Disclaimer: I do not own any of Christopher Paolini's characters. I do, however, own Zak.

This is highly AU. They live in our time/place/world ("they" being Roran, Katrina, Garrow, Eragon, Arya, Thorn, Murtagh, Saphira, and whoever else I decide to include). Yes, Saphira and Thorn are both human. Yes, they are in high school.

Enjoy.

-o-

"Stop!"

He was running, chasing someone, calling out to them, his voice terrified. Something horrible was going to happen –

Who was he chasing? Why?

Eragon felt a name leave his lips, this time with a desperation he did not understand. A jolt went through him. He knew this person! He called their name again, not understanding why he could say it with such pain in his voice and not know whose name he was speaking.

What was going on?

His voice rang out as he called to his quarry again. This time the figure ahead of him flinched, as if the name hurt him. But the person did not stop. Buildings sped past them as they ran, the figure and his pursuer gradually speeding up as their desperation increased – Eragon to catch this man, and the man to not be caught.

Eragon nearly screamed in frustration. He wasn't gaining! Whoever he was chasing was in excellent physical condition, and the streets they ran along were empty of obstacles for either of them to trip over or slow them down. They were too equal in stamina and speed for either of them to make any ground.

Silently, Eragon cheered when the figure rounded a corner into an alley, one he knew was a dead end.

He sprinted to the alley opening. The figure had stopped dead, and was staring in horror at the brick wall were there should have been an opening to a street. Eragon stopped as well.

"Please," Eragon begged. Something horrible was going to happen – this person needed to know, needed to listen to him. The person whirled around, exposing to Eragon bright hazel eyes and raven hair, both stark against his pale skin.

"Murtagh?" Eragon exclaimed. "Why – you ran from me? What's going on?"

Murtagh took a step back from him. He glanced to the side of the alley – Eragon's eyes widened when they both saw the door there.

"Sorry," Murtagh said quietly, voice pained. Eragon suddenly noticed the rope dangling from his brother's hand – what was going on? A rope – Murtagh wasn't going to – why would he – something horrible –

– something horrible was going to happen –

Murtagh darted toward the door, getting through it impossibly fast. The sound of the door slamming echoed through the alley, ringing in Eragon's ears as he sprinted after his brother. He reached the door, yanking desperately at the handle – locked. "No!" he screamed, desperately pulling at the handle. "No, no, no! Murtagh, don't, please!"

Something horrible – something bad, something irreversible, something –

Somehow the door opened. He shrieked, tears streaking down his cheeks, when he saw the body hanging from the rafters.

Eragon woke with a gasp.

He sat upright in bed, shaking with silent sobs, tears running from his closed eyes. Murtagh's face from the dream, his lifeless eyes, his skin even paler in death, haunted him.

These dreams were not uncommon, but never had he seen the person's face.

Now he wished it had stayed that way.

He forced himself to open his eyes, taking in the room that was his place of comfort.

Moonlight shone through both of the open windows in the room, falling on the trashed floor, the tall bookcase, the guitar case in the corner, the pale blue blanket Eragon slept with always. It shone through the open door to the bathroom, and reflected off the mirror there. It enveloped the two occupants of the room, embracing Eragon but sliding into the other occupant's very skin.

Eragon took a deep breath made himself look at the other bed and the young man in it.

Murtagh Morzansson lay still in his bed, his only movement the silent rise and fall of his chest. Still alive, Eragon reminded himself. Murtagh isn't dead, and he's not going to die. Not soon, anyway.

Murtagh had been sharing his room for six months, ever since Eragon had walked home after his first day of the tenth grade to find his brother sitting quietly in the kitchen, staring blankly at the floor, his – their – uncle standing near the stove. Two full duffel bags and a guitar case had been in the floor by Murtagh's feet.

Eragon had stared at the dark young man, who couldn't look more out of place their uncle's homey kitchen. His question had not been voiced, but was obvious enough.

Murtagh hadn't answered. Instead, Garrow had said quietly, "This is your brother. Murtagh. He needs a place to stay."

Murtagh had looked up, an almost pleading expression on his face. Garrow's grim expression hadn't changed. "And now he's got one."

