Disclaimer: I do not own Eragon. I do not make money from this story.

Warnings: This is a slash story and is not the happiest thing I've come up with so far. Not at all.

A/N: Please read

First of all, this story is dedicated to my mother, whose birthday it is today, the 25th February. Ich liebe Dich, Mama! (By the way, your birthday is obviously what inspired this story, you'll see. Don't get me wrong, though. This day doesn't make me sad. This story just wanted to be written. Call me when you're done reading.)

Style: The first person narrative was an experiment. I tried to stick to the same style throughout the fic, as every person has its way of speaking and expressing things. That's where the many repetitions come from.

I loved writing this, and for the first time it was easy for me to write from Eragon's point of view. That has me scared that he is a bit OOC. Done is done, though.

Orientation: This is set long post Eldest. Post my other fics, with some cross-references. But I think this can stand kind of on its own. I have some (!) ideas for a sequel to Autumn Bliss, and thus in my head, between AB and this story a few things have taken place already (e.g. the Shade being captured, the Riders having found a way around Murtagh's oath etc.). Just try to take it as a oneshot and accept the circumstances as described, or it might give you a headache.

Nasuada: Okay, I admit that I've never liked her much. Arya neither, but she doesn't play a role here. However, I do not dislike Nas as much as this fic might suggest. But I needed her for the role. Let's just assume that the constant strain of leadership and worry for her Rider has turned her into this person.


Shattered


A noise outside my door woke me. I guess I had been half-awake for a while at that point, but the shuffling of feet was what made me realize it. Iron boots were approaching, stopped dead, and then others moved away with a slightly different rhythm. Change of guard.

I knew then that it was early still and that there was no need to get up yet. I did not want to get up. I wanted to stay in bed all day, bury my head under the pillows and forget about the world. Forget about all the people. Forget about him. Although that was impossible.

Soon some maid would come to me and help me get dressed, as the clothes for this special occasion were complicated to put on. I had worn them only once before, and at that time I had tried in vain to clothe myself. I recall the laughter that had filled the room, coming not only from myself. And the hands that I loved most in the world had come to my aid eventually.

Oh, how I hated this day. All the people that had arrived in town during the last week were slowly driving me insane. Eragon here – Eragon there. They never left me alone. And today even more would be present, following my every move with their eyes, trying to get my attention and at the same time wondering what I was thinking, what I was feeling. And I could not get away from them, because I was the reason they had come.

The festivities that had been planned meticulously were held in my honour. The banquet that had been prepared for days would wait for my word to begin. The nobles would line up and bow their knee before me and hand me their gifts.

I did not know how I was supposed to make it through the day. I had learned to mask my face, hide my emotions, even kill the sadness in my eyes. I was an expert these days in making polite, irrelevant small talk, attract the ladies, interest the men, make myself liked by everyone.

I was sure that at one point I would break.

True, my body and my soul had been broken before, yet I had been saved. It was just that now no one was there to save me again. No one who knew I needed to be saved. And if they knew they would probably laugh at me. 'Grow up, boy,' they would say. 'You are a warrior, you are strong, do not tell us that this is troubling you. It was wrong in the first place.' They would start talking about marriage again. I was just to take a wife and all my troubles would vanish. And of course produce an heir. Everyone wanted an heir. Everyone except me. I just wanted my love back.

I squeezed my pillow. I screamed into it. I threw it against the wall. I hated the world, I hated my life, and most of all I hated this day.

Today was my birthday. Today I turned nineteen.


'Nineteen,' he had said, 'nineteen is just a number. But I was nineteen the year my life changed forever and for the better, and thus it's the most special age to me. I can't wait for your turn, little one. And I will be there and make you understand.'

I remember the moment as clearly as if it had just happened. If I concentrate, I can still hear the rain that was pounding on the roof that day, still smell the mossy scent of my lover, my love. I can still feel his brawny arm wrapped around me, and, if I close my eyes, I can still see him. Calloused and scarred, yet more handsome than I have ever seen a person. Or will ever see again. Mine.

It had been our last morning in Breoch, and we had considered the few things we knew that would happen for certain in the future. One of them was my birthday. I had not been eighteen for long back then.

'You will wake up in my arms that day, Eragon, and I will tell you how much I love you. Then I will be all yours. Whatever you'll want to do, I will comply.' He had smiled at me somewhat deviously saying this, both of us knowing how addicted I had already been. Addicted to his every touch and kiss.

'Anything I want?' I had asked back, grinning likewise. He had been just as addicted.

