“Let me get this straight,” Dryke said, smirking in that infuriating way of his. “You’re a gremlin, allergic to metal. You’re a goldsmith gremlin, allergic to gold.”

Bax glowered. “Shut. Up.”

Dryke laughed so hard he almost slammed his head down on the bar he was supposed to be cleaning. “You’re a gremlin allergic to metal. A goldsmith gremlin allergic to gold.” That time he did smack his head on the bar, hastily standing up straight again, grimacing even as he continued to laugh.

“I hope you die in a bar fight,” Bax snapped. “Honestly, why the hell did I even come to see you?”

“Beer, probably. Definitely not sympathy,” Dryke said.

Bax said nothing, only glared, because stupidly he had thought the stupid goblin would be nice. No one else had all day, just sort of treated him awkwardly and silently wished he’d go away again. “I hate you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dryke said lightly, and wandered away to pour him a beer, snagging a bowl of nuts on his way back. “Drink, sulk, by morning you’ll be in too much agony to care you’re useless as a traditional gremlin.”

Sighing heavily, unable to argue with that, Bax morosely did as he was told while Dryke wandered away to deal with the customers that began to trickle into the tavern. He came back an hour or so later, and asked, “You want real food, Bax?”

“No,” Bax said, because he shouldn’t even be buying the beer. Now that he’d figured out why he was sick all the time, he was out of a job and stood no chance of getting another one—not as a proper, respectable gremlin. And he’d never really done much of anything else, just some work around the tavern for Dryke when he had the time.

Dryke wandered off again, but reappeared shortly with a bowl of the beef stew that, along with the beer, made his place a popular stop along the trade route. “You know, Bax…this bar is getting on, it could stand to be replaced. And the rooms upstairs—”

“I don’t need your pity!” Bax snapped.

“I’m not offering it,” Dryke said in reply, calm as always. Even when facing down a drunk, angry ogre, Dryke never lost his calm. “Come on, Bax. It’s not like you ever had any fun with the family business. You like working with wood. Why not give it a go?”

Bax said nothing, but he didn’t want Dryke offering just because Bax had finally failed completely to be a proper gremlin. He wanted Dryke to want him around.

Dryke sighed and wandered off again, and Bax didn’t see him again until the tavern finally closed for the night. “Come on, Bax, you’ve sulked all night. Why isn’t here good enough to do something different? The only gold you’d ever have to worry about it is from the travelers, and only the stupid ones carry gold around. You like it here, I like you here—why go back to your smarmy, snotty clan?”

“You like me here?” Bax blurted. “I thought—you just put up with me.”

“Fuck you,” Dryke snapped, and Bax jumped, startled beyond measure, because Dryke did not ever raise his voice. “I always have your barstool open, everyone knows you’re my friend, I keep your favorite beer and food in store, and I never get anyone else to fix this old heap up. Do you seriously think I flirt with you just as a matter of course?”

Bax stared at him. “Flirt with me? You act like an ass! Your favorite hobbies include mocking me and laughing at me!”

Dryke muttered something Bax couldn’t quite catch, then reached out, grabbed his shirt front, and yanked so Bax was draped awkwardly over the bar. Then Dryke kissed him, leaving absolutely no doubt as to his thoughts regarding useless goldsmith gremlins. “Why are gremlins so obtuse?” he asked eventually?”

“Why are goblins so stupid?” Bax retorted. “It’s no wonder you need to replace your bar, if this is how you treat it!”

Dryke only smirked, and let him go. “You should see how I treat my bed.”

“I’m obtuse, not easy. Do I look like a nymph to you?” Bax replied, settling back onto his stool and folding his arms on the bar. “Go finish counting your money, goblin. Then we’ll discuss my sleeping arrangements.”

Snickering, Dryke obeyed, leaving Bax to get used to the idea of his favorite place actually being home.

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