Eragon didn't know what time it was when he finally got home, went to his room, locked the door, and collapsed on his bed. Tears he'd refused to let fall in front of his cousin now streaming down his cheeks; angrily, he wiped them away and wished they'd stop. He wasn't some teenage girl mooning over the loss of a crush. He shouldn't be upset by this. He shouldn't care.

Roran had told him this would happen all along, anyway. And… Roran had been right.

Despite how much Eragon had trusted Murtagh, despite how much more time he'd spent with Murtagh, Roran had somehow known the man better. And he, Eragon, stupid, naïve Eragon had not listened when Roran told him what to expect from Murtagh.

"Idiot," he groaned. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" He shuddered, another tear trickled down his cheek. He bit his lip savagely and tried to focus on the pain to stop himself from crying. He laid there for a while, just trying not to break apart. It was a while before a voice interrupted his grief.

"Eragon?"

Eragon froze as someone called his name. Footsteps approached as someone climbed the stairs to his room. He grabbed a tissue from the box next to the bed and wiped his eyes with it. Someone rapped on his door. "Eragon?" came the voice again. Saphira's voice.

Eragon didn't speak. He didn't want to talk to anyone, especially not while his eyes were bloodshot and puffy from crying. Though it was Saphira… Saphira, who understood him perfectly. Roran he would have ignored, but maybe…

"Eragon, I know you're there. Roran called me and told me what happened."

Eragon still didn't reply.

"Fine," Saphira said, beginning to sound annoyed. "You have three seconds to open this door before I take a chair and bash it in."

Eragon grinned shakily, feeling hysterically amused somehow. He'd just broken up with his boyfriend, his life was hell, and now Saphira was threatening to break down his door. He stumbled off the bed as Saphira began to count, then unlocked the door.

It opened, and in walked Saphira. The first thing Eragon noticed about her complete lack of makeup and the fact she was wearing baggy jeans and a T-shirt. She dropped her purse on the floor and, before he could protest, hugged him tightly. Her soft scent – lavender with a hint of vanilla – invaded him, and he felt himself calm slightly. He hugged her back. It was then that he noticed that Roran was standing behind Saphira, looking unsure of himself. He looked uncomfortable when he realized Eragon was crying.

"Hey," Roran said, averting his eyes.

Saphira pulled back and held him at arm's length, absentmindedly brushing stray hairs out of his face like a mother would. "How are you feeling, idiot of mine?" she asked, smiling half-heartedly.

"Dead," he replied bitterly. He walked to the bed and collapsed onto it. He avoided looking at Roran.

Roran swallowed hard, then took a deep breath. "Eragon, I, uh… didn't want this to happen, you know." When Eragon didn't say anything, he continued. "I wanted you to stop dating him, you know that, but I didn't want you to have to…"

"I don't want to talk about it," Eragon said tersely.

"Are you sure? Because I don't mind s – "

Eragon's fingers curled around the nearest object – a book – and looked at Roran meaningfully. Roran quickly put his hands up in the universal gesture for peace and backed out of the room. "I'm going to be gone for a while," he said as soon as he was out of book-throwing distance. "I've, uh… got a date. Bye." Saphira nodded and made a shooing motion, keeping her eyes on her armed best friend. Roran quickly left, apparently having decided he couldn't help.

Saphira sat beside him, and however much Eragon wanted to be away from other people, he felt comforted by just having her there. "Do you hate him?" she asked simply.

"…Yeah."

She raised her eyebrows.

"I don't know," Eragon sighed. "He just… I mean… Roran told me this was going to happen. Murtagh, he… he made a fool out of me. Should I hate him?" His voice became bitter.

"It's also not your fault he was stupid enough to cheat on you," Saphira pointed out.

Eragon shook his head disgustedly. "It doesn't matter, so I don't care," he insisted. "He can do whatever the hell he wants. I really don't care."

She ruffled his hair affectionately. "You've never been a very good liar."

Eragon flinched. "What am I supposed to say, then?" he demanded. "That it's driving me crazy?"

She smiled ruefully. "That's love for you."

