The Will to Live

Summary: One-shot – To exist is simple. To live is the challenge.

Author's Notes: This is an AU that takes place after the Inheritance Cycle.

Pairings: Murtagh/Eragon, Eragon/Arya (past), Thorn/Saphira (past).

Warning: This story contains foul language, character deaths, implied sexual situations, and incest.

Dedication: This story is dedicated to sussiekitten whose stories successfully converted me to the Murtagh/Eragon shipping. Yeah, they're just that powerful. So go check them out and be amazed.

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters featured in this story. They all belong to the creative Christopher Paolini.

The Will to Live

In the end, Murtagh thought, the rebellion was always going to win against Galbatorix. It was unavoidable in some measure. The rebels would beat down the reigning monarch, strip it down to nothing, and then set up their own kingdom. Then they would rule for a number of years before a new sort of opposition with different views would rise up and destroy them. It was just another natural cycle of mankind; just like life and death.

So when the Empire crumbled to the power of the Varden, he wasn't surprised. He was simply annoyed that it took so long for Galbatorix to die and leave him the fuck alone already. What also didn't surprise him was that it was Eragon who took out Galbatorix like the overrated hero he was. The only thing he did care about was that Thorn and he got of it alive in the end. Or, if not him, then at least Thorn survived.

But apparently, even that had been too much to hope for.



Murtagh didn't bother looking up at the young woman who had entered his cell. The fact that he even bothered to return her greeting was an achievement in itself, so he felt pretty justified in continuing his 'Count the Ants in the Crack' game he invented. So far he was beating his new record at three-hundred and sixty-eight ants.

He could hear Nasuada coming closer until her dainty maroon heeled feet came into view followed by the gentle swish of her burgundy gown. He glanced at them for a fraction of second before looking back to his game.

"Can you step back please? You're in my way." Though it was a question it came off more as a command. His answer, unfortunately, was not Nasuada moving away but actually getting closer to him.

"Murtagh, we must speak," she said, her voice soft and gentle. He wondered why she was talking to him like he was a small child, or some wild animal. Did she think that just because he was stuck in a cell awaiting his unavoidable death in the near future he was going revolve into himself?

"About my execution?" he said indifferently. His death didn't scare him at this point. Life was meaningless now that Tho—

No. Stop. Don't follow that train of thought, he thought, cutting his musings off and locking his mind up. He focused all his attention on the ants again, refusing to pursue the voices that tugged at the corner of his conscious.

"You're not being executed," Nasuada said with a hint of steel creeping into her tone. Murtagh could just see her straightening her shoulders, her spine uncurling into a rigid line as her eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

"You're going to be tried for your crimes and that will decide your punishment."

He nearly laughed out loud at that but managed to refrain. Oh, that was just rich. He was going to be judged by the Varden for his crimes? The sheer hypocrisy of it all was just so damn funny that he couldn't even bring himself to get mad over it.

"So I'm going on trial and then I'm going to die?" he commented lightly like they were talking about what was going to be served for dinner that night.

"Murtagh," said Nasuada, her voice strained and he knew that his attitude was getting to her. "The trial will be in three days and the council will be evaluating you."

"Judging me, you mean," he corrected, not seeing why Nasuada was using all these warm words to soften the cold truth. "Stop trying to sugarcoat everything, Nasuada. They will judge me, condemn me for being 'evil', and then they will kill me. Correct?"

"You don't have to die you know," the young woman replied quietly. "If you just ask me then I can vouch for you at the trial. I can help you survive this. Murtagh, please, let me..."

Okay. That was enough. He looked up to face the woman in front of him. Dark liquid-eyed, fragile-looking beauty with a sharp mind and even sharper tongue. A type of woman he could see himself falling in love with until he realized that he was incapable of loving anyone except for himself, and…

"I don't want your help." His mouth seemed to move on its own accord while his mind struggled to catch up. "I don't want anyone's help. I just want to get this over with and die already. Do you understand, Nasuada? I want to die."

Nasuada's lips seemed to tremble before pressing into a thin line. "Murtagh…"

"Don't," he interrupted, holding up one hand to forestall her. "I don't want to hear it. This is my life and my decision, and nothing you could ever say or do is going to change my mind."

A little bit of light seemed to fade from Nasuada's eyes, and his heart gave a slight squeeze of guilt. He really didn't want to hurt Nasuada—she was one of the few people he could actually tolerate—but he wasn't going to lie. When it came down to it there was just nothing and no one that could make him want to keep living.

"Very well then. I will respect your decision." A blank mask came over Nasuada's face as she straightened her posture. She gave a short, frigid nod while avoiding looking directly into his eyes. "I'll see you at your trial then. Good day, Murtagh."

He watched her walk out of his cell and leave him alone again. He listened until her quiet footsteps were gone and everything was silent again.

Then he counted off the minutes until he faced his judgment day.

The three days seemed to take an eternity or two to pass. During that time Murtagh beat his record at 'Count the Ants in the Crack' game; discovered that banging your head against a stone wall will not make a headache go away; and finally accomplished the technique of sleeping with his eyes open.

When his cell door finally opened, Murtagh felt his heart give a leap of joy though arguably it could have also been a heart attack. Either way, his heart gave a strange leap-and-tumble that made him feel both happy and in pain, and left him wondering if he was a masochist before he was hauled up roughly by two guards he didn't bother observing like he usually did when facing a potential threat.

He figured that, at this point, it didn't really matter anyway.

After being dragged down a number of dizzying corridors they finally entered a large room where the council sat waiting for him with a surprising number of people on the sides watching and waiting. He thought he caught a glimpse of Nasuada's dark eyes in the crowd before he was forced onto a chair, and chained up so tight he couldn't move.

He looked up and stared at the six people who were going to decide his fate. He could see the mistrust, the disgust, the hate, and a perverted sense of pleasure flickering across their eyes. Their emotions gave him his answer and allowed the last of his tension to slide off of him like water.

He was going to die. The idea had never seemed as grand as it did at that moment. The pain, the memories, the voices—it was all finally going to end. He wasn't going to have to keep facing the meaningless zone that was labeled his life anymore. He was just going to die and everything was going to (finally) be done with.

"Murtagh, son of Morzan and Selena, Rider of the dragon Thorn, General of the Army of the Empire, you stand here today on trial for your crimes against Alagaësia, and humanity itself. How do you plead?" thundered one of the members of the council, his voice echoing across the room.

It took Murtagh a few seconds to realize that they actually wanted an answer from him, and another few seconds before he got his brain and mouth to work together to get out his reply. "Guilty."

A flicker of surprise crossed the faces of the council, while the people around him began to buzz amongst themselves. He watched it all and wondered how these people were going to govern a country if they assumed the worse of everyone.

"Do you not wish to plead for your freedom, Murtagh?" asked a woman with long gray hair and two mountains on her chest that passed as breasts. Her eyes were sharp and curious and tinged with pity.

"Would it make any difference?" he asked, deciding it would probably hurry things along if he just told them what he wanted. "Look, we all know how this is going to end so let's cut the crap and get to the finale. You think I'm guilty, I have admitted I'm guilty, so just decide my punishment so we can all get on with our lives."

The looks on the councils' faces was a memory that would stay with Murtagh until the day he died. It gave him a feeling of triumph that he managed to turn the old windbags' world upside down with his declaration.

The council turned to each other and began to whisper heatedly even as the crowd began to murmur again. He waited and waited and waited until he reached the end of his patience (which, contrary to popular belief, really wasn't all that much), and was ready to start bitching at them to hurry up and announce his death.

