Merde, his childhood brain supplies helpfully, as he runs out of his apartment and down the street towards the Metro station. He has precisely four minutes to get his train, and if he is late one more time then he is sure McGonagall will kill him.
Sirius’ phone buzzes in his pocket as he skids around a corner, missing a woman with an arm full of bags and a businessman too busy to look where he is going. Running down the steps to the station, dodging people and thanking his rugby training as a youth every step of the way, Sirius digs in his skinny jeans to fish out his phone and see a text from James.
You have the plans, right?
Sirius groans and doesn’t bother texting back. James can bloody wait until he’s found and fought for a seat on the Metro and caught his breath. Of course he has the plans, and it wasn’t like he had forgotten them for the last big meeting they had! Sirius scans his travel card and barrels through the turnstiles to see his train pulling up. One hand on his messenger bag - yup, he definitely has the plans, James - Sirius dives into the crowd stampeding towards the doors. The Brit in him, despite being overseas for several years, bristles at the lack of a nice, orderly queue, but he gets on the train with a few seconds to spare, because he has this down to a goddamn art.
The train is, predictably, packed and Sirius feels distinctly like a sardine. He needs a coffee, a croissant and a cigarette after this morning so far, and it’s only 9:30am. As the carriage jolts into the next station, Sirius sways a little. He’s too busy running through his presentation in his head, and grabs onto the pole next to him to stop him doing the utterly embarrassing thing of falling face first onto the floor.
Sirius jumps a mile as his fingers come into contact with another hand, and he internally shivers. That’s his least favourite thing, someone grabbing him on the Metro, and now he’s being that guy. Ugh. At least he didn’t grab their ass, he thinks.
“Ah- pardon!” tumbles out of his mouth before he can turn to look, but then the rest of the words in his vocabulary seem to fall out of his shoes as he looks at the man he inadvertently grabbed like the resident Metro sleaze.
Mon Dieu, his brain supplies, needling his constant attempts to dredge the French from his childhood back to the forefront of his mind. He is gorgeous. Maybe not the most conventionally attractive boy he’s ever seen, but there is something about him. His hair is the most wonderful shade of coffee, set to perfection against his tanned skin. His eyes are completely captivating, and Sirius has to swallow a few times before he remembers he’s already apologised, but the man is just looking at him.
Sirius turns away and digs in his bag to pull out his notebook. Ah ha, he already has a pen in his hair - God how long has that been there, he’d been up all night working on plans - and turns to the back to scribble a note whilst making sure his feet are far enough apart to stop any more embarrassing wobbles.
A quick left-handed scrawl, too worried the man would get off at the next stop to monitor his handwriting, notebook held in one hand, close to his body, guarding the thing like priceless secrets. He hopes to God his French is up to scratch.
Hi. Sorry for grabbing your hand - long day already.
- the guy with the man bun and sweaty palms.
PS. Sorry if this is weird. Just couldn’t help myself.
Sirius doesn’t look up as he tears the page from his notebook and stashes the pen and book back in his bag. God, this is probably weird, isn’t it? But Sirius has always been impulsive, and the world has definitely turned upside down if he doesn’t do something when in the face of a man with such a profile that it makes Sirius think of Michelangelo and Donatello and all those things of beauty that seem too ephemeral to be bound in stone. The man, mercifully, gets off a stop or two after, and as the crowds move by them in the remnants of rush hour, Sirius slips the note into his jacket pocket. The man doesn’t seem to notice, and Sirius immediately starts to wonder how he’s gone this long without seeing him on the train before. He gets the same one every morning, and he’s never noticed this man of beauty incarnate.
Sirius’ phone rings, and it takes a minute of staring out the window for him to realise it’s his phone that is trilling annoyingly. He wrenches it out of his pocket and answers without looking because James Potter definitely doesn’t have a different ringtone to everyone else.
“You never answered my text.” James sounds vaguely frustrated. But at this point, anything could’ve annoyed him. It probably was Sirius, but that wasn’t a mantle he was willing to bare today.
