DISCLAIMER: The below characters do not belong to me and I make no profit from my use of them. They are the property of Christopher Paolini – and I'm reasonably sure he would not approve of what I am about to do with them.

Title: Moonlit Respite

Pairing: Eragon/Murtagh - see warning and author's note.

Summary: A brief respite on the journey to Farthen Dur. First kiss. Takes place after the little fight between the two that Saphira had to break up – but I chose to place it before Gil'ead.

Feedback: Would love it, but have also learned while this type of fic gets lots of hits there are often few reviews. If you like it though - i'd love to know :)

Warning: Incase you missed the slash warning in the opening summary - here it is again. This piece contains mild slash. If the idea of an intimate relationship between two characters of the same gender bothers you - then now would be the time to click the back button. You have been warned twice now. That said - I expect no flames. They are both unnecessary and immature. To show my trust of the maturity level at this site I have chosen not to disable anonymous reviews.

A/N: I started this before reading 'Eldest.' To fully enjoy this fic it will be necessary to ignore the more relational aspect of this pairing that is revealed by the book's end. This should not be problem for any true slasher ;) Thank you - now lets get on with it...

They rode well into the night, stopping only when Saphira found a site to her liking. Murtagh could hear the soft babble of a stream nearby and looked around the small but well hidden clearing in approval. Tonight they would be able to warm themselves by a fire and have a hot meal without fear of giving away their location to the small band of ruthless Urgals that continued to dog them.

It was a welcome respite from days of endless riding, but one that had not come without cost. Eragon staggered as he dismounted and Murtagh reached to steady him with a hand to the shoulder until the boy found his balance. The Rider had used a vast amount of energy through magic to take out some of their pursuers and trap them within a canyon 10 miles back. The heathens would be all night digging themselves out and seeing to their wounded.

Should the Urgals manage to free themselves earlier than expected, he and Eragon had taken pains to alter their trail as much as possible to make it harder to follow. Once Saphira had flown them over a wide river – they were fairly certain they were safe - for tonight at least. He took Snowfire's reigns and led the horses to the water before picketing them for the night near the edge of the clearing where there was plenty of sweet grass to feed on.

Grabbing saddlebags and bedrolls he returned to find Eragon swaying in the same spot he'd left him. Saphira had collected enough wood to start a small fire, but he would have to gather more later. The young dragon stayed close to her Rider with an air of concern about her. Finally she curled up next to him and nudged him with her nose.

Dropping the supplies Murtagh finally broke the silence, though he never knew what mental discussion between the two he may be interrupting. To his eyes however, Eragon looked entirely too tired to speak - even through the bond he shared with Saphira.

"Sit down before you fall down." He was tired as well and his voice sounded a little harsher than he'd intended.

As if he'd been waiting for permission to do so, Eragon, lacking his usual grace all but fell next to his dragon. Saphira curled her tail around him and gently nudged him again. A small sleepy smile appeared and not for the first time Murtagh envied the intimate bond they shared. It must be amazing to never be alone – to know that you are always connected to another. Just as quickly the smile vanished and Eragon finally surrendered to some much needed rest.

He prepared a small soup of dried beef and broth, nearly the last of their supplies, while Saphira eyed him impassively. The crackling flames of the campfire and Eragon's soft steady breathing were the only sounds to break the silence until the meal was nearly complete. As he poured only enough of the soup as absolutely necessary to sustain him, Saphira stirred and gently jostled Eragon awake. The larger portion of the meal he placed in front of Eragon as the Rider moved nearer the fire and gave Saphira a nod before the she launched herself smoothly into the air.

At his questioning look Eragon responded, "She needs to hunt. There's a small herd of gazelle near the river."

They ate without speaking, only the sounds of the forest around them breaking the stillness of the night. About halfway through the meal it became apparent that eating had become an effort for Eragon. His bites slowed, the spoon moving slowly as if it were heavy, and his eyelids began to droop lower and lower.

"You need to eat!" Murtagh said, rather loudly breaking the silence.

Eragon jumped at the sound of his voice, slightly startled. He looked down at his food as if he'd forgotten it was there. Murtagh waited until the Rider started eating again before he set off to the brook for water. When he returned the bowl was empty and his companion was drowsing cross-legged by the fire, eyes closed.

Sighing, Murtagh unfurled the bedroll and spread it out next to Eragon. When he grabbed the young man by the shoulders, the boy jerked awake and stiffened – eying him warily. Regretting the tension between them, Murtagh softened his voice.

