Wow. I honestly have no idea how this one happened. Sorry if it's a little fast, dearies. And I beg for forgiveness for my lack of updates or anything else -- I've been busy. My classwork caught up with me.
Disclaimer: I do not own Eragon and make no profit from writing this, nor am I affiliated with anyone who is.
Warnings: slash, incest, lime-ish scene, and swearing.
Eragon could see the corpse every night in his mind's eye.
In death, skin was marble-white, cool and stiff to the touch. Dark hair was matted with blood, the ugly crimson clashing horribly against black clothes and pale lips. The idea that corpses looked like they were sleeping was a myth; hazel eyes remained wide open, blankly accusing. Closing his eyes was an invitation for the image to appear, and it left him screaming or sobbing every time. Arya would always wake immediately, wrapping her slender arms around him and making soothing noises. It did no good until the night she whispered, "I went to see Solembum."
Werecats were mysterious creatures.
"There might be a way you could..."
She pressed a small object into his hand – cold, stone, round. He didn't ask her how long she'd had it, how many weeks ago her talk with Solembum had been, how long she'd waited and watched and hoped he'd get over it without… something like this.
He didn't care.
A few weeks after Durza's death, Murtagh was more than a little drunk.
But screw it. Why not? No one was here to care much. Eragon and Saphira were on another scouting mission – they wouldn't be back for three days. Ajihad was off being diplomatic to the dwarves. Nasuada… who knew? And Arya – frankly, Murtagh didn't care to talk to her. He scowled, remembering his last conversation with Eragon, which had featured lengthy descriptions of Arya's sculpted eyebrows and Murtagh finally throwing something at him to make him shut up.
He tried not to remember how after Eragon had left, he'd spent that particular night very firmly not thinking of Eragon's passionate, hazy expression and his fervently moving lips.
Everyone else was still celebrating the big victory, although it had been nearly a month. I'm just celebrating with beer, Murtagh decided, taking another drink. The tavern – a new addition to the Varden – was relatively quiet. He frowned when he found his mug depressingly empty, and gestured for the bartender to bring him another. The man was busy gaping over Murtagh's shoulder. A rap on the counter made him jump, and scowling, he served Murtagh another.
"Cheers," he muttered to himself when it came. He took a swig.
He choked on it. Coughing, he set his drink down. "Eragon," he exclaimed, turning around in his seat, "don't do that!"
He stopped when he saw the state the Rider was in. Eragon's hair was tangled and too long; exhaustion showed as shadows in and under his eyes. "What happened to you?" he asked, surprised.
Eragon stared at him blankly.
Murtagh frowned. "Are you okay?"
Eragon shook his head. "I'm fine," he muttered, not moving. His gaze never left Murtagh. "I just… it's been a while."
"You love me, right?" Arya asked him one night, about a week before she gave him the artifact. She spoke in the Ancient Language, as they always did these days, ever since Galbatorix's defeat and Murtagh's funeral. The bare honesty was refreshing sometimes, and it'd become habit.
Eragon nodded, burying his face in her dark hair. She was beautiful, perfect, lovely; why wouldn't he love her? But he didn't say the words out loud. "Do you love me?" he asked in return.
She nodded, but like him, didn't say it out loud.
You couldn't lie in the Ancient Language, after all.
Murtagh snorted. "It's only been two days." He patted the empty seat next to him. "C'mon, Rider. Show the nice people who are staring at you that you're just a normal person – have a drink."
"Yeah," Eragon said. "Okay." He sat, tense and still staring.
Murtagh gave him a one-shouldered hug. I really am drunk, he realized. "Relax," he chuckled. He passed Eragon his own drink and called for the bartender to bring another. "Have some fun. Did something go wrong?"
"Yes. Very." Eragon's hands were shaking. He didn't take a drink of the beer.
"Oh," Murtagh said. "Is that why you're back early?"
"Your scouting mission."
Eragon's eyes became unfocused. "Something went wrong," he repeated. "That's why I'm back."
Murtagh didn't press him. The mixture of emotions Eragon was giving off – grief, exhaustion, relief, and strangled happiness – were unnerving. "Have a drink," he insisted as the bartender set one down, giving the Varden's new hero an admiring look. He pushed the beer into Eragon's hands and reclaimed his old one, which Eragon hadn't touched. "Go ahead, Shadeslayer. To your victory over Durza." He raised his mug in a toast.