“Yeah, I’m on the train in, won’t be long.” The train pulls back off. Sirius is the next stop. He grabs the pole next to him again.
“... You sound like you’re underwater or something, mate.”
“Yeah… yeah. I think I just saw an actual God in human form, mate.
Remus clutches his travel pass, having made it safely on the train. His mother’s voice echoes in his head: Yeh should’ve taken that French course, laddie, if yeh wanted to be a model. But Remus hadn’t intended to be a model. He’d only taken that first job to help make ends meet his last year at uni, and that had led to another and another, and here he is now, at his very first Fashion Week. In Paris.
Too nervous to sit down, he clutches one of the poles and focuses on his breathing. Four stops to go. Three. This is going to be fine. Two. He’s nearly there.
Just as the train pulls forward, fingers brush his. He glances up, and it’s all Remus can do to keep his mouth from falling open. This man looks like a statue. If anyone on this train is headed to model at Fashion Week, it should absolutely be him, and not Remus.
He takes in the man’s artfully messy bun, the pen tucked behind his ear. It takes all of Remus’ self control to pull his gaze away from that perfectly straight nose and chiseled cheekbones.
As he emerges from the subway, he reaches to put his pass away only to find a piece of paper already in his pocket. He pulls it out. It’s a torn piece of notebook paper, with what he recognizes as French scribbled across.
Bollocks. I’m going to have to get Alice to translate this. He hurries across the street for his suit fitting.
By the time he finds Alice in the green room several hours later, he’s worked himself into a panic. Why does he have this mysterious note in his pocket? Had he done something wrong? He corners her by the fruit salad, pressing the note into her hands.
He watches her eyes flick across it, trying to decipher the meaning through her expressions.
And then she laughs. “Ee is flirting with you, chérie.” She passes the note back and bites into a strawberry.
She taps the note with a lavender finger nail. “Ze man with ze bun. You met him on ze train, oui?”
Remus stares at her. “What?”
She strolls across the room toward the drink table, and Remus hurries after her.
“It’s from him? He accidentally grabbed my hand on the train.” Remus stares down at the note, and Alice gently pushes him into a chair. “It’s from him?” He glances up. Alice is giving him that irritatingly know-it-all smile that he first saw last month, at his very first international fashion show.
“Write him back.” She says, after several moments of silence.
She rolls her eyes. “I know you understand me, Remahs. Write him back.” She shoves the last of her strawberries in her mouth and materializes a pen. “I will translate. Zen you will give eet to him à demain. Tomorrow.” She nods decisively and strolls away.
Hi. I’m the guy you touched
Hello, My name is Remus.
Your palms weren’t sweaty.
By the end of the day, Remus has thrown away a dozen sentences. He curls up on the sofa in Alice’s flat with a container of Chinese takeaway and listens to Alice ramble about her row with the new designer’s assistant.
Maybe she’s forgotten, and I won’t have to do anything. But as soon as he’s thought it, Alice sets her water glass down on the coffee table and pins him to the chair. “So. Have you written back your boy?”
Remus sinks into his chair. “He’s not my boy.”
She grins at him. “Ee wants to be.”
“I don’t even know what to say! How am I supposed to give it to him? He was very sneaky, I am not that sneaky.” He takes a breath and closes his eyes. A hand presses over his, and he looks up to find Alice standing over him.
“If you do not want to do it, zen you should not.” She kneels down. “But I zink it would be good for you. You will be gone in two weeks. If eet does not work out, zen you go home and we do not mention it.”
Remus nods, finally, and they work together to compose a note back.
By some miracle, the man is on the same train the next morning, and Remus manages to tuck the note into the front pocket of his messenger bag.
Hi. I am so very glad you did. -Remus
The next morning, overwhelmed by the sudden rush of work that had faced him after he stumbled off the train in some love-drunk state thanks to that man, Sirius is on time for his train, but busy as all hell. His head feels like it might just fall off his shoulders. His headphones are over one ear, listening to the phone call he and James had recorded with a client last night, and his notepad is open, braced against his right arm as he transcribes the important points into it.
