Disclaimer: I don't own Eragon or anything associated with the Inheritance Cycle.

Claimer: I, SussieKitten, own this plot and the story. Borrow or steal my plot, my original characters (Aksel and Ren) or story and I will report you. I also own my version of Saphira/Thorn's human appearances, and the universe and versions of the creatures I use in this story (hydras and chimeras in particular).

Warnings: Male and female slash. Heterosexuality. Swearing or strong language. Supernatural creatures – there will be mainly elves, dragons, vampires and werewolves in this. Mentioned Mpreg (male pregnancy). Mentioned Character Death – made up characters only and it'll just be mentioned. If any of this disturbs you, click on the "back" button. I won't tolerate any flames.

A/N So it's been...approximately forever. I want to apologise for that because it was honestly not my intention. But at the start of 2019, I fell into what was going to be my first of four new fandoms and I fell hard. I'm probably going to be in love with them for a while, but I have not abandoned these stories. I plan to see them through hopefully by end of 2020. So here's to starting the year off with a bang!

Again, I want to thank each and every one of you out there that's reading this and letting me know you like it. You guys are the best. :)

Be warned; this story is self-betaed.


Year One to Year Two: New Beginnings

::December-February::

Eragon took Ren and Saphira down to Teirm to spend the holidays with Roran and Katrina. He didn't know how he felt about leaving the house and the protection it offered – let alone Brom and all their friends – for so long, but he couldn't live his whole life in fear either. Even if there was still danger out there...that was always going to be the case. The world was a dangerous place, but that was no reason to stop living.

Katrina gasped when she saw them. "Oh, he's so big!"

Eragon didn't blame her for focusing on Ren.

Roran looked confused. "We saw him four months ago."

Katrina just shot him a look before going back to cooing at Ren.

"Yeah, babies grow quickly," Eragon said. "He's already started to walk. Soon he'll be talking and running circles around me and going off to school and -"

Saphira put a hand on his arm. "Breathe."

Eragon did as told. It lessened some of the dizziness he hadn't realised was setting in.

Saphira gave him a worried frown. "Do you need to sit down?"

"No, I'm all right. Promise."

Saphira didn't look convinced.

"Here," Katrina pulled out a chair regardless and Eragon reluctantly allowed himself to be guided into it. "I'll get you something to drink."

Ren fussed when Saphira eased him out of Eragon's arms, but he was quickly distracted by being handed over to Roran and having access to his favourite tugging toy – Roran's hair.

"I'm really fine," Eragon insisted.

"Sure you are," Roran said and winced when Ren gave a firm tug. "But are you sure he's mostly human? Because this kid sure is strong."

"Doctor Carn seemed reasonably sure," Eragon said, even though he wasn't certain himself.

"Here," Katrina said as she handed over a steaming mug of tea.

Eragon blinked at her. "Did you have this prepared?"

"Of course," she said. "We were expecting guests. It's rude not to have anything to offer them, even if you are staying for the better part of two weeks."

In that case, Eragon was a terrible host. Though he was technically only staying at Brom's house. Was it then really up to him to provide things for any guests they inevitably had? Considering Brom was a bit of a grouch on the best of days – and the fact that most of the guests were there for Eragon – it probably was. Oh well.

"Ren had a hard time settling last night," he said, turning the mug around in his hands, "that's all."

Saphira ruffled his hair gently. "You could have called me."

"I can't call you every time," he countered. "Ren is my son. If I don't learn how to soothe him, then what am I even doing this for?"

Silence.

"Sorry." Eragon stared down at the tea and tried not to notice his own reflection looking back at him. He did look a little under the weather. Maybe his family were right to worry. "I didn't mean to make the conversation take such a heavy turn."

"Nonsense," Katrina said softly. "We're your family. If you can't talk to us about these things, then who can you?"

Someone who wasn't there and never would be, Eragon thought but didn't say. "Thanks," he said instead. "I'll try to remember it."

"You better," Roran said and winced again. "Ok, you know what, kid, it's good that you're getting so many toys for Christmas because I don't want to get bald before I'm thirty."

Eragon blinked.

Katrina's cheeks coloured faintly. "I may...have gone slightly overboard?"

Eragon shook his head. "That's all right. I'm sure Ren will love them all."

