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There were three calls holding for him already, including a doctor phoning in a new prescription. He hadn’t eaten all day, certainly hadn’t had the time to take a piss, but when his lead technician shouted at him from the other end of the pharmacy, he couldn’t help but smile.

“Sirius, your boyfriend is on line four,” Marlene said with a knowing smirk.

Those other three calls didn’t matter. The doctor would wait, his stomach would wait, the customers forming a queue at the front counter would wait. This took precedence. Without even a pause, Sirius cradled the receiver to his ear and purred, “I was hoping you’d call today.”

“Marlene called me your boyfriend again, didn’t she?” the voice on the other end asked and, while Sirius was still happy to hear this voice, it wasn’t the one he’d been expecting.

“Oh, James,” he said, with a strange sort of breath that tinged with disappointment.

“Well, who were you expecting?” James asked with a bit of indignation in his tone that reminded Sirius of their late-night study sessions in pharmacy school when James would start to get too tired and irritated to care if he was getting the answers to Sirius’ questions wrong.

“No, it’s – nobody,” Sirius partly stammered out. He hadn’t told James about this strange relationship he had formed over the phone with a person he had never even met.

“Are you cheating on me with another pharmacist?” James asked, trying to hold onto that bit of irritation in his voice, but his smile was bleeding through the line. With a dramatic gasp, he continued. “Don’t tell me you’re consorting with …” another gasp, “the competition!”

Finally, Sirius laughed. He felt like he hadn’t laughed in days. Foolishly, he’d taken on extra shifts and was working in excess of sixty hours that week. Not like there was anyone waiting for him at home, anyway. Working extra just distracted him from that a bit.

“And so what if I am?” Sirius taunted, recalling that familiar voice and wondering, for the thousandth time, what kind of a face would accompany it. It was a strange relationship they had formed, he and this pharmacist from the competitor chain from across the street – it had started off as business, transferring prescriptions to one another fairly regularly, and had blossomed into this thing that Sirius looked forward to every day. Sometimes, when they were caught up for the day, Sirius would call just to talk to this stranger, just to hear his voice. Or they would keep each other on speaker as they worked, tossing sarcasm and encouragement in equal fashion. 

“Wait, really?” James clarified, his voice taking on that ridiculous, hopeful uptick that Sirius found there when James was trying to set him up on a blind date or double date.

“I mean, it’s not …” Sirius struggled to explain what exactly this was. Because, truthfully, it wasn’t really anything? Despite how, if he was honest, maybe he wanted it to be something. “It’s not really a thing. We just talk on the phone a lot – you know, transfers and all that.”

“Uh-huh,” James said with disbelief in one half of his voice and a smile in the other, and Sirius could hear the familiar rustle of a prescription bag in the background. “Transfers.”

“Why are you making it sound so scandalous?” Sirius whined.

“I could make a joke here about transferring feelings instead of prescriptions.”

“Oh, please don’t.”

“Technically, I just did,” James said, and Sirius let a groan roll out through his teeth, despite the fact that he would’ve made the same damn joke if it had been James. “Well, if you and this transferring pharmacist ever want to get dinner with me and Lil, you just let me know.”

“James, I’ve never even met him,” Sirius said emphatically, stifling a laugh.

“Uh-huh,” James repeated in the exact same tone, but sounding a bit more accusatory than the last time. “And whose fault is that exactly?” Sirius rolled his eyes to cover his smile.

“Right, because that wouldn’t be super fucking weird,” Sirius scoffed, lowering his voice to curse through the phone, lest some conservative customer be listening from the counter. “I’d just show up at his place of work and tell him I think his voice is hot and ask him on a date.”

“I literally see nothing wrong with that plan.” James’ grin was audible.

“Of course,” Sirius nodded, ignoring the ring back of the calls holding. “Because that’s something we’ve discussed, you know, his sexuality and me being gay, those are totally appropriate work conversations to have with someone you don’t even know in person.”

