The Host and His Guest by Diane (dicoffin@yahoo.com)

Summary: Post GoF ~ Remus and Sirius struggle through their first full moon together.

Pairing: Sirius/Remus

Rating: a tame R?

Archive: Any, just let me know.

Disclaimer: Characters and universe belong to J.K. Rowling

Notes: Heartfelt thanks to Denise and Cynthia for their encouragement and excellent advice.

~ ~ ~

Remus Lupin had a house guest. The realization kept striking him, as though the journey from one tiny room to the next could make him forget. An extra cup in the sink, a rumpled blanket on the couch, scuffed boots in the corner... they were enough to make him stop, to pause and look twice and smile.

And sometimes, like now, Remus would walk into a room and see that messy dark head bent over some task, and he would think, Sirius Black is frying eggs at my stove... Sirius Black is doing a crossword in my chair.

Remus touched the door frame, closed his eyes and opened them again. Sirius Black is laying wood for my fire, he thought. Despite the uneasy tension rising in his blood, Remus felt the corner of his mouth slide upward.

Sirius glanced up from where he knelt at the hearth. "Hi."

"Hullo there." An early tremor passed through his hands, and Remus folded his arms. "You need to clear out now."

Sirius lifted an eyebrow at Remus' bluntness and brushed his dirty palms on his knees. "My charming host," he remarked.

Remus shrugged, and kept his wry smile in place. "I am a conscientious host. Which - as you know - is why I am asking my guest to leave."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm going." Sirius aimed his borrowed wand and murmured, "Incendio. ...*Incendio*, you worthless piece of--" and flames grudgingly came to life in the fireplace. He frowned and tossed the wand onto the sofa. Unfolding his long legs, he leaned back on his elbows and shut his eyes in the fire's warmth. His hair brushed the floor as he tilted back his head.

Remus shifted. "Come on, Sirius. This room is my... place."

"You have two hours, still," Sirius protested lightly.

"An hour ten. And I have things to do."

Sirius opened one eye. "So do them. Before you banish me, let me warm up, for pity's sake. It's bloody cold for June."

Remus sighed, feeling his patience fray, and pushed away from the door. "I don't know why you're acting so wounded. You've been sulking since breakfast." He closed the makeshift shutters on the nearest window, bolting them with a padlock and a spell. "A bit of privacy is not much to ask, really." He shuttered the second window sharply; the sound of the rain grew quieter and the room darker. "Kitchen, loo and bedroom are all yours, enjoy them with my compliments." He snapped the lock in place, adding gratuitously, "And that worthless wand was my mum's."

"Sorry." Sirius' mumble sounded sheepish.

Remus moved through his full moon ritual, strengthening the silencing charms and the wards that sealed the room. He felt Sirius behind him, watching as he sketched sigils in the air, and he fought the self- consciousness that might affect his magic.

At last Remus finished, dropping his arm to his side and tapping his wand against his leg. He wanted to seal the room's door now, but Sirius was still there.

"You may leave any time," Remus said without turning around. He flexed his left hand, hearing agitation in his voice though he'd strived for a mild tone.

There was a pause before Sirius spoke quietly. "Remus, let Padfoot stay."

"No."

"Why not?" persisted Sirius. "You wouldn't give me a good reason this morning, so give me one now."

Remus made a vexed sound that was nearly a growl. He spun to face Sirius, who was suddenly right there, putting out a firm hand when Remus swayed unsteadily.

After a measured breath, Remus removed his arm from Sirius' grasp. "I do this alone now," he said calmly. He walked the few steps to the threadbare sofa and sat with care, setting aside his wand for a moment and resting his hands on his knees. He stilled the slight shaking of his fingers. "I need to secure the door, Sirius, so... if you'd be so kind."

When Remus felt cautious hands on his shoulders, he stiffened. "This is not a good time to touch me," he warned, almost apologetically.

"All right." Sirius, undeterred, came and sat beside him, not too near. "Fancy a chat, then?"

Remus turned to stare at him. Sirius sat there boldly, his blue eyes grave but an audacious little smirk playing about his mouth, and Remus actually felt his irritation drain away. He sagged, resting his head against the back of the couch. "You always were an annoying bastard," he said tiredly. "No offense."

"None taken," Sirius assured generously.

"You are interrupting my routine. You know how I hate that."

"I always suspected you rather liked it but pretended not to."

"Did you? You were mis- mmh..." Remus shut his eyes and kept them closed. He breathed through a wave of keen discomfort; it passed, and he held very still in its wake. "You were mistaken. Sirius, I need to seal the door while I'm able."

"Just sit now." Remus felt the brush of fingers against his arm, a tentative touch, quickly aborted. "I'll help with the door in a minute. Moony? I'm not going to touch you, but my hand's right here if you need it."