He steps onto the train in a blur and fights off some young hipster with a well-aimed elbow to sit in one of the only seats free. Head bowed, Sirius is scribbling furiously and letting his body sway with the rhythm of the train, completely unaware of his surroundings. A stop or two in, his stomach growls so viciously he decides it’s probably heard by the 9:47 train that’s on their heels. Without lifting his eyes from the page, Sirius digs into the front pocket of his messenger bag. No cereal bars, but he does find a scrap of paper coming out between his fingers.
Ah, maybe it’s the notes he made for the Delacour meeting a few weeks ago and somehow misplaced. Sirius flips over the note and sees a neat note of French that it takes a minute for his pathetically non-bilingual brain to translate.
He frowns for a moment, then it dawns on him and his head whips up so fast he might need to start looking for a chiropractor and he’s looking for those same eyes and that hair and the features that set his insides churning yesterday. Oh, there he is. Remus . Looking even more beautiful in the occasional flashes of light that set through the train. Sirius allows himself to look for a moment before snatching up his pen and writing back on the other side of the same piece. Christ, he needs to start brushing up on his French if he’s going to be flirting in it.
Hi Remus. Me too. I’m also glad, I mean. You are stunning, by the way. - Sirius x
He debates over the kiss for a moment, but then, Jesus, if you can’t sign off a flirty note with an x in France - the country of kissing - then where can you? Before he can overthink it any further, Sirius folds up the note and gathers his things back into his bag. His stop is next, he realises with a jolt, wondering if he might’ve just missed it if he carried on staring. As he leaves, Sirius makes a slight detour past the door to press the note into the stranger’s hand. Remus’ hand.
Remus looks at him, just for a split second, in passing, and Sirius smiles his best flirty smile and squeezes Remus’ fingers around the note to make sure he doesn’t drop it. Then he’s taken by the crowd onto the platform and he’s spat out near their offices before he can even blink.
James is waiting in the office and presses a coffee into his hand. “You see lover boy?”
“He’s not my lover boy.” Sirius takes a grateful swig of the coffee. “Yet.”
“Ahh, because if Sirius Black wants the boy, he will get the boy.”
Sirius shrugs and drops his bag onto his desk. “Well, he gave me another note. He seems sweet. But he’s also French, I’m sure. You have to help me brush up or I’ll accidentally call him a cauliflower or something vaguely offensive!”
James snorts and sits at his own desk. “You’ll probably scare him off, poor little French boy being accosted by your punk ass.”
Sirius responds with a pile of post-it’s to the head, which James bats away and snickers at. “Get to work, Potter. How about I deal with my flirting and you deal with this job, huh?”
“Oh yeah, yeah, that’s a fair distribution of work, you idiot!”
This time it’s Sirius who ducks the pile of post-it’s and snickers in the face of an indignant James Potter.
At lunchtime, Sirius accosts Lily Evans in the break room. She’s fluent in French, and would probably give him a crash course in flirting a la Francais if he wasn’t such a berk to her most of the time. It’s only fair he give James’ paramour a run for her money to make sure she’s up to scratch.
“Lily, you have to help me.”
“Oh hi, Sirius. Good to see you, how are you doing, good day so far? Yes, me too, thank you, great. Can I help you with anything?” Lily gives him a scathing look over the top of her salad.
“Hi, yes yes, sorry. Look, I’m trying to flirt with a French guy. And my French is so poor, woe is me. Please help.” Sirius presses his hands together in a praying gesture that he hopes strikes some chord with Lily.
Lily lets him stew as she chews a crouton and spears a few cherry tomatoes onto her fork in a way that makes Sirius wince. “I suppose. Let me see him then, Instagram, Twitter, some obnoxious selfie of the two of you at the top of the Eiffel Tower?”
