Brothers on a Hotel Bed

You may tire of me as our December sun is setting because I'm not who I used to be
No longer easy on the eyes but these wrinkles masterfully disguise
The youthful boy below, who turned your way and saw
Something he was not looking for: both a beginning and an end
But now he lives inside someone he does not recognize
When he catches his reflection on accident

On the back of a motor bike
With your arms outstretched trying to take flight, leaving everything behind
But even at our swiftest speed we couldn't break from the concrete
In the city where we still reside.

And I have learned that even landlocked lovers yearn for the sea like navy men
Cause now we say goodnight from our own separate sides
Like brothers on a hotel bed

--Death Cab for Cutie

"Moony." His voice is the faintest whisper as he moves noiselessly into the room. The door clicks shut behind him, quietly.

Awakened, Lupin opens his eyes and blinks them blearily. He shifts and then pushes himself up on his elbows to watch Sirius' haunted features, ghostly lit by the moonlight that slants in through the shutters. Lupin does not make a sound but his lips form the word 'Sirius' as his friend moves closer, the moonlight sliding over him like silk.

"I can't sleep," says Sirius.

Lupin blinks again, so painfully aware of the languishing ache that spreads slowly through every vein in his body as he watches the gaunt, dejected form perched on his bed. He's only been staying here, at Grimmauld Place, for a few days, but every time Sirius is within several feet of him, he feels the aching again, that he has not felt since the early days of Sirius' imprisonment. A need that throbs in every part of his body to be close, to touch. It is only worse when he is near Sirius. From afar, he can watch the fleeting laughter and light in those fathomless grey eyes, or the way Sirius still slides a long-fingered hand around his neck when he is deep in thought. From afar, Lupin can study even the finest details, and feel only a glimmer of the longing he had to grow used to. But with Sirius so near, everything comes undone. Lupin is dangling on the edge of giving in.

"Not that I sleep much these days anyhow," Sirius goes on, more to himself, but Lupin listens intently. "I never do anything all day. I wander around here at night because I can never sleep. It's like a deathly cycle; I can't stop it."

Lupin's grey-green eyes are wide, grave. His hair is mussed and with the aura of moonlight spilling through the room he looks almost like a ghost, pale, illuminated. Sirius speaks again, his voice breaking through the silence.

"I didn't sleep much there, either. Not with the dementors and those horrible shrieking noises every night. When I first got there I thought those were the sounds of the dementors. But they were the prisoners."

For days now, he has been avoiding Sirius. It is simply too painful to watch his hands tremble as he loses his grip on reality, or to lie in bed at night and listen to the floorboards creak and moan as a lone, solitary figure roams the house, shaken out of slumber by dreams of a dark cell, haunting jailers. Sirius was once so beautiful, so reckless and free, so easy to admire. Now he is haunted, disfigured. Lupin had a nightmare once that he was staring into Sirius' eyes, black fathomless pits, and he was slowly drawn into them, drowning in the ghastly memories there. It is better not to look. It is better to forget.

"You won't look at me, Remus," Sirius whispers, so agonising that it wrenches Lupin's heart. "Do I disgust you? Do you not want to think about it? Stop ignoring this, it only makes it worse. It's beginning to tear at the seams, have you noticed? Stop trying not to remember."

Lupin's eyes drift shut and he does remember, for a fleeting moment, animated grey eyes that always held a twinkle of mischief, curling black hair that fell into those eyes with an effortless grace few others could achieve, a fine-featured and guiltless face. Before Azkaban's minions wrenched the happiness out of those eyes, starved the hope and now he is drained, drawn. Seven years when their greatest worry was whether or not the weather would be fine, or if Snivellus would tell on their involvement in the Sticky Molasses and Fire Ants Incident of '75. They were two hopeful boys sharing a secret then that was reckless and exciting.

Sirius fixes his impenetrable grey stare on Lupin, who returns it gravely. "You look older, my friend," he says softly. And Lupin knows he does. His hair is shot through with streaks of grey that he knows have come too soon. His face is lined from the weight of cares and worries and fears he used to know nothing of. "Your eyes are so different, I remember that was the first thing I thought of when I saw you again. After so many years apart. I looked at your eyes; I used to know them so well. Now they're…strange." He pauses. "There's a kind of elusive emotion that I can't figure out." Lupin breaks his gaze with Sirius and silently, Sirius rises, moves over to the other side of the vast room.

"I don't recognise myself any more," Sirius says bleakly. In the dusty, stained mirror hanging on the wall he studies his reflection. His features bear the traces of a handsome boy who joked, who played pranks, whose infectious laughter resonated through the Great Hall. On the outside, that boy is gone forever: he has been condemned to sunken eyes, haunted features, a painful thinness that seems so breakable. Remus used to be the smaller of the two boys, the more vulnerable. Now it is Sirius who suffers from nightmares, Sirius and his fragile existence. Lupin so nearly lost him to Azkaban. He fears it happening all over again.

