Disclaimer: Own them not, though there's always hope ;o)
Note: Extreme AU (Alternate Universe), and plenty of M/P slash! Rated 'R' for language and further, possibly naughty, chapters. You have been warned!
Thanks: To Def Lep's song Promises, since I was lacking a title for the longest time... and LOTR100 for giving me a kick in the ass to actually start working on this fic again. Plenty of chapters to come! Stay tuned.
Archive: At www.livejournal.com/~celt_goddess and with permission, of course!

Enjoy!

Promises
~by Hayla~

~o I o~

Merion entered his apartment with a heavy sigh. He brushed off the quickly fading white flecks and took off his soaking wet coat to hang on the door rack. It had been snowing the better part of the week and the temperature threatened well bellow zero - a condition that fitted his mood quite perfectly. Turning around slowly, he shut the door and locked it. Although he lived in an up scale apartment building, complete with 'round the clock security and an over-boisterous doorman, he had long developed the habit of not really trusting anyone but himself... especially in Manhattan.

Kicking off his shoes, he headed straight to his right, up a small step, and into his open kitchen. He shook his head violently, the short blonde spikes sending small droplets of water this way and that. He could already feel the longer strands of his hair begin to curl, and he cursed at it softly. Merion had always hated his hair since he was a little boy. Long or short, it never looked quite right and was a pain in the ass to take care of. He was never able to hide the curls, come flatiron or styling gel. Blame it on heredity.

He made his way over to the cupboard and removed a wine glass. It had been a very, very long evening. The class action lawsuit he was working on was giving him nothing but headaches. To say it was an important case would be an understatement. With his father breathing down his neck, this could either make or break him. He tried to recall when it was that law actually had become work to him. He used to love it... love everything about his work. He had started working for his father's firm after he passed the bar. Things were so simple then...

But now it was all tedious. What was the point of working all day and half the night... weekends and holidays... only to come home to a lonely apartment? Hell, he couldn't even keep a pet. He had tried once. A dog. What a disaster that turned out to be. But there was no time for melancholy at the moment. Right now he wanted no more than a little nightcap and a warm shower... or a warm bed. Right now he was leaning more towards the latter.

Turning on lights and lamps as he went, he picked a fine L'Apparita Merlot from his wine rack. A bottle of Castello di Ama 1998, 'cause he was in the mood. He proceeded to the living room, hitting the blinking answering machine as he passed.

"Four new messages," the disjointed female voice announced.

He plopped down on his black leather recliner and eased the seat back. Using the corkscrew he had conveniently left on the end table, he opened the bottle. This had become a recent habit of his. A modern day ritual, if you will. Work. Dinner out. Home. Alcohol. Sleep. Repeat ad nauseam. He threw the opener back on the table and it clanged against another empty bottle from another lonely night.

"Message one."

"Hello, Mr. Brandybuck. This is Sam, from downstairs. I am sorry to disturb you, sir, but-"

Merion took a long drink of his glass and pushed himself further into the chair. Sam Gamgee was the doorman downstairs. He and his wife Rosie were a pair to be seen. Always helpful, always caring. How many times had Sam helped him carry groceries upstairs, on the rare occasion when it happened, or rushed just to open the door? Even tonight he had dashed out of the apartment foyer with an umbrella so that any part of Merion that wasn't already wet would remain dry until he atleast got inside. It was almost sickening, but he just loved serving people.

"...anyway. Just wanted to make sure you know it's here. The misses has got it at the desk for you to pick up in the morning. Have a lovely evening, Mr. Brandybuck."

Beep.

"Message two." Merion really hated that mechanical voice.

"Good afternoon. This is Gregory McConnelly from Bradsbury, Whitman and Associates. I was calling in regards to the claim against my client..."

Merion easily drowned that one out. Being a lawyer was bad enough, never mind having to take any part of his work home. Although he had become guilty of that on more than one occasion. He wasn't sure how some of these people had even gotten his home phone number. Nothing was that important that couldn't be handled by one of his secretaries or assistants. He absolutely hated it when they called him at home.