"But it wasn't!" Eragon cried. Saphira started, surprised by his sudden fury. "It wasn't, it was my stupidity and, and, his… hormones, or something. I don't know."

Saphira stared at him silently for a moment. She started to save something several times, as if trying to find the best way to phrase something. Finally, she leaned down closer to him. Her blonde hair tickled his cheek. "You're sure?" she asked.

Eragon nodded.

"Then just let it go," she said. She wrapped one arm around his waist and hugged him with it. "It'll heal in time."

Eragon shook his head, his eyes looking wet again. "I-I…" His voice broke. He tried to speak again, but it came out shaking and broken. He groaned in despair and collapsed into her lap; she stroked his shoulder affectionately.

"Go ahead, idiot," she murmured, kissing his head like a mother with a hurt child. "Cry. I'm not going to think any less of you."

Eragon shut his eyes tightly and let go, beginning to sob openly. He didn't know how long they stayed like that, him his head in her lap, and her stroking his hair. He felt himself breaking, finally, struggling just to let it go and push it away but failing somehow. He didn't want to let it go. He wanted Murtagh back so they could be how they were before.

But, finally, Saphira gently eased him off of her, and he opened his eyes. "Sorry, Eragon," she said. "I have to go. Classes."

"Oh," he mumbled. "Right."

She smiled down at him and ruffled his hair again. "Don't forget, my birthday's the day after tomorrow," she reminded him. She kissed his cheek gently. "Miss it and I'll kill you, 'kay?"

He smiled weakly at her. "Sure." As she turned to go, he said, almost as an afterthought, "You know, if it weren't for the death threats, I'd say you'd make a great mother."

"The death threats will help keep the kids in line," Saphira replied, winking at him.

"I feel sorry for your future husband," Eragon said. The joke sounded hollow and forced, but Saphira smiled anyway.

"Love you, Eragon," she said, smiling at him fondly. She left, and Eragon closed his eyes. He didn't know what to do now that Saphira was gone. He was stranded, listless, numb. He couldn't think or distract himself. Eventually, his mind began to wander, his eyes began to droop, and soon he was asleep.

--

Roran made his way through the mall, scanning the crowds of people around him. Where had his date said to meet her? Somewhere in the food court, that much he was sure of, but the food court was big, not to mention packed with people. Over by the fountain in the middle, maybe? No, no, she'd said something about a clothing store next to the food court…

There. A flash of red, over by Burger King. Was it her?

Roran felt a knot of tension settle in his stomach. They'd never seen each other outside of their biology class before. What if he did something incredibly stupid? He knew he would. He always did. He – oh, shoot. Whoever the redhead over by Burger King was, they were gone. Now he'd have to start looking again…

He jumped as someone lightly tapped his shoulder.

He turned, smiling as he saw who it was. "Katrina," he said, embracing the redheaded girl.

Katrina smiled and hugged him back. "Nice to see you got here, Mr. Directionally Challenged," she replied, kissing his cheek. Roran felt his cheeks grow warm as her soft lips brushed his skin.

"Y-yeah. So, uh, lunch?" Roran managed to stammer.

"It's a quarter past three."

Roran tried to smile. "Yeah, s-sorry." He cleared his throat and forced himself to calm down, despite the butterflies in his stomach. He'd known Katrina ever since they'd become lab partners in his college biology class; that was nearly three months ago, but he still couldn't quite control himself around her.

"I like ice cream," Katrina pointed out. "Get me some?"

Roran grinned nervously. "Sure." He glanced around for a nearby ice cream shop and found one. They began to head towards it. "So, uh, how are things going?"

Katrina sighed. "Horribly, I'm afraid." She twirled a strand of her hand around one finger. "I was seriously debating canceling our date. Sorry. It's just, two of my friends are kind of messed up at the moment."

Roran felt a thrill of excitement. She considered it a date, too! They reached the shop and ordered their ice cream. When they sat down at a nearby table, Roran asked, "What happened?"

Katrina scowled. "Well, there's this guy. He's best friends with my older brother, and he's sort of like my second brother, but he's such an idiot sometimes. He started dating this guy recently – oh, wait. You're not homophobic, are you?"

