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Waiting for (a chance at) Life

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James furrowed his eyebrows, rubbing a tired hand against his forehead as he tried, once again, to comprehend the breathless, panicked rant that Sirius had just unloaded onto him, the sound quality wavering as Sirius paced back and forth past where he’d dropped the phone, leaving James video calling the ceiling with occasional snatches of black hair flashing past the corners of the screen.

“Okay, one more time.” James said slowly, and he heard a staticky groan before Sirius’ face filled the screen. The phone was propped against the wall behind the mattress Sirius collapsed onto a moment later, his hands anxiously winding together as James asked hesitantly, “So Remus Lupin, who you ridiculously crushed and obsessed over for ages and haven’t seen since he transferred schools-” James pressed on as his speakers crackled with Sirius’ protest, “randomly messaged you for the first time in years and… what did he say exactly?”

Sirius lifted his hands to form quotation marks, eyes narrowed. “That he ‘heard I needed a place’ and had an offer he felt would be ‘mutually beneficial’ and to ‘meet him for coffee’ if I’m interested.” Sirius’ expression was anguished as he leaned closer to the camera, and James frowned, perplexed.

“He’s back, then? Hadn’t he moved away to-”

Sirius growled and jabbed his finger at the phone every few words with urgency. “ Focus , Prongs! He said he heard I needed  a place and had an offer that could be mutually beneficial and to meet him for coffee!

“Why the added emphasis on coffee?” James said, rapidly growing amused as he realised the source of Sirius’ actual panic. “And wait, so you’re emergency calling me at 2am your time because you might have to face Moony again after you-” Even though he’d expected it, he still grinned smugly as the call ended abruptly, his screen hardly growing dark before it began to ring again.

Incoming Video Call from <3 Pads aka Wife #2

Sirius was glowering darkly the moment the screen cleared, and he cleared his throat loudly. “ Anyway, unspeakable moments that you swore never to mention aside…” James stifled a grin as Sirius huffed out a sigh, dropping dramatically backwards to lie across the thin mattress that sat flat on the ground, dark hair spilling over the side and onto the faded floor as he dangled an arm over the rumpled sheets. “What do I do?”

James set his phone precariously against a mug, freeing a hand to lift his own fingers into quotation marks, an innocent expression on his face. “I’d say you meet him ‘for’ coffee and listen to his mutually beneficial offer ‘and’ see how it goes ‘from’ there.” Sirius lifted his head to scowl darkly at him, then dropped it again as he sighed dramatically and waved a hand through the air.

“What am I even supposed to say to Remus after all this time, who just messages someone like that?”

“Remus, apparently. Always was an odd one, remember when he-” James broke off to glance over his shoulder, and Sirius straightened on the edge of the mattress to peer at his screen, frowning. “Sorry,” James said slowly, still looking around behind him. “I thought I… heard the door…” He leaned back on the couch, head swiveling from side to side distractedly. “Lily had said… she’d be back around… now.” Sirius rolled his eyes.

“You’ve already abandoned me for a whole other country with her and now you’ve got to abandon me on my one emergency call for her too? I’m only saying, it seems-” A sudden shriek sounded through both their speakers, and Sirius toppled off the mattress to slam against the wall as a loud thud told him James had done the same, heart pounding as he scrambled desperately for his phone, which was now issuing a noise that sounded like… cackling? His fingers closed around the screen and he sat up, leaning against the wall and peering intently at the screen, seeing only the oak beams of James’ ceiling. Then the view abruptly changed as the screen was lifted, and a freckled face with bright green eyes surrounded by dark red hair filled the screen. Lily was still shaking with laughter, shaking her head and unable to get a word out, and Sirius tried to summon a glare until she turned the camera onto James, who was still sprawled across the ground with a hand on his heart, eyes wide and hair a mess around his head.

Lily raised an eyebrow at him, still laughing, and he felt a twinge of longing even for her, the one who’d dragged James across the ocean and away from him. Sirius felt the laughter he’d tried to stifle soften into a smile as the view turned to ceiling, Lily dropping the phone to help James up, still laughing. Lily had understood, more than anyone else, his outbursts, his anger and frustrations and his need to leave those people whose blood ties he couldn’t sever. And as much as he’d deny it fervently, he missed her too, if not as much as he missed James, whose leaving had felt like the withering of a part of him deep inside.

