~ Rice

Sirius sat on the cold floor of his cell. He was surrounded by greys. Grey walls, grey bunk, grey floor, grey hands, all shades of grey. His hair wasn't even black anymore. Streaked with dust and age it straggled down in front of his face, clouding his vision. Not that he cared. There wasn't much he could look at.

No, there was, he looked down at his hands. His old, grey, withered hands. Cracked and wrinkled, not having seen sunlight in years. He moved his finger over a line on his hand. Was it a crease? Was it a scar? He couldn't tell any longer. There were marks all over his body. He couldn't tell whether they were there always, developed over time, or inflicted. He knew some though, the ones he inflicted himself. Those weren't grey. Those were murky brown. Scars that wouldn't heal. He didn't want to think about those.

There was one mark though, that he stared at, caressing it with his finger. More an imprint than a mark. The imprint of a ring. A long gone ring that was still fresh in his memory.

A flash of gold in his minds eye. Unfurling ribbon, opening a box. Delight and wonder in his eyes. His eyes. His. Not his own, but in his. The one intended for the first ring. A simple gold band. A symbol of love. The return of this gift was more than he could ever hope for but was received, loved and cherished by being placed on that finger. Now, it was gone. To where he didn't know. Perhaps the Dementors kept a room somewhere, with all the beautiful, sentimental things that people owned. That people would no longer need to own.

These thoughts mattered little however. But what else was there to do. If you didn't think, you'd become worthless and they would have won. If you do think, you go mad. Mad with want. Mad with plans of escape. Mad with fleeting ideas of happiness. Mad with pain. The pain of knowing death.

Sirius cleared his throat out of habit. Its dry sound echoed in the room. He slumped forward slightly and looked closer at his hand. There it was, a thin faded scar along his index finger. One long line that was completely invisible if you weren't looking for it. He smiled as he remembered the day he got that scar. It was the day of their first… their first kiss.

"Get down from there Sirius! You're going to hurt yourself badly this time!" Remus was standing outside Sirius' house.

Sirius was edging along the roof. "I'm nearly there, I can reach it. It's ok, I'll be down in a second."

He made his way over to the far end of the roof and picked up a once sleek wand, now hanging limply.

"I think it's broken Moony, sorry about that."

They had been practicing some spells. Well, Sirius had been, while Remus told him to stop using magic outside of Hogwarts. He'd always been the sensible one. 'You're in your sixth year now, you can't just do things like that and blow it all away!' Was his new saying.

Somehow, through Sirius's experiments, Remus's wand had ended up on the roof. He didn't even bother to ask what kind of spell it was, it definitely wouldn't have been something simple like 'expelliarmus', whatever it was it must have back-fired.

"How do you plan to get down, Padfoot?" Remus asked. He sounded slightly annoyed. "You don't plan to use magic again do you?"

Sirius looked at him guiltily and placed his own wand back into his pocket. He looked over at the large black tree a little away from the house.

"Well, I didn't use magic to get your wand now did I? I'll just use the tree," he flashed Remus a cocky grin.

He began to edge out towards the tree. Reaching for it, he swung himself safely onto the top branch. He shuffled around a bit on his bottom, moving down slowly. He dangled his foot down, reaching for the next branch. Missing it completely he slipped and began to fall, his hand reaching out to get hold of a branch but instead was cut profusely right down the side of his finger.

He landed with a thud and Remus rushed over to him.

"I told you! Didn't I tell you?" Remus half gathered Sirius in his arms.

Sirius groaned and flinched under Remus's hold. "Argh, I'm fine, it's ok."

"No, you're not. You need help," Remus began. "Why do you keep getting yourself into these situations?"

Sirius still managed to smile a little through his pain as he saw the clear worry etched in Remus's face. He was sure Remus was never this worried about James, and he'd been in much worse.

Remus laid Sirius's head on his lap inspected it to make sure there were no gashes or clear wounds.

'Hell he was looking for gashes,' Sirius thought as Remus's face moved close to the side of his head.

He moved up a little and looked his friend right in the eyes.  Remus moved back a little, shocked.

"What is it?" he asked.

Sirius took his friend's hands in one of his and placed the other on his cheek.

"Why do you put up with me?" he asked and moved his lips onto Remus's.

Sirius now sighed and leaned his head back against the wall. He was only tormenting himself with these thoughts. But they made him smile, briefly. They were all he had to keep himself sane. Otherwise he would have been long gone by now. Stolen by the Dementors Kiss. He shuddered that it was called a 'kiss'. That what he shared with Remus had the same word as for what a Dementor could share with him.

Now, because of that crystal clear memory, played out as if it were only yesterday, everything he looked at reminded him of something to do with Remus.

In the corner sat a stool. Wooden, simple, falling apart. He almost heard Remus's laughter from two years before he was put into this hellhole. They were in a garage, Remus had decided he would learn some Muggle craftsmanship; he would make a wooden chair for Sirius.

His project took him three days and the chair fell to pieces the minute Sirius sat on it. They laughed together for hours after Remus got over the initial shock of his creation being destroyed. They sat together rebuilding it, never to have it sat on again, but just be in a corner of their house. A reminder that their relationship would never break down. It would never fall to pieces.

A slight breeze came in through one of the cracks in the walls, very minute, tickling his beard slightly. He closed his eyes and remembered Remus's light kisses on his face. So gentle, so fleeting, like the wind that touched him now.

A loud clang brought him out of his thoughts. A Dementor was heading up towards the cell. Sirius cursed to himself for letting his emotions escape him. He could feel his brief happiness being sucked away as the Dementor came closer. He hung his head low, squeezing his eyes shut. The very presence of these creatures made Sirius's skin prickle. He felt any sort of lighthearted feeling leave him. Leave his chest feeling hollow, cold and desolate. He cringed as he thought he heard his cell being opened. He had long ago given up trying to act bravely in the face of his holders. There was no point, they had no sense of differentiating between pride and cowardice. Only degrees of pain.

Sirius felt the cold feeling leave his body. He opened his eyes and looked towards the bars of his cell. The Dementor had been on its way to a different cell. Letting himself breathe again he stood up. If it weren't for his movement, Sirius thought, he was sure he would have blended into the walls by now.

He walked one step, over to his bunk. The springs were non-existent and he felt the hard mattress underneath him. It was nothing like the bed he and Remus used to share, those nights when they were alone. Two young boys unsure of who to trust and where to go. Not so different from the world of their adult years.

He felt he couldn't endure this much longer, one more night might send him mad. He lay down on the bed, folding his arms behind his head. He stared unwaveringly at the ceiling for a while. If he stared long enough, the myriad of little cracks disappeared and all he could see was a smooth blanket of grey. He slowly shut his eyes.

* * *

Sirius flung opened his eyes when he felt a soft touch on his cheek. Crinkling his forehead a bit he knew there was no chance of this being true. He felt lips brush his own and saw Remus staring down at him.

His eyes opened wider in shock and he tried to sit up on the bed. It was soft.

"Shh," Remus said, pushing Sirius back down, "you were having a bad dream."

"But I was, I was," Sirius furrowed his eyebrows. "It wasn't a dream."

"I know," Remus smiled. "Sleep now."

* * *

Sirius felt these words wash over him completely, his mind taken to a different level. Remus's face so close to his own. For the first time in Azkaban he slept peacefully.