"What? No," Roran said. "My cousin is gay."

"Oh, good. Well, my friend recently started dating this guy, but he's got this problem where he doesn't like serious relationships."

"Why's that?"

"The first person he ever was serious about dumped him and became a lesbian."

"Ouch."

"I know." Katrina gave her mint ice cream a lick before continuing. "Well, the lesbian ex-girlfriend came back, and she wanted my friend back, but he was dating that guy. And the ex-girlfriend ending up breaking up my friend and his boyfriend."

Roran nodded. "I see. Then?"

Katrina shrugged. "Well, nothing really. That's the problem. My friend is currently moping around at his dorm room, acting like the world has ended, and my lesbian friend is frustrated and depressed because he refuses to talk to her."

"Well, of course," Roran said, leaning back in his chair. "She broke him up with his boyfriend just because she couldn't let go. She sounds selfish. I wouldn't talk to her, either."

Katrina looked offended. "It's not her fault! My guy friend has a new boyfriend every week. Of course Nasuada thought he wasn't serious about this one."

"Who's Nasuada?"

"My lesbian friend."

"Oh." Roran paused, considering the situation. Then he said, "So what if she thought he wasn't serious? That's not an excuse to play God with someone else's love life. I – oh, shoot." The ice cream he'd been ignoring dribbled onto his arm. Katrina wiped it off him with a napkin, and Roran flushed at the skin contact. Katrina didn't notice.

"She wasn't playing God," she insisted, tossing the napkin in the trash. "She was just… assuming that he'd pick her, one of his best friends, over another disposable boyfriend. He's done it before."

Roran raised his eyebrows. "This has happened before?"

Katrina shook her head. "No, I mean he's picked friends over playthings before. Nas just didn't know this one wasn't a plaything."

"That's still not an excuse. She shouldn't just waltz in and demand he break up with someone for her, plaything or not," Roran said, shaking his head. "I kind of feel sorry for this guy friend of yours. He sounds like someone Fate decided to jerk around a bit."

Katrina nodded. "Yeah, he's pretty cool once you get to know him. I think you two would get along great. But enough of this." She waved her hand dismissively. "What's going on in your life?"

Roran sighed. "Don't even get me started. My cousin just found out his boyfriend was cheating on him."

"Really?" Katrina finished her ice cream and propped her elbows on the table. "He okay?"

"He's really broken up, actually," Roran admitted. "I told him that his boyfriend was a jerk, but he didn't believe me. But I did the mature thing, right? I told my cousin I'd try to accept the jerk if he was dead set on dating him. Fifteen minutes later, we find out he was cheating. I admit, I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of watching the jerk boyfriend get dumped, though." He chuckled, remembering how Eragon had punched Murtagh.

Katrina winced, thinking of how Murtagh had been punched by Eragon. "I don't know. My friend's boyfriend broke up with him kind of… violently."

"Poor guy," Roran said sympathetically. "I really feel for him."

"I do, too," Katrina said. "Can't help but feel more sorry for Nas, though – she's pretty depressed, too." She sighed. "Shoot. Now I'm depressed again. I need more ice cream."

Roran grinned. "Tell you what… I'll get you some more of that mint ice cream, and you agree to come with me to a party the day after tomorrow."

"A party?" Katrina looked curious. "What kind of party?"

"My cousin's best friend's birthday. Another friend is throwing her a surprise party." When Katrina hesitated, Roran added, "Oh, come on. It'll take your mind off things. You'll love it. Be my date?"

Katrina smiled and nodded. "Sure." She leaned forward and kissed him, and Roran felt a blush creep up his cheeks again.

--

Back at the house Eragon and Roran shared, Eragon yawned and opened his eyes. He blinked sleepily and stretched, then glanced at his clock. Three in the afternoon. He'd slept for a few hours. Strange. He hadn't even been that tired. He sat upright, feeling refreshed. Not just refreshed, either – he felt perfectly awake now. In fact, he felt great; so great that he realized he must have forgotten about Murtagh kissing –

No, he'd just remembered again. Damn.