"Need it?" Remus repeated mildly without opening his eyes. "Christ, Sirius, I do this regularly on my own."

"Well, if you *want* it, then."

"Oh. Well that's different, isn't it."

"Yes, it is."

The couch shifted as Sirius slouched, easing himself down carefully next to Remus. His voice, when it came, was soft and curious, and quite near. "Tell me about your ritual."

"The ritual you are disrupting?"

"Ha. Yes."

"Mmm." Remus was motionless. But behind his closed eyes, he was beginning to see brief flashes of color, and he felt the room start rocking slowly. "Steak and eggs for breakfast."

"Done."

"Done, with a petulant house guest." Remus almost smiled at the affronted noise Sirius made. "You're angry I want to be alone."

"Hmph. Your choice, mate."

"Indeed yes. Now you're getting it." Remus' skin began faintly to ache. He clenched his hands.

"And then what?" prompted Sirius softly. "After breakfast."

"Walk. Drink water," said Remus, concentrating. "Sleep some. Shower."

"Hot or cold?"

"Hot, then cold." He stirred fretfully. "Sirius--"

"Shh, there's time. What next?"

"Shutters, charms, locks, wards."

"Done."

Remus swallowed. "Bolt the door, seal it. Not done."

"I'll help. Then what?"

Sirius wanted to touch him; Remus could feel the heat of a hand hovering near his temple. If Remus turned his head just a little, the fingers would brush his hair.... "Light a fire," he said with difficulty.

"Done."

"Done out of order," murmured Remus. "By my friend Sirius Black."

"Mm hmm." Sirius sounded sad. "And then?"

"D- disrobe. Augh, Sirius--" Remus felt a sharp pulsing in his joints, and a hot flare like sudden fever. He forced open his eyes and sat up, fumbling with the clasp of his robe.

"I'll go now," Sirius whispered.

"Thank you. Thanks. God! Help me-- this thing--"

Sirius reached to undo the clasp, then pushed the robe from Remus' naked shoulders. Remus pulled his arms free and bent double, the robe pooling around his hips. He dug his fingers into his still-damp hair and shuddered through a brutal spasm. He was panting shallowly now. "Bolts on the door, inside, up high. Can you do them? From outside? With the wand?"

"Yes." Sirius was crouching beside him, his hands stiff with the effort not to touch. "How long now?"

"Fifteen. But don't wait." He blew out a savage breath. "Ah, fuck. Messed up my timing, Sirius."

"I'm sorry--"

Remus just nodded, his throat working silently as his spine began to bow. He stretched out a shaking hand to push Sirius away, but what he did instead was grasp his wrist. He heard Sirius' gasp of pain, and he tried, but he could not release his grip. Remus made a harsh sound of distress.

Sirius swallowed audibly. "Shhh, Moony," he soothed, his face white with pain. He reached up with his left hand and brushed back Remus' hair. "Let go of me now. Let go." He laid his palm gently on Remus' neck, stroking his thumb against the clenched jaw. "Sorry, I know I don't have permission to touch, but, um, you touched me first." Sirius' grin was tight and a little desperate. "Come on now, Remus."

Remus leaned his forehead against Sirius' shoulder and focused strenuously. Slowly his grip relaxed, and he heard Sirius' hiss of relief. "Go," Remus breathed.

Sirius pulled him into a quick, one-armed embrace. Then he got to his feet, holding his wrist to his chest as he awkwardly groped for the wand he'd borrowed. Moving to the door, Sirius looked up at the collection of iron deadbolts and sliding locks. And then he looked back at Remus.

Remus' hazy vision seemed to sharpen for an instant, giving him a terribly clear image of Sirius on the threshold, in the firelight, with an expression of suffering on his gaunt, shadowed face. His lips were moving. A voice from very far away said, "Remus, I don't want to leave you."