The expanse of distance between them seems immense and unbounded.

It is Lupin who has gained strength, bravery. In that fateful war he lost the three people dearest to his heart. They had been his pillars of support; without these, he had to find his way on his own, groping about in the darkness until he could conjure a light of his own. He survived those years. He is older now, more tired, embittered, worn out. It has been fifteen, twenty years since he waited anxiously to earn a smile from Sirius, or let the balance of his happiness hang in those intense stormy grey eyes. Once he loved, giving so freely, with all of his heart. And it cut him deeply when that was taken away, a desolation he cannot forget. He is more guarded now. He will not let it happen again.

"Let's get away from here," Sirius says fiercely, his eyes burning across the room into Remus'.

"Where," Lupin whispers softly, the first time he has spoken tonight, for fear the words he keeps locked within will all come tumbling out and drown him.

Sirius' eyes travel out the window, at the tantalising, enigmatic moon. "D'you remember my flying motor bike?"

Alarmed at this, Lupin slides out of the sheets, meeting Sirius' gaze firmly. "What if you get caught? I won't let you risk you–"

"My what?" Sirius cuts him off. "My 'freedom'? This false idea of hope all of you try to encourage in me? What happens if I get captured, and die? We'll come back before the night's over. It's not a death wish."

"Harry–"

"Harry has all of you." But Sirius' eyes soften at the mention of the boy, who for all his youth has never had the pleasure of an untroubled boyhood as he and Remus have had.

For me, Remus wants to say. What will I do if you're taken again? The thought occurs to him so suddenly he could not prevent it–it is a possibility he has not allowed himself the consideration of. He tried to grow stronger, self-reliant so he would never again wail beneath the full moon at the loss of one he had loved beyond sense. So no matter what happened, he had security, protection.

Now that Sirius is back, he has taken that all away, just with a pleading glance from haunted grey eyes.

"I'll be careful," Sirius promises, knowing full well that he is wearing at Remus' resolve. Lupin never could deny anything from Sirius. "I want to take you out of here. I want to take us both away somewhere. Just for a little while."

Lupin follows Sirius down winding staircases and into the tiny backyard where his flying motor bike is resting against a brick wall. Sirius climbs onto it first, straddling the seat with the greatest ease. Lupin imitates him more hesitantly, swinging one leg over the other side and placing reluctant hands on Sirius' waist. Even this slight contact raises gooseflesh on his tingling skin. Using the key, Sirius starts the engine. There is a low, growling sound from below and Lupin tightens his hold on Sirius' middle.

"Easy," Sirius laughs softly as he guns the engine. The motorbike rumbles along the dark street outside, lit only by a dim streetlight, and then once they roll down a deserted alley, Sirius pulls a bar and the bike lifts with some strain up into the night air, gaining altitude until they are flying above even the tallest buildings in London.

They fly over vast expanses of land. The city is laid out so neatly below them in houses, apartments, buildings, streets. The lights blur like shooting stars. As they soar, Lupin slowly eases his arms off of Sirius and flings them out. As if his outstretched arms lift the motor bike, keep it in the air. Sirius gives a reckless laugh, like he used to when they were young, sneaking out of the school or watching Snape dangle upside down in front of the girls' lavatory, where they would leave him hanging for quite some time. Slowly, almost as if it is unnatural, Lupin lets a thrilled smile stretch across his face.

In that moment, they are almost two youthful boys again, light-hearted and reckless and bursting with passion and impulses. They were innocent once, not burdened with adult troubles, not scarred. Lithe, agile frames; minds on fun and enjoyment; trusting hearts. Once they both were young.

Now they are older, but even more ancient in their hearts. They bear wrinkles and grey hairs that once only existed in thoughts of the future.

Buried under care-worn minds and wounded hearts, the two boys are breaking free, remembering days when they held each other with no fear of the future in the broad daylight, when love and freedom were one and the same, when there was laughter floating on the breeze, catching smiles, a kiss shared like a wild boundless secret.

They will never be two boys loving freely, never again. They will never break from the bounds of the city, the world. The self-created prisons in their minds. Instead, when they return safely to No. 12 Grimmauld Place, they will climb back into bed, together, but apart on separate sides. The barrier between them is boundless as ever, hopelessly dividing them.

Sirius lies awake for hours until the sun begins to climb over rooftops and sparkle on the puddles. As daybreak comes, he knows, Lupin will leave him once more, to attend to other business and concerns. They are too tied down to reality. He wishes for weightless regions of sky where he can soar with Remus, untroubled, the winds peeling away their exteriors and cares until they are young and new again. Most of all, he wishes for the sea, for the perpetual billowing of waves, to hold him and Remus up above the ocean floor. But their age is a ball chained to their feet, and so they sink.

He waits for dawn, mournful and melancholy, and watches the steady rise and fall of Remus' chest as he breathes, in and out, constant like the waves. Sirius falls asleep as the sun rises in the east. When he wakes, Remus is gone.

.fin.