“Oi!” Lily had reappeared in the screen, and there was a stern set to her eyes that made Sirius smirk automatically, almost in defiance. “It’s nearly 3am there, what are you doing up and badgering my husband after work again?”

Sirius groaned, not at the words, but at the ridiculous, sappy smile that rolled onto James’ face as it appeared behind Lily’s shoulder, the dopey expression that never failed to light his face whenever Lily said the H word, even now, months after Sirius had thought the married bliss would’ve faded a bit. He repeated the exasperated sound loudly and pointedly as Lily’s expression softened, catching James’ expression in the tiny corner of her screen behind her.

“If you kiss, I’m hanging up.” Sirius grumbled, partly to remind them he was there, and Lily laughed again and shrugged a shoulder to knock James out of the screen before turning to Sirius, her expression growing serious.

“Is everything alright, Sirius?”

Sirius shrugged. “Sure, everything’s great.”

But James helpfully piped up from the background, voice muffled through the poor phone speakers and wherever he’d landed with Lily’s last shove. “He can’t afford rent and he just got a message from his school crush and obsession and is falling apart over it and-”

“Shut it, Prongs!” Sirius snapped, flushing at Lily’s delighted expression as she hurried over to drop onto their couch cross legged, leaning intently towards the screen.

“A crush!”

Sirius weighed the benefits of hanging up before this conversation could happen, but the alternative was staring hollowly at the impossible bills stacked on the barren floor beside him and trying to formulate a response to the impossible Remus Lupin, and neither of these seemed a prospect he could face in the near future.

“Oh my-” Lily’s hands flew to her mouth, and her broad grin made Sirius almost reconsider his choice to stay on the line. “Did Remus Lupin message you about needing a place?”

And here he’d thought maybe someone could’ve forgotten. Sirius propped his phone against the off-white wall again to drape himself across the mattress with a long-suffering sigh, ignoring the re-ignition of the anxiety at the idea of even messaging Remus, much less trying to meet him in person and talk to him. He nodded, then caught himself and raised his head to be visible to her and nodded before dropping back, staring at the ceiling and thinking as James and Lily had a staticky conversation in the background. Why would Remus want to meet with him after everything? Sirius still felt the dull throbs of shame when he thought back on who he’d been when he had been in school, when he’d been surrounded by his poisonous family, when he’d lived festering in that house. Remus had been a target, and an obvious one, frail and sickly and strange, and Sirius had been sharp-edged and quick-tempered and furious, and he’d needed a target. He’d also, as James knew, been extremely repressed and therefore even more furiously attracted to the thin, pale boy with the golden eyes and clever hands, the bright smiles and clear laughs. And Sirius had not handled it well, relentless in his pursuit of the boy despite the bewilderment and resistance, the wariness and the avoidance, until finally, Remus Lupin had transferred schools, and Sirius’ foul moods had sludged across the school. It had been months before his disownment had humbled him, years before his time with the Potters had softened him, had drawn upon the strength and compassion and fierce loyalty that had always been at his core, at his misguided attempts to just be .

“-why?” His head jerked up again as he realized he was being addressed, and he propped himself up on his elbows, raising an eyebrow at where Lily was now leaning against James’ chest in the camera view. There was a faint, tiny flash of bitterness, of longing that they could have each other while he sat in this starkly empty apartment he couldn’t afford, alone. But James leaned his cheek against her hair, and Sirius’ chest swelled with warmth at the contentment in his expression, in the simple joy Lily and James found in each other’s presence and embrace. The image blurred as Lily shook the phone in her hand for his attention, and he sat up on the edge of the mattress again, focusing back onto her words. “Obviously he’s inviting Sirius to move in with him but if it’s-”

Sirius lost track of her words again as he slammed into the wall for the second time, his phone remaining propped innocently against the wall as his knee slammed into the fake wood panels unforgivingly. He’d tripped and fallen on this floor before, and knew the pain would kick in any moment, but for now the distraction of Lily’s casual words was still jolting through him as he clambered back up and snatched at the phone, jaw slack.