Eragon smiled a little and took a drink. "The future looks bright," Murtagh said, patting him. Damn it, he'd forgotten how sappy he after a few drinks. "Doesn't it, hero?"
Eragon's smile vanished.
"Something wrong?" Murtagh drawled.
"It's good to see you again," Eragon said quietly. "That's all."
As a child, Eragon had loved to listen to Brom the bard. There were stories of beautiful places, of wonderful people. "There was once a man whose beard reached his toes," Brom told one of his wide-eyed crowds. Eragon had listened with unwavering attention. "A man who ran so fast he went backwards, until he was a boy again!"
"That not possible," Eragon had accused.
Brom had just chuckled. "Of course it is. It's all relative, boy, so long as you go fast enough. You just have to remember to come back. There are tales of men who refused to and wandered the ages forever, alone and forgotten."
"What if you weren't alone?" Eragon had tried to ask, but Brom didn't hear him.
Murtagh cradled his single beer for another hour, not wanting to get so drunk that he forgot the evening. Who knew when he would see Eragon again? And spending time with Eragon was fun. Very fun. Especially when Eragon would spar with him, until sweat gleamed on his tanned skin; or when Eragon stretched, muscles clearly defined; or when they bathed after sparring, Eragon pulling off his clothes and slipping into hot water, groaning in satisfaction as –
– and those thoughts had gone quite far enough. This is how you screwed things up with Tornac, Murtagh reminded himself. You let yourself think about him in a non-friendly manner, you got drunk, let it slip, and after rejecting you, he died. "We're friends, right?" he asked Eragon.
Eragon had drank a little, too. He looked adorably confused. "I guess," he said. Wistfully, he added, "I really missed you. Can we talk?"
"We are talking."
"In private," Eragon said. "That's why I came back, you know. To talk to you."
"You left your scouting mission three days early to talk to me? Aww." He chuckled. "How sweet."
Eragon shrugged. "No. I'm still on the scouting mission. Well, not me-me, obviously, but the other…" He trailed off. "Yes. I came back to talk to you."
"In private." Murtagh's mouth went dry. Was Eragon saying… no. The Rider obviously had no idea what he was saying, or what he was talking about, if he was insisting he was still on the scouting mission. "Eragon, are you okay?"
"No." Eragon's voice quavered. "I haven't been for a long time."
"The abyss between life and death is one that cannot be breached," was one of the first rules Brom had taught him. "Only a fool would try, and that fool would die, his magic drained away into a bottomless pit."
Yet the day of the last battle – the day things went so horribly, irreparably wrong – Eragon had thought nothing more than how to reverse things.
"Saphira, please," Eragon had sobbed, clutching her. "Don't – " But her blood, thick and hot, kept pouring out, and he was too weak from battling the king and Murtagh to stop it. Yards away, a huge crimson form lay still; Saphira's dimming eyes were trained on it. "Please," he choked out, trying to turn her gaze, but she wouldn't move. It felt like his own blood trickling away, his own grief as half of him lay dying.
Saphira's eyes never closed. They remained open and blank, fixed on Thorn's still form.
"Let's go, shall we?"
Murtagh stood up a little unsteadily; he helped Eragon out of his seat. Eragon looked around the room with wide eyes, seeming to notice the stares he was attracting for the first time. His grip on Murtagh's arm tightened. Murtagh patted him comfortingly and led him out of the tavern, but as soon as they were out, Eragon hissed, "Give me your cloak."
"Can't be seen by too many people," Eragon said. "Can't let anyone know I'm here. I'm not back yet."
"Eragon – "
"I just wanted to talk to you," Eragon said almost desperately. Murtagh didn't know what to expect from this new, crazy Eragon, but he most certainly expecting Eragon to embrace him fiercely. "Missed you so much – oh, god, I just – just wanted to say I'm sorry. I called you a traitor, you told me it wasn't your fault you betrayed us and I didn't believe you – I believe you now, honest – "
"You want to go somewhere private."
Did Eragon understand what that meant?