"And if not, you can always keep a few for yourself," Saphira said pointedly.

Roran was spared from having to comment by Ren grabbing a fistful and nearly yanking the hair out by the root. "Ok, you know what, buddy, you can go to your aunt instead," Roran said as he put Ren into Katrina's laughing arms.

Even though Katrina's hair was much longer than Roran's, Ren wasn't gravitating towards it. He seemed much more taken with Katrina's exaggerated expressions and joyful talk about what a pretty boy he was.

"Take notes, cousin, if you want to save your receding hairline," Eragon said teasingly.

"I'll show you receding hairline," Roran grumbled.

"Yes, I'm sure you will," Eragon agreed.

Katrina was stifling her giggles, which amused Ren endlessly.

Saphira waited until after Roran had stomped off to nurse his faux-wounded pride to give him a high-five.

"What, are you channelling Aksel now?"

"Yes," Saphira said seriously. "I'll be supplying his humour, you can take over his clumsiness."

"Oh, Eragon had better not," Katrina said as she bounced Ren gently. "He's already accident-prone as he is."

Saphira had to slap a hand over her mouth not to laugh out loud.

"I feel called out," Eragon said sourly and sipped at his tea. He almost wished it didn't taste good so he would have a reason to scowl properly, but it was unfortunately delicious.

"Good," Katrina said like that had been her intention all along.

Eragon scowled at her nonetheless, but Katrina was too busy chatting with Ren to even look his way.

Saphira patted his shoulder consolingly, but Eragon knew she was still laughing at him in her mind. He could practically hear it.

::STALKED::

The holidays seemed to somehow both last forever and be over in flash.

Most of the presents under the tree had – predictably – been for Ren. He'd gotten the most joy out of unwrapping the present rather than the toys themselves, but the thought was what counted. Besides, there had been a few Eragon was earmarking to take back with them.

Ren didn't sleep well in a new environment, even with Eragon right beside him, but he seemed to be making up for it by taking plenty of naps throughout the day. Eragon didn't mind as much. Though he missed sleeping through the nights, at least he was able to get a few hours here and there whenever Ren conked out as well. It was more than nothing.

As much as Eragon wanted to stay with Roran and Katrina for Ren's birthday, he knew it was better not to push it. Ren wasn't going to settle until they were home again and even the most patient person was going to start losing their cool when faced with a screaming baby several times a day. He was just glad there was a silencing charm around the guestroom he and Ren slept in, or Eragon doubted he'd had the heart to stay the entire Christmas week.

"You know, you could at least stay until New Year's," Roran said the day before they were due to leave.

Ren was with Katrina and Saphira, who were more than happy to babysit him. Saphira had long since learned how to soothe Ren when he started screaming – and also how to tell that it was better to hunt down Eragon because, nine times out of ten, Ren wanted his dad.

As much as Eragon loved Ren – which he did, with all his being, more than he knew he would have been able to before Ren had come into his life – there were times when he needed just a little peace and quiet. That was when he appreciated having Saphira in his life just a little more than usual.

Eragon shook his head. "It's better to leave now. We'll miss the traffic of people driving back after the holidays that way."

Roran said nothing, just nodded faintly.

"Any news on the marriage front?" Eragon asked before Roran could ask something that Eragon wouldn't be able to side-step quite as easily.

Roran eyed him like he knew what he was doing, but at least he didn't call Eragon out on it. He shrugged and said, "We've talked about it and we're going to wait until whatever's going on with you blows over."

Eragon balked. "You don't have to do that."

"No," Roran said dryly, "we don't. But considering I want my only living family to be there on the day, we've decided that we can afford to wait another year or two."

Eragon was irrevocably touched.

Things hadn't been the best between him and Roran after Garrow had died, but they had done their best to stay together – even as Eragon settled into his studies in Carvahall and Roran found a new life with Katrina in Teirm. Things almost seemed easier now, for all that their lives were even more complicated than they had once been. Roran seemed more sure of himself, loathe as Eragon was to thank something like a virus for doing something good. And without Ren, Eragon knew he would have been floundering for another class to take just so he could stay in Carvahall to try to forget about the uncle that was never going to welcome him home again.

"That said," Roran continued, shaking Eragon out of his thoughts, "you may be getting a nephew or niece sooner than that."

Eragon blinked.