Sirius shakes his head. “Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Haven’t said a word. C’mon, I can get by with spoken word as long as I get to smile and bat my eyelids. We’re… well, Christ this sounds stupid when I say it outloud.” He tips his chin towards his chest and studies the scuff on the top of his boot. “We’re passing notes on the Metro.”
Lily laughs for at least ten minutes before she puts an arm around his shoulders and kisses his scowling cheek. “Alright, mon chou, I’ll help. God knows you need it.”
“Aliiiiiicceee!” Remus practically knocks over several people in his panic to get this note translated. He shoves the note, soft and wrinkled from being clutched in his hand, at her nose.
Frustratingly, she takes a long sip of her green tea before slowly setting down her mug and accepting the paper.
“Tell me what it says, Alice!” He grinds out, while feeling his face heat at the memory of the other man’s fingers on his.
She smirks at him and smoothes the paper out on the table. “Ee says you are very beautiful. And dat his name is Sirius.” Alice pushes the note back to Remus and stands up. “You have a lot of tings to ponder, oui?”
Alice kisses him on the cheek as she walks past. “You must write him back, of course.”
You must write him back, of course. Remus’ brain mocks at him for the tenth time that day. The thought is waiting for him when he steps off the catwalk, is lurking around the corner past the refreshment table.
By the time the day is over, he’s been cursed at in several languages for messing up his hair, his makeup, for wiggling too much during his fittings. The designer’s assistant holds him back.
“Remus, are you alright?”
She’s typing on her phone, not looking at him. Remus takes several breaths, then nods. “Yes. I promise I will be more focused tomorrow.”
“Good.” She finally glances up, only to let her gaze fall back down. “Because there are many people who would die for this opportunity, Remus. If you aren’t focused we can find someone else.”
It’s not strictly true, of course. They are in another country. But Remus gets her meaning-if he doesn’t focus, he won’t have a job when they get back to London.
So he nods, and thanks her, and carefully bottles away all his feelings until he collapses on Alice’s sofa. She presses a glass of water into his hand, and while he’s groaning, she busies herself in the kitchen, returning with a classic French cheese tray. She pushes his legs and sits down beside him.
Remus runs his hands through his hair, and it is so satisfying to do it fully after a day of fighting the urge. He wraps the curl above his left ear around his finger. And unwraps. And wraps. Alice pokes him with a chunk of bread.
“Remahs, what do you want to happen?”
He stares at her, then shoves a very large chunk of cheese into his mouth. Alice rolls her eyes.
“Dis Sirius”-the way she rolls the ‘r’ makes him sound even more exotic and enticing-”Ee recognizes your beauty on ze train. Not on ze catwalk.”
Remus chews his cheese slowly, pretending he is savouring the taste of it rather than delaying his response.
“Is ee beautiful as well?” She plucks a grape into her mouth.
Remus nods as he swallows. “Yes.” He runs his fingers through his hair again, mostly just because he can. “He’s like a Greek statue.”
Alice smiles at him and shifts the cheese plate, revealing a piece of paper. She flourishes a pen. “It is fitting, then, dat his name is Sirius, oui?”
“I guess I should...tell him that he’s beautiful?”
“You could suggest a meeting.”
“We met on the train, Alice.”
She swats his arm. “You know what I mean. A date.”
“Oh no. That will not happen.” He presses his fingers together and is overwhelmed with the memory of Sirius’ fingers pressing into his, just this morning. “Just...tell him that he is also beautiful.”
Alice rolls her eyes, but dutifully writes. “Do you get out early tomorrow?” She pauses mid-sentence, her pen poised above the paper.
“Aye, I’m out at three tomorrow.”
She nods and finishes writing, folding it in half and handing it to Remus. He is so flustered and embarrassed that he doesn’t even look at the note, just shoves it in his pocket.
“We should come up with something fun to do!”
“Like take a nap?”
She swats him again. “You are in Paris, Remahs!”
He laughs and relents. It’s true, he’s in Paris. For the very first time. And he gets off work early.
You are more beautiful than the stars.