With his eyes, Remus did what imploring he could. But then things went rigid and red and he was on the floor, consumed by a cruel and familiar fire.

~~~

Cursing with frustration, Sirius kicked shut the door between himself and Remus. Nothing felt right about locking him in there alone, nothing, but Sirius grimly set to the task.

The wand felt stupid in his left hand. He juggled it clumsily in his haste and nearly dropped it. "Help me out here, Mrs. Lupin," he muttered. He wondered how long ago Remus' mum had died, what time of month he'd lost her.

Sirius aimed at the top of the door, picturing the locks on the other side, and tried to remember a goddamn spell that would slide the bolts home, confining Moony in his prison. Because that's what this was, a fucking prison.

"Seclusio," he spat, suddenly angry. Nothing happened. "Securus. Continerae!" Sirius heard the locks slam with a thud.

He leaned wearily against the door. The sounds of Remus' ordeal were wringing him, making his heart hurt. Remus would have silenced this door if he'd had time to seal it himself. But strangely, Sirius didn't want to be spared.

He slid to sitting, wincing at the hot throbbing of his injured wrist. Gingerly he pushed up his sleeve. The bruising was already livid, and it seemed to be swelling as he watched. Broken, surely. Now what was the charm to mend broken bones? Maybe it was *Reparo,* Sirius thought wryly, the way Remus probably fixed his abused sofa each month. What the *hell* was that charm...? God, he'd forgotten so much magic, he'd just bollocks it up. He cradled the arm against himself, deciding dully to deal with it later. Remus would know how.

Moonlight was pouring through the window in the front door, illuminating the primitive kitchen with its wood stove and water pump. The supper dishes were still on the table. Remus, of course, had eaten nothing; fasting after breakfast was part of the ritual. But his water glass was beside Sirius' cup and plate, and seeing it there almost made Sirius want to smile.

Since coming to stay with Remus, Sirius had become fond of this tiny stone cabin. Once a gamekeeper's hut, it was situated at the edge of a wood, fairly remote from the nearest village. Remus seemed to like it well enough. The landlord, a Muggle, let it cheaply and kept himself scarce: a nice arrangement for Moony, Sirius supposed.

And after losing his position at Hogwarts, Remus had probably welcomed the isolation. He was the most notorious werewolf in Britain now, thanks to Severus Fucking Snape, that miserable reptile. All the students and their parents, the Daily Prophet and all its readers -- the whole wizarding community now knew what Remus Lupin was.

Sirius wondered with a pang what Moony's rare visits to Hogsmeade must be like. Bit of a social stigma, being a Dark Creature. Or a mad mass murderer, for that matter.

Rubbing his eyes with his good hand, Sirius thought listlessly of getting up, getting some sleep. Tonight the bedroom was his. Up 'til now he'd been spending nights on the couch before a low-banked fire; he felt vaguely displaced. It would seem odd to sleep in Remus' bed.

Ironic, really. A lifetime ago, he'd entertained notions of finding his way to that very place. But then things had changed. Things turned dark, and Sirius had begun wondering if he really knew Remus at all.

Bloody fool, he sighed. The pain in his wrist was making him feel sick, and he rested his head back against the door. He lifted the wand loosely. "Accio firewhisky, Mrs. Lupin." Predictably, nothing happened. "Please?"

The cupboard door crashed open and a bottle flew straight at him, glinting in the moonlight. "Shit!" he hissed, dropping the wand. He caught the bottle one handed; it hit his palm with a slap.

Sirius blew the hair from his eyes. He unscrewed the cap with his teeth and took a long pull. The whisky burned all the way down and he liked it, liked the blaze of it inside him. He'd grown cold on the floor.

He wiped his watering eyes with his sleeve. And then he took another long drink, because he could still hear Remus. A low, anguished moan was turning into something chilling and inhuman, and Sirius tried to focus on the firewhisky, burning a path through his throat and his chest and his belly. He sputtered, choking on fumes, and bent forward, dragging his arm across his mouth. "Your son's killing me, Mrs. Lupin," he whispered.

Inside his prison, the wolf began to rage.

Sirius clutched his bottle, feeling trapped, listening as the creature stormed against the walls. He shut his eyes tightly. He understood that violent need for freedom. He was familiar with the way despair echoed maddeningly against stone.

The air was suddenly stifling, and Sirius felt cold sweat on his brow. He bent lower, struggling to inhale. The locks on the door were rattling like chains, the shadows were closing around him.

Oh God, he couldn't breathe. He needed space. He needed out. And so did Remus.

Sirius shook his head firmly and, with effort, collected himself. He slowly straightened and set the whisky carefully aside. He heard the distinct click of the bottle against the flagstones, though the sound of his own heartbeat was much louder in his ears.

Sirius picked up Mrs. Lupin's wand, pushed himself to his feet, crossed to the front door and opened it wide.

The rain had stopped and the clouds had parted. Moonlight glistened in the grass; a breeze stirred his hair and rustled the leaves in the wood. Sirius breathed deeply.

Then he turned and walked to the door of Remus' cage. He lifted his arm and aimed. "Alohomora, please, Mrs. Lupin," he told the wand, and he heard the locks slide sharply open. The sound seemed to infuriate the wolf, and Sirius murmured, "Shhh." He tucked the wand into his robe, turned the knob with his left hand and gently pulled.

Sirius closed his eyes and opened them as Padfoot. He limped forward to meet his old friend.

