A/N: ok so I got writer's block on my Harry Potter fic, and decided to try a one-shot. It helped me continue with the longer story so I hope this is up to scratch! It follows on from the three published books. italics are Eragon/Saphira conversations.

Disclaimer: characters, places etc not mine, all property of christopher Paolini, who is rather awesome!

Building Bridges

Summary: Secrets usually left quietly smouldering are uncovered and burn bright as wide and dangerous waters are bridged; the recent battle has left everyone vulnerable to themselves and each other...

Eragon sat up slowly and stretched like a cat, feeling the incredibly soft, light covers flow over him. He felt very well-rested even without sleep, an advantage of the magic and power from the Agaeti Blodhren. Blinking open his eyes, which each day became closer to the sapphire hue of Saphira's, he saw the bright yellow sunshine peeping in through the window and he smiled joyfully out at it, remembering that it was his first day back in Du Weldenvarden since... oh. The recent battle caught up with him and he froze, his expression one of deep sorrow, regret, sadness and grief and a large lump blocked his airway, threatening tears. These combined made him look older than his years and his almost-elven form usually allowed.

Saphira, scales glittering in the sunlight and sending cascades of blue shimmers dancing over the wooden walls, shifted her bulky body and hummed sadly deep in her throat, sensing her rider's unhappiness through their constant link – which had become ever stronger in recent weeks.

Eragon reached slowly for the leather pouch he had placed next to the pallet-like bed and carefully felt the shape of the large golden stone beneath the material, new sorrow biting cold teeth into his heart as he thought about the poor, magnificent dragon trapped within it. He felt the sense of loss emanating from Saphira increase tenfold and he looked up, catching one of her wide blue eyes before it could evade his own.

You didn't only hang off him because he was the only male dragon left, did you? He asked her gently, allowing himself to ask the question that had been eating away at him since the scene at the Stone of Broken Eggs - a question he had kept locked behind strong defenses in his mind so Saphira did not sense it.

She hummed quietly in response, blinking slowly and mournfully. I was less aware of my actions and how they – how I – came across. She told him. But I was as sure of my feelings then as ever I have been, despite the age gap and all the rest of it. I admired him, and I looked up to him, but I think I loved him.

Eragon ignored the stab of jealousy, dismissing it almost angrily, and nodded his understanding; she was only confirming a suspicion that it had deeper than a wish to save the dragon race – which was deep enough, of course. He reached out a hand for his life partner and simultaneously reached out with his mind, immersing himself in the raw power Saphira's emotions emitted and finding a part of her that he never knew existed. He felt within her passion for Glaedr akin to that which he himself felt for Arya, and he bowed his head with the sheer intensity of her sorrow and pain at her loss.

That was how Arya found them, Eragon's hand resting gently on Saphira's shimmering scales, each staring into the other's almost identical eyes, feeling from each other the love still felt and the love now lost – but of course Arya didn't know that. She gently lowered the tray she was holding to the floor, loath to disturb the pair, but too late – Eragon blinked himself back to the present and looked around, seeing first the wooden tray loaded with fruit, nuts and salads, and then Arya, dressed in a simple brown tunic and bare feet. The lines of sadness engraved and etched into his face lessened slightly, becoming shallower as he smiled at her, but they didn't completely erase. Eragon was careful to keep the almost overwhelming love he felt controlled and just simmering below the surface, so as not to alert the princess to its presence.

"Arya svit-kona." He greeted her quietly and formally, as did Saphira.

"Eragon-elda, Saphira Brightscales." Arya replied, inclining her head to each of them in turn. Eragon was overcome by a new wave of sadness as he recognised the title usually given to Oromis applied to his name in place of finiarel, and was also surprised by the gesture – elda was a huge praise. Arya smiled gently, knitting her fingers together, indicating that she knew what he was thinking of.

Eragon threw himself down by the salad and fruit and twirled an orange around. He placed it back down again, watching as Saphira left as discreetly as she could – which wasn't very. He looked up, agitated, to see a concerned Arya studying his face intently.

