Disclaimer: I don't own Eragon, am in no way making money from this, and am not working with anyone affiliated with Christopher Paolini or his publisher.

Surprise! I wrote an Eragon x Saphira fic. Taking a break from my usual pairing... yes, slash gets old, even to a veteran rabid fangirl such as myself. Be warned, in this fic there will be: implied sex and... uh, nothing else, really. Man, I'm getting soft.

So, enjoy.

--

It wasn't the pain.

No, it was never the pain that tore him apart – it was the solitude. It was the silence.

A year, a year it had been. A year since the Battle of the Burning Plains. Eleven months since they'd found Katrina's remains in Helgrind and Roran had thrown himself from a cliff. Ten months since Eragon had returned to Ellesmera for further training as he had promised. Seven since Galbatorix had begun to attack them again. Three since Surda had been captured and Orrin executed. One since Eragon had managed to rescue Nasuada from Uru'baen, half-dead and raving.

And all during this time, he had only silence and pain.

It wasn't the pain that hurt him – pain could never hurt him. It wasn't the agony he felt whenever he saw her – her beautiful face, her ebony hair, her alabaster skin, her emerald eyes, her graceful figure. It wasn't the ache of his exhausted muscles after every day of his severe training. It wasn't the terror that went through him whenever Arya appeared at his door, her face grim and her soft voice telling him of how Galbatorix's forces were advancing into the forest, making their way to Ellesmera.

No, there was no kind of pain could hurt him.

Always it was the silence, the deadness around him that crept into his mind. And when he lay sobbing upon his bed, or hurling the closest thing at hand into the wall, or taking out his anger on Vanir during their sparring sessions, Saphira was there.

Endure, little one, she would whisper. I am here.

--

The first time he didn't regret it.

What was there to regret? He needed, he wanted, he ached, and the solitude became more than he could take. It a simple joining, and they both understood what it meant – nothing.

He'd met the woman somewhere quiet, though he didn't remember where. If she'd given him her name, he didn't recall it. All he remembered were her fingers – her lovely, nimble fingers – and her body. Her face. Her hair was the same shade of ebony as Arya's, and while her eyes were the color of jade, not emerald, they were close enough. Her skin was just as pale.

The night was dark. Owls called softly in the distance. Stars shone above them; only they, and the moon, were witness to this. This breaking. This sundering. This final surrender to emotions and desires he could no longer suppress.

Am I a hero? Eragon flinched at the thought. The woman pulled back from the kiss they'd been sharing, looking surprised.

"Are you well, Shadeslayer?" she asked. Her voice was husky, sending chills down Eragon's spine. He nodded, then kissed her again, gently. She kissed him back less than gently, and he gasped.

Heroes don't need this, Eragon thought as he brushed a hand along her exposed skin. Heroes aren't scared. Heroes don't feel despair.

Eragon shivered as he ran his hand along her flushed skin, and groaned as her light fingers went to work. Her lovely, lovely fingers.

Who said I want to be a hero? he wondered.

He whispered a name, though he didn't know whose it was. Arya's, perhaps. It didn't matter.

--

Nasuada had awakened.

Eragon went to her, stared at her wide, terrified eyes. She had fallen unconscious four weeks ago, only an hour after Eragon had brought her to Ellesmera; they had all begun to wonder if she would ever open her eyes again.

Arya had called him here as soon as she'd heard. The elf princess stood against the wall, her emerald eyes shadowed and showing nothing of emotion. The room was grand, but the air was dark and solemn, as where the occupants of the room. Nothing was right, everything wrong, wrong, wrong – why did such good news have to come with such horrible after effects?

Nasuada was only a shell.

Eragon brushed his fingers across her cheek. She flinched, then grabbed his hand. When she spoke, he started, surprised, as did the healer who stood at the end of t he bed, watching them. Arya looked on silently.

"Shadeslayer," Nasuada whispered. She kissed his hand feverishly. "Shadeslayer, shadow-death…" She let out a sob. "Kill them, please?"

"She speaks," murmured the healer. "She would not before. Perhaps I should tell - ?"

Arya motioned him to be silent. He did, and they continued to watch.

