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The crickets screech around him and his feet are numb with chill in the humid earth. Everything falls loosely around him like broken chalk stars and a low blackboard sky. Blades of grass and shuffles and the smell of peaches dropped to the ground. You pick your shoes up in your hand when you cross the garden, or you’ll never wash the soft fruit stains, dark like the ground and sweet like summer.

There’s a rectangular emission of light - one he sees reflected in a peach’s bark, in its leaves and fruit so ripe it’s cracking – a low kitchen window, the kind with four panes and a white painted frame, with his mother’s flowers hanging from the pots, tired from a day of snooping to see (sneaked touches under a kitchen table, like whispers).

He hears a muffled whistle of a kettle and instinctively looks up to a window deadly dark. He asks himself what difference it’d make if anyone woke up. He doesn’t answer.

(In reality he wants this moment for himself, but there’s no amount of stones stuck down his throat that could make him admit it. It was all Remus’. He was here for Remus. They were there for Remus, all three of them, there.)

Out pops he, in his mom’s bathrobe, all huge and old and soft, like an empty sack on his shoulders. The belt touches his knee on his way up to Sirius. He spills tea on his toes and curses.

Sirius won’t comment on his choice of temporary clothing. He’ll just snicker and reach out, Remus will pull him up so he can drink standing, not like a brute, and he’ll dust his butt off, vaguely hoping not to feel the sticky slime of a half-rotten fruit. He’ll mumble something or other, about how he should be the one making the tea, and Remus will look at him with his head all straight but in his eyes it’s tilted to the right, like they’ll never understand each other, like there are always going to be spaces left unmarked in the map connecting them.

(What he won’t say is how tightly he held the cup, until it burnt, until tears threatened to spill out, how he told himself it’s to cool the tea and to warm his hands but it still came close to breaking. How comforting it was to channel the storm his soul had taken the shape of, into steam with the smell of cardamom and vague citrus.)

Sirius takes his tea and thanks him.

When Remus reaches out behind him and picks a peach the fuzz stings his hot palms, then it itches, and before he lets himself do anything about it, he digs his dirty black (beautiful and earthly and) nails towards the pit and twists and juice spills over his hands and in streaks down his elbows.

He takes a bite and Sirius doesn’t look, or tries. When he does, he sees Remus’ eyes like deep, bitter pits reflecting (something or other), like round peach pits, big, and bigger and bigger.

“I know.” He sighs and Remus shudders. Sirius feels the bathrobe rest on his calf when he moves forward. “It’s alright.”
Later, in a day, or a week, or a month, he’ll hold him tightly on, as he tremors and cries and screams with no voice at all. But such reactions are so terribly unlikely. Not in sweet summer nights with friends he’d rather take care of, not in a sweet ripe peach garden, not in a fuzzy bathrobe with his big toe touching Sirius’. Not Remus at all.

He closes his eyes when he feels sticky fingers on his chin and does his best, his very best I’m here, I’m here, I’m here, as if Remus could taste his thoughts the way he tasted that peach. He knows he would hear him somehow anyway, so they both keep quiet.

The crickets count the stars around them, loudly.