"Katrina's getting antsy," Roran confessed. He didn't look completely at ease as he said so, but he looked less stressed than he had done the last time the topic had come up.

Eragon frowned. "Why? It's not like she's old."

As Roran had already said, he wasn't thirty yet – and neither was Katrina. They were both still in their prime, especially Katrina. She didn't look like she had aged at all in the years since she'd hit twenty-one.

Roran shook his head. "I think it has to do with how her co-workers and friends all already have kids by now," he said. "She feels like she's falling behind. I mean," he nudged Eragon in the ribs, "even you've gotten a head-start."

"What head-start?" Eragon snorted. "Ren is going to be my one and only at this rate."

Roran frowned sharply at him. "What kind of attitude is that?"

"What do you think?" Eragon hated how defeated he sounded, but he couldn't think of a way to change it. Not if they'd reached this topic. "I've had terrible luck in my love-life so far. And if Ren is all I get out of it, then I'll consider myself blessed. Not many people get even that."

Roran shook his head again. "Just because you have some vamp after you -"

"That's just it," Eragon interjected. "I don't."

Roran paused. He looked visibly surprised.

"Murtagh is...complicated," Eragon said, which was the kindest word he could think of to describe Murtagh, "but I think he's made it very clear where he stands with me and Ren."

Roran was silent for a long moment. "Then he's not half the man you deserve," he said finally, voice decisive as he wrapped an arm around Eragon's shoulders. "I'd be happy to kick his ass if he tried to come back into your life like nothing ever happened."

"He's not going to," Eragon told him, "but thanks."

"Anything for my cousin slash brother."

"...You realise that just makes us sound like one of those weird families you see on TV, right?" Eragon pointed out.

Roran rolled his eyes and cuffed him over the head. "You know what I mean, asshole."

Eragon ducked his head to hide his smile.

"I suppose I shouldn't be glad, considering, but I am. I've been aching to kick his ass ever since you told us about him."

"Of course you have," Eragon said dryly. "You never could accept that I'd grown up."

Roran gestured at himself. "Do you see me denying my nephew's existence? I think I've handled you growing up just fine."

"Sure," Eragon agreed. "Just fine."

Roran narrowed his eyes. "I know you're making fun of me."

"I wouldn't dare," Eragon said, easing out of Roran's grip before he remembered the arm slung around Eragon's shoulders. "If I was making fun of anything, it would be your inability to let me go on any dates by myself while we were living together, your tendency to hover worse than Saphira whenever I brought so much as a friend home, your -"

"Ok, that's it." Roran pushed up his sleeves. "Come here and get the noogie you deserve."

As much as he wanted to tease Roran about his word-use (did people even still say 'noogie' out loud?), Eragon knew better than to tempt fate. He did the only thing that made sense; he bolted and hoped he could reach Saphira before Roran caught him. She'd protect him and only laugh at him later, in private. He was sure of it.

::STALKED::

Leaving Teirm was bittersweet. Eragon knew he was going to miss Roran and Katrina, but he was also starting to miss his bed something fierce. He missed Aksel, Arya and Nasuada too. A small part of him even missed Brom. And he couldn't wait to get back to his magical training! He hadn't dared to do any while at Roran and Katrina's in fear of...repeating certain mishaps.

Though Brom didn't say as much, Eragon thought he was glad to have them back as well. He tried not to think about Brom wandering around the house by himself during one of the most family-oriented holidays. He hoped Brom had visited his friends – because surely he had some besides Carn and his husband. Just because Eragon hadn't heard Brom talk about any didn't mean they didn't exist.

At least, so he hoped.

The New Year passed with little fanfare. Nasuada, Arya, Aksel and Vanir all showed up to celebrate at the house, but Eragon had to beg off early to go to bed. They had all claimed not to mind, but Eragon wasn't quite sure he believed them. In either case, it hadn't been enough for him to skip going to bed at the same time as Ren. Though Ren had settled into his previous night-routine, Eragon wasn't going to risk having to get up after only a few hours of sleep and being dangerously tired the rest of the day.

In the blink of an eye, the days passed until it was Ren's birthday.