"Kill what?" Eragon asked quietly. He didn't move or try to take back his hand.

"Shadows," she whispered. "Shadows, darkness, shades – in my head. Kill them, please, yes? You protect me – Shadeslayer – protect me – kill them, please, please – "

He slid his hand out of her grasp and stepped away.

Nasuada sobbed.

"Raving mad," someone muttered. Eragon thought it might have been him, or perhaps the healer. Eragon felt his throat tighten, his eyes burn, but he banished such things. No tears fell. This is war, he told himself. People die. She's lucky to still be alive.

Something shivered within him, then was extinguished.

But just as it did, something flashed in his mind – something blue, the color of soft skies and calm waves. She'll recover, assured a voice. It was gentle, lovely, comforting.

Saphira? he asked. He shivered as a soft warmth slid over him.

Yes, little one. I am here.

--

The world was aflame.

The clangs and clashes of battle echoed around Eragon, driving terror into his heart as he drove his sword into the hearts of others. Ellesmera burned around them all. Thorn dove about overhead, while Saphira evaded his attacks gracefully yet never managed to do anything but defend. Shruikan circled the dueling dragons lazily, watching for his chance to interfere. Murtagh stood before Eragon, regret in his hazel eyes.

They had finally come – Galbatorix and his men had fought their way to Ellesmera.

It was only out of necessity that Eragon fought. It was his obligation, that he tear himself apart so. His calling, that he sacrifice his sanity and his humanity for them. His duty, that he spill the blood of someone whose blood he shared.

Murtagh was holding back, and Eragon found himself holding back as well – could he really kill his own brother?

Perhaps not, but he had to. Eragon looked out of the corners of his eyes to the west, where, not too far away, Arya and her mother fought a losing battle against Galbatorix. They were desperate; if he did not win his own fight and come to their aid, they would soon fall.

Murtagh understood. He finally stood still, his eyes locked on Eragon's, and, for a single, blessed moment, those hazel eyes were clear of doubt and decision. Murtagh's lips moved – Eragon could not hear him speak over the noise of battle, but he saw the word those lips formed. Freedom. Murtagh gave him a small smile and dropped Za'roc, spreading his arms wide and inviting Eragon to finish the fight.

Thorn stopped his attacks on Saphira. Be strong, Eragon heard Saphira say. I am here.

Eragon dove forward and drove his sword deep into his brother's chest.

Far above them, Thorn shuddered, folded his wings, and plummeted to the earth.

--

Eragon could not accept it.

No, accepting it was far beyond him now.

He walked silently through the graveyard that had once been the elves' capital. Ashes crunched under his feet, and the thick smell of smoke choked the air. Headstone jutted from the freshly turned earth.

Eragon paused, staring at the two he stood before. "Murtagh," he whispered, touching one of them. He touched the other as well. "Oromis…"

Galbatorix's attack had been sudden, swift, and impossibly strong; many elves had perished, leaving only fifty-seven of the once great immortals. Yet they'd finally done it. Galbatorix had fallen, and the towns and cities that had lived in fear of him now rebelled against the Empire's control. Everything the Varden had worked for was so very close to being achieved.

But how many had died to kill the mad king? Hundreds? Thousands?

Eragon stopped as he saw a slender figure standing motionless at one of the larger headstones. He hesitated, then walked up to her. "Queen Arya," he said quietly, bowing.

She nodded to him, then continued to stare at her mother's grave – the once great queen, who had fallen to Galbatorix's sword just as Arya had managed to deal him the final blow.

--

Two months later, Eragon's world was still falling apart.

Uru'baen had been captured. The Empire was officially defeated. The elven cities and the parts of the forest the Galbatorix had razed were recovering; the elves were allowing human commoners to enter the forest and live there, though any who wished to enter had to swear an oath to abide by elven law. Nasuada was healing, and the council spoke of appointing her queen once her mind was fully intact.

Eragon visited her every so often; in her sane moments, she would ask his advice about political matters. She had mentioned wanting to draw up some sort of legal document to limit the power of later kings and queens, perhaps even making it so monarchs could be removed from office by the council. Eragon wasn't sure how it would work, but she seemed to working it out by herself, and he'd given up long ago on questioning her political knowledge.

