Remus is like the stranger growing in Lily's belly—someone Sirius thinks he should know; someone Sirius might know if only they could connect.
As Remus twists away, sitting up straight in bed, Sirius clenches his fist, nails biting into flesh, keeping his hands from reaching out. He's not going to cling, to pull him back to bed, no matter how much he wants to. "What is this about?"
Remus's back tenses, the sinew moving beneath his bare skin. Just in the lines of his back, Sirius can read pain, hesitation, and resolve.
"You know—you have to have some idea by now. You just don't want to admit it."
"If I knew, I wouldn't ask," Sirius bites. His stomach twists like a portent.
Remus turns, hooking an elbow around his raised knee. "Can we be honest for once?"
Remus always pushes him to figure things out on his own, never telling him anything straight. "I'm always honest." Sirius yanks the pillow from under his arm and throws it across the room, past Remus's head. It thumps against the window, momentarily blocking the watery light from the streetlamp outside. Standing and turning, he pulls at his hair to keep himself from hitting Remus just for being obstinate.
Remus sighs heavily, like he's reprimanding an errant child. "We don't want the same things."
"We've never wanted the same things."
Remus chuckles kindly. "That's true."
"What is this about?" Sirius repeats. "One minute we were lying there in post-coital gooeyness and the next, you're rolling away with barely a 'thanks for the shag, Padfoot.' What is going on?"
Remus shifts his feet to the floor and bites his lip. The skin on his bottom lip is cracked and dry—even though they've been kissing for the past hour—and he's going to start bleeding soon if he's not careful. Moony is careless too often.
When he looks up again, his face is as solemn as a tomb.
"I'm not gay."
Sirius's breath catches. His legs waver and he drops back to the bed softly. "Oh?" He tries to swallow the lump in his throat, but it's stuck there like a chicken bone.
"I'm not gay," Remus repeats annoyingly soft and controlled. His eyes are directed somewhere below Sirius's face, possibly staring at the floor, or maybe Sirius's bare feet. Sirius shifts, tucking one of his feet beneath his leg, folding his hands over his crotch. He doesn't want Remus staring at his nudity, not when he's stripping him with every word. "I'm sorry." Remus sags slightly. "I just . . . I didn't want to be alone and I can't," Remus's voice catches in his throat, sticking over his own insecurities. "I can't have children."
He feels his eyes softening, Remus is growing slightly blurry and Sirius blinks to hold in his sympathy and fear.
"I can't risk having children. They don't know if—" Remus doesn't need to finish the thought. Sirius knows what he means. The Ministry doesn't have a record of werewolves breeding, and no one knows if the curse can be passed that way. Remus would never even risk it, anyway, knowing what it's like to suffer the transformation each month; he'd never chance passing that on to a child.
"But why me? I mean, if you just wanted—some bloke. . . ." The words lodge in Sirius's throat.
Remus sits down next to Sirius, extracting one hand from Sirius's lap to twine their fingers together. "I was comfortable with you." His voice is like a caress, gentle like the thumb that strokes Sirius's hand. "And with the War . . . it's been hard enough to trust your friends, let alone strangers. There wasn't anyone else to meet." The smile he offers is hopeful, but Sirius can't help but see deceit.
Sirius turns to the pale green wall of their bedroom. They painted the walls together, neither settling on a color they both liked, but finding one they each tolerated. In the middle of the job, Sirius painted a streak down Remus's spine, which had led to a paint war. More color appeared on their skin—which had grown more naked as they wrestled—and there were still some patches of wall that showed the canary yellow from the last tenant. They'd had sex on the plastic tarp, Sirius kicked over one of the empty paint cans, Remus landed his hand directly in the paint pan, a green hand print claimed Sirius's ass, and Sirius breathlessly whispered for the first time, "I love you, Moony."
A good memory, only two weeks old, but now they were here.
"So, I can't sleep with women, you see." Remus straightens, his fingers flicking back the bit of hair hanging over his ear. He's gone academic, retreating to that cold, intellectual place, devoid of emotion and filled only with facts. Facts, facts, facts. Moony and his precious facts that keep him from expecting others to crumble apart and drift away because humans are made of dirt and dust and water, and with time and pressure all those things erode. It's that coldness that affects Sirius more than the words. He can't take the coldness, that lack of emotion.
"So you'll sleep with me," Sirius snaps, finally finding his fire. He yanks his hand away. "Because—" Because I'm a good lay, he thinks, because I'll let you . . . because you know that even when you fuck this up, I'll still be here because I love you too much.
"Because you can't get pregnant," Remus says in a voice that sounds nothing like the 'Remus' Sirius wishes him to be.
Sirius seizes Remus's shoulders and presses their mouths together. He tastes the blood in his mouth before he feels Remus's cracked lips. His fingers are clenching Remus so hard that they hurt, but Sirius only grips him harder because this has to last.
Remus kisses him back—Remus always kisses him back, and maybe that's part of the problem. Their tongues slip into each other's mouths, their breaths harsh and dry, unformed words that reassure and hurt and push them further from each other because in the end. . . .
"I love you, just not the way you want me to."
Their foreheads rest together. Remus strokes his cheek, his other hand pushing firmly against Sirius's chest, fingers curling over his heart.
