AN: Ok, holaa! Uh, this was supposed to be a oneshot, but it got a bit long, so I was like "Hey, wth, why not?" and split it into three. I put it up using worddoc, so the formatting's super fucked up, but i'm in a bit of a rush so it's just going to have to stay like that for a while ;u; This is only half beta'd, so if there are any mistakes PLEASE point them out, and to all who do I fucking love you bunches ;u; So er, here we gooo.

EDIT: Heh, I was writing the next part earlier today and I realized something. I did the time warp half way through the chapter - the story jumped from November 22nd, back to the November 9th the next day xD So I went back to my original doc to edit, and as I skimmed along, I found a few other things...
Eh.

So, redone! PS people who have already read this, don't worry rereading - none of it's mindblowingly different.


Story: Don't Fade Away (Memories)

Author: ArtisticallyFlaved


He was dreaming – he was at least aware of that fact – however he wasn't sure about what he was dreaming.

Snippets of things tossed about in the darkness of his subconscious; flashes of color in a kaleidoscope, one second this, and then the next second that.

He could see trees (big, hulking ones with thick trunks and arms that reached) zip past, a red sunset dyeing their out-stretched hands crimson.

A blurred face, the only distinguishing feature a beautiful, heart-stopping smile.

Something slamming.

Then…screeching.

A-and screaming, and then-

WHAM.

.x.x. Friday, November 5, 2010

The sun was just barely peaking up over the horizon, sleepy fingers of sunlight slipping into a hospital room. The fingers brushed past a boy, who shot up abruptly, panting and wiping tears from his eyes. "What..?" His voice was disturbingly hoarse, and speaking made him cough. With a quick glance around, the boy realized he was in a hospital, decked in one of their horrendously scratchy outfits and it was far too early to be awake.

As he turned to look out the window, a sharp pain shot through his chest making him hiss. Annoyed, the boy lifted his arm to peel back his collar to see what was wrong, but a cast enclosed his right arm. Eyebrows furrowed, he used his left hand, and saw stark white bandages wrapped tightly around his chest. "The fuck?" He flung up his blanket, picking at the waistband of the pants, and was relieved to see his hairy legs still in one piece, aside from a few bandages and a huge bruise covering his right leg, smaller ones littering his left. "I'm seeing a pattern here…" Sighing, he swathed himself in the blanket, wondering why he was so cold. A breeze wafted disturbingly over his scalp, and slowly, horrified, his hand reached up to touch the top of his head – barely there fuzz met his fingers. "I-I'm bald! Fuck! My hair! My beautiful hair!"

"Oh, you're awake!" A woman poked her head in through the door causing the boy to jump, and shut his mouth sheepishly. He eyed her carefully; she was a nurse, he assumed, as she was dressed in scrubs (plain purple pants, a Pokémon shirt, and clean white sneakers).

She bustled over to him, checking the IV stand at his bedside with quick, sure movements. "Ah, y-yeah I am… I like your shirt miss." He cleared his throat and slowly settled into his pillows.

The woman pouted at him, her big brown eyes decidedly less cheery as she swiftly moved to start examining him. "Still don't remember me, huh?" Soft, warm hands smoothed along his forehead as he blinked at her stupidly. "The bed's going to move, hold on." It did as she said, pushing him into a sitting position that made his head spin for a second.

She didn't look at all familiar to him - pretty in a bubbly way, extremely short, cropped chin length black hair with blonde tips, tan, a few pinches of fat here and there with fairly generous womanly assets, and chocolate brown eyes. "Uh, have we met before? I'm sorry, I don't recognize you…"

"Oh don't worry about it! I'm used to it sweetie, now hold on a moment you sound absolutely terrible!" With that, the woman swept off through a door (presumably the bathroom) and he heard her humming as the water ran. In less than a few seconds, she had returned, pushing a cup of cool water into his hands, "Here! Now, any pain? Are your bandages comfortable? Any dizziness? Want me to fluff your pillows? Oh shitake mushrooms; I still haven't checked your pupils!" Words tumbled from her mouth like water from a fountain, the boy stared at her wide-eyed, wondering absently if her jaw would unhinge and spill sticky word goo all over him until he suffocated so she could sacrifice him to the native hospital demon… "Oh, I know that look! Sorry, I'm Andrian, manic morning person and one of your nurses, nice to meet you! Again." Andrian gave a twittering laugh. "You're Eragon, I know, so, how are you feeling?"

He shifted to get comfortable, sipping carefully at the blissful liquid dubbed 'water', whilst blinking at the strange nurse. "Ah, nice to meet you too Andrian - everything hurts, but I'm not sure you can do much about that, and my pillows are fine."

Andrian gently took his water and began doing what Eragon assumed was the routine in a hospital (it happened in all those godless hospital dramas, after all). A flash light appeared out of no where and was shined into his eyes, a vicious beast clamped onto his arm to measure his blood pressure, fingers smoothed along the bandages on his chest (which tickled, which made him laugh, which hurt), and at last she rapped on his cast declaring him fine. "I can give you some more morphine – it'll help you get back to sleep, it's barely six am and I know your friends are going to want to see you. Lean forward please!" The bedded boy grunted and did so; Andrian fiddled noisily with something behind him and her arm brushed ghost-like against his back making him flinch. "Sorry, you can lean back now."

The bed slanted, stuck in the awkward area between lying and sitting, which suited the scrawny boy just fine (and actually amused him a bit), and the pillows enveloped him in their feathery goodness, softer than marshmallows. "My friends? Has Saphira been here?"

His nurse gave a warm laugh, "I've had to beat your posse away with a broom for the past two weeks! You should count yourself lucky to have such caring friends." Eragon nodded slowly, a drowsy feeling creeping up on him like a thief in the night.

"Yeah, I really do." The words had to be forced out, his eyes slipping closed as he felt like he was sinking into a pool of jell-o. A warm hand brushed against his forehead, and he heard Andrian chuckle again before he succumbed to the warm embrace of sleep.

.x.x.

"…still? Jeez, you lazy bum! I can't believe you're my best friend! Waakee uppp!" Something shook him roughly, and with a start, Eragon jerked awake with an unmanly squeak. Saphira was perched on the left side of his bed, blue eyes bright, laughing uproariously as he hacked a lung up, his throat protesting the undignified noise.
A quiet snort came from his right, "Nice job Saph, let's kill him while he's still recovering." Slowly his coughs dwindled and the brown-eyed boy turned to see Murtagh, his half-brother slumped in a hospital chair. "Love the new look, by the way." The expression on his face made Eragon feel like he was choking again though – was he smiling?

The teen had come to live with Eragon and his mom last year, his father having died in a car accident. The whole while he had never seen Murtagh smile so happily, never! He'd never heard him laugh, or look anything other than pissed off or just indifferent; there were the rare occasions when the corners of his lips quirked, but that wasn't really a smile. Seeing him slouched so casually, an amused grin tugging his lips looked…alien. Ogling so intensely, Eragon couldn't help but notice that his dark chestnut hair was longer too – shaggy and wavy, despite the fact that he knew his brother hated his wavy hair (he kind of preferred it this new way though, not that he'd ever tell him that). Perhaps the weirdest thing about the whole situation though, was that not only were his lips curled, but his hazel eyes seemed to radiate glee, shocking him into choking on his own spit.
Another round of coughs came up, followed by more laughter. "At least my ugly face didn't make him choke again, Tag!" Tag? Eragon shot a desperate look at his best friend Saphira, wondering what the hell was going on.
Arya's tinkling laugh distracted him as she approached him with a Dixie cup filled with cool water, her long black hair cascaded over her shoulders, obscuring the rather lovely view he'd had of her creamy-toned chest, "Here, Eragon, now stop choking so we can actually talk to you silly!" The panting boy rolled his eyes, trying to take deep breaths around the coughs, taking a few sips of the water in between.
"Fucking holy hand grenades, are you guys trying to kill me?" He rasped out jokingly, which cropped up another bout of chuckles.

The lone blonde in the room hugged him from the side, squeezing him to the point of pain, to which he grunted and she let go. "Psh, duh! Obviously we failed since you're waking up here, so we need to finish the job baby!" The girl at his side giggled but Eragon saw Arya frown and glance at Murtagh. He followed her gaze to see him frowning (thank god! Normalcy!), eyes troubled and aimed at the floor.

"Speaking of which…how did I get here?" Everyone gave a start at the whispered question, wide eyes staring at Eragon.

Saphira pulled away, regarding him with stunned disbelief. "You really don't know?"

"The nurse did say he had some memory loss, Saph." Arya crossed her arms, dragging a chair from the wall to the foot of his bed. "Before that, what exactly do you remember?"

Eragon hummed thoughtfully, "Ah, I remember my birthday get together a little while ago, huh. The last thing I remember is hanging out with you two in Kirker's summer gov class. So, what happened? Why am I in the hospital?"

Silence fell. The now identified amnesiac shifted under the combined weight of all their gazes, his eyes flickering between them. Saphira looked horrified, her face pale and eyes huge, her teeth digging viciously into her bottom lip. Arya was pretty much a mirror image of Saph, wide eyes, pale visage, dainty jaw dropped open in an 'o' that filled him with dread as to how Murtagh would appear. When he turned to said half-brother, the teen was already moving up and away, hands shoved into his pockets, shoulders tense. "I've gotta go, hope you get better Era." His voice was cold, shocked and hurt, and the brief glance Eragon got at his face looked…heart broken?

With that Murtagh swept out the door, shutting it softly behind him. Confusion screamed within him, "What…what the fuck? What happened? What's wrong? Saph? Arya?" He glanced between the two, helpless. In all his life Eragon had never seen or heard such pain from Murtagh – not even when he was talking about his life before moving in with Selena and Eragon. (Though most of the time he seemed pleased to talk about his father's death –eventually he confided in Eragon, telling him that his father had been abusive. After that the younger teen couldn't help but smile a bit too when Morzan's death was brought up.)

Saphira regained her composure first, clearing her throat and reaching out shakily to grasp his hand. "That…that was two years ago Era. We had Kirker's class the summer before junior year; we're seniors now."

Silence fell again, and this time Eragon didn't want to break it. It felt like the world was imploding, shrinking and suffocating him; he could hear his heart beat, fluttering rapidly, distressed and panicked. A frantic beeping started in the background. His lungs couldn't get near enough air; had the lights brightened? "T-two years? I've lost…"

The door swung open, Andrian's worried face the first sight that greeted him from the hall. "What happened Saph? Saph what happened that made me lose two years?" Everyone in the room flinched; Eragon realized he must've been near shouting, but he couldn't be certain over the pounding sound of his heartbeat.

Andrian rushed forward, and Saphira compliantly got off the bed. Arya was already standing again and Eragon's vision blurred, "Somebody tell me what happened!"

