Disclaimer: The characters of Eragon, Murtagh, and Selena belong to C. Paolini.
Warnings: Character death and incestual slash. Only T for a reason, though.
Extra warning: Very sad! I cried writing this, and I don't want anyone complaining that I did not put up enough warnings.
A/N: I know I said I wouldn't write anything for a while, but my muse got the better of me. This is just some little ficlet in a modern world setting, quite far away fromt the books. Family and relationship matters should become obvious in the story itself, I hope, but aren't that important anyways. All you need is love…
The First and Last Day of Spring
The moment Eragon got off the bus he noticed the sun breaking through the clouds, turning a so far grizzly spring day into one of radiant colors. Daffodils and crocus had been planted in every free patch of earth around the hospital entrance, and flower tubs were overflowing with primroses. Last but not least, the few trees and bushes allowed in the place were sprouting the first leaves, which dressed them in a shade of light green.
Involuntarily Eragon balled his right hand to a fist, scowling. Life was not meant to be beautiful anymore, not when it caused the person he loved most to suffer so much. But then his gaze fell on all the hospital patients in their bathrobes slowly making their way outside, smiling at the sun, and he reconsidered. Perhaps, he half wondered, half hoped, perhaps Murtagh would be fit enough to enjoy the sunlight himself this day if he took him out in a wheelchair. Some fresh air might be balm for the needle-tortured skin.
Just when he reached the entrance he recognized who was coming for the doors from the other side. He stopped, perplexed. "Mom?"
The glass doors slid open and Selena embraced her youngest, smiling. "Eragon!" She drew back a little while leaving her hands on her son's arms. Her face was shining as if she wanted to compete with the sun. "Murtagh called the office, that's why I'm here so early. He's feeling better today, can you believe it? Better!"
Eragon's heart made a leap and he felt the corners of his mouth twitch upwards. "What? Better? How is that possible?"
Selena shook her head. "I don't know, neither does he nor the doctors – but it's true! He smiled at me, Eragon!" A tear of joy made its way down her cheek and she swiftly wiped it away. "When was the last time he smiled? Maybe there is hope, after all? No one expected this; you know how it is supposed to get worse every day, but now… Maybe a miracle has happened!"
Eragon's smile disappeared. There was no hope for Murtagh, they all knew this, had known for almost a year. It was terminal cancer that determined their lives these days, not preparation for taking the dark-haired back home. "Mom!" he scolded, but then he caught an expression on her face and suddenly knew with horrible clarity that she needed this tiniest of hopes, needed it to survive. "Mom," he began anew, far softer this time. "We shouldn't draw any early conclusions, remember? You go home now. I'll see to him. Maybe I can even take him outside if he feels so well?" He reached out and stroked her cheek. She had aged tremendously ever since the diagnosis two years ago.
Selena nodded, still smiling. "A wonderful idea! You'll see, he's getting better!" She took one of her son's hands into her own and squeezed it in farewell. "See you at home."
Eragon only nodded and stayed where he was for a while, patients, guests, and hospital personnel passing him by. His mother had seemed so convinced, he thought, and certainly Murtagh would not have been able to fake a smile with her? Should he really be feeling better?
With long strides Eragon entered the hospital, the well known scent immediately enclosing him, causing goose bumps all over his skin. And yet, on this day it did not came to rest heavily on his shoulders right away. Murtagh was seemingly having a good day, and was not spring the season of renewal anyway?
Eagerly Eragon entered the well-known maze that was the hospital, nodding to almost every nurse and doctor on the way. After three hundred and twenty five days of continuous visits from him at their workplace, they knew him all. Coming to this place every day after school and on both mornings and evenings on weekends and holidays had become the sole reason for his existence, because as long as the center of his universe was here, he would be, too.
After long minutes of walking he finally reached a small, silent hallway. He entered a restroom and thoroughly washed his hands, then made his way to the last door on the right. The sun should be shining straight through the windows right now, he thought, before bracing his heart and turning the door knob.