He sighed, deciding he wasn't going to get over it anytime soon. He slid out of bed and made his way out his bedroom door, carefully stepping over the purple baby dragons rolling around on the floor. He headed down to the kitchen. There was nothing like triple chocolate fudge ice cream to help with emotional pain, after all.

When he reached the fridge, it handed him the last carton of ice cream. As soon as he'd politely thanked it, the door rang. Reluctantly, Eragon set down the ice cream on the kitchen counter and went to the front door. When he opened it, he froze in shock as the person standing there was revealed.

Hazel eyes. Black hair. Pale skin.

Murtagh.

Eragon continued to stare in shock at Murtagh, partly because Murtagh had shown up at his house without ever having been there before, and partly because Murtagh was carrying a bouquet of roses. Eragon's fingers tightened their grip on the door, and just as he started to slam it shut, Murtagh reached out and grabbed his arm. "No, wait," Murtagh said quickly. "Just let me explain, okay? Please?"

Eragon glared at him, but he felt himself giving in. Murtagh looked so sad, it was almost kind of cute. "Fine," Eragon replied stiffly. "What do you want?"

"To apologize," Murtagh said. He said it without hesitation; Eragon frowned. Murtagh was acting unusually humble and nice. Maybe getting caught cheating had changed him?

Eragon felt a flicker of hope. Maybe Murtagh really did regret it. Or maybe it hadn't been Murtagh's fault at all. Maybe they'd end up together after all, maybe even married. They'd be together for the rest of their lives, growing old and technologically challenged together… Eragon could see it now: Murtagh giving him foot rubs while they argued over who got the remote, playing bingo at the community center on Friday nights, worrying about which dress to wear to dinner while Murtagh insisted he just hurry up and choose one, going to their future child's wedding, being on their deathbed together…

Murtagh knelt and kissed Eragon's hand gently. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "So very sorry. I never meant to hurt you, I swear. I love you so much, the evil enchantress just…"

"I know, my love," Eragon found himself saying. "She concocted a nefarious plot to break us apart and steal our kingdom. It is no fault of yours she secretly fed you an aphrodisiac and seduced you. All is forgiven."

Eragon glanced down at himself. Was he dressed as a princess?

Hm. That was a bit odd. Comfortable, though.

"All the same, I vow to hunt down the evil enchantress," Murtagh announced. He looked up at Eragon, hazel eyes shining with determination.

Eragon felt a single tear of happiness trickle down his cheek. Murtagh rose and, ever so gently, kissed his cheek. Eragon shivered as a careful tongue licked away the tear, and Murtagh mouth moved to his ear to tease the lobe with his teeth. Eragon shivered again. "You know," he breathed. "No one's here at the castle but us…"

"Yeah," Eragon agreed breathlessly. He turned towards the stairway. "Come – "

"Oi, Era! Where are you, oh cross-dressing model of mine?"

Eragon glanced around. "Did you just hear someone say my name?" Eragon asked Murtagh.

Murtagh shook his head.

"Era!" The voice was louder and closer now. "You're asleep? It's three in the afternoon!"

Eragon's eyes snapped open. Murtagh, the roses, the front door, and the princess costume all vanished. He groaned and blinked groggily as someone nudged him. "Ah, so you're awake now," said the voice. "Good." Eragon rolled over. Arya stood at the foot of the bed, holding a sack the clinked every time she moved.

Eragon's heart sank. It'd been a dream. He'd fallen asleep after Saphira had left, and hadn't woken up and until just now. Murtagh had never come over to apologize. There was no evil enchantress. Murtagh was still a liar, and Eragon was still a fool for believing him.

"Saph called and told me you needed some comfort," Arya said. She plopped down on the bed and kicked off her shoes. "What happened? You look like shit."

"I don't want to talk about it," Eragon mumbled.

Arya rolled her eyes. "If you won't tell me, I'll call your Taggy and he'll come over here and make you tell him instead."

Eragon flinched.

Arya stared at him in surprise. "What? What did I say?"

"Arya, go away. It's none of your business," Eragon snapped.