"Calm down Eragon, please just calm down, it's going to be ok." Andrian murmured to him, rubbing his arm in what, he guessed, was supposed to be a soothing manner.

Harsh breaths hurt his ribs, and his head began throbbing but he was desperate to know, to understand how he had lost two whole years. "Tell me Saphira, Arya, please! I n-need to know! What happened, why am I here?" The beeping beat a frantic pace in the background, and Andrian bustled around, humming shakily under her breath.

Saphira looked frightened – dear god, why was she scared? Fuck, he was scared, what the hell was going on here? – But she looked him in the eye, and shakily said, "Please Era, calm down, you need to calm down so I can tel.."

His body had other plans however, for at that moment the world before Eragon's vision swam and faded to black.

.x.x. Saturday, November 6, 2010

When he woke up next, Eragon groggily turned to the side to see Brom, his pseudo-father sitting at his side. A sleepy smile twitched his lips as he murmured, "Hey," to him.

Brom jumped, having not noticed that Eragon was awake. Elation and worry flooded his tired features, and a hand jolted out to whack him on the chest, dragging a tired grunt from the boy, "Eragon my boy! I'm glad to see you awake, you had us all worried, you little prat!"

Eragon's mind crawled along at a snails pace, drowsy from his drug/stress induced sleep, and he squinted confusedly at the old man. "What? Why were you worried about me? I'm finee," Sleepily drawled the teen.

Eyebrows furrowed, Brom stared at him for a long moment. "You had a panic attack boy, and fell unconscious yesterday. You nearly went into cardiac arrest." Sleepy thoughts stuttered to a stop, and panic began rising in his chest again. Brom must've noticed, because suddenly a hand was on his chest, a soft pressure against his speeding breaths. "Get it together, Eragon, stop fretting like a Nancy." His words sounded like good ol' Brom, his voice was soothing but still the teen's eyes swept around madly, searching vainly for his answers. "Hey, look at me. Look at me boy!" His eyes darted to the aged man, and stayed, "That's right, watch me. Deep breaths now, c'mon, you're never going to learn anything if this is how you plan to react to everything." It was a weak joke and both of them knew it, but Eragon's breathing slowed, and the heart monitor echoed his decelerating heartbeat. Crows feet scratched at the corners of the old man's eyes as he smiled, "Good, that's more like it. I'm going to get you some water so you don't start breathing fire with that dry throat."

Eragon managed a small smile. He watched quietly as Brom got up and got him a cup, not saying anything until the timeworn man was once again seated. "So, what happened?"

There was a pause before Brom's low voice started again. "Well, they told me that you remember being a freshman, correct? And your sixteenth birthday." The boy nodded, relaxing into his pillows, glad someone was going to give him some answers. "Well I'm sure you've gathered that it's been two years since then. We celebrated your eighteenth birthday five months ago; you and Saphira had a joint party again. You and her went out and bought some lottery tickets and cigarettes; you both tried to smoke all of your packs in that one day, but you threw up after the third one and Murtagh took them off you, and smoked every last one. Saphira won ten bucks from her lotto ticket, and she smoked the whole pack," The bedded boy was slightly puzzled at the lack of Brom's usual abundant derisive comments; normally he would've made a jab at Eragon for Saphira being manlier than him. "Thorn wouldn't let her kiss him 'til she brushed her teeth; put her in a headlock, what a sight! You filthy teenagers went to a sex shop later – don't give me that look, Saphira was more interested in it than you were, you puss." Brom laughed, and the teen couldn't help but smile now that he had begun insulting him again.

A cold hand gripped Eragon's heart, wishing he could laugh along with Brom about old times, but none of it sounded familiar. It was strange to hear him so casually mention Murtagh, and the way he talked made it sound like the broody teen had finally found a place in their group. "What a second, Thorn as in the guy Saphira has- ah, had been crushing on for years? They finally got together?"

A chuckle met his question, "Yes, they got together a couple of months after your kids' birthdays. They're still together, actually, and Thorn was going to visit you with them yesterday but he couldn't get off work. Ah, maybe I should work from your sixteenth birthday to present, eh?"

"…That would probably help, yes." Eragon pouted, miffed that Brom seem amused that he was confused. Brom laughed heartily at his expense, patting his right shoulder softly.

"Don't blame a senile old man for your lack of smarts, boy! Let me think for a minute, age hasn't been helping my memory any and you'll have to talk to your friends to get a more in depth version – I know there are things you kids do that I'll probably never know about. That same ignorance helps me sleep at night." An amused hum followed this statement, and Eragon let Brom have his moment to recollect his thoughts. "Ah yes. Later that June, after your sixteenth birthday, we all went to Six Flags – that was amusing, you were quite the screamer as I recall! Hm, I can't remember much else for that summer, oh yes; you passed the government class you took with Arya and Saphira. Hm. You went back to school in September, didn't have much trouble settling into sophomore year. You complained about the teachers a lot though, always ranting about how they pushed college on you…"

The day passed, Eragon quietly listening to a retelling of the years he had lost from the closest thing he'd ever had to a dad. Occasionally he would speak up, asking about random things: who someone was, why didn't he stop them and so on.

Soon though, visiting hours ended and Andrian shooed Brom out of the room, leaving Eragon to his thoughts. Sighing, he rolled onto his left side, wincing as he jostled his ribs. He reviewed all that Brom had told him – most of it was amusing, as most of the hijinks he and Saphira got up to (they'd supposedly spent a night in jail for public indecency and intoxication, aka for being drunk and streaking their seventeenth birthday party). Of course Brom had touched on academics (junior year he joined French Honors Society, and went to state in Speech and Debate), he also learned that he and Arya had broken up in their sophomore year, but Brom had left many things unexplained. He'd never clarified how Murtagh had wormed his way into their group, or why he seemed so upset that Eragon couldn't remember. It all left him feeling strangely empty and alone. The bearded man had also done a poor job of explaining why Eragon was in the hospital, just saying there was an accident and leaving it at that.

He sat there in the silence, mulling over everything until Andrian brought him some books to read that Saphira had dropped off. Once darkness had fallen over the hospital room and he could no longer see the text of his book, Eragon finally dropped off to a troubled sleep.

.x.x. Monday, November 15, 2010

Arya, Saphira, Brom, his mom, (even Garrow, Roran and Katrina a few times) continued to visit during his stay in the hospital, but since the first visit, Murtagh hadn't returned. Eragon healed quickly, soon he no longer had any trouble remembering his nurses, and near ten days after his first remembered awakening, he was ready to be released.

Eragon fussed about in the bathroom, finally wearing his own clothes for the first time in a while. Morosely, he pet the inch long fuzz cover his skull – he'd finally remembered to ask his nurses what happened; they'd had to give him some staples, so they just shaved his whole head. He could feel the cool metal holding the gash together, six in all.

Once he paused to look, Eragon saw a strange new person watching him from the mirrors surface. The stranger wore an old Avenged Sevenfold tee of his that smelled of clean clothes and hung off the foreigner's thin frame, dark jeans nearly blended into the black hem of the t-shirt. Littered with multi-colored signatures already, the teal cast on the reflection's right arm was the only spot of color – and to set off the bizarre look, he turned so his mirror image revealed its staples, glittering among the buzz cut. It was hard to reconcile this image with him, what happened to his fluffy brown curls? His meager muscles, the pale he'd worked so hard on with Saphira so many summers ago? He'd worn his hoodie all summer in a contest to see who could be paler, and here he was, finely tanned and covered in freckles. Brown eyes caught their likeness in the mirror and held it for a moment, "This is so weird."

"Tip tap, get your ass moving pap!" Saphira's cheery voice rang from outside the bathroom.

Moment ruined, the confused teen turned to the door, "Pap? What the hell Saph, doesn't that mean dad in hillbilly?" Laughter rang through the wooden barrier, and sighing Eragon decided he was done and stepped out into his soon ex-hospital room. Bright noon sun dazzled his eyes after the comparatively dim fluorescents of the bathroom, and it took his eyes a few seconds to adjust.

Once they did, he spotted Saphira twirling around his room in a billowy azure skirt, eventually she deigned to notice him and stopped, grinning toothily at him, "Fuck you bro, it's the only rhyme I could come up with on such short notice. Do you like my new skirt? Thorn picked it out~" Her voice ended in a high note as she began spiraling again, clearly enjoying the swells of the fabric. Her long blonde hair swirled around her, so different from the blue bob he remembered… A lot of things were different about his best friend, now that he looked. She'd grown taller, now towering over him by a few inches (which she kept teasing him about), she'd slimmed out, losing the soft pockets of baby fat that he'd always made fun of her for. It was weird to think about, but his best friend was most definitely a woman now, tall, willowy and beautiful.

Shrugging, the lanky teen went over to grab his bag, slinging it on his shoulder, wincing when a jolt of pain lanced through his midsection. "Yeah, it suits you, you maniac, and what about 'knock, knock hurry up you cock'?" Absently Eragon smoothed down the blankets on the bed, glad he'd never again have to wrapped in the cursed things, "I'm guessing you're my ride?"

"Hey, that's a good one! I'll have to remember that for next time…" Humming, Saphira hooked her arm in his left, mindful of his side, and attempted to skip out the door. "Yup! Now you finally get to witness my horrendous drivingg~"

Tired of the attempts to rip his arm off, Eragon finally began to skip along as they went down the hospital hallway. Nurses waved and smiled, shouting their goodbyes and well-wishes after the pair, Eragon replying in kind and Saphira just laughing along. As they reached the elevator Eragon was near panting, "I don't think you're supposed to admit that your driving is terrible Saph – and doesn't this mean that cripple should, y'know, get a safe driver? Wouldn't want to end up back in here so soon, I'm out of shape enough as it is."

The elevator dinged as it started its slow descent, lovely elevator music starting to tinkle around them. "Psh, no one cares about your well-being! Well, that and I'm the only one who could clear some time in their busy schedule for our poor wittle cripple!" The 'poor cripple' snorted as she nuzzled his shoulder, looking up at him with a shit eating grin and doe eyes.

"Oh, how shall I ever repay you, oh generous one?" Eragon punctuated his statement with an eye roll and a derisive snort, and Saphira bit his shoulder for his trouble. "You cunt! Don't bite crippled people!"

With a laugh the teen danced out of his range (which was an amazing feat, as they were inside a rather small elevator), darting out it as it he swung again. "You cunt! Don't use your cast as a weapon!" Merrily skipping, Saphira led him through the hospital lobby with a short race, stopping abruptly at the front desk and chirping, "I'm here to sign Eragon Argetlam out, please and thank you!"

Panting and gingerly clutching his side, Eragon glared at Saphira, grumbling under his breath about diabolical best friends and boiling vats of bacon grease. The nurse chortled, having heard of their antics and typed something on her computer and handed the bubbly blonde some papers, "Sign these and you're both free to go!"