The elves and the dwarves had agreed to a treaty that would hopefully end all future hostilities between them. Surda had entered into the treaty as well. The bonds forged because of the war were strong, and remained even after Galbatorix's death; humans, elves, and dwarves had eliminated much of the prejudice for each other.

And yet everything had never been worse.

Eragon knew only a strange solitude that forced him to suffer the pain he had blocked out during the war with the noise of battle and plotting. The silence he so loathed remained with him constantly – he was alone.

Alone, left in the overpowering quiet.

Yet always, whenever the silence became too much, it vanished. Saphira would be there, her magic sliding into him and filling him to the core with a soft kind of music, a soothing humming just below his skin that drove back the noiselessness.

Fear not, Saphira would whisper to him. I am here.

--

The second time he did it, he regretted it.

This woman was different from the first. He found her at a bar, fully sober and smiling. The noisy atmosphere blocked out any voices that might have been warning him away from this. His approach was unhurried, and his eyes never left her slender frame. When he spoke to her, Eragon could feel something shift within him – something once dead, or maybe something he only had wanted dead.

When she spoke back, he felt himself smiling for the first time in months.

It was her eyes, perhaps. They were so alive, so familiar! They were a shade of blue Eragon couldn't quite place. Or maybe it was her hair; it was light blonde, bouncy, and so very smooth. Or perhaps it was the graceful way she moved, her feet moving as if she were flying instead of walking. Or it could be her small frame, her bright smile, anything - but it didn't matter. She was what he wanted at the moment, and he didn't care why.

Nightfall found them tangled in bed together.

He remembered everything about this woman, while he'd forgotten everything about the first. The way her blue eyes softened as she caressed him. The way she gasped when he kissed her, hands moving in just the right way. The way he made her moan, the way she made him moan. What he remembered most clearly, however, was the name. Emilia. So pretty, like a song. Three musical notes in the silence he so despised.

But it wasn't the name he groaned when, at long last, he found his release.

He remembered her expression just as vividly. Her wide eyes, her flushed cheeks. She was embarrassed and hurt. "Who…?" she breathed. Then anger slipped into her eyes. She slapped him, then stormed out the door.

When she was gone, it was quiet once more.

No, it hadn't been the woman's name. It most certainly wasn't Arya's name, which he had gotten used to letting slip in heated moments.

Eragon stared up at the ceiling for a long moment before he could no longer stand it. Saphira, he called. He reveled in the sound of his own voice, a break from the quiet.

Yes, Eragon?

He rose from the bed and put on his cloak. I want to see Arya.

--

When he saw her again for the first time in months, she was still beautiful – no, she was even more beautiful. Her hair was the same shimmering ebony. Her emerald eyes were calm, and they had lost the childish scorn and pride they once held. Her skin was still flawless. Her stride was still graceful.

She approached with an escort of three elves – Vanir, a woman named Niduen, and a man named Laetri. He stood below the Menoa tree, near the palace, and he had just landed with Saphira, who had already left to go flying. She wanted to visit Glaedr's grave, she had said.

Arya smiled at him and stopped several feet away. She did not speak, nor did the others.

He admired her, though nothing within him stirred as he examined her. No fire, no pain, no love. Eragon realized this with surprise – or perhaps not. Somehow, he'd known for a long time that whatever he'd felt for the elf had slowly diminished until, finally, it had vanished altogether. She had simply become another friend, if she was even still that.

Finally, the silence was broken. "Rider Eragon," she said at last. She bowed her head slightly to him.

Vanir scowled. Eragon blinked in surprise. Arya had spoken first.

"Queen Arya," he replied, falling to one knee, his fingers twisting in the appropriate gesture of respect. She smiled gently and made the gesture that one would make to a friend.

"My friend," she said. She took a step forward, placing a delicate hand upon Eragon's shoulder. She glanced at the other three elves. "You may leave us. Rider Eragon is no threat to me."

Vanir bowed. "As you wish, my lady." Ever silent, Laetri bowed as well, though Niduen simply took Laetri by the hand and tugged him away. Vanir followed.