Fortunately the council seemed to come to an agreement before he got to tell them off, as they all stood up and turned to face him. Murtagh wasn't surprised to see that some looked pleased but was surprised to see that some looked remorseful.

"Murtagh, we have decided on your form of punishment," began a council member, pompously. He paused dramatically before declaring, "You are to be executed at dawn tomorrow. May the gods have mercy on your soul."

Murtagh smiled and closed his eyes blissfully, and thought, over, over it's finally going to be over.

"Wait a minute," a very familiar voice called out, and all voices stopped talking.

Murtagh cursed violently in his mind. He should have known it wouldn't be that easy. He opened his eyes and waited until the known form of his brother came into his view.

Eragon Shadeslayer—Head of the Dragon Riders, Leader of the Du Vrangr Gata, Hero of the Varden, savior of Alagaësia, etc, etc ad nauseum—moved through the crowd like a ghost to stand at Murtagh's side. He stared straight ahead at the council and gave his brother no acknowledgment.

Murtagh, though, found himself staring at the younger man in surprise. Eragon looked… well, to be blunt, like shit. He was skinnier than Murtagh had ever seen him with his clothes hanging off him loosely. His face was pale and gaunt and he had dark circles under his even darker eyes.

"Eragon Shadeslayer," greeted one of council members, and Murtagh could just hear the edge in his tone. "What is it you object to?"

"Murtagh's execution. I demand it be revoked," spoke Eragon, and the room (again) erupted into heated whispers.

"Eragon, what are you doing?" Murtagh snarled, getting angry and a little worried when Eragon just kept ignoring him.

"Revoke? And do what? Release him?" asked a councilman, sneering.

"Yes. Release him into my custody and I will take full responsibility for him," explained Eragon, voice void of all emotions. Even his face was a perfectly blank mask.

He had to admit that it unnerved him a bit to see the usually emotional Eragon so void and empty. It was always his job to be the emotionless bastard brother, and for Eragon to be the cheerful village idiot brother. Yet, here he was playing the part of the brooding hero (read: Murtagh's part). Something was seriously wrong with this picture.

The council seemed to share his opinion because they were staring at Eragon like they didn't know him. "Are you mad, man? You cannot let him wander free across Alagaësia. Who knows what he might do!"

"That's right," agreed Murtagh, seeing that his date with the executioner might not happen if he didn't remind the corpses that he was 'evil', "I might go out and rally a group of people together who disagree with the new leaders of the country, and start a war that will devastate the land and people."

It seemed the Council of Dried of Carcasses wasn't quite as dumb as he was led to believe (mind boggling as it was) because his comment didn't go over their heads, and they all gave him dirty looks that he gladly met with a smirk.

Oh yeah. He was so gonna die.

"I realize that," answered Eragon, completely ignoring Murtagh's words and Murtagh himself like he wasn't even there. "I offer an alternative solution. Give custody of his life to me and I shall take him to an unknown place that he can never leave, and will be able to live out the rest of his days alone."

The council looked at each other and then at Eragon skeptically.

"And how do we know he won't escape from this place?" asked a woman who, to Murtagh's sensitive nose, was wearing far too much perfume. He wondered briefly what she was trying to hide under all that sweet crap.

"He won't," Eragon declared with such conviction that even Murtagh was tempted to believe him.

The members of the council seemed to believe him too, and looked like they were warming up to the idea. It made his stomach bubble with anxiety as he realized he might just end up living after all.

"Or you could just kill me and save yourself the future sleepless nights," he called out, trying not to sound panicked.

The council members stiffened and stared at him warily before one of them turned to Eragon and shook his head. "No. I think our first decision is for the best. Your request is denied, Eragon."

Eragon's face finally lost its vacant look and transformed into one of anger. Murtagh watched as the brown eyes lit up with roaring fire and his jaw clenched together tightly, while he raised his chin subconsciously in challenge. Seeing this reminded him that, while being a bit of a moron at times, it was still Eragon who killed Galbatorix in the end.

"You have no right to deny me this," the Rider said in a soft and dangerous voice as he glared at the council. "I have sacrificed much to end the war and start a new monarchy, and through it all I have asked for nothing in compensation. But now I have one wish that I want granted and yet you refuse to give me it!"

The room shook and everyone in the chamber flinched as Eragon's magic snapped loose with his temper. Murtagh barely stopped himself from wincing at the waves of magic—good Gods how did he get so strong? his mind wondered—and forced himself to focus on the council. What he saw made his chest clench and throat dry up.

Those pale and drawn faces told him everything he needed to know. The council was going to give in because Eragon was right, and they couldn't upset a Rider that could destroy them all. He knew as he listened to one of the members announce their decision that he wasn't going to die—end, end, when does it all end? his mind whimpered—but forced to keep living.

"Very well, Rider Eragon. We grant your request and leave the life and freedom of Murtagh in your hands. Don't make us regret this."

Murtagh never thought he would ever hate anyone as much as he hated Galbatorix. But, looking over at Eragon, who still refused to meet his eyes, he thought the dead king may just have competition.

Murtagh was pretty sure he was drugged during the journey to his new prison because he couldn't remember one damn thing about it. All he recalled was voices arguing, someone helping him into something, and concerned brown eyes. When he woke up he found himself asleep in a bed for the first time in months with sunshine glaring down at him through a nearby open window.

"Where the fuck am I?" he said out loud, staring at the unfamiliar ceiling—made of bright white brick, his mind cheerfully noted—as memories resurfaced. When the blurry images cleared up and straightened out he found himself wishing he hadn't woken up at all.

Eragon, what have you done to me? he wondered, and forced his body to sit up. His muscles ached and the world spun for a moment before settling back to normal, and left him sore and nauseous. He stumbled to where a table sat with a basin of water and towel waiting for him. He didn't bother being neat and just dumped the entire thing over his head. The feeling of fresh and clean water touching his dirty and greasy skin made him moan in ecstasy.

"Wow. I never saw someone get off just by touching water," commented a familiar voice coated in amusement.

Murtagh tensed up despite himself, and felt all pleasure leave him. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough," was his answer. A short tense pause then, "How do you feel?"

"Like the living dead." He turned around and faced Eragon, who was leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest.

"Where are we?"

"An uninhabited island in the middle of the ocean that is only accessible by boat," replied Eragon, saying it all with a straight face like he hadn't just condemned Murtagh to hell.

"An island where we're all alone, huh?" He thought over the new facts and rubbed his chin while pretending to consider something. "Interesting. A lot of places to kill myself then." He mostly said the last part to get a rise out of Eragon.

Too bad Eragon didn't buy it.

"You're not going to kill yourself," the younger man said confidently.

He raised a dark brow, surprised by his brother's assurance. "What makes you so sure?"

"Because I know you," the other man said gently, his eyes kind and knowing.

For some reason, this made him angry. Ignoring the fact that Eragon was correct (because he would never kill himself despite how much he craved for death), what right did he have to make such a claim? Eragon didn't know anything—nothing, not a goddamn thing about Murtagh or what he had been through.

"Shut up," he snarled, glaring at his brother, who was still infuriatingly calm. "Don't talk to me like you know me. You know nothing, got it? Absolutely nothing!"

"You're wrong, Murtagh. I know you better than you think," Eragon said quietly, still staring at him with his brown, brown eyes—all knowing eyes, a part of his mind whispered—that he couldn't meet.

"Get out," he whispered, turning his back on the younger man. "Get out, get out, GET OUT!"

To his (non)surprise Eragon left the room with no complaint, closing the door softly behind him. He waited until the near-silent footsteps were gone before he picked up the porcelain basin and threw it against the door where it shattered into a thousand little shards.

