Author's Note: I own nothing, merely the urge to express myself through characters and writing.

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She loved him from the moment he touched her mind, because she could feel his soul. Underneath it all, he was so sweet, so selfless, so good, not a single hurtful thought, so how could she not love him? She spent her childhood raised in the High Court of Du Weldenvarden and seventy years repenting for her foolishness, her selfishness, her lack of foresight by serving other, lesser—no, not lesser, those were exactly the thoughts she tried to eradicate with all this time—races, but she still couldn't match his natural goodness.

Then she realized he was a human, and all the hope that had bubbled up drained, away, leaving her flat and lifeless.

I am a Rider and a friend! he called out in her own language, a breath of fresh air to hear it spoken again, and a wake up call, for she realized she had been killing him. She chastised herself. Was she doomed only to hurt the ones she loved?

She would look out for him, and protect him, but no more than that of a friend, or any other person she owed a life-debt to. Not that she had ever owed anyone her life before, save Faolin. She had loved him, too, loved him as a brother and more than a brother, a kindred spirit, a—

No, it would do her no good to think of him, not now, after he was gone. She could only look to the future, and extend the hands of purely platonic friendship to this new Rider. After all, he would soon become so enmeshed in politics that he would have no true friends.

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He may have been human, but he certainly could fight well. She knew it the moment their blades crossed on the training field—even though he was tired, after doing so much magic, he still had the energy to spar her with certain energy that she had never felt before, not even with her elf trainers.

With them, it was always a cool, logical exercise. There was never that tension. She had never felt so alive, so passionate, as she had when she danced with Eragon with their blades and their bodies.

Then fighting Durza, even knowing his skill, the thought that he wouldn't prevail, it muffled the side of her that thought clearly. She shattered the sapphire, not even caring about the elves', or even the Varden's relationship with the dwarves, because she couldn't let him die. Not after he had saved her. Not when he was so good.

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The trip to Du Weldenvarden was pure agony to her. Imagining how her mother would receive her. What the elves would say about the new human rider. How many might expect her to woo him to secure their alliance. The potential women interested in him for the power he presented. The elves interested in her for the throne she would inherit. She was not ready to be thrust back into court politics, not ready to face her mother again, whom she had hurt by running away, who had hurt her by trying to shape into the perfect princess, groom her to be the perfect queen.

She tried to teach Eragon courtesies, but grew frustrated at the lack of time and the immense amount of knowledge, and snapped at him. It had hurt him too, a lot if she was any judge of character.

She felt even worse when he had to come to her to apologize.

How could they even build a solid friendship if she was afraid to tell him she was a princess, let alone any of her feelings regarding him?

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It was so hard to watch him suffer, with his back, but there was nothing she could do about it. Sometimes she felt so helpless, able only to hurt the ones she loved. Even spending time around him in the city—which she knew he loved—hurt her, because she could tell he was developing affection for her. She mulled over the problem.

Even if they were both elves, they were fighting a war, and he couldn't have any distractions. Besides, she was about a hundred years older than her, and one day it wouldn't work. She would have too much experience, and he wouldn't understand, or he would meet a younger, happier, more cheerful girl, someone not as lonely or refined as an elf. She knew how the humans viewed them, and for good reason. Compared to the shorter-lived races, they showed know emotion. Perhaps he loved her now, because she was beautiful and powerful and mysterious, but how would he feel when he learned about her true nature? She was not intrinsically good like him.

No, she decided, it would be better to remain strictly friends.

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When the dragon spirit changed Eragon, she had thought about it too long to hope. She had no choice. They couldn't be together, and she thought she had already resigned herself to that, but seeing him healed, whole, and as an elf nearly destroyed her again. It gave her hope when she knew there was none, made it so much more difficult to listen to her own reason and to the right thing.

In the end, though, she pushed him away and ran off. It was the only thing she could do.

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I would let you ride me into battle, little one, when Eragon is away to keep up the deceit and save the Varden. Only you, though. Saphira sent her thoughts to the entire tent, including Eragon's guard of elves, gave a sigh of relief. Eragon gritted his teeth then conceded, "Then I will go to the dwarves and represent you as they choose the new dwarf king."

Curious, she thought back to Saphira, privately, Why me? And why only me?

Because Eragon cares greatly for you, and we share our minds, so I view you favorably. And because I genuinely like your attention. I am grateful for how you cared for my egg, and the pain you endured to protect me.

So you consider me…a part of your family?

Yes.

Arya trailed off in silence, thinking of what that really meant. She had spent so long pushing Eragon away that she almost had forgotten why.

You know…you might…your reasons are sound, but he is so pure…you…Saphira seemed at a loss for words. Do you love him?

Arya's mind raced. She could not lie in the ancient language, but He is my good friend, she replied, so I care for him.

Do not banty words with me like the other pointed-ears! Do you love him? She demanded.

No, one cannot sidestep a dragon, Arya decided. Yes. But he cannot know. It would do more harm than good.

Only if you promise to tell him yourself.

I will tell him, she swore. I will tell him after this is all over, and there is hope for us.

Saphira snorted. There is always hope.

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One day, the war would be over, and the mad king defeated, and more dragons would be born. One day, the realm would live in peace, all races united, and Eragon would have done his duty and she hers. Then she could tell him she loved him, and they could live together in a forest in the corner of the world with but Saphira and the plants around them and live out their live in peace.

She held on to the dream like a tonic, when blood stained her hands and wolves howled and the night seemed the darkest. One day they would have peace.

For now, she would have to settle with hope.