Arya looked at him carefully as soon as they were gone. Eragon remained on his knees, not looking at her. "Rise," she said quietly. "You do not belong in the dirt, friend."

Eragon rose to his feet, brushing the dirt and twigs off his pants.

Arya frowned. "You have not spoken. Are you well? You were not when you left here, of that much I am sure."

"I am well. Or perhaps, simply better than before."

Arya nodded, accepting his answer. "Why are you here now?"

Eragon stared into space for a moment. "I don't know," he said finally. "I… wanted to see you."

Arya sighed. "Do you wish to continue to pursue me, then?" She looked away. "I thought I had made my feelings for you clear."

"You have. And I think my own feelings have become clear," Eragon admitted.

Arya relaxed. "I see." She looked him in the eyes. "What are you feelings, then? Or for whom are they?"

Eragon shook his head.

"You don't…?" Arya looked at him curiously.

"No one," he replied.

"And?"

"It hurts."

"It should."

Eragon smiled. "It sounds like you, to say something like that."

Arya smiled as well. "It does, doesn't it?"

They lapsed into silence.

Finally, Arya spoke again. "So why are you here, Eragon, if you are not here for my love?"

"Someone else's, perhaps."

"Why here?"

Eragon grimaced. "Where else?" he asked. "I don't want to find someone who will die of old age and leave me like this again."

"So you came for a wife?"

Eragon shrugged. "Not a wife. For love, platonic or otherwise. It doesn't matter. Someone I can travel the world with without fear of having to watch after them." He smiled faintly. "Someone who can keep up with me, I guess."

Arya chuckled. She cupped his face in her beautiful hands, smiling gently. "Love is found in the most unexpected places, and often far nearer than you would ever expect. Over complicate nothing, my friend. Open your eyes."

He shook his head. "There is nothing to see when I do."

She continued to smile. "Then wait," she said.

With that, she turned and left.

Eragon stared at her as she walked away and began to wonder.

--

It was the night of the Blood-Oath Ceremony, the celebration of the pact between dragons and elves and the ceremonial infusion of the forest with magic. Magical energy hummed in the air, and Eragon felt giddy, almost drunk off it. His blood thrummed in his veins. His head spun. He was barely aware of his feet twirling across the ground as he joined the circle of elves whirling around a bonfire.

He laughed as he danced, and they laughed with him – colors around him were so vivid, so bright! So wonderful! But before long, silence filled the clearing. The elves around him shrank away. The moon hung in the sky directly overhead – it was midnight. The firelight flickered around them, and from the shadows stepped two women.

Eragon blinked when he saw them. They seemed so familiar – where had he seen them before? It had been a time much like this, that much he knew.

"Rider Eragon."

Eragon started slightly. He glanced to a woman who almost seemed a part of the shadows, her emerald cloak hiding both features and fading her outline into the background. She pulled back her hood, revealing a calm, level expression and porcelain features. Arya.

"Rider Eragon, we present to you a gift, both from ourselves and the dragons of long past," she called out. "A gift of opportunity, one our dragon-spirit bearers may only give once. It is our honor to present to you this most sacred magic."

All the elves surrounding them bowed their heads, grabbing hands with each other or placing a hand on another's shoulder. Energy hummed through the air. Eragon could feel it, and so could they. Tonight, anything was possible.

The two elf women who stood opposite them entwined hands with each other. Their gaze was trained firmly on him. "Rider Eragon, will you accept?" they asked. Their voices were one, beautiful, like a song. Eragon admired the noise; dazedly, he nodded. He wanted to ask more, but his lips would not move. His very blood sang out to him to accept and hurry to receive this gift.

The two elf women stepped forward. Their cloaks dropped and pooled at their feet, and they were left naked, exposing the long, curving dragon tattoo inscribed into their skin. They were the twins who had changed him into an elf.

"Eragon, as your namesake founded the Riders, so shall you," Arya said. Her voice was distant. Her emerald eyes danced in the light of the fire. It didn't seem as if she was speaking, but as if something greater was speaking through her. Eragon shivered, feeling a burst of magic course through him; he felt oddly dazed.

"Accept this gift."