“Never know if you don’t try,” James replied in a sing-song voice, hanging up before Sirius had another chance to argue. With a growl, he hung up the phone, rather forcefully. With his frustration at its peak, he picked up one of the three calls holding for him quickly.

“Pharmacy, this is Sirius, how can I help you,” he said flatly, not really a question, because he was not really in the mood to be helpful just then. That is, until the response came.

“You sound like you’re having a rough day.” That familiar voice came strolling through the line, filled with warmth and promise. Immediately, there was a fond smile on Sirius’ face.

Remus,” Sirius said his name in an outward breath of relief. “It’s much better now.”

The laugh that soaked through the other end was like cold water on a fresh burn, and Sirius reveled in the softness of it, the sincerity of it, the soothing it delivered. “If I had known, I would’ve called sooner. You sound like you could use a stiff drink more than a phone call.”

Despite James’ coaching, Sirius still side-stepped that opportunity to evolve their relationship further than phone calls and went straight to flattery. “Considering your voice is smoother than Irish whiskey, I prefer the phone call.” A satisfied hum drove through the receiver and it left Sirius with a shudder that spread out from his chest, all the way to his fingertips.

“Your knowledge of liquor always impresses me,” Remus returned, his voice full of depth and flavor, just like the whiskey to which Sirius had likened it. “I’m more of a tea-drinker myself.”

“A tea snob,” Sirius grinned at the offended scoff from Remus’ end of the line. “You’ve gone on a full rant about how the shop didn’t brew your Oolong just right that one morning.”

“They might as well have burnt it, it was so over-steeped,” Remus grumbled, but it dissolved into what sounded like a nervous breath. “On the subject of drinks, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you – ” A heavy sigh, burdened with frustration moved through his lips before any other thought could. “Hang on.” Before Sirius could even agree, Sirius heard the tell-tale muffled static from Remus’ end that usually meant Remus was holding the phone to his chest as he answered a question brought to him by one of the technicians at his pharmacy.

When the static disappeared and Sirius could hear Remus’ disappointed sigh return to the line, he didn’t have to ask what it meant. “Go. Call me later, love,” Sirius said to him, only vaguely recognizing his use of a pet name until he heard that deep, satisfied hum again.

“Wait for me, darling,” Remus replied, his voice curious and soft. When Sirius hung up the phone, he stared vacantly at the receiver for a moment with the replay of Remus calling him darling in his memory until Marlene’s bright voice startled him from his requiem.

“When did we get to pet names?” Marlene grinned widely under a risen eyebrow.

Sirius rolled his eyes, getting back to the prescription he’d been trying to verify for the last twenty minutes. “Oh, please. That was mechanistic. Like calling your teacher Mum.”

“Uh-huh,” Marlene said, the same way James had just moments before. “And what did he say back?” A blush surged through Sirius’ cheeks and Marlene’s eyebrow rose higher.

“Shut the fuck up, that’s what he said,” Sirius said, running his hand over his face.

“Did he call you love back?” Marlene gushed, reaching over to poke Sirius in the ribs. “Did he call you pet? Honey? Darling?” At once, he could feel the blush bloom deeper underneath his skin as his heart pumped a little harder and Marlene, of course, noticed. “Ooooh, darling.”

“Oh my God, shut uuuuup,” Sirius groaned, rolling his head back to make it sound more guttural and agonizing. “You’re as bad as James. I’ve never even met the man.”

“And yet,” Marlene said with a shit-eating grin, “Here you are, blushing like a schoolgirl.”

“You’re one to talk,” Sirius teased as he tossed a glance to Dorcas on the other side of the pharmacy, typing in a new prescription. “You lit up like a siren when Dorcas asked you out.”

Marlene ignored that line of conversation completely but did look over her shoulder fondly at her girlfriend. “Speaking of which, when is one of you going to make the first move?”

Finally, Sirius stopped. He went still, staring blankly at Marlene as she waved her hand in front of his face to garner his attention again. “Oh my God, I think …” he started, as he retracted the conversation he’d just had. “I think he might’ve been trying to ask me out just now.”