Eragon smiled as he remembered Murtagh's astonished expression. It had taken a while for him to realize his brother had never believed that their uncle would take him in, had never actually gone to Garrow and expected him to say yes. He had just been desperate.

And with that, he had a roommate. It certainly had taken getting used to, and Eragon still didn't quite understand the older male, but they definitely trusted each other now. He smiled slightly, curling into ball, feeling tears come to his eyes again at the thought.

Yes, he could trust Murtagh. With almost anything.

Eragon uncurled himself, looking again at the sleeping hazel-eyed male. His pale skin shone slightly in the moonlight, contrasting sharply with his pitch-black hair. An angel. Eragon rose silently from the bed, feeling acutely the need to touch that delicate skin, to run his finger's through that ebony hair.

He made his way cautiously to the other's bed, feet moving carefully from bare patch to bare patch, avoiding stepping on anything on the floor. The floor creaked – Eragon froze, praying that Murtagh did not wake. After a long moment, in which the older male did not stir, Eragon breathed a sigh of relief and tiptoed the last few feet to his brother's bed.

Delicately, the brunet reached down his hand to gently brush the pale skin; he felt himself relax at the feel of that soft cheek against his fingers.

Murtagh shifted slightly, eyes flickering. Heart pounding, Eragon took a step back, ready to escape to his mattress should Murtagh wake. But after the small movement, Murtagh settled down, and Eragon berated himself mentally. How could he forget what a light sleeper Murtagh was?

He turned back to his bed, but hesitated. He took a deep breath, then, deciding to take the chance, bent down and delicately brushed his lips against Murtagh's.

"I love you," he whispered as he pulled away.

After a long moment, he got back in bed, closing his eyes and dreaming of what it would have been like for Murtagh to kiss him back.

-o-

"You want me to what?"

Eragon flinched as he rose from his dream at the sound of Roran's voice. "Damn," he muttered darkly, thinking of the wonderful dream he'd been having. Murtagh had crawled into bed with him, had been holding him… But no. Roran had to wake him up.

"How is it my job to look after him?" he heard Roran demand. Eragon grimaced as he rose from bed, realizing that his cousin was outside his door, no doubt on the phone. Either that, or he had gone insane.

The brunet glanced at his alarm clock – 11:42. Crap! He was supposed to meet Saphira at that stupid bookstore she liked almost twenty minutes ago. She was not going to be happy. Punctual as she was, she was going to be furious. No doubt she'd call any minute.

Well, actually, this is a good thing, he admitted to himself as he rushed to the bathroom to brush his teeth . He needed to talk to Saphira about that dream. He shivered when he remembered it – it was still painful to think of Murtagh's dead face, even though it had only been in his head in the first place.

"Crap, crap, crap, crap…" Eragon muttered, yanking off his pajama shirt, then grabbing the first shirt he found on the floor – a tight black one.

Hurriedly he pulled it over his head, only realizing it was Murtagh's when he sniffed it cautiously to check for freshness. Ah well. If he had to go around all day smelling like Murtagh, he wasn't going to complain.

Just as quickly he found a pair of pants – this time his own – and strode quickly to the door. Then, suddenly, he stopped. His gaze hesitantly found Murtagh's empty bed – were had his brother gone? Usually, the raven-haired male wasn't even awake until well into the afternoon.

Shrugging to himself, he moved out the door. He brushed impatiently past Roran, who was still talking angrily into the phone outside his door. He glared at his cousin, who ignored him, not surprisingly. They'd gotten into an increasing number of fights since Murtagh had moved in, mostly because of the raven-haired male.

Roran didn't exactly approve of someone like Murtagh suddenly turning up, but he didn't complain. He did, however, complain that Eragon chose to treat the questionable teen as a brother.

Eragon moved quickly away from his cousin, feeling a bit guilty. After all, Roran was just trying to keep him safe.

-o-

Eragon slipped into the bookstore, trying to look inconspicuous. He glanced around; the store wasn't exactly packed, but it certainly wasn't empty.

Coffee tables appeared every once in a while around the book shelves, providing places for people to lounge. Eragon scanned these swiftly; there was a pair of teenage boys, both a bit older than him, one with purple hair, the other with red. The next occupied table was only an old man reading a newspaper, the next after that a middle-aged woman and a child who grinned up at him.

No Saphira.

