It is so very lucky that it is Christmas, or nearing it, and that their fellow Marauders have gone off on their separate, equally exciting holiday adventures, Peter to Russia with his aunt, and James to India with his mum and dad. Normally, Sirius would have been terribly jealous and demand to be brought along as their esteemed and only slightly irritating guest, but as it turns out, he finds himself having an equally exciting, terrifying adventure right here in the Gryffindor dormitory. Remus lets out a low, rumbly sound in his sleep, and his foot finds Sirius's foot, and Sirius's brain says, quite sensibly, "annggkkk!" It's not as though Sirius had even meant to fall asleep in Remus's bed of all places, it's just that he was so comfortable and warm, and Remus has exactly the right sort of shoulder for sleeping on.
Unfortunately, Sirius has been awake for a while now. He's not sure when he woke up, or when he opened his eyes, and time isn't helping things. It keeps frolicking across the room at odd angles, passing fast and then slowly, making itself impossible to keep track of. The only constant is the steady, quiet breathing beside him. Sirius sighs.
There was a time when he never lay awake and did not miss one moment of sleep when sleep was what he wanted, but now there are things, and they are loud, and they demand to be thought about. But Sirius Black does not Think About Things, on principle, particularly when said things are of a slobbery, sonnet-evoking, finger-and-toe-tingling nature, and especially not at night. In bed. With someone else. Except that these Things rear their noisy, thinkable little heads at the most inopportune moments.
There had been nymphs, in the dream he'd been having—no, not having, enjoying. Lovely, dancing, leaf covered (or half-covered) little nymphs that wanted nothing more than to cater to his every whim. His every whim. They danced and frolicked and sparkled. They glowed. Glew? Sirius fumbles about his brain for a moment, summoning the voice of his thin, Latvian tutor who apparently did not spend enough time on verb tenses when Sirius was a child. Glowed, he decides, not that it matters. They were banished the moment Remus showed up, never to glow again. Sirius sighs again, louder.
It's incredibly annoying, being dream-angry. It's not Remus's fault. Real-Remus had nothing to do with it, as evidenced by his undisturbed, unThinking breathing, but Sirius still irrationally resents him. This is because, simply, real-Remus inspired dream-Remus, and dream-Remus made the pretty little nymphs go away. Just as things were beginning to get interesting and foliage was being shed, Remus's face had appeared, with furrowed brow and twisted mouth. Then Remus's body had shown up, because even Sirius's subconscious apparently feels that Remus's face is just fine, but not nearly so fun without the rest of him. And Remus had looked so concerned that the nymphs said they would be going because it looked like the two of them needed some time alone.
And then, horror of horrors, no one took off their clothes. Sirius grumbles a little, quietly. In his own bloody dream, everything had stayed completely family friendly. It's sick, that's what it is. Though they hadn't had to talk, fortunately, because Sirius already knew what Remus, be he dream or be he real, was going to say. And not just because it was all happening in Sirius's own head, giving him the godlike power to make Remus say things like "Oh Sirius, you are handsome as you are mighty, ravish me here, on this bed of marshmallows and other tasty things" (which he does, often, much to real-Remus's dismay. Because real-Remus somehow just knows.) He knows what dream-Remus is going to say, because he's been waiting weeks to hear real-Remus say it.
What are we doing? Sirius imagines what it will sound like when Remus says it, the way it will start of quietly, unassuming, and gain in volume and confidence by the time he gets to the final syllable. Sirius can also imagine the cold heat that will creep over him when this conversation finally takes place.
Except that it hasn't. Remus hasn't said one girlish, besotted thing since Sirius went completely insane and snogged the daylights out of him in a filthy bathroom and muttered something bizarre about cake as a metaphor. It's unnerving. It's so unnerving that Sirius wishes they would have it out already just to be done with the suspense.
