Disclaimer: I don't own Eragon or anything associated with the Inheritance Cycle. The title is taken from the song Love Songs (They Kill Me) by Cinema Bizarre.

Claimer: I, SussieKitten, own this plot and the story. Borrow or steal my plot, my original characters (Aksel) or story and I will report you. I also own my version of Saphira/Thorn/Shruikan/Glaedr's human appearances.

Warnings: Slash/Yaoi – meaning guy x guy action. Slash/Shōnen-ai – meaning mild guy x guy action. Femslash/Shōjo-ai – meaning mild girl x girl action. Het – meaning mild guy x girl action. Swearing or strong language. Mature content/Lime – there's a mild sexual content in this story, so beware of that. If any of this disturbs you, click on the "back" button. I won't tolerate any flames.

A/N This is my FFnet birthday present to myself. As of today, May 14th, I have been a member of Fanfiction dot Net for 4 years. I have catalogued 710,073 words with an average of 25,360 words per story. I have gotten 68,890 hits on my profile and I'm on the favourite's list of 419 people and on the alert list of 288.

I can't say how much you people have meant to me during these four years. It's a pleasure and an honour to be on so many people's list and to have gotten so many friends, support, help and kind words from you guys. It means a lot.

But over to the actual story!

This story features a few pairings that I'm playing around with just for fun. They can be seen as rather cracky. I had a list of them up here, but I decided to take it down. The pairings are minor at best, so I don't think they'll bother you very much. I just wanted to let you know that there are some unusual pairings in here.

Before we start, I wat you to bear in mind that Shruikan and Morzan are good people in this story. Yes, that is how AU this is. And also, the characters are all in their twenties to thirties with the exception of Brom and Morzan. I'm not gonna go THAT wild with these pairings. To give you an age scale:

20 to 21: Eragon, Saphira and Aksel. 23 to 25: Murtagh, Arya, Nasuada, Thorn and Tornac. 28 to 30: Glaedr and Shruikan. Morzan and Brom are around 45. They started having kids early. Also, if you're curious, Murtagh and Eragon are conceived using a surrogate.


Love Songs (They Kill Me)

Murtagh had always been very good at hiding his feelings. His friends usually said that he was too good. He never believed that until Eragon and Tornac announced that they were dating.

Tornac had grown up next to them. He was a year older than Murtagh and four years older than Eragon, but he had always been willing to play with them. He had been there when Murtagh got teased for his lanky build and to protect Eragon from the bastards that tried to take advantage of Eragon's kindness.

He had always been a part of their life, even when Murtagh and Eragon got friends their own age. Tornac hung out with his friends Glaedr and Shruikan at school, but would always sneak over to Murtagh and Eragon's place after school. He sometime even ate dinner there. Tornac's parents were away most of the time, but Morzan and Brom had no problems watching over him.

College seemed like the thing that would break apart their friendship because of the distance, but then something happened. Thorn, a friend of Murtagh, started to date Shruikan while Saphira, a friend of Eragon, started to date Glaedr. With their friends being so intimate, they ended up seeing more and more of each other even with the distance.

As high school faded into college for Murtagh, he found that a lot of the people around him were dating. Arya, a mutual friend of them all, started to date Nasuada, a woman Murtagh worked with. Thorn and Shruikan stayed strong despite their differences and Murtagh could practically hear wedding bells whenever he saw Saphira and Glaedr. He, Eragon and Tornac were the only ones that seemed to stay single.

Murtagh didn't mind that when it came to Eragon. He was fiercely protective of his little brother. The fewer people that got their hands on him, the better.

Tornac was another matter. The man flirted notoriously, but didn't seem to hold to a boyfriend for long. Murtagh didn't mind that either.

Ever since Murtagh could remember, Tornac had managed to stir up some feelings inside him. He refused to acknowledge that it was more than a crush until the end of high school. His heart broke when Tornac had to move. It had cracked whenever he heard of yet another boyfriend, but losing his friend to another city hurt far more.

But being who he was, Murtagh had never let Tornac, let alone anyone else, know of his feelings. He dated half-heartedly and claimed he wasn't looking for a serious relationship. The truth was that he wouldn't have minded it with Tornac. But in the belief that Tornac couldn't possibly return his feelings, Murtagh kept his mouth shut.

Murtagh chose to go to a local college instead of doing something stupid and/or going after Tornac. It ended up being a good idea, not just when it came to Murtagh's education. After finishing his Bachelor degree, Tornac applied to the same college Murtagh went to. Apparently they had the best Master course for his chosen field.

Murtagh's stupid heart had believed that it was because Tornac wanted to be closer to home, closer to them. Closer to him.

But now, looking at Tornac and Eragon and their joined hands, he knew just who Tornac had moved back for.

Congratulations rose up around him, but all he could feel was empty.

Murtagh snapped into action when Eragon looked at him and frowned. He got up and gave Tornac a serious look. "You better treat my little brother right, or not even our friendship will save you from the ass-kicking I will give you."

Eragon sweatdropped while Tornac gave him a sheepish grin. They all knew that Murtagh was serious.

As soon as he could, Murtagh snuck out into the back of the diner they always met in and fished out the cigarettes from his jacket. He knew his family would kill him if they ever found out, but he didn't care.

Not now. Not when his heart felt like a big black hole.

Murtagh finished off two cigarettes without feeling better in the slightest. If anything, he just felt worse. The brisk winter air only seemed to accent the pain in his chest.

He threw away the cigarette and grabbed the gum packet from his other pocket. He sprayed some scent remover on his clothes and hoped the rest of the underlying smoke could be brushed off as the smoke scent that was always seemed to be hanging around in the diner.

He sighed when his phone rang. He checked the number and frowned. What could Nasuada want?

"Yeah?"

"Murtagh, you have got to help me." Nasuada sounded really panicked. Murtagh had never heard her sound like that before.

He leaned against the wall. "What's going on, Nas?"

The back door next to him opened then. He saw Eragon look around with a troubled look on his face.

Shit, Murtagh thought to himself. He tried to pay attention to Nasuada as he motioned to Eragon where he was.

The brunet looked briefly relieved before the worry took over again.

Murtagh motioned towards his phone and signalled that he'd be right in. But instead of walking inside like Murtagh expected, Eragon closed the door and watched him.

"Steve was supposed to take care of the band tonight, but he completely fucked up." Murtagh straightened. Nasuada rarely, if ever, swore. Something was definitely wrong.

"Don't tell me he booked another house band." It was hard to think with Eragon staring at him, but Murtagh forced himself to do it.

"Worse. He gave the band the wrong date and they can't make it here on such short notice." Nasuada let out a frustrated breath. "We have no band for tonight."

Murtagh swore. The bar they both worked at always had entertainment on Fridays. If it wasn't a band, local or otherwise, it was a comedian, a play or karaoke. That was one of their main sale's points. Without entertainment, they were fucked.

"Is there no one else you can book? Not even someone local?" he asked, already going through the list in his mind. There had to be someone they had featured before that had the night off.

"I tried, Murtagh. I really did. At this rate we'll end up with another karaoke night."

"We can't do that after a month of karaoke Fridays," Murtagh said and tried to keep the tension out of his voice. "We'll lose customers."

There was a slight hesitation on the other end. "That's why I'm calling you."

Murtagh paused. Nasuada couldn't possibly be suggesting what she was thinking.

"Do you still have your guitar?"

She was. Murtagh swore. "Nas, I can't."

"The hell you can't. You're good and the customers love you." She hesitated again. "I'm not asking for much, Murtagh. Two or three songs and then we can do karaoke. Just something different so that we won't lose the crowd immediately."

Murtagh ran a hand over his face. Fuck.

"Murtagh?"

He looked up and met Eragon's gaze.

"Go. I'll explain it to the others," he said softly.

Murtagh licked his lips. "Ok, I'll be there in half an hour."

Nasuada sighed in relief. "You're a lifesaver."

"You owe me," he said and hung up. "You can tell them it was work, but don't explain why. I don't want an audience."

Eragon slipped his hands into his pockets and slouched a bit. "You're going to have to if you want to become famous."

Murtagh gave a wry smile. "I like to write, not perform." He put away his phone and sighed. "I'll see you later."

"Hey, Murtagh?"

He paused. Eragon looked nervous all of a sudden.

"Do you mind that I'm dating Tornac?"

Murtagh was proud of himself when he didn't flinch. "No. I just hope for his sake that he doesn't hurt you. No one hurts my baby brother and gets away with it."

Eragon blushed. "Stop it, Tag."

Murtagh smirked. "Tell the others I'm sorry, alright?"

Murtagh barely saw Eragon nod before he was hurrying out of there.

-:-

Murtagh had stood in for a few botched bookings before, but he never really got used to them. Like he had said, he preferred writing to performing. Performing was just not his forte.

Nonetheless, the crowd seemed to have liked him and most of them stayed even after the karaoke was put away for the evening.

From then on, the days faded into each other. Murtagh had his own apartment, so he didn't have to interact with any human beings unless he had class or work. Or, of course, the occasional evening he could be dragged out to hang with his friends.

He found more reasons to avoid his friends now. Tornac was dating Eragon. He would never be quite alright with seeing that, not unless he had someone of his own. But the thing was that he didn't want anyone else. He wanted Tornac.

Murtagh found himself writing more than ever. His wounded heart forced him to put his feelings onto paper. Songs, poems, short stories; his computer and notebooks were filled with them. He was glad for a few of the pieces; he had homework, after all, but the others made him want to cringe and/or burn them.

Instead he did what he always did. He put the stray pages and finished notebooks into a box he kept in the back of his closet. He couldn't afford to waste any emotion, even if he hated what he wrote because of it. It was the process of being a writer.

He had been avoiding his friends for about a month when he was questioned about it.

"Are you sure nothing is wrong?" Eragon asked and looked at him worriedly.

