Disclaimer: Not mine, all the characters belong to Wootzie. And if they come after me for copyright infringement, I will fill their main office with live roaches before letting them have this story.

Set post Ghost King

Bruenor paced the inner tunnels of Mithril Hall. Most of the residents slept, leaving apprentice metalworkers to tend the bellows fires, ensuring they never went out completely. He nodded to each of the young dwarves as he walked past. He did so every night since Catti-Brie and Regis had passed. Sleep had apparently abandoned the dwarven king since.

He felt strange. On the rare occasions he stopped to think about it, the dwarf realized he had had this hole in his heart, had always had it. Bruenor stopped. Since we thought the boy dead by yochol, he realized.

His circuit took him up into the guest quarters next. The rooms that Drizzt had shared with Catti-Brie were unoccupied and had been so for weeks. Last I heard, the elf was avoiding all contact. At least Hralien's keeping an eye out for him. Damn elf, he did this the last time too...

A few more turns in the corridor brought Bruenor into the more populated guest rooms. Usually at this hour all was quiet in here as well, but the quiet sound of paper pages flipping against each other behind one of the doors piqued his curiosity. Wonder what Feather-hat's doing at this hour, he thought as he knocked on the door.

A friendly tenor voice answered, "It's open."

Bruenor walked in to find his houseguest in a fine woven shirt of leaf green and eye searing purple trousers sitting at a plain table, dealing out a hand of solitaire with a faded set of playing cards. Red eyes regarded the dwarf tiredly. "I see you haven't been getting any rest either."

The dwarf shrugged and took the chair opposite Jarlaxle. The mercenary began his game as Bruenor continued, "Seems better to keep movin' iffen I can't sleep."

"My reverie has not been easy as well," the drow responded lightly. He put down two cards and continued with his game.

"I'm for thinking you've a few skeletons in yer closet, there." Bruenor frowned at Jarlaxle.

"No more than anyone else," the mercenary shrugged. Another handful of cards slipped onto the table. "Surely you've had friends that you've failed before."

"Aye." The dwarf leaned back and watched the drow set a few more cards down. "Still tryin' to get used t' the idea of ye with friends."

"It happens more often than you think," Jarlaxle looked at the deck spread out on the table. "The cards came from a friend."

"And where is he?" Bruenor asked, suspecting the answer.

"Long dead." The drow stared morosely at the cards.

The dwarf cocked his head to the side, curious. "Ye still have th' cards though."

Jarlaxle shrugged. "A keepsake."

Bruenor watched the drow carefully proceed through his game for a few minutes. Finally he asked the question that had been bothering him for the past few months. "Why are ye here?"

"You didn't not invite me..." the drow smirked.

"That's not what I meant and ye know it," Bruenor grumbled.

The smirk disappeared faster than it had appeared in the first place. For a moment the mercenary said nothing, instead gauging the dwarf's stance and attitude. Bruenor glared right back. Jarlaxle blinked and said softly, "The stakes are too high."

Bruenor frowned at the unexpected response. "What?"

Jarlaxle ignored the query and with swift, deft movements scooped all of the cards up back into a deck and began to shuffle it with the speed of a professional dealer. After cutting the deck, the drow dealt out two sets of seven cards and left the rest to the side. He picked up his hand and asked, "What games do you know?"

"Miner's Crutch," the dwarf blinked. What in the hells...

"I might be rusty at it," Jarlaxle heaved a theatrical sigh.

Bruenor caught the grin in the mercenary's eyes and decided he was not going to get a straight answer and yielded to the inevitable. "What are we betting with? I won't be risking me kingdom with ye."

The mercenary grinned broadly. "I was thinking of stakes no higher than buttons and pocket lint actually."

The dwarf found himself grinning right back. "Might be that I can wager some fine buttons against ye."

"It's settled then!" Jarlaxle laughed as he pulled some lint from his pockets and put it on the table.

Bruenor chuckled as he pulled a wooden button off his shirt and set it in front of him. "What's the exchange rate?"

"We'll figure it out later," the drow said merrily as they both began to play.

Author's note: Ok this is about the strangest short fic I've ever written. But it seemed to fit as I kept writing it... There must be something wrong with my tea...