Remus shifts in his sleep and curls his hand against the center of Sirius's chest. He breathes on, slow and deep, with his mouth extremely close to Sirius's shoulder. The foggy heat of Remus's breath leaves Sirius's skin feeling warm and damp, but he can't bring himself to care.
Dream-Remus is a prick, anyhow. Dream-Remus doesn't move his lips in his sleep, and he isn't warm and soft in exactly the right places, and long and lean everyplace else. Dream-Remus, unlike his waking counterpart, does not make Sirius feel like there is something in his veins other than blood, like champagne or tiny, excitable jellyfish. Nor does dream-Remus make Sirius feel like such a pathetic teenager, and all that this entails, at the most inopportune and inappropriate times, or at least when dream-Remus does, he follows through. Not that Sirius is complaining. Much. But just because they're in the middle of the Great Hall doesn't make Remus's hands any less nimble looking, nor does it make his lips look any less like something Sirius would like to bite, so it doesn't seem fair that Sirius should have to suffer (sometimes for hours at a time) while Remus is completely oblivious with his "stop it, Sirius" and his "you're making a scene," or, worst of all, his "wait till we get upstairs…" which only compounds the problem, as though the mere possibility weren't maddening enough.
"Whrrryou awake?" A fuzzy, sleep-laden voice murmurs. The sound vibrates against Sirius's chest, tingly and soft.
"How do you know I'm awake?"
There is a long pause, then Remus props himself on his elbow and stares down at Sirius in the dark. "Because you're talking," he says, with great effort. The fog of sleep is almost visible around him, a soft-focus halo.
"Well now, aren't you on top of things," Sirius teases. He likes this Remus, half-asleep and befuddled. "But I'm only talking because you talked to me first."
Remus scrunches his whole face amusingly and opens his eyes again, looking slightly more alert. "Because you weren't breathing like you were asleep, and I'm too bloody clever, remember?"
Sirius wonders momentarily about the implications of Remus knowing how he breathes when he's asleep, but promptly dismisses it because of the floaty way it makes his extremities feel.
"So why are you? Awake?"
"Because. I could not sleep. I was... Thinking," Sirius forces himself to say.
Remus squints down at him. He looks like he's concentrating very hard on staying vertical and not unconscious. "You were what now?"
Sirius frowns. "I was Thinking, Moony, alright? What's itta you?"
"Nothing, of course," he says, and raises an eyebrow. "S'just that you don't think unless it's about how to get us expelled, and if you've taken to thinking about that at night I don't know what you're going to do during lessons. My god man, you might accidentally learn something. Careful, there."
Sirius glares, but it is half-hearted. Remus lays his head on Sirius's shoulder and looks up at him, his eyes like large saucers of coffee. He wonders if Remus can hear his heartbeat. Sirius takes a deep breath. There are moments meant for calculated speeches, carefully planned soliloquies with anachronistic words like "thou" and "thee," and then there are moments meant for filling one's lungs with air and pressing that air out in the shape of whatever needs to be expressed, and for hoping against hope the air forms words and phrases and convincing arguments, and not inarticulate noises.
"Remus, I was thinking about you. Not in the pleasant way, you know, the way I like, the way you say you don't appreciate but I know you secretly relish—don't argue, I know things—but in that way that I think about lessons. Or the future. A much less pleasant way, am I making sense?"
Remus goes very still. He'd been rubbing his thumb against the bony edge of Sirius's ribcage, which Sirius didn't notice until he stopped.
"You think about me like you think about your homework?" He says in a flat voice.
"Yeah, well, it's irritating, you know? Because I don't want to think about you like that. I want to think about you like ho ho ho and with a wink and a nudge, but I can't, because, because it's this: your face in my head looks all frustrated and it makes all the pleasant, winking thoughts and the lovely little nymphs flee, and I'm left with that feeling that you get in your stomach when you haven't been practicing your wandwork and McGonagoggles is staring at you with that stare. You know the one. Well, perhaps you don't, you always do your wandwork, but you know what I mean, yeah?"