"Yes," Eragon said. "To talk."
"It was the Grey Folk that bound magic to the Ancient Language," Angela told him once. "Yet legends state that they found some forms of magic too dangerous for such minor restrictions and contained them instead in objects, which were then hidden and guarded for all eternity."
"Where did you hear this legend?" Eragon had asked.
"The better question is, who could possibly know it and choose to tell me?"
Eragon had fallen silent.
"How old is Solembum?" he'd finally asked.
Angela had smiled.
Eragon's back hit the door of his room with a 'thump' the moment it closed. Murtagh pressed against him roughly, claiming the Rider's mouth with a kiss. Eragon stiffened in shock but then whimpered, arching up against him, and Murtagh groaned. Oh, fuck – he'd never even imagined this, never allowed himself to fantasize, yet here it was, far better than he ever could have dreamed. Eragon was just as hot and needy and fierce.
Murtagh deepened the kiss, loving how Eragon tasted. "Ever done this before?" he asked when they broke apart.
"With Arya. No one else," Eragon said. He shivered as Murtagh's hand brushed across his chest, whining a little as his hand came in contact with little hardened nubs.
"Really? Didn't think you two were that close yet," Murtagh said, trying to keep the jealously out of his voice. It failed in part, but Eragon didn't seem to notice. "I've never done this with a guy before," he added, brushing his fingers over Eragon's nipples once more. He was pleased to hear Eragon let out a pant – so nipples worked for both guys and girls. Huh.
"No," Eragon gasped, swatting his hands away. "Need to – need to talk – Murtagh – "
"Later," Murtagh said. He pinned Eragon's wrists to the door, and while the Rider probably could have gotten free if he'd struggled hard enough, Eragon just groaned and bucked against him. Unsure if this was resistance or encouragement, Murtagh forced a knee in between Eragon's legs and rocked forward. Oh, yes, Eragon was hard. Shuddering in pleasure, Murtagh placed an open-mouthed kiss on his neck and whispered, "Tell me you want this."
Eragon whimpered, beginning to roll his hips forward into Murtagh's thrusts. "Didn't – " he said brokenly, "didn't come here to – to – just wanted to talk, I never – "
"Never?" The word stung, because Murtagh had always wanted this, in a tiny, ignored little corner of his mind. Ever since he'd first seen Eragon, bound and helpless before his Ra'zac captors. He'd wanted Eragon helpless for him, bare and wanting it so badly it hurt – because it did hurt, so badly, so very badly that it was all Murtagh could do at that very moment to keep up the slow pace and not rip Eragon's clothes off.
"Just hold it and think of when," Arya said. "You can go any time you want as long as you don't interfere."
"No meeting your past self, and preferable anyone you know. You can watch them, but that's it. Change nothing. Kill no one. Speak not a word."
"What? Then what's the point of – "
"You can see him again. That's it. He's dead, Eragon." She squeezed his shoulder gently. "Just remember that. Don't talk to him. Solembum is placing a great deal of trust in you by allowing you to use this."
Werecats knew better than to trust a human to use restraint.
He kissed her. "I won't talk to him."
"Think of when," she whispered.
He closed his eyes and let the images come.
"Didn't come back for this," Eragon groaned. "N-never meant to… you don't know…"
"I know what I want," Murtagh said. He let go of one wrist and slipped a hand between them, massaging Eragon's hard cock through his pants.
"Murtagh," Eragon choked out, bucking into his grip. "No – you don't – we're br– "
"Tell me if you want this." Murtagh's voice took on a desperate edge. "I know I want it, Eragon; just fucking tell me if you do! Don't lie to me."
Eragon groaned and shoved him back. Murtagh stumbled away, horror drilling a hole in his heart. Eragon really didn't want it. He'd just pinned his straight best friend to a wall and tried to have sex with him, and Eragon really didn't want it. Denial – this couldn't happen! – wrenched his gut. He averted his eyes, praying Eragon would just leave.
But faster than he'd thought possible, he was being slammed into the bed, Eragon above him. Hands fumbled across every inch of his skin reverently, leaving his gasping and hard with want. It was all moving too quickly, but not nearly quickly enough – what if it stopped? No, if they sped up enough, time would stop, Murtagh was sure of it – they just had to go faster. This couldn't end now that it had finally begun. Murtagh dragged Eragon down to him, kissing him furiously. "Please," he begged when they parted. "Tell me you want it."