Even after all this time the first sight was never easy.
A quiet beeping greeted Eragon first, and automatically his eyes darted to the monitor displaying Murtagh's heart rate. Eighty, he read, breathing out. A normal rate. Good. Then he looked down from the rest of the machinery which did not mean too much to him to the pale, shrunken figure propped up slightly on the bed, and his heart melted.
Very slowly Murtagh had turned his head to him, his eyes sunk deep into their sockets. On seeing Eragon, however, they lit up, and beneath the respiratory mask the bluish lips were actually forming a frail smile. "Eragon," he whispered, feebly raising one hand both in greeting and in asking for contact.
"Murtagh!" Eragon hurried to the bed, discarding his backpack and jacket on the way and grabbing a stool when he passed it. He placed it next to Murtagh and sat down, very carefully taking the hand offered. It was cold, colder even than he remembered, but it was not the time yet to speak. For a while he just sat there, eyes locked with Murtagh's, and emotions that did not needed to be articulated were flowing freely between them: love, trust, missing, pain, and again the all-dominating love.
It was Murtagh who broke the eye contact when he looked over to the window. "It's so beautiful today," he said in his raspy, weak voice, which, to Eragon, was still the most beautiful sound on earth. "I did not see the sun for so long… Except when you're there, of course." If possible, the smile deepened.
"Flatterer!" Eragon joked without much laughter, then turned serious. "I met mom on my way here…"
Something changed in Murtagh's eyes, Eragon thought. "Ah." It looked as if the light always turned on just for him was dimmed a little.
"She said you were feeling better today…" he prompted anew.
Murtagh took a deep breath and nodded. "Good. I told her I did."
A shiver ran down Eragon's spine and he swallowed. "You're not." It was not a question. Murtagh always worded things very precisely, and he had not said 'I am'.
Murtagh shook his head and reached with his free hand to remove the respiratory mask, struggling when it caught behind an ear.
"Murtagh!" Eragon exclaimed, shocked, but helped him nonetheless. "You shouldn't take that off! You need the oxygen to breathe properly, and-"
It was barely more than a breath but made Eragon shut up at once. "What is going on?" he asked eventually.
"There is enough air left for me to say what I have to. Please, tell me, was mom happy?"
Hazel eyes bore into his, and for the second time that day Eragon knew what answer was wanted of him. This time, however, he could provide the truth. "Yes, she was very happy when I met her."
Murtagh nodded, happy as well. Then his smile faded and he gave Eragon what would have been a stern look had his face not been that of a ghost. "You take good care of her, do you?"
Eragon's blood ran cold. "Of course, Murtagh, why do you ask?" He knew the answer would come to him if he only thought about it, but suddenly his mind had stopped working.
With his free hand Murtagh pointed at his side. "Come here, will you?" Helplessly he tried to move over a little, but failed. When his eyes met Eragon's again, his were full of shame and even a little anger.
Eragon was frozen to the spot. "I can't, and you know that! What if I carry any virus, or germs, or bacteria or anything?"
"There's no incubation time short enough to kill me now," Murtagh murmured, then tried again to move, and again failed. When his forehead crinkled into a frown, Eragon knew he was fighting tears to escape.
Unexpectedly, a sob broke free from Murtagh's chest, but then he had himself under control once more. "Lay with me one last time, please?"
His mind still refusing to draw conclusions, Eragon's heart and soul knew it was urgent. Swiftly he stood up and walked to the other side of the bed, as on the one he had been sitting the infusion was connected to Murtagh's arm, and he did not want it to be in the way.
He leaned over on the bed and ever so carefully lifted Murtagh and placed him a little closer to the edge. Had anyone told him a few years ago that one day he would be capable of this, he would have called him an idiot. Murtagh had always been stronger than he was, more muscular, and heavier. More than once he had pinned Eragon to the wall with little to no effort, having his way with him, and telling that a role reversal might be a great thing for some, but he would have nothing of it in their relationship.