Not surprisingly, it didn't make him feel any better.

Murtagh didn't see Eragon again for a week. Actually, he didn't even leave his room for a week, or more specifically his bed. Apparently his body was more tired than he thought because he found himself unusually fatigued and sluggish with no motivation to do anything but lay in bed.

So he slept.

And slept.

And slept.

And slept some more.

The only time he got up was to eat from the mysterious tray of food that he could only assume Eragon slipped in when he was sleeping (apparently his stealthy ninja skills had improved), and to relieve himself.

Finally the day came where he got sick of sleeping and forced his traitorous body to get up, and venture out of the room. He stumbled through a corridor before coming to a stop in surprise at what he saw.

The room he entered was like the rest of the place and made out of white bricks that were eye-blindingly bright. The ceiling arched up into a dome shape before coming down to be held by pillars spaced around the room. There were no walls; it was all completely open to look out at the seashore that the waves were desperately climbing before reluctantly receding.

"Eragon, where the hell did you bring me?" wondered Murtagh, reluctantly tearing his eyes away from the beautiful sight to get a better look at the chamber. It seemed to be situated over the beach on a steep cliff side. It took him a moment before he realized that the rest of the house—or palace since he didn't know how big the place was—most likely extended deeper into the cliff for obvious protection.

"Impressive, isn't it?"

Murtagh swirled around to meet a grinning Eragon standing at the entrance Murtagh had come from. He held a hand over his beating heart, and gave the younger man an evil look. "Damnit, Eragon, why the hell do you keep sneaking up on me like that?"

Eragon gave him an innocent wide-eyed look that—much to his disgust and shame—managed to appease his anger just a bit.

Damn Eragon and his big brown eyes! Damn him!

"I was just checking up on you," said Eragon, cocking his head to the side with his eyes still playing the doe-eye act. "I'm glad to see you finally decided to come out of your room. I was beginning to get worried."

"I was getting bored," he admitted gruffly, turning to look back at the view of the ocean. After a few seconds of silence he finally asked, "What is this place?"

"I'm not really sure," answered Eragon, walking over to the edge to look down at the beach. Murtagh had a fleeting thought of pushing him over the edge before dismissing it. If Galbatorix couldn't kill him then what the hell could a little fall do?

Eragon continued speaking, oblivious to Murtagh's thoughts of his death. "Saphira and I discovered it a year ago by accident. We were flying to an island off the coat of Surda—can't recall which one—when we got caught in a storm that knocked us off course. Eventually we ended up here, and after some exploring discovered these ruins carved into the cliff."

"And you don't know where they came from?" he questioned in honest curiosity.

His brother shook his head remorsefully. "No, we couldn't find any clues about the people who built it or what happened to them. Saphira figured they migrated to Surda or one of the other islands, but we didn't know for sure."

"Mmm." He turned to look around the structure again when a sudden realization crossed his mind. "Hey, where is Saphira anyway? Is she staying somewhere else on the island? Because I'm pretty sure she can't fit into that doorway."

Eragon stared at him in a bewildered sort of shock for a moment before his expression melted into one of understanding. He shook his head, a small sad smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

"Would you like a tour of the inside?" he asked, completely ignoring Murtagh's question.

He raised a dark eyebrow in wonder, but still nodded in acceptance. He didn't know why Eragon avoided the question or why he was so surprised, and after playing with the thought of demanding it out of him, he decided he didn't care to know anyways.

He found that he didn't care about a lot of things these days.

Murtagh found that his new prison was pretty big and extended deeply into the cliff. Eragon had showed him the rooms that he had fixed up and furnished, and told him that he could use any of them at any time—except for Eragon's room, which was off-limits but that was okay because he didn't know where the hell it was anyways—and was free to venture around the island whenever he wanted.

He found the freedom part surprising before reasoning that Eragon was just being arrogant, and figured that Murtagh wouldn't try to leave the island.

The sad part was that the little twit was right.

He wasn't going to try and get off the island because, really, what was the point? Eragon would just find him and drag him back eventually. And even if he did somehow miraculously get off the island and back to the mainland (and that was a big if) where would he go? He was an outlaw; a wanted man with no place to run to, and the few allies he had left had been most likely executed, or were going to be.

He was successfully screwed in every way.

So he stayed, and wandered around his new prison with a mild sort of curiosity. He found a few things to amuse himself with like hunting the wild animals, and going through the fully stocked library that actually had some interesting books. But most of time he slept; slept the days away until the seasons began to blur together and he wasn't sure how much time had passed.

And in all that he only saw Eragon a handful of times in the distance, or when leaving a room. They never talked other than the occasional greeting (that only Eragon bothered with), and he was content with that. He didn't want to talk Eragon, or anyone else for that matter. He just wanted to be left alone to fade out of existence.

Alive, yet not really living.

"You like that book don't you?"

Murtagh didn't bother to acknowledge Eragon and just kept reading. He hoped the other would take the hint and get lost, but once again he underestimated Eragon.

"Why do you like it so much?" Eragon came to sit down next to him on the oddly-shaped-and-unnaturally-comfortable-sofa that he had claimed early on in his stay. He persisted to ignore his brother, hoping it would work and he would just go away.

He forgot though that Eragon was just as persistent as him.

"Is it because the main character reminds you of yourself?" Eragon leaned over to get a better look at the book, and ended up in his personal bubble Without His Permission.

Okay. That was it.

He slammed the book shut and turned to give Eragon the full extent of his 'fuck off' look that scared away so many courtiers back when he lived in the castle. Sadly, Eragon was immune to such looks and didn't even wince.

Damn. I must be losing my touch, he thought, mentally sighing. Might as well get this over with.

"Whaddya want?"

Eragon shrugged, leaning away from him and turned to look off in the distance. "I'm just curious over your interest in that book. I didn't think you like that sort of stuff."

"I don't, actually. But this book… it confuses me." He looked back down and traced the brown leather tome in his lap as he thought over his answer. "The character, he goes through so much. He faces so many conflicts and keeps losing everything, and yet he still goes on. And for what? To find a place he's not even sure is real? I just don't see the logic in it."

Eragon was quiet for a moment before he spoke again, "Maybe he goes on because he knows he has to. Maybe he knows that without a purpose, without a goal in life he'll become nothing."

Eragon's answer made a lot of sense—perhaps a bit too much, his mind pointed out—but he wasn't about to tell him that. So in his typical fashion, he just snorted and shook his head. "It's still not sane. I don't see why anyone would go so far to find a reason to live."

Eragon turned back to stare at him with his knowing brown eyes.

"Do you really?" he murmured, and for some reason the answer made his stomach clench as the words sunk in and he realized that maybe Eragon really did und—

He shoved the thought away roughly before he could think on it, and stood up with his book. "I'm going to bed," he announced, and marched towards the exit.

"Make sure to finish the book," Eragon called behind him, not at all perturbed by his attitude. "I think you'll like the ending."

I highly doubt it, he thought, and left the room.

He didn't know when Eragon got a sixth sense that seemed to tell him whenever Murtagh was in the library, but apparently he did because now every time he went to the library Eragon. Was. Always. There.

"Are you stalking me?" he demanded one day, glaring at the younger man lounging on the couch lazily.

Eragon just blinked at him innocently like he wasn't mind fucking with his brother. "Of course not. What makes you think that?"

"Gee, I don't know, maybe the fact that you're always here," he answered, stressing the last part to get his point across.