Murtagh knew how he looked. He had bags under his eyes, his hair was in disarray and he hadn't bothered to change out of his pyjamas. Thankfully he now had a proper excuse. "My assessment is due next week and everything I have is shit."

Eragon frowned. "That's not true and you know it," he said and slipped inside easily.

Murtagh closed the door and looked at his little brother.

Eragon was looking around in his room. His desk was a nightmare. The only thing that was in order was the board on the wall where the assessment details hung. Everything else was covered in loose papers, some placed together and some not. Murtagh was forced to sit with his laptop at his dining table. He just couldn't be bothered to fix the desk just yet. He had six more days, then he could start looking presentable again.

"This accounts for two weeks behaviour at the most," the brunet said and turned around. "That being this week and the one before it. It does not explain why you haven't been around for the past three weeks."

"It's exam season," Murtagh said and sat down by his laptop. He hit the save button absently. He couldn't afford to lose any changes, no matter how crappy they were.

"And yet the others have been out and about." Eragon sat down in front of him and bit at his bottom lip. "Are you sure there's nothing else going on?"

There was, but there was no way Murtagh was admitting that. "I'm fine, baby brother."

"Then you really don't mind that I'm dating one of your best friends?"

One of the downsides of Eragon having grown up was that he no longer idolized Murtagh. He saw Murtagh's flaws. Out of everyone, he was the one that saw through Murtagh the most.

"Am I happy about it? No," Murtagh answered truthfully.

Eragon's face fell.

"I'm not finished," Murtagh said before Eragon could speak. "I know Tornac. I know what he can be like. While he's not an ideal partner for you, mostly because I'm protective, I know that he can make you happy. So if he does, then I'm not going to meddle."

Eragon's deep brown eyes stared into him. Murtagh kept his face neutral. There was a time he had considered to be an actor. Of course, that was before he realised he hated standing in front of people.

"But it's not because you like him too?" the brunet asked softly.

Murtagh's heart jumped into his throat. No, Eragon couldn't have known. Murtagh refused to believe that. If Eragon had suspected it before, he knew Eragon would have turned Tornac down. This was a new development, one he had to destroy before it wormed itself deeper into Eragon's mind.

"Don't you think that if I did, I would have done something before now?" he asked and crocked an eyebrow.

Eragon looked away. He sighed. "I guess so."

"You haven't done anything wrong, baby brother," he said and patted Eragon's shoulder. "Your brother is just being an antisocial asshole again. I'll come out of my hole once this shit is over and done with."

Eragon looked at him. "Promise?"

His mouth tasted sour when he spoke. "Promise."

-:-

He kept his word. Murtagh found himself accompanying his friends again like usual when the exams were over and done with.

As he had predicted, it hurt like a bitch to see Eragon and Tornac be happy around each other. But there was nothing he could do about it. He had to pretend to be alright, even if it broke his heart to do it.

Time passed by. The snow disappeared from the ground as spring finally came around. Eragon brought Tornac home and introduced him as his boyfriend on his nineteenth birthday. Birds chirped outside in the unusually warm April weather as Morzan gave Tornac a stern lecture to never ever hurt his youngest son. Tornac wasn't allowed to leave until Brom gave him the same lecture, just a much more colourful variation.

It felt like Murtagh had cotton in his mouth. He couldn't describe the pain he got from watching Tornac take the talks in stride and assure Murtagh's parents – no, Eragon's parents – that he would never hurt their son and if he did, he would welcome whatever punishment they had for him.

Murtagh's stupid, stupid heart wondered what it would have been like if it had been him that introduced Tornac as his boyfriend. Would his parents have been as protective? Would Tornac have answered that he would never hurt Murtagh but if he ever did, they could give him whatever punishment they deemed fit?

Murtagh went back to his apartment that day and wrote until his fingers ached and the clock reminded him that it was 02:36 AM and he had class in the morning.

Things went downward from there. He tried to fuck Tornac out of his mind, his body, his stupid masochistic heart. It didn't work. While he never cried out any names, all he could think of was Tornac. His one-night stands remained one-night stands. His heart wouldn't have anyone but the one man it couldn't have.

-:-

With summer came his grades. He had As and Bs in all of his courses, effectively ending his Bachelor with good grades. He was supposed to feel happy, especially when he saw the A connected to most of his creative writing courses, but he could only feel empty.

Without being able to claim absence due to classes, Murtagh was forced to spend more time with his friends again.

Glaedr proposed to Saphira on her nineteenth birthday with the message that he would wait until she wanted to hold the ceremony, as long as he was the groom. Saphira cried and laughed at the same time and of course accepted his proposal, even though they had only been dating for a year.

After that, Murtagh heard wedding bells everywhere. While Saphira assured them that they would wait for at least two years, Murtagh knew they were going to cause a mass of proposals in the near future.

When September started anew, Murtagh found himself going to work more often instead of classes. He was holding off on his Master for a year. After Tornac and Eragon, his will to apply for another year had died down. Of course, they were not the primary reason. Murtagh had been struggling with figuring out his Master for some time. Now he didn't have to worry for another year and it was very freeing.

Eragon's visits became fewer as he got lost in the first dizzying year in college. His other friends were also eaten up by their college duties. The only one Murtagh saw steadily was Nasuada. Murtagh found that he didn't mind that at all.

Even though he no longer had creative writing, he wrote every day. Angry things, bitter things; most of which would never see the light of day again.

He allowed himself to be roped into performing a few more times at the bar, even when they could just as easily have gone with karaoke and gotten away with it. He knew Nasuada was paying attention to his song selection, but he didn't always care.

He woke up one morning and realised that his birthday was in a week. For once the realisation was followed by dread.

Murtagh only knew people in a relationship. Glaedr and Saphira were engaged and Nasuada and Arya were two steps away from tying the knot as well. He had seen as much when Arya had visited Nasuada at the bar. Tornac and Eragon had been going strong for eight months and looked to be getting on terribly well. Shruikan and Thorn seemed to have gotten over their rocky start and were fitting together rather well.

Murtagh had no one. He could taste the bitterness in his mouth. He got out of bed and turned on his laptop. He booked a flight to the first place he found that seemed reasonable and proceeded to call work. He had a lot of vacation time lined up. He asked his boss to take out two weeks and hung up after getting an affirmative.

He told his parents and reprogrammed his voicemail to announce his sudden vacation time. He then sent out texts to his friends and promptly turned off his phone as he went to board the plane.

-:-

The time in the UK did him a lot of good. He visited London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin. He left for home with four full memory cards, one for each city. He felt much fitter and had finally thrown away the pack of cigarettes he had been carrying around for ages. He felt free.

He hadn't messaged back any of his friends or answered any of their calls. He answered when his parents called and assured Brom that yes, he was alright. He just wanted some alone time.

As he waited for his plane to start boarding, he read over his messages. Most of them were worried, especially the ones from Eragon. As the first week passed, the messages started to get angry. Eragon called him childish and would he answer the phone already? Thorn asked him if everything was alright and actually remembered to wish him happy birthday. Nasuada offered him support and said that he could talk to her if he needed it when he came home. Arya sounded pretty much like Eragon, though she chastised him rather than calling him childish.

Murtagh paused when he came to Tornac's messages. There were only a couple as opposed to the ones from Arya, Thorn and Eragon, though Eragon was definitely the one that had texted the most. Every last one of Tornac's messages made his heart bleed.

The first one asked him if everything was alright. The second one chastised him for leaving just like that and for not telling them, especially Eragon, about it properly. The third and last one wished him happy birthday, but it wasn't nearly as cheerful as Tornac's birthday wishes usually were.

There was a lump in Murtagh's throat. The calm from the trip left him completely and by the time he was back in Carvahall, he was as tense as he had been upon leaving.

As he waited for his luggage, he called home.

"Murtagh," Brom said when he picked up the phone. "How are you?"

His parents had tried to wheedle out Murtagh's location approximately eight times before giving up. That had been during his first week in the UK.

"I'm home," he said and was glad for the hands-free when he spotted his bag. "The plane just landed."

Brom sighed in relief. "Where were you?"

"The British Iles, though I didn't stop by Ile of Man, the other Iles or Northern Ireland. I didn't bother with the Iles or wanted to chance it with N.I.," he said and grabbed his bag from the belt. He checked to make sure it was the one before shouldering it.

"Can you tell us why you left now?"

Murtagh walked towards the exit. "I told you. I needed some alone time."

"Murtagh."

He paused. He really hated how his family saw through him sometimes.

"You missed your birthday. There was more to it than wanting some alone time," Brom continued.

Murtagh forced himself to move. "Nope. That's the gist of it, paps. I just needed a change of scenery. UK seemed like a good choice."

"And yet you sound as tense as always. What is really going on with you, kiddo?"

Murtagh didn't have the time for this. He wanted to go home and sleep. He rarely slept well on planes.

"I'll come over on Saturday and talk to you both then, alright? I have to catch a cab."

"I could just call your father -"

"No, it's fine," Murtagh insisted. "The Spanish Inquisition can wait until Saturday."

Brom sighed. "Fine. We'll see you then."

"Thanks, paps. Love you."

"Love you too, kiddo."

Murtagh grabbed the first cab he could and headed home.

-:-

Murtagh spent the next day, Friday, holed up in his apartment. There was a knock on the door sometime around 5 in the afternoon, but he didn't even get up. There was no one he wanted to see right now. By ordering a pizza from a local place, he didn't even have to go out and get any groceries.

Saturday dawned bleak and with the promise of rain. Murtagh stared out of the window and sighed. A part of him regretted the trip, but it was a small part. He had needed two weeks of being selfish. Shagging English blokes hadn't been so bad either.

He got dressed and left around one in the afternoon, hair still wet from his shower. He took the bus to his parents' house.

Brom hugged him tightly when he opened the door, then smacked the back of his head.

"I missed you too, paps," Murtagh said and smirked.

Brom glared before pulling him inside. "You're explaining everything, Murtagh," he said tightly.

