Remus arrived cold and hurting. He was so tired that he stood staring stupidly at the steps leading up to the front door of Grimmauld Place until the rain seeped under his collar enough that it pooled and ran down his back like icy fingers. Getting up the stairs was such a bother that he didn't know if he'd be able to get the door open. He was glad when the door was yanked open, even though that sent him falling inwards. Sirius caught him and held onto him, doing up the door one-handed with the other arm firmly around Remus' waist.
"Upstairs, bath and bed," Sirius said, speaking slowly and steering Remus like a child.
"It's okay," Remus said, or tried to say. He would be just fine collapsing on the centaur-hair settee in the library - or even better, on the great unidentifiable fur carpet in front of the fire. He was a little disturbed that his words came out garbled and that, during his fantasy about warmth and sleep, Sirius had got him into the bathroom and filled the tub nearly to the brim with steaming water. Ah, well. If he trusted anyone with his sleepwalking self, he supposed it would be Sirius.
Sirius grimaced as he stripped Remus, wadding the dirty, sodden clothes in the sink. When he got to the bandages he said nothing, but his fingers were gentle as he tugged them loose. "In," he said, and hung on to Remus until he was seated in the tub. The bathroom was off the former nursery, and the tub was child-sized. Remus' knees poked up through the water, and there wasn't enough room to wiggle properly to get away from the relentless, bone-deep burn of the water. Remus gave up and let his head drop back. Sirius had set a rolled towel behind him like a pillow. Wonderful, Remus thought, and fell asleep.
He woke when Sirius cast water-repelling charms on the gashes down his leg and started bandaging them again. Stupid Muggles and their stupid sheep fences, he thought, why did they have to be so stupidly effective? He wouldn't have minded sheep for dinner. Or anything, really. The last food he recalled was a bowl of fruity muesli. Stupid werewolves with their stupid health-food fads.
Remus allowed himself to be pulled out of the tub and water-repelled all over, although Sirius rubbed at him with a towel anyway. Remus had to hang on to Sirius' shoulders to keep upright, and Sirius leant forward and propositioned him.
It took a minute or two to sink in. "What are you saying?" Remus mumbled through the towel, and Sirius barked a laugh at him.
"I'm coming on to you, Moony. I figure you must have had enough experience in the past decade that you know how to say no graciously by now."
Remus glared balefully as Sirius cast a drying charm on his hair, which frizzed. Sirius sat on the toilet lid and held out pyjama bottoms for Remus to step into. Remus had to lean his hand on Sirius' shoulder for balance, and hoped his stern look would keep Sirius from getting ideas. More ideas. "Hardly anyone comes on to me," he said, glad of his exhaustion, or else the warmth of Sirius' breath on his stomach would have been unbearable. "I very rarely say no," Remus continued, threading his arms into the pyjama top but letting Sirius deal with the buttons. Fiddly damn buttons.
"You're falling asleep, Moony," Sirius said, and once again Remus found himself led, this time to a bed like a dream, lovely soft sheets and blankets and down pillows. He forgot to complain that he hadn't cleaned his teeth, and let his eyes drift shut.
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In the morning, Sirius woke Remus with heavenly scents: rashers of bacon and eggs and toast. Getting out of bed was tricky, but Remus managed, just as he managed the clothes. He was sure they had been left behind by Weasleys: the trousers were too loose (Charlie's, perhaps, or Percy's) and the shirt skin-tight (Remus really hoped it wasn't Ginny's). By the time he'd made his stiff way down the stairs, he had decided that as nothing had happened, he would act as if nothing had happened.
Breakfast was, delightfully, normal: greasy food with Quidditch talk on the side. Remus had to go make a report to Dora Tonks, which involved a pub lunch. He got home feeling stuffed and took a nap. When he woke, feeling so much like himself that he nearly cried with relief, he thought he ought to get the tea ready. They did try to be reciprocal with the housekeeping.
Sirius wandered in to watch him, not saying anything. Remus hoped he wasn't feeling moody again. When he set the table he noted Sirius' smell as he leant around him: Molly Weasley's Sunlight Soap (good for what ails you) and not hippogriff and alcohol. That was good, Remus decided, and mangled the sandwiches into triangles.
He sat down opposite Sirius with his back to the cooker and poured the tea. They ate in silence. Long light filtered across the room from the garden, and Remus recalled that the solstice had just passed. The days were dying.