"Get some sleep. I'll watch over you until Saphira returns."

Too tired to argue, Eragon climbed into his blanket and once settled comfortably on his back, promptly fell asleep. Free from Saphira's piercing gaze, Murtagh watched the Rider sleep for a long time, studying the young face without any sense of guilt or censure. His friend had very attractive features - a strong profile and a smooth jaw with the roundness of youth just beginning to fade, the barest impression of a dimple in the cleft of his chin. As if sensing Murtagh's intense regard, Eragon lifted his chin and turned his head toward the fire.

For days, nearly since the moment they'd met, he'd been fighting an unwilling and undeniable attraction to the Rider. Such feelings were a complication he did not need…or want. But the more time they spent together- the harder it was to ignore. And to make it worse – as he attempted to sort his feelings and come to terms with them – he had come to the realization that Saphira knew of this struggle.

He had never spoken to the dragon but through Eragon, yet Saphira was very expressive in her gaze and mannerisms. He knew that she knew he had feelings for her Rider. He could see it in the way that she watched him. And yet surprisingly it also appeared that she was uncertain as to how she felt about it. The looks she gave him ranged from suspicion, concern, gentle understanding and a most intimidating glare of fierce protection for her Rider at times. It was most disconcerting.

Still, on an entirely different level he got the impression that she liked him and was grateful for the assistance and companionship that he'd been able to offer. It had become obvious that Saphira did not question his integrity or ability when it came to physically guarding or protecting Eragon. Yet she was not so sure that he would be as capable or vigilant when it came to safeguarding the young one's heart.

That Eragon remained completely oblivious to both his conflict and the byplay between he and Saphira was no small feat. He took great pains to let nothing of his growing feelings show – and he suspected that Saphira had kept her silence thus far as well. And while he was extremely grateful to her for that, he knew that it would not hold out much longer. His infatuation and physical desire for Eragon had morphed into something much more and he wasn't quite sure what to do about it. He enjoyed the Rider's company and would gladly accompany him just about anywhere – except for the one destination that was currently at hand. The Varden. He knew that it was the combination of his newfound feelings and the frustration of being driven towards Farthen Dur that had caused him to lash out at Eragon the night before. He looked away, into the fire, remembering the hurt on Eragon's face at his careless words that the boy couldn't take care of himself and always needed rescuing. While there had been a measure of truth to it – he'd had no right to use them as a weapon the way he did. He was too angry to apologize at the time and the silence that had enveloped them was nearly impenetrable since they had awoken this morning.

Hours later when the moon hung low in the sky; he sat across the fire, once again watching Eragon sleep. The boy hadn't moved a muscle since he'd slipped into slumber. Murtagh had taken the first watch and now that it was his turn to sleep – found that he could not. Saphira had taken to the sky once again and every once in awhile he could see her circling in the moonlight. He knew that her keen eyesight and sense of smell would alert them to any trouble approaching within a mile of camp. She spent so much time on the ground with them during the day; he could only imagine how wonderful it must feel to fly free in the pale glow of the moon.

His attention was drawn back to Eragon as the Rider mumbled quietly in his sleep and tossed his head back and forth. Murtagh could see the rapid movement of his eyes beneath closed lids and knew that he was dreaming. A small, and inappropriate he knew, flame of jealousy lit within him as he wondered if it was the captured elf once again. A low moan signaling distress brought him to Eragon's side with some water as the youth's sleep turned restless.

Whispering low reassurances Murtagh did his best to soothe the disruptive dreams, but the murmurs and weak thrashes continued until Eragon bolted awake with Brom's name on his lips. Wild and confused eyes searched the campsite before coming to rest on Murtagh. Deep panting breaths soon slowed to normal as awareness slowly returned and the tense body next to him began to relax. At first, Eragon seemed grateful for his presence, but memory of their argument the evening before soon returned. The Rider grew pensive and adopted the hurt look that had crossed his features at Murtagh's harsh words. Wrapping his arms around himself, the Rider turned to the fire and scanned the camp for Saphira. Murtagh opened his mouth but before he could say anything Eragon looked skyward and it was obvious the two were in contact. The friendship between them had grown awkward and uncomfortable and again he was unaccountably sorry for the distance that now stood between them. The Rider's gaze returned to the fire and there was such a measure of vulnerability and loneliness to the set of his shoulders that Murtagh could stand it no longer.