“H-He isn’t, h-he’s not - what?”

Lily was staring at him, nonplussed, while James was muffling laughter in the pillow he’d yanked from the couch behind him. When she spoke, he rolled his eyes at her tone, the implication he was being deliberately slow. “He knows you’re looking for a place and said he had a mutually beneficial…” Sirius glanced up from where he’d been staring at his hands, mind racing, to see a wicked grin had split Lily’s face, and he grimaced even before she said lewdly, “proposition.”

Sirius dropped out of view again as Lily laughed, glancing at the stack of bills again that suddenly seemed significantly more appealing than thinking about Remus… not propositioning him, which Sirius was very firmly not thinking about at all, not even a little, but inviting him to live with him, to come home each night to a place where they lived together, to eat and dress and sleep in the - sleep in the same - He shook his head firmly before he could lose himself again inside his own head.

Lily and James were still snickering, and Sirius sat up on his mattress and shot them an annoyed scowl. “This is my one emergency call in months, I’d  appreciate if you could actually try helping for a few seconds.”

James and Lily exchanged a look before Lily lifted the phone closer to her face with a sigh, her voice matter-of-fact. “Listen, Sirius, it’s really simple, here’s what you do, no interrupting till I finish. Okay, after we hang up, you text Remus back agreeing to meet him." Some of Sirius' panic must have slipped past the stoic, in-control mask he liked to think he'd managed, and Lily smirked unsympathetically. "It's the only way to move forward here, Black. When you meet him, you do not flirt with him under any circumstances. At all. Not even passingly. None, Sirius." She didn't allow him to grumble that he wasn’t planning to flirt with anyone before she was shoving James aside as he tried to whisper into the screen and continuing in her brisk, no-nonsense voice. "He asks you to move in with him, and you do because you desperately need a place right now. You find a job by finally plucking up the nerve to apply to somewhere you actually like and accepting they might reject you but might not ." Sirius caught himself nodding along vaguely even as he scoffed at Lily's naivete in his head, and she seemed to catch the thought as she frowned. "This is golden advice, you better be taking notes." Sirius nodded dutifully, refraining from rolling his eyes as she took a deep breath and finally grinned. "You live together and fall in love and get married. The end." James was roaring with laughter in the background, and Sirius unceremoniously hung up and tossed his phone onto the mattress, throwing himself down beside it to sulk. Because you desperately need a place right now … It wasn’t as though Sirius hadn’t looked at ads for roommates, he had, but it was too difficult to assume he could just live with someone he didn’t know, someone who didn’t understand him and who he didn’t trust. He at least trusted Remus, and out of them, Remus would be the wary one, yet he’d also been the one to reach out, so…

He glanced across the bare floor, the empty room, at the small stack of bills in the corner beside his boots, and buried his face in the mattress. There was a dull exhaustion weighing his limbs down on the mattress, a weariness that wasn’t quite physical as he contemplated how he’d tell the landlord that no, he didn’t have the rent quite yet, and that no, he hadn’t managed to pay the electrician for the repairs and that yes, he did intend to keep living here next month as well. Because Mr. Filch was nothing if not understanding and accommodating. Sirius shuddered, remembering the way the man’s jowls had wobbled menacingly the last time he’d limped up the stairs to complain about Sirius’ music, about his accumulating late fees, about Sirius frightening his demonic cat. He scowled at the memory of the orange bulb eyes and the incessant yowling that kept him up at night. Sirius had always been more of a dog person.

He reached blindly for his phone, fingers fumbling with travel-sized bottles of shampoo and toothpaste before he found the battered edge of his case, unlocking it automatically before raising his head from the mattress. Hesitantly, he opened Remus’ message again, staring at it as if he hadn’t read it through enough times to memorize it and trace every letter out with his eyes closed, as if it might change, or better yet, vanish and return his universe to where it had been before Remus sent it without any consideration for how he was shredding the way Sirius had understood people in the world worked.

Without letting himself think about it, he opened the message again and typed a response.

Sure, tomorrow noon at the Hog’s Head?