Eragon spent the day in a haze. It was hard to believe that Ren was a year old already. Some days it felt like Ren had been born no more than a week or month ago. Some days it felt even longer. Was that the way all parents felt? Eragon didn't really have anyone to ask unless he went and found a baby-and-me group – in real life or online – and he wasn't that desperate yet. Especially considering Ren's unique heritage.

The rest of the month passed in relative quiet, broken only when Aksel came for a visit. He made a quip about being glad he didn't have to wear rubber boots indoors this time and Eragon suddenly wanted to master his water magic immediately so he could dunk Aksel and only Aksel.

If only it worked like that.

"Hey, where's the l'il dude?" Aksel said after they'd gotten settled in the living room. He started looking around like Ren was old enough to start hiding behind pieces of furniture by himself – and wasn't that a fun thought? Eragon almost couldn't wait until Ren was old enough to walk and run for longer than a minute at a time.

Almost.

"Napping." Eragon nodded at the baby-monitor on the coffee-table. "As soon as he stirs, I'm out."

Aksel nodded. "Understandable, my dude."

"So," Saphira smiled in a way that made Eragon almost afraid to hear what she was going to say next, "how's married life treating you?"

Phew. She wasn't asking him.

Aksel stared at her. "...Not that I think ya could, but...ya know I'm not my sis, right?" he said. "She's the one that's a step away from tyin' the knot, not me."

"As if you and Vanir aren't there yourself," Saphira said teasingly.

Aksel's cheeks coloured. "We're really, really not."

Saphira looked about as sceptical as Eragon felt.

"I mean, we're not Arya and Nas. We're still is kinda new, y'know? But when we do get there..." Aksel bit at his lip while Eragon took a moment to let the fact sink in that Aksel – of all people! – was giving them a genuine answer to a question about him eventually getting married. "Vane's kinda...really, heckin' blind. Can't take hints for the life of him. Imma need to ask him outright which solstice he prefers to join hands under, or he'll never get it." A look of horror overcame him. "Maybe not even then. Oh no."

Saphira patted him consolingly on the back. "I'm sure he's not that dense."

"I'm not," Eragon piped up.

"Eragon," Saphira said. Eragon thought she might have been about to say more, only she stiffened instead. She turned around sharply and stared in the direction of the terrace.

Eragon frowned. "Saphira?"

She shot to her feet and ran towards the terrace doors. She was already unlocking them by the time Eragon managed to get to his feet.

"Saph?" Aksel called out. From the sound of things, he was also getting up.

Eragon only managed to take a step forward before Saphira had the doors open. A gust of cold wind rushed in, sending shivers down Eragon's spine. Aksel's teeth clattered audibly. Eragon didn't know how Saphira managed to stand so still when she was only wearing a thin shirt compared to the thick sweaters both he and Aksel were wearing. Then again, she was a Drake. Even though she looked distracted, she must have been regulating her body temperature.

He was about to call her name again when a figure stepped out of the forest at the edge of Brom's property. Eragon was ready to call for Brom about an intruder when he recognised the figure.

"Thorn!" Saphira called out.

As if that was the cue he'd been waiting for, Thorn started running towards the house.

Saphira barely waited until he was close enough to jump off the terrace and right into his waiting arms.

Eragon didn't hesitate to put a hand over Aksel's eyes and made sure to close his as Saphira and Thorn enthusiastically greeted each other.

"Dude?!" Aksel spluttered.

"Trust me," Eragon said. "You don't want to see this."

"That's sweet 'n' all, but I have seen PDA before," Aksel told him.

"...Have you seen PDA on par with a reunion of people as close as soulmates before?"

Aksel paused. "Have you?"

"No," Eragon said immediately, "and I don't want to."

Aksel laughed.

"You can look now," Saphira said, only sounding a little apologetic.

Eragon reluctantly opened one eye. Thorn hadn't put Saphira down, but at least they weren't lip-locked anymore.

Aksel had already pushed away Eragon's hand by the time Eragon felt brave enough to ease both eyes open. "Welcome back, dude!"

Thorn gave a faint smile.

Saphira bit her lip and sent Eragon an apologetic look. She didn't have to speak – over their bond or out loud – for Eragon to know what was going on in her head.

"Go," he said. "I'll let Brom know where you went."

Saphira's gratitude was so loud Eragon could practically feel it.

Thorn nodded in thanks. He didn't so much as shift his grip on Saphira. He just turned on his heel and started walking again, back towards the forest he'd slipped out of.

