A/N: Umm... ::cough:: Sorry I disappeared again! Don't hurt me! ;o)

by Hayla

-o VI o-

Sam spotted them immediately, like Merion knew he would. He dashed out the door and instantly began firing questions as the two stumbled into the apartment foyer.

"Are you alright Mr. Brandybuck? Who's this, I dare say? What happened? Do you need the police?"

"No, no, Sam. It's alright." Sam's hyperness wasn't really what Merion needed at the moment. He didn't have the patience to humor his friend, but the questions continued as the group made its way over to the elevator.

"Do you want me to call an ambulance? I'll come up and help you, sir, if you be needing anything. Where did you pick him up anyways? I sure know-"


The doorman, slightly abashed from the tone of Merion's voice, sheepishly held the door as the elevator rang open. The boy was like a rag-doll in Merion's arms, limp and barely conscious of his surroundings. They really must have looked quite the sight. Merion couldn't blame Sam for being concerned. As he turned around in the small cabin, Merion shook his head with a sigh. Sam looked as though he was about to burst, barely managing to bite his tongue for the moment.

"Call Dr. Greyhame, if you must. Send him up to my place," he relented, hoping to appease some of Sam's misgivings. "But no police. No ambulances. Alright?"

"Yes, sir." Sam seemed to snap to attention and removed his hand, the doors quickly closing. Merion punched blindly for his floor number. As the elevator slowly jerked alive and began moving upwards, the young man stirred and mumbled something Merion couldn't quite pick up.

He shifted his weight and leaned in closer. "What was that?"

"Doc...doctor... you prom-mised... no... doctor..."

"No, I didn't." And now Merion felt relieved that he had told Sam to get the on-call doctor. The boy's words were slurred and uneven. And judging by the way his breaths came out in short puffs, Merion was quite certain that a rib or two might be bruised, if not broken. "I promised I wouldn't take you to the hospital. I said nothing about getting you no help at all."

The other man snorted slightly, despite his condition. Atleast, if nothing else, he found amusement in Merion's use of semantics. But right now, Merion's top priority was to just get this man fixed up a bit and filled with some food. He was too thin, Merion thought. And judging by the state of his clothing, Merion was quite sure that the incident had not been a mere mugging. This youth, he was a street urchin, most likely. But that was not how he knew his face...

Again, Merion tried to dash those thoughts from his head. The bell chimed dully and the doors slide open. Important things first.

Apartment. Doctor. Food. He would have to just figure out the rest later.


The doctor closed his small black bag and patted the young man on the shoulder. He left the bedroom and walked into the kitchen where Merion and Sam stood quietly. Sam hadn't stopped fidgeting since he entered Merion's apartment and he nearly jumped out of his skin when the doctor appeared.

"Patched up is he, Dr. Greyhame," he asked.

"Yes, Mr. Gamgee." The doctor nodded and suspiciously eyed Merion, who was leaning against the counter with crossed arms and a downward stare. "And what, exactly, did you say happened?"

"I told you, already." Merion let out an exhausted breath. He was sick of explaining himself. First to Sam... then to Sam again, and now the doctor was asking for conformation. There really was no reason why he should have to explain himself to anyone. "He was getting roughed up by some thugs, I chased them off and decided to bring him here."

The doctor shook his head slowly and took off his glasses, cleaning them slowly with a small handkerchiefs from his pocket. It was obvious he didn't approve of Merion bringing a stranger home to be bandaged up and taken care of. Greyhame was an older gentlemen, who had lived much of his life in high society. He was never exactly mean to anyone, or uncaring. Atleast not that Merion could recall. But he had an irritating habit of being more than a bit condescending - like he knew what was best for everyone. The doctor had little dealings with, as he pleasantly termed it on occasion, the "less fortunate". But Merion had forced him to take care of someone just like that. Someone, who probably in the Greyhame's opinion, didn't even earn enough to give the time of day.

"Just keep him still for a couple days. He has some mild bruising, and I had to stitch up that gash on his forehead. Make sure he keeps it clean and dry, won't you?"

