"How was work?"
Sirius Black folded himself into the passenger seat of the red BMW, automatically reaching to turn down the loud music that blared from the car's sound system. "It was fine. Quiet for most of the day. Kind of boring."
"Quiet at the library? Imagine that!" James Potter laughed, pulling away from the curb and into the flow of city traffic.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "I meant quieter than usual, with everyone back at school. Speaking of which, how was your day? Did you get all the classes you wanted?"
"Almost," said James. "Since I got the last of my core requirements out of the way last semester, it's all Engineering from here on out. It's a pretty heavy load. Not much time for fun this year."
"Then I guess it's a good thing you don't have a girlfriend right now," Sirius smirked. "You can barely hang onto one when you're not spouting technical jargon 24/7. Then again, if you're not dating anyone, who's going to remind you to change your socks?"
"Hey!" cried James in mock outrage. "Is it too much to expect a little sympathy and support from my own dear brother in times of hardship? Anyway, I don't see you dating anyone."
Sirius shrugged. "I haven't met anyone interesting lately."
James shot him an incredulous look as they turned onto Yesler Way. "You're telling me that out of the thousands of people who visit the Seattle Central Library every week - smart people, who like to read for fun - there isn't a single one who seems interesting?"
"Even if there was someone I thought was interesting, it's not like I could hit on him at work," said Sirius. "They have rules about that, you know."
"'Him'?" James's eyebrows rose. "Is this a theoretical him, or an actual flesh-and-blood him we're talking about?"
Sirius scowled. "It's no one. Just a guy I've seen around a few times."
"What's he like, this mystery man of yours?" James grinned.
Sirius shrugged again. "Kind of a hipster maybe. Skinny jeans, flannel shirt, knit cap. You know the type. Latino, I think. I haven't talked to him or anything."
"Why not?" asked James. "Afraid your charm and sheer animal magnetism will make him swoon on the spot?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "What am I supposed to say to a guy who's just sitting there, reading? 'Need someone to turn the page for you?' Anyway, he's probably straight. And even if he isn't, he probably wouldn't be into me."
James's teasing smile faded. "Don't talk like that. You're a great guy. Why wouldn't he be into you?"
Sirius gazed moodily out the window. "You know."
"Well, if he feels that way about it, fuck him," said James heartily. "Someone like that wouldn't deserve you. But don't count yourself out without even trying. Saying 'hi' isn't a marriage proposal."
"Yeah, I guess," said Sirius. "So, are we going to look at apartments this weekend? I can do Sunday evening. Or if you're free Tuesday or Wednesday, we could look then."
"Let's do Sunday. Then Pete can come, too," suggested James. "If he gets his act together, we can split rent three ways, and look for a bigger place."
Sirius frowned. "You don't think he'll flake out on us? Last week, he was talking about moving in with Maddy."
"You know that's never going to happen," James smirked. "When I talked to him yesterday, it sounded like they were back to 'off-again'. Nah, we're a way better option than she is, and he knows it."
"I hope you're right," sighed Sirius. "I'd like to move out before I'm old and gray."
James grinned. "You hate living with my folks that much?"
"Of course not!" said Sirius, punching his friend's shoulder. "Your parents are great; I just don't want to be dependent on them forever. I'm twenty-one. I shouldn't be living with anyone's parents."
"It might take a while to find somewhere good," James warned. "I won't have as much free time as I did over the summer."
"That's not my fault," grumbled Sirius. "I didn't have enough saved up for a deposit and everything until last month."
"You know my parents would be more than happy to cover the deposit for you."
Sirius scowled. "What part of 'I don't want to be dependent' is so hard for you to grasp?"
James shook his head. "Just let them help out a little. They love it. They love you. You could've at least let them loan you the money for a car that wasn't a total piece of shit."
"It's my car, and it's fine," snapped Sirius. "It just needs a tuneup and a couple of parts. It'll be ready by next week. Your parents have helped me out enough already."
"Fine," said James easily. "Just so long as you have your own transportation soon. I won't have time to chauffeur your ass around once classes start."
