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Tom Jones (A Love Story)

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Remus has always played the guitar. At least, it seems that way. His parents had bartered for one when he'd been a lad of three. They'd been walking down the street when he'd seen a busker playing. His case open in front of him, the man had played as if the angels in Heaven had demanded that he play for them and them alone. Money had cascaded in from anyone and everyone that chanced to hear. People had stood thick about, a small walkway open so that others could reward this man's talent as they had.

When Remus and his family had walked past and didn't drop anything in to the case, the crowd had glared as if to say 'how dare you not reward this beauty'. Remus, fumbling about in his pockets, had produced a shiny penny, dropping it in. With a low bow and a special jangle of the chords, the busker had thanked Remus and sealed his future. Remus Lupin had needed a guitar at that very moment.

After months of searching, his tenacity had been rewarded and that, as they say, had been that.

The busker inspires him, to this day. He's done it now, Remus has, for years and he admires the tenacity the man had shown all those years ago. It doesn't matter how hard the work is, the guitar case full of coin and paper rewards him enough for a hot cuppa and a small sandwich. This current rash of generosity keeps up and he might just make his rent this month. Or maybe even make a dent in the back rent. God forbid that he actually do both, though. He grins at the thought, shaking his head as he knows that has as much likelihood of happening as Elvis popping out of the local pub.

He's late to meeting his flatmate for that cuppa and sandwich and, thus, isn't paying any sort of attention to where he's going. His brain is too full of rent and songs and tweaking harmonies and a warm cup of tea to be able to see that he's just about to… there. The crash sends both of them flying, the guitar case hitting against the brick of a storefront while he falls to the ground.

"Bloody fucking Christ!" The unfortunate victim of his inattention curses as he stumbles to his feet, brushing off what looks like a very expensive suit and coat.

"Sorry, wasn't paying much attention. You all right?" Remus asks as he pushes himself up and off the ground.

"Do you have any idea how much this suit costs?" The man brushes again though Remus isn't at all certain what he's brushing off. The pavement is dry and rather clean.

"Can't say anything other than sorry, can I?" Remus feels the beginning of his temper flaring and tamps it down. The collision had been his fault, after all, and it isn't fair to yell at the arse just because he's, well, an arse.

"Christ. Christ. And now I'm going to be late. No thanks to you. So sorry I didn't show up at the meeting on time, some street musician knocked me over and ruined my suit." The man rakes a hand through his hair, barely flinching as it catches on a stray knot.

"Next time, I'll be sure to knock you over when you're not on your way to an important meeting," Remus remarks drolly, sarcasm dripping from the words. He expects the man to glare, mutter 'Christ' one more time, perhaps even punch him. What he doesn't expect is the barking laughter that answers his retort.

"I do sound a bit of a pompous arse, don't I?" The man rolls his head to the side and his hair falls over his eyes while he rubs the back of his neck. It's a classic posture of affected shame or maybe even of flirtation. Whatever it is, the grin on the face coupled with the long black hair, the grey eyes and the angles in his face causes Remus's heart to thump against his chest while arousal burns low in his gut.

"Have to agree."

The man does that barking laugh again and then extends a hand while offering his name, "Sirius Black."

"Remus Lupin," Remus responds as he takes the hand and shakes it quickly, releasing it just nanoseconds past the 'enough to be polite' stage.

"Mum was a history buff?" Sirius says as he looks down at his own hand and then stuffs it into his pocket.

"Astronomy?" Remus says right back. They both laugh again. "Middle name is John so her love of history only went so far."

"Plenty of famous Johns in history. 'Sides, it's better than Pollux, which is mine." Sirius gives a rueful shake of his head, causing them to share yet another laugh. Remus decides that he much prefers Sirius laughing and friendly to angry and condescending.

"I must agree." Remus scrambles for something else that will continue this conversation. He likes the warmth of awareness that's in his gut, likes the flutter his heart gives every time Sirius grins at him. Hell, they're standing on a street corner in the middle of London and Remus barely remembers that fact, he's too fixated on what mood Sirius is going to go to next.

"Keep agreeing with me and I'll wonder if you're one of those arses that just say 'yes' to make me happy."

"That will never happen. I'm afraid my ability to always go along with anything anyone says died out when I was two. My mother bemoans that fact to this day," Remus says drolly.

Yet again, Sirius barks with laughter. The laugh is so unique and the way that Sirius throws himself into it intrigues Remus. He wonders if, perhaps, the reason that Sirius laughs so loudly and fully – head tossed back with hair falling backwards – is because he hadn't gotten to laugh too much before and he's now making up for lost time.

"My mother bemoans just about everything about me. Or, well, she did when we were still talking." Sirius abruptly stops talking, as if he's said too much or that the dam's bursting and he wants to say everything. Either way, Remus feels an uncomfortable silence coming on, one of those that eventually force the participants into abandoning one another and fleeing.

"Sir? Your guitar?" A little voice pipes up beside him just as he was about to launch into a discussion of the various ways his mother bemoans things. It breaks the moment, every moment they'd been having.

"Right, thanks, lad." Remus takes the guitar and pats the child on his head. The combined weight of the guitar and the coin in the pocket of the case has to weigh more than the little boy.

"I've got to get going to that meeting. It was nice meeting you, Remus John Lupin," Sirius says quickly as he picks up his briefcase and starts to walk off.

"Likewise. I'll hold you to the promise of bumping in to you at a more convenient time, though," Remus calls out after him. Another of Sirius's distinctive laughs floats back to him.

Sighing, Remus curses his ability to stick his foot into his mouth without even realising that it's going to happen. Then he shakes off the feeling of a connection lost and heads to the café to meet his flatmate.

"What's new, pussycat? Woah, woah," Peter, his flatmate, sings as Remus walks into the café. Every flatmate has faults, Remus has found. Some don't do the dishes while others nick your food and then blame someone else. Yet others don't pay their rent. Peter loves Tom Jones. In the grand scheme of the universe and fate, Remus thinks that there are worse fates out there. He hasn't found them yet but they have to be there somewhere.

"Hi, Pete. Had a good day, you?" Remus looks up as the waitress approaches and orders his tea and sandwich. "Ham on rye, please."

"Sure thing. No lettuce, right?" She grins at him.

"You remembered. That's either brilliance on your part or clear evidence we come here too often."

"Probably the second. I'll be right back with that," she says and then walks away.

"She's a beauty, isn't she?"

"Sure is, why haven't you asked her out again?" Remus asks as he fumbles in the small pocket of his guitar case for the money to pay for his sandwich and tea.

"Look at me and then look at her. What do you really think my chances are?"

"You've just as much chance with her as anyone else. Ask her out." Remus bites back the urge to crow triumphantly as he finally pulls out the five-note.

"And lose the one place that actually gets my food right? As if, mate. So why was it a good day?" Peter deftly changes the subject.

"Got quite a bit of money today for some reason. Natives were feeling generous or something. Though I was a bit distracted so I bumped into someone and sent him flying. Rather embarrassing, on the whole." Remus glosses over the rest of the details like Sirius's laugh or the way that his hand had felt against Remus's or his hair or those grey eyes of his.