He exchanged a brief hug with Morzan, who also gave him a reproachful look, before sitting down in the living room. Murtagh was very aware that Eragon could be upstairs or come home any minute. He barely held back from asking where his brother was.

"You made a lot of people very worried," Brom said gruffly and sat down next to his husband.

"I'm sorry about that, but I don't regret leaving," Murtagh said seriously. "I needed a vacation."

"From what?" Morzan asked.

Murtagh found himself wanting to shy away from his father's gaze. He and Morzan were very similar. He didn't want to think about what would happen if Morzan somehow figured everything out.

"Life," Murtagh answered a minute or so later. "And the people in it. I just, I needed to get away."

Morzan looked painfully understanding, and he rarely showed any emotions that strongly.

Brom sighed. "You can talk to us, Murtagh."

The front door opened then. Murtagh instantly knew who it was. The sudden pause that came after it announced that there was no way Eragon had missed Murtagh's boots in the hallway.

Eragon all but ran into the living room. He took one look at Murtagh before charging at him and flailing in some sort of attempt to hit Murtagh. "YOU ASSHOLE!"

"Eragon," Brom said firmly, but Eragon clearly wasn't listening.

"HOW DARE YOU RUN OFF LIKE THAT?" Eragon continued. Murtagh had restrained his arms almost instantly. Now all Eragon could do was glare with all his might.

"I needed some alone time," Murtagh said for the nth time.

"BULLSHIT!" Eragon said shrilly.

"Eragon," Morzan said with authority in his voice.

Eragon quietened. His mouth was set in an ugly grimace. "We worried ourselves sick about you, you idiot."

Murtagh sighed and let go of his brother. "You didn't have to. I told you how long I was going to be gone."

"You've never done a runner like that! Especially not around your birthday! Of course we worried!"

"I didn't want or need that. I needed to be alone. Taking a vacation seemed like a good idea."

Eragon continued to look like he desperately wanted to hit Murtagh in the nuts.

"Why didn't you let us know?" he asked sullenly.

"Because I didn't want to repeat my reasons half a dozen times," Murtagh said blankly.

Eragon looked away. "What you did was selfish, and you know it."

Murtagh got up and put on his jacket. "I rarely allow myself the luxury to be selfish, Eragon. It was something I needed and I did it. I didn't mean to hurt anyone, but I don't regret it," he said coldly.

Eragon clenched his jaw, but didn't speak again.

Murtagh said goodbye to his parents and threw one at Eragon as he walked towards the front door.

A very familiar and unwelcome figure stood there leaning against the wall. Murtagh felt the air leave his lungs and his heart give a painful squeeze. His expression remained blank.

Tornac looked at Murtagh like he was a stranger. Murtagh knew he had heard everything that had been said in the living room. Tornac did not look impressed with Murtagh at all.

Murtagh forced his face to remain blank. He put on his boots and stalked past the other and out the door. The fact that he was allowed to leave uninterrupted hurt. He walked away with a prickling in his eyes and dying for a cigarette.

-:-

Nasuada welcome him back warmly. She didn't seem to mind his sudden absence as much. She just reminded him that she was there for him if he needed to talk.

Arya had hit him before demanding to hear stories from his trip. Murtagh was very grateful for the relationship they had. Even when Arya was displeased with him, she would never avoid him or give him a cold shoulder.

Thorn kept making sure that he was alright, then scolded him for leaving without saying goodbye. Murtagh was back in his good graces after a round of Thorn's favourite take-away and a movie marathon.

His parents forgave him soon enough, though Brom continued to insist that he should talk to them, or at least try to make amends with Eragon. Morzan just looked at him with this uncanny knowing in his eyes.

Murtagh hadn't spoken to Tornac or Eragon in weeks. He felt their absence in his heart, the stupid heart he thought couldn't possibly hurt more.

Murtagh found himself staring at their picture whenever he sat at his desk. He had two boards there, one with pictures and one for lecture notes and post-it-notes. He had pictures of his friends, one of his family and one of himself, Eragon and Tornac. It had been taken just before Tornac left for college.

He found himself analysing the picture. He had other pictures of them together, but they were older. In them, it was always himself or Tornac that was in the middle. But in this one, it was Eragon that was in the centre.

Murtagh found himself comparing the distance between Tornac and Eragon to the distance between himself and Tornac in one of the older pictures. He analysed where Tornac's arm was, how it draped around Eragon's shoulders and how Eragon leaned into him.

Had something been going on then? Impossible, Murtagh told himself firmly. Eragon had been fifteen at the time. If there had been something going on, then his parents would fight over the right to kill Tornac, and Tornac knew it. If Tornac had felt something then, he had hid it, waited for the time when Eragon was old enough.

Murtagh felt his heart clench painfully. He had so few precious people in his life, and now he wasn't talking to two of them, one of whom he was still stupidly in love with.

His eyes lowered to his computer screen. His MSN list told him that both Tornac and Eragon were offline. His mouth tasted sour. They hadn't been online in weeks. Murtagh had a sneaky suspicion they were blocking him.

It was no more than he deserved, he supposed, but it still hurt.

-:-

"Do you want to come over tonight for a Blade marathon?" Thorn asked when he came into the bar that afternoon.

Murtagh looked at him blankly. He knew that was a trick to lure him in. The third Blade movie was one of his favourite movies. It didn't hurt that one of the actors acted and looked a little like Tornac.

"I can't," he said plainly. "I'm pulling a double tonight. Steve is sick."

Thorn snorted. "Tell me the truth, Murtagh."

"That is the truth." He didn't tell Thorn that he had volunteered for the job when he overheard Nasuada on the phone with Arya talking about some group plans for the evening.

Thorn clenched his jaw. "You need to talk to them, Murtagh."

Murtagh continued to dry the glasses and put them away. "They are the ones that won't talk to me, or understand my point of view for that matter."

The other fell silent.

Murtagh found it easy to talk when he wasn't looking at his friend. "I know that I worried people needlessly when I didn't say goodbye properly or, rather, in advance. But I needed that trip. I needed to get away. I won't apologise for it." He put down the glass he was drying before his clenched hands broke it. "I probably should have explained it better to Eragon, but he wouldn't listen. Tornac won't forgive me for talking to Eragon the way I did."

"Why did you need to get away?"

He sighed. "I just did, alright? Haven't you ever gotten an impulsive need that you just had to act upon?"

Thorn shrugged. "I suppose."

"Apparently they haven't. So now they're avoiding me in retaliation for my two week absence."

Thorn fell silent again. "You do need to talk to them sometime."

Murtagh looked down at the counter top. "I guess so."

Thorn left a few minute later without demanding that Murtagh show up that evening. Murtagh felt strangely hollow at his victory.

-:-

Murtagh happened upon them once the winter arrived in early December. He saw them in the distance and ducked away before he could be seen. Unwillingly, his body moved so he could look around the corner. His gaze was instantly glued upon them.

Tornac stood behind Eragon with his arms resting on Eragon's shoulder, his hands resting against the other's chest. Eragon was leaning back against the taller male. Tornac whispered something into Eragon's ear that made the brunet smile and laugh.

Murtagh looked away and leaned heavily against the wall. They looked so carefree; so happy. He clearly wasn't missed at all.

His eyes started to prickle intensively. He stared stubbornly at the ground until the pricking stopped.

"If this is what you want, I will let you be happy," he whispered, more to himself than to anyone else. The prickling started anew, but he ignored it.

Murtagh pushed away from the wall and walked back to his lonely apartment.

-:-

With Christmas came a dilemma. Murtagh hadn't spoken to Tornac and Eragon since early October. He had almost gotten used to the bleakness in his life.

He knew Eragon would be home for Christmas. He knew he was expected home as well. Every fibre of his being rebelled against the thought of going. He knew Tornac would stop by with his parents. It was customary, especially on Boxer Day. They usually ate dinner together then.

He had picked up the phone and dialled home before he realised what he was doing.

"You're coming home, and that's final," Brom said before Murtagh could speak.

Murtagh's mouth felt dry. "Eragon doesn't want to talk to me."

"Then so be it. You're our son too, and we want you home for Christmas. You're not getting out of that."

Murtagh swallowed.

"You need to talk eventually," Brom continued. "This silly fight can't go on forever."

Murtagh couldn't talk. "I'll see you next week," he said hoarsely and hung up.

-:-

Christmas was a disaster. Murtagh showed up as late as he could. He came just after noon on the 23rd. The plastic tree had been put up and the decorations were everywhere in the living room. It was all strangely nostalgic.

Brom hugged him tightly and gave him a worried look. Clearly he looked as shitty as he felt. He gave Brom a half-hearted smirk and headed to his room to put away his bag.

He had to walk past Eragon's room to get to his own. The door hadn't been shut properly and he could hear people talking in there.

"I can't talk to him," Eragon said firmly.

"It has been nearly three months. At the very least you can be civil to him," Tornac said diplomatically.

Murtagh walked past the room soundlessly. He put down his bag, glad that he had decided to pack the small one after all. He walked right back.

New sentences flowed out as he passed Eragon's room again.

"I don't understand him at all."

"Then you should let him explain," Tornac said.

"But you're angry too!" Eragon said loudly.

"And I want to understand. This is not like Murtagh at all."

What was said next was lost as Murtagh walked down the stairs. He forced all his emotions into the box in his mind and locked it. He then helped his parents decorate the tree.

"How are you doing with the writing?" Brom asked as he and Morzan put on the tinsel.

"Fine," Murtagh answered. He looked through the figurines and picked out the ones that always ended up on the tree. "An agency called and said they might be interested in a couple of my songs."

Morzan and Brom stopped. "And you only tell us now?" Brom said in a rush.

Murtagh looked at them blankly. He hadn't really thought about it. They wanted to see him in early January to give him a proper assessment. It wasn't something he wanted to get excited about yet.

"It's not official. I have a meeting in January."

Brom strode over and gave him a quick hug. "Even so. You're going somewhere. I'm so proud of you, son."