~~~

Blood stained the floor. The wolf had been tearing brutally at himself and was crazed; he lunged, attacking wildly. Teeth and claws scored Padfoot's flesh, but resolutely he held still. Sirius was deep inside, thinking simply, remember me.... Their last reunion had been a year ago, a brief vicious clash near the edge of the Forbidden Forest. This time Padfoot had no one to protect, no one but Moony himself. He bore the assault without a sound.

Suddenly the strange scent of freedom called to the wolf and he lifted his head with a fierce snarl, Padfoot's blood dripping from his bared fangs. Abruptly he bolted, leaving the intruder where he lay, and escaped into the waiting moonlight.

Padfoot got up painfully and followed. He was favoring his front leg and bleeding from the deepest bite on his shoulder, but he moved as swiftly as he could manage, hobbling across the glittering grass and entering the trees, shadowing at a respectful distance.

The wolf seemed to know of his presence but spared him no thought, for the moon-drenched night was limitless and brilliant with stars. The leaves were restless and clattering, a thousand scents filled the air. With no walls or fences to contain him, Moony ran, exhilarated, as though he had never seen moonlight before.

When at last the werewolf paused to rest, deep within the wood, Padfoot saw him sniff the air in a curious, calculating way. Then he turned and faced Padfoot directly, narrowing his glowing eyes. His silvery head tilted in doubtful recognition.

Padfoot froze. He offered a tentative whimper of inquiry, lowering himself but daring to raise his eyes. The wolf approached warily. As he closed the space between them, fourteen years of separation and solitude fell gradually away like yellowed leaves. Padfoot and Moony welcomed each other as brothers, well remembered and very sorely missed.

~~~

A thick mist curled among the trees, drifting and spinning idly in the strange light of early dawn. Moisture dripped from the wet black branches, pattering on the bed of leaves and grass below. Padfoot whined softly. Remus, motionless, lay blanketed in fog. Nudging him gently, Padfoot huffed warmth against his skin, urging him to wake.

Padfoot had tried to guide him home as the moon lowered in the sky, but the werewolf was willful and had little interest in abandoning the pleasures of the forest. Even at his most playful times, Moony was an intense creature. Joy, for him, was a blazing, vigorous passion, and Padfoot had never seen him so filled with pure joy.

They had gotten no farther than the edge of the wood before the fading moon began to strip the wolf, flaying away fur and form until Remus was left face down and suffering on the damp earth. When Remus lost consciousness, Padfoot had stayed close and vigilant, offering what heat he could.

The gray mist was tinted with gold when Remus finally stirred. Sirius transformed, shivering instantly at the loss of Padfoot's coat. Awkwardly he removed his cloak with his good hand and pulled it over Remus' body, wincing as he covered scourged flesh. It had been a rough night for Sirius as well; his arm was throbbing and looked like hell, and the wolf had gifted him with a few choice wounds of his own.

But God. It had been brilliant. Sirius couldn't stop himself from smiling as he brushed back the hair clinging damply to Remus' face. Dozens of memories once stolen from him had been recovered last night, memories of other moonlit nights and other times, and despite his exhaustion and wounds and wretched arm, Sirius felt more whole than he had in years.

"Hey, Remus?" His voice was hushed. "Wake up, all right?"

Remus' eyelids tightened. His brow furrowed as he drew a thin breath, and his shoulders shook. Sirius laid a hand on his neck and stroked a long line downward, remembering how badly Remus' spine always hurt the morning after.

"We need to go home, when you're ready. I'll help, it's not far." In this fog, Sirius' voice sounded distant to his own ears, and his surroundings looked so surreal... but this *was* real, all of it. The night was no dream, and this was his hand touching Remus' hair.

It was the morning after a full moon and Remus needed him, and this time it was not a prison nightmare, and Sirius was not powerless to help.

"Come here, now." He moved closer, getting his arm under Remus and easing him up carefully, turning him and shifting himself so that Remus could lean against his chest. "You're all muddy. Remus? Wake up for me now, it's almost dawn. The damn birds are starting to sing." The cloak had fallen away and Sirius plucked at it with the stiff, swollen fingers of his right hand, grimacing with pain as he tried to cover Remus more modestly.

Remus slowly opened his eyes. They shone as though with fever, and the shadows beneath them were very dark.

Sirius bent his head and smiled. "Well, finally. Hi, Moony."

Remus looked up at him, his gaze cloudy and unfocused. He glanced beyond Sirius into the thinning mist and frowned, blinking to clear his vision.

"Foggy morning," Sirius commented. He felt Remus shiver and tightened his hold. "We'll have a fire when we get back, right? Think you can move a little? No, don't try yet-- ow. Wait. I've got exactly one good arm to work with here, and it's the one holding you up." Sirius lifted his appalling wrist into Remus' view, and grinned. "Hurts like a son of a bitch. I had a hell of a time keeping up with you last night."

"Ohh," breathed Remus. He fixed his eyes directly on Sirius', managed a dry swallow and moistened his lips. His words were hoarse and came slowly. "And, did you have fun, Sirius?"

Sirius gave a short, almost giddy laugh. "Moony, I... I can't even describe it."

Remus nodded once. He brought a hand to his face, pushing away his hair and tiredly rubbing his eyes.

Sirius looked down at Remus' long thin fingers and the little lines of tension between his brows. He watched Remus take a measured breath and let it out through tight lips, and Sirius was surprised by a sudden impulse to kiss him. It seemed like such a wild and fine idea, to lean in close and touch his mouth to Remus', in affection or comfort or gratitude or any number of other things Remus made him feel. So he did it. The moment Remus lowered his hand, Sirius kissed him.

He'd intended it to be brief really, but once there he lingered, brushing Remus' lips lightly with his own and then more firmly, tasting him slowly, feeling a pleasant sort of pressure building in his chest. He made himself stop eventually, drawing back with reluctance.

It took him a moment to open his eyes, and when he did, Remus was studying him, his expression cold. And then Remus muttered, "God damn you, Black," and rolled away, fighting gracelessly to his knees and then to his feet. He swore tightly as he swayed, unable to straighten, holding the cloak with an arm pressed against his ribs.

Remus staggered only a few paces away before falling. He tried to rise, and failed, and knelt there bracing himself with one hand against the ground, his head bent low.

"I'm sorry!" Sirius was beside him in an instant. "God, Remus, I'm sorry, that was stupid, I'm sorry." Remus' face was hidden by the fall of his hair; Sirius needed to see him but was afraid to look, afraid to touch.

"Sorry for *what*," snapped Remus, clearly expecting an answer.

"For kissing you! Remus, please, let me--"

"*Don't* help me up, I can do it." Remus was struggling to stand and it wasn't working. "Sorry for kissing me," he mumbled, "Sorry for that. Anything *else* you're sorry for? Hmm? *Fuck*, I can't get up."

Sirius slid his arm around him and brought him to standing, and Remus leaned heavily against him and seethed. "What else, Sirius, what else, maybe? What *else*?"

Sirius shook his head helplessly. "I don't-- Remus--"

"You let me out. You let me out, when I *told* you-- Ah, Christ, I can't do this right now...." His head dropped to Sirius' shoulder. "I'm about to faint, damn it." And he did, collapsing into Sirius' desperate embrace.