"Eragon," He started, placing a hand on his companions arm. "I wish to apologize for my actions last night. I was tired and stressed and I had no right to take it out on you."

Noticeably relieved by Murtagh's words, Eragon remained silent. It had not gone unnoticed that he had not withdrawn any of his words, only his actions. While Murtagh may have spoken out of turn, and rather spitefully at that, he had meant what he said.

A myriad of emotions flitted across the Rider's face, his expression an unconscious window to each thought as it passed. In the end, relief at being able to bridge the gap between them overcame any unintentional slight to the boy's pride. Though he knew his friend had already done so, he still asked, "Forgive me?"

The smile he got in response was both boyish and beautiful and Murtagh's heart skipped a beat in return.

"Of course," Eragon said, placing his hand atop Murtagh's where it rested on his arm. They shared a long gaze, the Rider looking deeply into his eyes as if to be sure all was once again well between them. When at last he would have pulled away, Murtagh caught his hand and interlaced their fingers.

Cocking his head to one side, Eragon eyed him curiously, with an open innocence that Murtagh found both enchanting and irresistible. They sat in such close proximity that their thighs brushed lightly. It was only a matter of leaning forward to press his lips to the other's …if he dared. He hesitated only a moment not wanting to jeopardize their newfound friendship.

Yet the pull of attraction was too hard to resist and he found himself lost within the beautiful glow of wide sapphire eyes and the full mouth that he so desperately wanted to taste. He took a deep, steady breath and advanced – slowly – giving Eragon every opportunity to pull away. The Rider watched him closely, curiosity turning to realization as he neared. Murtagh was relieved to note a brief flash of uncertainty, but no fear or revulsion in the young face.

His eyes closed as their lips met in a soft brush of silken texture. For a long agonizing moment he waited, breathless, until he felt Eragon's lips gently purse in response to his kiss. He let the Rider set the pace, slow and tentative as it was. For now, he was content to simply enjoy the intimate nature of their contact within the warm melding of mouths – though he did edge closer and wrap an arm around the youth's waist, pulling him all that much closer.

When he ran the tip of his tongue across Eragon's lips, the sensual yet ticklish contact caused the Rider to part his lips in surprise. Murtagh took full advantage by gently plundering the sweet mouth, savoring the underlying spices he could taste from the stew he'd prepared earlier and something that was uniquely Eragon. A taste that he knew that he could easily become addicted to. He ran the back of his fingers along the sculpted jaw line and cupped a lightly stubbled cheek before letting his hand drift down the smooth column of throat – where his thumb gently stroked the soft skin at it's base.

Murtagh's tongue continued to sweep and withdraw in an attempt to lure the Rider into a more aggressive kiss, humming in approval at the unconscious and highly erotic little noise his friend made in the back of this throat. He broke for some air, pleased and a little smug as he took in Eragon's flushed face and kiss-swollen lips. He smiled around the next kiss as Eragon met him half way and wiggled closer. Murtagh was slightly disappointed when the kiss remained exploratory so he pressed more forcefully into the Rider's mouth, his hand going to the nape of the youth's neck.

Eragon's hand settled on his knee, hesitant, and the kiss grew suddenly uncertain. The tongue Murtagh dueled with was awkward – not so much clumsy as . . . inexperienced. He pulled away in realization, unable to keep the surprise from his voice or expression.

"You've never done this before have you?"

The dazed slightly debauched look slid from the Riders face to be replaced with a flush of embarrassment, noticeable even in the low glow of the fire. Eragon ducked his head in response to the question.

Shocked by the discovery, Murtagh took longer to come to his senses than he should have. Snapping his gaping mouth shut he reached to lift Eragon's chin. He could tell the Rider did not want to meet his gaze – but to his credit he did so steadily.

"I wasn't making fun." Murtagh said gently. "I'm…I was just caught off guard. I'm sorry if I embarrassed you."

Nodding, Eragon lowered his eyes as Murtagh released him. They turned their heads toward the fire, neither quite knowing what to say to the other. Out of the corner of his eye, Murtagh saw Eragon pick self-consciously at the hem of his sleeve.

Realizing that he wasn't handling this very well, he strove for a friendly, neutral tone. The last thing he wanted was for the Rider to feel awkward or embarrassed.

"So…is this the first time you've been kissed by another man?"

Giving him a sidelong glance, Eragon nodded once. Murtagh thought as much, recalling the shy, tentative nature of their kiss.