But Murtagh had long stopped caring about such minor details, as had Eragon. Time was too precious.
Knowing that what he was doing was forbidden, Eragon lay down on his side somewhat awkwardly. One hand found his way on the other's bony chest and caressed it through the thin hospital pajamas.
Murtagh was still not satisfied. "No," he protested quietly. "Not like that. Could you roll me on my side as well?"
"Murtagh!" Eragon was already worried about the other's lungs without the extra oxygen, but the requested position would make breathing even harder. "What… what if a nurse finds us like this?" He had a feeling that his own reasoning would not even be considered.
Murtagh shook his head, one strand of his hair falling into his face. "I don't care, and neither will she."
"What? Why?" Eragon demanded harshly. "Stop talking cryptically, Murtagh!"
For a few seconds Murtagh just looked at him, looking different, looking decided. Finally he said simply, "I'm dying, Eragon."
He was not talking about the general, irrevocable condition he was in, but about the moment, and Eragon's world stopped turning.
The shaky little framework on which he had based his entire existence for so many months – Murtagh's death being far away, everyone having to die at one point, spending many more wonderful days, et cetera – came crushing down as if hit by a mountain. One breath after the next caught in his throat, and his heart made some irregular beats before stopping altogether for an instant.
"No!" Eragon frantically shook his head, while Murtagh only watched him, pity and sadness in his eyes. "No!" Not knowing what else to do, Eragon trashed with this feet against the lower end of the bed, sending the metal bars rattling. "No!" he nearly shouted a third time.
If he was honest, however, it did not come as much of a surprise. Only the pain was more than he thought humanly possible to endure.
"Hush," Murtagh whispered some time later when Eragon had calmed down a little but was still muttering incoherent fragments of sentences. "There isn't too much time left, so will you please roll me to my side?"
Without further ado Eragon did as told, flinching when every other fraction of movement he inflicted on Murtagh's body caused the older one to groan. Eragon could almost feel death approaching, which made his hands tremble and his head swim. But eventually he managed and lay down again, now facing Murtagh, one hand connected to the other's once more.
A satisfied expression slowly spread on Murtagh's face. After a while the smile was back, and it seemed to build a thin wall which shielded him from his fate a little longer. "Don't cry, my love, please! This is not something to shed tears about."
Only now did Eragon notice that his face was wet, but he knew it was pointless to wipe it dry at this point. The effect would not last long. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Hundreds of reasons came to his mind to defend his crying, but eventually he only said what it all boiled down to. "I just love you so."
"I know," Murtagh whispered back. "And that's why I don't want you to be sad." He squeezed Eragon's hand, or at least that was what Eragon thought he was trying to do. "We've seen this coming, haven't we? And haven't we used the time wisely?"
Eragon only nodded, because he needed to be strong for his brother and did not trust his voice anymore.
"Right, so no need to make a big fuzz. I'd rather see another one of your beautiful smiles."
Against his will, Eragon's mouth complied readily, and the skull-like face opposing him mirrored the expression.
"That's what I fell in love with," Murtagh whispered, nostalgia briefly clouding his eyes as if he was looking back on a long life. "Don't you think it's ironic?" he asked a moment later, displaying a long forgotten smirk.
"What is?" Eragon asked, trying to keep the tears from his voice.
"All those religious bastards out there, saying that loving your brethren is what you should do – unless, of course, your brethren are literally that." The smirk deepened, buying Murtagh another moment of time. "I thought they could go and kiss my ass, and then all you and I had was one week." The smirk vanished and his whisper became even quieter, desperate somehow. "One tiny little week of undisturbed love before God stepped in and knocked me out."
Eragon swallowed hard. "Those matters aren't connected, Murtagh. The disease had started long before the diagnosis."
"My love had likewise started long before that."