He began to walk down the aisles, scanning briefly. Manga, history, dieting, comic books, fantasy, humor – true crime. This was were she'd be. He peeked into the aisle warily; no Saphira.

Saphira was nowhere in sight; Eragon wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Bathroom, maybe.

Oh well. Looks like I'll have to put off being snapped at until she finds me, Eragon thought cheerfully. He trotted back two aisles, and began to examine the fantasy books.

Something caught his eye; a dark blue book with a sapphire dragon on the front.

Reverently he lifted it from the shelf and began to examine the back. Satisfied, he opened it. He had just gotten to the part were the hero's "blue rock" had hatched into a cat-sized dragon when a voice spoke behind him.

"There you are."

Eragon looked up, his brown eyes meeting bright sapphire ones. He flushed guiltily and glanced back down at the book he was holding, which Saphira was giving a dirty look.

"Have you been standing here with your nose in that book this entire time?" she demanded.

Deciding not to mention he'd also overslept, Eragon smiled sheepishly. "Yeah…"

Saphira sighed. "Here I thought you'd overslept or something again, but no. You got here in time?"

"Yeah," Eragon lied again.

"Then why in the world didn't you come find me?" Saphira said, then laughed. Eraogn relaxed. She was in a good mood. "You're so easily distracted sometimes, Era. The first good book you pick up you're lost in. I think I can forgive you though – you showed up, after all."

Eragon grinned, punching her on the shoulder. "You're a nag, you know that? I can't help finding a good book in a place like this." He gestured to the bookstore around them, while wondering just how he was going to bring up his dream.

"True," Saphira admitted. "So, it any good?"

"What?"

"The book," she explained, gesturing to the blue book in his hand. "Any good?"

Eragon eyed her carefully. She was definitely trying to make small talk. That could only mean one thing. "Saphira, what are you trying to hold off telling me?"

Saphira flushed. Eragon grinned. Saphira, getting red-faced after such a simple question? This was serious.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she told him firmly.

Eragon smirked. "Right." He went back to considering his book, not really reading but instead wondering when to bring up the subject of his nightmare.

After a few minutes of prolonged silence, Saphira cracked.

"Fine!" she exclaimed. "You're right! I'm trying not to tell you about my boyfriend!"

A woman stopped dead at the end of the aisle, horrified, then glared at Saphira for her level of noise. Saphira, too eager to see Eragon's reaction, didn't notice.

Eragon looked up at her in shock, forgetting all about the nightmare. "Boyfriend?" he said. "You have a boyfriend? Who? Why didn't you tell me you were interested in someone?"

"I did!" Saphira protested, a bit too loudly for a bookstore again. Then she blushed again. "Well, sort of. I did mention him – once or twice. You just didn't notice. You're always spacing out, lately."

This time it was Eragon turn to blush. He knew she he was telling the truth; more and more often he found himself drifting away from reality to think of a certain raven-haired teen…

It was kind of hard not to. He'd recently walked in on his brother in the shower, and unfortunately, his vivid imagination allowed him to fill in any parts of Murtagh's naked body blurred by the foggy glass. Luckily Murtagh hadn't seen him, but that was besides the point.

Saphira smile triumphantly. "See, I did tell you that I thought I might like him! Any way, he - ."

"Out," said a female voice firmly. They both looked to the end of the aisle, flinching when they saw the woman who had given Saphira a disapproving look earlier standing at the end of the aisle, back with reinforcements. An older woman, an employee was giving them both an even more disapproving look. It was the employee who had spoken.

"Out," she said again, this time more impatiently. "You are disturbing the other customers. Buy what you want and leave now."

Before Eragon could protest getting kicked out, Saphira spoke up. "Sorry," she said quickly, flashing a cheesy smile. "We aren't going to buy anything; we'll leave." She glared at both the women as she said this, contradicting her polite words and tone.

"Good," came the icy reply. Eragon winced.

Seconds later, they were both outside in the cold air on the corner of the strip mall.

Eragon gave Saphira a dirty look. "You got us kicked out!"

"So?" Saphira retorted. "It's a bookstore, Era. We'll live."

Eragon stared at her, shocked. Just a bookstore? She had loved that place for years! Now it was just a bookstore. "Saphira, are you feeling weird or anything?"

