Sirius and Remus don't talk about it. In the long list of things they don't talk about, this is number one. The very first. And it's going to be like that forever, even after they've both died and somehow stare at eachother over Harry's doomed head.
It's something they never stop doing.
every time we speak
you are spitting in my mouth
if I don't take you somewhere else
i'm gonna pull my teeth right out
"I've been trying to tell you that I love you."
Remus blinks up at him stupidly, as if he didn't hear - couldn't, though Sirius practically said it in his ear, & it was loud enough that they're both afraid James might've heard over the hill. Remus shivers a little (even though it isn't cold) and his grey eyes look into Sirius and out the other side of him until Sirius feels the little curve on his mouth dip down and then downer, till he's frowning and he can feel frustrated tears in his eyes. Too emotional. It fits under all the curses and complaints till no one can see.
He rolls away from Remus so that they don't touch anymore.
"Sirius, I..." Remus is saying. "Wait, I..."
But then they hear Benjy yelling Black, Black as he runs over the grass, and if Sirius was turning to look at Lupin he turns away again now, sharply, as if it were expressly forbidden him to look anywhere near at all.
And there was that time before.
They don't talk about this either.
It's before the second time Sirius tries to say something, and after the first - at least a month after. Long enough that he's gotten over Marlene, can watch her with Benjy and feel nothing at all, and long enough that Remus doesn't think he has to say anything about the girl, about any girl. He used to think he had to approve of them. He didn't have to. Sirius barely noticed when the girl changed, so there wasn't anything to approve of.
He lies on his bed across from Remus. Remus is there, small and thin; his book of charms looks bigger than he is, and the veins stick out blue in his long hands.
They've been talking. Sometimes Sirius doesn't know what they're saying - can't think back that far. Everything out of his mouth is true, so he isn't lying, and Remus gets what he should; but Sirius is never really thinking, can never really think properly when Lupin is there. At least not when they're seventeen - it's too fucking hard. Everything is too strange. He looks at Lupin and he feels stupid and he feels reckless, more reckless and more stupid than ever. The kind of reckless and stupid he can't share with James, can't use to make Regulus uncomfortable, can't separate himself from when he needs money from mum. It's always a part of Sirius, and then Lupin is lying there on his bed and they're talking and it's too much, so Sirius says things like I don't like you and sometimes you're worse than Peter. Things he doesn't mean. That aren't true.
And he looks at Lupin, he looks at Lupin so much that Lupin looks back with that queer heat in his eyes and it just makes Sirius more - more this, more that, more reckless and more stupid and more more more everything.
They just keep looking. So there's more than more, and then more after that.
"How do you want to die, Remus?" Sirius asks, when he remembers what's already been said.
Stupid fucking things. Fucking things for the sake of things. Just stupid.
And Remus answers quickly, looking back at the book, his lips thin and carefully wet. "Surprised," he says. So there's more than more, and more images in Sirius' head than there used to be.
And then Sirius - he's reckless - he smiles. "I could oblige."
Like talking to a girl, and that's stupid, and that's also reckless, and more, and ten thousand times more. Sirius is warm inside, melting, and he needs a cigarette or some of James' whiskey; that's why his eyes can leave Lupin's, just for a second. Just one second to look at where that whiskey hides in the big trunk at the edge of Potter's bed. It's amber and beautiful and not allowed.
"Why?" he asks, thinking about it.
"For the look on my face," Remus informs him, and he doesn't mean it - doesn't - but he sounds like he sounds when he's trying to convince someone he's right. "I'm sure you'd find it priceless."
Sirius hears himself say, "All right. If I don't, you owe me"
He thinks of anything, anything to place at the end of the sentence, and then Remus is laughing but Sirius doesn't care. Stupid things. Reckless things. Maybe it's good that no one can predict him, not even the three people that know him best; later it damns him, but for now it makes him entertaining, and nobody forgets Sirius. He makes sure they can't forget him. He does things like shame them, laugh at them. He kisses them.
He kisses Remus. It's a thing they don't talk about. Never.
He comes across the little space between their beds and he tries to compare Remus to whiskey, or even to ice mice, but it's not like that. Remus tastes like everything. Their lips brush together so firm and it's like they both thought it would happen, but Remus makes a little noise like wh or ff and Sirius rumbles down deep in his throat and for a moment someone's mouth opens and their tongues touch wetly like little corners, a little pocket of some strong draught that means Sirius is drunk on this for the next seven hours. Remus touches him softly with one finger, right on his throat. Like he's feeling for something there. Sirius touches him back with his hands so strong, arms and the little shivery ribs below Lupin's heart and then the sides of his face and they keep kissing and tasting & it ruins Sirius' life. It ruins his life forever.