A new flood of tears attacked Eragon. He reached out for Murtagh's face and gently ran a thumb along the prominent cheekbone, gaining some time regain power over his voice. "Just imagine how happy Mrs. Fraser would be hearing you've become a believer on your old days, talking about God and such," he tried to joke, referring to their very Christian neighbor.
A light, interrupted wheezing was what he received in return. After a moment of shock Eragon realized Murtagh was chuckling. "I'm not religious!" he finally said as forcefully as possible. "And if I still go to Heaven or Hell, I'll kick either God's or the devil's ass because they have taken me away from you!"
"Don't go!" Eragon blurted out. "Don't leave me!"
"I'm so sorry, Eragon," Murtagh said weakly, several tears having found their way to his face as well. "I am so sorry!"
Eragon shook his head, wanting to deny the inevitable. "There is no life without you!"
Murtagh reached out with one hand and placed it on Eragon's heart. "You won't be alone, my love. Remember that I'll always be with you in your heart. Always! And wherever I will end up, I'll watch over you." He wiped his face on his pillow and tried to smile again. "You're so strong. You carry my blood, and you carry my love, and you will manage! Promise me that you will manage!"
Eragon could not go on anymore. Long repressed sobs broke free and his whole body began shaking. "Anything! I will promise you anything… just don't go!"
Murtagh's once strong hands slowly picked up Eragon's, holding them as tightly as he could. "Always remember the time we had and you'll be fine. That God guy up there was at least kind enough to let me be fit for a year. Wasn't it so wonderful, Eragon? All those days we had, and all those nights? Remember those!"
Eragon nodded. Of course he would do as told – what other option was there? Another sob shook his chest, but he kept his lips pressed together and no sound escaped.
Murtagh's sad smile turned into a real one. "Just like I will remember. And I'll also remember how you came here every day since that stupid decline on my birthday last year. Every day! You were the light of all those days, Eragon, my light! I love you!"
The pressure of the other's hands holding his lessened and Eragon's heart began jumping around in panic. "Murtagh," he breathed, feeling time slip away. "Can I kiss you?"
A look of relief spread on Murtagh's face. "I didn't dare asking," he confessed. "I know what I look like these days, there's even grey in my hair – okay, maybe that's fitting." Very briefly he was amused. "I mean, what with having grey hair when you're dying and such. But then, the rest of me-"
"Shut up," Eragon murmured, leaning forward to stop the unusual tirade of words that showed how much Murtagh was worried of not being up to par. Cautiously at first he brushed his lips against Murtagh's, but when the cold mouth of the other hungrily opened up for him, he put some more force into the kiss as well. Surprisingly strong and demanding was the tongue that met his, and Eragon relished the intensive, long missed contact – until he realized that it was Murtagh's final struggle to keep death at bay. Within moments, the older one's energy was spent. One last time Eragon ran his tongue over Murtagh's mouth, then he leaned back to find those mesmerizing hazel eyes fixed on him. "To me, you're the most handsome of them all," Eragon told him, meaning it from the bottom of his heart.
Murtagh smiled blissfully. "My brother." He took a deep, hoarse breath. "My lover. My love. My life."
Like a mantra Eragon repeated after him. "My brother, my lover, my love, my life." After a pause he added, "I love you!"
Murtagh nodded. "I love you, too." His breathing became shallower, but still he was smiling. With considerable effort he craned his neck and focused unsteadily on the window, then his gaze found Eragon's again. "It's so beautiful today," he whispered. "But you've always been the brightest sun in my universe." His hand still intertwined with Eragon's, the smile froze on his face as the last ounce of air left his body.
The heart rate monitor stopped beeping.
Soon people could be heard running outside, coming closer, and only then did Eragon untangle his hand and reach out to close the beloved eyes. Knowing very well that Murtagh would have laughed about it, he still made the sign of the cross and sent a prayer to God. Of course Murtagh would go to Heaven, Eragon knew. And probably make it a fun place to be.
He could not wait.