"How was work?"
Sirius Black folded himself into the passenger seat of the red BMW, automatically turning down the loud music that blared from the car's sound system, and pulled the door shut behind him. "It was fine. Quiet for most of the day. Kind of boring."
"Quiet at the library? Imagine that!" James Potter laughed, pulling away from the curb and into the flow of city traffic.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "I meant quieter than usual, with everyone back at school now. Speaking of which, how was your day? Did you get all the classes you wanted?"
"Almost," said James. "Since I got the last of my core requirements out of the way last semester, it's all Engineering from here on out, but I still have a pretty heavy load. Not much time for fun this year."
"Then it's probably a good thing you don't have a girlfriend right now," Sirius smirked. "You can barely hang onto one when you're not spouting technical jargon 24/7. Then again, if you're not dating anyone, who's going to remind you to change your socks?"
"Hey!" cried James in mock outrage. "Is it too much to expect a little sympathy and support from my own dear brother during times of hardship? Anyway, I don't see you dating anyone."
Sirius shrugged. "I just haven't met anyone interesting lately."
James gave him an incredulous look as he turned the car onto Yesler Way. "You're telling me that out of the thousands of people who visit the Seattle Central Library every week - smart people, who like to read for fun - there's not a single one who seems interesting?"
"Even if there was someone I thought was interesting," said Sirius, "it's not like I could hit on him at work. There are rules about that, you know."
"'Him'?" James raised his eyebrows. "Is this a theoretical 'him', or an actual flesh-and-blood 'him' we're talking about?"
Sirius scowled. "It's no one. Just a guy I've seen around a couple of times."
"What's he like, this mystery man of yours?" James grinned.
Sirius shrugged again. "Kind of a hipster maybe. Skinny jeans, flannel shirt, knit cap. You know the type. Latino, I think. But I haven't talked to him or anything."
"Why not?" asked James. "Afraid your charm and sheer animal magnetism might make him swoon on the spot?"
Sirius rolled his eyes again. "What am I supposed to say to a guy who's just sitting there, reading? 'Need someone to turn the page for you?' Anyway, he's probably straight. And even if he isn't, he probably wouldn't be into someone like me."
James's teasing smile faded. "Hey, don't talk like that. You're a great guy. Why wouldn't he be into you?"
Sirius gazed moodily out the windshield at the slowly-moving lanes of traffic. "You know."
"Well, if he feels that way about it, fuck him," said James heartily. "Someone like that wouldn't deserve you. But don't count yourself out without even trying. Saying 'hi' isn't a marriage proposal. Next time you see him, try to catch his eye. Start a conversation."
"Yeah. Maybe," said Sirius. "So, are we going to look at apartments this weekend? I can do it on Sunday evening. Or if you're free on Tuesday or Wednesday, we could go then."
"Let's do Sunday. Then Pete can come, too," suggested James. "If he gets his act together, we can split rent three ways, and look for a bigger place."
Sirius frowned. "You don't think he'll flake out on us? Last week, he was talking about moving in with some girl he just met."
"I think he'll come through," James said confidently. "He likes the idea of us all living together."
"I hope you're right," sighed Sirius. "I'd like to move out before I'm old and gray."
James grinned. "You hate living with my folks that much?"
"Of course not!" said Sirius, punching him in the shoulder. "Your parents are great. I just - I don't want to be dependent on them forever, you know? I'm twenty-one. I should have my own place, not be living with anyone's parents."
"It may take a while to find somewhere good," James warned. "I won't have as much free time as I did over the summer."
"That's not my fault," grumbled Sirius. "I didn't have enough saved up for a deposit and everything until last month."
"You know my parents would be more than happy to cover the deposit for you."
Sirius scowled. "What part of 'I don't want to be dependent on them' is so hard for you to understand?"
James shook his head. "Just let them help out a little. They love it. They love you. You could've at least let them loan you the money for a car that wasn't a total piece of shit."
"It's my car, and it's fine," snapped Sirius. "It just needs a tuneup and a couple of parts replaced. It'll be ready next week. Anyway, your parents have helped out enough already."