"Like the face Slughorn makes when I've just melted my second cauldron of the day and turned some unsuspecting Hufflepuff's foot into a radish?"
"Yeah! It's like that. It's just, it is, it's like that."
Remus exhales loudly and rolls onto his back. Their shoulders, broadened with encroaching adulthood and slack with exhaustion, still touch, cannot help but touch on the narrow bed, but Sirius gets the distinct feeling that Remus is trying to shrink himself away.
"Yes. I see," Remus says quietly.
Sirius lifts his head to look at him. "No, no I don't think you see."
"Well, it is very dark in here," Remus spits sarcastically.
"Shut, just, no, you don't." Sirius bites his lip very hard. Damn Remus and his wanting to talk about Things but not wanting to talk about wanting to talk about them. Something about this thought strikes Sirius as wrong and possibly the root of all his confusion and upsetting Thinking, but he brushes it aside. Now is not a time for thinking. Now is a time for action.
He kisses Remus, sideways.
He stops thinking for a moment.
"That! That is how I want to think about you. Or not think about you. That!" Sirius whispers triumphantly.
"You want to think about me with my nose in your cheek and with, with, with morning breath?"
"Yes! And I want to think about you with your nose and your breath and your hair and your hands and that stupid way your mouth goes crooked when you're staring at me like Sirius, You Are Mad."
"I do not."
"You're doing it now. And I want to think about you anyway! I want to think about you a lot of the time, actually, in a lot of ways. But not like lessons."
Remus rubs the bridge of his nose delicately. "Alright. Then what will make me less analogous to human homework?"
Sirius takes a deep breath. He takes another. He takes another and realizes that if he keeps stalling he will hyperventilate and die and never have to have this conversation, but that will leave Remus in bed with a corpse, which doesn't seem sporting.
"I think we should just fucking talk about this thing. The thing that we're doing."
"No—The thing that we are. The us thing. The you and me—The thing, Moony, the thing!"
"Oh. That. Yes, well I—"
"And I know you want to talk about it, Remus. You do, because you always want to talk about things and I, I don't, really, except that knowing it's bothering you is bothering me, which isn't fair to me, is it?"
"So let's. Let's, you know, talk. About it. It, Remus."
"Yes, you keep saying that, but I don't know what there is to say, exactly. We, we are us. And, I don't know, we kiss, apparently, and do things that are not kissing but are similar in nature. What is there to say?"
Sirius frowns. He hadn't been expecting this. Suddenly he starts to think that perhaps he wants the talking to occur more than Remus, and he doesn't like this idea one bit, but it insists on feeling truer every second.
"I don't know. But can we just... Well, I think, I think this. I think that I think about you so pleasantly and unpleasantly because my brain is all wrong. And I want to know what you're thinking, which is stupid, I know, but it is what it is. Oh gods."
Remus makes a little noise in his throat, like wet laughter being suffocated. Sirius looks at him. Remus chuckles again, and this time the sound makes it halfway out of his mouth before being repressed. Finally he lets out a low, rumbling laugh that builds and spills out all over the place.
"What? What is wrong with you? I am being pathetic and, Christ, metaphorical, and you are laughing! What is the matter with you?" Sirius shrieks, a little girlishly.
"No, Padfoot, I'm sorry. It's just, I've been working so bloody hard to not talk and now you're like a verbal geyser and I'm, I think about things, Sirius. I do. But I guess I decided I'd rather keep, you know, the kissing and similar things, with you, than talk about it and bugger it all up."
Sirius thinks about this for a moment. He thinks about Remus's frowny dream-face, and about the poor displaced nymphs who longed to amuse him in any number of unspeakable ways, and he thinks about the place where their shoulders touch, though he doesn't know why. And then he says, "No, I won't let it. This is not bugger-up-able. This is—it's just us, isn't it? Why is this so hard?" He makes a low, crackly sound in the back of his throat that he hopes expresses the deep and growing frustration in his chest.