'Anything. I will make you forget the world, even forget yourself. All you will know is ecstasy – and that I'm yours and you're mine. That's all that matters." His hazel eyes had watched me intently and my heart had begun to race, and we had shared our excitement with a long, long kiss that might have been the tenderest one we had ever had.


Moments of bliss never last long, or so I had been told. That was true.

I opened my eyes and regarded the huge bed I was lying on. Ever since the first night that he had been with me I had gotten used to sleeping on the left side of a bed, leaving a space for him. So many times he had come to bed after me and I had felt him embrace me and pull me close. And he had always kissed me on the neck then, no matter if I had been awake or if he had thought that I had been sleeping. I am sure he had also done it when I had truly been asleep.

Now I was on the left side as always. And the space next to me was empty. It had been like this for far too long.

I reached out with my hand and touched the cold sheets at my side. This is where you belong, love. Where are you?

I closed my eyes again, sending a tear down my cheek. So, today was the day. It had finally arrived. The day we had dreamed about. The day he had made me look forward to.


'Why has being nineteen been so special for you?' My right hand had been playing with the raven black mane that I loved so much.

He had stared into the distance for a while, several emotions crossing his face, each gone too quickly for me to identify. Then he had started to stroke my cheek. 'So far, already many things have happened in my life. But if I was ever to tell anyone about it, that year would be the one most important to mention. It was your year, Eragon. When I was nineteen, I met you.'


I heard his words clearly, as if he was there with me. I raised my head from my bed instantaneously. But the room was empty. There was no sound. I shook my head, trying to rid it of the illusion. He was not here. He would not be here again, ever. It did not help that he knew all secret passages into the city, into this room, just as well as I knew my way out. It did not matter that my guard would not care. And most of all it did not matter that I wished him to be here from the bottom of my heart. He was gone.

I did not lie down again but instead sat up, folding my arms around my bent legs, resting my chin on my knees.

The first sunrays were entering through the large window on the eastern side. I stared over to my closet on the far side of my room which was now clearly discernible. In that closet I hid my most precious possession. No one knew, no one would ever know. No one would recognize it. It was a midnight blue, long-sleeved shirt. No one would ever care. To me, it meant the world.

It was his shirt, of course. He had left it the morning of his departure.

I closed my eyes again, knowing that the tears would begin to fall in earnest now.


'Please, please don't!' I had been choked; my throat had almost been too tight to get any sound out.

He had approached me and had grabbed my shoulders painfully. 'I will go now. You will stay.' He had shaken me then, his eyes strangely clouded and distant.

I had pulled free from his hands and next thing I had known was that I had sunk to my knees right in front of him. 'No,' I had begged and had looked up to him, trying to pierce the wall he had built around himself in that moment. 'Please. I cannot be without you. I cannot breathe without you. I… I love you!' At that I had seen a flicker of something well known in the depths of his eyes, but it had disappeared right away.

He had taken a step backwards and had turned his gaze away from me. 'You can live without me, Eragon. You will live without me. You will forget what has happened. You will forget that I exist.' His voice had been icy, emotionless, dead somehow. He had grabbed the shirt closest to him – the shirt I had worn the day before – and had put it on. He had laced his boots and buckled his sword-belt. He had not looked at me again. Not once.

I had been kneeling on the floor, also only half dressed, still glowing from our love act. I had seen him pick up his things – all except the shirt that he had missed or that he had maybe left for me – and head for the door. I had reached out with my arm and had tried to call him, but all that had broken the silence of the room had been a sob. I had not been able to say anything, do anything.

He had stood at the door for a moment, and his shoulders had sagged. I had seen him tremble and shiver and my hopes had gone up for a moment. But only until he had pulled himself together again.

'You will live, Eragon. You're strong. You're the strongest person I've ever met. You're so special. Never will there be someone like you again…' He had left.

My life had shattered right there and then.


Did he even know it was my birthday today? Did he remember what he had once meant to do on this day? I did not know.

It was one month now. One month since he had gone. One month has thirty days. I could sleep only about four to five hours every night, and so this month had been long. Very long.

Every waking minute and hour I thought of him.

He had always said that I had a good, if not excellent, intuition. Gut instinct, some call it. And I know now that it had made itself heard on that crucial morning. I had ignored it, though. I had not wanted to listen.

That morning, he had made love to me like never before. I had lost myself in the passion. I had given him my everything, and I know he had done the same.

He had said goodbye to me – only I had not recognized it as such.