~~~

~~~

Blood -- dried pools of it, red on the floor beneath Remus' stumbling bare feet as he was guided to the sofa by the hearth. So much more blood than normal, so much.... Sirius was saying something about blankets and fire, and Remus interrupted, told him flatly that Sirius could scrub the damn floor this time since half that blood was his. God, Padfoot's blood.... "Sirius, you stupid ass," he added a moment later, once he was lying down, but the words came out slurred.

A while later he woke to warmth and pain, and Sirius in silhouette. The room was dark, the windows still shuttered. Sirius was kneeling, backlit by flames, washing mud and gore from Remus' body. Remus watched him through eyes he could barely keep open, too tired even to flinch in discomfort. Sirius was solemn and intent at his task. Leave, Remus wanted to tell him, leave me be... but he didn't say it. He couldn't form the words, and besides, he reasoned hazily as he closed his eyes, the mud was Sirius' fault, let him clean that up too.

~~~

For Remus, the periodic swim toward consciousness after a transformation was so familiar it was tedious. He would drift in and out of awareness, prodded by the dull pounding in his head, the aching in his limbs and the keener pain of injuries, his mind a muddle. How very unusual, to wake to the sound of a voice... Remus stirred slightly, felt the pull of fresh bandages against his skin, and recalled that he was not alone.

Sirius was sitting on the floor near the fire, a book and wand in his lap, flipping pages and muttering to himself. Remus lay still and listened, catching snatches of words, and two in particular that confused him.

"'Mrs. Lupin'?" Remus repeated faintly. Sirius glanced up sharply, startled. Remus raised an eyebrow, the only movement he felt interested in attempting.

"Oh," Sirius said. "The, um --your mum's wand." He held it up with an awkward smile. "I sort of... call it that."

"You talk to my mother's wand."

Sirius shrugged and looked down at his book, flipping another page or two.

"What're you reading?"

"Nothing. Remedies. Just trying to figure out how to--" Sirius lifted his injured wrist a little. "I forget what to do."

Remus felt his jaw tighten. "Broken, is it?" he asked after a moment.