"I'm sorry," Remus whispers. "I wish it were different—that I was different. But I can't force this." He kisses Sirius's cheeks and when he kisses Sirius's lips again, he tastes like tears, like honesty. "Can you still be with me?"
Sirius pulls away, pushing Remus back to stare, his jaw working slightly, trying to pull the grief and confusion back to get to his words. "You want . . . ?"
"I like sex." Remus's expression is closed, but honest. It's the way he looked when he finally told the Marauders how he had become a werewolf. Honest, but devoid of emotion.
But for a moment Remus cracks, his fingers clenching against Sirius's skin, his voice breaking raw. "Not just sex; I like sex with you."
Sirius blinks, not believing the fleeting need he sees.
"You don't. . . ." Sirius isn't quite sure what the end of his sentence should be, if that's all he wanted to say, or if the endless possibilities of what he might have said are actually what he means.
"I'm not gay, but I like sex with you. That's not—that's not completely disparate."
"Disparate?" Sirius's shoulders tense, shift, and tense again. His muscles want to leap from his body, his insides want to pour out on to the floor where they'll have the proper space to arrange themselves into what Sirius remembers being.
"I know what you mean, Remus," Sirius snaps.
"Okay." Remus pulls back fractionally, giving Sirius his space to vent and seethe, expand. His anger and frustration siphon off some of his confusion and shock, but nowhere near enough.
"How can you do this?" Sirius finally snarls. Remus opens his mouth to speak, but Sirius cuts him off. "I think I'd like to hear myself talking right now." Remus dips his head, allowing Sirius the platform.
"You're a berk. A wanker! A self-righteous asshole. And I love you. I have—" Sirius wrings his hands, looking to the gray ceiling, calling on some Muggle god to give him strength. "I have loved you longer than I remember not loving you. And I know . . . I knew you didn't feel the same." Remus's eyes soften with something akin to regret. "I'd hoped . . . I know that's stupid, I know it, I know. Stop looking like that. I can't—just. Moony."
Sirius swallows and lunges for Remus's body, wrapping himself against the warm naked flesh. They shouldn't be having this conversation like this. They both just came, they were sated and happy, and Sirius was muttering sweetly into Remus's hair, making promises about how things would be once Voldemort was defeated and Lily had the baby and Remus could have a proper job as a teacher somewhere people wouldn't care about his condition. But then Remus had stiffened, turned, and Sirius's world had flashed away as quickly as an orgasm.
"I love you," Sirius whispers against Remus's neck. "Please, Remus. This is more than just sex."
Sirius feels Remus swallow. His arms tighten around Sirius's back. "I won't ever love you the way you want me to." Fingers brush back Sirius's hair, curling intimately around his ear. "We get off together—and it's good—and I didn't mean to lead you on. I used you and I didn't mean to. And I'm sorry I did it because you're my friend, but can't we just be what we really are?"
Sirius shakes his head. "It's more than that." He laughs, a little hysterically, still pressed against Remus's warm chest. "Not to sound like a complete woman, but what we have isn't just a wank."
Remus's arms grow slack, his voice horribly tender. "Padfoot, I don't want to lie any more." He swallows and Sirius can hear the politeness swish down his throat. "We're mates who have sex, nothing more."
Remus is on the floor before Sirius realizes that he pushed him. Part of him wants to apologize, explain that he doesn't know what came over him, but when he finds his voice, he says what he means to. "You—I want you out!" Sirius grabs a pair of jeans he thinks are his and fumbles his legs into them.
Remus stands, unashamed, letting his body taunt Sirius because no matter how angry Sirius is—no matter how much he'll hate Remus—Sirius will want him until he dies. "Padfoot, I'm sorry but that's the way it is. You knew, you said you knew."
"Guessing and being bloody well told are two entirely different things, all right? And it doesn't change—fuck, Remus, have you no feelings?" His hands are shaking as he does up his fly.
"Sirius, please. I'm sorry, but there's more. I need to talk to someone about this." Sirius half-registers the desperation in Remus's voice.
"Tell it to James." Sirius finds a shirt and shrugs into it, leaving it unbuttoned; he's pretty sure that it's Remus's but he has to get out of there now and doesn't have time to find one of his own.
"This is one thing I can't tell James."
"Well I don't want to know!" He isn't even sure what it is that Remus wants to say, but Sirius just knows he doesn't want to hear it. He doesn't want to hear anything else his 'friend' has to say.
"Lily," Remus shouts so suddenly that Sirius turns around, expecting her to be framed in the door. It takes him a pregnant moment to realize that the empty portal has told him more about his relationship than all the nighttime murmurings for the past three months—he's just an apparition filling a void, empty and open, waiting to be used.
He's on James's floor, coughing on Floo powder and retching on Lily's new rug before he can remember hurrying through his quiet flat to the floo. He hears James tripping down the stairs—Lily can't move that quickly with the large mound in her belly. A muttered curse and James's arm is around his back, pulling him to his feet, steering him to a sofa.
"What happened?" James asks.
But before Sirius can answer, Lily comes into the room and he can read it on her face.
She's known much longer than he has.
And when she clutches her stomach, Sirius can't help but wonder if the frown that curls her lips, and the slight shake of her head, isn't out of compassion.