P.S. Meet me at the Lion Café on Rue Louis Blanc. 15:30.
God help him, one day Sirius will manage to not feel as if he’s battled through a hurricane to get to work. By the time he arrives at the office he’s completely flustered from a near-brawl with another hipster type - it’s probably the same bloody one from the day before - and desperate for a coffee.
He stops at the café in the bottom floor of their offices and orders a ridiculously large coffee to go. He’s digging in his bag for his wallet at the till when his fingers come across another stray piece of notepaper, and his heart leaps into his throat.
“Pardon, pardon.” Sirius closes his hand around the note and swipes absentmindedly against the terminal with his card. The coffee is pressed into his hand by the more-than-likely disgruntled barista, and Sirius steps to the side of the queue to finally read his note from Remus.
It takes a few passes, a moment of a furrowed brow and wracking some long lost internal archives to translate, but when it registers, Sirius can’t help but grin.
Of course, he wants to say to the paper as if Remus might hear him. Of course you glorious bastard, you are like the finest sculpture I’ve ever seen, of course I’ll meet you for coffee.
Sirius practically bounces up the stairs to the offices, and runs promptly into both Lily and James in the hallway. James metaphorically, Lily bodily.
“Christ, sorry!” Sirius grabs her by the arm as she levels a glare at him.
“Someone’s distracted,” she observes as James looks on with a mixture of pride and fear - Lily and Sirius were a little like a chemical reaction waiting to happen.
“Another note from Remus.” Sirius gestures with his hand, then belatedly realises he’s in fact put the note back in his pocket for safekeeping. “We’re meeting for coffee this afternoon.”
Lily snorts and starts back into the office. “Ready for spoken flirting then?”
“I told you, I’m fine with that, so long as I can bat my eyelashes and smile prettily.” Sirius laughs and follows. He slides into his chair, already booting up his computer and pulling his notebook out of his bag.
Lily rolls her eyes, kisses James’ cheek and moves next door to marketing, where she should be instead of fawning over James. At the doorway she pauses and gives Sirius a curious look. “You’re meeting him with your hair like that?”
“What?!” Sirius spins on his chair, but Lily has already disappeared into the next room. He runs a hand through his hair, loose this morning after his hurried shower, then pats the crown of his head to make sure it isn’t sticking up. “Jamie! What did she mean like that? What’s wrong with my hair?!”
James is laughing too much to answer.
At 15:10 Sirius may well be some way along the path to homicide. He’s still stuck in this bloody meeting, with people who talk too slowly and can’t quite decide what they want and he desperately wants a cigarette and to get the hell out of here. He throws James a desperate look of mate, I swear, help me but James just shrugs - they can’t lose this client. Sirius chews angrily on his thumbnail and tries to summon his most pleasant smile.
At 15:25 he spills out of the meeting room and breaks into a run along the street. The Lion Café is a fifteen minute stroll, so perhaps if he runs - more than he has done in the past three years combined - he can make it in ten. True to form, Sirius skids onto Rue Louis Blanc and spots the Lion Café, searching for that mop of brown hair. He pauses to catch his breath to not look too breathless and make sure his hair isn’t doing something ridiculous, and strolls through the door trying to look effortless.
The queue is relatively short for such a popular cafè, and Sirius gets to the counter before he realises - too preoccupied in looking for Remus. It’s just his luck that he spots him mid coffee order and stumbles over his rusty French and turns scarlet under the withering raised eyebrow of the barista.
He stutters out the rest of his order, coffee and a brownie because he needs a bloody sugar kick, and pays with as little attention as possible. Because there is Remus. Tucked in a corner table, looking beautiful. Looking statuesque in the afternoon light that’s just reaching the table. Oh. He’s with a girl. Maybe she’s just moral support, maybe she’s keeping him company until Sirius arrives… God, he hopes it isn’t his girlfriend and Sirius is just reading all the wrong signs. He expects Remus to be looking out for him, so when their eyes don’t meet first, Sirius is a little perplexed.