Arya snorted. "Like I'd really leave. If Roran comes home and finds you dead on the floor, he'll be mad at me for not looking after you and making sure you don't kill yourself or something."

Eragon glared at her. "Aren't you supposed to be planning Saphira's birthday party or something?" he demanded.

"I had two options, Era. Come here and comfort you to keep Saph from biting my head off or finish a bunch of little things that could be left out of the party easily enough." She peered down in her bag and kept talking. "You don't have to tell me what's wrong, though. I'll get it out of Saph sooner of later. But I'd have to be a pretty poor friend to not help you out. Here." She reached into her mysterious clinking sack and pulled out a slender bottle. She held it up proudly. "The comfort object that never fails."

Eragon stared at the wine Arya was offering. After a long moment of consideration, he reached out and took it.

--

Have you ever gotten the feeling that karma's biting you in the ass?

Yeah, I'm sure most of us have. You know, that feeling where everything's just gone to hell, and even though it's not your fault, you kind of feel like it is. Because really, it is… somehow, maybe, in a big-picture kind of way. It's kind of like the feeling you get when you decide to go on a pranking spree, cut a few brakes here and there, then get hit by a car that couldn't stop in time. Or, in Murtagh's case, it's when you spend all your time in with a guy denying you're in love with him, only to realize it right when your denial causes you to lose the person.

Hopefully you've never done either of those things, but that's not the point.

It's when the situation is just so ironic that your mind turns to pudding. Your heart feels like it's been ripped out of your chest and used as a punching bag. Generally, your mental stability has the life span of a possum with three broken legs and a sprained ankle in the middle of an interstate highway.

You spend hours a day resisting the urge to look up at the sky and demand to know who up there is so pissed off at you. You eat surprising amounts of triple-chocolate caramel fudge ice-cream. If you did indeed get hit by a car, then you sit in your hospital bed all day, doped up on painkillers and hallucinating about bumper stickers from hell.

Or, in Murtagh's case, you mope.

Not that he was moping, of course. Murtagh didn't mope. It wasn't manly.

So, when Thorn came home after a class, took one look at him, and said, "You're still moping?" Murtagh was rather offended.

"I am not," Murtagh muttered sullenly, not even glancing at his best friend. He was draped across the couch, one arm slung artistically over his eyes.

Thorn snorted. "You skipped two classes, it's five in the afternoon and you're still in your pajamas, you've got a half-eaten tin of triple-chocolate fudge on the floor next to you, and you're watching Oprah. Tag, you're moping."

Murtagh didn't argue. He didn't think it mattered. Nothing mattered. Life sucked.

"I'll take that as agreement," Thorn said. Typical indifferent Thorn, he chuckled at his best friend's misery and sat down, turning his attention to the TV. Murtagh sighed morosely and began to work his way through the rest of the fudge, knowing better than to look for sympathy from Thorn. They sat there for several more minutes, until, at long last, the door clattered open.

"Thorn!"

Murtagh peeked out from under the arm he'd flung dramatically over his eyes. Katrina stood in the doorway, more shopping bags than it looked like her small frame could carry. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes shone.

"Hey. What're you so happy about?" Thorn asked, barely glancing at her.

Katrina grinned. "I went on a date with this guy in one of my classes."

Murtagh frowned. That rang a bell. Hadn't Nasuada said something about that right before she ruined his life?

"How'd it go?" Thorn asked, interrupting Murtagh's thoughts.

"I'm no longer single." Katrina's voice was triumphant.

Murtagh grimaced. Was he the only person who's love life was completely screwed up at the moment?

"That's good," Thorn replied thoughtfully. "I, uh… damn. Aren't I supposed to do something or other about your boyfriends? I forget. It's been so long since you've had one."

Katrina laughed. Laughed! Murtagh had been expecting her to shoot back some sarcastic remark at Thorn. "You're supposed to meet him and give us your blessing, and if you don't you devote your life to opposing us," she said.

Like Roran did, Murtagh thought bitterly.

Thorn shrugged. "Oh. Right. I'll meet him later, then."