They just don't talk about it.
Sirius pulls away, and he can feel that little bit of Remus on his mouth, can taste that taste all over his tongue. He doesn't come to dinner and he doesn't say anything about it until it's too late, and Remus doesn't even ask why he did it or if he'll do it again. It's just something that happened and maybe happens again, but that night and the next night and for many nights after Sirius isn't sure that it will. Remus looks like he didn't change - he's the same - but Sirius is never the same Sirius again after that.
every time we meet
you are shrieking in my ear
if I don't take you somewhere else
you're gonna make this insincere
There's evidence he's not the same. If people thought about it, they could look, but Sirius doesn't think about it & there's no clue that anyone else should, so nobody does. James doesn't. Peter doesn't. If Remus does, he says nothing - he doesn't care about it. Remus is Remus. Sirius hates it. Sirius loves it. Some days he listens to Lupin go on and on and he agrees and they make plans together, do research together, as if they are almost the same. But they aren't.
Sirius is too wild. He goes fully wild after seventeen. Eighteen and nineteen he has to be kept an eye on - he can only do what he's told, specifically avoid what he's told to avoid, and everything else is fair game. He likes to be dangerous. A rabid dog. Dangerous Sirius can't be bothered by mum, or Regulus, or all the stupid fucking things in his life that don't fit right. A dangerous Sirius will destroy all of that, and destroy everything, & burn Remus with cigarettes when he can't be quiet.
That only happens once. And yeah - well yeah, they don't talk about it.
Why would they?
"Black, you bastard," says James afterward, and his voice is half laughing & half surprised, as if it didn't really happen - as if someone had only told him about it.
Remus is cursing, breathing out sharply between his teeth. There's a little red mark there now - little raw red circle on his neck, and Sirius knows why he burned him there. Why it had to be there.
Just thinking of so many other marks that could've been placed, could've sunk right into where Remus touches his fingers now. Marks that could've been his - marks saying Sirius - and all the ways he might have put them there. He's looking at Remus smiling because it makes him happy to think like that - makes him happy to think about teeth and love bites and stupid reckless stupid more - and Remus sees him smiling. His grey eyes are so round, so shocked, full of something Sirius doesn't know, & he doesn't actually care if he never finds out what it is.
"You know," he tells Remus quietly, "that mark will stay on you forever."
He makes sure it does.
Sirius has to go on vacation once to try and not think about it.
Lots to not think about. It's hard. Well - no.
Girls & things.
He picks them up and he can't tell one from the other.
That's what he's doing when he tells James and Remus and Peter he's in Greece. Just all alone, where his mum and dad and brother used to live, but they don't during the summer. He brings girls back there and he smokes so much he always smells like ash, smells bitter and he smells crude, and Remus would've hated it. He drinks so much his spit makes him drunk.
Just to try and not think about it.
To say nothing at all.
It's easier once he's tried twice. He tries twice. I love you.
I love you, Remus.
I hate you.
"I hate you," mouths Sirius, when Remus brings Caroline into the flat. The words are so easy. They fit right into the rim of the glass when he puts it to his lips. Then he takes a big sip, and the liquid burns so hard that he forgets just for a second until the glass is back down and there she is again. Her fat blonde head & her stupid pink lips. She's holding Remus by the arm and she's smaller than Remus, but she's so big, she's so fucking large. Sirius can't see anything but Caroline when she walks across the room in her pathetic outfit.
James says something to Sirius about being a drunk and Sirius just laughs really loud, he laughs really loud, and then Remus furrows his brow at him and tries to introduce Caroline again but Sirius can't stop laughing. He just drinks more instead. Caroline tries to say hello when James pours her something too, but Sirius pretends he can't hear her. Maybe he's got too much hair now. He needs to cut it. Nothing anyone says gets through to him except if it's got to do with work. If it's got to do with Remus. Or Lily - Sirius loves Lily, just like a sister. He never had one before so it's sort of special, isn't it.
Lily likes Caroline.
Everyone thinks she's wonderful. About time Remus has a girlfriend.
But Sirius wants to throw his tumbler at her and knock her down on the floor and growl at her with his teeth shining in the yellow kitchen light. He would do that, but he's better at not being an animal than Remus. Somehow. He's just a different kind of dog when he's walking on two legs.
You know I'm angry, he thinks at Lupin. Right between Lupin's eyes. You know I want her to leave, and I want to fucking talk to you.