"It's not really all that different from kissing a girl." He continued, still looking into the fire. "It's just a little more …intense." He didn't know how else to explain it. He'd kissed both women and men and preferred the ladder by far. You had to take special care with women – in his limited experience with them. They seemed to prefer a softer, gentler touch and were more delicate. Not that he wasn't capable of being tender – but he found that he enjoyed the more aggressive contact that usually resulted in an intimate pairing with someone of his own gender.

Lost in his thoughts, Murtagh didn't notice the long pause before Eragon spoke again, though his words quickly grabbed his attention.

"I wouldn't know."

Murtagh turned wide eyes to his friend, uncertain if he was interpreting the response correctly. Again, he was unable to hide his shock.

"You've never kissed…anyone?"

Eragon gave him a look that indicated that he didn't have to sound quite so incredulous, the rosy flush that had nothing to do with the fire returning to the young man's face.

"Ever?" Murtagh asked, to make matters worse.

The Rider got a little defensive, his posture stiffening, face tightening. "Well it's not exactly proper to go around kissing whomever you want, whenever you want."

Murtagh ignored the tone, trying to get his surprise under control once again. It was impossible at that moment not to recognize how vastly different their backgrounds were. The young Rider truly had led a sheltered life whereas his had been anything but. Sobering, he turned back to his companion and reached to take his hand.

"I'm sorry." He said sincerely. "I'm handling this very badly." Murtagh gave the hand he held a squeeze and looked deep into beautiful eyes of liquid sapphire. "I am honored that you would share your first kiss with me."

Giving him a shy smile, Eragon swallowed and lowered his gaze. Filled with a warm glow of gentle caring, Murtagh let the lingering urgency of his arousal dissipate. Some things were infinitely more important that instant self-gratification – and this was one of them. Besides – it was easy to see that his young friend was still thoroughly exhausted and would not be long for the world of the waking. Still, he had one more question that he desperately wanted answered. He asked it somewhat nervously.

"Uh…Um…is Saphira aware of …" He let the question hang, knowing Eragon understood.

"Of course." The Rider answered, looking to the sky as he did so though Saphira was nowhere in site.

"And..?" He asked, quietly, almost dreading the answer.

"And…"Eragon said after his eyes distant for a moment, "she chooses to keep her thoughts to herself for now." He finished, noticeably surprised at his dragon's response.

Murtagh nodded, then asked apprehensively, "What else?" Sending there was more but that Eragon was reluctant to elaborate.

The Rider cleared his throat and looked a little sheepish. "She said that if my trust in you proves to be misplaced that she would make you pay for it dearly."

He fell silent. What could he possible say to her in response to that? To Eragon he said, "Well then, it's a good thing that your trust is not misplaced." He was happy to get a sleepy grin in reply.

"Get some rest." Murtagh said softly, settling back against the saddles. "It's late."

It appeared Eragon would argue at first, but in the end his body's need for sleep could not be denied. Hesitating before lying down, the Rider grew bold; leaning in to give him a kiss of such sweet innocence that he thought his heart would flutter right out of his chest. Murtagh was quite certain he'd not felt this deeply for anyone in his life before. It was both refreshing and terrifying.

"Come here." While his voice was husky, his intention was entirely honorable.

Pulling Eragon close, he settled the Rider's back to his chest and pulled the blanket over them for warmth. "I'll hold you while you sleep."

"What about you?" Eragon asked, concerned. "You need to sleep as well."

"I will." He assured. "I just want to enjoy the feel of you in my arms for awhile." That the chance may not present itself again anytime soon was left unsaid.

Though charmingly embarrassed by his words, the Rider relaxed against him, letting his head fall back on Murtagh's shoulder drowsy with sleep.


Murtagh closed his eyes when the Rider finally surrendered, his head turning into the crook of his neck so that he could feel each soft exhalation of breath against his skin.

For hours he sat without moving, content to hold the young man in his arms. Near morning he drifted in and out of a light sleep, waking fully when Saphira returned with the first light of dawn. She eyed them with a dichotomous glare – revealing tenderness for her Rider and a warning for him.

He held her gaze determinedly. "You've nothing to fear, my friend. I would never willingly hurt him. I give you my word."

She studied him for a long time, her eyes finally softening as she spoke. His eyes grew wide as he heard her voice in his head for the first time.

"We shall see."


Slash is not my preferred genre to write, I've only written one other piece. Love to read it – but writing is much harder :) Still, I felt compelled to write this little scene – so I hope someone enjoyed it….