Murtagh scowled.

Katrina set down her shopping bags and plopped herself down on the floor next to Thorn's chair. "You'd better approve, big brother," she said. "He's not very good with words, and he's a bit over protective, but he's wonderful." She sighed happily. "He's got this problem, though. Or his cousin does," she added. "He told me about it. It was kind of interesting. It sounded kind of like Murtagh's thing."

"Yeah?" Thorn said. Murtagh tried in vain to ignore them.

Katrina shrugged. "The cousin was cheated on, that's all."

That was the last straw. Murtagh's self-control snapped. "I wasn't cheating!" he snarled.

Katrina started. She flushed, looking almost guilty and offended. "I didn't say you were," she protested. "I – "

"Cheating is the most low-down, idiotic, cruel thing you can do," Murtagh snapped. "I'm not like that, and I'm sick of you, you and Nasuada always acting like I am! I'm not a freaking slut! Yeah, I fuck a lot of different people, but I wasn't cheating, I don't cheat, I never have cheated, and I wouldn't have cheated on Eragon!"

Thorn, having absolutely no capacity for sympathy, shrugged and went back to watching TV. Katrina, motherly instinct apparently kicking in, hurried over to Murtagh. "Of course not," she assured him, crouching by his side. "Don't be so touchy, Tag. All I meant was that the way he put it made it sound kind of like what was happening with you and Eragon."

Murtagh took a deep breath, counted to five, and slowly let it out. Calm, he told himself. I'm perfectly calm. In fact, I'm so goddamn calm I'm going to tell Katrina, calmly, to leave me alone. "I don't want to talk about it," he said.

Katrina shook her head. "Don't be like that, Tag, please." Suddenly her face brightened. "I know what'll cheer you up!" She pulled out her cell phone and hurried out of the room.

Murtagh glanced after her. "Do I want to know what she's doing?" he muttered.

Thorn shrugged. "Doubt it."

Murtagh lay there, wondering idly what Katrina was doing before eventually his thoughts turned back to it's favorite subject – Eragon. He groaned when the image of the brunet wormed it's way back into his mind. Fuck, but he'd never been so fixed on someone! Was it his smile? The adorable way he tried to be the top? His raw boyishness – not quite mature enough to be called a man, but not girly in any way? No, it was everything about Eragon. Everything! The idiot was nothing less than perfect.

It's all my fault, Murtagh thought miserably. No, it's all Nasuada's fault! Why couldn't she just stay a lesbian?

And, abruptly, his thoughts turned to Nasuada instead.

Her warm, golden eyes. Her smooth, chocolately skin. Her teasing smile. Her determined attitude – the way she always got what she wanted. Her straightforwardness. It was so like her to do what she had done… just jump into things and kiss him once she thought she knew what she was doing. Murtagh felt his lips gingerly, remembering how Nasuada's thick, soft lips had felt pressing there…

He flushed, realizing what he was doing. You ass, he scolded himself mentally. If you're going to pine after Eragon, then do it without fantasizing about your stupid ex-girlfriend!

But Eragon's history.

Murtagh stiffened. What was this? A mysterious inner voice leading him astray? He listened carefully, expecting a tiny devil-version of himself to appear on his shoulder at any moment. None did, but the voice continued.

You can't have him, he'll never forgive you, it said. But Nasuada is offering… and you did love her once…and she's incredible in bed…

He hesitated. The voice had a point; Nasuada was indeed incredible in bed. Maybe –

"Murtagh!"

Murtagh snapped back into reality. Katrina strode into the room, triumphant. She put her cell phone back into her pocket. "I found a way to cheer you up," she announced. "There's a party the day after tomorrow, and my date said it was okay if I brought you."

Murtagh actually found himself considering it. "Will there be alcohol?" he asked cautiously.

Katrina shrugged. "Probably."

"I'm in," Murtagh said. Thorn snorted.

"Be warned, though, it's a birthday party," Katrina said. Murtagh shrugged noncommittally. Katrina continued, "Roran said the girl who was planning it was a party-animal, though, so it will be more of a party and less of a birthday thing."