"I don't know. I think." Sirius shut the book.

"Do a Ferula to bind it. There's a potion in the cabinet... green bottle." His eyes fell closed and he strained, with vague frustration, to open them again. He could feel himself slipping away. "Sorry..."

"It's all right. Go back to sleep, Remus."

"I mean, sorry I hurt you."

"I know."

"I am so angry at you."

"I know."

~~~

Flesh was near, within jaws' reach, the scent of it a torture... desire, desire, he was mad with it, he wanted the feel of teeth breaking skin, the resistance, the yielding, the heat of blood flooding his mouth and the rising wail of fear and pain... restraints held him fast, and he fought, surging up with hunger and fury, twisting with need, a low moan tearing from inside him-- --and then it was Sirius gripping his arms, Sirius falling to the floor beneath him, hard, he was so hard and Sirius was under him, struggling... His mouth was on Sirius' throat, his bandaged hands grasped Sirius' hair and Sirius' wrist, he pressed down against him, hard, hard, and it was Sirius, Sirius who groaned, who was speaking his name....

"*Remus*."

The red haze cleared, the dream faded-- and it was not a dream. Remus stared, horrified. Sirius was beneath him, pinned to the floor in front of the fire, with fear in his dark blue eyes.

Remus rolled off him and lay face down, his head on his arms. He was panting, his heart racing, and he waited to wake, wake up, truly wake and be elsewhere, and alone.

"Remus?"

He was shaking and couldn't lift his head.

"Remus, you were dreaming--"

Remus nodded wordlessly, and felt Sirius' hand on his shoulder.

"I tried to wake you," said Sirius shakily. "Are... are you all right, then?"

"No, actually," said Remus into his arms. He took time to settle his breathing, and then pushed himself up and sat, forehead resting on one hand. He reached out blindly, grabbed a blanket from the couch and dragged it onto his lap. He felt naked. He was naked. "Forgive me," he said. "I don't know what I.... I was confused. You're not hurt?"

"Bit alarmed, is all," Sirius said carefully.

"Sirius, I'm sorry. I'm... not yet myself." Remus got slowly to his feet, wrapping the blanket about his waist with strained dignity. "I should dress now. I've slept long enough."

Waving off Sirius who was getting up to help him, Remus limped to the doorway -- the floor was clean now, he noticed -- and headed for his room. He shivered, feeling dizzy and upset and much colder away from the heat of the fire.

~~~

Sirius sat at the kitchen table, dispiritedly attempting to eat the sandwich he'd made for supper. He supposed he was hungry, but he was finding it an effort to swallow. He had listened to the rainy drone of Remus' interminable shower and then to the slow rustling of him moving about in his bedroom, dressing. Remus had been gone a long time. Halfway through the shower, Sirius had poured himself a whisky.

His right wrist was still aching, but Sirius could feel the weird hum of the potion he'd taken earlier, knitting his fractured bones. He could also feel, he thought, the shadow of Remus' hot, ruthless grasp. It seemed almost strange that no hand-print was visible on the linen bindings, showing where Remus had held him to the floor. It had hurt. He thought, too, of Remus' body on top of him, the insistent pressure, the fury and brutal passion that seemed to possess him.

Sirius shifted uneasily in his chair and drank some whisky. He was finding it went down much easier than food; it tasted a lot better than the foul stuff in the green bottle, too, and helped kill the pain.

When searching for the proper potion earlier, Sirius had explored shamelessly in the bathroom cabinet, examining the varied, mysterious jars and tins and bottles. Some things he'd recognized and some he hadn't -- potions, lotions, bandages, ingredients, and curious Muggle medicines -- the collection had impressed and saddened him. And made him wonder....

Sirius heard the click of the bedroom door. He drained his glass and poured another.

Remus wandered in, barefoot and robeless, wearing faded jeans and a loose white shirt. Sirius recalled with a pang how thin Remus always appeared after a full moon, as though the transformation had burned away at him, consuming mass. Sirius fancied he could still see residual heat shining in his eyes, above the sharpened cheekbones.

Remus went to the counter, tapped the kettle and steeped himself a cup of tea. Nothing herbal; Sirius caught the scent of Earl Grey. Pulling out a chair with his foot, Remus sat, holding the cup in his wrapped hands and watching the steam rise. "I'm sorry about before," he said, and took a tentative sip.

Sirius shrugged casually, feeling the tension in his shoulders and hoping it didn't show. "No matter. I didn't take it personally, you know."

"You should. I knew it was you, Sirius, in my dream."

"Oh." Sirius wasn't sure what he thought about that, so he drank more whisky. God. As undeniably erotic as that episode had been, Remus had scared him.

"Were you afraid?" asked Remus.