Eragon just blinked and stared back at him like he couldn't comprehend what he had just said. He ignored the village idiot (something that he was sadly getting good at), and went to claim a book before sitting next to Eragon on the sofa.

"Is that a new book?" asked Eragon, easily pretending not to realize Murtagh was ignoring him (something he was getting annoyingly good at).

"Yes. I wanted to read something a little less boring," he answered grudgingly.

"And 'The Art of Poetry' is stimulating?" questioned Eragon, sounding skeptic and expectant.

"It is if you interpret it right," he grumbled in return. "Now shut up and let me read."

Surprisingly, Eragon did and allowed him to get lost in the angst and hopelessness and defeat that could probably bring even Eragon down. Eventually he momentarily forgot the other was even in the room with him until the younger man finally spoke up.

"Do you ever wish you could do things over again?"

He looked up, surprised by the interruption, blinking at his brother in bewilderment until his brain kicked in. "What?"

"Regrets. Do you have any?" Eragon explained patiently.

Yes, he did actually; he had a lot of them. But he wasn't going to tell Eragon that. "No." Then, out of curiosity asked, "Do you?"

"Only one."

"What is it?"

Eragon smiled a pained, guilty smile that made him look older than he was. "That I rejected you as my brother after the battle of the Burning Planes. I… I always regretted what I said to you. I'm sorry, Murtagh."

He wasn't expecting such an answer so he was quiet for a little while until he could comprehend the answer. Eragon regretted what he said to him at the Burning Planes—what did Eragon say that day?—and apologized. He… he really didn't know what to make of that.

So, because it just seemed right, he said, "You're forgiven. So don't worry about it anymore. I don't."

Eragon blinked and stared at him for a moment before smiling. It was, admittedly, a nice smile that made something warm erupt in his chest and spread through his body. It was a weird but pleasant feeling so he decided not to think too much about it, and just go with it.

"Thanks, Murtagh," chirped Eragon, sounding far too happy for Murtagh's taste.

He just grunted like it was no big deal, but it came out sounding forced even to him.

Murtagh's dreams tended to fluctuate between good memories and bad memories. For reasons he blamed completely on karma, it usually ended up being the bad memories.

This night was no different.

There are two different shades of red—one the color of fire and the other the color of blood—and screams and laughter—heartbreaking screams to wake the dead and insane laughter that could chill you to the bone—and the sight of the person who mattered the most just laying there unmoving and empty—those glazed eyes seemed to stare accusingly—and the hollow feeling of loss and defeat in your chest—




Murtagh jerked awake, sweat clinging to his body and a scream dying away at his lips. It took him a minute to get his mind in order and even longer until he got his body to relax again. He knew from experience that he wouldn't be getting back to sleep that night, and decided he was better off getting up and taking a walk to keep his mind off The Dream.

He wandered through the hall until he came to the first chamber he first came across only to find Eragon was already there with his sword going through his exercises. He was wearing only a pair of loose, billowy white pants and nothing else. He watched his brother move fluidly through the well known motions before getting bored.

"Do you always practice sword play in the middle of the night?" he asked, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.

Eragon didn't even glance at him. "Of course. Best way to train is when you can't use your eyes. It helps strengthen your other senses."

Murtagh had to give him credit for that. "I suppose that makes sense. How long you been out here?"

"Long enough." Eragon paused and looked over to him with brown eyes that glowed amber in the moonlight. "Another nightmare, Murtagh?"

He stiffened before relaxing again. "Who said I had a nightmare?"

"Because you usually have more bad dreams than good ones," answered Eragon as he returned to his exercises. "Not that I can blame you. I have a lot of nightmares too."

He didn't find that hard to believe. "Do you think they'll ever stop?"

"No. And I don't I want them to despite how much they hurt."

He gave Eragon a look of disbelief. "Why?"

"Because they remind me of what I've lost and what I still have."

Murtagh had never heard such an answer before. It sounded naively optimistic and yet… yet it was also wise and logical.

"Where do you get this stuff?" he asked because, seriously, who would expect Eragon—who failed to grasp why it was important to kill a slaver—to be so damn wise and mature?

Eragon stopped again and turned to face him with a serious expression. "The world. I learned a lot these past years, Murtagh. I'm not that scared kid you led across the desert anymore. I've grown up."

I know, he thought, but couldn't bring himself to say it because it was so much easier to keep seeing Eragon as an arrogant and foolish kid rather than the intelligent and strong man he had grown up to be.

Eragon sighed and sheathed his sword, cracking his neck and knuckles. "I think I'm done for tonight. Are you going to stay up?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I can never get back to sleep after…"

Eragon made a noise in his throat that expressed his understanding. "In that case, you want to go for a swim?"

Murtagh blinked at him, convinced his brother had gone momentarily insane. "What?"

"Do you want to go for a swim in the ocean?" Eragon elaborated, waving a hand in a general direction of the beach.


"Because we have nothing else to do?" Eragon replied, looking at Murtagh like he was the one who was batshit insane.

Still… he couldn't argue with him.

"Fine. But if I get bitten by a shark then I'm drowning you," he warned, but it didn't come out as threatening as he wanted.

And Eragon—being the stupid intelligent brat he was—just smiled and smiled.

On one not-so-impressive day Murtagh came to the realization that he had not seen nor heard of Saphira during his entire time on the island. This sudden thought left him feeling uneasy for reasons he refused to pursue, and he spent the rest of the day searching for Eragon. He ended up finding him in—where else?—the library.

Eragon looked up from a scroll and smiled at him. "Hey, Mur—"

"Where's Saphira?" he interrupted, striding over to his brother.

Eragon stilled and slowly set down his scroll. "Why?"

"Just answer the question," he demanded, not in the mood to even bother trying to be polite.

Eragon stared at his face hard for a moment before finally sighing in defeat. "Fine. She's dead. She died at the final battle against Galbatorix."

He let his shoulders fall, feeling suddenly very old(er) and very tired. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I knew you wouldn't care," answered Eragon with a bitter confidence that made his heart ache. "I know you hate me, Murtagh."

"That's not true. I—" He stopped in midsentence. That was a lie wasn't it? He did hate Eragon. He hated him when the younger man pulled him away from death's arms with no regards for Murtagh's own wishes. He hated him for being so childish and noble and so damn perfect all the time. He hated him for judging Murtagh once he found out about his father—for turning out like everyone else, his mind added in helpfully—and for turning his back on him after he learned Murtagh was his brother.

But yet… yet he couldn't say that he hated Eragon now. Somehow over the days he got to know his brother better that hate had began to lessen. Eragon had grown up a lot and was no longer obnoxious, but actually rather nice to be around. And hadn't he apologized for rejecting him all those years ago? Hadn't he told Murtagh he regretted what he said?

"I don't hate you," he said slowly, knowing honestly that this was true, "but I am angry at you for saving my life when you know I want to die."

"I can't let you die, Murtagh," Eragon said, shaking his head. "Not yet. Not when you still have much to live for."

Murtagh laughed at that. "Funny because the last time I checked I lost the only thing worth living for at the final battle." He paused for a moment and then added, "Just like you."

"Saphira wasn't my only reason for living," replied Eragon, standing up and making his way to Murtagh. He reached up and placed both hands on either side of Murtagh's head and gently pulled him down until his forehead was touching Eragon's.

From the close view Murtagh could see the little details of Eragon that he never noticed before. Like the fact that he had a tiny beauty mark under his left eye. Or the scar on his forehead that ran down to his right eyebrow. And that his eyes had bits of amber swirling within their brown depths.

"You're a reason for me to keep living, Murtagh," Eragon whispered, his breath ghosting over Murtagh's lips.