"Nice! Dinner on you, then?"

"Not a chance, mate. Remember, you're the one with the steady employment. You should be treating me."

"I'm an assistant in a lab. It's not as great as it sounds and it also doesn't pay well, remember?" Peter sighs and then continues, "You think if I had a better job, I'd stand a chance with her?"

"I think you should go for it as is. Seriously, you stand just as much a chance as anyone. She's a waitress, for God's sake. It's not like she goes to fancy meetings and wears suits that cost more than your entire month's rent." Which brought Remus right back to Sirius and his hair and his hands and his eyes and that damnable laugh.

"Sh, she's coming!"

"Do it! Seize the day, it's now or never! Go hold her tight! Kiss her, make her your darling. Let her be yours tonight! Tomorrow will be too late, it's now or never!"

"That's Elvis." Peter would've continued but the waitress set Remus's sandwich down.

"Nice singing! I didn't know you actually played that. I thought maybe you carried it around for looks or something."

"Nope, I play it and sing for my supper."

"Well, you sound better than supper at this place," she says and waves a hand around before looking at Peter. "What about you? You sing, too?"

"No. I work in a lab."

"I bet that's exciting. What sort of lab is it?" She sounds so interested that Remus waits until her attention is fully turned to Peter to start gesturing for him to seize the moment and he mouths, 'it's now or never' at him. Peter shakes his head and then mumbles something. "Sorry? I didn't catch that."

"Oh, right, sorry, I said that it's a test facility. We research drugs and diseases and stuff." Peter's fumbling and Remus desperately wants him to save himself but, unfortunately, this is the way it always goes. Peter has no talent to flirting or making conversation with women.

"Oh, how interesting! I'm in school to be a doctor, myself. Maybe we could talk about your research or something later?" A voice yells from the back and the waitress looks away guiltily. "I have to go but I'll be back. My name's Marlene, by the way."

She hurries off and Remus kicks Peter under the table. "When she comes back, you had better offer to take her to dinner if you know what's good for you. One of us needs to have a date. If it's you rather than me, then so be it."

"I still say you do it."

"She's flirting with you and I'm gay." Remus kicks Peter again. "Ask her out."

"Maybe." Peter looks like he's digging in stubbornly. In response, Remus rolls his eyes and then eats his sandwich. It's just as he likes it and he suspects that there's a bit more meat on it this time than any other time he's ordered it before. He's so focused on his sandwich and the fact that his stomach isn't growling for the first time in three days that he's not at all prepared for Peter's next question. "Who'd you bump into?"

"Professional sort of bloke. Nice suit that probably cost more than what I make in five years. Seemed pretty important, too. He was nice enough, had a good laugh and nice eyes." Remus catches himself before he could start rambling on about how his hand had tingled or his heart had raced.

"Handsome, huh? Just your sort? Why didn't you ask him out?" Peter is obviously enjoying turning the tables on Remus. The only fair and proper response is for Remus to toss a rude gesture at him. "What? You're on me about asking Marlene out and you won't ask this bloke?"

"Bit different when you're the same sex, isn't it? It's not like most people would react well to it. These things have to be handled delicately. There are patterns and rhythms and such. Otherwise, I'll end up getting my arse kicked."

"Wouldn't want to risk those fingers, anyway, not with you getting enough to pay the rent. It'll be nice to actually be caught up for once." Peter would've continued but Marlene stops at their table.

She hands Remus the cheque. She hadn't charged them for the tea and it was such a kindness that Remus could've kissed her. Instead, he kicks Peter again before saying, "Thanks, Marlene. Much obliged."

He pulls out the money for the meal plus a bit of extra so as to partially cover the cost of the tea and giving her a tip. She refuses the extra, barely taking any sort of tip at all. "You'll get me next time. I expect to hear you play soon," she says to Remus and then turns to Peter. "And to hear about your research."

"Can do that. Just let me know when. I'll give you our number and you can ring us sometime." Remus scratches their number out onto a napkin and hands it to her.

When they exit the café, they walk back along the way towards where Remus had bumped into Sirius. He's lost in thought until he sees a small bit of paper on the ground near the site. When he picks it up, he notices that it's a business card with Sirius's information on it.

He puts it in his pocket and then starts to tease Peter once more about Marlene.

~~**~~

The business card's smooth vellum is soon worn enough that one can barely make out the address. After two months, it's become a habit to rub the card when he starts wishing. Then, one day in October (three months after he'd run into the arrogant arse), it disappears. Remus can't help the way that his heart twists at the loss of possibility.

~~*~~

On the whole, this is a good thing. It is, it is, it is, it is, it is, Remus chants to himself as he tunes his guitar behind the curtain. The place is a rat hole anyway. It's not like it's some fancy stadium with tens of thousands of fans crying out his name. It's a small rundown pub with probably about fifty people, if he's lucky, out there to listen to him. Between him and Pete, they'd been able to paper most of the neighbourhood with signs advertising the performance tonight. That might increase the number up to about fifty-two people.

"Instead of running away," Pete sings behind him as he rubs Remus's shoulders dramatically, "why don't you listen when I say that all I want is a little you… on the stage!"

"You are absolute rubbish at singing, Pete," Remus says in response to the continued deluge of Tom Jones. If this music thing finally starts to work out, perhaps Remus will have to look into a roommate that doesn't insist on singing Tom Jones so horribly. Perhaps he could find a good Beatles fan. Or the Doors. Remus quite likes the Doors. It's a shame about how Jim died but it's got to be better than…

"My, my, my, Delilah, why, why, why, Remus?" Pete lets up off of Remus's shoulders, causing Remus to finally relax.

"I'll hurt you if you keep going with that. I'll probably enjoy it, too." Remus tries for a threatening tone but, in the end, he fails at that miserably. Instead, he just makes them both laugh.

"Seriously, mate, just go out there and sing. Nothing to it. You do it all day every day for a lot less money."

"They aren't paying me all that much now."

"Better'n a few coins for a day's worth of work, yeah? This is just for a couple of hours and a guaranteed cheque."

"You make a very valid point."

"Think of the back rent. And food. You like to eat, think of being able to eat when we want instead of when we can afford." Pete waggles his eyebrows and Remus laughs though nerves are still creeping about. Pete's meaning to be reassuring but, instead, he's only stressing Remus out more with what all is riding on this performance. If he doesn't put on a good show, it's back to busking for all of his living.

The owner of the small, dingy rat hole gets on stage and announces him. With a sigh, he mutters, "it's now or never."

"That's Elvis," Pete responds. Remus sticks his tongue out and then steps on stage. Where he promptly freezes as he sees who is sitting at a table just off centre. He has one of those moments, where the rest of the room recedes and the conversations become muffled as he stares at Sirius Pollux Black sitting at a table with another man.

Sirius Black. Here. At this dive rat hole of a club.

What the hell is he doing here? This isn't his sort of scene, it can't be. He dresses too expensively and he works in a nice area and why the hell is he here at this club when Remus needs this job and doesn't need the distraction?

