his left arm around Jarlaxle's waist while the right hand moved from Jarlaxle's shoulder to his neck, pulling him closer.

He kissed Jarlaxle back, very softly first, as if he was still not sure if this was right, before the kiss became more insistent.

Jarlaxle pushed him down on the soft bed and slipped his hands into Artemis' shirt, feeling the human's chest. It was hard and muscular, as he expected, but he didn't expect the feeling of more hair. It was nowhere near as thick as Entreri's goatee, but it was still odd and still...human. Jarlaxle kicked his boots off and went about the glorious task of kissing Artemis, stroking his neck at the same time.

Artemis offered no resistance when Jarlaxle pushed him down, he even paused for a moment simply to enjoy the drow's touches. Then he started to do something he had wanted to do ever since he had met the drow - take off all that horrible jewelry and especially the eye-patch. Artemis broke the kiss for a second to look Jarlaxle in the eyes, feeling as if he saw him for the first time.

Jarlaxle froze, feeling as though he'd been distracted in order to be deliberately disarmed.

Artemis didn't look even slightly aggressive or malicious, though; he had still a slightly glassy expression in his eyes. Jarlaxle had confused him, but he didn't want to ask. Instead he just brought his lips back onto Jarlaxle's, his tongue licking over the drow's bottom lip

Jarlaxle shivered and felt an intoxicating tingle go from his chest all the way down to his growing erection. He couldn't help but start kissing Artemis again. Only, he had to know. He slid one hand down Artemis' warm body, feeling between them gently. He couldn't see, so he wasn't sure when he would find what he was feeling for. He drew back his hand reflexively when he brushed the assassin's erection.

A soft, deep moan left Artemis lips that moment, followed by an almost disappointed sigh when Jarlaxle drew his hand back so quickly. He quickly opened the buttons of Jarlaxle's vest, pushing it off the drow's shoulders to let his hands freely run over the newly exposed torso, and then further down. He returned Jarlaxle's kisses willingly, until his lips suddenly left Jarlaxle's, sliding down to his throat and shoulder, nibbling and sucking at the incredibly soft skin.

Jarlaxle whimpered. He wasn't used to such gentleness. It wasn't like anything he had ever felt before. Artemis' ministrations made his body go limp and his eyes start to roll back in his head. He couldn't help himself. Before he collapsed on top of the assassin, he managed to roll over and land beside Artemis, lying on his back. His eyelids fluttered. "How...are you doing that?"

Artemis seemed a bit surprised at the drow's reaction, and he quickly turned over on his side, leaning in again to let his fingers trail over Jarlaxle's chest, then down to undo the buttons of his trousers. "How am I doing what?" Artemis asked softly, his face nuzzled against Jarlaxle's throat, the question only shortly interrupting the kisses.

Jarlaxle felt a strange, fluttery feeling in his stomach and bucked into Artemis' hand. He was breathing so heavily and fast he was lightheaded. "I...I..." He was close to tears, and he didn't know what it meant.

Artemis resumed kissing Jarlaxle's lips, while his fingers found their way finally to the drow's erection, tender and yet determined enough to do more than only tease. He moved closer to Jarlaxle, pressing himself against his body in a silent plea for more attention to his own needs, but he certainly wasn't going to ask now.

A modicum of sanity repossessed Jarlaxle when Artemis started touching him. He let out a low growl and reached out, tweaking Artemis' nipple. Then he slid his hand feverishly down Artemis' body and yanked on the band of the assassin's breeches. He managed to get his hand inside. He ran his thumb over Artemis' erection, surprised by the size of it. The assassin had seemed so reserved at first.

Artemis moaned again, this deep, rich sound that seemed to contrast strangely with his otherwise calm, controlled voice. He closed his eyes, just letting the sensations hit him while his fingers didn't leave Jarlaxle's body. Suddenly he stopped, though, opening his eyes again to give Jarlaxle an unfocused gaze. "Do you want to -" He stammered, as if he was too aroused to even speak properly.

He took a deep breath and tried again, his lips now almost touching Jarlaxle's ear. "I should have oil somewhere here, if you want to take me..." He let his voice trail off; only used to doing this, not to talking about it.