It had hardly sent when he dropped the phone to the mattress as if it had burned him and pushed himself up and to the other side of the room, taking jerky steps back and forth past the sink that he considered being sick in as his stomach rolled. It could be a joke, some kind of twisted revenge plot, and Remus could be stringing him along for - But Remus wouldn’t do that. Well, the Remus from years ago wouldn’t do that. Or maybe... Sirius reflected on the time Remus had been rumoured to have been responsible for the graduation dinner disaster. But surely if that had been Remus, he would’ve been caught? Whoever it was in their year that had been responsible for the incredible prank with the water taps, the one with the mice, the flagpole fiasco, those can’t have been Remus…

He was startled from his thinking by a buzz from his phone, and he froze midway through his pacing, wary eyes fixed on the phone as if it might leap for him from the mattress. It was probably James, checking in before dinner to pressure him again about taking Remus up on the offer, or Mrs. Potter, asking for reassurance again that he was doing well and trying to press money and food onto him, or even Filch, jabbing at him about the rent again. But Sirius’ sense of trepidation was heightened as he slowly made his way back to the mattress, leaning down to pick up the phone and immediately dropping it when he saw the message on the lockscreen, from an unsaved number.

See you then.

Later, Sirius would reflect on the long minutes that he sat numbly against the wall analyzing the exact relevance and meaning behind the period at the end of that text message, but for now he clumsily stripped off the jeans he was wearing and stumbled into bed, phone lying face up on the ground beside him, still lit up to the message. He would spend much of the next few hours in turn staring at the water-damaged ceiling, pacing tight circles around the barren room, and gazing out the single narrow window into the dark.

---

Sirius wondered, as the barista spun away from him avoiding eye contact after hurriedly sliding his tea towards him across the counter, whether she could sense somehow the nervous energy vibrating through him. It was edging on panic as he checked his phone again, almost hoping for a message from Remus cancelling because what the hell was he going to say?  He’d arrived half an hour early to give himself time to think, to strategize, to figure out a plan after the mess of an emergency call to James had been this morning. Balancing on one leg as he yanked on a shoe and running late to work with a banana under his arm, James spouted incomprehensible nonsense that was muffled through the phone stuffed into his pocket, but it had been mostly for the comfort of having him tell Sirius everything would be alright, which he had, over and over again, for years, even when - Sirius set his tea down firmly to distract from this line of thinking before he could drift too far into the past, hissing when it sloshed over the edges of the mug to scorch his fingertips. He was looking around wildly for a napkin when a quiet voice behind him said, “Here.” He’d grabbed at the napkin before turning, and when he did a double take and whirled around, standing behind him with an oxygen tube stretched across his face was Remus Lupin.

He’d… changed, Sirius thought dazedly, gripping the burning mug tightly and allowing the heat to distract him from Remus, who the years… had been both kind and cruel to. He hadn’t grown taller at least, Sirius glanced distractedly from the scuffed boots to the unhealthy yellow pallor of his skin, trying to keep his eyes from gaping at the plastic line across his face while also trying to keep from gaping at the defined cheekbones, the mess of curls, the gleaming eyes and bitten lips.
“Shall we sit?” Remus asked, pointedly staring at the napkin Sirius had clenched uselessly in his hand, his mug still dripping distantly, and his mind sludging to catch up, blurring through every minuscule piece of this situation and not finding any way to fit a single pair of jagged pieces together, to fit the pair of them into this moment together, after all this time.  He stumbled through cramming himself onto a metal runged chair across from Remus at a table in the corner, heart slamming through his throat as Remus sipped at his drink, looking tense and hurried and exhausted, amidst the massive tension Sirius could feel strangling at his throat as the silence stretched on past the quiet bustle of the shop around them.

“What do you know about organ transplant?” The question, so far from anything he’d expected, and so sharply asked, threw him, and he found his gaze still drawn to the battered green oxygen tank Remus had dragged in beside him that now lay at the foot of his stool, the thin clear tube running from it up to-

“Ignore the oxygen, it’s temporary, it’s fine.” Remus snapped, and Sirius hastily looked away from it, abashed. “Answer the question.”

“The - oh, right. Um. Nothing, I guess? I mean, I know it’s one person getting an organ from someone else.” Remus was pouring another packet of sugar into his drink with a level expression, and Sirius hesitantly leaned back. “Is… is that what this is about? Because I need a place to stay and you know I’m willing to sell you most of my body, but...”