Silence fell over their little corner of the lobby as the brunet struggled to catch his breath, eventually he wheezed, "Seriously, why am I friends with you Saphira?"

A playful shove hit him directly in the stomach, eliciting a pained groan and making Eragon slump against the desk. The nurse gasped, standing, "Are you alright sir?"

Hands grabbed his shoulders, "Fuck Era I'm sorry, I forgot! Here, papers," Saphira threw the papers over the desk at the young nurse and wheeled her friend around so he was facing the doors, "Onward cripple! Quickly, before this hospital brings more bad luck! Awayyy!"

A wash of voices followed them out as she dragged Eragon, who was still whimpering in pain, out the door. Cold winter air hit them like a punch to the gut (the thought made him wince and enclose his arms about his midsection), "You are a truly evil being. I bet you didn't even bring me a coat." The parking lot had been cleared of snow at the cost of the dividers, piles of dirty snow dominating every available space; half-covering thin sticks that in spring would be trees again. A sharp wind tickled his near bald head and he had never wished so fervently for his hair as he did that second. Slush covered the pavement, easily soaking his beloved chucks.

Saphira slowed their pace as they entered the parking lot, her sigh a puff of white smoke, drifting into the sky. "No, actually, I kind of spaced that. I am wearing a skirt y'know, obviously I didn't really take into account the cold." Huffing, she wrapped herself firmly around her friend, making walking even more awkward for the released patient. "Give me your warmthhh mortal!"

"Christ Saph I've been out of the hospital not even five minutes and you're already trying to put me back! Get offfff meeee!" Eragon whined, struggling within her grasp. Of course, being his best friend of 15 long years, Saphira knew he actually meant 'hold me tighter', and so his struggling turned into an impromptu wrestling match in the middle of the parking lots isle. She was, however, careful not to squeeze his ribs too hard as she tried to force him into submission. "Shit! Why do you keep biting me?"

A brash honk turned her reply into a shrill shriek, both wrestlers jumping and turning to see a short elderly lady flailing in her seat. "Fuck you old lady!" Saphira shouted, but obediently stepped out of the lane of passage, Eragon following suite. The old woman proceeded to shout inarticulately at them as she peeled away, shaking a tiny wrinkled fist at them as her burgundy POS chugged away.

Slowly, the friends turned to look at each other, and burst out laughing, simultaneously raising a hand for high-fives. "That was awesome!" Eragon laughed and wrapped an arm around the shivering girl's shoulder, "Now, where's our mode of transportation, dragon lady?"

"I haven't heard that nickname in forever…" A fond smile graced 'dragon lady's rosy face, "But I'm a dragon tamer now, if you hadn't heard! I've finally tamed the great beast that is Thorn Skulblaka! He's totally great in the sack, by the way!" Saphira steered them towards her car, cerulean eyes combing the crowds of vehicles for hers.

Eragon groaned, disgusted, "Gross Saph I didn't need to know that! Brom told me anyway, well, not about the screwing, thank god. Hey, he also told me Arya and I broke up – did I ever hook up with anyone else?"

Saphira stiffened under the weight of his arm, and when Eragon looked down; she wouldn't meet his eyes. "Saph?"

"Oh hey look, there's my car!" Ducking out from under his arm, Saphira waded through the slush towards a bright blue (surprise surprise) Suzuki Aereo. "Isn't she beautifulll?" The girl crooned, plastering herself against the passenger door reverently as the ex-hospital patient caught up.

"If she has heating, then yes, she's the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen on four wheels. Nice question dodging by the way." Huffing, Eragon swung himself inside the car as soon as Saphira peeled herself off the door and tossed his bag in the backseat. The seat covers displayed a great red dragon, roaring and curled majestically around the spires of a castle. Toeing off his shoes, Eragon began playing with the dash buttons as soon as the driver sat down and turned the key.

Laughing under her breath, Saphira left him to it and pulled out of the parking space, "I'm not dodging anything Era, I just don't really think I should be the one to tell you about that part of your life. I'd get in some big trouble with Tag if I did."

Finally, Eragon figured it out, and warm air bathed his waiting face. Her statement sent a jolt of surprise through him, his head whipped around to stare at her, "Wait, what, Tag? What does Murtagh have to do with this? And will you tell me when the hell we started calling him Tag?"

"Er, whoops, didn't mean to say that last part." A nervous, twittering laugh passed her lips and she kept her eyes trained on the road despite Eragon's best effort to get her to focus on him. Finally, at a stop light she looked over at him, "Look, Eragon, I'm not doing this to be a bitch I swear. I just…Nobody wants to scare you, ok? So just wait a while, once you settle in, we'll tell you – I swear on your stuffed dragon Sexy." Though she had started serious, by the end of her speech Saphira was grinning madly as per the norm, snickering as her passenger sputtered.

"Don't swear on that! A-and don't ever bring that up again, ok? Jeezus, I was, what, five? Drop it already!" Sinking into the comfort of his seat, Eragon pouted and wiggled his toes, pushing them closer to the heater. "And fine, but I better get some answers. I'm tired of being ignorant about two whole years of my life." Arms crossed over his chest, he turned sulkily to stare out the window at the passing scenery.

Winter-washed houses zipped by, kids floundering in the mounds of snow in their yard. A sudden hollowness ached inside him as he realized the full extent of all of this – he had lost two years of his life. 730 days, filled with memories of friends, places, and experiences that he'd never have again. Strangers would come up to him, having tales of days past that he'd be unaware of – he'd have to get to know everyone again. Dear god, how much had he forgotten about school? How would he catch up, in math, history, hell even English?

A hand on his shoulder interrupted his brooding. He turned to find Saphira looking at him, regret clear on her pretty features. "I'm sorry Era, it's got to be hard for you. Look, I'll tell you what – ask me anything, anything at all, and if I know it I will tell you in a heart beat."

"Wh-"

"Besides the love-life thing, obviously." She cracked a humorless smile, knowing exactly what her best friend had been about to say.

Snorting wryly, he leveled a deadpan gaze at her. "Ok, then how did I end up in the hospital?"

A pause as Saphira clicked her turn signal and wheeled to the right, taking them deeper into the residential district of Carvahall. "Augh, I guess that's safe enough. You and Murtagh were going somewhere and some dick t-boned you on the passenger side." Her delicate hands clenched the steering wheel, knuckles paling under the pressure, "Tag barely got a scratch; bruised his hip, a mild concussion and a few scrapes from the glass to show for his trouble. You absorbed the brunt of the damage." She took a deep breath, and Eragon stayed quiet, letting her take a moment to gather herself. Saphira turned her head slightly to the side, catching his eye, "You scared the fuck out of all of us Eragon. Sunny October day we get a call from Murtagh, frantic, saying there's been a crash and you're in the ER. Do you know how that feels? The ride to the hospital was hell; I had no idea the extent of your injuries – for all I knew you could've been bleeding out in the hospital room. Hell, I nearly got in a crash on the way there with how recklessly I was driving." A dry laugh followed her statement; all of it left a queasy feeling in his stomach. "They said you got lucky, said it could've been worse – all I knew is that we weren't allowed to see you for two weeks, and then when we finally do, you can't remember two years of our life." Sniffling, Saphira quickly wiped her cheeks with the back of her hands; he hadn't even noticed she'd been crying at first. "Fuck, sorry, didn't mean to dump all that shit on you. Lovely way to start off your first day of freedom, huh?"

Eragon rubbed his own eyes and gave a weak chuckle, "Yeah, the only way I'd ever want." A peaceful lull fell over their conversation, the only sound being the low hum of the car and the whoosh of the heater. "For what it's worth Saph…I'm sorry."

Barking a laugh, Saphira punched him in the arm, "That's worth jack-diddly shit bro!" She paused for dramatics, cheerily admiring his indignant expression, interrupting him as he was about to protest, "What have you got to apologize for? None of it's your fault. I'm just glad you're alive, frankly. All of us are, so don't pull that 'sorry' shit again, alright? Oh, oh, recognize this?" Good cheer restored, Saphira eagerly pointed down the street, directly at his house.

"Of course not Saph, I've never been that place in my life." Eragon bit out sarcastically, rolling his eyes at his childhood friend, "I mean I've only lived there for what, 18 years now?"

"I had to make sure your concussion didn't make you go full retard!" Swiftly, she pulled into the driveway beside his mom's van. Grimacing, the teen wondered if he should put his sopping, icy shoes back on or just sprint to the door. "C'mon, I've got a surprise for youuu!"

…sprinting won out, and Eragon picked up his shoes, deciding to forgo his bag for now, and pushed open the door. Saphira was already out and shouting at him to 'hurry the fuck up', so with a deep breath, the shoeless boy swung his legs out of the car, and planted his feet on the slick drive way.

"!" He screeched as he fled around the car, towards the doorway in naught but frigid wet socks. The minute he was through the doorway he flung himself on the ground and wrestled the demonic socks off his feet, flinging them across the living room. "Fuuucckkkkkkkkk, my poor toes!"

A short calm fell, and as he rubbed his feet, Eragon turned to find countless people staring at him. Aunts, uncles, cousins Eragon hadn't seen for years were bunched in the living room, friends he hadn't heard from in forever sprinkled among them – all of them focused on him, their gazes akin to lazer beams. Suddenly Roran burst out laughing and stood up, moving towards his smaller cousin to clap him on the shoulder, nearly knocking the sitting boy over (an amazing feat), "You haven't changed a bit cousin, still the little dumbass I grew up with."

"I resent that."

Momentary awkward moment broken, everyone got up and rushed to the seated teen, flocking around him, patting his shoulders as he stood, laughing and poking fun of him. Smiling, he returned shoves, hugging his mother and making crude remarks. Out of the corner of his eye, Eragon saw Murtagh slink into the hall and out of sight as the celebration started.

.x.x.

That night after most everyone had left and the party was over, Eragon flopped onto his bed, stuffed to bursting of his favorite foods. He bounced a bit as Saphira collapsed next to him, "Dude, you should come back from the hospital more often - that was fucking delicious."

"I knowww. Hell, did you know that Arya could cook?" Groaning, he pulled up his shirt to rub his aching stomach. A hand immediately came down to smack it, lightly, but it still stung. "Fuck!"

Saphira snickered, "Put your food baby away Goldilocks. But yeah, she took a cooking class junior year – she's been a goddess ever since."

Tucking his shirt under his arms in retort, Eragon quickly rolled over, laughing, "I bet you'd fail that class in a heart beat – you'd just step through the door and the teacher would stamp your forehead with an F. Oh dear god, I remember that one time freshman year when you actually managed to burn cereal!"