"No."

"Then you're a fool. I wanted to hurt you."

"Moony, no you didn't."

"What do you know about it? Yes, I did. I was angry, and I wanted to hurt you, Sirius. Hurt *you*."

Sirius looked at Remus, annoyed at the way he could calmly punctuate that sentence with a sip of Earl Grey. "Really? That isn't all you wanted to do to me," he said clearly.

Remus lowered his cup. Sirius watched him consider a reply, mouth tight but face impassive, before dismissing it and returning to his own script. "You need to listen to me now," Remus began. "I wanted to be alone last night. And I made that very clear to you."

"Though you would not deign to tell me why," Sirius murmured haughtily.

"Yes, well, you see, I don't *owe* you explanations, do I, Sirius," Remus said a bit sharply. "Yet you demanded them all day like a slighted child."

Sirius opened his mouth to protest but Remus overrode him, saying, "So allow me to explain a few simple things to you now."

Sirius assumed a rapt expression, just to be insolent. He'd always disliked it when Remus lectured him.

"First. I wanted to be alone because I *prefer* to be alone. I did not need your company or comfort, and I certainly did not desire an audience. You were intruding."

Sirius was already feeling raw, and Remus' cool condescension abraded him. "You don't prefer to be alone, Remus," he contradicted accusingly. "You're merely *resigned* to it."

Remus' knuckles whitened around his cup, and Sirius thought for a tantalizing second that he was about to get a face full of tea. Perversely, it made him want to push harder. But he didn't have a chance; Remus continued his speech, though he was beginning to sound strained.

"Second. You let me out. You released me, without my consent, when you *knew* I should be confined. And for what? A bit of schoolboy nostalgia? A bit of fun? So Sirius Black was bored. Delightful to have you as a guest, mate, but some forms of sport I don't wish to provide."

Stung, Sirius narrowed his eyes. "I didn't do it for *fun,* you ass. What do you think I am? I did it for *you.* You were trapped, you were tearing yourself apart."

"Containment is the law. I was where I had to be."

Sirius raked his hair in frustration. "But you *don't* have to, not with me here! I ran with you for years, Remus, every full moon. Don't be such a bloody martyr. You don't *have* to be locked up with me. My God, how can you *want* that? How can you choose it?"

Remus leaned forward, menace in his gaze. "What is it, exactly, that you're offering me?" he asked harshly. "The chance to relive old times? For how long? Long enough to become dependent on you again? To learn to face each month with something less than dread, to grow used to freedom, and to *you*... and when you leave, then what?" Remus shook his head angrily. "I will not go through that again, Sirius, I won't do it, I can't. I didn't want you last night, I didn't *want* to remember what we had."

"The wolf wanted me," Sirius said stubbornly.

"Oh, stop being deliberately obtuse," Remus grated. "The wolf wants many things, Sirius, that I don't allow it to have."

Slumping in his chair, Sirius rubbed his face then looked up helplessly, meeting Remus' hard, tired eyes. "Remus. I couldn't listen to you and do nothing. And it's remote here, it's safe--"

"Not remote enough," snapped Remus, "and it's *never* safe. It never *was* safe. We were reckless children, Sirius, but I'm no longer a child. Are you?"

"Christ. I don't know what I am anymore," Sirius muttered, and drank.

There was a pause, and Remus' voice was gentler when he spoke again. "You could have been seen this morning, do you realize that? You weren't only careless with the wolf, you were careless with your own safety. My freedom could have cost you yours, Sirius. I won't have that. Do you understand?"

Sirius answered with grudging silence. He toyed with his plate, turning it between his fingers, then he pushed it toward Remus. "Want a sandwich? Or is ham not part of your morning-after ritual?"

Remus was looking at him, but Sirius kept his face down and poured another shot. "Thanks," said Remus mildly. "It's a good thing firewhisky isn't part of my routine. Looks like I'm running low."

"Yeah. You're nearly out." Sirius tossed back his drink. "Remus, why don't you have Wolfsbane Potion?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Wolfsbane. I was digging through your potions cabinet -- prying, reading labels, intruding you know -- and I wondered...."

"It's very expensive to buy," Remus answered simply. "And it's difficult to make, I lack the skill."

"So that's it, then? There's this thing that could really help you, but you can't get it? Why isn't Snape making it for you? He fucking *owes* you, he owes you a job. Why isn't Dumbledore making him do it?"

"Dumbledore thinks he *is* doing it, I believe. And Severus did make it for me, for a while."

"But then he stopped? That sodding bastard, that evil...." Sirius flexed his hands stiffly. "Where is he? Mrs. Lupin and I will hex him into next week."