There was something about being in Remus Lupin’s presence that somehow made Sirius regress into the obnoxious, depraved boy he’d so desperately portrayed in school, and he cursed inwardly as Remus’ expression seemed to confirm that this was exactly what he’d expected. Sirius mustered a cringing grin, but Remus just raised an eyebrow, looking distinctly unimpressed.

“Okay. From the start then.” It was Sirius’ turn to widen his eyes as Remus leaned down to rummage through the large bag at his feet, pulling out an enormous folder that looked like it’d been slammed against several walls and possibly run over a few times. He dropped it onto the table between them, and Sirius leaned forward to see the faded letters on the front: Liver Transplant: All You Need To Know. Sirius stared at it for a moment, hundreds of limp and worn pages seeming to overflow from the worn seams as he lifted the cover slowly. The first page seemed to be a checklist of sorts, and a small sticky note on it had Remus’ still recognizable messy scrawl across it noting “increased fluid in abdominal cavity.”

“So.” Remus said deliberately, and Sirius glanced up to see his hands had twisted together on the table, though his amber eyes were steady when they met his. “Basics. There’s a transplant list, and everyone on it is waiting for an organ. When someone dies and they’re an organ donor, they call someone in that area at the top of that list and transplant the organ. Do you understand that far?”

Sirius nodded nervously, and felt words bubble up in the tense silence. “How did they even come up with transplant, you think? I mean it had to start with grave robbing or something right? Maybe werewolf-style stealing a heart, I think-” He trailed off as Remus shot him a sharp look, and cleared his throat. “Right, okay, a list. Are you on that list then?”

His face darkened for a moment, then Remus answered stiffly, “No. I’m not on the list.”

“So you-”

“To get on the list,” Remus said loudly, cutting him off as he flipped through the folder, “you have to be worth an organ. Massive need, tiny supply.”

Sirius felt a swell of indignation. “ Worth it? How the hell do doctors decide you’re worth it over someone else? You’ve been sick years!

Remus stared at him for a moment, dropping a diagram he'd been lifting from the folder, and his voice was cooly matter-of-fact when he replied. “22 people die every single day on that list, waiting for an organ that’s not going to come.”

Sirius’ jaw dropped. “They - they just die? What’s the point of this list then if it just - why don’t they just get more organs, can’t they… can’t they make any of them or… or take a piece of one and grow more or… clone them or something?”

“Clone them.” Remus repeated flatly, and Sirius shrugged, refusing to be cowed in his righteous anger.

“I don’t know , but 22 people a day?   That’s -” Sirius lifted his phone without breaking his gaze. “Siri, what’s 22 times 365?”

“Eight thousand and thirty.” Remus and the phone answered in unison, Remus rolling his eyes, and Sirius picked his sentence back up, “That’s 8,030 people dead a year just on that list!”

“Are you finished?” Remus asked dully, and Sirius shook his head again, brushing a strand of hair away impatiently as he went on.

“Well, if the list-”

“I don’t know what to tell you, go into policy or research then.” Remus said tersely. “That’s the way it is. To be worth it on the list, they need to know you’ll succeed, that you won’t just die alone somewhere, that you have people to take care of you. You have to have someone . And I don’t. That’s where you come in. You-” Remus took a deep breath, finally looking down at his hands, linked against a chart labelled Potential Complications, and he seemed to hesitate a moment. Sirius looked away to give him time to collect himself, and finally picked up his tea. He stirred it idly for a second as Remus appeared to be brace himself, taking a cautious sip and noting with relief that the ginger wasn’t as overpowering as he’d expected. When he looked up again, Remus’ shoulders were squared and his eyes shone with resolve.

“You’d have to marry me.”