Saphira waved at them over Thorn's shoulder. The grin on her face was wider than Eragon remembered ever having seen it.

"Have fun!" Aksel called after them, waving obnoxiously.

Eragon closed his eyes and groaned.

::STALKED::

It was three days before Thorn or Saphira resurfaced again. Eragon couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Saphira look so happy. She was positively glowing – and Thorn wasn't far off himself.

Brom was kind enough to offer Thorn a room for the duration of his stay, though Eragon very much doubted Thorn spent a night in it. Not when Saphira was so close and they hadn't seen each other for so long. It was likely that Brom had just gone through the motions so he could say to himself, if no one else, that he'd tried. Kept up appearances. Or something like it.

Murtagh, however, remained AWOL. When asked, Thorn would shut down and just say that he was somewhere safe.

Vanir was notably surprised to see Thorn when Aksel dragged him over to visit a few days after Thorn's arrival. He quickly took Thorn aside and had what Eragon presumed was a conversation with him, though he'd never know unless he asked Vanir (unlikely) or Thorn (who probably wouldn't answer, considering how cagey he was about Murtagh).

Eragon was surprised by how much he wanted to ask. It was no secret that his relationship with Murtagh was...strained at best. Yes, Murtagh was the father of his child, but that was as far as things went between them. That didn't mean he wanted Murtagh dead or hurt – at least, not anymore. In fact, he didn't know what he wanted anymore. Peace, probably, considering it felt like something was brewing on the horizon. He didn't need to know what Thorn and Vanir had talked about to know that something was coming and that Murtagh was likely in the thick of it.

It was strange, then, that Thorn wasn't with him. But Eragon only had to take in the complete change in Saphira's demeanour to guess what might have inspired Murtagh to send Thorn packing. Vampire or no, he was still bonded to Thorn and felt as strongly for him as Eragon did for Saphira. He wanted Thorn to be happy even if he was probably never going to say it out loud.

Thorn joined Saphira in looking after Ren while Eragon was busy practising his magic. Eragon tried not to think too much about how they might be using Ren as practice as well, though he knew the thought was likely at the forefront of Saphira's mind. While it would be nice for Ren to have playmates around his age, Saphira was Eragon's sibling in everything but blood. Like Roran, Eragon tried not to think about his pseudo-siblings having sex all that much.

Forcing himself to focus so heavily on his magic during his sessions with Brom eventually paid off, though Eragon got so excited he almost burst the pipes anyway the first time managed to conjure water without flooding the room. He managed to hold back just in time, controlling the flow like Brom had been trying to teach him.

It was strange, working with magic. It felt strange. Magic didn't come naturally to most humans unless they were a witch or wizard. Even Riders had to find a way to tap into the Dragon-Rider bond. It didn't come naturally or by itself. There was a reason Eragon hadn't thought to explore until his life – and those of his friends and family – started to actively be in danger. For Eragon, magic started as a tingle at the base of his spine that slowly worked its way up until travelled down his arms and into his fingertips. Brom hadn't elaborated on how he experienced it, only that it felt different when he did it.

Then again, Eragon was drawing from an active bond. Brom's situation was very different. If Eragon hadn't been scared of Brom's reaction, he would have asked how magic worked when only half of the bond remained.

Brom nodded approvingly when Eragon managed to regain control all on his own without having to ask for help.

"You're improving."

Eragon almost lost control then and there from the praise. He decided to end the spell instead of courting more disaster. He bit back the instinctive urge to ask, 'Really?' and instead said, "Thank you."

"But you still have a ways to go," Brom said almost immediately.

Eragon nodded.

"Have you thought about how far you want to take this?"

"Uh." Eragon blinked. "Take...what?"

Brom was clearly trying not to sigh. "Your water-magic. What do you want to accomplish with it?"

Eragon...honestly had no idea. "Put out hypothetical fires? I guess?"

Brom visibly gave in to the urge and sighed. "Then you're going to need to learn how to summon a lot more water."

"Sorry."

"Don't apologise," Brom said gruffly. "It's a concise goal with practical application in mind. It's good. But at the rate you're going, it's easily going to take us a couple of months to get there."

"I'm ready to put in the effort," Eragon said. "As you said, there's a practical application. We never know when something like this may come in handy."