Remus smiled wryly. "Leave him alone, Sirius. He's a member of the Order now, you know. A brother."

"Moony, God damn it, Snape is no more my brother than... my brother."

"Besides," added Remus with half a shrug. "I told him to stop making it for me."

"You-- why?"

"Pride, I suppose," sighed Remus. He sipped his cold tea and grimaced. "He continually made it clear it was charity, and finally I told him not to bother. Stupid of me, really. Petty. I'm paying for it now."

"How do you mean?"

"After more than a year on Wolfsbane, I'm finding transformations without it much harder. It's a backlash effect, I think." Remus set his tea aside and brushed the table lightly, watching his hands. "That's one of the reasons you shouldn't have been near me last night, Sirius. Or this morning. My control is... not what it should be."

"It's harder for you now?" Sirius asked softly, pained. "Remus... maybe that's a reason to let me in, not push me away."

Remus glanced up warningly. "We are done discussing this. You know my decision."

"Fine," Sirius acquiesced wearily. The alcohol was numbing him, making his head swim. He closed his eyes and leaned back.

"Eat your sandwich," Remus said quietly.

"Don't want it anymore."

"Are you drunk?" sighed Remus.

"Maybe."

"Come on." Sirius heard the scrape of a chair and felt a hand on his upper arm. "You haven't slept at all, have you. Get up. You can have my bed."

"Remus's bed." Sirius laughed a little as he stood.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing." Sirius let himself be led.

"Um. Thank you for cleaning the floors, by the way," Remus said.

"You told me to."

"I know. Sorry about that. Through the door now-- no, ow, that's the wall."

"Cleaned 'em with magic. Mrs. Lupin likes it when I say please."

"Sirius, I am a little disturbed by your relationship with my mother's wand."

"She always liked me, didn't she, Moony? Your mum?"

"She *eventually* liked you. And then she loved you. Now, sit before you fall, you miserable sot. Here. Better?"

Sirius looked up to see Remus bent over him, a steadying hand on his shoulder. The indulgently exasperated smile on Remus' face was so dear and familiar from years past that Sirius felt his eyes sting. "Better," he breathed. "Remus, when did she die?"

"Nine years ago."

And now Sirius' eyes were full, and he looked away. Remus began to stroke his hair, pushing it back behind each shoulder, such a gentle and kind gesture that Sirius wished he'd stop, or never stop. "Nine years?" Sirius whispered.

Remus' thumb brushed his cheek.

Sirius caught his hand and tugged a little, and Remus sat next to him on the bed. Sirius rested against him and shut his eyes, his head comfortable in the curve between neck and shoulder. Remus smelled clean, like tea and soap. "I'm sorry about last night, Remus. I just hate the thought of you being alone."

"I know."

"And I'm sorry I kissed you in the woods this morning."

"Are you?"

"Not really."

Remus laughed quietly.

"I didn't mean to upset you, though," Sirius said apologetically.

"Well. You know, it did seem a bit of a liberty at the time."

Sirius sighed. "I was acting on impulse."

"That's what you do," Remus said fondly, a smile in his voice.

"But, sometimes I think before I act."

"Hmm? Like when."

"Like... now."

Sirius reached up without looking and slowly threaded his fingers into Remus' hair. He paused there, then pulled lightly down, tilting his head up to meet Remus' lips.

Their kiss tasted of warm whisky and Earl Grey, and since Remus didn't draw back, Sirius did not rush. He kissed Remus softly, thoughtfully, before leaning up closer, his fingers tightening in Remus' hair. Their mouths opened, the kiss deepening with a slow, easy slide of tongue along tongue, wonderfully endless until Sirius felt dazed and drowning. When Remus pulled him nearer still, laying a bandaged palm against his cheek, Sirius nearly broke. At his quiet sound of mingled pleasure and sadness, Remus withdrew from him slightly.

"Oh dear. This may not be a wise thing," Remus commented, their lips brushing lightly as he spoke.

"Rarely in my life have I let that trouble me," murmured Sirius, and smiled.

With an unsettled laugh, Remus kissed Sirius once more, firmly, and pulled away. "Sleep for a while," he said, rising. "I'll see you when you wake."

"Wait. You... could stay," Sirius carefully suggested as Remus moved to the door.

Remus shook his head with a swift smile. "Not yet, all right? I can't-- We--" Sirius saw with interest that he seemed troubled as he struggled for words.

"I'm disrupting your routine," Sirius observed, more with satisfaction than remorse.

"Indeed you are," Remus agreed. "You complicate things." He studied Sirius intently for a moment, and then said, "I am very happy you're here."

Sirius grinned as the door closed, and he settled back into Remus' bed, looking forward to sleeping so that he could wake.

~end~