"Oi!" He hears whispered from the wings and sees Pete waving at him. Shite. Sirius is already distracting him. Steeling his nerves and pointedly refusing to look at where Sirius is talking to his friend, Remus walks across the stage and sits on the small stool left for him. The crowd is distracted, nattering on about other things and not paying too much attention to him. That's all right with Remus as he's used to the lack of attention when he's out on the streets. Once he starts playing just the right song for them, they'll listen to him.

Still pointedly refusing to look at Sirius, Remus strums his guitar and launches into his first song. By the time he starts his second and then his third, he forgets about the audience – he's got them hooked and paying attention – and concentrates on the music. The feel of the strings under his fingers while his voice slowly gets a bit scratchy as he sings all combine to give him something else to concentrate on instead of the way that his nerves are tingling and his stomach is churning and his mind is playing that awful disappointing game of "What If" with the possibility of money. Then there's the fact that out of all the rat holes in London, Sirius Black had to choose this one to have a drink.

The set is finally over and Remus takes a drink, bows quickly and then sets the guitar against the stool. He makes his way backstage to Pete and then downs a glass of water.

"Good show, mate, you've got 'em eating out of your hands," Pete says and then claps Remus on the back.

"Yeah? Thanks." Remus keeps himself from scanning the tables as they make their way to the bar for a quick drink while Remus takes a break. He's got one more set to go for the evening. If the crowd keeps responding like this, Remus might get invited back to play here or might even get invited to a better pub. When they reach the bartender, he orders, "Pint of the special, please."

"He doesn't want that," someone says behind him. "Get him a pint of something that isn't piss in a mug."

"I'll have you – " Remus stops his protestation when he turns and sees Sirius standing behind him.

"You can't be serious about wanting to drink that piss. No one drinks that piss except for kids off for their first pint. And babies. Babies might drink that weak piss." Sirius reaches out a hand and Remus clasps it. The awareness creeps back into his gut and he knows he's grinning like a fool.

"This your idea of a more convenient time?" Remus asks, trying desperately to remember how to flirt. It's been awhile and, in the meantime, Pete's poor attempts are the only thing sticking in his head.

Sirius rewards his conversational gambit with that barking laugh and Remus's gut twists again.

"Works for me if it works for you," Sirius says with a wink. Remus's brain insists that Sirius isn't flirting while his gut and groin insist that Sirius is flirting.

"Haven't knocked you over, though. And you're not wearing a nice suit."

"Probably why it's more convenient." Sirius turns his attention away from Remus for a moment to order them a pint of Harp's apiece. "Can't have you drinking pisswater, not with that voice. Didn't know you could play that guitar. Thought you just carried it around to knock over unsuspecting and, I should mention, highly successful and attractive businessmen."

"That's the main mission but I find it works better for the cover if I know how to use it." Remus pauses to grab the pint and then he continues, "Thanks for the pint."

"Welcome." The awkward silence creeps in and Remus searches for something to add, something to keep the conversation going and Sirius around this time.

He's saved by Pete extending an arm and offering, "Peter Pettigrew. Remus's roommate."

"Sirius Black." Sirius is friendly in his greeting, shaking Pete's hand and then turning towards the man with him.

"James Potter." James holds out his hand and Remus shakes it.

"Remus Lupin," he responds.

"I've heard a lot about you," James says with a cryptic smile on his face that doesn't do a single thing to ease the butterflies fluttering about in his gut.

"Really?" Remus asks but doesn't continue because Sirius punches James in the arm. He's suddenly quite a bit more hopeful about the possibility that Sirius might possibly be gay. Or, at the very least, curious.

"Sirius here won't shut up about the bloke that knocked him over." James winks at him before turning towards Peter. "What's it that you do, then?"

"Work at a lab," Peter answers, obviously confused at the change of subject.

"Brilliant. Why don't you tell me about it?" James grabs Peter by the arm and pulls him away, leaving Remus and Sirius alone.

"Quite a character," Remus says to fill in the awkward silence that's left in the wake of their departure.

"There are times I'd like to kill him, must admit." Sirius rakes his hand through his hair and looks about the room. It's obvious that he's either uncomfortable or not sure what to say. Considering Remus's luck, he's certain that it's the former not the latter.

"Feel the same way about Pete. He's a good bloke most of the time but he has a few oddities."

"They include blurting out info that he's not supposed to blurt out?" Sirius fixes him with those eyes and Remus can feel himself slipping from the conversation.

"Worse. Pete randomly sings Tom Jones," he says dryly.

Sirius gives a theatrical shudder. "Amazing fortitude you have to have to not kill him in his sleep."

"I think the same thing at times." Remus would've said something else to keep the conversation going but the owner's gesturing at him and so he apologises to Sirius, "Got to get back up there. You staying for the second set?"

"Wouldn't miss it." Sirius grins at him. Remus isn't sure how he's supposed to react so he just grins back and then starts back towards the stage, pausing once – twice – to look back at Sirius who happens to be watching him walk.

If one were to ask him later what he'd sung, Remus wouldn't be able to respond. All he can remember is the way that the lights were too hot and Peter kept cheering in his ear and Sirius had winked at him. Winked. He had to have put on a good show to have the crowd applauding as much as they did but his brain keeps replaying that wink.

When his second set is over, he cleans up by routine. He packs his guitar carefully, stowing the straps and loosening the strings before closing the case. It's a few minutes discussion with the manager before he's handed a check – a very small sum for some people but for him, it's more than he's made in a week playing on the streets so it's a veritable fortune – and then he's walking towards the bar with Peter.

"That the one you knocked over? The one that tied you in knots?" Peter asks as they walk. Unlike James, his voice is low and doesn't carry beyond the pair of them.

"Yeah." Remus doesn't even pretend to not understand just who it is Peter's talking about.

"He's gagging for you."

"Peter!" Remus turns scandalised eyes towards him.

"What? You want me to sing about it? I can, you know."

"Please don't." It's said with the sound of long suffering. Remus wonders, yet again, why he's still living with such an annoying man with such horrible taste in music. "Besides, look at them and look at us. This is an upgrade to us and slumming to them. Wouldn't work."

"Once I built a tower, and now it's done, buddy can you spare a dime?" Peter sings, making Remus flinch.

"Please stop," he moans but Peter only gets louder.

"Love is their only happiness, try, try a little tenderness, try a little tenderness, hug me," Peter pauses dramatically and then starts thrusting his hips and gyrating, making everyone around them stop everything they're doing to stare at him as he writhes in place before finishing with, "squeeze me, don't leave me, try a little tenderness."

Remus has turned the approximate colour of a beet or a lobster at this point. He can't look anywhere but at the floor as he wishes for it to open up and swallow him whole. The entire bar has just heard his roommate singing and, worse, saw him humping the air.

"Yeah, yours is definitely worse," Sirius says just behind him. "Definitely worse."

"I thought that was bloody brilliant singing, personally," James says as he swings an arm around Peter's shoulders. "Tell me, mate, you do any other songs?"

"Please don't encourage him," Sirius and Remus say at the same time before exchanging a look. Remus can't help the grin that starts spreading over his face and then all four of them are laughing.

"You have any plans after this?" Sirius asks after the laughter calms a bit.

"We were thinking of heading – " he means to add 'home' but Peter interrupts him.