Sirius snorted. "I wouldn't want to inconvenience you, Your Greatness."
"See that you don't." James grinned. "I just hope for your sake that your maybe-hipster isn't a car guy. Are you going to talk to him next time you see him?"
"No," said Sirius.
Sirius leaned on the circulation desk, a paperback open in one hand. The library was quiet on weekday mornings. Only the Children's section, brimming with harried parents and children too young for school, buzzed with activity, but it fell outside Sirius's area of responsibility. Most of the patrons frequenting the library at this time were older retired people who read quietly, or worked on personal research projects. A row of self-checkout computers made the circulation desk practically obsolete, but it needed to be staffed, and that morning, the task fell to Sirius. Every now and then, a patron would stop to ask a question, or require manual checkout, but for the most part, Sirius was left to himself.
Sirius frowned at the page in front of him, but the words slid past his eyes without leaving any impression in his distracted thoughts.
Don't look, he scolded himself for the dozenth time. If you keep looking over there, he's bound to notice you staring at him.
It was no use. After a few seconds his attention wandered off the edge of the page to fix once more on the table under the windows where a figure sat hunched over a spread of open books and lined paper, the end of a pencil between his teeth, dark hair falling into his eyes.
Hi, thought Sirius despairingly. Look, I've been staring at you all morning like a fucking creeper, and I think you're pretty hot. I was just wondering, are you into guys at all?
The object of Sirius's attention straightened, tilting his head from side to side, easing the strain on his neck. Sirius's eyes snapped guiltily back to the meaningless words in front of him as the stranger gathered up his books and papers, shoving them into a worn and faded backpack.
Silently reminding himself that it was both Unprofessional and Inappropriate to check out library patrons' asses, no matter how finely shaped, Sirius kept his eyes firmly fixed on his book as the man approached the row of self-checkout computers across from the circulation desk. In a moment, he would be gone, and Sirius would be able to relax and stop worrying about embarrassing himself.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sirius watched the stranger go through his pockets once, twice, an expression of growing dismay on his face. His heart leapt into his throat as the man turned toward the circulation desk.
Be cool, he ordered himself desperately.
"I forgot my library card," the stranger said apologetically. His voice was soft and low. "Is there any way I can still check these out?"
"Sure. Yeah. Of course. Glad to help," said Sirius too quickly, trying not to think about gorgeous dark brown eyes fringed with long lashes. "Um, what's your name?"
"Remus Lupin. L-U-P-I-N."
Sirius tapped at the keyboard, backspacing several times when his nervous fingers missed their mark.
"Phone number?" Sirius asked, wishing he were typing it into his contacts.
Remus gave him a string of digits.
As Sirius began scanning the books into the computer, he could not help noticing that several of the titles concerned sex and sexuality. One was about pornography.
Remus must have seen his blush. "They're for a class I'm taking," he said hastily.
"I wasn't going to ask," Sirius assured him. "Patrons' borrowing habits are none of my business."
"Thanks," Remus mumbled, still looking embarrassed.
"It's no ple-problem," said Sirius, tripping over his words in the rush to get them out, but Remus was already hurrying away.
As the door closed behind him, Sirius heaved a heavy sigh and buried his face in his hands.
Remus. His name is Remus. And I have zero chill.
A few days later, Sirius was re-shelving books in the library's Dewey Decimal spiral, when he rounded the end of a row of shelves and almost ran his cart headlong into Remus Lupin. Remus leapt out of the way, spilling an armload of books onto the floor in surprise.
"Sorry," gasped Sirius, plucking at his shirt to ease the constriction around his bounding heart.
"It's all right," said Remus, bending to gather up the fallen books. He moved to return one to a gap on the shelf beside him.
"Don't do that," said Sirius, before he could stop himself.
Remus froze, book halfway onto the shelf. "It's all right. I know exactly where it came from."
"It's not that," explained Sirius. "It's - library funding is based on numbers. One of those numbers is how many books we re-shelve. So it doesn't actually help us when people put them back themselves."