This had definitely been the wrong moment to take a sip of his tea, Sirius reflected vaguely as it all flooded down the wrong pipe and he spat a mouthful of it onto the table, coughing what felt like the entire mug onto the table between them. Remus hadn’t moved at all, was sitting perfectly still, expression serene now, though his shoulders had gone tense. He waited patiently as Sirius mopped the table with several napkins and took deep, clearing breaths, then tilted his head at him. Sirius stared openly at him for a moment, wondering whether perhaps he’d actually choked before Remus had spoken and had just misheard and hallucinated him speaking at all. Perhaps Remus hadn’t told him what he was to do at all, and was going to-

“And after we’re married-”

Tea sloshed over the sides of Sirius’ mug as he fumbled it, and Remus reached across the table to snatch it from his hand and set it down firmly out of his reach, scowling at him.

“I’m - you - I -” Sirius spluttered, then closed his eyes for a moment. Opened them. Blinked. “Marry?” The question sounded more horrified than he’d meant to, and Remus’ eyes narrowed for a moment before his expression cleared.

“Marry.” He said simply, with a nod, as though he proposed to former classmates in cafes on Tuesday afternoons on a regular basis.

“And I - what’s -”

Basically, ” Remus cut him off again, shuffling through the folder and turning a checklist labelled Challenges, “I can’t get on the list if I don’t have support. Social support.” Sirius blinked, nonplussed, and Remus rolled his eyes. “When you schedule the assessment and appointments to even get put on the list, and when you're admitted to the hospital for the transplant itself, you have to bring a support person who cares about you every step of the way, and nobody cares about me.”

Sirius had been nodding along thoughtfully and came to an awkward halt at the weary, dead inflection to the end statement. “Oh... Surely-”

“No one.” Remus said firmly. “You, right now, you’re it. You’d be my someone.”

Even in this context, Sirius felt a rush of warmth flood through him, long dormant feelings rearing their head and blinking groggily, and he hastily shook himself. Roommates. Roommates, Remus had made it very clear he was suggesting they share a house, this was a living arrangement, just one with a... marriage. He’d found a place to live and that’s what this whole discussion with Remus was, and if it involved a fake marriage and some appointments and a hospital visit but was a good housing arrangement, well. Then that’s what he was going to do: Remus.

His subconscious seemed to roar triumphantly at the phrasing as he choked on thin air this time, and he was sure his face was flaming as he ducked his head, heart pounding in his ears. All these years, Black , he growled in his head, you’re over this, shut up! This was a living situation, a practical arrangement, and just because he was marrying - Wait.

“Hang on, why marriage?”

Sirius’ voice was dazed, his question seemed to be spoken by a stranger, and Remus nodded without looking away from Sirius’ mug that he was now sliding back and forth between his long index fingers. “Right. Well, of course the support person doesn’t have to be married to the patient. Obviously that would limit too much. But for me…” The expression that crossed his face was fleeting, but Sirius felt it heavily in his chest, familiar from many nights avoiding the mirror, the twist of self-deprecation, stronger and darker, self-hatred. Then it was gone, and Remus went on hesitantly. “ Well, first of all, I’m trying to convince them to list me with one support person. If I’m gonna go with that pitch, it’s gotta be a strong one. What’s stronger than madly in love, newly weds after a childhood friendship and a long, committed relationship?”

Sirius felt himself flush even against his will when Remus winked him, but Remus scoffed as he went on. “I’m a tough sell no matter what. I have an autoimmune that’ll probably eventually devour the new liver too, but that’s just harder, it’s not an exception. And for a tough sell, this is a big difference. I need to have someone. There’s more to it, of course, if you’re agreeing, but the basics of it is that.”

“Oh is that all then, just marriage? Only?” Sirius asked disbelievingly, and couldn’t help but laugh when Remus shrugged again.

“I mean, it’s legal, so why not?”

Sirius laughed, shrugging helplessly. “Why not? Where to begin? We-”

“Sirius.” Remus said firmly, his eyes somber, and Sirius fell silent. “To get an organ, you’ve got to be… they call it being a good steward. You have to be worth giving an organ to, because there’s only so many, and someone’s always worse off and more deserving. I could get put on the list and be waiting until I die and never get an organ.” Sirius gripped the table, swallowing hard. “Listen. I know you don’t know me all that well, and that we left things off at an… odd place. But we’re both different people now, and... ” Sirius glanced up from the table as Remus trailed away looked up, and  his yellowed eyes looked miserable but earnest. “Maybe I won’t ever get an organ. But I deserve a chance. I at least… I at least deserve a chance at an organ, a chance to wait for one. I deserve a chance at life.”

