FANDOM: Harry Potter
SUMMARY: Now they hadn't had sex in months, and Sirius knew he pulled away from Remus in his sleep, when they managed to sleep in bed together.
NOTES: It's been a while since writing a fic affected me as much as this did. Thankfully, it was all to the good. Thanks so much to theemdash for the alpha and beta, and thanks to epithalamium for the gorgeous artwork which helped to push me a bit out of my comfort zone. Written for the 2011 shaggydog_swap!
Outside the rain fell in sheets, rendering the need for modesty unnecessary. He could barely see the edge of the sidewalk in front of their own building, nevermind to the building opposite. Taking solace in the natural privacy of the late-summer storm, Sirius stood nude in the open bedroom window, his head leaning out to breathe in the clean smell of the world. He closed his eyes, and the sound of the rain drowned out all else, so that all that was left was the feel of it on his face. Maybe it could wash away the gritty feeling the war had left behind, just as it washed away the summer's dust from the streets.
A pair of calloused hands touched his back, running from his waist up to his shoulders and back again. A soft voice spoke. "Won't that be quite the headline in the morning? 'Nude Man Falls From Fourth Floor Flat'."
Sirius didn't laugh, and after a moment Remus spoke again as his hands lifted away from Sirius's skin. "I'm sorry. That was cruel." Sirius managed not to wince, though the pain of his brother's death was still sharp. He pulled himself fully back inside the flat and took a deep breath.
"I don't intend to die nude, Remus. You know that." He didn't know what he meant by that; it wasn't as though they'd ever discussed their preferred manner of death, or any of the circumstances they hoped would accompany it. Used to be that they were just too young and brash to think about such trivial things like dying; now death was far too real and heavy on their minds to give it the power of casual speech. "Seasons are changing."
One hand returned to Sirius's back, the light touch carrying a hint of hesitance, waiting for forgiveness. "They are. Are you ready?"
To say that Sirius took to change badly was an understatement, but there had been so much change in the last couple years that he had become almost immune to it. Sometimes, as with Harry's birth last year, he was even happy about it. But a change in season always had upset him, left him quiet and withdrawn for a few days.
"As I ever am," he said, which was true and would no doubt cause Remus to worry about him. "It'll pass, Moony. Don't worry."
Remus's hand curled around Sirius's hip and tugged gently, pulling Sirius against Remus's own bare skin. "You worry about me plenty. Let me take this turn."
Sirius gave into Remus's touch and turned his back on the open window, facing his friend. "At least I have good reason to worry about you," he muttered, pushing his rain-dampened hair out of his face. The changes were getting harder for Remus, more and more often forced to endure it on his own. Prongs hadn't been to a full moon since Harry was born; Wormtail rarely saw them as humans, nevermind as a rat. Padfoot himself had been to upsettlingly few in the last year, between both himself and Remus being on duty for the Order with increasing frequency.
Remus kissed Sirius's temple softly. "I drew a bath," he said, letting his invitation hang between them unspoken. More and more was unspoken between them these days, and while Sirius first thought that it was a sign of their strength, by now he was sure that the opposite was true. That went unspoken, too.
Nodding, Sirius stepped past Remus and headed for the small bathroom, trusting Remus to follow. The electrical lights in the room were off, and instead the light came from candles that Remus had set up on the windowsill and all over the floor. Sirius wanted to put them out, snuff the feeling of intimacy that burned from each wick. He couldn't do that to Remus though, Remus who so much more than Sirius needed the symbols of things even if he couldn't have the words. Sirius preferred the words, would rather have something said outright if it deserved to be acknowledged, but he understood that it was different for a man who had always felt the need to keep secrets.
The bathtub was filled to three-quarters, enough to rise to near overflowing once two skinny young men climbed in. He smiled slightly, just a gentle curve to the left corner of his mouth. Sirius always overfilled the tub, sending water to the floor when he'd just put one leg in; Remus would then sigh in fond frustration, reminding Sirius for the umpteenth time about displacement.
"Is the temperature all right?" Remus asked, reaching from behind Sirius to dip his fingers into the water. "It's cooled a bit, I ought to put a charm on it." He already had his wand in his hand, and within a moment fresh steam rose from the heated water. "I put the charm on the porcelain," Remus explained, trying just a little too hard to sound casual about things, "so that should help it to stay hot for us." He glanced back at Sirius, bit his lip.
Sirius looked around the room again, taking in the candles that were also in the sink, on the top of the toilet. Another time he might have teased Remus about how girly it all was, and didn't he want to add some bath salts or scented soaps for bubbles, but he was too tired to go through all that tonight. "It's fine, Moony." He managed a smile and turned as he stepped into the bathtub, taking the side with the faucet and drain so that Remus didn't have to be uncomfortable.
The water was hot and perfect, and Sirius let out a sigh without even realizing it, not until he saw Remus's face brighten in response. "Feels nice," Sirius said, giving Remus that acknowledgement. "You getting in?"
Remus nodded, stepping in carefully; he winced when the heat hit, but Remus settled in without a word, stretching his legs out so they slid against Sirius's under the water. Though Sirius knew it wasn't actually true, it felt like Remus's calf burned even hotter than the water. He put a hand under the surface and ran his palm over Remus's foot and ankle. Affection given out of sight, as always. It wasn't fair to Remus, who deserved someone who would love him openly, but Sirius—brash and unashamed as he was about wrestling or hugging his mates—had started the relationship as a secret from the world, and the hidden touches had become habit.