"You know, it's times like this that makes me sure you actually have a vagina," he replied before he could think.

Eragon blinked at him a few times before he burst out laughing. Soon Murtagh was joining him and they were hanging on to each other just to stay up. It wasn't really all that funny—he knew that, he did, but damn; it felt so good to just laugh and laugh like they weren't a couple of messed up freaks mourning over their dead dragons.

"You," gasped Eragon, arms locked around Murtagh's neck with his head leaning against his shoulder. "You are an absolute bastard."

This caused a fit of giggles to escape before he could stop them. After he regained his ability to breathe, he leaned his cheek against the brown hair, and said, "Yes, yes I am. But I'm your bastard just like you're my little sister."

And surprisingly, he was okay with that.

Murtagh found—though he swore to deny it later if ever asked—himself spending more and more time with Eragon after The Moment they shared. It was like some invisible wall that had been between them was finally removed, allowing them to connect and form an unbreakable bond of friendship… or some equally deep and meaningful shit like that, anyway.

He didn't particularly care why they were getting along better, just that they were. And he'd be lying if he said he wasn't pleased because Eragon made the best hotcakes in the history of man that could probably revive the dead, and solve world wars if tried.

"You look like you're having an orgasm," Eragon said distastefully one evening, watching Murtagh with a pained expression.

Murtagh recognized that as his cue to give him the finger, but knew it wasn't wise to upset the one who provided him with his daily dose of hotcakes. So he took the next route and just concentrated on finishing off his third plate in the past hour.

"Where did you learn to make these?" he asked, glancing over to Eragon as the other man sat down at the small table across from him.

Eragon gave a shoulder roll that he had come to interpret as a shrug. "Aunt Marian taught me. She was the best at cooking and baking."

He paused in his Feast of the Gods with his fork hanging in the air with a piece of syrup drenched cake holding on. "Oh." He had never thought much about Eragon's—yours, his mind reminded—family. He always had other matters to concentrate on, but now he was free to think about them. And really, he'd be lying if he said he wasn't curious about them.

"What were they like?"

Eragon blinked his big eyes at him slowly which ended up making him look like an owl. "Who?"

"Your—I mean, our family," he explained, carefully rearranging his sentence.

"Oh. Well they were… they were good people." Eragon's face softened and a fond smile curved at his lips. "Uncle Garrow was strict but fair and worked very hard to take care of us. He used to spend all day out in the fields attending to the crops no matter the weather. And he never complained. Aunt Marian… well, she had the patience of an angel and the sense of humor of a devil. You could always count on her to make you laugh just as you could count on her to give you a firm talking to if you did something bad. And as for Roran, well, he would bitch and moan about hanging out with me but he always willing did in the end. He was also as likely to tease you mercilessly one moment, and then protect you from bullies the next."

He watched Eragon as he talked about their family. Watched his face become younger and happier and wistful. Watched his eyes melt into a warm chocolate color that was distant. Watched, watched, watched then finally wondered what it would have been like if he had been raised with Eragon and the dead family he would never know.

"They taught me a lot. I don't think I would have gotten through a lot of the challenges I've faced if it wasn't for them." Eragon blinked as his eyes grew suspiciously brighter and his lower lip trembled. "I… I love them a lot. All of them. And I still miss them even though it's been years since they've died. I think I always will."

Eragon then chuckled and wiped his eyes. "Listen to me going on like a fool. You want to hear about them, not me."

"Actually, I'd like to hear both," he corrected, and watched Eragon's eyes widen in surprise. He smirked at that and explained, "Tell me whatever you want, Eragon. I've got the time."

Eragon smiled one of his light-up-the-room smiles at him and did just that.

"That looks like a pig."

"It's a lamb."

"I know. I'm just telling you it looks more like a pig than a lamb."



"Shut up."

Eragon turned his big Evil—with a capital letter and all!—eyes on Murtagh with a fake-hurt look. "You're so mean to me. And all I'm trying to do if help you become a better painter."

He just glared at Eragon because, seriously, that was the weakest excuse he had heard to date. "Bullshit. You're teasing me because my art is total and complete crap."

And it was, really. Murtagh was good at a lot of things but painting wasn't one of them.

"Why did I let you talk me into this," he grumbled, attempting to fix the face of his lamb-pig-creature-of-some-origin only to ruin it further.

He groaned and threw the paintbrush down while Eragon cackled like the sadistic fiend he was.

"Don't feel too bad, Murtagh. I'm horrible at both painting and drawing. Any attempt I make results in chaos for all involved," reassured Eragon, patting him on the shoulder and giving him a comforting smile.

That actually made him feel a little better. Enough that he even gave Eragon a grateful look. That look soon turned into one of alarm when he saw the mischievous glint in Eragon's eyes.

"Of course," purred the Most Annoying Man in the World, "at least I know how to draw the basic shape of a sheep."

Murtagh thought this was his cue to get some new friends before he remembered he didn't have any friends, which meant he was most likely stuck with Eragon.


For some odd reason, Murtagh had this strange illusion that Eragon was some indestructible force that could never be brought down. Where the hell he got such an idea he would never know, but he had a theory that it had something to do with bringing down Galbatorix (aka: The Prince of Darkness). But for whatever reason, he didn't think anything could hurt Eragon emotionally or physically.

Unsurprisingly, he turned out to be wrong again.

He found out Eragon wasn't some sort of divine force that could never be brought down, but was actually quite human. This revelation was discovered when he came across his little brother on one non-eventful night on the beach. He had been taking a stroll just for the hell of it when he spotted Eragon sitting with his legs pulled up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them. His head was resting on his knees and his shoulders were shaking noticeably. Seeing all this made Murtagh stop and stare.

"Sorry… I'm so sorry, Saphira," he heard Eragon whimper before breaking off into more shoulder-shaking sobs. Murtagh took a few silent steps back, feeling like an intruder on this scene of vulnerability before walking away and leaving Eragon to grieve.

He was surprised yet not surprised. Losing your dragon—the other half of your soul—was an experience that would affect anyone, including Eragon. Even if he came off strong and unmovable most of the time, losing Saphira still would have cut him deeper than any knife in the world could. After all, how many nights had he spent mourning over Thorn, wondering why, why, why?

The next day when he saw Eragon he saw him in a new way. No longer an invincible figure but a man—one of the better men to walk this forsaken world, but a man nonetheless. And for some reason knowing Eragon was a man made him feel… closer to his brother.

"Hey, Eragon, want some breakfast?" he offered, holding up a plate of cooked eggs (one of the few things he could cook without bursting into flames), and some only slightly burnt meat.

Eragon looked surprised but eventually smiled his sunshine-smile that always made Murtagh feel unreasonably happy. "Sure. Thanks, Murtagh."

"You're welcome," he replied slowly—he was always slow to reply to Eragon's thanks because it always startled him to hear it—and handed over the plate to his brother. He sat down and listened to Eragon as he began babbling about something, and just watched the way he relaxed and smiled and laughed. Then he pictured the Eragon from last night with the shaking shoulders, desperate pleas, and heartbreaking expression, and felt disturbed at the thought of ever seeing Eragon looking like that again.

"…and isn't that just ironic, Murtagh?" Eragon asked, snapping him back to the present.

He nodded, and gave a small grin even though he didn't know what the hell Eragon was just talking about a moment ago. "Yeah, that's pretty ironic."

Eragon flashed him another sunshine-smile before continuing on with another story, and Murtagh thought then he would do anything to keep that smile there.

