Setting: UK, Europe (not necessarily in our continuum/history)

Main Characters:

Sam (Samuel Gregory Jackson): Ca. 30-ish, works for the Government, on placement in AsCorp, an industrial concern.

Angstrom Asgaard: 25, nephew of Sr. Egar Asgaard (Head of AsCorp). Orphan, loner, outsider.

Mark Young: Sam's boss and best friend, mid-Thirties.

Prologue I

March:

Sam: (10am Friday)

I hardly recognise the pale and hungry-eyed boy who is waiting for me as I make my way across the arrivals hall at the airport. His thin face breaks into a smile as he finally spots me after helplessly gazing around the crowds, looking like he can barely stand up on his own. Angstrom looks more like a lost child than the 25 year old man I had expected to come home to.

I almost scream when I take this in: He's nothing but skin and bones! Again.

I try not to look too shocked as I walk towards him, but when we hug, I almost lift him off the ground without even trying. I can feel his bloody ribs through his jacket. A tear is threatening to escape my eyes, and I just keep holding on to him, trying not to let him see just how worried I am.

"Hey there Angers. God, I've missed you." At least I manage to bite my tongue, I'm too upset to confront him right now. I'd just burst into tears, or he'd shut down on me again.

The worst thing is, I don't even for a minute think he might be ill or on drugs. In times of crisis, we all need something to comfort us, something we can count on to get us through the rough patches. But for Angers, it is less a matter of counting on something, and more one of counting his ribs in the mirror. A few days after we met, he eventually confessed to me that he 'used to' have an eating disorder, but recovered in his late teens. Truth be told, he never let go of it, thanks to his family.

That's how much they have managed to mess him up after his parents died. They played on his insecurities and physically pushed him on until he repeatedly turned himself into a walking skeleton, over and over again. It could so easily have become assisted suicide. He already weighed next to nothing when we met, and in the end, he weighed less than 80 pounds and was starving himself for weeks, effortlessly.

A cry for help that no-one knew how to answer, his increasingly life-threatening hunger strikes had become the only semblance of control he had left in his tortured life, something he wasn't able to let go of. It actually got so bad he even scared himself, so bad he didn't know how to stop any more.

Thankfully, he managed it in the end. He got better after we got together, and after he left his uncle's care. It was almost a miracle, because he fervently refused to seek professional help, even when his health was starting to suffer. Even when all he would do was lie in bed and cry, when he started passing out, when he got so thin people were pointing and staring at him wherever he went.

Everyone said I was a miracle worker, everyone told me how healthy he looked, how pleased they were to see him eating again. But I always knew that the trauma he suffered must have left some scars behind, and even when he was eating better, his weight and appetite remained a reliable barometer for his mood. He is very good at hiding his feelings, but you only need to look at him to know whether he's happy or not.

When something's wrong, Angstrom Asgaard starts to disappear before your eyes, pound by pound, revealing rib by rib. It usually goes away again after a few days, a week or two tops, but this time, it hasn't. By the look of him, something is seriously wrong right now, and I'm worried out of my mind that it might never go away again.

I noticed he'd been losing weight even before I had to go away, but being around him all the time must have allowed him to hide it for a little while... But now it's so obvious I could kick myself for not saying anything sooner.

What's worse, I feel a complete fool for never digging deeper when he first let on just how seriously ill he had been in the past. I let him convince me that he was over this, when in reality, he was merely faking it, pretending to be normal when he's really well and truly sick. All for me, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker…

I think it's time I gave Mark a call…

Prologue II

August: (7 Months previous)

Mark:

I can tell Sam has something to say, he's been fidgeting all afternoon at the BBQ. As he gets ready to leave, he suddenly blurts out: "I'm seeing someone"

I smile. About time! After all those hours we spent talking about Sam's confused sexuality, I was getting worried that he'd never find anyone. I had hoped that the transfer to the District might help him find his way a bit better, get to socialise a bit more.

"Boy or girl?"

He blushes. "Boy."

"Anyone I know?"

He starts to look a bit uneasy. Something tells me I'm not gonna like his answer. "Kinda."

I'm getting impatient... "And?"

"I know you don't approve of workplace relationships, Mark."

He'll never stop taking the piss about me transferring Mel to another office before we started dating! "Sam? Who is it?"

I shoot him that look. The one he says makes him feel like a schoolboy being told off by an angry headmaster.

Finally he fesses up. "Angstrom. Asgaard's…"

Oh, boll... When I sent Sam on this assignment, I'd planned for him to end up keeping an eye out for the kid. Lord knows the kid could do with it, and frankly, I don't know what else there is left to try. But this... The thought of him having to watch the kid starve himself again, that really freaks me out. Not that they both don't really need someone to love, someone to love them back.

There's so much Sam doesn't know, and Natasha has made it quite clear that a fresh start is probably the kid's last chance. But them being together... that just makes it so much worse. How can I just stand by and let him run into this? "I know who he is, Sam. Is it serious?"

He blushes and nods. "We are pretty much inseparable... I know, I know, Mark, it's not my job to go seducing Asgaard's nephew. But I'm in love. I think we both are." He abruptly stops, watching me intently. "What's wrong, Mark? He's not like the rest of the Asgaards, I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole."

I sigh, still trying to think of a diplomatic way of solving this. "I know, Sam, I know. It's just that there are things about the kid that are a bit… Complicated. Kid's very vulnerable, I know you're a softie at heart but I'd hate to think he was being taken advantage of."

He smiles. "I know he's vulnerable. But he's actually... I think he's really opened up to me. Let me in, you know..."

I pat his back. "Well, it will probably do him some good, having someone there who cares about him. You certainly look happier than I've seen you in months!"

He raises an eyebrow. "And? I know he's far too skinny, I know he's got a lot of… issues. But he's really let me get to know him, what's going on in his head. He's doing great, everyone keeps saying so!"

I swallow..."That's great, but I really do mean it. He's a lot more vulnerable than he lets on. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the kid's not been a happy puppy for a long time. Just keep an eye on it. If things ever get too much for you to deal with, give me a call. You'll know what I mean if it ever happens. Just... take care, right?"

He smiles and walks off towards the train station.

I shut the door, praying that I've done the right thing...