A hand shoved his head into his bedcovers, smothering him, "Shut the fuck up, that was one time and I had a hang over sent straight from Satan's nuts!" After much struggling and kicking (on Eragon's part), Saphira let his head up, "Apologize!"

"…what the fuck do Satan's nuts have to do with hang overs?"

Still sniggering, the surprisingly strong girl shoved his face into his bedcovers, "Everything!" He continued laughing into the bed, his body shaking with the force, "Screw you!" Growling, Saphira got on top of him, pressing him further into his mattress, taking great care to put no weight on his ribs.

"…am I interrupting something?" Arya leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed and smile wry.

Snorting over her shoulder, Saphira's curt reply was, "Always. Now get over here so you can help me rape Era."

A new bout of struggling started, his shout muffled by his blankets. The hand holding his head briefly let up, allowing him to gasp out, "Not in the butt!" before he was pushed back down. Laughter greeted this, and the woman on top of him used her other hand to pinch his ass, making him squeak.

"But you've got such a nice ass Era! Don't be such a prudeee!~" Arya purred, suddenly on the bed next to him, hand ghosting down his side. Shit suddenly felt a lot more serious, and the teen shivered under the assault of the two women, wondering if people had been yanking his chain about Arya and him breaking up. Hair tickled the rear of his neck, followed by a girlish giggle as he shuddered.

Fingers tugged at his belt loops playfully, and Eragon's face flushed, a warm feeling pooling in his stomach, "Yeah c'mon Era be a good boy and share!"

A cough froze the whole scene. Hands flinched away from him, the second presence beside him disappearing, and Saphira scooted off him to sit next to him. Confused, he pulled himself up to see who had arrived. Murtagh stood in the doorway, arms crossed and pissed scowl etched firmly into his pale features. "Selena wants Eragon." With that, he turned away, not once looking at his half brother.

An awkward stillness fell over the room, everyone frozen in place, transfixed by the empty doorway. Arya sighed and patted Eragon's head, emerald eyes apologetic, "I guess it's time for me to go, see ya Era!" She fled the room as quickly as she had come, leaving the childhood friends to stew.

"That was…weird. Why'd he look so pissed?" His friend tilted her head away when he turned to her, avoiding his gaze.

Exhaling loudly, the blonde got up from the bed, "That's one of the those things that I can't tell you. C'mon, we better get you to your mom." And she was out the door, leaving the confused boy alone on his bed. What was with people these days and fleeing before he had a chance to say anything?

Under breath, he muttered a few choice expletives, pulling himself up and walking down the hall and into the kitchen, wondering what his mom wanted. "There you are dear!" Smiling, his mother patted the spot next to her at the kitchen table; obediently he sat down. Empty dishes littered every open space, the earlier crowd having likely mown through every edible piece of food in the house.

"Hate to skip out on ya Era, but I think it's about time I left, Thorn's prolly waiting for me." Lifting a hand in a half-hearted wave, she turned to leave.

"What? Did Thorn move in with you and your parents or something?"

A confused pause met him, then laughter, "Oh, god no! Oh you crack me up Era~ No, earlier this year you and I actually moved into his and Tag's flat, help pay the bills, keep 'em company and such. I'm going to have to tell Thorn what you just said – he'll get a kick out of it too. Now see ya!" Without waiting for a goodbye, the woman whooshed out into the hall, and a few seconds later, he heard the front door shut.

"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about, Eragon." Selena chuckled, grabbing his hand, "I think it'd be best if you stayed here for a little while, got your bearings back et cetera, before you moved back into the apartment."

The teen shrugged, rather indifferent, having no memories of the place. That, and living with Thorn and Saphira would be horribly awkward – he'd probably be able to hear them fucking, and that coupled with Murtagh? Yeah, home seemed pretty nice right now. "I don't mind, but when am I going to be going back to school?"

His mom sighed, squeezing his hand and leaning into the wooden chair, "I'm not really sure, honestly. It's pretty much all up to you. Do you feel up to diving back into the hell you kids know as the education system?" She smiled, joking about her well-known distaste for the public education system.

"I'm not sure what else I'd do, and hell, gotta get back into it someday. So…does that mean I can go back tomorrow?"

His mom blinked at him, stunned, "Tomorrow? The first thing you want to do, right after you get out of the hospital, is go to school?" Incredulous caramel eyes pinned him to his seat.

The bald teen chuckled weakly, nervously running a hand over his head, "Eh, yeah, I guess? I just want to get into everyday life."

"Are you sure you can manage – do you even remember what you learned in the past two years?"

Eragon shifted in his seat, frowning, nervousness dissolving into annoyance, "I don't know mom; that's why I need to go! I need to see what I remember and catch up on what I can't! The sooner I go back, the better of a chance I have of actually graduating with good grades with Saph."

Selena's gaze dropped to their clasped hands, her free hand brushing her chocolate brown tresses behind her ear. She slackened her posture in response to her son's aggressive posture, hoping to calm him. "You've thought a lot about this, huh? Figures, you always were too mature for your age." Her cool hand slipped out of his and ran over her face, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but no, you can't go to school tomorrow."

"Mom!"

"Shuddup a minute, ok? We need to see how much you remember; we can test you on Saphira's homework when she gets home tomorrow since you're so eager. All your clothes are at the apartment anyway, so you wouldn't have anything clean to wear." His mom stared at him, trying to catch his eyes, "C'mon, look at me babe."

Scowling, Eragon looked up and locked his brown eyes on hers. "I just…" The boy sighed, scratching at the staples in his scalp, "I don't know what to do with myself half the time mom – something big happened that I can't remember - I know because everyone keeps skirting around my questions!" Slowly as he talked, all the frustration he'd felt over the last week bubbled up, wrapping around his stomach, twining through his insides and squeezing. His fists clenched angrily on the tabletop, he grunted as his cast thumped against the wood. He tore his eyes away from his mom, glaring at the fists, helpless in his ire, "I've been awake for almost two fucking weeks and I'm sick of being left out of the loop."

Shushing him softly, his mom closed her thin hands over his fists, softly rubbing his taut knuckles with her thumbs, "We don't mean to hurt you Era, it's just…not our secret to tell."

"Then whose is it? Fuck, it was my life! I deserve to know!" He hissed, shaking off her hands and crossing them awkwardly across his chest, thumping himself in the ribs with his bulky cast, which send a thrill of pain through him. "Goddamnit!"

"Shh, I know darling, I know…jus-"

"It's mine, ok? Now stop terrorizing Selena – it's not her fault." Eragon's head whipped around to see Murtagh, a shadow in the doorway.

Anticipation and previous anger made his heartbeat quicken as he watched his half-brother almost slump against the doorframe, looking entirely desolate. His anger cooled dramatically at the cool flash of terror in the man's hazel eyes, and when he spoke it was a whisper; a quiet thing, scared to break the silence. "Then will you tell me, please?"

A hand grasped his cast, slim fingers clenched, "Murta-"

"No, Selena, he's right. You deserve to know the truth, Eragon." Dark bangs fell over his face, casting an ominous shadow over his eyes. "On my eighteenth birthday you found me in the bathroom," He paused, for one moment, then two.

Eragon shifted in his wooden chair, eager to know the secret everyone had been keeping, but disturbed to learn it had started in the bathroom with his brother. "…the bathroom?" He asked, distaste clear in his tone.

Selena made a noise in her throat, hand involuntarily clenching on her son's cast, "Yes, the bathroom, now shut up, do you want to hear this or not?" Angry, glassy hazel eyes stared Eragon down; the teen gulped and nodded, murmuring apologetically. "Ok. You found me in the bathroom," A pointed huff, and Eragon flushed, "with a razor in my fist and my wrist slashed." The teen's stomach dropped straight to the floor - every hair on Eragon's body seemed to stand, goosebumps prickling over his skin. Murtagh's head bowed again, eyes shadowed. "You flipped out so bad I thought you'd pass out, but you called 911, and off to the hospital for me. You visited me everyday; you saved my life." His voice lost it's composure at the end, it had become soft, low and guttural – a strange paradox, talking of suicide with the manner of the weather, but cracking over Eragon visiting him in the hospital.
The room sat in an eerie silence, the kitchen lights insanely bright. When the seated teen finally lifted his gaze to peer at his brother, the light had thrown a gleam over the hazel eyes that looked like tears. As the boy's mouth opened, hazel portals snapped shut and a closing to the tale was curtly tossed forth, "End of story. Now, next time you have questions, come to me, ok? Don't badger any one else." He turned on his heel, about to leave, but gave pause to explain his departure, "I'm heading back to the apartment; it's been a long day – goodnight." The man slipped back into the darkness of the hallway like a comfortable cloak, footsteps inaudible as he crept away.

Sighing, Selena slumped in her chair, her hand falling from the plastered arm, "Fuck, I really need a cigarette." When Eragon regarded at her, she looked unbalanced, as if someone had yanked the carpet out from under her.

"That's it? That's what you guys were pussyfooting around?"

She shrugged, avoiding his gaze. "It wasn't our story to tell, hun." A quick kiss planted itself on his forehead, his mom's lips dry and warm. "You can go to school Wednesday, tomorrow we're going out. Goodnight Eragon, I love you."

"Love you too mom, g'night." He watched her walk away, feeling like the biggest dick in the galaxy. "Fuck." He dropped his head into his hands, fingers running idly over his peach-fuzzed skull. Why did it feel as if something was still missing? "Fuck this." Getting up, he pushed his and his mom's chairs in, walking over to the light switch. He paused, looking over the stuffed counters, the cheery vine-green walls, small window over the sink showing the pitch dark of the winter night. He remembered sitting up on that counter as a child, watching his mom put cookies in the over or fry him some eggs; he tried to remember what she'd cooked him last, but for the life of him he couldn't. With a flick, the lights were off, and Eragon lumbered down the hall to his bedroom, flinging his shirt off into the shadows as he collapsed on his bed. Staring into the darkness, he told himself not the think and just laid there for most of the night.

.x.x. Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Eragon woke up the sun was shining in his window, stabbing gleefully at his eyes. Groaning, he rolled over and stared blindly at his wall, waiting for his brain to wake up.

The red wall was covered with posters and drawings of ages past, most of them he recognized, but some of them he must've put up before he moved out. A cat there, a trippy abstract of a woman lying on the ground, ethereal foxes crowding around her in another spot – a few squares on the wall were blank, the wall sporting discolored rectangles. A new Jack Skellington poster hung at the foot of his bed, a bony hand beckoning the sleepy teen into his world of fright. Stretching carefully, he rolled over onto his back, spotting another new poster. Adam Gontier stared down at him, flanked by Neil Sanderson, Brad Walst and Barry Stock, signatures sprawled over their necks. "Go figure, I finally get to go to a Three Days Grace concert and I can't even remember it."

