A/N: Written for rs_games on LiveJournal. Go Team Canon! The prompt was the poem included at the beginning. Mention of frottage. Be warned.

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Ceiling Cracks

The moon hangs low tonight over the city
the colour of a blood orange
a portent of hate,
the same colour as the flames
enveloping a man on his knees,
reaching out to the masses
around him – onlookers
who do not see him,
his person,
his past,
denying him his future in this
city over which the orange moon rises

-- Yuri Nieman "Blood Orange Moon"

"Do you ever wonder if you're real?"

Remus turned his head to look at Sirius across the bed. Sirius was staring fixedly at the ceiling. "Is it 1979 again?" he said. "This sounds like one of the conversations we used to have when we were stoned. Been snorting the Floo Powder, have you?"

There was a twitch in Sirius's cheek that might have been a smile, but he never really smiled anymore. "Do you?"

"Wonder if I'm real?" Remus turned on his side to face Sirius. "Not really. I've never doubted my own existence."

Sirius's breath hitched like he was going to respond, but then he was quiet. Remus thought the philosophical mood might have passed, but then Sirius said, "Sometimes I think the only proof I have of my own existence is that I'm able to wonder if I exist."

"Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. Descartes." Remus reached out to turn Sirius's face toward him, to check his eyes. "Really, did you take something?"

"This isn't our old flat, Moony. I'm hardly growing cannabis in the kitchen cupboard." He pulled Remus's hand away from his cheek and looked back to the ceiling.

"I was thinking more of some dodgy potion the twins might have brewed or something Dung picked up for you..." Remus sighed. "You never used to talk like that sober."

Sirius shrugged. Remus followed his eyes, up to the ceiling which was a network of cracks held together with magic. The house at Grimmauld Place needed more work than a few charms could solve and no one was inclined to put that effort into it, but Remus had a mind to tackle the cracks in the ceiling of Sirius's bedroom.

Although they did have some sentimental value.

"Do you remember the first time we had sex?"

Sirius finally tore his eyes away from the ceiling and looked over at Remus. "I don't ... I don't remember it. It's all sort of hazy now. But I remember when it happened. It was a couple months after we started dating ... seventh year. You wanted to do it right away -- you were nervous and you wanted to get it out of the way."

"And you wanted to wait. Because you thought we shouldn't get it out of the way. You thought we should wait until we meant it." Remus smiled and reached for Sirius's hand. "That wasn't the first time."

"Of course it was."

Remus shook his head. "No. The summer before you went to live with James -- between fourth and fifth year..."

Sirius's brow creased. "We didn't have sex that summer."

"Your parents were in France, remember? And they took Regulus and they thought they were punishing you for ... well, something by leaving you behind. I can't recall just what you'd done to deserve punishment that time..."

"Doxies in Reg's bed," Sirius said softly. "I remember that summer. I was locked in this house for two months and hated almost every moment. We didn't have sex."

"James and ... and Peter and I came over," Remus continued. "You managed to get us into the house for a night while your parents were gone, And we all drank your dad's brandy and James and Pete fell asleep--"

"Passed out, more likely."

Remus smiled. "All right. But we left the two of them downstairs in the drawing room. And we came up here. And we were laughing and ... and doing that sort of roughhousing that fifteen year old boys do. You had me pinned on my back on this bed. And I remember those cracks in the ceiling just over there--" he pointed to the corner "--were just starting to form. I remember that clearly. And ... well, maybe calling it sex is overstating what happened, but..." He turned on his side and looked over at Sirius. "You don't remember?"

"No..." Sirius looked to the corner of the room. He remembered that the cracks in the ceiling had started over there and spread. He remembered that his mother had been furious. She'd blamed him for damaging the plaster, which he had staunchly denied. He took the punishment for the mischief that was his own, but he wouldn't take the blame for some mouldy old house settling.

He didn't remember that night at all.

"Is it because I was drunk? Is that why I can't remember? Did ... did I ever have a memory of that night?"

Remus nodded. "You must have. You told me -- you told me later that what happened that summer let you hope I might be gay... I can't think what else you could have meant by saying something like that -- there wasn't anything else..."

There was a distant look in Sirius's eyes and Remus tightened his grip on Sirius's hand as though that might keep him from drifting away, from falling into the hollow-eyed daze.

"There are gaps now," Sirius said. "There are things..." his voice was quiet, "things I can't remember anymore. Things that seem ... less clear than they should, like they were a dream. Sometimes I reach for them where they ought to be. It's like ... there's a gap. Or a haze. Or nothing. Because maybe it didn't really happen. Maybe I wasn't really there. Maybe I didn't really live that life."

"It really happened, Sirius. Your life really happened. You were there..."

"It's like ... I'm half a person. It makes me wonder if anything that happened was real..." He sighed. "It must have made me happy -- what happened between us that night. It must have made me very happy. The things that made me happy -- those are the things they took from me."

Remus moved close, wrapped his leg around Sirius's body. "I remember. I can tell you just how it happened. I can remind you." He brushed his lips over Sirius's cheek and spoke into his ear. "You pinned me down against this bed. And we slowly stopped laughing. We were drunk, and we didn't know what we were doing, and I could feel you and I thought, oh fuck, that means he can feel me. We didn't bother taking off our clothes, you just pressed our hips together and moved. And because we were drunk and fifteen, it was over just a few seconds later. I'd never done anything like it with anyone before and I didn't know what it meant -- I just knew I wanted to feel that again because it was the most incredible rush of my life."

"I don't remember it," Sirius said, closing his eyes for a moment, reaching back into his memory for something, anything that made it seem real to him. "I don't remember that first time in seventh year except to know that it happened. I don't remember James's wedding, just ... impressions of what happened that day. Shadows."

"I can remember," Remus said. "I can tell you your whole life. I can tell you about our first time after we started dating in seventh year, how I was so nervous I was shaking and you wouldn't do anything but kiss me until I'd calmed down. I can tell you about the wedding -- I'd never seen you smile so wide. But the purest joy I ever saw was the first time you held Harry. I can tell you about that too. He was all pink skin and a tuft of black hair. He opened his eyes and looked at you. And I though we'd never convince you to hand him back to James..."

Sirius shook his head. "It's not the same," he said. "It's not the same as remembering."

"We'll make new memories," Remus said. He ran his hand along Sirius's jaw, where the whiskers looked like they ought to prickle but were always soft. "We'll make happy memories. We can make a new life for you -- for us. We can make a future. It'll be you and me--"

"And Harry," Sirius said.

Remus nodded. "And Harry. We'll have Christmases and sunny afternoons for Padfoot to run about in the back garden and mornings with bacon and eggs for breakfast. They can't deny you that. They can't take your future from you now, Sirius. They can't. I won't let them. We can save this for ourselves."

"That all sounds ... wonderful. But how do I know this is real?" Sirius asked, pushing back Remus's greying hair from his eyes. "How do I know I'm not still trying to reach for something that's not really there anymore?"

Remus rested against Sirius's shoulder and stared up at the cracks in the ceiling. "If it weren't real, none of this would be so difficult. We wouldn't struggle. We wouldn't hurt the way we do."

"Sentio, ergo sum." There was that twitch in Sirius's cheek again, the almost-smile. "I feel, therefore I am. Lupin. But if we're real only because we can feel pain, that makes the assumption that the pain is real..."

Remus stared at Sirius for a long moment before he said, "The pain is real to us."

fin