"Food, we were thinking of heading out for a bite. You care to join us? There's a good curry place down the corner from here."

"Lead on, mate!" James gestures towards the door and keeps his arm around Peter. It's obvious that he's pissed out his skull and using Pete to balance himself. Pete tosses a look back at Remus that clearly says 'it's now or never!" and Remus rolls his eyes but turns towards Sirius.

"That all right with you?"

"Yeah, brilliant." Sirius stoops to pick up Remus's guitar from the floor as Remus does and they almost bump heads. "We have to stop running in to each other."

"But it's so enjoyable." Inside, Remus boggles at himself. Is he really flirting? Really? Him?

"Yeah, it is. Can't argue with that," Sirius says and then looks around as if he's suddenly startled. "We've been left behind."

"You think they planned it?" Remus is naturally suspicious of Peter and considering what little bit he's seen of James, he suspects the same sort of mischievousness.

"Maybe. James knows I think your arse is highly shaggable." Sirius winks and speaks in an offhand tone but Remus can see how he's serious underneath all of it, how he's braced for Remus to say something awful back. It's obvious in the sudden tension in his shoulders and how he stops playing with his hair, letting it hang over his one eye and hiding himself.

"Yeah?" Remus asks after a long pause. Too long, as it turns out, because Sirius is full of bravado once more.

"Course. If I were into that sort of thing." He uses that offhand tone again, lets his voice trail off and forces a laugh. It's so obvious that Sirius isn't at all certain what Remus thinks, that he's not joking about it because he's still tense. Remus reaches out a hand and pushes the hair from Sirius's face, tucking it behind an ear.

"I'd say thanks and return the compliment," Remus answers while he's leaning in to Sirius. He pauses and then adds, with a cheeky grin firmly in place, "If I were in to that sort of thing."

Sirius's grin splits his face and Remus smiles back. "Hungry?"

"Could eat now that I'll be flush for a bit." Remus waves the cheque in the air.

"Let's get some food, then."

As they walk out the bar and then down the street, their arms brush against one another, hard enough that Remus can feel it even with wearing coats. A couple of times, their hips brush and once, he darts a look towards Sirius and sees Sirius staring at him. A quick, bashful grin flits across his face before he concentrates on avoiding the small patches of ice from where the ice melted off the eaves when the sun was out earlier in the day.

They hesitate at the steps of the curry place, Remus's hand on the door handle. As he starts to open it, Sirius says, "Not feeling like curry."

"Curry or Tom Jones?" Remus asks.

"Both?"

"I know a good place, sandwiches and the like, if you'd want," Remus offers and Sirius nods. As they walk further down the street, Remus starts to feel the weight of the guitar case and as they're close to his flat, he wonders if he could possibly drop off the guitar and then they could continue on their way. "Give me a minute and I'll run this upstairs?"

"This where you live?" Sirius looks up at the rundown building and then back at the front entrance where the paint has worn off the door and the mortar in the bricks has fallen out. Remus knows it isn't much but it's what he can afford. He can hear the disgust in Sirius's voice and anger curls.

"Yeah," he says flatly, insulted with the way that Sirius's nose has turned up at the sight of the building. "It's rather nice inside."

"I'm sure it is." His tone clearly states that he doesn't believe Remus in the least.

"It's affordable and clean. Can't really ask for much more than that right now." He's prickly over his finances, which have never been in the best of shape even when he'd been at home with his parents and he's tired of the way that everyone seems to judge a person by how much they make instead of how good they are at something or how much they care about the world around them or any of a thousand other more important things.

"I think I insulted you," Sirius says carefully. "I didn't mean it."

"You did."

"Yeah, I did." Remus nods at Sirius's admission and then opens the door leading to the stairs. Sirius reaches out a hand, holding on to Remus's upper arm. "Wait."

"Why? So you can insult me some more for what I don't have?" Remus doesn't turn to look at Sirius.

"There's more to it than that," Sirius sounds upset and Remus finally looks at him, watches as he rakes a hand through his hair and then says, "It's past history, far past but it's all tied up. It's nothing for you, it's more this area, what it means."

"It means that I'm poor, Sirius, something that I would think you would've realised what with the way that I was playing music on a street when we first met and now I'm playing in a shitty little dive now. You think we can all afford thousand pound suits?" Remus sneers the last.

"Come on, Remus, give me another chance. I promise that the insult had nothing to do with you and everything to do with my own hang-ups and past family history."

Remus's pride demands that he shake out of the grip, storm upstairs and stew until Peter comes home and then light into the blighter for leaving him alone with such an arrogant arse. Remus's growing attraction, however, insists that he give Sirius a chance. After all, he'd known what an uptight, self-righteous and rich bastard he really is and he'd known it from the beginning. He has no one to blame but himself.

"You're buying," he finally says, blunt and to the point.

"Wouldn't have it any other way," Sirius responds and then they walk up to Remus's flat.

As they go, Remus wonders if he's remembered to clean it up a bit. Pete's notorious for leaving his dirty pants all about the main areas while waiting for Remus to clean up after him. Cleaning isn't a common occurrence, though, so normally the flat's fairly filthy until laundry day and then it all starts up once again. Laundry day was last Saturday so… so the flat's sure to be filthy and embarrassing.

Once they get to Remus's floor, he asks Sirius to wait and then darts into the flat, drops off his guitar and then comes back out as quickly as possible. "Sorry, flat's a bit of a mess."

"No worries," Sirius responds with a grin. "Can understand that. You should see James's flat. It's wretched unless Lily's come to visit."

"Lily?" Remus asks as they start down the stairs.

"That's his fiancée. They're getting married in a few weeks. He's been gagging for her since they were kids and she's finally putting him out of his misery."

"I bet you're excited for him."

"Naw, I like him miserable. It's easier to push his buttons." Sirius laughs, head back and hair cascading behind him. Remus wants to touch him, feel that laughter but just as his hand reaches out, Sirius straightens and catches him, hand halfway there. Starting to pull it back, Remus finds his hand trapped by Sirius's own hand. There's an odd look in his eye and then he entwines their fingers together and presses them to his lips. Remus sighs and tightens his grip before finding himself rewarded with Sirius's smile. "Shall we get something to eat?"

"Sure."

Sirius gives his hand a brief kiss, a quick squeeze and then lets go, heading towards the stairs. He has the door open before Remus's mind catches up. "Coming?"

"Yeah." Remus hurries over and they make their way down the stairs and out into the street once more.

"So where's this place?" Sirius asks as he brushes his knuckles across Remus's.

"Near where we bumped into one another."

They lapse into silence, giving Remus the chance to concentrate on the brush of their hands against one another. Feeling brave, he reaches his pinky finger out and snags Sirius's own, looping them together. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches for Sirius's reaction as he does it and can't help the silly, pleased grin that spreads quickly as Sirius smiles over at him.

Almost walking past the restaurant as he's so fixated on the feel of Sirius's finger entwined with his, Remus stumbles to a stop. "Here we are."

He knows what it looks like. It's almost as rundown as the bar and his flat and everything else in this end of town but the food's good enough. Still, he's braced for a sarcastic response from Sirius, at least a nose turned up or a sneer. Instead, he gets a smile and then a door gallantly held open along with a theatrical bow. "After you."