He pulled a pillow over his face, groaning into its fluffy recesses. Maybe if he concentrated on it, it'd come to him? Deciding to give it a try, Eragon took a deep breath and envisioned the band on stage, placing himself behind the safety face, jumping and screaming the lyrics until his throat grew hoarse. The boy paused; hoping his mind would jump in and fill in something – anything! – but nothing came. The pillow absorbed another frustrated groan, and he felt like punching something.

It shouldn't have upset him so much; it was just a dumb concert, right? But the knowledge that he'd probably never remember it (fulfilling his childhood dream!) burned like a red hot coal in the pit of his stomach. Tears stung his clenched eyes, compounding his frustration. "Fuck, don't be such a pussy Eragon, straighten up! It's not the end of the world, you're still alive right?" A defiant tear fought its way out, dampening the breath-warmed fabric of the pillow. Cursing, Eragon threw the pillow across the room, ignoring the ensuing clatter, and rolled out of bed. "It's too early for emo bullshit."

The coal, however, continued to smolder as he shuffled out of his room, not bothering to put the Avenged Sevenfold tee back on, or check to see what had dropped. 'I wonder if I saw them too and can't remember.' Snorting, he scratched his tan belly, absently wondering when he and his mom were going to go out.

He swung himself into the kitchen with the doorframe, pausing as he spotted Murtagh in front of the sink; yellow latex gloves cover his forearms up to his elbows as he scrubbed at dishes. Unintentionally, a snort escaped Eragon – he froze when the dishwasher looked over his shoulder. "Ah, morning?" A timid smile tugged at his lips and he scooted quickly over to the fridge, reaching for the bread.

"Mm, morning." The man grunted, returning to his dishes. As quietly as possible, Eragon put a couple slices of bread in the toaster, leaning against the counter, slightly annoyed to notice that he felt awkward in his own kitchen. Humming a few notes to a random song, he hunted down the peanut butter, rolling over possible things to say in his mind. "Peanut butter, I'm guessing?" Eragon stopped, cabinet door half way open. Sheepishly he looked over to Murtagh to find him staring at him amusedly; he nodded. "Figures, two years knocked out of your head and you retain the fact that you enjoy that disgusting goop. Your mom stopped buying it when you left, I brought some with me when I came back this morning, should be in a bag on the couch." With a snicker the dark haired man turned back to the dishes, leaving Eragon to stare, stunned, at his back.

"…Shuddup, that shit is delicious." Smiling lightly, the shirtless teen ambled into the living room, rubbing his bare feet against the threadbare carpet to generate some heat as he peaked over the edge of the couch. Sure enough, a plastic bag sat on the far right cushion, curious, Eragon pulled at one of the handles, peering inside – a jar of peanut butter (with nuts, his fucking favorite!), a bag of Jolly Ranchers, a bottle of bacon ranch and – deargod! Was that Twizzlers? "DEAR GOD, I LOVE YOU TAGGG! SAINT MOTHER MARY GET IN MY BELLLYYYY!~" Squealing, Eragon practically jumped over the back of the couch, ripping into the bag of Twizzlers, practically moaning as he shoved two in his mouth.

"I kind of figured you'd enjoy some 'real' food, since you're mom's a health freak." Said the 'saintly' man as he leaned against the doorframe and watched Eragon fawn over his condiments and candy with an amused gleam in his eye. Water dripped from his gloves onto the carpet, but neither of them cared.

The shirtless teen crooned, cuddling the divine candy to his chest, "Enjoy? Too weak a verb! Try relish, devour, adore! You are now my favorite person in this whole house, fo' serious." For the first time since he'd woken up, Eragon looked his brother in the eyes and didn't feel uncomfortable in anyway. The revelation sent a warm buzz of happiness through him – the impromptu interrogation last night seemed to have done the trick, and being around 'Tag' was now considerably less awkward.

Laughing, unaware of his younger brother's epiphany, Murtagh shook his head, "Well thank you, I'm honored. Now, I had better get back to the dishes. Are you going to eat the toast you started to make?"

An incredulous snort left the party in question, "Abandon my Twizzlers for brittle carbohydrates? How dare you doubt my devotion!"

"Hm, indeed." A casual, yellow-gloved hand waved over his shoulder as the older teen went back to the kitchen, leaving Eragon alone in the living room. Sighing contentedly, he pulled the store bag off the couch and onto the floor, curling up with his bag of Twizzlers. He'd never known that Murtagh could be so thoughtful; Saphira hadn't even thought to bring him some yummies! Cheerily he blindly groped the bag until he found the peanut butter, briefly attempting to unscrew it with his right hand; he quickly gave up and awkwardly got the lid off with his left. Tearing away the last barrier between him and his beloved brown goop, Eragon eyed his Twizzlers, and the jar of crunchy peanut butter with a devious twinkle in his coffee eyes.

"He's prepped, set and ready for this, the shot that could make the whole game. The crowd waits with bated breath – the whole night's effort lays in the hand of one man, and by the set of that jaw he can feel it! Slowly, slowly he pulls back, and-and it's in the air! Flying, twirling through the air like a shooting star, nearing the basket, and it… is… DELICIOUS!" Cackling, the teen quickly proceeded to shove as many of his treasured red ropes into the peanut butter jar as would fit.

The rest of his breakfast followed this pattern; tomfoolery and idiocy abound. There was something freeing about being able to do commentary on his food again without the nurses looking at him with apprehensive amusement. Allowing himself to melt into the cushions, the teen rubbed his belly happily. It was nice to be home. "Hey, Murtagh!" Shouted the sprawled boy, realizing that he hadn't seen his mom all morning/afternoon.

The answer call was faint, muffled by walls and cushion, "Yeah?"

"Do you know where Selena went? She was supposed to be taking me somewhere today."

There was no answer for a few moments, then his response rang clearer and closer than it had before, "I don't know where she went, but she told me she had an errand to run – demanded I come back and escort your sorry butt today." A pale face framed by dark hair peered over the edge of the coach, eyeing the half-naked, curled up teen, "…you're a freak, you know that right?"

Humphing, Eragon threw an arm over his face, cursing as he belatedly realized it was his right arm, ruefully rubbing his bonked nose. "Shush, leave me to my bloated bliss, and go back to your dishes kitchen wench!"

A hand smacked his bare stomach, "Screw you kid."

Footsteps trailed out of the room and indignantly Eragon shouted after them, "That's right, you better flee!"

"Go put your shirt on kid; I'm almost done with these dishes." The boy continued to lie, wriggling further into the cushions. With a full stomach and a comfortable perch, a nap sounded marvelous. "No sleeping! Vas-tu!"

An ear perked at the sound of French; he pulled himself up using the back of the couch, cocking a brow even though the person in question couldn't see it. "…did you just command me to go in French?"

A loud chuckle rang out, "You taught me some while I was in the hospital. Now move your ass! You're already half way up."

"…You can see through walls, can't you, you creep?" He finally got up to the sound of laughter, lifted the bag of treats from the floor and placed it on the couch-side table, and trudged towards his bedroom. The hardwood was chilly beneath his feet after the carpeted living room, so he sped up, skidding into his room using the doorframe, narrowly avoiding the door. With a rebel yell, Eragon flew onto his bed. The blankets were still warm, and the sun had changed dispositions while he was out, now deciding to stream in his window peacefully, falling perfectly on his bare torso, warming him. Another siren call from the illustrious Lady Nap.

"No sleeping!"

"Fuck, seriously bro?" Paranoid now, Eragon carefully extracted himself from his blankets, sliding stealthily off the bed. Snatching up and sniffing his shirt, he deemed it safe and donned it, next reaching for his pillow. A picture frame was beneath it, "So that's what fell, huh." He murmured under his breath, picking up and examining the picture.
The frame was simple enough, black with a silver trim; the picture showed what Eragon guessed had been his group. From left to right there was Saphira, Thorn, Murtagh, him, Arya, and a strange, reedy boy with slicked back black hair. Saphira was pressed tight to the hulking Thorn's side, smiling blissfully, and oddly enough, Eragon was tucked under Murtagh's arm; he chuckled, noticing that Arya had the stranger in a headlock – everyone was smiling happily (well, except the stranger, who was grimacing, obviously having been dragged in), standing in what appeared to be a crowded parade ground. Shrugging, Eragon carefully put the picture back on his shelf, sparing a fond glance for the empty space where his video games had been.

With a snap of his fingers, he remembered his earlier mission; slowly he slithered back to his bed, utilizing years of practice to keep his bed from squeaking and giving him away. Bug-eyed and devious looking, he settled into his bed, clutching the pillow to his chest. His black tee soaked up more warmth than his skin had, lulling him as he waited for reassurance that Murtagh was fucking nuts. "Eragon," The warning was clear in the man's voice even through two walls.

Jolting up, Eragon jumped out of bed, spooked. "Seriously, how do you do that?" Yup, the man was fucking nuts.

"I'm magical." Sarcasm oozed from the kitchen-wench, slinking all the way from the wench's domain to Eragon's room. Rolling his eyes, the teen decided the games were over and went over to his dresser, pulling open the drawer where he had kept his socks. Empty.

Frowning, he pulled open the top drawer, second, third, fourth – all bare. "I don't have any socks! Please tell me you brought me some socks, oh magical one!" Leaving his room in favor of the kitchen, Eragon regarded Murtagh's back hopefully, waiting for directions to lead him towards glorious socks.

The black clad shoulders shrugged, "Ah, no actually. Hadn't thought of that."

"Seriously? You thought of-… ok, no, I can understand thinking of Twizzlers and peanut butter before socks. But fuckkk, I hate wearing shoes without socks! It's so gross!" Dramatically, the teen threw himself into a chair at the kitchen table, throwing a hand over his eyes (he was careful to make sure it was the left one this time).

Dishes stopped clanking for a moment, and when Eragon peaked through his fingers, he saw the washer peering over his shoulder with a crooked smile, "You haven't changed a bit Era."

His brother's smile stole his breath, refusing mercy on the teen until its owner had turned back to the dishes; quietly he gasped in a breath, a lance of pain arcing behind his eyes, "It's hard to change pure awesome." Laughter greeted his statement, but Eragon was too distracted to hear the spoken reply – what the fuck had just happened? Why had that damn smile affected him so much? Something niggled in the back of his mind, a tickle that seemed to reverberate in his skull. He put his head in his hands, clenching his eyes shut as a wave of pain bowled through his brain. He could see a sunset, and that fucking smile, crooked as a thief, settled on a blurred face, the trees moved so fast and then-

"-gon? Eragon, fuck, are you ok?" Something squeezed his shoulder to the point of pain, shaking him harshly. When he opened his eyes, everything was blurry; he had to blink rapidly to clear the fog. Murtagh hovered near him face twisted in concern.