Eragon had a strange obsession with apples that Murtagh never tried to understand in order to protect his remaining sanity. The younger man would eat at least five to ten apples a day like it was nothing, much to his disgust. Murtagh didn't have anything against apples (he actually liked them himself), but he just couldn't imagine eating three in a row like Eragon did on a daily bases, and not get a stomachache.

"You have a problem," he told his brother one day while they were taking a walk on the beach barefoot. "Seriously, you're too taken with those things. It's not healthy."

"But they're so yummy," protested Eragon, waving his gleaming red fruit around to make his point. "And there's so many of them on the island. Besides, you eat three stacks of hotcakes a day, glutton. So don't preach to me about addictions."

"We're not talking about me right now; we're talking about you," he answered, totally ignoring how completely right Eragon was. "You're either going to choke to death chewing on one of those things, or you're going to fall and break your neck climbing an apple tree. Either way, something bad is going to happen."

"Yeah, I have to put up listening to you nag," muttered Eragon, lowly.

Murtagh, in the process of stopping to pick up a seashell, magnanimously pretended not hear that little comment. He instead inspected the brown and white shell critically before tossing it away.

"What don't you like about apples?" asked Eragon, watching the small shell get swept up by the waves.

He stood up and dusted off the sand from his hands. "Nothing. I actually like apples, but I also like to eat other things besides fruit."

Eragon just grunted and took a bite out of his apple.

The two were quiet for some time as they watched the ocean while Eragon ate his apple. Finally a small growling noise broke the silence between them. Both males looked to Murtagh's stomach where it originated.

"Hungry?" Eragon asked dryly with a smirk.

He made a sort of groan-grunt that passed as a yes. "Let's go back," he commanded, turning to begin the walk back to the caves.

"Wait, Murtagh, you can eat this!" cried Eragon, shoving his apple into his face.

Murtagh stared at the half-eaten fruit before slowly raising his eyes to meet gleeful brown. Slowly, making sure to keep eye contact, he took the apple from Eragon, tossed it in the air a few times, and then finally chucked it with all his strength into the ocean.

"Murtagh!" yelled Eragon, his eyes going wide as he looked to where his apple had landed. "You jerk, that was still good!"

He bit his lip to keep from smiling crazily at Eragon's tone. "Yeah? Then start swimming before the fish get to it."

Eragon glared at him, his look promising a terrible vengeance he was going to unleash on him. Murtagh just cackled like a madman; thrilled that he had finally found a way to make Eragon angry.

After his mother died and he was taken in by Galbatorix, Murtagh came to the conclusion that he would never be close to anyone. But Tornac proved him wrong and bonded with him like a parent to a newborn. Tornac was his father in everything but blood and law, and when he died a small part of him died with the man.

And then along came Thorn and this whole new world of closeness that could never be explained in words or actions. Thorn was like an arm to him—an important and vital part of his life that made living without him hard. And when he finally died another bigger part of him died with the dragon.

So half-alive with no goal to keep him going, you would think he would lack the ability to get close to anyone again. But apparently he was wrong yet again, because he found himself developing a new bond with Eragon that he couldn't distinguish no matter how hard he tried. He didn't know how or why it happened, just that it did. Eragon had gotten under Murtagh's skin and wormed his way into his mind and heart in a way that no one had ever done before.

And Murtagh just didn't know what to do anymore.

Whenever life got too complicated and difficult for him to handle, Murtagh turned to a solution that was always the best way to deal with life and all her bullshit.

He got roaring drunk.

Drunk, drunk, drunk, so stinking drunk he could barely talk let alone think, which was just wonderful because he didn't want to. So when he couldn't handle thinking about Eragon anymore he raided the kitchen for every alcoholic substance he could find, and then lugged it all back to his room where he spent the rest of the day getting pissed.

But fate seemed to have it out for him because around his fifth bottle of ale (or sixth or tenth because he kind of lost track after the fourth one), Eragon came barging in and interrupted his bonding time with his new friends.

"Murtagh, you raving idiot, you're drunk," Eragon declared with his awesome observation skills.

"Yes, yes I am!" he agreed, cocking his head back in a lackadaisical salute. There was a moment of silence before he asked, "Wanna join me?"

Eragon seemed to think about the offer for a moment before sighing. "Yeah, fine, move over."

A couple hours later they were both successfully hammered out of their minds and doing the idiotic things all drunks are bound to perform. One of these things was talking on and on about subjects that were usually taboo, but free game when alcohol was involved. Eragon seemed to take a shine to this fact and was going at it at with full stride.

Murtagh had attempted to follow Eragon's yammering but found it made his head throb, so he decided to just watch his little brother instead. He studied the sharp cheekbones, the curve of his neck, and the small brown mole under his collarbone. Saw all this and wondered why Eragon was so damn appealing to him at the moment.

In the midst of Eragon's drunken ramblings a particular sentence caught his attention. "…but you, Murtagh, you're much better than me. I think you're the better brother between the two of us…"

No, I'm not, he thought. You are. You're the better one. You always were. Then because logic and common sense were lost to him—not that he had much to being with when he was sober—he leaned forward and smashed his lips to Eragon's.

Somewhere in the back of his conscious he knew that what he was doing was wrong, but the thought was pushed aside carelessly when Eragon returned his kiss with sloppy enthusiasm.

Everything else was pretty much a blur as he lost himself to his own desire.

Murtagh woke up the next morning with the biggest hangover he ever faced, and a drooling Eragon laying halfway on him with his own arms wrapped around the sleeping brunette. It took some time for his brain to comprehend all this, and ever longer to put it together in a logical fashion. When it finally did make sense again, time seemed to freeze for a moment as the realization of what he had done finally sunk in.

"Oh fuck!"

He jerked up and fumbled out of bed before falling to the ground naked as the day he was born. He stared in mute horror as Eragon sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes before blinking down at Murtagh with a bewildered expression that made him look unfairly cute.

"Murtagh, what are you doing on the floor?" he asked, cocking his head to the side. Then he seemed to notice that Murtagh was naked and he was naked, and Murtagh could just see his brain clicking in understanding. "Did we have sex last night?"

Numb, Murtagh could only nod.

Eragon blinked. "Oh. At least that explains a few things." Then he yawned and fell back onto the bed. "Well I'm going back to sleep."

"Sleep? Sleep? How the hell can you sleep knowing you just engaged in sex with your brother?" he yelled, standing up to stare at the figure on his bed.

Eragon just opened one eye to regard him with mild irritation. "So what? It's just sex, Murtagh. People do it all the time. It's not that big a deal."

"It is if it's with your sibling!"

"Why? It's not like either of us can have a kid together."

"That's not the point!"

"Then what is it?"

"That brothers are not supposed to do what we did. It was wrong!"

"Was it really?" asked Eragon, opening his other eye now. "I wanted it and you wanted it and we both enjoyed it. I see nothing wrong with that. The fact we share the same blood means very little to me. We weren't raised as brothers and thus lack the bond that most siblings usually possess. Besides, I was already going to hell, only now it will just be a different circle of it."

"How can you so accepting of this?" he whispered, honestly confused over Eragon's feelings.

Eragon just shrugged. "Because I don't care anymore about how the world regards me. I had to live up to these nearly impossible standards when I was a Rider, and when I did I lost my family, mentor, lover, friends, and Saphira. I learned my lesson and now I know that I can only live by my rules in the end."

"And one of these rules was to sleep with me?" he couldn't but ask dryly.

Eragon laughed and shook his head. "No. Well, yes, but no. Not in the way you're thinking of it."

He raised an eyebrow at the answer. "You wanna be more specific?"