"Thanks," he murmurs as he walks through, making sure to walk close enough that his hand brushes Sirius's thigh. He hears a muttered, "Christ" and his grin has to be so large that he looks like a giant dog with his tongue lolling out the side.

He leads the way to a table in the corner so that they can watch the people walking past if the conversation lags. Sirius sits across from him and their knees brush. It's either his imagination or Sirius really is actually pressing their knees together, resting the tips of his toes on top of Remus's all while looking about the restaurant innocently. Remus watches as Sirius's hands fold together and then he reaches out to grab the salt shaker and pick it up before putting it down and playing with his napkin.

"You'll be having the usual?" comes a voice and Remus looks up to see Marlene smiling at them.

"Thought you only worked lunches or the early dinner crowd."

"Covering for someone tonight. Could use a spot of extra cash." She looks about and then asks, "Where's your friend?"

"Pete? I had a show tonight and he decided to ditch me for curry after. Didn't know we were coming here, I guess."

"Oh, that's too bad." She sounds disappointed and Remus grins.

"I could tell him you were looking for him, if you'd like."

"Yeah? That'd be brilliant. If it isn't a hassle. So what can I get you?"

"Ham on rye," Remus says.

"No lettuce. You?" Marlene interrupts and then looks to Sirius.

"Bangers and mash," Sirius orders and then hands over the menu. Marlene heads off, leaving them alone once more with Sirius's foot touching his and their knees touching. "Come here often?"

"Yeah, fairly. Pete's got a thing for Marlene."

"Looks like she's got a thing for him, too." Sirius grins at him and then plays with his silverware before tapping a beat on the table. It sounds suspiciously like What's New Pussycat?. Remus grits his teeth until he simply can't take it any longer and reaches out a hand, stilling the drumbeat by placing his hand on top of Sirius's. For his part, Sirius flips his hand over and then drifts his fingers along Remus's wrist and then up his palm. It tickles and turns him on at the same time.

"Stop," he hisses.

"What?" Sirius looks innocent, far too innocent as he rubs his knee against Remus's.

"You know what."

"Why don't you tell me what's bothering you so I can stop it? I'm not a mind reader."

"Why did I agree to this?" Remus asks as he clamps his hand down harder, forcing Sirius's hand flat to the table.

"Because of my charm? My wit? My fantastic arse?" Sirius waggles his eyebrows.

"Your ego?" Remus responds dryly.

"That too, of course." Sirius looks about the restaurant. "Nice place."

"Yeah, it is."

"Never knew this was here."

"Hm?" Remus tries his best to sound neutral but he can't help but wonder just why Sirius would be in this part of town all that often. It's closer to the nicer section of town but it's not exactly what Remus pictures as Sirius's part of town, especially with the snide comments from earlier.

"Used to live around here, back during uni. James and me, we had a flat down the way. Was part of this thing with my family. They sort of used to own a place or two in the neighbourhood."

"Oh yeah?" Remus asks but Sirius is denied the opportunity to answer as their food arrives.

Remus pulls his hand back to tuck into the food. Conversation is sparse as they eat, simple requests like "pass the salt" or "got another napkin" suffice. Their knees stay pressed together as they brush hands while passing whatever accoutrement.

"Good?" Marlene pops back over.

"Definitely," Remus says after swallowing his mouthful of sandwich.

"Want the cheque now or later?"

"Now's fine, thanks," Sirius answers before Remus can respond. "Unless you'd want coffee or something?"

"That's all right. It's getting late."

"Yeah," Sirius agrees and then rubs his knee against Remus's. "Past your bedtime? You going to turn into a pumpkin?"

"Something like that." Remus doesn't tell Sirius that he's back on the streets to bust his arse for some money until the next gig comes, that rush hour commuters in the morning aren't all that quick with the coin but what little he gets is more than he had so it's important to be up with the sun.

Marlene reappears with the cheque and Sirius snags it, pulling some notes out of his wallet and paying her. From her grin, he's grossly overpaid for the meal. Remus isn't at all insulted by it. Marlene works hard and deserves the cash. He waits until she leaves to lean in and whisper, "You've made her night, thanks."

"Why're you thanking me?"

"For being you, I guess."

"I'll take out the cost of the meal in trade from you, anyway. So, really, it's you paying for her service." Sirius leers, waggles his eyebrows and then winks.

Remus laughs at the overly suggestive moves. "You keep thinking that."

"Not the sort to put out on a first date?"

"This a date?"

"I might've thought so."

"Yeah?" Remus reaches out a hand, snags Sirius's and gives it a quick squeeze, fingers trailing up his wrist and then palm light and teasingly before resting so that their fingertips touch. "I might've thought so, too."

"Walk you back to your flat?" Sirius offers as Remus leaves his hand resting so their fingertips keep touching.

"I'd like that."

"You going to invite me up?"

"Don't put out on the first date, remember?"

"Ah, right. Well, I'll just have to ring you for a second one, then."

"I'm not certain that I'd be willing to put out on a second one, either."

"Perhaps a third." Sirius sounds serious, as if he were looking forward to it, and Remus's entire body freezes at the idea of a relationship, a relationship, with him. Is this really what he wants with Sirius? Does he really want second and third and fourth dates?

His gut – currently being ruled by his cock and influenced by the way that Sirius is rubbing against him – says 'yes' while his brain is stuck on 'it'll never happen so break it off before you get hurt'.

"Maybe. We'll see how much of a prat you are at that point."

"Best I can get, I assume." Sirius tries for pompous but fails miserably and, instead, grins. He stands and offers a hand out to Remus. "Ready?"

"Sure."

Remus allows Sirius to help him up. He keeps his hand in Sirius's for a brief moment before giving it a quick squeeze and dropping it. Once they're outside, he twines his pinky around Sirius's again and starts walking towards his flat. He's abruptly wrenched into an alley, slammed against a wall with Sirius's mouth on his neck before he realises. Sirius nips his neck and then sucks the skin into his mouth while his hands wander at will, pressing him against the wall as he explores Remus's body. A moan escapes as Sirius licks his way up Remus's neck and then nibbles his earlobe.

"Sirius," he moans out as Sirius's hands slip up his shirt and tease at his nipples.

"Remus," Sirius moans back as his tongue starts doing amazingly wicked things with the curve of Remus's ear.

"We're in an alley." Remus sounds dumb. He knows it but he can't think much beyond the hands on his chest and the mouth on his ear and the breath in his ear. Every time Sirius sucks on his earlobe, a bit more of his brain power follows the suction.

"That we are. Your powers of observation amaze me." Sirius forces his shirt up further, the cold air brushing across his stomach and making his muscles tighten at the sensation.

"We're in a public alley."

"Correct again, Mister Lupin. Any other observations you'd care to share?" Sirius's lips move across his cheek to nibble at his chin and then up to his lips. Whatever Remus had planned on sharing is immediately sucked out of his gaping mouth and replaced by Sirius's probing tongue.