Continuing to blink, Eragon shook his head, "Uh, fuck, yeah, I-I'm fine, what happened?"

Exhaling heavily through his nose, the dark haired man straightened himself, patting Eragon's aching shoulder awkwardly in apology. "You didn't reply, and when I turned back you had your head in your hands – you looked like you were in pain." Hazel eyes raked critically over the seated teen, "Are you sure you're ok? You're shaking."

Looking at his hands, he realized that indeed, tremors ran through them making his fingers quake; he clenched his hands and nodded, "Yeah, I'm good, my head just hurts."

This seemed to set Murtagh further off, alarm clear in his voice, "Your head? Fuck Era you should've said something! Any dizziness, nausea? How's your vision? Fuck I can't see your pupils clearly, why are your irises so dark?"

Slapping away the hands that reached for his face, Eragon frowned, brows furrowed, "I said I was fine Tag, no dizziness, no nausea, and my vision is peachy. It's just a headache. Calm down. Now, can you finish the dishes, please?"

Hazel eyes glared at him, but with a derisive snort, the brunet turned on his heel, stalking back to the sink. Eragon watched him, frowning as he realized how taut the man's spine was – an abrupt wet slap made him flinch and Murtagh slump, holding onto the sink edge for dear life and hanging his head over the water. For a moment, all he could do was stare, stupefied at the hunched form of his half brother – rage, animosity, frustration, disgust were normal Murtagh-y negative emotions, but his form seemed to exude a certain extent of…helplessness? It was unsettling. "…Murtagh?"

A shudder ran down the curved spine, the vulnerability vanishing as he straightened, "Hold on a sec, lemme drain the sinks and we'll go, since you're so impatient." Wry humor was evident in his voice, alleviating Eragon's worry to a small extent. Still though he watched his brother's careful movements, watching as an arm jerked and the sink made obscene sucking noises, finishing with a belch as it inhaled all the water from one sink, the process repeating with the second.

They sat, suspended in a brief moment of silence, neither sure how to progress from there. Finally, the sink fell quiet, and the spell ended. Sighing, Eragon scooted his chair out from under the table, stood and made his way to the living room. He picked up his sneakers, groaning as he noticed that they were still damp and cold. Staring despondently at the shoes, he dropped them in his lap as he settled on the couch.

There was shuffling behind him, a couple of thumps, the whole performance sprinkled with a bit of cursing. As Eragon was about to turn, a pair of socks dangled in front of his face. "Here." The ripe smell of feet punched the teen straight in the face.

"Did you just take your socks off and offer them to me?" He gagged a bit, sinking into the couch away from the putrid socks.

The socks wiggled in front of his face, sending another wave of scent, making Eragon's eyes water. "Are you going to take them or not? I mean, you could always wear those cold, slimy shoes barefoot – just imagine that wet fabric squishing between your to-" The socks were yanked out of his hands, Eragon tugging them on with much enthusiasm in quick procession. The dark haired man chuckled under his breath.

"Gross! They're still warrmmm! That's not right! When was the last time you washed these things anyway?" Whining and complaining the whole time, Eragon pulled on the socks and shoes. When he turned, the bipolar man had disappeared from behind him.

Deciding to go look for him, the teen stood, and the second that he did his brother stepped back into the room, a plain piece of toast hanging limply from his mouth. Gesturing that Eragon follow, he made his way to the door.

The younger boy held his tongue until they got to the crimson car, a snicker slipping out from his tightly clenched lips when his leader mutely signaled him to get in the driver's seat. "I can't believe you're eating the toast I made twenty minutes ago. And you didn't even put anything on it! Cold and plain?" Commented the teen as he swung himself into the car, nearly bagging himself on the steering wheel. As he grumbled and adjusted the seat, so he wasn't so grossly situated, he noted gratefully that Murtagh's socks had done their job and shielded his poor feet from winters nip.

A muffled protest was his reply as his passenger worked on devouring the rest of the piece of toasted bread. "Not everyone enjoys things smothered in nut cream, Era."

Both of the boys paused and turned to the other. Eragon burst out laughing first, loud guffaws that nearly drowned out the other occupant's low chuckles. "I-I can't believe you just said that!" Wheezed the boy once he regained enough breath for speech, cautiously clutching his sides, "Fuckkk laughing hurts."

A punch was smoothly delivered to his shoulder, "I didn't mean it like that, you fucking perv, and good, you deserve some pain. Maybe it'll help get your mind out of the gutter." Despite his harsh words, Murtagh continued to chortle as well, though much, much quieter than Eragon.

Another bout of chuckles erupted from the acclaimed pervert of the car, and Murtagh swore he heard 'jizz toast' muttered somewhere between the laughs. The lone occupant of the car with hair waited for the non-haired boy to calm – it took a while, but once he did, Murtagh asked, "You feel comfortable driving?"

Eragon shrugged, running his hands along the circumference of the steering wheel before speaking, "Yeah, I don't see why not, I have a question though first." He struggled to hide his grin, schooling his features into a mask of nervous curiosity before he looked at his brother.

His dramatics were wasted however, as his passenger was staring out the window. "Yeah?"

"Which one's gas and whine one's brakes?" The dark haired man's head spun to face the questioner, eyes wide with stunned disbelief and…fright? Eragon burst out laughing at his expression, collapsing on the steering wheel in a fit of giggles, startling a scream out of himself as he accidently blared the horn.

There was a pause after the honk, then Eragon's laughter resumed. It died down however when he noticed that Murtagh hadn't partaken in the merriment, "What? I was just kidding Murtagh, you don't need to fear for your lifee!" He sang, leaning over to nudge the man playfully with his shoulder.

He moved out of Eragon's path, face aimed out the window again, "I'm not worried, now can you start the car now? Thorn and Saph have been expecting us a while."

"O-ok." The boy stuttered, confused by the sudden mood swing – what had he done wrong? They'd been laughing and having fun, and now an awkward silence shrouded them. Demurely Eragon started the car, pulling out of the driveway with ease.

A low voice rang out in the quiet, startling the driver, "Go down another two blocks, then turn left on Madison."

The car ride continued as such, instructions given tersely from the moody passenger to the driver, no one daring to speak outside those interactions. Eragon pulled into the space he'd been directed to in the parking lot of a large, rather plain looking building.

Wordlessly they both stepped out, quietly maneuvering through the slush and ice of the cramped lot as they weaved towards the building, both lost in their own private worlds.

No matter how careful he was, Eragon managed to find a slick patch of ice no farther than two feet from the door. A shriek burst from him as his foot jerked out from underneath him, arms flying up in a panic. Something hard and warm brought him to a sudden stop, vice grips holding him in place, preventing any further movement.

For a moment they just stood in that manner, Eragon half on Murtagh, gripped tightly in his arms – the world seemed frozen. Eragon's heartbeat quickened and he could faintly feel the pounding grow in his skull, the skin where his brother was touching him felt too hot to be normal, and a shudder ran through him. The wry smile he'd seen earlier twisted behind his eyes, bringing with it a wave of pain and dizziness.

The door opened in front of them, Saphira gripping the doorknob. Her jubilant expression faded to amusement as she regarded them, "Should I leave you two alone?"

His support shifted, pushing him up, forcing his feet beneath him, then suddenly the heat was gone; ice crawled over the newly exposed areas. "No, we're good." Another wave of nausea and dizziness struck Eragon, who closed his eyes, but he could hear Murtagh rushing into the building. Why couldn't he get that fucking smile out of his head?

Bright laughter started then stopped abruptly, "Fuck, Era, are you ok?" Hands gripped his shoulders, in the exact same place his brother had earlier.

"My head…" He heard laughter, faint, but it was rich and deep, echoing in rhythm with the pulses of agony radiating through his mind - words blurred together, indistinct but still a definite presence.

Slowly, the pain ebbed, and within a few seconds the teen blinked open his eyes to Saphira's terrified face. "I-it's fine, I'm fine Saph."

She frowned, gripping his arms tighter, "Are you sure? You were swaying and you looked like you were in some serious pain – if it's your head then it must be serious!" The blonde clutched him to her, and he swore he heard her mutter 'fuck' into his chest.

He wrapped his arms around her, partly to comfort her and to help make sure he didn't fall straight out of her arms, "I swear I'm fine, this happened earlier too – can we go inside now?" He tried to keep it out of his voice, however after that spell he felt exhausted and pissed, but he didn't want Saphira to think he was mad at her. Quite frankly all this was starting to drive him nuts – this was the second time in one day that this had happened, which meant that this shit probably wasn't a fluke, and that it'd probably happen again. What the hell did it even mean anyway – why the fuck was Murtagh's dumb smile so key? He hadn't had any of this weird shit before Murtagh had popped back up into his life anyway!

"This has happened before? Eragon!" The boy winced; his ears rang briefly with the new octave Saphira reached as she squeaked at him, "This is bad, fuck! Shit! Should I call 911?"

Eragon groaned, "Can we please go inside? I'll tell you everything, I swear! Just let me sit down in a warm room."

"Fuck, you're right!" Suddenly she grabbed his cast, pulling him through the door and down the hall. None of it looked familiar to his roving eyes as he was dragged along. Saphira pounded on the elevator buttons as they came up to it, "C'mon, c'mon!"

The elevator took its sweet time, drawing countless expletives from the panicking girl. Finally Eragon snapped, "Christ would you calm down? I'm not dying!"

She froze, her hand dropping from the elevator panel. Her head dropped, and with shoulders slumped she said, "Sorry Era, this is just scary as fuck, ok? You looked like you were going to pass out, right outside on the sidewalk. What's up with that? I thought you'd gotten better?" Blue eyes peered at him from under cascades of her white-blonde hair.

"I don't even fucking know Saph, I wish I could tell you." Muttered the baldheaded boy, shrugging guiltily.

The elevator door opened, and a stranger stepped out, giving the pair a strange look as he passed. Eragon walked in by himself, Saphira making a big show of hooking her hands behind her back as she followed him. No one else came, so soon the door was closing and thanks to a quick jab from feminine fingers, the number 4 lit up and off they went. At her companions curious glance, the blonde explicated, "We live in room 42 – yes, yes, the meaning of life, I have some funny stories about that actually – it's decently sized, Thorn's there so you can familiarize yourself with him after you sit down and explain to me what the fuck is going on." She paused, a smile wriggling it's way into her serious demeanor, "But not too familiar, ok?"

Chuckling, Eragon nodded, stepping into the overwhelming brown hallway when the elevator stopped. "Sure Saph, I promise I won't steal your man away from you – well, I won't try to, you know how alluring us cute straight teens can be to closets." Saphira was quick to shove him out of his diva pose, towards the door marked '42'. She opened the door for him, mockingly gesturing for him to go first, and with a curtsy, he stepped into the apartment he had lived in for the past year.