"Just give me some time to think," Eragon panted. His kissed again.
But no, they didn't have any time to spare, they had to speed up and if Eragon thought about it he'd stop and it was time that had to stop if they were to keep going, which meant he couldn't possibly give Eragon a moment to think because they hadn't a moment to spare because –
"Missed you so much," Eragon said, trailing open-mouthed kisses down his throat. Together they managed to get his shirt off, and Eragon gazed down at Murtagh's broken and desperate body with something like grief. There were tears running down his cheeks and he leaned down to kiss Murtagh's bare chest. "It's been so very long… months – "
"I'm right here," Murtagh said, hoarse and trembling beneath him. His squeezed his eyes shut as Eragon rocked against him, and he felt Eragon shaking his head. "I'm here as long as you need me." Needing more contact, more anything, he slid his hands under Eragon's shirt, feeling lean muscle and smooth skin. Eragon sighed in shaky relief, relaxing against him.
Murtagh's eyes widened in shock. He shoved Eragon off the bed.
Eragon tumbled off. Murtagh reached up, fingers scrambling for a knife he kept hidden on the bed frame just in case. Before Eragon could get up, Murtagh rolled over after him an straddled his ass, pinning his arms in the small of his back. He pressed the knife against Eragon's throat. "What the hell?" Eragon exclaimed struggling.
"Eragon has a scar on his back," Murtagh said quietly.
"Can I take people with me?" Eragon asked.
Arya blinked, then nodded. "Yes, but… you want me to… or is there someone else who…?" She trailed off, her emerald eyes widening in realization. Eragon averted his gaze. "You can't do that," she insisted. "It would change everything. If you took him back here, he'd just be executed as a traitor anyw– "
"Not here, then. Maybe farther back, or farther forward."
"To what end? He'd be out of place, alone."
"I could stay with him."
Arya's expression became horrified.
"You can't just take a person out of the time stream, Eragon," Arya said helplessly. "Interfering changes things. Besides, the world needs you right now. What about me? What about everyone else?"
Eragon swallowed. "Yeah. I guess you're right."
"What are you?" Murtagh demanded, voice shaking.
Murtagh pressed the knife harder against Eragon's – no, the thing's neck. "No, you're not," he said. Oh, god, he thought wildly. I almost had sex with this thing. It could've killed me! And Eragon – "Where's Eragon? If you hurt him – if you killed him – "
Not-Eragon swallowed. "Murtagh, listen to me." Was that fear? Murtagh hoped so. The damn thing had every right to fear him. Murtagh was going to kill it. "I am Eragon. I'm just not the Eragon you thought I was. I'm from… elsewhere."
"Don't lie to me," Murtagh hissed. The knife bit a thin line of blood into not-Eragon's skin.
"I'm not," said not-Eragon helplessly. "I just…" He went limp. "I missed you," he whispered.
Murtagh's hands shook. Damn it! That tone of voice; hopeless and grief-stricken. It was affecting him against his will. It's not Eragon, he told himself. Except – maybe – "Prove it," he said.
"Your father is Morzan, and he scarred your back."
Murtagh snorted. "Nice try. There's probably only two or three people that know what, and you're right, Eragon's one of them, but you have easily found that out from him if you captured him and raped his mind." The thought was agonizing just to voice. Please let him still be alive.
"Then how am I supposed to prove that I'm him?"
"Fuck if I know," Murtagh said cruelly.
"You named your horse after your dead mentor."
"Still proves nothing."
"Red is your favorite color."
The thing shuddered. "Selena was your mother."
Murtagh froze. "Eragon doesn't know that," he growled. "Congratulations. You've just proved that you're a monster Galbatorix sent. Now tell me where Eragon is."
"I don't know it yet," not-Eragon said. "Or, I didn't. I do now, later on, but this is before that."
"Where's Eragon, damn it!" Murtagh exploded.
"Miles away, safe and sound on a scouting mission."
"What are you saying?"
"I came back to see you," maybe-Eragon said. "This is the past, where you're still alive."
