Author's Note: Desultory, plot-less, and slightly melancholy—just the way I like it.

Smoke and Moonlight

Two men meet in a dark alley split by a slash of moonlight. The end of the taller man's cigarette blazes as he inhales, stealing the stark orange of the streetlamp across the rutted road. A truck rumbles by, wreathed in gasoline fumes, and the sound of its weight grinding on the pavement is deafening in the silence. The swathe of moonlight lies between them, and the dimness is broken where the yellow lamp by the nearest window unearths sparks of gold in the smaller man's hair.

"Your place or mine?" he asks.

"Yours," the other man responds immediately. Expanses of dark hair shift as he tosses his head and raises a hand to the cigarette, taking another long drag. He blows out smoke the same color as his eyes. "Mine is fucking depressing."

It is always Remus's place, and he doubts that that will ever change. He made a halfhearted attempt at cleaning up earlier, knowing that this would happen. Knowing that even now Sirius feels uneasy desecrating his parents' home in one more way. It used to seem defiant, but now it just reeks of petulance.

Sirius pitches the cigarette to the cement and stamps it out, crushing his heel against it more vindictively than is entirely necessary. "I fucking hate cigarettes," he announces.

Remus puts his hands in his pockets. "They why do you smoke them?" he inquires.

Sirius looks at him, but Remus is gazing absently up at the waning moon, a little smile playing across his face so subtly as to seem like an illusion among the shadows. Sirius wants to say For the same reason I come to you, but he thinks that would be cruel.

He is more merciful than most people realize.

He kicks at a piece of gravel, and it skitters off, clanging dully against a trashcan. "Let's go," he says.

Remus tosses his jacket down on the coffee table, and news magazines crinkle feebly in protest. It's all bad news anyway.

"Go brush your teeth," he orders.

Sirius scowls at him. "Why?"

"Because I'm not going to kiss you right after you've been smoking," Remus answers placidly.

Sirius wants to say I didn't come here for you to kiss me, but instead he makes a show of sighing, and then he goes.

Remus has found a loose thread at the hem of the sheet, and he twirls it around his finger, releases it, and twists it again. Sirius lies silently, his hands folded on his chest.

"This isn't one of your fairy tales, you know," he remarks.

Remus knows. He thinks he has known for a long time. They do this for the same reason they used to write stupid letters to each other over the summer: to prove that there's someone else out there.

Remus never expected the next reply. Oh, he hoped for it, to be sure; but he never expected it. He didn't think he was entitled to it. He hadn't earned it. And that made its arrival all the sweeter.

Yes, Remus knows that this is far from a fairy tale. He knows that it is empty. He knows that it is a need, a necessity, and not a lead-in to some flower-strewn felicity where no one demands a fairy godmother because everything works out just about okay on its own.

He knows that. But he still dreams sometimes. He can't help it.

Sirius watches out of the corner of his eye as Remus slips out of the bed and then proceeds to perform an elegant hop-skip-stumble maneuver to get into his pants. Sirius smirks. Been there; done that.

Scars shine on Remus's back, like wax in relief. His shoulder-blades look fragile, brittle, breakable, and his ribs show. The near-luminescence of the pallor of his skin in the moonlight is unsettling.

"Will you get me my cigarettes?" Sirius asks. The sheet lies cool and smooth and submissive beneath his hands, the same white as the scars.

"No," Remus replies calmly, shrugging on his shirt, covering the evidence, deft fingers darting about the buttons.

"Bastard," Sirius decides, hating the resignation he hears in his own voice. "Why not?"

"Because I don't want you smoking in my bed."

"What the hell difference does it make?"

"The ventilation in this room is extremely poor." Remus moves to the nearest window, a plain, square construction with a white wooden sill. He raises the pane, ignoring the frame's indignant squeals, and pokes his head out into the night.

Sirius wishes he had something to throw. "What kind of shit-reason is that?"

"Oh, grow up," Remus scoffs. He returns to the bed, looking as though he has wandered here by accident, and flops down again. His silken hair whispers as he lays his head on Sirius's shoulder. "We can go to the roof if you want," he offers. "You can smoke there."

Sirius does a great deal of grumbling. Remus would be slightly disappointed if he didn't. In the end, they trek up the stairs and emerge onto the roof, where odd shapes dwell, the foreign, geometric landscape silhouetted against the city. He sits down against what might be a turbine, given the slightly disturbing metallic crashing noises that emanate from its interior and the whirring sound beneath them, and looks out over the lights. Their insistent glowing eyes drown the more tentative stars, but when Remus raises his gaze, he can pick out Orion and Gemini, and Mars between them, hazily orange like the embers of Sirius's cigarette.

"You do know that you're going to get lung cancer," Remus notes, watching the smoke curl and dissipate away.

"If I live that long," Sirius shoots back, sourly. He tosses himself down next to Remus, just close enough. He's good at things like that. "Talked to James lately?"

Remus doesn't talk to much of anyone—or not much of anyone besides Sirius—but he sees no cause to proclaim the fact. He settles with, "Not really."

"Me neither," Sirius mumbles around the cigarette. There is a pause, and then he adds, "Fuck."

Remus finds that he kind of agrees.

"Walt Disney was a chain smoker," Remus announces as Sirius flicks his lighter to no avail.

"Evidently I'm destined for great success," Sirius rejoins, the motion of his lips sending the tip of the cigarette dancing away from the flame he has managed to coax from the mechanism. Before he can correct, it goes out. "Shit."

"He died from a tumor in his lung," Remus elaborates.

Sirius convinces the cigarette to take at last. "Pleasant," he says.

Remus watches him tuck the lighter back into his pocket. "Why no wand?"

"I fucking hate my wand," Sirius explains eloquently. "Just like I fucking hate my life. Ergo the lung cancer's going to work out pretty well, all things considered."

"Pessimist" is Remus's only comment.

"Realist," Sirius counters.

"Hmm," Remus says.

Sirius glances at the sky, which has most of Remus's attention, which would indicate that there's something there to look at.

"There's you," Remus declares, pointing at one of the many pricks of light. Sirius attempts to follow the line of his arm to the appropriate one and fails, but he pretends otherwise.

"What a beautiful star," he says. "Surely anyone christened after it must be equally stunning."

"Quite," Remus accedes, a smile tugging at his lips, making the lines that have prematurely assaulted the corners of his eyes look for once like they belong.

Together they watch a few dark wisps of cloud drift across the moon, which is fat and bright but incomplete.

"How long is this going to last?" Remus asks quietly.

Smoke stings Sirius's eyes, and he blinks it away. "The key to chain smoking, Remus," he replies, "is taking it one cigarette at a time."