“Fucking finally!” she shouted, wincing a bit as the customer at the front counter shot her a dirty look to admonish her filthy mouth. “Tell me exactly what he said. Word for word.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Sirius said, suddenly growing short of breath. “He said … oh, God, what did he say?” Sirius said, gritting his teeth. “Something like, ‘speaking of drinks’ and then said he’d been meaning to ask me something, and I think he …” he trailed off, and Marlene picked up.

“Holy shit, he was going to ask you out for drinks,” she said with an open smile.

You think so?” Sirius asked, his voice spiking in pitch. “Maybe I heard him wrong, or maybe I took it wrong, or maybe I’m projecting, or –” Marlene held up a finger to shut him up.

“Right now, it’s –” she held up her wrist to look at her watch, “ – five minutes before close. You’re the manager, just shut down a bit early and go the fuck over there!” she said through clenched teeth to emphasize the urgency of her instruction. “Before he leaves!”

Without giving himself a moment to overthink it, Sirius tore the white coat from his shoulders and tossed it onto the rack of filed prescriptions. “Closing up a bit early today!” he called to the customer approaching the register. “Personal emergency! Come back tomorrow!”

After they all hurried to lock down the pharmacy, Marlene took a moment to straighten Sirius’ tie and collar while Dorcas smoothed the wild curls of Sirius’ hair and tucked the hopeless strays behind his ears.  They took a simultaneous step back, giving him one last look.

“You look perfectly fuckable,” Dorcas said, straight-faced.

“If I was straight, I’d fuck you,” Marlene agreed, nodding her head.

Sirius rolled his eyes. “Shut the fuck up, both of you,” he grumbled as he pushed them toward the back door, feeling his heart rate starting to pick up. “Just wish me luck.”

“Well, just know, if you chicken out, you’re buying us both lunch tomorrow,” Marlene called over her shoulder as they walked to their car, Dorcas sliding into the driver’s seat.

With a deep breath, Sirius replied, but it was more for himself. “I won’t chicken out.”

As he crossed the street, he shivered, and he wasn’t sure if it was the oncoming crispness of fall or the panic surging through his chest. The neon sign of the competing pharmacy across the street loomed over his head as he walked confidently through the automatic sliding doors.

His steps grew heavy as he headed to the back of the store, following the signs to the pharmacy, but he trudged on, knowing that Remus was only a few steps away. At the last corner, he stopped, peering around it and hoping he would know Remus when he saw him.

And he did. The golden curls atop Remus’ head told the same story as the exhaustion in his voice first thing in the morning and by the end of the day. His slender but tall frame matched exactly to the depth and authority in his tone. When he looked up, the glow of his amber eyes told of the equal parts kindness and mischief that was ever-present in his flowing voice.

The moment Sirius stepped around that corner, and Remus looked up at him, his eyes widened, like he knew. Those same eyes traveled down Sirius’ physique and back up again, leaving a residual heat at the base of Sirius’ throat as he approached the register.

“I’d know you anywhere,” Remus said with a quiet smile, leaning with his hip against the counter, his arms folded over his chest, the sleeves of his fitted, pressed shirt tightening slightly.

“Funny,” Sirius said, leaning on the same counter with the gate keeping him on the outside, “I was hoping you’d say something like that.” With bravado in his chest, Sirius reached out and toyed with the tie around Remus’ throat, sliding the silk between his fingers and watching the way Remus’ eyebrows rose.

“Listen, that thing I was going to ask you,” Remus said, swallowing hard, leaving Sirius with an ache to feel the Adam’s apple of Remus’ throat dip over his fingertips. Or his lips. Instead, he let his knuckles brush over Remus’ chest, tie still between his fingers. Sirius interrupted.

“Have a drink with me tonight, Remus,” Sirius said in his place. The smile that shot across Remus’ face was unlike anything Sirius could’ve ever conjured in any imagination.

“Funny,” Remus repeated, watching him. “I was hoping you’d say something like that."