"What I meant," Siirus said, picking apart his sandwich, "was that there weren't that many of us, back then," and Remus froze, trying to figure out which conversation Sirius was continuing, which us Sirius meant. Members of the Order, or school mates, or gay wizards. "I thought starting something with you would be a fantastically bad idea."
"There was only one of you," Remus said, and smiled in a way that he hoped looked nostalgic and not desperate. "I wanted passion, you know. So did you. A night or two of great sex and then." He shrugged. "Either the chemistry wouldn't be right, so goodbye and never see each other again, or there'd be that gods, this is it lightning-struck moment, a few months of behaving like a loon, and then the inevitable implosion and never wanting to see the other person again." Remus paused to catch his breath, and Sirius stared at him as if he'd grown another head. "What?"
"You never used to talk about sex."
Remus laughed and tried not to babble again at the reprieve. "And you talked about it all the time - did you really buy all that kama sutra karma crap? Or was it just good advertising?"
Sirius arched an eyebrow. "I was my own good advertising, I'll have you know."
"Nah, it wasn't your devilish good looks that men fell for. It was the bike."
"It was, wasn't it?" Sirius said wistfully.
"Miss having something big between your legs?" Remus said before he could stop himself, and Sirius laughed in surprise, and then laughed more as Remus turned red all the way up to his ears.
"I think you're right, Moony," he said finally. The laughter had done his face good: flushed and animated, Remus could almost see the man Sirius had been behind the lines and hardness. He tried not to think about whether Sirius looked for the same thing in his face. "I don't want a grand passion anymore. I don't want an easy fuck, and I don't want any of that you don't love me anymore, who was that at the Floo just now nonsense."
"No," Remus agreed with a smile: he'd been on both ends of that uncomfortable scenario too often to think of it as romantic.
"Do you know what I do want?" Sirius asked, leaning forward, elbows on the table, and Remus shook his head and took a handful of crisps. "I want someone I can be comfortable with. I want someone to wake up with in the mornings. Someone who knows me."
Remus brushed off crumbs and shook his head simultaneously. "We talked about this, Pads - "
"Fifteen years ago."
" - and we agreed - "
"Fifteen godsdamned years ago, Moony."
" - we agreed," Remus continued, talking over Sirius, willing himself not to listen, "that our friendship meant something, that we wouldn't throw it away for sex."
"And what good did that do?" Sirius asked, his voice low and his eyes burning. "We ended up throwing away friendship for war, instead. Not this time, Moony. No bloody stupid sacrifices. I think we can offer comfort to each other. I think we're suited to each other."
"It might not work out," Remus said, drowning.
"No," Sirius said. "It might not. I might pop round the corner to the newsagents and get nabbed by the Aurors. Some night, it might be Moody on the front steps with an I'm very sorry, d'you know where he wanted his ashes scattered?" He shrugged. "I've resigned myself to the fact that things will fall apart. Fell apart. Most things. I wouldn't be shattered. But… I'd be less for not trying."
Remus dropped the rest of his crisps back in the bowl. "I would be. Shattered."
Sirius shut his eyes for a moment. For a moment, there was only the sound of their breathing to fill the whole of the kitchen. Then he said, very soft words breaking the stillness, "But at least it would be well-at-least-I-tried shattered. As opposed to I-was-too-afraid-to-find-out shattered."
"Low, low blow," Remus said, tired.
"You could do with some comfort yourself," Sirius said, giving Remus a critical once-over that made him wish he'd thought to charm his hair straight before coming down, or at least get rid of his stubble. "I could take you upstairs, put you into your jammies - again - and fluff your pillow. I could, you know, sit with you until you fell asleep. Or lie down with you."
Sirius, Remus thought, would have to be completely blind not to see the helpless way that made him shiver.
"Come on," Sirius said, scraping his chair back and walking around the table to hold out a hand in challenge or benediction. He waited; Remus was sorry for making him wait, but it took so damn much effort to reach up and take what was offered. To his credit, Sirius didn't smile in triumph, though he did put his arms around Remus and kiss him, ever so softly, on the cheek.
"I'm trusting you," Remus said, and Sirius held him tighter for a moment.
"Ah, Moony - " he said, looking so very naked that Remus was sure he wasn't prepared to hear what Sirius might say next. He shut Sirius up with his mouth, and then they went upstairs, hand in hand, to whatever comfort might be found.
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