Morzan's nod said the same.

Murtagh felt a tiny piece of his heart thaw. "Thanks."

"What pieces are they talking about?"

"Ah, nothing you've seen," Murtagh said and handed over a few figurines.

That was the truth. An agent had apparently walked into their bar expecting to see a local and upcoming band but had gotten Murtagh instead. His song collection had been emotional and rather bitter. They were either inspired by losing Tornac to Eragon or the loss of them from his life.

"You'll have to show them to us when the agency gets back to you," Brom said and gave him a warm look.

Murtagh really didn't want to. He knew Nasuada suspected what was wrong, but if his parents saw his work, then his secret would definitely be out. "Will do," he said even so, because he knew any other answer would be suspicious.

The top stair creaked then, announcing Eragon and Tornac's upcoming descent. Murtagh had quickly memorized that step and managed to avoid it every time. It was one of the reasons he had managed to successfully sneak in and out in his adolescence. But Eragon and Tornac always seemed to forget it.

Murtagh paused. If he left, then he would have to face them again later anyway. If he stayed, then Morzan and Brom's presence would keep them from arguing for now.

He stayed put as Tornac and Eragon got off the stairs. He knew they could see him, but continued to stay with his back to them. He grabbed a few figurines and hung them on the tree instead.

Neither of them acknowledged the other.

-:-

Dinner was terribly tense. Tornac retreated beforehand, but it wasn't any less tense with him gone.

Murtagh couldn't sleep that night. He spent the time down in the living room, flickering between channels until he finally managed to doze. But before that, he had managed to get a glimpse of the presents under the tree. There were two envelopes there, both to Murtagh. He cast a bitter glance at his gifts to Tornac and Eragon before going back to the couch.

Christmas Eve wasn't any less tense than the day before. Murtagh still hadn't spoken to Eragon.

Eragon was usually the one that handed out the presents, but Brom volunteered before Eragon could decline. It was clear that he would have refused to do it, just so he didn't have to address Murtagh even indirectly.

Murtagh's bitterness didn't fade. He watched the others rip into their presents without really feeling like doing the same himself. Thankfully all the gifts were given out first, so no one had to watch and wait for their turn.

He went for the envelopes first. Both of them contained a gift certificate. Eragon's was to a record company and Tornac's was to a bookstore. He looked over at the rectangular shape next to one of Eragon's bigger presents.

It seemed like they were never going to forgive him, and Murtagh had been a stupid fucking idiot and actually put some thought into their presents.

Murtagh opened the other gifts. He barely noticed what he had gotten from his parents or his friends. He couldn't get those envelopes out of his mind. It didn't even help to see the uncomfortable look on Eragon's face when he unwrapped his gift. Murtagh had put aside money especially for the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings. They weren't as expensive as they would have been a few years ago, but he still noticed it when he walked out of the shop with a lighter wallet.

He looked away when he felt saw Eragon turn to look at him. He knew how much Eragon had wanted to buy those himself, but he didn't have the cash. Murtagh had made a deal with his parents that he would buy those for Eragon a few years ago, and he always kept his promise.

Murtagh went to bed shortly thereafter, claiming that he had a headache. He locked the door to his bedroom before going to sleep.

-:-

By some miracle, Murtagh managed to stay past Christmas Morning. Eragon kept looking at him guiltily, something that wasn't helping Murtagh at all.

He stayed out of the house around the time Tornac came over to collect his presents from the family. He didn't want to look at Tornac's face when he saw the picture Murtagh had bought him. It was a smaller version of one of Tornac's favourite paintings.

He came home just before dinner was served. He apologised for not being there for the preparations of dinner. Brom let him off the hook, but he still looked worried.

Eragon kept shooting him looks, but Murtagh ignored them. He didn't want to know how Tornac had looked when he opened the gift. He didn't want to know what Tornac had said.

While Eragon was still asleep on Boxer Day, Murtagh said goodbye to his parents and walked back to his apartment.

-:-

The stores were open the next day. Murtagh grabbed the gift certificates and went to spend them. He couldn't have them in home anymore.

He spent the money on early birthday presents to his friends. He refused to use their money on himself.

He was back at the apartment before noon, confident that Eragon wouldn't be up yet or and therefore be on his way over. Murtagh put away the new purchases and found appropriate spots for his Christmas gifts.

When he was finished, he looked down at the envelopes the certificates had come in. He slowly and deliberately tore them up and flung them in with the other paper trash.

-:-

Thorn visited him the day before New Year's Eve. "I heard what they got you."

Murtagh let him in without answering. He walked back to the table and sat down. He was looking through his portfolio for any good songs he could take with him to the agency. So far he had managed to find a couple.

"It doesn't matter," he said and flipped through the latest notebook. Everything screamed betrayal, and Murtagh wasn't sure how many of those he wanted to bring. It felt a little too much like putting himself on display.

"What they did was insulting," Thorn said firmly and sat down in front of him. "We haven't given each other gift certificates since we were first getting to know each other."

"I don't care," he said and closed the book.

"But you do," Thorn said and sighed. "Even a blind man could see that."

Murtagh got a new notebook and started to flip through it. "What is done is done."

"God, why are you doing this to yourself?" Thorn asked fiercely. "This isn't like you. Why aren't you trying to fix it or screaming at them for treating you so poorly?"

Murtagh dog-eared a page and flipped to the next one. "They're happier without me."

The apartment became deadly silent. Murtagh didn't need to look up to know that Thorn looked shell-shocked.

"That's bullshit," Thorn said angrily.

"I saw them," he said and looked up. "They were smiling and laughing like they weren't ripping the heart out of my chest."

Thorn paused. There was something Murtagh couldn't decipher in his eyes.

"Do you like Tornac?"

Murtagh gave him a tired look. "No."

He wasn't even really lying. He loved Tornac. That was a totally different word, different emotion, different pain.

Thorn didn't look like he believed him. "No? Because that would explain so much."

Murtagh rolled his eyes. "I'm pretty sure, yes."

Thorn looked away. Murtagh knew he hadn't convinced Thorn of anything yet.

-:-

Time passed more slowly than ever. New Year's Eve had been one of the longest days in Murtagh's life. He spent in with his parents only because he knew Eragon and Tornac would be spending it with their friends.

January 5th rolled around and Murtagh met with Varden Records. It was a very big label, which was why Murtagh wasn't expecting anything.

They had a short interview and afterwards Murtagh gave them photocopies of his songs and a tape of himself singing a few of them. They promised they would get back to him.

Murtagh continued to write, though at a slower pace now. He felt sluggish and drained. It still hurt to think about the gift certificates. It hurt to think about how their conversation about him must have gone. How they had settled on certificates because they had to show up with something even though they couldn't stand him.

January turned into February before he heard from Varden Records. When he did, he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Someone is actually interested?"

"They are," Angela Vitch told him in her musical voice. "Can you come in on Monday? They would like to meet you."

Murtagh mutely wrote down the date and time on a post-it and put it on his board. "...This is a little surreal."

Angela laughed. "I can understand that."

"Which songs are they interested in?"

Murtagh heard her shuffle around some papers before apparently finding what she was looking for. She listed off three songs that Murtagh had written around the same time. While that didn't necessary mean they fit together, they did in this instance.

He nodded to himself. "Alright. I'll see you Monday."

"I will. And again, congratulations, Murtagh."

He hung up still feeling like everything was a dream.

-:-

The band that was interested in his songs was a local one. They were very good, though a little rough in the lyrics department. Murtagh let them have a test run with his songs and sat back to listen.

Murtagh walked away from the studio in March with a contract in his bag and a sizeable amount of money being wired to his account. There was a band that was going to give out a CD with three of his songs on it. Everything was so surreal.

Angela had taken it upon herself to be his agent. She warned him to keep his phone charged at all times. She said that once this band got out with his name on their work, then he would become very interesting indeed.

He was approached in April by his little brother. Murtagh felt the bitterness and anger crawl up his throat. He almost slammed the door in Eragon's face.

"I wanted to apologise," Eragon said softly, not quite looking at him.

"Why should you? I was the one being a selfish pig," he said coolly.

Eragon flinched. "I never called you a pig," he said and looked up. "I just wish you had explained."

Murtagh leaned against the doorway. "It has nothing to do with any of you and everything to do with me. I needed to be alone. I just needed to get away. I have told you this before."

"I still don't get it."

At least he looked willing to try to understand, Murtagh thought to himself. "You've had an easier life than me, Eragon."

Eragon was instantly confused and tried to speak, but Murtagh interrupted him.

"You've always known what you wanted to do. I don't have that luxury. The pressure just kept mounting until I had to say stop. I needed to get away. So I did."

Eragon bit his lower lip. "I still think there's something you're not telling us."

Murtagh looked down at him. "There will always be something I'm not telling you."

The brunet looked worried until he saw the smirk on Murtagh's lips. He rolled his eyes. He then looked nervous again. "Are we ok now?"

Murtagh turned serious. "Two of my closest people avoided me for months, Eragon. That will always hurt."

Eragon looked ashamed.

"Give me time."

The other nodded.

Murtagh didn't really feel any lighter when Eragon left. While Eragon was his brother, it had always hurt more that Tornac, who his fucking stupid heart still loved, had ignored him.

-:-

Their friendship slowly mended over the next couple of months. Murtagh felt slightly more at ease around them on Eragon's birthday. He managed to look at Eragon and feel pleased when his little brother beamed and thanked him for the gift.

Murtagh decided to go back to school that autumn. He had finally managed to pick a Master degree that he thought fit him.

He still hadn't heard from Angela about any other takers, but that was fine. The album wasn't out yet. He wasn't worried. He probably wouldn't worry if he never heard from her again.

He managed to stay for his birthday celebration that year. They went out to a bar, though Eragon and Saphira still couldn't drink anything other than beer. Murtagh allowed himself to relax a tiny bit and enjoy being with his friends.