"Oh," said Remus. "Sorry. I didn't know that." He hesitated, looking down at the book in his hand. "Should I give this to you, or ...?"
"You can give it to me, if you want, or leave it on one of the carts at the end of the rows."
"OK." Remus grabbed three more books from the shelf, and offered them to Sirius with a smile that made his heart skip a beat. "Here. For the library funding."
"Thanks," Sirius said quickly, hoping he had not been staring again. "Remus, right? I'm - my name is Sirius. I checked you out the other day. At the circulation desk, I mean," he added quickly, cheeks growing hot.
He belatedly remembered that he was wearing a name tag. Remus already knew his name, if he cared to look.
Remus looked surprised to be remembered by name, but bobbed his head in greeting. "Nice to meet you."
"So, you're a student?" asked Sirius, deciding to ignore, for the moment, the library's policy against asking patrons personal questions. "Do you go to the University of Washington?"
"Seattle Central," said Remus, naming a nearby two-year college. "Part time. The library there isn't as good as UW's, so I usually come here."
"What are you majoring in?" Sirius asked.
"Psych, with a focus on gender and sexuality," said Remus, with a wave encompassing the shelves of suggestively-titled books surrounding them.
"That sounds pretty interesting."
"It is," Remus agreed.
There was an awkward pause. Now that they were talking, Sirius did not want to just walk away. Who knew when he might have another opportunity to speak to Remus? He wished there were some way for him to subtly signal to Remus that he was queer, and to learn whether that fact was of interest to Remus at all.
"So ... um ... what are you thinking of doing with your degree?" Sirius asked, stalling.
"I want to be a counselor or a therapist," said Remus. "Try to do some good in the world, if I can."
Sirius nodded. "That sounds ... noble."
"I just want to help people," said Remus with a shrug. "Working in a library must be pretty interesting. Especially this one. Did you study Library Science?"
Remus asking him questions about himself set a butterfly of excitement fluttering in Sirius's belly.
"I haven't been to college yet," he said. "I'm not a real librarian; just an assistant. My mom's on the library board. She helped me get the job."
"Oh," said Remus. "That sounds like a pretty sweet deal."
"Yeah, it is. It's a pretty great place to work."
A flash of inspiration struck Sirius. Quickly, he scanned the nearby shelves for a book that would suit his purposes. Perfect. Reaching up, he plucked one from the top shelf, and handed it to Remus.
"If you're interested in Queer Studies, I recommend this one. It's one of my favorites."
"The Full Spectrum," read Remus, looking at the cover. "I haven't read it."
"It's great," enthused Sirius. "It's all essays written by LGBT people in their teens and twenties. The editor, David Levithan, writes really good queer young adult fiction, too, if that's your kind of thing at all ...?"
Remus added the book to his stack. "Thanks. I'll check it out ... and check it out."
They both laughed awkwardly at the joke.
"Well, I guess I'll see you around," said Remus with a smile.
"Yeah," said Sirius. "I hope so."
"I talked to him!"
James was barely through the front door. "Who?"
"The cute hipster guy!"
"Oh." James grinned, collapsing into an armchair and running a hand through his poofy, unkempt afro. "That's great. How did it go?"
"I dunno," Sirius admitted. "Mostly fine, I guess. His name is Remus, and I think he might be queer. At least, he's studying gender and sexuality. That's not something a lot of straight guys do, is it?"
James shrugged. "Probably not."
"Anyway, I recommended a super queer book to him, so he definitely knows I am. At least, I hope he does," added Sirius, suddenly worried that the gesture had not been as obvious as he hoped. "If he comes back and says he liked it, that probably means he is, too."
"Clever," said James, sounding amused. "If he is, are you going to ask him out?"
Sirius's shoulders sagged. "I dunno. I mean, I can't do that at work, can I? It'd be unprofessional. I'd have to find some way to see him outside the library, and ask him then."
James chuckled. "Catch-22. You can't see him outside work unless you see him outside work."
"Yeah," sighed Sirius, slumping back onto the sofa. "And even if he is queer, he still might not be into trans guys."
"Only one way to find out," said James.