Brom looked grim.

"What?"

"Used to be," Brom said, "that a Rider-bond was explored to strengthen the connection between the Dragon and their Rider. Then the war happened and it was turned into a tool."

Eragon fell silent.

The war had been devastating and though Eragon had technically been alive to see the end of it, he'd only been a few years old. They were coming up on the 20th anniversary of the war's end soon. Eragon wondered if Brom would slip off then, only to be seen a few days later. He'd done so in the months Eragon and Saphira had been living with them, but not without warning them first. Eragon wondered where he went but knew it wasn't his place to ask.

There was one thing he could say, however, especially considering what that they'd been talking about and doing for so long. "I'm sorry about your loss."

"It was a long time ago," Brom said dismissively.

"Still," Eragon said firmly. "Here you are, helping me, and -"

"That was my choice," Brom interrupted. "It was a long time ago. I've come to terms with it. It will always hurt, but I can make sure her legacy lives on through you and Saphira."

It was almost enough to bring tears to Eragon's eyes. He thought part of it might have been a bleed-over from whatever Saphira was currently feeling, but not all of it. Not when he was the one in the room with Brom and could see the quiet grief in the other man's eyes.

Eragon cleared his throat. Brom had made it clear he didn't want to talk about the war or what he'd lost in it, so that left him scrambling to think of something else to say.

"So..." he paused briefly, "does this mean you can start teaching me other things?"

"Hell no," was the immediate answer.

::STALKED::

"Look, mom. Look what I can do!"

It wasn't often that Eragon found time to visit his mother's tombstone in Carvahall, not even when his life hadn't included vampires and an infant. Being a student had been challenging in its own way, but at least then he'd been more guaranteed to sleep through the night. But now he had to find a babysitter and convince not one, but two people that he really could take care of himself long enough to make the trip to the cemetery all on his own.

Eragon both minded and didn't. It was nice to know that people cared even if it was weird to think about how Brom was one of them now. Eragon could have gone without the constant hovering, however. Murtagh had killed anyone that knew there was something worth seeking out in Carvahall. As long as Eragon didn't go actively looking for trouble, he'd probably be fine.

Probably. He'd knock on wood later, just to be on the safe side.

It might have been a waste, to call on his and Saphira's magic just to water the flowers at Selena's grave, but it didn't feel that way. It felt like communicating with his mother in the only way he could – by talking and hoping that somehow the words would reach her. Eragon wasn't particularly spiritual, but it was hard not to believe in an afterlife after everything he'd seen.

"So much has happened since I visited you last," he said as he ended the stream of magic. "Ren is a year old now. Katrina and Roran are talking about having children of their own. Thorn's back – at least, for now. I don't think he'll stay when Murtagh is somewhere else."

Eragon knotted his fingers in his lap. He could feel the cold from the ground seeping in through his trousers, but he wasn't ready to get up yet. And he always felt weird whenever he stood and talked to the headstone. It didn't feel right to tower over it for some reason, even though he didn't know whether he would have been taller than his mother if she'd still been alive to see him now.

"I wish I could have met you, mom. I wonder what you would have thought of all of this."

From what uncle Garrow had told Eragon of his sister, she'd been stubborn and set in her ways – like Eragon, Garrow had often added. But she'd been fierce too, and hadn't hesitated to fight for what she believed in.

"I know you fought in the war. You would probably have hated Murtagh for that alone."

He wondered if there was a world out there where Selena had lived to meet Murtagh. Did vampires exist in that world or would Murtagh have been a regular human? Would a simple change like that drastically change how she would have viewed Murtagh – if he'd even found his way into Eragon's life under such different circumstances?

But there was no point in wondering what-ifs. Murtagh was a vampire. Selena was dead. The two would never meet.

"If there ever is a way for the living to talk to the dead," Eragon said instead of what he was thinking, "I promise you'll be the first person I reach out to."

Even as he said so, he sighed.

Questions all orphans probably had could be rooted down to a few simple items on a list; who was my mother/father and how would my mother/father react to this or that? And while wondering was fine and all, it was a slippery slope. It was hard enough walking through life without knowing who his real father had been – whether he was still alive or dead. If Eragon started to go looking, there was no saying what he'd find. And some things he'd probably be better off not knowing.