"A little," she admitted, shivering. "It's just so cold out here… I forgot to bring my jacket. I hate cold."

"Oh," Eragon said unsympathetically. "Anything else?"

Saphira grinned. "Nope! You know what? I'm so happy I don't care how cold it is! He asked me out on our first date three weeks ago – not long, huh? Then he called me at one o'clock in the morning, saying he couldn't sleep because he couldn't stop thinking about me – and then he asked me to be his girlfriend!"

Eragon rolled his eyes. "Women."

"Oh, hush," Saphira told him. "What about you, huh? You've been acting weird for weeks. You're in love, too."

Eragon turned bright red. "Am not!"

"Are to," she accused. "And you'd be acting just as happy as I am if she asked you out."

Eragon flinched. If she asked him out. Never before had he felt so guilty for not mentioning to Saphira that he happened to be gay. Of course, what was the point when he had no boyfriend? Let sleeping dogs lie, that was the phrase.

He cleared his throat slightly. All this talk of his crush had made him remember his weird nightmare about Murtagh. "Saphira, there's something - ." he began.

"Saphira!"

Eragon jumped as a voice boomed out from behind him. Saphira grinned happily, turning around to face the redhead who had chosen that moment to appear from the bookstore's doors.

"So this is where you got to! I was wondering after you didn't come back after going to look for your friend," the redhead exclaimed, embracing Eragon's best friend with gusto.

Eragon swallowed hard. The redhead was huge. There was no other way to describe him. He wasn't monstrous, be he certainly did work out, and looked like he could crush Saphira with one hug. His skin was a medium color, neither dark nor pale, and a gold hoop adorned one ear. His clothes were loose, but not baggy. Eragon gaped at him as he flashed the brunet a huge grin full of very white teeth.

Behind him stood a male about Eragon's height with a brilliant shock of purple hair. He also had a gold earring in, this time a diamond stud instead of a plain hoop. His skin was slightly pale, accentuated by his all-black wardrobe.

He, too, grinned at Eragon, but much less cheerfully. More like a grin a shark would give something tasty that the shark was too full to eat at the moment.

Suddenly, Eragon remembered where he'd seen them before. They'd been sitting at a coffee table inside – no doubt waiting for Saphira to return with him.

"So this is the famous – or infamous – Eragon," the redhead said. He let go of Saphira, but kept his arm around her waist protectively. "She tell you about me yet?"

Mutely Eragon shook his head. He was still at a loss for words at their sudden appearance.

"I'm Thorn," the redhead explained. "Her boyfriend. Speaking of which, I have your blessing? I don't look too frightening or anything?"

Eragon nodded nervously. He doubted very much he could do anything to stop him from dating Saphira should he choose to do so, but Thorn looked serious.

Eragon glanced at the other male. He was still grinning, an evil glint in his eye. "Zak," he introduced himself. "Surzako Feiht, actually. But please don't call me that. I hate my name."

Eragon stared at him. "Er – sure. But – Surzako? What is that, Japanese or something?"

Zak's grin grew broader. "No idea." He glanced at Thorn and Saphira, who were still wrapped in each other's arms, albeit less closely than before. He rolled his eyes; Eragon felt himself grinning back.

Zak wasn't such a bad guy, maybe.

"So," Thorn said finally. "You two have actually have any plans past meeting me and Zak here?"

Saphira shook her head. "I was concentrating more on introducing you than doing anything after that," she told him. She glanced at Eragon. "Unless there was something you wanted to do?"

Eragon shook his head. This was getting confusing. First that nightmare, then Saphira suddenly having a boyfriend. At the moment, all he wanted to do was talk to Saphira privately, but it didn't seem like he'd get his wish any time soon. Saphira rarely developed crushes, even more rarely became her crush's girlfriend, and never went this crazy over said boyfriend. She definitely wasn't going to come back down from cloud 9 back to Earth anytime soon.

He sighed.

Saphira seemed to notice. She looked back at Thorn, then shrugged. "You know, I do want to spend some time alone with my best friend for a while. Maybe you and Zak should hang out a while by yourselves while me and Eragon talk?"

Thorn nodded in agreement, then planted a kiss on her lips. He grinned as she blushed.