He wants to protest but every time he starts, Sirius's tongue brushes his or traces along his teeth or delves deeper into his mouth or any of the myriad things it's currently doing. Besides, his tongue is far too busy doing the same to Sirius to be able to formulate words. Add in the way that Sirius is grinding his cock against Remus's leg and, well, Remus is far too busy feeling to be thinking. He's lost in the way that Sirius's hair feels against his hands or the way that Sirius's hands warm his stomach, leaving little handprints of warmth to chase away the chilled night air before moving on to explore other needier areas.

When they break for air, foreheads touching, Remus can't catch his breath. This has happened so suddenly that his brain can't catch up. It's still about five minutes back with Sirius's fingers delving into his waistband and not on the here and now of warm body pressing him into cold brick. Laughter from just outside the alley brings him back into himself abruptly.

"We're in an alley."

"You're repeating yourself."

"We're in a public alley."

"Repetez, s'il vous plait?" Sirius asks as he pulls back.

"We shouldn't be doing this." Remus shifts so that his hands press down against Sirius's wrists, forcing them away from his body. As soon as they're gone, he tugs his shirt and coat down so that the cold air can't touch him and remind him of the way that Sirius's hands chased away the chill.

"I have to disagree with you." Sirius's hand reaches out and traces his cheek.

"So glad you're not one of those arses too busy saying yes," Remus remarks.

It's quite apparent that Sirius gets the reference to their first conversation as he laughs. Here's Remus's chance to taste that laugh and so he does. He leans forward and catches Sirius's mouth with his, threading his hand deep into Sirius's hair and holding him steady as he tastes the laugh. His tongue swipes across Sirius's open lips and silences the laugh but he doesn't care because then Sirius's tongue is touching his.

This time, when they pull apart, it's Sirius's turn to say it. "We're in an alley."

Remus hears the laughter in his voice. "Already said that."

"We're in a public alley." Remus can see the way that Sirius is biting back a laugh.

"Can't think of anything unique to say? And here I thought you were so witty."

When Sirius starts to laugh, Remus presses a finger against his lips. "You start that again and we'll never leave this alley. I'm cold and I'd really like to get home."

"I can warm you up pretty quickly," Sirius leers as he says it.

"That was fairly cheesy, even for you."

"Stick with me. You ain't seen nothing yet." Sirius waggles his eyebrows and then steps away from Remus, straightening his clothes.

"I'll look forward to it," Remus says drolly. Sirius laughs once more and Remus clenches his hands to keep from touching those lips and feeling it. Instead, he rights his own clothes and then starts towards the main street again.

"When're you free next?" Sirius asks as he joins Remus in walking back to the flat.

"Dunno," he says back and then ruins it with an all too eager, "Tomorrow?"

"I've meetings that will probably run late but maybe a late meal? A movie?"

"Sounds good." They've reached Remus's flat and they enter the entryway. The warmth hits Remus's nose first, making it burn as he realises how cold he'd really been.

"Number?"

Of course. He'd forgotten to give Sirius his number. He fumbles in his pockets and comes up with a pen but no paper. Feeling bold and rather silly all at the same time, he grabs Sirius's hand and writes his number on Sirius's palm. Afterwards, he starts to go up the steps and is yanked back down, straight into Sirius's arms.

"Not so fast," Sirius murmurs. "I'm not ready yet."

"Everything always about you?" Remus arches a brow.

"Of course it is." Sirius doesn't give him time to respond. Instead, he crushes his lips to Remus's and kisses him again. Remus's thought process promptly disappears amidst the overwhelming wave of touch and feeling. "Have I worn you down enough to invite me up?"

It takes a moment for the fog to clear to absorb what Sirius has just asked. When it does, he laughs and presses a kiss to Sirius's chin. "Not quite enough. Try me again tomorrow night after a proper full date."

"If I must."

"I'm afraid you must." Remus gives Sirius's arms a quick squeeze and then starts up the stairs, fast enough to avoid Sirius's grab for him. "Call me tomorrow and let me know when you're out of your meetings?"

"You're a tease. I don't know what I see in you." Sirius shakes his head sadly but Remus isn't at all worried at either the gesture or the words, not with the way that Sirius is smiling.

"It's my charm. My wit. My fantastic arse," he parrots back. Sirius's laugh follows him up the stairs.

When he reaches the flat, he finds Peter on the sofa, snoring fit to wake the entire neighbourhood. As he sneaks past, Peter snorts and then wakes. "How'd it go?"

"Very well. Thanks for the little disappearing act."

"What're friends for?"

"Marlene looked for you tonight."

Peter's indulgent expressions slides into a gobsmacked one. "She did?"

"Yeah, asked after you without any sort of prodding on my part. When're you going to ask her out?"

"Dunno."

"I've a date tomorrow night so you'll be all alone in the flat for awhile. You could ask her round."

Peter gives a look around the flat and then snorts with laughter. "Yeah, with it looking like this?"

"You could try cleaning."

"That's your bailiwick."

"It's not that hard to put your filthy pants in your hamper, you know."

"I…"

"Do it. Seize the day! It's now or never!" Remus sings the refrain he seems to always repeat whenever the discussion about Marlene comes around.

"If it'll stop you from singing that song again, I'll do it."

"Good. About time you get lucky."

"About time you get lucky." Peter pauses and then adds, "He a good one regardless of the pompous attitude and suits?"

"Yeah. He's nice enough."

"I'd ask what sort of kisser he is but from the marks on your neck, I'd say he's a biter." Remus slaps a hand over his neck, making Peter crow with laughter. He tosses a rude gesture over his shoulder as he scurries into his room.

~~*~~

"Can you hammer a spike through a two by four with your cock?" Sirius asks as they wander out of the theatre.

"Can't say that I've ever tried." Remus bumps his shoulder against Sirius's. "Can you?"

"Of course I can." Sirius preens.

"Prat. You've never tried."

"Course I have. A man's got to have standards." Sirius is so deadpan when he says it that Remus loses his composure, laughing at both the way that Sirius is mimicking the movie they've just watched and the memory of the funny moments within it. It wouldn't have been Remus's first pick but it had been a rather entertaining movie filled with enough funny moments that Remus had basically stopped paying attention to the movie and, instead, concentrated on Sirius's laugh. He'd gotten hard the first time it had happened and, coupled with Sirius holding his hand throughout the movie, stayed that way until the end. He's still three quarters of the way hard at this moment.

"I shan't be trying it for you so get the thought straight out of your head."

"Oh Remus, Remus. Remus. Remus," Sirius says with a sad shake of his head.

"I know. I'm so unadventurous. I'm unworthy of you." Remus mimics the sad shake of his head. "Your standards are so high and exacting."

By this point, they're outside the theatre and standing amidst the thinning crowd. Remus feels brave enough, even standing here with so many people, to reach out a hand and touch Sirius's waist briefly. Sirius leans in and whispers, "You have other skills, I'm certain."

"Oh yes, I'm quite good with a guitar."

"So I've heard. You going to play for me sometime?"

"Maybe." He doesn't admit that he'd looked for Sirius this morning as he'd played for the crowds then again this afternoon before heading back to the flat to get ready. Just after the lunch rush, he'd popped into a thrift store for a new-to-him shirt and pair of denims on the off chance that Sirius did call for a date tonight. Everything he owned was threadbare and he'd rather not look like a complete impoverished arse, not with the way that one pair of Sirius's trousers cost more than his entire wardrobe.