Sirius nodded fervently, but Remus was clearing his throat, turning the pages of the folder and speaking more matter-of-factly before Sirius had a chance to respond.

“So. I mentioned marriage. Here’s what it’d be. You’d move in with me, and I’d cover the house’s bills and food and some basic expenses. But here’s what I need.”

Move in with him, he’d have a place to live, without bills to pay, and food covered. Marriage? A guaranteed place to sleep with no rent. Not worrying about what to eat. Marriage… Basic expenses paid, living with Remus , it - marriage, though.

“Sirius.” Remus snapped, and Sirius blinked out of his thoughts.

“Sorry, sorry, go ahead.”

Remus frowned at him, then leaned forward, and when he spoke, he rattled off his sentences quickly, words blurring into each other as he gestured at corresponding sheets in the folder. “You’d have to attend an assessment appointment with me, it’d be a few hours and during those we’d have to be completely in love. We’d have to attend a follow up class, 4 hours long and we’d have to be really in love there too. You’d have to learn all about me and and be able to answer questions about which meds I’m on and when I take them and how often and why and allergies and things, you’d have to be able to promise them you care about me and will take care of me after a transplant. And… I’d be going to… well, hundreds of appointments and blood labs after a transplant and you… you might have to come to some of those too." His hands seemed to shake slightly as he fumbled through a stapled packet to turn to a Once Listed sheet. "You’d... have to stay within 4 hours of the hospital at all times, virtually forever because if they were to call with an organ, you’d need to get me there fast enough. If I… when they do call for transplant, if I… you’d have to stay at the hospital with me for..." He wouldn't meet Sirius' gaze as he took a shallow breath. "You'd have to be at the hospital for 2 weeks after the transplant, or at least visit me often enough they wouldn’t mind, and you’d have to-” Remus broke off to take a long drink of water, then sat back slightly, his eyes fixed firmly on the Realistic Expectations sheet crumpling in his hands, and his voice wavered when he spoke. “I’m not going to lie, I’m asking a lot. And, and it’ll be - hard. And… unpleasant. There’s - there’s reasons I don’t have anyone around. I don’t…” His voice died away as he dropped the folder and twisted his hands together, exhaling slowly. Then his shoulders squared again and Sirius startled at the fierceness in his eyes when he looked up at him again. “But I do deserve to live. And I’m going to get on that list and I’ll wait, even if I die waiting on there.”

Sirius’ mind spun. Appointments, marriage, 2 weeks after transplant, marriage, medication schedule, marriage, 4 hours from the hospital, marriage…

Remus was staring blankly at the mess of papers on the table again, and there was an expression of such acute distress on his face that Sirius needed to break it, needed to -

“What about the black market?” Sirius blurted, trying not to regret it when Remus’ eyes slowly roved up to meet his, voice exasperated.

“What about it?”

“Couldn’t you try-”

“The organ black market is mostly just kidneys.” Remus stated matter-of-factly, and Sirius gaped at him because had he actually tried to and Remus went on lightly. “Besides, it’d cost more than either of us will ever make or come across in a lifetime.”

“What about-” Sirius began slowly, and was almost relieved when Remus cut him off with a frustrated sigh, as he hadn’t been entirely sure where that sentence would lead. Remus shuffled the mess of papers back into his folder, tucking it back into his bag and straightening before clearing his throat.

“Listen, just... take some time to think about it and get back to me? Frank had said you really needed a place, and I think this could be a… a mutually beneficial arrangement." Remus took a slow, deliberate drink before meeting Sirius' gaze. "I won’t lie, it’s a process getting listed, and... and it’s frustrating and long and frustratingly long, but...  I just need to get on the list and then - and then it really would just be as simple as roommates with no rent. I just have to get listed, I need to get listed, and then…”

“And then… and then what?” Sirius whispered hesitantly.

A grim satisfaction shone from Remus’ eyes as he he lifted the handle of his bag and got to his feet. “And then, I get to wait for a chance at life.” And with that, he swept out of the crowded shop and disappeared into the bustling crowd and the weak sunlight, leaving Sirius with a blur of racing thoughts and whirling emotions.