Eragon wasn't sure who spoke this time. It was all of them and none.

The twins danced.

The dragon danced.

Everything spun.

The dragon –

The tattoo, stretching, lifting, uncurling and spreading and looking and hovering and reaching –

Reaching out to touch him -

Colors blurred, and his sense peaked. He could smell everything in the air around him, hear every noise in the forest, feel every molecule of air brush across his skin, taste the very saliva in his mouth and could see every detail of every star up on the night sky. He swayed, but was still at the same time, and screamed, yet was silent. Oh, but it hurt! He would have fallen over if not for Arya's emerald eyes shining through the darkness of the night, wrapping him in vines that held him still and firm.

Then, suddenly, everything righted itself, and the dragon was gone.

"It is done," the left twin said. They crouched over him, their bright blue eyes locked onto him. Eragon blinked; how had he ended up on the ground? And the twins – the dragon tattoo on them was gone.

"Both of them?" Arya asked.

"The dragoness as well, yes," the right twin replied. Arya offered Eragon her hand. He took it, stumbling upright.

"What did you do to me?" he asked hoarsely.

Arya smiled. She embraced him. "My friend," she whispered. "You are whole."

Eragon swayed slightly. "Whole?" he muttered. He looked around. Colors seemed so odd. Sounds seemed sharper. Things he had not seen in the shadows were now clear. And…

There was music in his blood.

Music, just like Saphira's music. Every time he had entered her mind, he had felt it. Now that same music was humming in his veins – no, not the same music. But close enough. The silence was gone; in its place was the soothing melody of magic thrumming throughout his entire body.

"What…?" he whispered. He pushed away from her, eyes searching hers. "Arya…"

She cupped his cheek with her hand. "Our gift to you both, Eragon – the essence of a dragon. You have both your natural form, and the form of scale and wing. You may change at will. And Saphira… her gift is the same and opposite. She may take human form when she wishes."

"What?" Eragon asked, still dazed.

Arya tilted her head towards a gap in the trees. "Look. She comes."

Eragon's gaze turned to where Arya had indicated. His eyes widened.

A woman stood there. Her eyes were bright blue, like the sky; her hair was pale gold, like wheat. Her skin was too pale, as if it had never been exposed to sun. She smiled at him – just at him, as if she saw no one else. Her ears were slightly pointed, yet she had none of the ethereal beauty most elves possessed. When she walked forward, she stumbled slightly, as if not used to her own legs. A male elf beside her helped her walk; dazedly, Eragon realized it was Vanir.

She stopped about a foot away. Vanir released her arm, and she stood on her own. "Eragon," she said. She spoke his name like a prayer.

"Saphira?" he whispered. How…? Saphira was… human?

She tweaked his nose gently. "You don't like what you see, Shadeslayer?"

He stared at her for a moment more, then laughed. He caught her in his arms, grinning. "Would it sound too strange," he chuckled, "if I said you're exactly what I wanted to see?"

She smiled and kissed his cheek gently. "Just a little," she whispered.

--

The silence no longer bothered him. He was free of it – there was always Saphira nearby, humming a tune, or the own music in his own blood. There was always the birds singing, the wind rushing, chatter of city or village folk, or the babbling of a nearby brook. There was always something.

Today it was the birds. Eragon smiled as he walked, listening and enjoying the sounds around him. The crunching of leaves underfoot. The mockingbirds. The cardinals. The scrabbling claws of squirrels.

Today was perfect.

A year, a year it had been. Eleven months since Saphira had finally mastered walking and running. Ten since Eragon had gotten the hang of flying, landing, and not crashing into things – particularly Saphira. Nine since they'd gone back into the world, tracking down rumored dragon's eggs. Eight since they'd found their first, and seven since they'd found two more.

Six before Eragon had noticed himself thinking about Saphira... well, differently.

Five since he'd begun to think he might be in love with her.

Four since he'd admitted it to himself.

Three since he'd kissed her.

Two since she'd become his mate.

Eragon smiled broadly, continuing to weave his way through the forest. He knew when he got back to his cave, his home, he'd find Saphira waiting for him impatiently.

Yes, today was perfect.

(end)