Zak's grin somehow got bigger. "But of course, my lady! Do as you wish. I shall comfort your beloved in your absence." He gave an exaggerated bow.

Thorn laughed and smacked him on the head. "Come on, Zak We've go to meet Arya."

Zak's face lit up. "Ah, yes! Excellent suggestion. Another female to find. Of course, Arya's single, so I must admit, that puts her at a higher ranking than you," he told Saphira seriously. "You're much prettier, though. So if you and Thorn don't work out - ."

"At least have the decency to hit on my girlfriend while I'm not here," Thorn chuckled, grabbing him by his collar and proceeding to drag him off.

"Goodbye, fair lady and noble sir!" Zak called as Thorn shoved him back into the bookstore. Saphira giggled.

"He's really weird," Saphira explained to Eragon. They began to walk away from the store, towards Saphira's car. "Thorn told me he was strange, but I thought he was exaggerating. What do you think? Are they nice?"

She looked a bit nervous when she said this, but tried to sound lighthearted.

Eragon knew she was asking more about Thorn than Zak. "Thorn seems really nice," he assured her. "Easy to talk to. Zak's just weird, though."

Saphira smiled shyly. "Thanks, Eragon." She opened her car door, sitting down inside and putting the key in the ignition as Eragon opened the passenger side door and got in.

"For what?"

"For not being mad that I started this so quickly," she said. "I met him only a month ago, at a bookstore out of town, and he just transferred schools here Friday. It means a lot that you support me in this – Mom's going throw a fit."

Eragon stared at her in surprise. "He transferred to our school for you? You're kidding!"

Saphira shook her head. "That's just a coincidence. He met me at the bookstore, and we ended up hanging out. We exchanged phone numbers, met at a few places – we went to a movie three weeks ago – and starting dating a bit. Then he called Friday night and told me he'd seen me at his school – we were ecstatic. His father got a job here, and they had to move. I didn't even see him at school; he can be inconspicuous when he wants to be."

Eragon shook his head. "You're lucky, you know that? Just plain lucky."

Saphira smiled. "Aren't I, though? He's so nice – so open all the time. Not very talkative, but I don't really care. I can understand him – just like you."

"Oh," Eragon muttered, staring out the window at the shapes racing past. "Where exactly are we going?" How do I bring up that dream? he wondered.

"The park," she replied, the car slowing down even as she said this. "I want somewhere quiet to talk to you."

Eragon glanced at her. "About what?"

"About everything," she said softly, pulling into a parking space. "Eragon, you've been acting strangely, and I admit I was hesitant about telling you about Thorn. I didn't want to upset you if you were already upset."

"Why would I be upset about Thorn?"

Saphira hesitated. "Well… we've been friends for so long. I thought maybe… you wouldn't like him, or you'd be depressed that I found… someone…"

Here she trailed off. Eragon stared at her.

Saphira took a deep breath. "Eragon, I said it before, and I'm still sure. You're in love, and I didn't want to dangle my happiness in front of you if you're depressed about someone not liking you."

Eragon's jaw dropped. It never failed to astonish him how she always managed to read his mind.

"It's… not that I think she doesn't like me," he told her after a long, long moment. "It's that, well, she likes me, but… not that way. And if I tell her, I might just make her hate me…"

Saphira sighed. "Eragon, we both know you're gay."

Eragon's face flushed. "I might be bisexual."

His best friend snorted. "Yeah, right."

"So what? It is a guy, alright?" he told her reluctantly. "That's not the problem – well, that's part of the problem. The problem is that they'll probably hate me for telling them."

"Why?" Saphira demanded. "Is he a homophobe?"

"No, he's bisexual," Eragon explained.

"What the problem, then?"

Eragon took a deap breath. "Saphira… I, well, I'm not sure. I mean, there's not one, because our kid's DNA won't get screwed up because we're both guys, we can't have kids."

Saphira froze. "You mean…"

Eragon nodded.

"You're in love with Roran?"

Eragon stared at her in horror. "What? No!"

"Oh," Saphira said, looking relieved. "I thought you meant you were in love with someone in your family."

"I am."

Saphira frowned at him.

"Murtagh," he said quietly.

Saphira gaped at him.

After a long, long moment, she flinched. "Does it have to be him?" she asked plaintively.