He couldn't help but to look at Nasuada and Arya. They were so content together. Arya had proposed only a couple of weeks before. They planned a spring wedding, apparently. Saphira and Glaedr were still waiting. Murtagh was willing to bet money that they were waiting for Saphira to finish her Bachelor.

Even though it still hurt to see Tornac snuggle up with Eragon, he moved past it. Murtagh could be happy for them. Maybe not now, but someday in the future. For now he could just pretend.

When he came back from the bar, he put down the plastic bag where all his presents were. He put them away one by one. He paused when he came to one.

It was a disk case. The cover betrayed that it was a high-tech music rendering program. The card had been signed Eragon and Tornac.

Murtagh refused to think about what that could mean and put it on his desk for another day.

-:-

Christmas was a much more pleasant affair this time around. Murtagh got one gift from each of them, as if the collaboration gift from September hadn't happened. They both showed effort, and right then that was all that mattered.

Murtagh knew his relationship with Tornac had never fully recovered. They were more like friends now, but there was still this distance between them.

Oddly enough, it hurt more to love him now that they weren't as close.

Murtagh forced himself to spend New Year's Eve with his friends. It was an extended group, so he wasn't the only single one. But he was pretty sure he was the only one that snuck away at midnight to avoid seeing anyone kissing.

The New Year brought a lot of changes. In late January, the CD was released. Murtagh strangely had mixed feelings about seeing his name in associating with a band that, while he knew, was something he wasn't really a part of.

The CD got brilliant reviews. His songs were praised. His parents congratulated him, as well as his friends. No one asked him where the inspiration had come from, and for that he thanked the Gods.

Nasuada and Arya announced that they were officially scheduled for a March wedding. Saphira and Glaedr officially scheduled theirs for the June after Saphira finished her Bachelor.

No one else seemed to be proposing.

February was going to show Murtagh not to speak too soon.

-:-

Murtagh couldn't feel anything. All senses were focused on the band around Eragon's ring finger and the words echoing in his mind. They were engaged. Tornac and Eragon were going to get married.

Murtagh forced himself to act like his usual self. He smirked at Eragon and made a comment about waiting with sex until the wedding night. He didn't feel anything when Eragon blushed and shoved him. He gave Tornac a calculating look and held out his hand.

His hand tingled when Tornac clasped it. Murtagh heard himself congratulate them, but it didn't feel like it was him saying it.

He managed to stay with the group until everyone else started to walk home.

When he got into his apartment, he locked the door and let himself cry.

-:-

Their parents took the news well. They congratulated Eragon and Tornac, though Morzan shot Tornac a warning look as if to remind him of the talk they had had two years ago.

Brom joked about Eragon getting married before Murtagh, but Murtagh didn't really hear it.

His heart was too busy breaking.

Everything seemed to go down from there. He continued to write, but everything he wrote was angry or bitter. No real change there, but it was darker now. It fit, but Murtagh knew of no local band that could possibly be interested in that type of songs.

He had given up on one-night stands since Tornac and Eragon announced their engagement.

Somehow, he managed to keep his head in his studies.

He didn't sing as often at the bar anymore. Nasuada noticed this too, Murtagh knew. It was only a matter of time before she talked to him. He was a little surprised she hadn't already.

Angela called to let him know that more people were interested in him. They wanted him to come in again. He half-heartedly agreed. If nothing else, it would give him something else to think about.

-:-

Arya and Nasuada's wedding was very moving. Murtagh felt happy for them, but he also felt jealous.

They got to be with the one they loved. He never would.

Before April rolled around, Murtagh had sold one song to a female artist and another two songs to a band. He didn't need to work right now, but he liked to have a steady flow of income, so he kept the job at the bar. Besides, Murtagh knew that this wouldn't keep up forever. He needed an education to fall back on when he became old news in the music world.

Tornac and Eragon announced that they wanted a winter wedding. The girls gushed that they wanted it to be winter because that was when they got together. Tornac and Eragon didn't comment, though Eragon blushed.

Murtagh allowed himself to cry for the second time that year.

-:-

Nasuada sat at his table with her hands wrapped around a cup of tea. The worry was clear in her eyes.

Murtagh looked like a shit and knew it. The last couple of weeks had been tough. He had been forced to act normal when he just wanted to run away and never return. He hated that he was single, but he couldn't imagine dating anyone else.

"Why did you never tell him?" Nasuada asked softly.

Murtagh padded out. He had gotten dressed, at least. That wasn't as common these days. Lying around in his pyjamas and trying to forget the world was much more enticing.

"Hm?" he hummed and sat down in front of her.

Nasuada narrowed her eyes. "Don't play coy. Tornac. Why didn't you tell him you loved him?"

Murtagh picked up his mug and sipped at it. "He's engaged. To my brother. That's highly inappropriate."

She outright glared at him now. "No. Before they got together. It's obvious that you've been harbouring these feelings for quite some time," she said sternly.

Murtagh realised when he had lost the battle. "He obviously didn't return my feelings."

She looked at him like he was stupid. "So you just never even tried?"

Murtagh shrugged, hoping he looked calmer on the outside than he was on the inside.

"God. Men," she said like it was a curse. "You're stupid, Murtagh."

"I didn't want to lose one of my best friends," he said tightly.

"But you have," Nasuada said before he could continue. "I've seen the tension between you two."

She was right and they both knew it.

"What is done is done."

She snorted loudly.

Murtagh looked down at his tea. Suddenly he couldn't stomach it anymore. He got up and emptied it into the sink.

"I can't believe you've been carrying this around for years," she muttered and shook her head. "This is why you've been so distant. You can't watch them together. It breaks you."

There was nothing he could say to that, so he didn't.

"You only have yourself to thank," she said, sounding a gentler now. "I just wish you wouldn't have to go through this pain."

Murtagh looked away. He didn't answer, though he knew she knew what he was thinking.

I wish so too.

-:-

Murtagh leaned against the wall as he listened to the female artist sing her heart out. She was already rather famous, so he felt like it was an honour that she had come all the way to Carvahall just so he could hear her sing.

The song fit her voice. She even managed to add the correct amount of emotion. Even though it felt weird to have one of his pieces turned into a trance/pop beat, it felt real too.

He was slowly getting somewhere.

The artist finished the stanza and grabbed the water bottle sitting on the table in the room.

The technician behind the desk gave her a thumbs-up.

She beamed back and gave a wink to Murtagh, though there was something in her eyes he couldn't interpret.

"You're very good, Murtagh," Angela said as the others busied themselves with fine-tuning the song.

"Thank you," he said softly.

"Have you ever considered doing this yourself?"

Murtagh shook his head. "Performing is not for me. I think I prefer it this way."

Angela crocked an eyebrow. "I hope you have more in store, then. Mark my words, Murtagh. You're going to go far."

-:-

Time seemed to fly by. Murtagh wasn't even aware of just how much in bad shape he was until his parents mentioning something about being grateful Eragon and Tornac were waiting until after Eragon turned 21. His soul felt a little lighter, but only slightly.

Morzan visited him at his apartment one day in autumn. He didn't speak until he was comfortably seated and Murtagh had offered him something to drink. "Are you sure about this, Murtagh?"

Murtagh continued to look at his coffeemaker. He watched the slowly dripping water and wished his life was as predictable.

"Sure about what?" he asked.

Morzan didn't answer. Murtagh forced himself to turn around and look at his father.

Morzan looked uncharacteristically sombre. "I nearly lost Brom to his high school sweetheart."

Murtagh blinked. He hadn't heard this story before.

"There was a time when Brom, bless him, thought he was perfectly straight," Morzan said and motioned at the other chair. Murtagh found himself complying without ordering his body to move. "However, he seemed willing to be more with me."

"Why have you never told us any of this?" Murtagh asked.

His father grunted. "It was a very messy affair. We slept together only once before I told him to head back to his pretty girlfriend and live a suburban life. He nearly did it too."

Murtagh couldn't believe what he was hearing. True, Eragon and Murtagh had both known their parents weren't without their faults, especially in their relationship. They could have rows, loud ones at that, but they always made up. They loved each other fiercely and it showed.

"I realised I loved him too much to let him make that mistake," Morzan continued. "I begged for a second chance."

Murtagh choked. He had never seen his father beg for anything. It was a hard thing to imagine.

"It wasn't easy, but it was the best decision I ever made."

The coffeemaker beeped. Murtagh startled and jumped out of the chair to pour his father a cup.

"Why are you telling me this now?" he asked. His tongue felt heavy and stuck to the roof of his mouth.

"Because I believe you're making the same mistake," the other said bluntly.

Murtagh sucked in a breath. "How can you say that?" There wasn't even a point in trying to deny anything. Morzan knew exactly who he was talking about.

"Brom and I anticipated that Tornac would become a part of our family at one point, but we always thought he'd marry you."

There was a lump in his throat. Murtagh tried unsuccessfully to swallow around it. "Well, you were wrong." He grabbed the cup and handed it to his father.

Morzan took it, but didn't drink from it. He looked at Murtagh with so much understanding that it hurt. "You're like me, Murtagh. You love with all your heart, and most likely only once. It hurts to watch you do this to yourself."

Murtagh gripped the counter hard. His hands were shaking. "He's marrying Eragon. They're happy. I'm not going to fuck that up."

His father shook his head. "You shouldn't have let it come to this," he said and took a sip of his coffee.

His heart was pounding in his chest. "Tornac never returned my feelings. There's nothing I could have done."

Morzan snorted. "Then you are blinder than you look," he said bluntly and put down the cup. "He was utterly besotted with you. I was getting ready to give him a proper talk-to once I got wind of his reputation. But then, nothing happened. Before we could even wonder what was going on, he was suddenly dating Eragon."

Murtagh shook his head. "He never loved me."

"He did. He just never dared to do anything because you show as much emotion as I do, Murtagh."

His eyes were prickling again. His mouth felt impossibly dry.