He’s waiting in the queue for his drink when their eyes meet - they’re so brown, just the right shade of earth or tree bark or tea - and Sirius smiles. He might be rusty as all hell with his French, but his smiles are flirtatious in any language.
Once he has his coffee, Sirius weaves his way through the tables towards them, heart in his throat. He comes to stop a little away from their table and offers the girl a quick smile too as to not be rude - she’s pretty, but boy, is his attention elsewhere.
Alice has tucked Remus into the corner of a wonderful little cafe with a steaming cup of tea. He’s relaxed for the first time in days, and thinking about how enchanting the city of Paris is when his breath catches in his throat.
He just walked through the door.
“Alice!” He hisses, leaning forward. “It’s him!”
“Hmm?” She spins around dramatically, and Remus grabs her arm as his eyes narrow in suspicion. “Who?”
“Sirius. He’s in the queue.”
Alice turns more subtly this time, and then grins at her friend. “Mon dieu! What a surprise!”
“Alice….what have you done?”
She bats her eyelashes. “Nothing! I have been here with you.”
When Sirius approaches their table Remus swallows and wipes his hands on his jeans. Bonjour, bonjour. Bonjour. He says in his head, but the words never make it past his throat.
Alice stands. “Bonjour! Vous êtes Sirius, oui? Je m’appelle Alice. Je suis une amie de Remus.”
Sirius’ grey eyes pull from Remus’ to focus on Alice. “Dèsole, je viens d'Angleterre. Rèpetez, s'il vous plâit?”
Alice grins like a cat and presses Sirius into her just-vacated chair. Then she exaggeratedly pulls out her phone and looks at it.
“Ah, Remahs, chèrie, I must be going. I have to…” for the first time, she pauses. “Away. À tout à l'heur!” She kisses him on the cheek, winks at Sirius, and flounces out of the cafe.
Remus is still trying to process Alice’s apparent betrayal when Sirius clears his throat.
Instinctively, he runs his hands through his hair. “Hi.”
“I’m glad you speak English.”
Remus snorts. “I only speak English, mate. It’s bloody awful.”
Sirius smiles and runs a hand through his own hair. “Yeah, I’m trying to get by… God knows why I moved to Paris for work, right?”
A knot forms in Remus’ stomach. “You...live here now? I’m traveling for work.”
“Yeah, I work for an architecture firm… for some reason our style goes down a little better on the continent, I guess?” Sirius sips his coffee. “What do you do?”
“I’m a model.” It comes out sounding like a question. “It’s..um.” He gestures awkwardly out the window, toward a billboard declaring “Fashion Week Paris!”
“... No fucking way?” Sirius takes a longer drink of coffee and doesn’t look out the window to the billboard. “Of course, you’re a model, Christ…”
Remus can feel his cheeks burning, and he fights the urge to cover his face. “I sort of...fell into it during uni. And Thom Browne really likes the way his suits fit my shoulders, and…” His fingers trace over the edge of the table. “I’m going to shut up now.”
Sirius nearly chokes on his next gulp of coffee at the mention of Thom Browne’s suits. “Don’t. I could listen to you talk all day, I reckon.” Sirius grins for a moment, then he’s frowning and digging in his pockets. “Sorry… give me a second.”
Remus nods, and takes the opportunity to study Sirius as he talks. He’s even more stunning up close. What the hell is he doing sitting at a table with Remus? But then he’s putting his phone back down, and any opportunity Remus had to flee in panic has ended.
“I’m so sorry, I’ve gotta go.” Sirius drinks some more of his coffee. “Can I get your number or something, Remus?” He gestures to his phone and effortlessly shrugs one shoulder “I would love to see you again…”
What? His… Oh. Remus bites his lip and nods, pulling out his own phone. Remus stares at Sirius’ contact the whole train ride back to Alice’s flat. Maybe it’s Paris. Maybe Alice is rubbing off on him. Either way, he summons up his courage and texts Sirius.
Can I see you tomorrow?