Eragon flushed. "It's not like I chose to fall in love with my own brother!"

"I know. I just mean… Well, it's not like he's that bad a guy or anything… I just don't really like him," Saphira admitted. "It has nothing to do with you two being brothers. I mean, you're practically not brothers anyway."

"Explain," Eragon demanded.

"Well, you didn't even grow up together. Your father got Murtagh, but Garrow got you because the courts decided Morzan couldn't take care of you both."

"He couldn't take care of just one of us, either," Eragon muttered darkly. Murtagh trusted almost no one, and presumed everyone had the worst intentions at all times if he didn't know them that well. Always his mask was in place, almost impenetrable, keeping his emotions safely hidden. No, Morzan had not taken care of Murtagh. Instead he had nearly driven him insane.

Saphira sighed. "It still makes you mad, huh?"

"Of course," Eragon growled. "He ran off on his eighteenth birthday with some clothes, his guitar, and a hundred and fifty dollars, with no place to go. How could anyone be so cruel that Murtagh would abandon his home just to get away? Always drunk, always beating Murtagh, half the time starving him just so he'd have enough for beer! I wish Mother had never died. Then she would have kept taking care of us, instead of splitting us up and having Murtagh handed over to that bastard."

Saphira hugged him awkwardly from the driver's seat. "You don't know what your father is actually like, Eragon. All you have in what Murtagh told you, and Murtagh could just be exaggerating or angry at him for some reason, and needs people to think his hate in justified. Just because someone you love says something, doesn't mean it's true."

"You don't understand," Eragon said softly. "Murtagh isn't like how he is by choice. It's how he was taught to survive. Never trust anyone, never expect anyone to treat you nicely without wanting something in return. Never treat anyone with respect who you don't know deserves it."

"And he needs to learn that's not how the world is, at least not all the time," Saphira said gently. "I'm not saying he's bad or wrong – well, he is wrong – I'm saying that's how he is. If you love him, then I want you to love him knowing what he is."

"You seriously don't care that he's my brother?"

"Blood shouldn't matter, not when it comes to love. And like I said, you weren't even raised together."

Eragon hugged her. "Thanks. Can we stop with the therapy now?"

Saphira pulled away, grinning. "Not a chance. That's not all that's bothering you, is it?"

Eragon sighed, then shook his head. "You sure you can't read minds?"

"If I could, I wouldn't have to persuade you to tell me about this stuff," she pointed out. "Tell me. Now."

"Well, I had this dream," Eragon began.

Her cell phone went off.

Eragon gave it a savage glare. Saphira flipped open the lid, then smiled happily. "It's Thorn!"

"So?" Eragon muttered, but Saphira had already pressed the talk button and was chatting avidly with her boyfriend.

Finally, she closed the lid and grinned at him. "We're going to the movies with Thorn, Zak, and this Arya person they know," she said cheerfully. She turned on the car and began to back out of the park.

Eragon sighed. "What movie?"

"Bloodbath IV."

Eragon's eyes lit up. "You know, Murtagh wanted to see that." Before she could protest, he dialed his brother's number on his cell.

"What?" he demanded when she looked at him. "If I have to go, I want to have someone to talk to when you and Thorn start snogging, and I can't trust Zak to keep a decent conversation. Or this Arya person, whoever she is."

She shrugged and opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment, Murtagh picked up. Eragon gestured for her to shut it.

"Hello?" Murtagh growled.

"Who had the misfortune to get you in a bad mood today?" Eragon asked, smirking.

"Roran. We got into another fight," Murtagh replied, sounding much less hostile than before after recognizing his brother's voice. "You call to harass me, or did you actually have something to say, brother?"

Eragon smiled wryly. "I was going to invite you to see Bloodbath IV with me, Saphira, and three other friends, but if you're in a bad mood…"

Murtagh laughed. "Bloodbath IV. Perfect. And here I was just thinking how to calm myself down. Where?"

Eragon glanced at Saphira. "Where?"

"Carmike Studios 38," Saphira told him. Eragon repeated this to Murtagh.

"I'll meet you at the entrance in ten minutes," Murtagh said. "The 1:15 showing?"

"Yeah. See you there," Eragon said, snapping the phone shut.

Saphira grinned.