The main room was big, the walls a neutral beige that seemed to stretch outward. The kitchen was in view of the living area, sectioned off by an island jutting out of the wall that was lined with bar stools. Noise finally reached the investigating boy's ears, and he turned to find a couch a few yards ahead of him filled with Thorn and Murtagh, the former being absorbed by the TV, a ps3 remote clutched in his hands. "Greetings men of Earth!"

The room fell quiet at the statement, Thorn having paused his game to turn and grin at the doorway, snapping a lazy salute, "Greetings man from Mars! Long time no see! You feeling any better?"

Saphira slid out from behind him, the door shut soundly behind them. "You guys can chat later; him and I have some things to discuss." Yet again, a hand gripped his arm and pulled him to the left side of the room.

Before he was shut in a strange room alone with Saphira, the boy managed to quip back to Thorn, "No thanks to you! Didn't get a card, any flowers or any visits from you! I see how much you care about your girlfriends bestest friend!"

Laughter followed him as Saphira shoved him into the room and shut and locked the door behind them. Reds, blues and purples sprung at the boy, the curtains, posters and bed covers all harmonizing in a strange fashion that clearly showed Eragon that Saphira most definitely slept here. "Ok, so, spill. Tell me your secrets."

Huffing lightly, he scratched idly at his staples, which he noted was quickly becoming a nervous habit, "Is your bed safe to sit on? I'm still feeling a bit woozy."

The blonde jumped onto her bed, patting the spot next to her, waiting until her friend sat to say, "It's safe enough. It's been a couple of days since we've christened these blankets."

Eragon groaned but didn't bother to move, in fact he flopped backwards, covering his face with his hands. "Your definition of safe hasn't changed one bit." Giggles met his statement, but he didn't let her retort, instead he continued with a sigh, "The secrets however. So, let's start from the beginning. After you left last night, I was talking to my mom about school and shit, and I started kind of flipping out, and well-"

"What were you flipping out about?" Saphira queried, earning an annoyed glance from the storyteller.

"How you guys were keeping shit from me." The girl winced under his pointed glare, and after a few moments she nodded for him to continue, "Anyway, Murtagh ends up bursting in saying that's it's all his fault and finally told me what had all of you guys' panties in a knot!"

A gasp tore itself from Saphira, "And you were ok with it?"

Eragon paused, staring at her blankly, "Um, well, not really? I mean, he tried to kill himself, it's kind of bad to be ok with that."

Blue eyes stared at him uncomprehendingly, "But wh-…" She blinked at him slowly, "He didn't tell you why he did it?"

"No? I didn't really ask, I mean, it's all in the past right?" Eragon looked closely at her, watched her shoulders drop as she turned her face away.

"Right." Her voice was bland, but a quiet annoyance seemed to simmer as she continued, "Ok, so he told you what we'd been keeping from you."

He watched his friend for a few moments longer, then put his hands back over his face, "Yeah, then he slipped out like nothing had happened. The way you guys are acting I think he left something out though…" Fingers parted further, allowing Eragon to peak at his friend. She simply shrugged, staying quiet, waiting for him to continue. "So that was that. Mom said I can go to school tomorrow, wanted me to come here and shit today. I woke up this morning to find Murtagh doing the dishes – one of the weirdest images ever, by the way. I diddled around a bit, turns out my mom had left and tasked Murtagh with taking me up here, but not only was he ok with randomly having me shoved upon him, he brought me Twizzlers! Twizzlers, Saph! One of my favoritest things in the world! And we were just sitting there in the kitchen, joking around when he fucking smiled at me – it's the stupidest thing ever, but it like…triggered something. I got this huge headache, and saw some shit and all of a sudden I open my eyes and Murtagh's freaking out just like you were. It doesn't make sense; it's just a smile! And there on the sidewalk, when he caught me it happened again! I could see that fucking grin and I could hear voices and laughter, and it doesn't make any fucking sense! And – ouch fuck! - not to mention the fact that I'm on this crazy ass roller coaster, one minute everyone's happy and joking, the next ice central with a side of numbing silence. Fuck it all just pisses me off!" During his rant, Eragon had sat up, leaned against the wall, slumped back down onto the bed, rolled over onto his stomach, hit himself in the stomach with his cast, and commenced burying his face into the blankets after his last line. A growl escaped him.

Saphira sat there for a few moments, slowly pulling her legs up to her chest, curling her arms about them as she stared thoughtfully at her best friend. "Ok, so Tag's triggering these weird spells that make you see/hear shit? And what the hell are you talking about ice central?"

He turned his face towards his head, blinking tiredly up at her, "Yeah, pretty much, and in the car, Murtagh and I had been doing fine then I make this dumb joke and he goes all moody and quiet. It keeps happening, it's like I say one word wrong and you guys go nuts! Seriously, look me in the eyes and tell me that Murtagh's suicide stunt was the only thing you guys were keeping from me, because it sure as hell isn't seeming like it."

Saphira turned to him, staring down into his brown eyes. She sounded defeated when she finally spoke, "That's the only thing I'm keeping from you." Once Eragon was satisfied with the eye contact he nodded, and she turned away. "What joke did you tell?"

He groaned, pressing his face to the bed again after saying, "I asked which the brake was and which the gas in the car was, saying I'd forgotten. I was just kidding but he flipped out!"

A hand patted softly on his back, a soft huff coming from his friend, "You big dumbass."

"What?" Eragon rolled over and sat up, staring at Saphira, "What's so important about that?"

"Did anyone tell you what led up to the accident?" The question was so random that it stunned the boy into silence for a few moments, in which he just stared at her. Calm blue held confused brown until Eragon had to shift, the weight he was putting on his ribs starting to become painful.

He cleared his throat, shaking his head, "No, what does that have to do with my joke…?"

Saphira closed her eyes, snorting, "You and Murtagh were going somewhere, and some guy hit you guys."

"Yeahh, you and Brom have told me; t-boned by a dick, I got most of the damage. So?"

A hand reached out to smack him on the chest, carefully aimed at his collarbone, "I'm talking! Anyway, the point is, Murtagh was driving." She paused, watching as the boy soaked it in.

"So…you think he iced me out because…?"

Saphira waited for another moment, hoping the boy would be able to figure it out on his own. When he continued to stare at her obliviously, she sighed and smacked him again, this time relishing his whine when she jostled his ribs, "You are emotionally retarded. Tag feels responsible! The joke you told made it seem like the simplest task like driving had been knocked clean out of your skull by the accident, and it struck a chord with him!"

"Um, I'm not sure where you're going with this Saph…" Eragon shifted uncomfortably, moving his arms to cover his chest so she couldn't hit him again.

A hand reached out to whap him on the head, "You dumbass! He feels responsible for the memories you've lost! He blames himself for the fact that you've lost two years, and here you go, making a big joke about it! Can you imagine how that makes him feel?"

The scrawny teen tucked himself into the fetal position, ignoring the twinge in his midsection, resting his chin on his bony knees, "No, but it's friggin dumb! It is in no way his fault, any of it!" He squeezed his legs, dropped his head and murmured into his thighs, "I wish he would stop being such a woman about it so I could tell him that I'll never blame him and he can get over all of it. I don't even know why he cares so much."

A chuckle eased the tension as a hand rubbed his back, "He is being a woman about it, but he's always been moody, right?"

A tilted smile met the distressed boy when he looked up, which he couldn't help but respond in kind to. "Good point. Hey, Saph, you said I could ask you anything right?"

The blonde teen watched with a certain cautiousness as her friend loosened his position, his face rising, finally clear of the cloying gloom that she'd seen earlier. "Yeesss?"

"Would you know why he's acting like a woman? He didn't get a sex change or anything, did he? I mean, it'd explain some of the awkwardness…"

Saphira snorted, pushing him over, "Yeah, totally, I mean, his racks bigger than mine now! And have you seen that ghetto booty?"

The pair dissolved into laughter, quipping randomly about the feminine aspects of their friend. They continued thusly until finally the blonde peeled herself from her bed and finger-combed her hair, still chortling. "We should probably get out there; I've hogged you long enough."

Eragon remained sprawled on her bed while she adjusted her skewed appearance – not having hair did have a few benefits. "Eh, sure. But I have to ask, do you know why he's being so moody? He's actually not that bad to hang around when I haven't accidently kicked his puppy."

Gleefully bright blue eyes sneaked a look at him through cascades of blonde hair, and when the boy leaned to investigate, a small, delighted smile curled her lips. She turned and slid off the bed, straightening her clothes out with a few tugs and pats before deciding him worthy of a response, "He lost something in the crash that was incredibly important to him, and he's trying to not let it get to him, but he's always been an emo little fuck."

He watched as she near skipped over to her desk and began shuffling about in the mess. "Lost something? What was it? A memento of some sort? Describe it, if I can't get a new one I'll make it! Anything to cheer him up!" He chirped, eager to finally be getting somewhere on his quest for peaceful living.

Surprised, Saphira looked over her shoulder at him, simply staring at him for a few moments before she burst into laughter. Humming a merry tune, she twirled over to the door of the room, hand on the doorknob before she impishly turned and leaned as if she was telling a daring secret. "You should stop being so observant Era, or you might unearth the super-secret!" With a cackle and a flourish, she opened the door, slipping out into the main room and safety from her friend's questions. Before the door closed, though, her head popped back in still grinning madly, "But if you keep being so darn cute you might be able to get it back."

The door closed with a click, Eragon staring at it as if it'd grown a second head. "That doesn't make any sense Saph!" He shouted after her, pouting when he heard not only hers, but Thorn's and Murtagh's laughter too. Groaning he rolled off the bed, trudging over to the door and emerged into the main room.

Saphira was already curled happily about her boyfriend, a shit-eating grin bright on her face as she watched him walk up. "Your girlfriend's a bitch Thorn. I don't know how you put up with her." Said the pouting boy, shooting the girl a sullen glare.

The beefy man simply laughed, turning to give her a kiss that was eagerly accepted. Eragon 'ew'ed in the background as they traded saliva, about to punch one of them before they stopped it themselves. "She may be a bitch, but she's my bitch."

"Ok, Eragon, I'm going to let you know that you're wandering into dangerous territory. One more step and he might regale you with tales of all the positions they've tried. I suggest coming over here and being quiet before you scar us." Finally, the great Moody One spoke, and wisely at that, as he patted the seat beside him.

A foot lashed out to hit Murtagh in the side, eliciting a startled shout. "Fuck! What the hell was that for Saph?"