A jolt went through Jarlaxle at Entreri's words. He was so far gone that his voice sounded foggy and far away to himself. "Oh, no, no, I can't do that, I don't want to hurt you. What if you slip and I can't or I slip and it hurts you? You can't afford to get a limp, it wouldn't look right, no, Artemis, do it to me." He was just rambling, and he wasn't sure why he was saying any of those things. He only knew he was alarmed at the situation and how out of control he was.

Artemis nibbled at Jarlaxle's earlobe before he disengaged from him, leaning half out of the bed to search for the oil in his belongings. He straightened up hardly a minute later and gave it to Jarlaxle, before he kissed him again. "I prefer it like this," Artemis said softly, a bit embarrassed. "You won't hurt me."

"I, I can't promise that," Jarlaxle said. He growled in frustration and need and, of all things, sadness. He'd never felt this emotionally overwrought. "You'll hurt me. I can't stand to have something be my fault." Of its own volition a little, wet, trickling thing escaped from the corner of his eye and ran down his cheek. It was painless and strange, but he felt somehow betrayed by it. "I'll never forgive myself if I hurt someone like you."

Artemis furrowed his brow at this unexpected sentimental outburst, and for a moment he wasn't sure how to react. Then he just drew Jarlaxle closer to him and kissed him again, his hand finding its way back between Jarlaxle's legs - maybe he just needed to get the drow aroused enough to make him stop worrying. "You won't, I'm not that delicate," Artemis whispered between two kisses.

Jarlaxle moaned and writhed. He felt suddenly overheated. "You s-stupid assassin," he gasped. "I'm trying to protect you in my own miserable way. Your listening skills are...non-existent." He whimpered.

Artemis couldn't help chuckling at these words. "Who says I need to be protected? Now stop teasing me," he growled and kissed Jarlaxle again before he suddenly wriggled in the drow's arms until he came to lie on his stomach. He cast Jarlaxle an almost pleading glance over his shoulder, his gray eyes darkened with lust.

Jarlaxle groaned, muttered unintelligibly to himself, and rubbed his erection down with oil. "Says the man who's never had drow vith." He glared at Entreri. "I only know how to do this one way." He was amazingly hard, so that wouldn't be the problem. He found his target with a finger, moved his hands to Artemis' hips, and thrust in. He let out a deep breath. "There."

Artemis let out a stifled groan before he bit on his lip, while he clutched his fingers into the sheets. It hurt like hell for the first seconds, but Artemis forced himself to draw a deep breath, willing his body to relax. Another few moments of silence before he growled, "Go on." He wasn't worried; he liked it rough, and he knew the pain would soon fade away.

Jarlaxle did. He supposed that part of him hoped he really did hurt the assassin, simply to teach the man a lesson. Hot anger swelled in his chest over his heart. No matter how good this felt, thrusting into Entreri as hard as he could, he hated doing this to the assassin. It seemed so needlessly callous. In the back of his head, he wondered how anyone could make him feel this way.

Artemis didn't seem to share any of the drow's worries. Once the pain had faded he only moaned in pleasure, meeting Jarlaxle with every thrust. He was enjoying this too much to doubt what he was doing, although he should probably know things would be somehow more difficult between him and Jarlaxle later. Right now he didn't care, wasn't even capable of one clear thought.

Jarlaxle was surprised and amazed that he wasn't causing any suffering. Ridiculously, relief boiled through him, and at that moment, with tears streaming down his cheeks, he climaxed. He was deliriously happy no one could see him.

Artemis came a few moments later, stifling his last moan in the pillows. He went completely limp and closed his eyes, too exhausted at that moment to move or to talk. He liked the feeling of Jarlaxle's light weight on himself, and for some stupid, unknown reason he didn't want the drow to leave too quickly.

Jarlaxle fell over on top of him as soon as Entreri lay down, having relied on the assassin to support him. Lying on Artemis' sweaty back, listening to their hearts beat almost at the exactly same time, was somehow pleasant.