"Fine," said James. "Just so long as you have your own transportation soon. I won't have time to chauffeur your ass around once classes start."
Sirius snorted. "I wouldn't want to inconvenience you, Your Greatness."
"See that you don't." James grinned. "I just hope for your sake that your hipster friend isn't a car guy. You are going to talk to him, aren't you?"
"No," said Sirius.
Sirius leaned on the circulation desk, a book in one hand. The library was quiet on weekday mornings. Only the Children's section, brimming with harried parents and children too young for school, buzzed with activity, but it was fairly well-contained, and fell outside Sirius's jurisdiction. Most of the patrons frequenting the library at this hour were older retired people who read quietly or worked on personal research projects. A row of self-checkout computers made the circulation desk practically obsolete, but it still needed to be staffed, and that morning it was Sirius's turn. Every now and then, someone would stop to ask him a question, or require manual checkout, but for the most part, he was left to his reading.
Sirius was not reading, however. Not really. The book was merely something to focus his eyes on, and keep them from wandering.
Don't look, he told himself for the dozenth time. If you keep looking over there, he'll notice you staring at him.
But inevitably, his gaze was drawn back to the table under the windows, and the young man who sat hunched over a spread of open books and lined paper, pencil in hand, dark hair falling forward into his eyes.
Hi, thought Sirius. Look, I've been staring at you all morning like a fucking creeper, and I think you're pretty hot. I was just wondering, are you into guys at all? He sighed and dragged his eyes back to his book, trying to find his place and remember what was happening.
A movement at the corner of his eye brought his head back up. The cute maybe-hipster was gathering up his books and papers, and shoving them into his faded backpack. Sirius's eyes followed him to the row of self-checkout computers and watched him go through his pockets once, twice, an expression of growing dismay on his face.
Sirius's heart leapt into his throat as the man turned and approached the circulation desk. Be cool, he told himself sternly.
"I forgot my library card," the man said apologetically. "Is there any way I can still check these out?"
"Sure," said Sirius, trying not to think about gorgeous dark brown eyes fringed with long lashes. "W-what's your name?"
"Remus Lupin. L-U-P-I-N."
Sirius tapped at the keyboard, backspacing several times when his nervous fingers missed their mark.
"Phone number?" Sirius asked, wishing he were typing it into his phone instead.
Remus gave him a string of digits.
Sirius took the stack of books from him and began scanning them into the computer. Several of the titles seemed to concern sex and sexuality. One was about pornography.
"They're for a class I'm taking," said Remus, blushing.
"I wasn't going to ask," Sirius assured him, biting back an involuntary smile. "Patrons' borrowing habits are none of my business."
"Thanks," Remus muttered, still looking embarrassed.
"It's no ple-problem," said Sirius, tripping over his words in the rush to get them out, but Remus was already hurrying away.
Sirius watched him go. When the door closed behind him, Sirius sighed and buried his face in his hands.
Remus. His name is Remus. And you have zero chill.
Sirius was not sure whether he hoped Remus would never return to the library again, or that he would see him soon.
A few days later, Sirius was shelving books in the 300s section, when he rounded the end of a row of stacks and almost ran headlong into Remus with his cart. Remus leapt out of the way, dropping an armload of books with a clatter.
"Sorry," gasped Sirius. He plucked at his shirt, trying to ease the constriction around his bounding heart.
"It's all right," said Remus, bending to gather up the fallen books.
When he stood up again, he moved to return one of the books to a gap on the shelf.
"Don't do that," said Sirius, before he could stop himself.
Remus froze, the book halfway onto the shelf. "It's all right. I know exactly where it came from."
"It's not that," explained Sirius. It's - library funding is based on numbers. And one of those numbers is how many books we re-shelve. So it doesn't actually help us when people put them back themselves."
"Oh," said Remus. "Sorry. I didn't know that."
He withdrew the book from the shelf, and looked at Sirius.
"Should I give it to you, or ...?"