--

A knock on the door killed my thoughts. 'Enter,' I called and watched a girl of maybe fourteen years come in shyly, carrying my clothes for the day, looking at me out of the corner of her eyes. I understood I had to face this day, starting right then.

--

Nasuada gave me a worried look across the hall. I smiled at her, one of my imperfect fake smiles that were the only ones I could produce these days. She knew exactly how it was meant and shook her head sadly.

I was aware that she had never meant me real harm, and yet I could not refrain from blaming her.


'I'm so happy she lets you stay with me.' I had traced the scar on his back lightly with my right forefinger, marvelling at how it underlined the otherwise strikingly perfect back of my love.

He had chuckled quietly, making the sound I had come to care for so much. 'You're their Rider, little one, and I'm not quite useless either. She knows that if she forbids me being with you – at least at night time – you'd simply leave. She cannot risk that.'

I had sighed inwardly. I had known there and then that I would never manage to get the two to befriend again. 'It's not just that. She keeps us secret, too. How do you think people would react if they knew you were around? And above all so close to their Rider? You're still deeply mistrusted and I think also mostly hated. No one knows except her and my guard. And if I couldn't trust them, I couldn't trust anyone.'

'There's always me, Eragon.' He had turned his head, giving me a short look over his shoulder.

I had bent low over his back and had replaced my finger with my mouth, kissing along the thick, silvery line. 'You know you do not count in comparison,' I had said after a while. 'You're always before anyone else… be it with regards to trust, or love, or… kisses.' I had continued my ministrations more forcefully.

'I know,' he had chuckled again. 'I just wanted to hear you tell me again… and make me feel it, too.'


I realized I was surrounded by women. I was not interested in company at all, but they were actually flirting with me. I was more than eligible, I knew that. And Nasuada had made it unmistakably clear to me that I needed an heir, as a Rider's child was more likely than any other child to become a Rider, too. And in the Varden's plans there would soon be a time again with more than only a few dragon eggs. They already thought of the times when the Riders would be back.

Apparently, quite a lot of people had been informed that I was to be married and my birthday was the excellent setting for an introduction. I turned my well practised mask of friendly indifference towards the person next to me and started conversation. What I was talking about I cannot tell.

Suddenly a flash of black somewhere to my right caught my attention and I turned around in an instant. Then I shook my head. There was nothing there. Or rather, there were lots and lots of people everywhere in the great hall, but it seemed like I had only imagined the colour. Raven black. The colour that more than any other represented my love. My life.


The first days after he had left had passed in a haze. I cannot recall anything. But I had already knwon in those horrible, endless hours that I could not obey my love, because I could never forget him. And he would never cease to exist for me – no matter where he was. He had saved me when nothing had been left of me, and in return I had given him first my trust, then my love, and eventually my very heart and soul. I had not regretted it, not once; I never would. He was my life. And I knew I was his. Forever and always.

The numbness had been replaced with anger. I had directed it at the only person available at that moment that I had been able to hold somewhat responsible for the situation: Nasuada.

It had been her who had informed us of the approaching arrival of the captured Shade. It had been her pointing out that he would be able to sense the traitor.

That the Shade would gladly tell everyone about it - we had known that on our own. He was on the king's side.

Then she had really started, though, and I still cannot understand why. Telling him she expected me to marry and to father a child. Telling him she would not be able to protect him from the combined forces of the Varden. Saying that he would most definitely also be pursued by everyone who had sided with the Empire, even after the king would be dead. Saying that he had changed sides and alliances too often for anyone to be on his side.

I remember him giving me the saddest look I have ever seen on his face. And I knew why. He had never, not once, willingly left my side. His innermost loyalty had always been with me. And that look also told me that it would always stay that way.

Nasuada had not wanted to hear any of it. She had continued telling us, or rather mainly him, that for all the reasons she had mentioned it was very dangerous for me to be around him. To be associated with him. It might not only destroy my future as one of the leaders of the Varden, it might in fact cost my life. But before that, it would cost all my dignity and the respect I held with the people. We were brothers, after all.

Only when she had seen him starting to ponder, to really think matters through, had she stopped. By then I had felt cold flooding my veins, filling my every cell. I had understood right away that he had been considering options.

With one glance that I hope was as hateful and disgusted as I had wanted it to be I had bid our farewell to Nasuada and dragged him along with me.


I sat down on a chair at one side of the long table that occupied almost the entire right hall. Today the left was bereft of any furniture and many people were dancing in orderly lines to the merry tune the musicians had intoned. I looked away quickly.