He didn't want to get up. He decided that after only a few moments. If he was exposed right now, with Drizzt and all of his friends looking at him, he couldn't care less if their plan was irrevocably ruined. It wasn't his plan, anyway. Vierna could go to Lloth. He could take Entreri, and they would make a hasty retreat - perhaps even killing that spider-loving bitch. Then they could make new plans. Better plans.

Jarlaxle rubbed his cheek against Entreri's shoulder.

His mind was full of grand plans involving himself and Artemis Entreri.

Artemis opened his eyes and smiled a bit, and to his surprise he found that he quite liked the way Jarlaxle kept touching him. He wasn't thinking of any plans, though; for once Artemis managed to enjoy these moments without worrying about their consequences. He didn't say anything, waiting for Jarlaxle to say or do something.

Entreri wasn't moving. He wasn't pushing Jarlaxle away. The drow mercenary brushed aside the locks of Entreri's hair in his way and kissed the assassin's neck. In the euphoric afterglow usually broken so quickly by a shove or a slap, Jarlaxle wiggled against Artemis' body contentedly and soaked up his body warmth. He affectionately licked and nibbled Artemis' neck.

The assassin sighed contently and decided to enjoy the drow's caresses for a while, but unfortunately lying on his stomach with a drow on his back became rather uncomfortable after several minutes. "Would you mind letting me turn around?" His voice was a bit calmer than before, but he tried to keep it soft, as he really didn't want to make Jarlaxle stop kissing him...

Jarlaxle made a noncommittal noise and plopped down on the bed beside him. "Better?" He wiggled back into Artemis' arms and curled up against him. After a moment, he couldn't resist kissing Artemis' shoulder.

Artemis quickly turned onto his back and pulled Jarlaxle in his arms, letting his fingers lazily trail over the drow's back. "Better," he confirmed. He looked at the drow questioningly, wondering what Jarlaxle was thinking now, if he regretted this, but Artemis didn't dare ask.

"You do such nice, nice things," Jarlaxle said. His voice was a whisper. He sighed and closed his eyes, hardly believing that someone was stroking his back as tenderly as he'd only seen fellow drow stroke their pets. "Nice things." He had a sudden, potent stab of jealous possessiveness. The source of all these nice things was his, and only his. If he had someone steal this from him, he swore he would hunt them down and carve them to pieces with his daggers. He wouldn't care who they were.

"Nice things?" Artemis laughed a bit at those words, but it was a relaxed, friendly laugh. "I think that's the first time anyone has said that to me." He had no idea, of course, what Jarlaxle was thinking right now, though he certainly wondered. He continued to stroke Jarlaxle's back, drawing small lines on the sweaty skin.

"What? Why?" Jarlaxle's eyelids fluttered. "I don't want you to ever stop."

"That might be difficult." Artemis smirked, but he didn't stop. He rubbed his stubbly cheek against Jarlaxle's. "Your dear client might be upset if you never come back from your control visit, and Drizzt and his friends might wonder why their halfling friend doesn't leave his room," Artemis chuckled, and for some reason he found the idea quite funny.

Jarlaxle chuckled with him, grinning from ear to ear. His mention of Vierna's expectations snapped him out of his dreamlike state of mind, and he couldn't lie and say he wasn't sorry to see it go. There had been a bliss in that state of mind he'd never quite achieved, even when drunk and filled with good food.

He was glad he hadn't mentioned any of these thoughts while he was in that state. Otherwise, Entreri would no doubt raise his eyebrows at the pragmatic mercenary suddenly coming out with fantasies of dropping the job they'd put so much work into and running away to start their own business, independent of everyone else.

Still, Jarlaxle kept all his fantasies. He never knew when he might be able to indulge himself in turning one of them into reality.

The knowledge he should leave, should have left ten minutes ago, unhappily weighed on him, but he refrained from saying anything about it. He didn't want to leave, and he knew Artemis would make him if he said something.

Artemis didn't have the slightest idea that the pragmatic drow had had these thoughts, and Artemis himself ... he simply didn't allow himself to dream anymore. He knew that on a purely rational and professional level this had been a mistake, and he had no idea how to deal with it in the future ... if it would happen again.

The assassin refused to think about this right now, his only thought being that he was feeling fine right now, and he wanted that rare feeling to last as long as possible.