"He didn't want to lose you as a friend, so he turned to Eragon instead." Morzan sighed tiredly. "And here we are."

"It doesn't change anything," Murtagh said. He forced himself to forget what his father had said. He couldn't process that Tornac might have loved him back. He couldn't. "They're happy. They love each other."

"If Eragon knew, he wouldn't have agreed to date Tornac," Morzan told him gruffly. "He would never do anything to hurt you."

Murtagh snorted in disbelief and felt guilty right away. That had been a mutual thing. He was past this.

"It doesn't change anything," he repeated. "I can't hurt them."

"There is someone out there that is better suited for Eragon, and I won't hesitate to say that at the wedding," Morzan said and stood. "They would no doubt make each other happy, but they would be settling. There is more for both of them out there."

"Dad, don't," he said almost desperately.

"Hn." Morzan brushed himself off. "No, you're right. Brom would kill me."

Murtagh wanted to laugh hysterically. He knew Brom would, even if he agreed with Morzan.

"But you should tell them."

"I can't," he whispered.

Morzan sighed. He patted Murtagh's shoulder before leaving.

Murtagh sunk down to the floor and buried his head in his hands. He rewound the conversation and wished he could delete it from his memory.

As usual, he had fucked it up for himself. It seemed oddly fitting.

-:-

Murtagh barely managed to stop himself from booking yet another trip to some random country in Europe, though the Scandinavian countries seemed oddly interesting. It was so far away and no one would guess he had gone there.

But no. He couldn't. He had school, work and friends he needed to pretend in front of.

Tornac had finished his Master the spring before, so he was suddenly more around. He could go out when the boys forced Murtagh out to go drinking. He was there when Thorn orchestrated another movie marathon and forced his boyfriend to be there for once. He was even there when the girls forced Murtagh to go shopping.

But their strained friendship remained. Apparently it was unsalvageable.

Murtagh didn't know if he preferred it now that he knew the truth. Tornac had cared for him once, and Murtagh had fucked it up. He had missed his chance without even realising it had come and gone.

Nasuada kept sending him worried looks, though Arya just looked speculating. Murtagh hoped that she wouldn't figure it out. Arya and Tornac were very close. It was a danger that she would tell Tornac and Murtagh couldn't deal with that possibility.

In the middle of it all, Thorn somehow managed to figure it out just before the autumn exams. Thorn didn't approach him, but Murtagh could tell he knew. When the snow finally started to fall and his last exam was handed it, Thorn all but knocked down his door.

"You do love him," he said accusingly.

Murtagh didn't even bother to deny it. "Can we not talk about this? I missed my chance, the end."

Thorn looked worried, angry and tired all at once. "Why didn't you do anything?"

"I'm not the only one that's good at hiding their emotions," he said and had to let out a sharp laugh when his radio announced one of his songs.

Thorn frowned.

"I wrote this," Murtagh said and motioned at the radio on his bedside table.

His friend looked horribly understanding by the time the chorus rolled around. Murtagh wished he hadn't told Thorn about the song.

"You've gotten a lot of inspiration from this mess, haven't you?"

"Strong emotions are always a good source of inspiration," Murtagh said as if reciting from some unknown source.

Thorn just sighed.

-:-

Murtagh had been forced to yet another New Year's Eve party. He recognised about half of the people in the room.

"So, how is your love life going?" Arya asked him rather bluntly and out of the blue.

Murtagh was unimpressed and let his posture tell her just that. "It comes and goes."

He was very aware of the people he knew around him.

By Arya's side, Nasuada looked at him sombrely before taking a sip of her drink and turning to Saphira. Saphira was saying something, but her eyes kept flickering between Nasuada and Glaedr, so she hadn't seen Nasuada's expression. Murtagh was grateful for that.

Glaedr only had eyes for Saphira, though he talked mutely with Shruikan and Thorn. Thorn was barely participating in the conversation. He was now paying more attention to Arya.

Murtagh couldn't see Eragon or Tornac, and he was immensely grateful for that.

"And why is that?" she asked.

Murtagh rolled his eyes. "So I haven't had a steady partner for a decade and a half like everyone here. I'm comfortable with my life."

Arya put down her drink and crocked an eyebrow. "Really? You look oddly heartbroken to me."

Murtagh was painfully aware of the sudden silence around them. He didn't need to look at the others to know that they had stopped talking and were looking at him and Arya.

"Are you sure there isn't someone in your life?"

"I'm sure," he said firmly, then plastered on a smirk. "Why do you want to talk about such a boring topic, anyway? It's New Year's. We're supposed to talk about fun things, plans for the future and all that shite."

She shook her head, apparently unwilling to move on. "We all know, Murtagh. We might not know who, but we know something has been troubling you for quite a while. We would have been shitty friends not to have noticed it."

Murtagh wanted her to change topic now. He couldn't have Eragon or Tornac overhear this.

"Who broke your heart?"

"Arya," Nasuada said softly. "Don't."

Arya looked at her. "...You know."

Nasuada didn't deny or confirm it. "Let's talk about something else."

"What -"

"This is something that only Murtagh can fix," Nasuada said then. "We will only make it worse if we meddle."

Thorn cleared his throat and Murtagh just knew that Tornac and Eragon had returned.

"What's going on?" Eragon asked.

"Oh, nothing," Nasuada said and smiled.

Eragon frowned.

Murtagh couldn't look at Tornac. He got up and got himself another drink.

-:-

Murtagh had met Arya's brother before, but he was Eragon's friend. Murtagh rarely interacted with him.

He was therefore surprised when Aksel actually approached him a few hours later. "So, you fancy Tornac, then?"

Murtagh stared at him. "What?" he asked flatly.

"Eragon's fiancé. You fancy him, yeah?" Aksel repeated it. "It's so obvious, man."

Murtagh crossed his arms. He felt nauseous. If this kid could figure it out that easily, then –

"No sweat, man. It's hard to notice unless you know what you're lookin' for. Or, y'know, maybe it's easier if they know you," the other said and sipped his very colourful drink.

"Then how could you?" he hissed.

"Cos I'm right in there too," Aksel said and nudged him with his elbow. "Sucks, doesn't it?"

Murtagh just stared at him.

"I know I shouldn't be talkin' to you about this, with you bein' Aggie's brother and all that, but you looked like you needed to talk to someone that understood."

And then it all fell into place. "You like Eragon."

Aksel's cheeks turned a little pink. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Hence why I shouldn't be talkin' to you, savvy?"

"...Why didn't you -"

"Do anything?" Aksel interrupted. "For the same reasons you didn't, I reckon. I didn't want to lose an important friend."

Murtagh rubbed a hand over his eyes. "I can't."

"Sorry, mate," Aksel said softly. "But look, if you wanna talk, or rant or whatever, I'll listen."

Right then, the last thing he wanted was to talk.

"Or fuck. I'm game with that too," the other said easily.

Murtagh grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him into the bathroom.

They didn't take off anything except their jeans. Murtagh pressed the other against the wall and fucked him senseless. He pressed his forehead against Aksel's neck as he thrust.

They didn't speak, not even after they finished.

Murtagh walked out of the bathroom first. He ran a hand through his hair and headed back towards the bar. A part of him didn't even care if anyone saw Aksel slip out of the bathroom after him.

Even so, he felt the knowing eyes from Thorn. He drowned another drink and tried to ignore them.

-:-

The affair with Aksel remained a one-time thing, just like all the other fucks Murtagh had had. He regretted it a little because he was Arya's brother, but he forced away those emotions and focused on his studies.

The summer after Eragon's 21st birthday was the date that had been set for Saphira and Glaedr's wedding. That was also beautiful, though Murtagh felt worse than ever. He knew that Tornac and Eragon's wedding were only months away. His parents had said something about February, but he couldn't be sure. He hadn't really been listening.

His empty and hollow life carried on. Nasuada and Thorn continued to give him these looks, but Murtagh didn't really pay any attention to them. Morzan continued to silently reprimand him for not telling Eragon about his feelings.

Angela continued to call. Sometimes she just checked up on him to make sure he was still writing, other times she came with offers. He sold two new songs by the time the autumn term started again.

Murtagh looked through the money he had and wondered what he could do with them. He had a good saving's account where most of it stayed, but he had been thinking about getting another apartment. He wanted a bigger place, maybe one that was further away from his friends and family.

He knew he would need to take another trip after Tornac and Eragon's wedding, maybe even directly afterwards. As soon as he finished his Master degree, he would book a long trip. He could even travel around Europe for a while.

His heart felt heavier and heavier as days passed by. He was half-tempted to count down the days until he lost Tornac forever.

He didn't have another one-night stand after Aksel.

-:-

Murtagh looked at the pictures on his board. He pulled out the small album his parents had given him when he moved out and slowly started to put the pictures in there. Even though he didn't want to, his eyes roamed over the pictures as he flipped passed them or put them in.

Much of his life was in that book. Most of the family photos were back with his parents, but he had a couple of shots for every year of his life.

Murtagh was painfully aware of how few pictures had been taken in the last couple of years. The last ones he had were from the New Year's Eve after Tornac's arrival back in Carvahall.

He stopped to look at them. Thorn and Shruikan hadn't really been speaking to each other then, until around midnight. He could almost count down the minutes until they made up when he flipped through them all.

There was one where Saphira was blushing prettily as Glaedr kissed her cheek. Murtagh could see Tornac and Eragon in the background. They were talking to each other. His gut instantly disapproved of the short distance between them. Tornac was all but holding Eragon's hand.

There was one of himself, Eragon and Tornac. The time code said that it had been taken after their talk. Murtagh stood with his arms crossed next to Eragon while Tornac had an arm around Eragon's waist.

It hit him like a tonne of bricks then. Something had already been changing at New Year's. It had been over long before Murtagh had noticed it beginning.

He shut the album and buried it somewhere in his closet. A part of him hoped it disappeared back there. If he never looked at it again, it would be too soon.