The day was almost over. Servants were lighting the torches on the walls and more firewood was added to the firesides. I sat close to one and enjoyed the warmth. I was often very cold these days. And it always caught me unawares.

I leaned back and willed my mind to recall. Recall the muscular arms that used to embrace me whenever I had been freezing. Recall the warm body that had followed whenever the arms had not been enough.

I sighed audibly, which had me cast another quick glance around. No one had heard. In truth, no one was looking at me at that moment. I used the chance to scan the crowd. No. No elves. That meant no Saphira as well.

Saphira. My dear friend. We had been separated for far too long already. I understood the need for her to train more – I would have to do the same if my presence had not been required constantly with the Varden. So she had gone with Arya weeks ago, learning for the two of us.

She did not even know he was gone. She would go mad.

My dragon had come to care for my love. And that was based on my love caring for me. She had only agreed to leave because she knew that either he would sneak in or I would sneak out of the city regularly, to spend the night together. Without him and Thorn nearby, Saphira was very likely to go berserk, thinking me not protected enough.

My eyes came to rest almost automatically on a broad-shouldered man with his back to me in a far corner of the room. He was talking animatedly to some soldiers unknown to me. He wore a cloak with a hood, which he had pulled over his head. His figure, the whole posture, the respectful, almost submissive gestures of the other people…

'Eragon!' I heard my name and my head snapped in the direction where I suspected the caller. Another one of those women. My manners had me get up and go over there, but not before looking once more into the corner.

The men were all gone.


He had left soon after our talk with Nasuada, but had come back the following night just as usual. He had been very quiet. Yet I had not wanted to see the difference. So I had topped that night, taking lead, and I know he had liked it. Loved it. Later, in his arms, everything had been as I had wanted it to. So I had forgotten everything else.

The next night had been similar.

And the following, too.

On what I now know had been our last night, he had come early. He had not let me finish the letter I had been writing but instead pulled me on his lap. Kissing me everywhere. Hugging me very tightly. Never, not once in that night, losing touch with me. Not one second.

He had prepared me endlessly, all the while whispering words of love and affection into my ear and always, always watching me. Drinking in every detail. Now I know why.

'Tonight I will make love to you. I will try and love you like never before,' he had told me passionately right before entering.

He had always been true to his words.


I walked to my room, almost falling on the stairs. My feet did not want to do what I told them to anymore. I sent the guard at my side a grateful smile for supporting me. I bid him good night at my doorstep and he bowed and retreated to the top of the stairs.

I was sitting on my bed and began to pull off my boots slowly, then proceeded with the rest of my clothes. I had made it. I had survived this day. Yet somehow it did not mean anything to me. Tomorrow was looming ahead and after that another day would follow, and another, and another.

He had said I had to forget him. I was supposed to erase all memories from my mind.

But having been with him has been the most important part of my life. I wonder if he did not understand that. Or maybe he had not wanted to see it that way. That is why I still cannot figure out our last night. His actions had done nothing to make forget easier. On the contrary. So why had he done it?

I will never know.

I can work the spy system of the Varden, I can work it well, and I have kept them terribly busy these past weeks. He is not around. He has just vanished with his red dragon.

I told myself that he was now living his life somewhere else. Far away. Out of my grasp. Thus all my questions were never to be answered.

He had said I was strong. He had said that that made me special.

I will never fail my love. I will fulfil his expectations. I will be strong. But I will never forget him.


When I came to rest on my bed my hand made contact with a sheet of paper under my pillow. My room is not open to the public and is guarded at all times. I wondered how it had gotten there, especially because in the light of the torch that I quickly lit it turned out to be just what I had thought it to be: a letter.

'Eragon,'

read the first word, and I knew this handwriting. My pulse sped up and I decided I needed to sit down, putting the torch safely away.

He had written me.

'I have not forgotten your birthday. Nineteen. The year in which my life turned for the better. I want that to happen to you, too. But you must allow fate to guide you. My love, I am not your future. It lies elsewhere, and I ask you to go and look for it.

'I have to tell you, though, that I did not mean all I said on our last morning. I do not want you to forget me. I do not want you to ever forget what we had. It was too good for that. I am weak, my love, because I am not in control of my feelings. But I can only live if I know that I am in your thoughts at times. Although your heart might belong to someone else one day.

'You're my brother, my Eragon, and I will do what I can to protect you from afar. Consider this my true farewell, as I have not managed well the last time. Do not send anyone looking for me again. I will be gone.

'I miss you.

'Love, always

Murtagh'

It was then that my life shattered a second time.