But that's not a thing that they do.
Not now, not tomorrow, not a week from now, and definitely not in a year. It's one year until everything goes wrong, and when Sirius is sitting in his cell he finally accepts that it's true - they'll never say a word about anything.
everyone I've loved
kept me tangled in my heart
you'll tie that knot a bit too loose
not enough to tease apart
He takes Remus on the back of his motorcycle and he can even smell Remus from here, with the wind in his nose and his eyes and in his ears so he can't hear anything, his tears are all dry. He can smell Remus from ten thousand miles away like a bloodhound dog. One night they almost lose him when Malfoy surprises them in Knockturn Alley, but Sirius knows he's there and he goes after Lupin, always after Lupin, reckless and stupid and more and more as every day passes.
More more more fucking more.
Remus puts his arms tight around Sirius - this is the only time he does. So Sirius goes fast, really fast, so fast that Remus has to hold tigher or he might really die, & that's all right because it's how Sirius always feels so Remus better feel it too just once. Just three or four times or however many fucking rides they take. Remus gets so scared he just puts his face right there between Sirius' shoulderblades and Sirius feels it right on his spine, like a kiss or someone's tongue right on the skin, and he just thinks about it forever whenever he sees Lupin after that. At breakfast or when they play cards or when James says that name: Remus. What's Remus up to? Where's Remus gone to? Sirius just feels his arms, feels the touch of him, & it makes him so angry he needs to duel someone. Needs to destroy something. He just needs to put the Order back in things.
That's what Remus calls it: all the work, all the sacrifice.
When Benjy dies it's just putting the Order back in.
Done. All the pieces of Benjy fucking put the Order straight into place. After that happens Sirius can't stop thinking about it, can't stop picturing it, and one night he just says to Remus: Come for a ride with me.
The night before James dies, he and Remus stay up late. Something in the air tells them they shouldn't be sleeping - like the something that lets them know today isn't forever, maybe some canine sense of how to live, how to process eachother, everybody. Life. Dogs don't know about tomorrow. They remember yesterday but it's not a pattern, not something they know how to predict - except for the strange feeling they get when things are coming, when something's wrong. That's how Sirius knows to tell Remus: don't go to bed. That's how Remus knows he's supposed to listen. He sits across from Sirius at the little card table, so fucking tired, and the hollows under his eyes are still there when he's thirty six.
Sirius looks at him. Lupin looks back at Sirius. They share a plate of spaghetti carbonara. Sirius lights a cigarette and he doesn't care if Remus says anything about it, which he doesn't, doesn't say a word about anything. Not even to ask the name of whoever is sleeping on Sirius' couch. There's a point where Remus just doesn't want to know, and by the time it's this night - this night, twenty four hours before James dies - they are always at that point. Which means they don't talk about it, about all the things they really ought to talk about, & all the things that run through Sirius' head like violent demon fucking feet. It's like someone is always knocking at the door in his brain. Let me in you fucking stupid fucking reckless fuck.
Reckless enough to offer Lupin the cigarette.
"No," says Remus.
"Let me recite a poem for you instead," says Remus.
Sirius just gapes at him and he's too tired to say something about it. He nods with no words and leans forward to put his head in his hands. All the smoke drifts up lazy & after a moment he looks, he watches it curl against the ceiling. He tries not to think about what's true, just how it is - just what it's actually like.
He misses the whole first half of the poem because of those fucking thoughts. Later he tries to make up what it could've been, but all he can picture is Remus laughing and Remus sleeping and Remus really close, always too close when they sleep in fields and borrowed floors and alleyways. Remus Remus Remus every year in Azkaban. And all those stupid things he wanted to talk about when they had time to talk about anything - everything but what was real, so that in the end nothing was real but the things they had to do.
Never for themselves in the end. Never really. But okay.
"Death could drop from the dark," Remus is mumbling, "as easily as song - but song only dropped, like a blind man's..."
He's quiet for a minute. Sirius hears all those seconds, counts them against Lupin's heartbeat - odd how he knows when it speeds, when it slows. And he knows Lupin is doing the same. The quiet things. The ridiculous things that they do because they know how to do them.
"Like a blind man's?" Sirius prompts, and his eyes come back to Remus - he'll always come back - fucking stupid just to feel that sick drop in his belly when they meet and they watch eachother and know what the other is thinking. Just a habit now. Like whiskey or how he can't quit nicotine or adrenaline or fighting.
"Like a blind man's dreams on the sand by dangerous tides, like a..."