"Saphira's gone hunting." He said curtly in reply to the questioning glance from the elf and the distinct lack of dragon in the treetop house.

Arya nodded. "I know, she told me too. It is you I am worried about."

Eragon blinked. She had never said anything like that to him except the time when she said wiol ono – and he started that conversation anyway. It didn't really count. When he didn't respond she asked him again how he was, this time in the Ancient Language, encouraging him to speak to her.

"Eragon, by the bond we have created through allegiances, by the stronger bond we have formed on our travels and in our battles, and by the unbreakable bond we have as friends, I bid you tell me what – besides the obvious – is bothering you." She took a steadying breath, which Eragon could hear even from his place on the floor, and then added almost under her breath, "Wiol pömnuria ilian."

Eragon hesitated before answering, replying in kind. "Nen ono weohnata, Arya Dröttningu. Wiol ono." As you will, Princess Arya. For you. He smiled gently up at the beautiful elf warrior, looking a little unusual without her normal weapons and leather trousers, and felt her last three words echo around his head; for my happiness. He smiled inwardly again and then began to speak in the Ancient Language, chanting it softly, so she would know he was not lying.

"Arya Drottningu, princess of Ellesmera, regardless of your position know this: I love you. I love you as I have never loved anyone before, and more than I ever thought I could; and I know you already know it but now you have heard it from me properly, and I have said it aloud, and you know the true extent of my feelings." Eragon hesitated, wondering if he had gone too far, but enjoying the feeling, the thrill, that shuddered through him as he recognised the truth of his words and felt the satisfaction of finally admitting his feelings. He felt Saphira's mixed alarm and pride reverberate through their contact and looked up to see Arya frozen in place, looking gobsmacked at the intensity of his emotions.

After a rather pregnant pause Eragon reached into a tunic pocket and pulled out a delicate brown bracelet, fashioned entirely out of an unbroken loop of wood. The thin tendrils snaked and twined around each other, making a complex pattern of twists and intricate swirls. No two parts of the bracelet looked the same and in places the tiny branches seemed to outline flowers and other such shapes. Eragon studied it for a moment and then held it out.

"Wiol ono." Was all he said, echoing her words from Farthen Dur.

Arya took the bracelet and studied it in silence for a moment. Eragon refused to look at her in case she threw it back in his face, which he wouldn't put past her, or broke it – like she had broken his fairth that time. Neither outcome would surprise him.

"Did you make this?" Arya asked finally, her voice betraying nothing of her emotions.

Eragon met her closely-guarded, perfectly neutral gaze and nodded. "I sang it out of the tree in which Masters Oromis and Glaedr lived." Ignoring the stabbing pains of loss, both his own and Saphira's, Eragon continued. "Oromis-elda knew of my affection for you, although he refused to let it disrupt our lessons – particularly after the incident with the fairth." Eragon smiled grimly at the memory and saw Arya's face tighten.

"Sorry." He thought he heard her mutter, though he couldn't be sure.

"I thought he would approve." Eragon finished quietly.

Arya smiled a deep smile of sadness and joy, grief and happiness, pain and delight, and slid the bracelet onto her slim wrist. "Thankyou." She murmured, putting two fingers up to her lips in the traditional elven way. "I will treasure it." She added quietly.

At her words Eragon felt a deep joy from Saphira meld into his own wild happiness. He stood, brushing his hands down his tunic, and hovered awkwardly.

"Relax, Eragon." Arya advised and stepped towards him. "Oromis would not want you to dwell on his...absence. He would want you to be back out there, fighting for him. For us all."

Eragon was surprised by the turn the covnersation had taken, but glad she had not left. He watched as Arya bit her lip, glancing at the armour and sword laid by the open wall, ready should it be needed. "Ready you may be physically, Eragon, but mentally you are not. You are focused on revenge and you cannot fight in that state of mind – you need to get the real reasons for fighting this war back into your head and only then will you begin to heal."