Merion nodded.

He replaced his glasses and headed out of the kitchen, followed closely by Sam. Merion straggled a few paces behind. Greyhame reached for the door and turned around as he opened it. "I would still recommend calling the police, or a shelter. Trouble like that has no place with a respectable young man like yourself." He promptly turned and left.

Merion instantly felt the need to defend the young man, the flush of red rising to his cheeks. But he kept his calm and called out his thanks anyway, though he doubted the doctor had even heard or cared. Now, however, it was Sam who had some words to share.

"Um... sir. The Young Mister stopped in before you came by with your... uh... guest."

Sam had always called Fred "Young Mister" since his cousin was twelve years old. Sam said it was something about the way Fred carried himself, even at that young, that just glowed of great things. Sam believed he looked the part of someone older... someone who had seen more than was possible at his age. "He seemed in an awful state and right out of breath. If I hadn't known better, I would've thought he was trying to beat you home."

Merion nodded, but neither confirmed nor denied the suspicions that were guaranteed to be flying around Sam's head. Fred had probably tried to catch him after the restaurant incident. And who knows, if Merion had taken a cab instead of walking, he just might have succeeded.

"Yes... well... if you ask me Mr. Brandybuck, and I hate to say this, you'd be better off listening to that stuffy old doc and get him right away out of here. He looks of the sorted type to me." Sam puffed his chest slightly, and glared in the direction of the room, which was now occupied by Merion's "guest", as Sam had put it.

"Thanks, Sam," Merion said coolly, holding the door open a little wider in an attempt to signal Sam to leave now. "But I didn't ask the opinion of neither you nor the good doctor."

Sam gave a slightly hurt look and shuffled through the open doorway. "If you be needing anything, you can always ring."

"Thank you."

"And I left that package in the living room. Rosie said you didn't stop by, so I thought I would save you a trip, sir."

For a second time that night, Merion felt slightly ashamed of his actions. Sam was a good man and an even better friend. All he ever did was look after those he cared about. He shouldn't have treated him so brashly, but other matters were pressing him at the moment.

He warmed his tone a bit. "Thanks, Sam. Really. For everything."

Sam flashed him a smile that let him know everything was just as easily forgiven. He turned and headed down the hallway. Merion closed the door. He made his way to the bedroom and quietly made his way inside. The young man laid lost amongst the pillows and sheets, though Merion could see the top of his shoulders and part of his upper torso. He had taken his shirt off to be treated.

The youth was sleeping easily, as far as Merion could tell, and a sudden, strong wave of longing came over him. He padded his way across the carpeted room to look down upon the stranger, who really felt more familiar to Merion than anyone else at the moment. Gently, he reached forward and pushed a stray strand of brown curl away from the boy's face. His fingers barely touching the boy's skin. But Merion wanted to touch that face... to own it and have those green eyes look back at him with longing and desire, like they had in his dreams.

"You'll be safe here," he whispered softly. "I promise."

Something in his libido twitched awake and Merion pulled back his hand like it was scalded by fire. It wasn't right to lust after someone like that. Let alone a complete stranger that he just happened to pick up on the street... even if the man does bare an uncanny resemblance to the person in my dreams. He couldn't think about that right now. It was crazy... I'm insane...

He reached over the bed and clicked off the light, leaving the room in complete darkness save for the sliver of moonlight that peeked over the neighboring building and flooded through the partial opened blinds. Even the moon was against him as it painted the strangers skin with a blue-white glow that jogged even more remembered dreams through Merion. It took all his will to fight the temptation to crawl into the bed and cradle the young man in his arms... protecting him and soothing him through the night.

He shook his head violently. Yeah, that's all I need. Have some bum off the street find me holding him like a baby.

With deliberate footsteps he left the room, casting one more look at the sleeping form as he shut the door. The thought rang clearly in his head, and he didn't bother to fight it this time.

I have watched you sleep before...

more to come...
...sooner than you think... ;o)