"Last night I slept with a man who is my brother and so much more," Eragon explained, a soft smile appearing on his raw lips.

Murtagh felt his throat tighten at the hidden message in those words. The words that were echoed in Eragon's brown eyes and his sweet smile. The words he had never said to anyone, not even Thorn because the intensity of such a phrase scared him.

And because Murtagh was such a goddamn coward—always running away, his mind said spitefully—he took the only option he knew and left the room and Eragon and the words behind.

Murtagh didn't see Eragon again for a few weeks. Whether it was because he knew Murtagh didn't want to see him, or Murtagh was just good at avoiding him was unknown but appreciated.

During his Eragon-free days he found himself thinking a lot. Not that this was unusual because he tended to think a lot on a daily basis, but this time it was different because the subject he was thinking of was love.

Love. A four-letter word he usually avoided like it was the plague, or Galbatorix. Ironically, he couldn't stop thinking about it now. What was love really? Some sentimental form of lust he had seen young couples display? Or some deep unbound affection he had seen (and felt) from a parent to a child? And what about the love between friends? What made it different from the love you felt for a sibling? Were his feelings for Eragon one of a friend, a brother, or more?

I suppose the question is how important he is to me, Murtagh considered one day, sitting on the beach and watching the waves tumble in and then recede. The question was easy enough to come to but harder to figure out. How important was Eragon to him? And for that matter, what was he to Murtagh?

A friend, most definitely. He couldn't deny that anymore. A brother would be another one, though calling what they had a form of brotherhood was laughable. Companion would probably be another term and fellow ex-Rider if he wanted to get specific. And of course fellow hater of the color purple and almonds.

So, really, Eragon was an important person to him. The only important person to him that he had left at that point since the other two were dead and gone. But did that depth of importance extend to the level of love? Could his affection for Eragon possibly match up to the affection Eragon had for him?

Can you love him? his mind whispered, and he honestly didn't know for sure but he thought that maybe… maybe he already did.

He found Eragon leaning against the edge of a balcony overlooking the ocean the next day. He was staring down at the water with a slightly wistful expression, while idly humming some unknown tune. Murtagh watched him for a moment before walking over to him. He crossed his arms and leaned them against the stone balcony and looked out at the endless blue.

"Eragon," he greeted without looking at the other.

"Murtagh," Eragon greeted back, and though he couldn't see it he knew his brother was smiling.

There was a moment of silence between them but it wasn't strained or tense or uncomfortable. It was actually a calm and relaxing sort of atmosphere, and he found himself unconsciously letting down his guard and just unwinding.

I've always felt this way around Eragon, he realized suddenly with a strange jolt in his stomach. Ever since I first met him I've always felt… safer, and more at ease than I am with anyone else.

Well that was… insightful.

"Did you know I was going to get married a couple years ago?" Eragon commented out of nowhere, pulling him from his thoughts in a flash. He turned and just stared at his brother, wondering what the hell he was talking about.

"What?" he said oh-so intelligently.

"I was going to get married a few years back," Eragon repeated calmly—he's always so fucking calm, his mind noted irritably—not looking away from the ocean. "It was to that elf we saved, remember? Arya."

"Oh, yeah. Her." He could vaguely recall the woman from that first year he had met Eragon. He remembered black hair and a bruised back but that was about all. He had been a bit preoccupied trying to stay one step ahead of Galbatorix's forces while also keeping Eragon and himself alive.

"Yeah… her." Eragon got a rather sappy smile on his face as he recalled fond memories. "She was… so wonderful. Beautiful, smart, strong, wise, loyal… everything you could ever want in a woman. And I did want her; I wanted her more than anything in the world. And eventually I did get her and I loved her, Murtagh, like you wouldn't believe. I loved her so very much."

Something strange got stuck in his throat as he listened to Eragon's words. The way he looked and the way he spoke—happy, happy, when had he ever seen Eragon so happy? his mind gasped—made him feel physically ill.

"So… what happened? Why didn't you marry her?" The words fell out of his mouth without his consent and startled him for a moment.

Eragon didn't notice, too caught up in his memories. "Well, she got pregnant you see. When we found out we decided to get married that year. We were both so happy during that time… until reality caught up with us. Arya's home was attacked and her mother was killed and her people were either scattered or enslaved. I was gone and unable to return to her until nearly the end of the season. When I finally did get back I… I was too late."

Eragon's happy expression melted away and was replaced by the familiar one of grief. "Arya was totally devastated by the loss of her mother and city. She was like a zombie for days until one day she just… snapped. She went into a rage and began destroying everything around her. It took four of us to stop her and keep her from hurting herself. But we failed because somehow during her berserk she… she hurt our child and ended up going into labor early. Our son was born a few days later, stillborn. He was so small, Murtagh. I could hold him in one hand! But he was so beautiful. Soft, pale skin and long dark eyelashes. I think he was the most beautiful child I'd ever seen. When we buried him I made sure he had a lot flowers so he would know how much… how much we loved him."

Eragon eyes were watery but he seemed to refuse to let any tears fall. Murtagh watched him as he struggled with a pain he himself had never known.

"A few weeks after our son died Arya took her own life. She was so consumed by her grief that she couldn't stand living anymore. She left me a note explaining her reasons, her apology, and her love for me. I made sure she was buried next to our child," Eragon finished his story with a small smile. He wiped his eyes and let out a chuckle that sounded fake and empty.

"You know, it's funny how life turns out. For a long time I had this grand dream that I would end the war with everyone important to me still alive. I would then marry Arya and we would start a family while starting a new line of Riders with Saphira. But then Roran was killed and then Orik and Angela and Arya and on and on until there was no one left. My dream was destroyed and I was left with only Saphira and the bitter memories."

Eragon finally turned to face him, staring at him with soulful eyes. "And then, one day, I saw you. I saw you sitting at the edge of a cliff alone with this, this look on your face that I had never seen before. It was so determined, so strong, and just so damn beautiful. I never thought a person could look that way before. Seeing it changed me in a way I still don't understand. I just know that after I saw you that I had live through the war, and I had to see you again. You… You became my purpose, Murtagh. You are the reason that I live on even though I've lost Saphira and my family and my friends."

He didn't know what to say after hearing something like that. So instead he did what felt right, and reached out and pulled Eragon into a hug. Eragon froze for a minute before melting into the embrace and wrapping his arms around Murtagh's waist. He in turn tightened his hold around Eragon's shoulders and buried his face in thick brown hair.

"Eragon," he whispered, breathing in the smell of the sea and something else, something that was familiar but he couldn't place why. "Eragon, Eragon, Eragon. What am I going to do with you?"

Eragon let out a harsh laugh that turned into a sob as he buried his face in Murtagh's neck. "I don't know, gods above, I don't know! I just know that I love you and I need you to keep living because if you don't then I'll have no reason to keep living, and I know how selfish I am to ask this of you, but I can't help it because you're all I have left. So please don't hate me for this—"

Murtagh pulled back until he could see Eragon's face fully. He griped his brother's chin firmly, declared, "You talk too damn much," and then promptly kissed him.

Kissing Eragon when he was sober was very different from kissing Eragon when he was drunk. It was, admittedly, nicer and not quite as sloppy. He found Eragon's lips to be chapped but full and he tasted like—of course—apples.

But the thing that really made the kiss better was the emotions behind it. Murtagh had never been good at expressing himself with words—the lack of social interaction as a kid probably had something to do with it—so he had to rely on gestures instead. This kiss, while undeniably passionate, was stronger still with all the words and feelings that he could never tell right.