"You can give it to me, if you want, or leave it on one of the carts at the end of the stacks."
Remus hesitated, then pulled three more books off the shelf. He handed them to Sirius, with a sweet smile that made Sirius's heart skip a beat. "Here. For the library funding."
Sirius noticed long, brown fingers, and that Remus was a few inches shorter than him.
"Thanks," he said quickly, hoping he had not been staring again. "Remus, right? I'm - my name is Sirius. I checked you out the other day. At the circulation desk, I mean," he added quickly, cheeks growing hot.
He belatedly remembered that he was wearing a name tag. Remus already knew his name, if he cared to look.
Remus looked startled to be remembered by name, but bobbed his head in greeting. "Nice to meet you."
"So, you're a student?" asked Sirius, deciding to ignore, for the moment, the library's policy against asking patrons personal questions about themselves. "At the University of Washington?"
"Seattle Central," said Remus, naming a nearby community college. "Part time. The library there isn't as good as U-Dub's, so I come here."
"What are you majoring in?" Sirius asked.
"Psych, with a focus on gender and sexuality," said Remus, indicating the rows of suggestively-titled books surrounding them with a wave.
"Oh," said Sirius. "That sounds pretty interesting."
"It is," Remus agreed.
There was an awkward pause. Now that they were talking, Sirius did not want to just walk away. Who knew when he would next get an opportunity to speak to Remus? What he really needed was a way to let Remus know he was queer, and to find out, if possible, whether that fact was of interest to him.
"So ... um ... what are you thinking of doing with your degree?" he asked, stalling.
"I want to be a counselor or a therapist," said Remus. "Try to do some good in the world, if I can."
Sirius nodded. "That sounds ... noble."
Remus shrugged. "I just like to help people."
Another pause. This time, it was Remus who broke it.
"Working in a library must be pretty interesting, too. Especially this one. Did you study Library Science?"
Sirius shook his head. "Nah. I haven't been to college yet. I'm not a real librarian; just an assistant. My mom's on the library board. She helped me get the job."
"Oh," said Remus. "Well, that was nice of her."
A sudden flash of inspiration struck Sirius. Quickly, he scanned the shelves. Perfect. Reaching up, he plucked a book from the top shelf, and handed it to Remus.
"If you're interested in Queer Studies, I recommend this one," he said. "It's one of my favorites."
Remus looked down at the cover. "The Full Spectrum. I haven't read it."
"It's great," enthused Sirius. "It's all essays written by LGBT people in their teens and twenties. The editor, David Levithan, writes really good queer young adult fiction, too, if that's your kind of thing at all."
Remus added the book to his stack. "Thanks. I'll check it out ... and check it out."
They both laughed awkwardly at the joke.
"Well," said Remus, "I guess I'll see you around."
"Yeah," said Sirius. "I hope so."
"I talked to him!"
James was barely through the front door. "Who?"
"The hot hipster guy!"
"Oh." James grinned, collapsing into an armchair and running a hand through his poofy, unkempt afro. "That's great. How did it go?"
"I dunno," Sirius admitted. "It was sort of awkward but mostly OK, I guess. His name is Remus and I think he might be queer. At least, he's studying gender and sexuality. That's not something a lot of straight guys do, is it?"
James shrugged. "Maybe not."
"Anyway, I recommended a super queer book to him, so he definitely knows I am, now. At least, I hope he does," said Sirius, suddenly worried that the gesture had not been as obvious has he had hoped. "If he comes back and says he liked it, I'll probably know for sure about him, too."
"Very clever," said James, sounding amused. "So if he is, are you going to ask him out?"
Sirius's shoulders sagged. "I dunno. I mean, I can't at work, can I? It'd be unprofessional. I'd have to find some way to see him outside work, and ask him then."
James laughed. "Catch-22. You can't see him outside work unless you see him outside work."
"Yeah," sighed Sirius, slumping back onto the sofa. "And even if he is queer, and I do ask him out, he still might not be into trans guys."
"Only one way to find out," said James.