"I'll hold you to it." Sirius holds a belt loop and tugs Remus towards a bar. "Food?"

"Yeah, sure. Could use a bite."

"Or five. You're skinny." Sirius's eyes are appraising as they look Remus over. Instead of being embarrassed at the appraising eye, Remus can feel his softening cock start to come back to attention.

"Could say the same for you." Remus casts his own appraising eye over Sirius's body. He's lean, not skinny. There's enough muscle there to add enough to soften the angles of the bones unlike Remus.

"Come on. Least I can do is feed you so that you can start practising for the hammering." Sirius lets go of Remus's belt loop and wanders towards a pub.

After they get seated, Remus keeps from gaping at the menu. The food here is at least four times more than he's used to and … and he's not paying for it but still. It's expensive and there's plenty of good, cheap food just a few blocks away.

His contemplations had to show as Sirius says, "Just order something. I can afford it. Christ."

"It's not that. It's just that it's expensive, isn't it?"

"I can well afford it. Just order something."

At the order, Remus starts to look for the cheapest thing on the menu only to find it ripped from his hands. "Christ, Remus. What do you want to eat? Fuck the price, just tell me what you want."

The waiter comes by and Sirius orders a pint of bitter while Remus starts to order a water only to be interrupted with a duplicate of the bitter Sirius had just ordered.

"You're starting to make me mad. I can afford whatever you want so stop worrying over it. I wouldn't have brought you here if I couldn't afford it."

"It just…" Remus isn't sure how to phrase how he's feeling without sounding awkward and weird.

"Out with whatever it is before I'm angrier."

"It just makes me feel weird. I can't afford any of this and I don't want you thinking that… that…"

"What? That I can buy your affections?" Sirius asks as Remus stumbles over his words. "That you're only here for a meal and a good time?"

"Sort of, yeah."

"Remus, I want to pay for a shag, there are plenty of places I can go without rushing out of a meeting to get to meet you. There's plenty of quick easy fucks out there without me having to worry over whether or not I'm going to step on your toes or say something stupid which, if you ever ask James, isn't something I'm normally worried about." Sirius pauses as the waiter comes back with their pints. He quickly orders food for them both, ignoring Remus's stuttering attempts to order his own meal.

"I think it's my turn to apologise," Remus says as he looks at Sirius's tightly clenched hands where they rest on the table. "I've offended you and I didn't mean it."

"You did."

"Not the offense but the meaning, yeah. I don't want you thinking I'm here just because you have a bit more money than me or whatever."

"If I thought that, I wouldn't be here." Sirius leans back and crosses his arms behind him. "And it's quite a lot more than a 'bit'."

"Right so I definitely owe you an apology. So I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend."

"I'm loaded," Sirius says with a grin. "Rolling in it. So much money that I stuff my mattress with it."

"I get the point." Remus rolls his eyes.

"I light my fags with hundred pound notes."

"Of course you do."

"I use them for toilet tissue."

"Right." Remus rolls his eyes but it's getting harder to not laugh at Sirius.

"I blow my nose with 'em." When Sirius mimes blowing his nose, Remus loses it and laughs. Sirius joins in until the tension of earlier is pushed into the back of their minds.

"You really want to make up for the offence, you can learn a certain skill," Sirius says with a comical leer. It's obvious that Sirius wants to move on, that his wealth and Remus's lack doesn't bother him and isn't important enough to quibble over.

"As if I'd risk my cock for you," Remus responds dryly.

"That hurts."

"I'd rather not risk puncture wounds in a very sensitive area, thanks."

"You ever – oh, thanks." Sirius pauses to allow for their food to be distributed and then orders another round of drinks. Whatever he had been intending to say is lost as they start to eat. Sirius eats with a single-mindedness that Remus appreciates as he tucks into his food in the same manner. The tickle at his ankle doesn't catch his attention the first time nor the second. It's the third time that he realises that Sirius is rubbing his sock-covered toes against his ankle, just inside his denims. He looks up from his food and sees Sirius studiously avoiding looking at him.

In response, he uses his non-accosted ankle to trap Sirius's foot between them, pinching hard enough so that Sirius is going to have to struggle to remove it. Sirius looks up and grins, leaving his foot where it is and wiggling the toes. Remus barely hears his whisper of, "Take charge any time you'd like."

Remus flushes and looks down at his food before looking back at Sirius and catching the wink. He whispers back, "You're incorrigible."

"Now you're sounding like my mother."

"She obviously knows you fairly well." When Sirius's face shutters, Remus realises just how far he's stepped into trouble this time. He'd forgotten all about the vague comments Sirius made about his mum the first they'd met and how she'd never approved of him. To make up for the misstep – and couldn't they possibly not have any more, please? – Remus reaches out and touches the back of Sirius's hand before entwining their fingers on the tabletop. He looks around quickly and then gives them a squeeze before letting go. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."

"It's all right." Sirius smiles back at him. "You about done?"

"Yeah, just about."

"Want the rest to take away?"

"That's all right." There isn't enough to worry about, just a bit of bread and some gravy.

"Ready to go?" Remus nods in response and watches as Sirius settles the cheque. They down the rest of their pints and head back outside. In the dark and with their coats unbuttoned, their hands meet and entwine. Remus feels about twelve with the way they're chastely holding hands as they walk down the street. He can't help but feel conspicuous and nervous. Sirius, on the other hand, is walking as if he's completely unconcerned with the possibility that they'll be seen.

Whether Sirius is pretending or not isn't obvious to Remus who still has images of Section 11 and the trials of the "incurably homosexual", the threat of prison and the worry that goes along with all of it. Sirius's job is important and he could lose it with being so blithe over holding Remus's hand. He doesn't seem to care, though, and whether it's hardheadness, stubbornness or recklessness remains to be seen.

Remus releases Sirius's hand as they make their way on to a train and then towards his flat. Here, they walk side by side with hands brushing and the occasional look. Remus is too busy wondering about the hands and public display and whether or not Sirius is going to snog him or want to come upstairs in to the partially cleaned flat to think about where they're going. Besides, he knows his way home and they arrive long before Remus is done mulling the concerns over.

Once they're inside, door to the outside firmly shut and Remus up one step from Sirius, he's tugged into Sirius's body and finds Sirius's hands in his hair, pulling his head down. Sirius's teeth are on his lip, sucking it between them only to nip it and force a moan. While his teeth and mouth are having their way with his lips, Sirius's hands are on his coat, shoving it off and onto the steps behind him before tugging his shirt free from his waistband. Warm hands shove into his shirt, warm hands on thankfully warm flesh as they roam over his body.

Remus kisses Sirius back, grabbing fistfuls of hair to take control of the kiss and ravage his mouth instead. He can feel Sirius playing with the buttons on his shirt as he lets go of Sirius's hair only to force off Sirius's coat and then tug his shirt free. He proceeds to fumble with the belt so that he can feel Sirius's stomach and arse. He definitely wants to feel Sirius's arse as his hands slide back and then into Sirius's denims, pushing underneath his cotton pants to feel the play of muscle under his palms.