Before the man could hit back, she curled back up about her boyfriend, a Cheshire cat grin and a contented hum on her lips. "Our sex life is amazing, not scarring. And why don't you be useful and show Era 'round the apartment?~"

Hazel eyes narrowed ruefully at her, the man crossing his arms over his chest, "Scarring, and it's not that complex a place, I'm pretty sure Eragon already has it figured out and doesn't need a tour, right?" When he looked to the boy for reassurance, he saw the uncertainty and groaned, slumping into the cushions. "If I insult your intelligence would you get angry and not want a tour?"

"Uh, probably not, I'd just be angry. And I'd probably hit you with this." A teal-tape-and-plaster enclosed arm rose threateningly.

"Figures. Fine, I'll give you a tour." Defeated, the dark haired man stood with a sigh, signaling his newly gained ward towards him as he slipped around the couch. He flipped Saphira off as she shouted in jubilation as he walked across the floor, Eragon close at his heels. A hand casually waved around as he walked, "This is the living room as I'm sure you've guessed." He patted the island when they got close enough, "Dining table."

"Or sex prop!"

Eragon chuckled at Saphira's add-on, and he saw Murtagh smile a bit, patting the surface again with an air of almost-nostalgia, "That too, but always clean up after yourself!" The last section of his sentence rose in volume, clearly aimed at Saphira who merely laughed. "Small ass kitchen, ahoy."

"Also good for sex!" Thorn decided it was his time to share in the disturbing sexual christenings of common household objects.

The brothers simultaneously shot the living room an exasperated glance before turning to the other, and promptly bursting out laughing. Eragon couldn't help but comment to himself, 'Ha, don't need that stupid memento now do ya? Fuck yes for my awesome cheering-up skills!'

When they calmed Murtagh resumed his tour, leading the boy around their formerly shared home, revealing the useful and amusingly useless. Soon they were peering into the only bedroom the teen hadn't been in, and Eragon stepped in, looking around curiously. Posters were hung all over the dark walls, from video games to bands, nearly all of them made Eragon want to squeal and bounce up and down.

Murtagh stood in the doorway, amused, watching as the eager teen poked around the room, gushing over the dorky things he found like Kingdom Hearts action figures, and a toy evoker. Suddenly though he stopped, the toy gun in his hand, "Uh, I'm a bit confused."

The dark haired man waved a hand, bowing slightly, "I live to serve."

Eragon snorted, eyeing him before aiming the gun at him playfully. He nibbled on his lip as he began to talk, "There were four of us here, yeah? There are only two bedrooms." Under the boy's careful eye lined in the sight of the gun, Murtagh tensed. "Saph and Thorn obviously slept in the same room…and that leaves one room, with one bed..." Crimson colored his confused face as he trailed off, and he carefully set the gun back down on the desk. "And us."

"We took turns on the couch – it was easier than buying a new bed." Murtagh shrugged, face and form relaxing as he spoke. He held his brother's gaze until the asker nodded, satisfied with the answer.

"Understandable, last I remember beds were fucking expensive."

A soft sigh left the dark haired man as he stood, "And huge. Unless one of us camped out in the living room anyway, there wouldn't be enough room in here. That and the couch is pretty damn comfortable. Now you might want to dig some clothes out if you're going to be staying with Selena, I can't keep letting you steal my socks."

A playful sneer twisted the boy's features, "Gross! I wouldn't want too! Come to me my precious clothinggg!" Cried the boy as he pounced at his dresser, eagerly beginning to shuffle through the piles, eager to see what two years and a job had done to his wardrobe.

His brother snorted, "Ungrateful brat. I'm going back out to chill on the couch, don't get lost." Eragon shouted a farewell after him, not bothering to turn away from his clothing to watch him walk out.

All these new clothes! And so many band tees! The teen felt like he had died and been sent to some fucked up heaven, "Holy shit is this a Persona shirt? DUDE."

Clothes flew from the boy's hands to the bed in a flurry, quickly building into a massive pile. When Eragon arrived at the drawer that he'd always thrown random shit in, he found something that gave him pause. Up until this point all the clothing looked like something he'd wear, but as he pulled it out the shirt was baggy and worn, holes littering it. A Megadeth album cover was flaking off the front of it, a cell riddled with holes and a scrawny old man missing his face. Now, Eragon was open-minded music wise, and even knew a few songs from Megadeth, but he didn't like them enough to have a tee, let alone one so obviously loved. He held it up to his face, but it only smelt of clean laundry and wood, no clues there. Shrugging he tossed it on the bed away from his pile, resolving to ask someone about it later.

He continued gathering clothes, and soon he was done. He gathered them up and stuffed them into a book bag, re-emerging into the living room, completely forgetting the shirt thrown haphazardly on the corner of the bed.

x.x.

The afternoon had continued in that fashion, the quartet hanging out, eventually leaving for a dinner of fast food. Eragon was dropped off at the house, and the trio returned to their apartment in relative silence. It was barely eight and the night was already dark when they pulled into the parking lot, Thorn and Saphira zipping up to the apartment to escape from the cold.

The cold had never really bothered Murtagh, so he took his time, wandering aimlessly through the parking lot. Chilly fingers slipped into his boots, tickling his still sockless feet. The stars were bright little pin pricks in the sky, glaring down at the earth from the unending blackness of space. "Murtagh! What are you doing?" Saphira bounced up beside him, startling the man.

He scoffed, shoving his hands into his pocket, "Nothing, go back in."

The girl sighed a great white cloud, glaring at him though he couldn't see it. "It's physically impossible to do nothing, unless you're dead, and I don't think you're dead so either quit moping and come in or tell me what's up."

"Just because you're Eragon's best friend doesn't make you mine, you know." Murtagh tossed out casually, hoping to divert her. The teen sighed again, and when he looked, she was smiling.

"Considering the circumstances, I think I'm pretty damn close." Her smug tone made the man snort.

When he turned to look at her, she was grinning cheekily, bundled in a thick winter coat. "Oh? And what circumstances are those?"

With ample condescension, Saphira pulled her hands out of her pockets and began ticking off fingers as she spoke. "Well, there is the fact that I'm your best friend's girlfriend, he tells me what you tell him. I've also spent nearly the past three years constantly in your presence, putting up with your crap like best friends do. We've officially lived together for two years. Oh yes, I'm practically a sister to Eragon, so we're pseudo family, and the fact that I already know what's wrong, it's just better for you to make you say it." Her smile grew as she put her hands back into her pockets, rocking back and forth on her heels.

Murtagh stared at her, bristling with unexpected annoyance. Snorting he turned away, spitting out, "Just leave me alone," and he began to walk off, deeper into the dark parking lot.

"Ok, so you're going to make me shout your problems out here in public? I'm cool with that." Her voice rose the farther he walked away, soon ringing through the dark night as he slipped out of sight. "Well, let's start with your guilt. You think it's your fault you two crashed, poor little Taggy who ruins everything. You feel guilty because you keep snapping at people, that it's pushing people away but you think you deserve it because of all you've done." Saphira began to wander down the sidewalk, knowing somewhere in the back of her head that was she was doing was horrible and wrong, but she continued shouting at the top of her lungs, trying to lure the man back out. "You lie to Eragon to try and get him to stop putting his nose in things, and that makes you feel bad, and by the way I'm sure you've noticed that that doesn't stop him! Huh, while we're on the topic of our dear friend, we can't forget the fact-"

The dark haired man popped up from behind the black truck she'd been standing by, snarling "Fuck, shut up! I get it! I'm fucking retarded and being a huge dick about it, now leave me alone!"

The blonde stood frozen for a moment, her heart beating rapidly from the scare. Quickly she regained her composure, turning to make sure Murtagh didn't surprise her again. The anger in his face, however, startled her – she had known this was a bad idea, but she hadn't known he'd get so pissed about it. Guilt bubbled up inside her, but it was too late now. "Yeah, you are being retarded. Don't you see that you're just hurting everyone by keeping that shit from him? We can't keep lying to him Tag, he's going to figure it out, and it'll be easier if he finds out from us."

"You don't know anything!" Roared the man, figure shaking as he stood there. Unconsciously the girl took a step back, eyes flickering nervously about for the nearest lamp-post just in case. Murtagh stepped out of the darkness onto the sidewalk, fists clenched at his side. "You don't know a damn fucking thing Saphira, and don't pretend that you do!"

"If I don't know anything then why are you so upset?" She shouted back, the base fear that he was inspiring quickly heating into an anger of her own.

Murtagh paused, then, face twisted with rage took a deep breath and let loose a horrid howl of simple anger and hurt. It lasted for almost a minute, nearly deafening Saphira and surely waking up anyone who had been sleeping in a five-mile radius. The night seemed eerily silent when his mouth closed, and the pair stood there on the sidewalk. Hazel eyes blinked open; empty of the burning rage that had been there earlier, now simply desolation remained. "I don't even know why I'm upset."

"Because you love him, silly." Saphira whispered, watching the words slump the man's shoulders, his head dropping. A shudder ran through him, and he sat there, defeated at finally having it said aloud.

Murtagh stood there, staring at the sidewalk, wishing he could call back the fury, wishing he could block all of it in a fit of rage, but he was tired. He was tired of running, tired of lying, blaming, and being so disgustingly dramatic and touchy. "I shouldn't though." Came his murmured reply, and if Saphira hadn't been listening carefully she never would've caught the words.

She smiled sadly, inching forward to wrap an arm around his shoulders, slowly leading him back towards the door and the warmth of their apartment. "I thought we'd already been over this Tag, love is love." They walked in peace 'til the door, her modest words echoing in the night.

"He doesn't love me like that, not anymore. I'm right back at the beginning again, and it took me a quart of blood to confess to him the first time Saphira." Wry humor seeped into Murtagh's mutters as they ambled through the hall to the elevator.

The girl squeezed his shoulder, chuckling quietly, "Yeah, but you have us now, right?"

The rest of the journey to the apartment was quiet, the pair chewing over all that they'd learned in the past moments. When they got inside the apartment, Murtagh went straight to their bedroom, not bothering to turn on the light or take off his boots; he just crawled into bed and sat there.

The blankets were cold around him, and he felt a distinct lack of a presence beside him. "Maybe I should tell him…" The man said to the darkness, and though he half-heartedly waited, no reply came. Sighing he scooted to the edge of the bed to kick his shoes off, watching as something fluttered to the ground. Humming the lean man reached down and picked it up, taking it back onto the bed with him as he crawled to the pillows.

He held it up in the moonlight, squinting to try to see what he'd found. His old Megadeth t-shirt glowed in the moonlight in front of him, as holey and threadbare as he remembered it being. He remembered the last night he'd seen Eragon wear it, snuggled alone in bed when he came home from work. A soft snort left Murtagh, and he dropped the shirt, quickly pulling his own off to don the ratty thing. It was smaller than he remembered it being, especially on his biceps, but with a sardonic smile, the man laid down, pulling the blankets about him, determined to chance the nightmares and get some sleep. He was going to need it tomorrow.