-:-

Murtagh hadn't realised how serious Morzan had been when he said he wanted to make his displeasure about Eragon and Tornac's marriage known. The realisation hit him hard when Murtagh came home one weekend in October and overheard a conversation between his father and brother.

"Are you sure about Tornac?" Morzan asked bluntly.

Murtagh paused in the doorway. He wasn't sure if his entrance had been registered or not.

"Um...isn't it a little late to be asking that, dad?" Eragon returned.

"No," Morzan answered. "It is never too late."

Murtagh closed the door softly and stayed in the hallway. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to hear this, but a part of him refused to let him leave.

"...Yes, I'm sure. I love him and he loves me."

"Love isn't enough."

Murtagh shook his head. He almost couldn't believe his father was doing this.

"I don't understand." Eragon sounded confused and a little worried. "What do you mean?"

"Can you picture yourself living the rest of your life with him? Do you love him so much that you never want to be away from him?" Morzan asked passionately.

Murtagh mused that Morzan wasn't kidding when he said that he and Murtagh were alike. Those were the feelings Murtagh had. It hurt to be away from Tornac, but he had come to terms with it. He had lost the battle and the war.

"I don't -"

"Father," Murtagh interrupted and walked into the living room. "Don't."

They both looked at him. Morzan looked determined while Eragon started to look more and more worried.

"What's going on?" Eragon asked. "Oh God, it's Tornac, isn't it? He's cheating."

"No," Morzan said firmly. "If he is, then we haven't heard about it."

Eragon still looked so uncertain.

"I'm just not sure he's right for you," their father continued.

"...If you have had problems with him all this time, then why haven't you said anything before now?" Eragon asked. He sounded hurt and confused.

"I don't have any problems with Tornac," Morzan said and put a hand on Eragon's shoulder. "I just don't think you're making the right call by marrying him."

Murtagh shook his head. "Let it go, father. It's their decision to make."

Eragon looked at him like he couldn't figure out where Murtagh fit in all this.

Morzan gave Murtagh a sharp look. "This could all have been avoided if you -"

"Father," Murtagh interrupted sharply.

Eragon's eyes were getting wider and wider and Murtagh knew he had to set this right before Eragon figured out what was really going on.

"God, I'm so stupid," Eragon whispered and looked away.

No. Murtagh had to stop this. Eragon couldn't have figured it out.

"You lied." The brunet looked up at Murtagh like he had never really seen him before. "You do like him."

"No."

"You love him," Eragon said firmly. His mouth was set in a grim line and his eyes looked far too big. "All this time, you've loved him."

"Eragon -" he began, but Eragon wasn't having it.

"You big, masochistic moron," Eragon hissed. "I would never have dated him if I knew!"

Murtagh told himself that he could fix this. He had to. "It doesn't matter," he said firmly. "He never returned my feelings."

"Did he tell you that?" Eragon shook his head. "I can't believe you, Murtagh. All this time and I thought we had done something to make you hate us."

"You are not leaving him," Murtagh said coldly. "You're not breaking his heart just because I was too late."

Eragon's eyes had a wet shine that made Murtagh want to look away.

"I can't do this to you."

"You have to," Murtagh said simply. "If you want to make me happy, then marry him."

Eragon got up. He shook his head at Murtagh and left without saying another word.

-:-

When days passed without anything happening, Murtagh let himself believe that Eragon was really going to go through with it. His heart ached, but he knew it was the right thing. They loved each other. He wouldn't break that up.

He somehow managed to find the time to write even though he was buried beneath his final exams and writing his completion paper for his Master's degree. Most of the time he was buried beneath textbooks and random studies or reading through his portfolio because Angela wanted him to send in sample works at random intervals.

As winter came closer and closer, Murtagh found it hard to see his friends. The thought of seeing Tornac and Eragon was unbearable, but he pushed through.

Eragon seemed to have a problem looking at him again. Murtagh smirked wryly at that. It was comforting and not all at once. The look on Tornac's face told him that Eragon hadn't said anything, and that alone was the reason he could breathe these days.

There was one thing he was proud of, and that was that he hadn't started to smoke again.

-:-

Angela surprised him by calling to tell him that yet another band was interested in sampling his work. They wanted to meet him right away if he had the time.

"Sure. I'll be there in thirty minutes," he said and grabbed his wallet.

"Thank you, Murtagh."

Murtagh grunted and hung up. He wasn't exactly feeling up to it, but he couldn't afford to turn anything down. He was moving forward. He was sure Angela wouldn't care if he hadn't shaved that morning.

He grabbed his jacket and looped the scarf around his neck as he stepped out of the apartment. After locking the door, he pulled on his fingerless gloves on the way down.

He stopped as he reached the first level. He could hear voices from the lobby. They were familiar.

"Why are we here? To visit Murtagh?"

"Yes and no," Eragon answered.

Murtagh gripped the railing and looked down. He couldn't see them, but he knew they had to be right around the corner.

He couldn't believe Eragon was doing this.

"What do you mean?" Tornac asked.

"You're visiting Murtagh. I'm not," Eragon said firmly.

"What are you talking about?" Tornac asked. Murtagh could just picture the slight frown on his forehead.

"You two need to talk."

Murtagh felt himself slowly walk down the stairs. He took one step at a time. He wanted to run back inside, but he couldn't. There was no other way down and he needed to see Angela.

"Eragon, we're fine," Tornac said gently.

Murtagh bit back a snort. They were far from fine.

"No, you're not, and you need to talk. Because you love him."

He froze, his hand clamped rightly around the railing. He really couldn't believe Eragon was doing this.

"...Is this some backwards way of breaking up with me?" Tornac asked very carefully. Murtagh couldn't read the tone of his voice. He had no idea what Tornac was thinking or feeling.

"If you love him as much as you love me, then yes. He loves you, Tornac. That's why he's been so distant!"

Murtagh couldn't do this right now. He forced himself to move and walked down briskly.

"What -"

"Eragon," he said sharply as the couple came into view.

Eragon flinched and looked at him guiltily before the determination came back. Murtagh kept his eyes on his little brother. He couldn't look at Tornac. He didn't want to know the emotions on his face.

"We're talking when I get back," he said and walked past them.

A startled silence followed him, and for once Murtagh was relieved for it.

-:-

Murtagh was startled. The band had been interested in some of his darker work. And he could already tell they would make it work. Even so, they scheduled more appointments and Murtagh left no more than an hour after having gotten there.

When he got back to his apartment, the lobby was empty. Relief settled deep in his bones. He didn't have the energy to finish what Eragon had started.

The radio on his iPod was playing one of his songs again as he made his way up the stairs. It was the one the female artist had bought. Murtagh found himself singing along as he walked. She had done a really good interpretation of it.

"You have a really nice voice, you know."

Murtagh looked over at his door sharply. He had been counting his lucky stars too early, because there he was.

Tornac stood up and just looked at him.

Murtagh couldn't breathe. "Thank you."

"Why are you selling off your work again?" Tornac asked and tilted his head slightly.

"I hate performing."

Tornac hummed and crossed his arms.

Murtagh couldn't move.

"May I come in?"

Murtagh forced himself to walk over. "Whatever," he said and opened the door. He slipped inside and let Tornac walk in if he wanted to.

He heard the door close as he kicked off his shoes. He quickly took off his jacket and hung it up. He walked into the room to take off his scarf and gloves. The more distance it was between them the better.

"I'm going to assume that you heard what Eragon and I were talking about earlier," Tornac said calmly.

Murtagh nearly flinched when he heard Tornac throw the lock. He had no idea what was on Tornac's mind. Murtagh had once called this man his best friend and now he hardly knew him at all.

"So?" he said dismissively and busied himself with making some hot water. "Tea?"

"Hm? No thanks." The words were spoken directly behind Murtagh. Murtagh tried not to breathe noticeably harder. "Eragon called it off."

Murtagh bit back a string of curses. Of course he had.

"He said he couldn't do that to you. He said that you loved me. That you have loved me for years." There was something in Tornac's voice that Murtagh couldn't interpret. "Is that true?"

Murtagh stared at the pot he was holding. He put it down gently. There was no way he was going to be serving or drinking any tea anytime soon.

"I repeat, so?"

Two hands slammed down on either side of him. Murtagh prided himself for not jumping.

"Look at me," Tornac said fiercely. There was a hint of anger in his voice.

Murtagh forced himself to turn around. He found himself face to face with Tornac. The other's eyes were shimmering with unsaid emotions.

"Is it true?" Tornac repeated in an almost gruff voice.

Murtagh felt himself smirk. "You tell me."

Tornac's eyes narrowed and he all but snarled. "No more beating around the bush, Murtagh. Do you love me or not?"

"I do," he said calmly. "I always have. Now, get out. You can blame Eragon all you want for ending it, but don't you dare blame me. I told him to forget about it."

Tornac chuckled darkly. "You would."

Before he could open his mouth, Tornac had ducked down and planted his lips over Murtagh's.

Murtagh tore himself away from Tornac. "What -"

"I love you too, you stubborn idiot," Tornac growled. "And now I'm going to prove it by fucking you."

Murtagh found himself thrown onto his bed and covered by Tornac's frame. His lips were devoured until he couldn't do anything but submit.

"Years," Tornac said in-between kisses. "You made me wait years."

"Me? You didn't show a spec of interest in me," Murtagh returned.

"Like you did?" Tornac countered and crocked an eyebrow.

Murtagh gave him a blank look.

"Yes, that's what I'm talking about," Tornac said and slid a hand up Murtagh's shirt. "And I'm going to do my damnedest to throw that wall down."

"...Talk later." Murtagh grabbed Tornac's belt and had it open and Tornac's fly unzipped in a couple of seconds.

Tornac looked at him hungrily.

Clothes were thrown every which way. Tornac didn't move onto the next item of clothing until he had fully inspected the newly uncovered area. Murtagh was dizzy with pleasure before his underwear was even pulled off.