He poured another glass and waited in agony as Mr. McConnelly droned on and on. He took up a good five minutes atleast, and if Merion wasn't already so tired he would have gotten up and shattered the machine against the wall.

He snickered to himself. The thought amused him probably more than it should have. Hell, that was actually how he had lost his last two cell phones.

Beep.

"Message three."

Click.

He frowned. Yes, he hated hang ups as well. Why bother listening to the entire away message if you weren't going to leave something in return?

Beep.

"Message four."

"Merry! Pick up! It's your cousin!"

The voice on the machine was too cheerful and high spirited for his mood right now. And he disliked it when his younger cousin called him "Merry". The only person who had ever gotten away with that was his mother, and she had died when he was still in college. The memory of her still lingered strongly, despite time, and it troubled him whenever anyone used her nickname.

"Listen... it's already seven and you're late for dinner... again! Tell me you didn't forget already. I just talked to you at the office! Merry... pick up, pick up, pick up..."

"Shit." Merion jumped up and had the phone in his hand in a matter of seconds. He had been so caught up with the sudden flux of paperwork at the office that he had completely forgotten to phone his cousin and let him know he wasn't going to be able to make it! His fingers, well versed with practice, dialed the number without a thought.

It rang twice and then a sleepy voice picked up.

"... 'allo..."

"Fred, it's your cousin..."

"Jesus, Merry, it's already midnight! Is everything okay? Are you alright?"

He smiled in spite of himself. If it were anyone else, he would surely have been greeted with a barrage of curses and ill wishes. One, for ditching out on dinner. Two, for not calling to cancel. And three, for calling so late at night. He hadn't even realized it was so late.

"Everything's fine. Just fine, I just got caught up at work."

"Again? Don't you have anyone else working at that office of yours?" The voice was more awake now and in full mood to torment his older cousin.

"I'd be lucky if any of 'em even knew how to turn on a computer, never mind file a class A lawsuit. Besides... you know how my father can be."

"Yeah, yeah... Heard that one before." Fred obviously didn't want him to talk shop or reminisce on family strife. He was an easy going free spirit, and the words 'job' or 'obligation' had long been stricken from his vocabulary. "Legal shit aside, how are you doin'?"

Merion paused. Fucking miserable, he thought. He was lonely, bitter, and judging by the growing list of things he hated, turning a bit cynical. But other words came out instead. "Oh, fine. You know, daily grind and all."

"Yeah, well listen, I don't want to wake up Sarah."

"Oh right, sorry. I'm still not used to you two living together and all."

"Ha. Yeah, old ball and chain... anyway. Meet us tomorrow then, if you're free."

It wasn't a request more than it was a demand.

"Absolutely," Merion committed quickly, while mentally trying to think if he had other commitments. Besides his work, probably not. His social life, or lack there of, wasn't much of a factor. Fred was the only person outside of lawyers, clients, and judges that he saw anymore.

"Great. We'll try Machello's again. Seven sharp?"

Merion looked around for the notepad and pen that was by the table and quickly scribbled down the information. He couldn't forget again. "Sounds good."

"Oh, and Merry?"

He gritted his teeth. "Yeah, Fred."

"Bring flowers."

"What do you mean 'bring-"

Click.

"... flowers'..."

He hung up his end of the phone and was on the verge of calling his cousin back. But the thought of Sarah chewing him out was too much a risk. He tossed the phone haphazardly into its cradle. Flowers?

He groaned out loud as the realization struck him smack on the face.. That could only mean one thing. Fred's trying to set me up, again.

With heavy steps, he retrieved his drink and headed down the hall to his room. He didn't want to meet another girl at another dinner. It wasn't his idea of fun. But, he owed Fred. And come hell or rain, he would show up, and bare the torture. Until then, he was in need of some much needed sleep. Worries of work were taking up too much of his time, and his father was becoming more and more unbearable.

He needed an escape... a change of life. Something that would get him finally out of the abyss he had been steadily falling into for years now. A change of clothes, the last drop of wine, and Merion soon found himself promptly face first into his bed. Atleast, at the end of the day, he could always still dream his freedom. If nothing else...

continué...

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