Disclaimer: All characters belong to the Professor. I own none. Also, if you really don't like the idea of romantic feelings between two males, you shouldn't read this.

In memories, it is always summer. You don't know why this is; spring certainly happened, and fall, and even winter. But in every memory – or perhaps simply every memory worth remembering – the sun is shining for good, long hours, the grass was warm, the apples are just starting to ripen, and your cousin Merry has made the trip from Buckland to visit you.

The two of you, always a pair, would tumble out into the warm air and race each other through the pastures, fields, and orchards. Merry won every time; he was older than you, after all, with longer legs, but never once did he gloat, and in turn you never pouted at your loss. There is only happiness in these memories, and breathless laughter.

You would snatch apples off of heavy limbs and carry them, munching as you went, until a shady spot to sit was found. You would finish yours first, and if you begged just right Merry would roll his eyes and hand you one of his. When bellies were full, you would lie on your back next to your cousin, watching the clouds change shape, or dozing, or just talking about things and how they were. His eyes were yours and yours were his, until the voice of one of yours sisters rose up over the quiet and pulled you away, back home for the next meal or a scolding for whatever trouble you'd been into before.

In memories, life is always this way, and whether this was really how or not, you do not care. But it is only like this in memories.

You're no longer the tiny hobbit-lad you used to be, and neither is Merry. Time flows and ever-changes, and the same can be said of the two of you.

Tonight you are the one visiting your cousin's family, one of many guests. During the last meal, as you talk with Merry as you always do, you catch his eyes shift from you to a pretty lass. This only lasts a moment, a glimmering instant that could well have been accidental, but you are broken nonetheless.

He tries to make it up to you, though he's not quite certain as to what he has done wrong, offering you cups of strong drink and teases to win your favor again. Instead, you flee from him. Shivering with offense and fear, you huddle in some remote corner of Brandy Hall until lights dim and it feels safe enough to creep to bed. Your cheeks are hot even in the chill of this damp room, as if tears had fallen.

Both of you are changing, but not in the same way.

At some point, you must have fallen asleep, because it feels sudden and unexpected that you should be awake again. There is he, Merry, your Merry (how could he belong to anyone else?) next to you, legs tangled with yours and so deeply asleep that not even a touch to his face disturbs him. His cheek feels as hot as yours.

Sometimes, you can still feel the warm grass beneath your feet and sunshine on your shoulders. You can still taste the apple on your tongue. And you know, always know, that Merry, like a memory, is forever.