When he eventually pulled away (something he found he was reluctant to do) he found himself staring at a dazed Eragon. For a moment they just stared and blinked at each other before Eragon began to chuckle before progressing into a full out laugh.

"Eragon? You wanna let me in on the joke here?" he asked the giggling goon in his arms.

"You… you and me… we're so messed up," stuttered Eragon, shaking his head. "It's just seems… destined that we end up together."

He found that he agreed with that theory. They were both too fucked up and too fucking complicated to end up with anyone relatively sane. "Yeah. Yeah, looks like it was destiny."

Eragon's chuckles died down and he sighed deeply before looking up at Murtagh with his big (pretty) brown eyes. "So… how did it happen?"

He shrugged. "Don't know, actually. You've always affected me in a way no one else has before. At first I didn't like you; actually I hated you. But then I came here and got to know you, and I mean actually know you in a way I never knew someone before. And I guess eventually it turned into…" He waved a hand between the two of them as he trailed off at the end of his sentence.

Eragon nodded, automatically understanding in a way that only Thorn ever did. "I get it. Well now that you're not shutting yourself up like a clam, I have something I've been waiting to show you, and I think now would be a good time."

He arched an eyebrow as Eragon laced their fingers together and began dragging him into the maze of halls. "What is it? Something good I hope."

"Oh it is, trust me," replied Eragon, emphasizing the last two words like the giant dork he was. He rolled his eyes but allowed Eragon to continue dragging him around like an oversized ragdoll until they came to a room Murtagh had never seen before.

"Where are we?" he asked as Eragon opened the door and pulled him into a large and impressive bedroom. He noticed the large bed, the finely made desk, looming bookcase, the wide window, and knew it was Eragon's room.

"Why the hell did you get the king's room while I got stuck with the servant's one?" he demanded, feeling childishly annoyed.

Eragon laughed and turned his head back to stick his tongue out. "Because I found the place."

Murtagh found himself momentarily distracted by the pink tongue before the words kicked in, and he said, "Weak reason, pretty boy."

Eragon raised one hand and flipped him the bird before using the same hand to push open another door into a new room. This one was smaller and had only a table in the corner of the room and a chair placed next to a wide bed.

He froze the moment his eyes landed on the bed; or, rather, what was on the bed. In the middle, nestled in the middle of the torn blankets piled in some sort of quasi fabric igloo, were five glittering stones, each a different color. One was a deep, almost black shade of purple while another was an eye-blinding bright shade of silver. The others were a striking emerald green, a dazzling sapphire blue, and—oh gods, oh gods, oh gods, his mind began to chant—a painfully familiar blood red.

"Eragon," he rasped, gripping the slim hand in his tight enough that he was sure he cracked at least a few bones, "where did those come from?"

"They're the eggs of Saphira and Thorn," Eragon answered quietly, calmly leading him closer to the—nononononotpossibledreamdreamdreamthisHAStobeadream—dragon eggs. As he got closer he began to notice more details; like the little veins wrapped around the eggs and how small and fragile they looked in the gleaming sunlight.

"When?" he asked weakly, feeling like the air had been sucked out of him.

"Right before the final battle. Saphira… she didn't want to go into battle believing to be the last of her kind. Thorn… I don't if he agreed or if it was because Saphira was his mate, but he consented and they met and mated," explained Eragon.

He flinched when he heard that. "Thorn never told me…"

"He didn't want Galbatorix to know," Eragon said quickly. "He didn't even want to know if Saphira was carrying or not in fear of the king finding out and taking the eggs. That's why he didn't tell you, Murtagh. He was just trying to protect his children."

He could understand that; actually he did understand it, and knew if he had been in such a position then he would have done the same. But that still didn't ease the pain he felt knowing that Thorn left behind his legacy, and he didn't even know.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, not looking at the man still holding his hand.

Eragon sighed and leaned closer to wrap his other arm around Murtagh's waist. "Because I wanted to get you to like me so you would stay with me, and not just because of the eggs. I know it wasn't right and kind of cruel of me but I couldn't help it. I love you so much that I'll do anything to keep you with me."

It was a pretty asshole move for Eragon to pull, but Murtagh found himself forgiving his little brother because he knew he probably would've done the same thing. Leaning down slightly, he kissed Eragon's forehead, wordlessly forgiving him. Eragon sighed happily at his answer and pulled away. He tugged on the hand he was holding and slowly pulled it to rest it on the red egg.

The egg was warm and smooth in a way that was so damn familiar that something inside of him, something that was holding everything back, snapped, and it all came flooding out. Emotions, thoughts, memories—it all came hitting him at once with an intensity that sent him to his knees with a strangled cry.

Thorn's children—ThornThornThorn—some part of Thorn has lived on—sorrysorrysorry—I haven't completely lost him—I'msosorry

And Eragon, kind, understanding, beautiful, wonderful Eragon, just held him in his arms and kissed away all the things he had been hiding inside for so long.

"So what do we do with them?" Murtagh found himself asking Eragon much later after his embarrassing breakdown that he refused to think about in fear of losing whatever dignity he had left. Of course, in reality, his remaining dignity pretty much went out the window when he fell in love with his brother, but such details were unimportant in Murtagh's view.

"I don't know. Protect them until they hatch, I guess. To be honest, I don't really care to restart the legacy of the Riders," Eragon admitted to him with a guilty wince.

He blinked and looked up at Eragon from where he was resting in his brother's lap. "What? Seriously?"

Eragon nodded, running his fingers through Murtagh's hair in a soothing manner. "Yeah. I mean, I don't really want to inflict the pain of the separation between a Rider and dragon on anyone. Plus a lot of their rules and traditions were pretty backwards."

"Oh." He shrugged, dismissing the subject because he honestly didn't give a fuck what happened to the Rider's legacy. "That sounds good. When do you think they'll hatch?"

It was Eragon's turn to shrug. "I don't know. I guess when they're ready. I mean, I thought at first I would need to find their Riders to get them to hatch until I realized that dragons existed and hatched long before the Riders came around. So I guess we'll just wait."

"Sounds like a good plan," he agreed, leaning further back into Eragon's arms. His brother made a great pillow.

They were quiet for a long time before Eragon broke it by asking, "Did you ever finish that book I saw you reading? You know the one where the guy kept going through all these challenges to find this rumored city?"

He thought back and recalled the first book that Eragon saw him reading. "Yeah, I did."

"And did you like how it turned out?"

Murtagh thought back over the ending where the main character finally found the place he was looking for only for it to turn out to be death. At first he found the ending kind of disappointing, but now he found it kind of made sense. The character had lived his life facing many challenges; somehow knowing that at the end of it all he would find the paradise he sought.

He found, in a twisted kind of way, that he could relate to this. He had faced many trials in his life and overcame them all; not just because he was trying to survive like he claimed, but because in a small part of his mind he was secretly looking for something worth living for in life. And he did find it in the wake of death. If Thorn and Saphira and Galbatorix and Arya and Roran and so many others hadn't died then he would have never found Eragon.

Murtagh leaned up and kissed the corner of Eragon's mouth with a small grin.

"Yeah. Yeah I liked how everything turned out in the end."

And honestly, he really did.

Murtagh woke up the next morning with Eragon's hair in his mouth, and his blanket hijacked by the body next to him. He spat the hair out and wiped his mouth in disgust before pulling the blanket off of Eragon, and then pushed him off of the bed.

It woke Eragon up, who then began bitching at him and smacking him on the arm, while yanking the blanket back and wrapping it around himself. He ended up getting tangled in it, lost his balance, and fell back down on the floor.

Murtagh yelled back and laughed and lived on in a way he never thought he could.