They were quiet for what felt like hours, only the sound of the rain on the window filling the small room. The heat of the water made Sirius drowsy, but as he didn't want to sleep he kept touching Remus under the water, running his fingers over the limbs that found their way to his lap. Remus reveled in the soft touches, eyelashes fluttering as he became aroused under the water. He seemed content to simply exist in that state, and made no move to take the quiet evening to another place. Grateful for that, Sirius made a silent promise to stay with Remus until Remus was pruned and ready to get out, even though Sirius always got restless in the bath after ten minutes. Back when it all started, he'd start to work a seduction plan once bored and move them to the bed with relative ease, not even bothering to dry them off, and they'd laugh and say how glad they were to not be Muggles before cleaning and drying the sheets with their wands and collapsing into sleep, entwined in each other.
Now they hadn't had sex in months, and Sirius knew he pulled away from Remus in his sleep, when they managed to sleep in bed together.
Beneath the water, his fingers found a familiar scar along Remus's ankle, which he absently traced up to Remus's calf. The attack seven months ago was still clear in his mind—Sirius had fought off the Death Eaters who were gearing up to torture Remus and literally carried his mate to safety.
"You're worrying about me again."
Remus's voice was thick and drowsy, but still startled Sirius enough to send water sloshing over the side. A soft hiss followed, a candle put out. Looking back to Remus's face, though, Sirius could hardly notice any sort of dimming light.
"Worrying for you. About you. Yes."
Remus nodded, acknowledging the subtle difference between the words, the casual acceptance that things weren't really as all right as they might seem. "Come here?"
Sirius eyed him for a moment, then gave his head the smallest of shakes, clearing his mind of the concerns that had grown in the months since that attack. He hated this war for making him into this person, and decided this was a way to reclaim the man he knew he truly was. Carefully, he moved and turned in the water, fitting himself between legs that spread for him, against a chest that felt warm against him—warm from more than just the heat of the water but also from the undeniable ache of familiarity.
Arms embraced him, and lips touched the shell of his ear, not a kiss but just a casual intimacy which burned in Sirius's heart, throat, and eyes. It had been so long since he'd felt this, and now it terrified him.
"You think too much," Remus said.
"Well, that's an accusation which I've never encountered before," Sirius replied, a hint of humor in his words.
"Because no one else knows you."
Sirius frowned. "Prongs knows me." It was deeper than that, though—Prongs got him, from the first day they'd met. It was always so easy with James, back in those early days. The trouble they caused was made all the easier by James's ability to know exactly what Sirius needed from him, and so Sirius never had to think very much. James did all his thinking for him.
"James knows what you want him to know. So you let him believe you don't think too much." Remus's hand moved lightly over Sirius's chest. "But the truth is that sometimes you think so much, the only way to stop is to act."
The protest was on the tip of Sirius's lips, but he could not speak it. It was true enough, and he hated himself for it. Hated Remus a little bit for knowing it, too. He wished it wasn't so, because he felt certain that if only he could stop his brain from constantly thinking, from always trying to figure things out, then perhaps right now he could feel happy with Remus, instead of despising himself for feeling affection towards someone he couldn't entirely trust no matter how much he felt like he should.
"So you're saying that you're the one who knows me, then?" He winced, the derision in his tone tasting foul. To Remus's credit, he seemed to have expected it, and gave no obvious reaction.
"I know you differently than James, yes. I don't presume to say there aren't parts you have't permitted me to know."
Which of course Remus couldn't say, not without exposing his own hypocrisy. Remus always wrapped himself in secrets and lies as he wrapped himself in bandages and blankets after the moon, and Sirius let him because he'd always been able to work through them soon enough. At least he could still tell when Remus started keeping a new secret, when he had to start unraveling the bandages again.
Sirius reached up and caught Remus's wrist in his hand. "Do you want to know those parts?"
There was silence behind him, as Remus carefully considered his answer. Sirius frowned. At one time, he was certain, Remus would have replied with a definitive yes.
"I don't think it's up to me," Remus said, finally, a note of apology in his voice.
"Doesn't mean I'd tell you, you know. But if I wanted to tell you, would you hear them?"
Remus sighed, his arms going a bit slack. "Yeah. I would."
Sirius leaned his head back against Remus's shoulder. "Of course you would," he muttered. "Remus, what are we doing?"
"Taking a bath?"
"Remus." The arms around Sirius tightened again. "I mean it. What the fuck are we doing?"
"Sirius . . . can't we . . ."
Sirius frowned deeply; Remus was going to suggest they put this aside again, not talk about it, leave it for after the war. "No," he said, soft and determined. "I think that we need to sort this out." He closed his eyes, fighting the pain of the next words he needed to say. "We need to sort this out so we can move on with our lives."
Once upon a time, Remus would have gasped in shock, or shouted in anger. He'd have protested, made Sirius see sense, remind him that they . . . that they wanted to share a life. He would have calmed Sirius down, reassured him that no matter how scary this war was, they'd make it through the other side together. Then Sirius, so grateful for Remus's good sense, would kiss his Moony, slosh the water in the tub over the side, put out more candles as they moved together. When finished, they'd stumble to bed together, kiss until they fell asleep.
But now Remus was quiet. It wasn't quite an accepting silence, but it certainly wasn't the reassuring one Sirius hoped for deep down. Sirius let it draw out, giving Remus time to let the weight of Sirius's words settle in his mind, find the right place to push out a response.
The wait dragged on, though, and finally Sirius figured it stood on its own as a good enough answer. "I see," he murmured, and he pushed himself out of Remus's arms. Remus put up no resistance, and Sirius moved faster, pulling a towel off the rack and wrapping it around his waist. "Think I'll go down to the pub, have a pint or two." Try to forget that we had this non-conversation.
He waited a few moments, still hoping Remus would stop him, but there was nothing from the man who'd slipped further into the bathtub, his nose just under the surface. Once again, the silence said plenty.
Sirius left the bathroom, drying himself quickly with a charm, tossing on his pulling clothes, and headed out into the rain.
x-posted to remusxsirius