Feeling the ache start to settle into his thighs, Eragon put a hand onto the earth and slowly pushed himself up. He brushed frozen dirt and dead leaves off his thighs and took one last look at the golden letters that spelled out his mother's name. He put his hand on the headstone and tried for a smile.

"Bye, mom. I'll try to come by more often."

His heart was heavier now than it had been when he'd arrived. That was the way it always went. Eragon wondered if that was ever going to change or if he was doomed to make the same trip, with the same results, over and over.

::STALKED::

Eragon was glad Ren was down for a nap and far away from the commotion when Brom blew up.

"THORN!"

Eragon didn't know whether to be thankful that he hadn't been able to sleep and therefore wouldn't need to be filled in on what was going on later. Depending on what had gotten Brom so riled up, the cliff-notes version might have been preferable. But seeing as Eragon wasn't asleep, and therefore couldn't claim to have missed Brom's yell, it was probably best he went to see if the world was ending or not.

The sounds led Eragon towards the living room. He tumbled over the threshold just seconds after Thorn, who had stopped to stare at where Brom was standing by the TV.

Logically, Eragon knew that Brom had a television unit. It was, however, not something he'd used while pregnant with Ren. And now that Ren was getting older, it was mostly something he used to keep Ren distracted now and then. In a way, it didn't register to him unless Ren was staring wide-eyed at it. It was therefore a surprise to see Brom in front of it, especially considering he'd never seen Brom use it before.

Thorn looked as confused as Eragon felt.

Brom gestured angrily at the screen. "What the hell is this?"

It looked like a normal news broadcast to Eragon, but he had a feeling he was missing something. Especially when he looked back and Thorn's face had gone from slack to dark with anger.

"He said he wasn't going to do that without me."

Brom snorted, not sounding particularly impressed. "He lied."

Eragon frowned. What were they talking about? Who were they talking about?

Thorn pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dammit, Murtagh."

Murtagh?!

"What did he do?" Eragon asked as Saphira slipped into the room after Thorn.

"See for yourself," Brom said gruffly and pointed the remote at the TV.

Eragon looked closer. There was a looping headline he hadn't bothered to read earlier. Vampires slain at the Surdan border, the headline read. Local PD suspect in-fighting is the cause.

Murtagh...had killed more vampires?

"What is he thinking?" Brom asked Thorn like he somehow knew.

"I couldn't tell you what he's thinking on a good day," Thorn said, "and this clearly isn't a good one."

Brom swore.

Saphira put a worried hand on Thorn's arm.

Thorn immediately turned towards her. Eragon knew without having to ask that they were communicating telepathically. Whatever they were saying was playing out in subtle cues on their faces, enough that Eragon could tell where the conversation was eventually due to end.

Eragon didn't realise how much he'd been expecting the end to be internal until he startled when Thorn spoke out loud. "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologise," Saphira said, making the shift as seamlessly as Thorn presumably had. "You know I understand."

For some reason, that only made Thorn look more heartbroken.

Eragon had to look away when they kissed. As happy as he was for them, there was such a thing as too much PDA.

"I'll keep in touch this time," Thorn promised once he and Saphira finally separated. "If the bastard's gone as far as to attack first, then there's no point in staying underground anymore."

"Only if you can send messages safely," Brom said firmly. "I'll not have vampires showing up in my town expecting easy pickings."

Thorn nodded. "Of course."

"Stay safe," Saphira said. "And give them hell from me."

Thorn smiled at her. "As you wish."

Saphira clung to Eragon as Thorn went to get his things and clung harder still when the front door shut some minutes later, signalling that Thorn had left once again.

"He'll be back," Eragon said softly as Brom turned off the TV.

"I know," Saphira said. She didn't look away from the doorway Thorn had slipped out of.

Eragon knew Thorn would do his damndest to return to Saphira before long, just like he knew that neither of them would be able to truly settle until they saw each other again.


TBC


A/N I know I do very little with Thorn, and for that I can only apologise. But this chapter has been fighting me for the longest - and it's actually pretty long, as far as Stalked chapters go. I felt like this was a good place to end it so Thorn could be there to give Murtagh a piece of his mind in the next one. Because trust me, that is sorely needed!

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Thank you all for sticking with me. :) I'll see you in the next update!