Remus pauses, and he sounds so sad. Something caught in the back of his throat. Sirius narrows his eyes until Remus starts again & looks away so he can concentrate, so those words will come back to him, and it doesn't fucking matter what he says anyway. It's too late for it.
"Like a girl's dark hair for she dreams no ruin lies there, or her kisses..." Remus pauses again, and now he reaches for the cigarette, forward just so his fingers will come near Sirius' mouth and can hang there a moment. "Her kisses where a serpent hides."
Sirius knows because he's done that too, with Remus' stupid lollipops and sweets. He'll put his finger right between those lips and fish out the lemon drop, the melting chocolate piece. Couldn't do it with his own mouth, dreams of doing it with his own mouth, impossible reckless stupid thoughts of getting so near those lips. Not enough. Remus takes the cigarette and he takes forever to do it because he's feeling Sirius breathe against the tip of his finger.
He just holds the cigarette. He puts it in his mouth but he doesn't breathe in.
"Only men should smoke anyway," Sirius says.
And Remus laughs around the place where their lips would've met.
He doesn't actually have to tell him the other thing. Anyway.
Sirius moves abruptly like he'll throw the table, and Remus drops the cigarette and holds up his hands to say wait. No. No.
"What are you doing?" he asks calmly.
"I don't know," says Sirius, and he stands. Stomps the cigarette into the kitchen floor where it sparks and it leaves a black mark & that's fine. He threatens Remus by stepping forward and for a second he really thinks he might, they might do it again, he might even say it one more time - but their fingers just brush as Remus drops his arms and Sirius lifts his and then they both breathe out because of the feeling that something is missing & Sirius curses and then he shoves Remus and he presses up against Remus chest to chest and hip to hip and something to something and everything and he runs out of the room. He runs out but he can still feel Remus there. Always.
It might be true you shouldn't get what you want every time. It'll just kill you. It'll just eat you alive & then you won't save anyone's life.
One night they turn back into themselves. James is panting, spent, lying in the dark in the grass by the side of an Irish road; Sirius watches his eyes close and his chest slow until he's dreaming, & Peter is there rat-shaped against the crook of his arm like a pet.
He feels his head bursting open and he's touching his head, touching the gash there with his human fingers & hissing & glaring at Remus through the blood in his eyes. "God damn it," he mutters, and he needs stitches, and it's fitting because there's so much of him that just looks like this - bruised & defective & just not the same, never the same anymore because of Lupin.
"This fucking hurts," he mutters.
Remus is sitting there so small. Always looks so small at the end of a night like this, when his skin comes back soft and white & his face loses its edge, the circle of fangs. Always looks like what he is. Couldn't hurt anyone except when asked, when driven to, and sometimes it's instinct and sometimes it's just what he has to do.
"I'm sorry," Remus tells Sirius. Sirius feels his thin fingers in his hair, touching him so softly, smoothing the unruly mess from his forehead. He even touches the cut and Sirius doesn't even flinch.
"It wasn't you, stupid," Sirius says instead. There wasn't any doubt. He knows the difference between one part of Remus and the other part of Remus; he has to or when it's hate instead of love it might never turn back. It doesn't always have to hurt. All that hurts now is his head, his skull where it throbs and the red comes out.
He looks at Remus so hard, looks so hard and harder and recklessly open, and he dares Remus with his eyes to try and show him sorry he really is. Fucking stay sorry.
Remus leans forward and he breathes, & Sirius can smell him, all that warmth hidden up deep in him where it couldn't get out even when it was supposed to. Even when he wants it to. Dangerous Sirius gets what he wants, but he never gets Remus, not ever, and he's looking in Remus' eyes now and thinking about it, about all those things he would take if he could. Numbered one through a thousand & maybe they can be real if he imagines them enough. Remus breathes out more, and he warms Sirius up with the dream of tasting that breath again. Then all he does is kiss the blood from Sirius' forehead like a fucking nurse. His breath hitches when he pulls away and he's looking down so expectantly, but it's not enough. Never. Never ever enough.
Sirius turns & he spits all the blood out he's been holding on his tongue. He makes sure he gets some on Remus', on his stupid courderoy trousers and the white trainers that are somehow always white, immaculate & perfect as what's inside, all those things he could give Remus if he knew how to offer them. Remus walking on his flawless will. Remus & he stomps all over, marches all over Sirius. Sirius is never the same, it's the one thing that changes him more than anything else.
"You idiot," he says, and Remus doesn't remember it later. "You fucking idiot."
everyone I hold
holds me strangled sweet and small
i'm not a puppy you'll take home
don't bother trying to fix my heart