Tornac grasped them both when they were finally blissfully naked. Murtagh wanted to stay there in that moment and never move again.

"Please tell me you've got something," he whispered hotly into Murtagh's neck.

Murtagh pulled out the lube and condoms from his bedside table.

Tornac smirked and then proceeded to show what a tease he could be. Murtagh was approaching his orgasm without Tornac even having breached him with a finger.

"Tornac!" he moaned when the first finger slipped inside.

Tornac groaned. "God, you're tight."

Murtagh chuckled. "I don't bottom often."

The other's gaze turned positively predatory. "We'll see about that."

Tornac worked him open teasingly slowly. Every hint of burn was washed away by pleasure. And when Tornac finally slipped inside, Murtagh was two seconds away from coming.

Tornac put Murtagh's legs over his shoulders and leaned down to kiss him. Murtagh accepted it eagerly, his hands sliding up Tornac's arms.

It felt so good to be able to touch Tornac like this at last. Murtagh wasn't sure what made him dizzier; the actual experience or the knowledge that he was finally allowed to touch Tornac like he had dreamed of for so long.

"I won't last long," Murtagh warned him.

Tornac gave him a gentle smile. "That's alright. We're hardly quitting after this round."

Murtagh laughed. "Why am I not surprised?"

Tornac smirked and started to thrust.

Neither of them lasted long. The gentle burn and intense feeling of being filled soon brought Murtagh to orgasm. He clenched down and felt Tornac follow him over the edge.

Tornac lay down on top of him, completely spent.

Murtagh gently eased his legs from Tornac's shoulders. He ran his hands up Tornac's back and cupped his neck.

The other hummed.

"I love you," Murtagh whispered.

Tornac looked up at him through his light bangs. "I love you too."

The kiss they shared soon turned heated and they were going at it again.

-:-

Tornac and Murtagh didn't announce their relationship right away, though that was simply because the two of them hadn't stayed in bed the whole weekend, including the Friday Eragon had outed Murtagh. And when it came down to it, they didn't even have to say anything.

Nasuada failed to hold back a smirk when she saw him the following Monday. "Got yourself a boyfriend?"

Murtagh brushed some of his longer strands to cover up the blooming hickey on the side of his neck. "Apparently I have a very edible neck."

Nasuada was very clearly trying hard not to laugh. "So, what happened?"

"Eragon spilled the beans, that little shit," Murtagh said fondly.

Nasuada crocked an eyebrow.

"Well, at the time he had all but ruined my life. Tornac has a better poker face than I do."

Her mouth opened into a surprised O before she smiled. There was a hint of seriousness in her eyes. "But Eragon didn't mind?" she asked a little hesitantly.

"I told him not to do it, but apparently he wasn't listening." Murtagh put on his apron and tied the ends together tightly. "As usual."

She laughed softly.

"As long as everyone's happy."

"Eragon will find someone soon enough," he said and leaned against the counter.

And he had a very good feeling who. Which reminded him, he needed to give that Aksel a proper talk-to.

-:-

By the end of the following week, everyone had been informed of Tornac and Murtagh's relationship.

Morzan pretended to be shocked that Tornac and Eragon had broken up, but Murtagh could see through him. However, Morzan and Brom had been very ready to give Tornac yet another talk-to before Eragon told them that it was he that had broken it off, not Tornac. Their parents then moved to give Tornac another warning instead.

Murtagh pretended he hadn't felt prickling in his eyes when Tornac promised to never ever hurt him, and if he did, they were free to defile whatever was left of him after Murtagh finished mauling him.

The rest of their friends took it well. No one seemed really surprised and even congratulated them when Eragon explained that it had been his decision. But Murtagh felt that his little brother hadn't needed to add that they were both idiots and should have been dating for nearly a decade already.

Murtagh found that being with Tornac was everything he had hoped for and more. He was chivalrous on their dates, though it was clear what he was thinking about most of the time. And when he wasn't being a gigantic pervert, he was his normal semi-goofy self.

He was also glad that Eragon seemed to be taking it very well. But Murtagh made sure to check in on him to make sure it wasn't a front. He wouldn't forgive himself if he had somehow broken his little brother's heart.

"Stop being such a worrywart," Eragon said on one occasion. "I thought that was my job."

Murtagh rolled his eyes. "Then go and get yourself a boyfriend."

Eragon grimaced. "I just broke up with Tornac. Now, while I did it and I know I made the right call because I haven't seen you smile this much since...well, ever, it's a little early."

Murtagh patted his head fondly, much to Eragon's irritation. "Well, make sure to tell me when you do. I need to give the guy a talk."

"Oi! You're the reason so few people are willing to date me, dammit! Must you be so intimidating?" Eragon asked with a clear sulk in his voice.

"Yup." Murtagh smirked. "Especially when it comes to that new guy of yours."

"There is no guy!"

Not yet, Murtagh thought to himself. But soon there will be.

-:-

Tornac and Eragon had already booked the locale for the wedding and Tornac was in the process of moaning about it.

"I don't see why it's so hard to cancel a place."

Murtagh crocked an eyebrow at him.

"Well, it's expensive," Tornac explained. He threw his phone onto the couch and sat down with a groan. "Why are people so impossible?"

Murtagh snorted and padded back to the bathroom to spit out the toothpaste from his mouth. "Is that everything you haven't taken care of?" he asked and padded back into the main room.

"The food was fine since it hadn't been prepared or anything," he said and ran his hands through his hair. "We hadn't ordered any decorations yet and we were supposed to fix the suits next week."

"So it's just the place?" Murtagh asked and continued to brush his teeth.

Tornac paused for a moment to stare at his mouth. "Yes. And must you do that? It's very distracting."

Murtagh snorted. He went back into the bathroom and rinsed his mouth. "Then you shouldn't have begged me to blow you."

He walked back just in time to see Tornac clearly remember the earlier incident. Tornac shook his head minutely, but it didn't seem to help any. His pupils got even wider when he looked at Murtagh again. "Um, you have a little," he motioned at the corner of his mouth.

Murtagh wiped away the toothpaste. "Honestly, get your mind out of the gutter."

"That's a hard thing to do with a boyfriend like you, Tag."

Murtagh snorted again and sat down next to him. "How much is the cancellation fee?"

Tornac leaned back with a groan. "A third of the rental fee," he said and pouted at Murtagh. "Comfort me?"

Murtagh cupped the back of Tornac's neck and started to massage it gently. "I could loan you some -"

"Not happening," the other interrupted. "That's your well-earned cash, lover boy."

Murtagh flicked Tornac's nose. "Then why not put it to use?"

Tornac rubbed his nose and didn't seem to register the words at first. He then crocked an eyebrow. "Do you know anyone that'd be willing to marry my sorry ass?"

"It's hardly sorry, but I can take it," Murtagh said seriously.

Tornac paused. He stared at Murtagh like he didn't know whether to ask him if he was certain or kiss him within an inch of his life. "Don't you think that's a little soon?"

"We've know each other practically since we were born and loved each other most of that time," Murtagh said and brushed some hair from Tornac's eyes. "Unless you think you'll grow tired of me, I think I could survive with you by my side."

"...That is the most unromantic proposal I've ever heard."

Murtagh rolled his eyes. "I've heard worse."

Tornac chuckled. He sat up straight and looked at Murtagh passionately. "I think I could survive too."

"Then let's put the locale to good use."

Tornac smiled and kissed him. Murtagh kissed back.

"Until then, what do you say we practice for the wedding night?" Tornac asked suggestively.

Murtagh slapped the back of his head. "Pervert."

-:-

And so it was that, three months into their relationship, Murtagh and Tornac got married. Their friends were overjoyed. Morzan and Brom had been a little startled when the couple announced it, but they had been supportive.

Murtagh could hardly remember any of the ceremony. He had just spoken at his cues and, before he had the time to wonder about how long it was going to be, he was kissed passionately by his new husband.

He had to admit he had never really felt this happy, even though he had to hold a speech and dance in front of everyone. Being with Tornac made it worth it.

And, as Murtagh stood there and saw Aksel leaning in to whisper something in Eragon's ear, he reckoned that his little brother was very close to finding happiness again. That belief strengthened when Eragon blushed and shoved Aksel embarrassingly much to Aksel's amusement.

Murtagh looked at Tornac and kissed the corner of his mouth.

"What was that for?" Tornac asked. "Though I'm not complaining."

Murtagh smirked. "You'll never know."

Tornac narrowed his eyes. "I'll get it out of you. Just you wait and see."

Murtagh just kissed him.

For once he didn't mind showing what he was feeling.


A/N This was something that just came to me very randomly. I started writing this a few days ago and, well, it wouldn't leave me alone. It wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote a 38 effing page one-shot about it. I haven't written a one-shot this long since Hidden In Plain Sight! Ay vey.

When I started this story, I intended it to be a chapter in a one-shot series that I'm doing. Well, apparently not, eh? It just continued to grow and grow and so I decided to make it a story of its own.

Even though this piece caused me some angst of my own, I fell in love with this. It was new to write this kind of tortured Murtagh, but it was actually rather fun. Every new experience with Murtagh (and any other character, really) is fun and exciting in its own way.

But if all you got out of that was "SK's writing a one-shot series?" well, then I guess I'll answer your questions. Yes, I'm writing a one-shot series, mostly to deal with writer's block and the likes. A friend of mine has (un)subtly suggested that I post a couple of them somewhere. I am considering this, but I wanted to get some feedback from you guys.

The story features one-shots that are unlinked and the only point with them is to write hot sex. Yes, that's right. It's, mostly, pure smut. However, the chapters are much like this story. The pairings can definitely be considered unorthodox or even cracky, but they are written in a totally serious way. And if I were to post these things, they would have to appear on my "homepage" (aka, Archive Of Our Own). Would you guys be interested in that?

You can let me know through a review or PM.

Other than that, I hope you enjoyed this piece and I'll see you all again soon with something else. Until next time!