Murtagh nodded absentmindedly.

Then he stiffened.

Replayed what Katrina had just said.

Replayed it again for good measure.

Then he freaked.

"Roran?" Murtagh yelped, sitting bolt upright. He gaped at Katrina. "You, you're kidding right? The – the guy you're dating! The one Nasuada said you were meeting earlier, and, the one in your biology class – him? Him? You're dating that – "

Katrina's sympathetic face went to her say-what-I-think-you're-going-to-say-and-you're-dead face instantaneously.

"You're dating him," Murtagh repeated, horrified. "You're dating him. I can't believe… this is just… just so…"

"Ironic?" Thorn suggested. "Coincidental?"

Katrina frowned at Murtagh's hysteria. "So you know him?"

"Know him? He's Eragon c…" Murtagh trailed off, and it hit him like a ton of bricks.

The "problem" Katrina had said Roran told him about. The problem was him? And the party. The party was important. If Roran was going to it… "Who's birthday party is it?" Murtagh demanded.

Katrina shrugged. "I don't know. Something about someone's best friend or such."

There's a chance, Murtagh thought desperately. There's a slim chance. Hope, damned hope, flickered in his chest, and he was flooded with determination. There was a chance, damn it, and he was going to take it. Eragon might be at that party.

"Katrina," Murtagh said carefully. "What exactly did Roran say about me?"

Katrina raised her eyebrows. "He didn't talk about you."

"Yes, he did. I'm the guy who's supposedly cheating on his cousin."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"Oh. Well, then, you're screwed. He hates you."

Murtagh closed his eyes and leaned back against the couch. He wasn't going to let that stop him, that was for sure. But Eragon cared about what Roran thought, or at least, he would now that Roran was supposedly been proved right about his relationship. Not to mention Nasuada could still be after him… or the fact that there was no way to prove he hadn't been cheating… or that Arya needed to be kept out of all of this, because she'd probably interfere just for the hell of it…

"Katrina," he said, eyes still closed. "What would I have to do to get you to help me with Roran?"

Katrina crossed her arms. "Tell what's going on, and I'll consider it."

Murtagh opened his eyes, sat up, and began to explain.

--

This was a fun chapter to write, though it took me a while to figure out where each scene should go to build things up properly. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. D

And some of you may have noticed that Katrina's defending Nasuada. Actually, her entire conversation with Roran was basically the same conversation that I had with my beta/boyfriend (he also said that I should have Nasuada's ass kicked for being a bitch or something to that effect, but I left that out). I added that scene in there for two reasons: humorous effect and to give Nasuada a fighting chance. –cocks gun – C'mon, bite her head off again, reviewers. I dare you.

So I'm going to explain myself.

Nasuada is a very direct, forthright person. She does not like easing into things. She's also a bit opinionated. She knows two things: one, Murtagh has a boyfriend, and two, Murtagh doesn't get serious about boyfriends. So doesn't it make sense that she would go in there expecting Murtagh to dump his newest fuck-toy for her, one of his best friends? And since she's opinionated, she's not going to listen when Murtagh insists that Eragon's more important than that. She might have listened if Murtagh had claimed to be in love with Eragon, but that was the point, now wasn't it?

Hn. I just realized, Arya's not the only character incredibly OOC in this fic of mine. Damn.

Well, I think I'm done lecturing. Decide what you wish… I certainly didn't change my beta's opinion.

But, the thing is… I won't be updating for a while, I don't think (not that I update this regularly anyway). In fact, I don't think I'll be doing much writing at all for a bit. My life around this time of year always gets really hectic, and I often don't have much time outside of classes, marching band, studying, nervous breakdowns, attempting to keep myself from having nervous breakdowns via meditation, and my personal life, not to mention I've just been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and I'm trying to figure out what to do about it.

I have a few oneshots that I'm trying to finish up, and I might post one or two of them, and I'm also going to stick around to read a bit (especially sussiekitten's story Black Mist; I think the cliffhanger might kill me) and to post on forums, but other than that, I'm gone. At least for a while.

Love and apologies,

- DH