"Because I think we're too worried about it?" Remus asks, though it isn't even a question. Not really. It's true, and as soon as it is out there, in words, Sirius realizes how obvious it was all along.
Because a Remus is a worrying thing to Sirius. James he doesn't worry about. He knows that James is and will always be his best mate, because he's James and he's unflappable. But something about Remus, the grown-up words and the skinny boy-wrists and ankles, the way his smile is always tinged with something Sirius doesn't yet understand, the vast weight that settles in the color of his irises and in the set of his jaw when he thinks no one is looking, makes Sirius worry. A miasmic sort of worry that is impossible to touch or hold or quiet. And it occurs to him that it has been this way for as long as he can remember.
When they were First Years, Sirius was still the Black heir and every bit as carefree and ridiculous as one might expect. Remus was a knobby little thing, with careworn sweaters and that wizened grin. Sirius loved making Remus grin, because he was eleven and he loved making anyone grin, but Remus especially. But he worried, too, in a way that eleven-year-olds never ever worry. Remus would disappear nights and reappear like a drowned rat, and Sirius cannot count the hours he spent in the Hospital Wing, with chocolates and jokes or with fake illnesses when Remus had to stay the night. Because that's what mates did, but also because he worried about little Remus adrift in a sea of sterile hospital sheets and strange smelling salves. He couldn't help it.
As they've grown up, new and even more alarming worry has blossomed, without encouragement. Sirius, who is at home everywhere with everyone, feels like his body is all at once too large and too small when Remus is around. He feels like a little boy, but with an unchildlike heat in his cheeks. He worries he will break Remus, so that he shatters at the scars into dozens of geometric pieces that Sirius will never be able to reassemble. And all of this, all these awkward, terrible, wonderful feelings in his stomach worry Sirius.
"I'm not going to break you," Sirius says, for his own benefit. The words leave his body without any regard at all for his brain, but it's alright. He knows Remus will understand.
Remus slides his eyes to Sirius's face and says, quietly, "I know. Me either."
And Sirius kisses him again, less sideways this time, because he rolls over onto Remus's long, lean body with the soft spots in all the right places and the warmth that makes Sirius's cheeks pink. Remus's hands race along Sirius's back, touching and skimming, fingers digging hard into Sirius's shoulder. His mouth is warm and dark, and Sirius runs his teeth along Remus's lower lip making Remus shiver and stutter something like "ahhh." This is not the heated, ambitious kissing of earlier, with ends and means and goals. It is simpler, more alarming. It is kissing because it drives the thought right out of Sirius's very thinking, throbbing brain. It is kissing because it quiets the worry that Sirius feels with his whole self, every time Remus is in the same room, let alone bed. It is kissing because not touching Remus makes Sirius feel like he's missing something exciting. He wants to do it every second of every day until he forgets how to think, but he harbors the secret belief that Remus is going to notice, sooner rather than later, that Sirius is an idiot and a teenager and not worthy of being pasted to Remus's face. Which is why Sirius is determined to get in as much face-bonding as possible before Remus wises up.
Their mouths move against each other like puzzle pieces, with sharp edges and complicated shapes. They never quite fit, but they can't quite come apart either. Remus sighs. Sirius thinks it's lovely. The heavy fog of sleep seeps into their senses, dark and warm, like wine in their limbs. When he pulls back, Remus smiles up at him, hair more askew than normal, eyes heavy-lidded and unfocused.
"I worry, you know?" Sirius says quietly, shifting the bulk of his weight back to his side of the narrow bed. He leaves his right arm and leg across Remus's body, curling into his side like a child.
"I do, too," Remus whispers, and smiles. Sirius suddenly worries that the strange, electric feeling in his stomach might not be worry after all, but something infinitely more alarming. But he shuts his eyes and listens as Remus's breathing evens out, and decides that worry is such a very small price to pay.