Eragon blinked down at the elf, who he knew was speaking true, and admired her shrewd guessing and the way she managed to see through his brave "I'm fine" facade. He couldn't hold onto his thoughts though - she was more than a little distracting. She was closer than she had ever been before (while conscious at least) and she was reaching up now with her left hand. She brushed away his too-long hair, which was in his eyes, and immediately hesitated. "This shouldn't happen." She whispered, as much to herself as to him.

Eragon looked deep into her eyes and said seriously, "What shouldn't happen, Arya?"

Arya shook her head, stepping back with her eyes closed and rubbing her fingers in circles over her temples. "Love." She answered quietly, and Eragon was both surprised and pleased – with her answer of course, but more that she had deigned to give him one at all.

Arya spoke again, more quietly. "Last time I loved someone it killed him and damn near destroyed me. And now the situation between the races of Algaesia is even worse, and the world more dangerous, than it was then. This is...ill-timed, to say the least..." she muttered, again more to herself than Eragon. "Barzûl!" she suddenly swore, making Eragon jump. She sounded angry, he thought; angry with her own heart. But she had just admitted that she loved him, hadn't she? He stepped forwards and drew her (a little daringly, he had to admit) into a hug, hoping he had interpreted her words correctly.

He felt Arya's slim frame melt into his own and registered with surprise the tell-tale shuddering of sobs; Arya never showed any emotions, let alone openly crying...but now he could sense fear and guilt creeping through the strong walls she had built between herself and her emotions making themselves available for viewing for the first time in what he could only guess was many years.

"This is wrong, Eragon." She whispered into his chest. He hugged her all the tighter, pulling her to him, rocking her ever-so-slightly to and fro in an attempt to calm her, and he dimly registered Saphira's mixture of joy and jealously radiating through their connection. Arya began to speak again, but she did not use the Ancient Language.

"I am elf; you are human. We are in a war. You are a Dragon Rider, Eragon, and I am a princess. And I am closer to a hundred than you are to thirty."

Eragon whispered a reply into her raven hair, proving to her that he believed what he said by slipping back into the Ancient Language. He admired as he did so the way her black hair looked almost blue when it caught the light.

"I am as much elf as I can be, Arya, and more so than any human has ever been before. The war will end, and in the mean time we work together to achieve that goal. I will live as long as you, or even longer, courtesy of both Saphira" – she hummed smugly into Eragon's mind from a few miles away, full of pride, as she caught a deer (both at her own success and at his words) – "and the magic of the twins at the Agaeti Blodhren. And as for positions, I know you don't act like a princess, you complete dangerous missions and fight with the rest of us in the war; you don't tell anyone about it. And you are the only person besides me, Brom and Orik to have ridden Saphira, and you're the only one besides me to have ridden her alone; why do you think that is? Because I am willing and want it to be so, as does Saphira. We are all but equals, Arya, as close as we will ever be to that."

Arya stirred against him and turned her face up to his. Her tears were gone without a trace and Eragon marvelled at the pure beauty, high proud cheekbones and enigmatic eyes. Then he leaned slowly down and captured the perfect lips, amazed at how soft they were.

Arya relaxed, a fact Eragon did not fail to register. He pulled back and they studied each other's faces carefully; Eragon ignored Saphira's teasing voice in his mind that threatened to disturb the perfect moment.

"Now you know a secret I kept hidden from everyone, Eragon, to protect us all." Arya whispered. "Let it remain a secret and let us remain only acquaintances and friends until this blasted war is over."

Eragon pressed his lips to her smooth forehead and then released her, heart lighter than it had been for many months despite the deaths of two he held dear. He sat down in his recently vacated seat, thinking that it seemed years ago since he had last sat there. "Join me for breakfast, Arya Drottningu?" he asked formally but with a wide smile, holding out her favourite fruit. She smiled back and took it as Saphira landed beneath the tree and curled up to eat.

I think we'll leave it here :) reviews much appreciated!