The knife clattered onto the floor.
Murtagh smiled bitterly. "Za'roc should have gone to Morzan's eldest son, not his youngest. It is mine by right of birth."
"It can't be," Eragon said.
"I never told you my mother's name, did I? And you never told me yours. Sorry, dearest little brother, but it's true. We're mirror images of one another."
"We're nothing alike," Eragon spat. "I don't have a scar on my back anymore."
Murtagh flinched as if struck. His expression hardened. "So be it, brother. I take my leave of you."
Murtagh scrambled away. "What are you?" he demanded again, but this time it was his own voice that was fearful. Maybe-Eragon pushed himself upright and turned towards him, hesitant.
"Eragon," definitely-Eragon repeated.
Murtagh broke. "How?" he whispered. "There's two of you?"
"Yes." Eragon – because, yes, it really was Eragon – was hesitant, clearly struggling with how to word it or whether or not to say it. "The past me and the current me. Or, the current me and the future me, from your point of view."
"A-and I…" Murtagh swallowed hard. I'm dead? "How?"
"You were killed during the final battle. You turned traitor – you helped Galbatorix. You had no choice." His voice cracked. "Neither did we."
"I'm dead. I die? No, no, that can't be…" Murtagh shook his head frantically. "That's not possible! No, I endure. I always do. No matter what."
"Even if it meant serving an evil king and betraying everyone you loved, yes, I know," Eragon said. He sounded tired.
Murtagh flinched. "I, what?"
Eragon shook his head, resigned and pained. "It's nothing."
"But… you really are from…" Murtagh swallowed, hard. "You're from the future? Prove it. How do I know you're not just trying to confuse me, or drive me insane?" It can't be true! I can't die. Please, I can't die. But Eragon just looked at him helplessly, not even trying to prove such an impossible thing. But Murtagh knew. The person before him was definitely Eragon, but also far too changed to be the Eragon of now. This Eragon was more mature, grief etched in the lines of his face and strength in the scars on his skin. Then came the most terrible thought:
He's telling the truth.
"What else happens in the future?" Murtagh asked, frantic. "Does Galbatorix win? How? Where's Saphira – does she know you're here? Who, who are you with?" Because that was the most important thing. Had Eragon ever been his, and who had Eragon now?
Eragon flinched. "Arya." The name was spoken like a regretful prayer.
"That's why you didn't want to do anything with me? Because you were with her," Murtagh said. His cheeks flushed. "If any of this is true – look, I didn't know, okay? I just assumed you were my Eragon, so you can go ahead and leave now." It was agonizingly, to have something he'd wanted for so long made his for the briefest of moments, only for time to pass and that moment shatter. But he could bear it – he could bear it, so long as Eragon would just leave. Having the Rider continue to just stand there – the forbidden fruit, dangled so temptingly – was excruciating.
"That's not why I…," Eragon said helplessly. "You don't know that we're… we, we're… you turned traitor, and then when you came back you told me that…" He shook his head. "I mean, it was good. I, I liked it when you kissed me." The idea seemed to terrify him. "But you don't know that we're br– "
Murtagh watched him with hopeful eyes.
Eragon stared at him for a long, hard moment. Finally, he sucked in his breath, something in his expression breaking.
"It's nothing," he said quietly.
Murtagh's mind whirled. What to believe? Was this real? There were so many things he wanted to say – I don't want to die. Oh, please, don't let me die and do you want me? or I would never betray you. The words choked on themselves, tumbling together and paralyzing his tongue. He opened his mouth to speak, but what came out was:
"Can you take people with you?"
Eragon looked up. The emotions in his eyes were infinite, and infinitely painful – hope, frustration, denial, hatred, desperation, need – and something a little more, maybe something Murtagh wasn't quite ready to acknowledge. He was prepared for a refusal, or an explanation that no, it wasn't possible. Eragon didn't want him. He could tell from the way that Eragon finally slumped, and then –
Eragon rose off the bed, pulling something tiny out of his pocket. He clasped Murtagh's hand, and Murtagh felt it against his palm – cold, stone, round. He yanked Eragon closer.
"Think of when," Eragon whispered.
Murtagh closed his eyes and let the images come.