"You going to invite me upstairs?" Sirius mutters against his lips as they stop kissing long enough for a breath.

"You could convince me." Remus's cock is already quite convinced. It's his brain that's still stuck on 'you're going to get hurt' that needs a bit of convincing.

"Yeah? Would this help?" Sirius's hand is on his cock, rubbing his erection through his denims and pants. He kneads it, making Remus impossibly harder.

"Getting there," Remus moans and arches his neck, head falling backwards as he thrusts into Sirius's grip.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry but oh my God, oh my – " comes a voice from the doorway that's just opened behind them. It's then that Remus comes back to himself enough to realise that they're basically fucking in the stairwell to his flat. His shirt hangs off one arm and his denims are half-way unfastened while Sirius is in the same state. Their hands are obviously on cocks and arses and not anywhere they should be in such a public spot. The awkwardness continues as they maneuver so that the woman can run up to her own flat.

Remus knows he's red – bright, splotchy red – under the awkward light of the stairwell. He hides his face against Sirius's neck where he can feel it shaking. In his ear are the first sounds of laughter. "Looks like you'll have to invite me up just to hide from your neighbours."

"Come on, then, but I'm not promising to put out." Remus gathers up his coat and then hurries up the steps, keeping an eye out for the neighbour that had just caught them. Sirius's hands keep playing with his arse or his back, tugging his shirt off every time Remus tries to pull it back on fully and button it up properly. He opens the door to the flat only to stop in the entrance at the sight of Peter and Marlene on the sofa together. They're watching the tiny telly. Remus is all too aware of both his own and Sirius's state of undress and the obvious implications. Sirius bumps into his back and forces him into the flat.

Peter looks up and then starts laughing at them. Marlene looks shocked and then schools her face into an expressionless one. Peter sings, "It's not unusual to be loved by anyone
It's not unusual to have fun with anyone." And then he smirks and adds, "and that isn't just anyone."

Remus finishes entering the flat with Sirius pinned to his back. With his blush still fully in place, Remus tries to play it off by saying drolly, "I could say the same. Hello, Marlene."

"Hello, Remus." She looks at them both and then blushes to match Remus as she looks at Sirius and says, "I can't remember your name."

"Sirius. Marlene, right?" Sirius approaches the couch and offers a hand to both Peter and Marlene.

"Right." They shake as if Sirius isn't half-clothed and sporting stubble-burn and red marks where Remus's fingers have dug in too hard or teeth have nipped.

"We'll just be, err, that is…" Remus's hand flails in the air in the general direction of his room while his words trail off.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Peter says in a singsong voice while batting his eyelids.

"I think I can promise that we will, indeed, do plenty you wouldn't," Sirius says back with a leer, voice low and seductive which only sends chills up Remus's spine and turns him on further than the snogging of earlier. Remus blushes even harder and then hurries into his room.

At least the flat's cleaner than it had been. At least his room is fairly clean. At least he'd hidden his dirty laundry away and stacked the books in a neat pile. At least his guitar is stashed away along with all his sheet music instead of spread about the room and his bed. At least he'd put clean sheets on the bed. At least he'd stocked the drawer in his bedside table with plenty of oh sweet Jesus do that again, he thinks as Sirius's tongue is on the back of his neck while his hands push the shirt completely off his shoulders. Sirius's hands are magic on his chest and arms, touching and squeezing.

"They're just outside," Remus murmurs while his brain is still functioning.

"That they are," Sirius murmurs back as he pushes Remus's head to the side so that he can suck the skin just behind Remus's ear. His tongue swipes at Remus's earlobe while his hands slip down Remus's chest to unfasten his belt and push his denims to the floor. His words are whisper-soft as he says, "That your way of saying that you don't want to do this?"

Sirius's hands are still on his flesh, hands resting on his belly, as he waits for Remus's response. "You going to hate me if I say that I'm really not comfortable with them just outside?"

"No." Sirius's hands slide along his belly until he's hugging Remus's bare back against his partially clothed chest and holding him tightly. Remus holds on to his arms, pressing them just that much closer. "I'd rather we be fucking but I'll take what I can get. For now."

"I did say that I don't normally put out on a second date," Remus says to keep his mind from the fact that he's hard and only wearing his pants with his denims around his ankles while Sirius is barely better with his shirt hanging open and his belt undone while his cock presses into Remus's arse.

"You did say that." Sirius's mouth is back on his neck. "You could let me suck you off."

"Yeah?" Remus wants to sound cool and collected, like he brings blokes back to the flat all the time to engage in mindless one-offs but he can't because he's been obsessing over Sirius fucking Black for too long.

Sirius takes his question for acquiescence and walks him forward to the bed and then turns him around, pushing him down so that he's sitting on the edge. Remus blinks at him, unsure about this turn of affairs while he kneels between Remus's knees and pushes them open wider. Sirius mouths over the cotton of his tight white pants, wet spot expanding as he sucks the tip of Remus's cock into his mouth. He looks up at Remus as he slips his fingertips into the elastic waistband and starts to slide them over Remus's hips.

His hand shakes as Remus touches Sirius's cheek and then delves into his hair, holding a hank of it firmly. "Please."

Sirius's grin fully back in place, he tugs Remus's pants off and then tosses them to the side before holding Remus's cock steady so he can mouth the tip and then suck it deep into his mouth. He pulls back slowly, tongue dragging along the vein. Remus can barely control the urge to thrust into Sirius's mouth and start fucking it but he does because this torturously slow pace is even better than a hard and fast suck.

Sirius's hand sneaks down into his denims and he pulls his cock out. Remus angles his head to watch Sirius wank, trying to ignore the way that Sirius is sucking him off. Hands convulsing in Sirius's hair, Remus concentrates on the feel of the hair and not the way that Sirius's lips feel on his cock or his hand feels holding on to Remus's hips and inner thighs. If he concentrates on any of it, he'll be gone faster than the time Mark Adams sucked him off in sixth year way back when.

He can hear the muted sounds of voices and the telly from out in the main room but Sirius's sucking is so much louder, so much closer that he can't make out the words. Instead, he can only pray that his moans and hisses as Sirius brushes his cock with teeth can't be heard over the telly. Sirius's fingers press into his mouth, slipping along Remus's cock and then exit to go back to his own cock, wanking.

"Going to come," he bites out as he feels his balls tighten and grips Sirius's hair hard enough that he's sure to come away with a handful.

Sirius looks up at him, gaze burning him as it traces a path up his body while his hand keeps going, rubbing and twisting. Remus can see the permission and so he lets go, coming hard while biting his knuckles to keep from yelling over the telly. He falls back onto his elbows as Sirius sucks his softening cock. Watching as Sirius pulls his lips off and then rests his forehead on Remus's inner thigh, Remus wants to tug Sirius up and take care of his erection but he doesn't have the energy to move and he's far too slow anyway as Sirius bites his thigh and comes, falling to the side so that he leans against Remus's leg.

Remus forces himself to sit up and then leans forward to rest his head on top of Sirius's.

"Brain feels a bit mush," Sirius murmurs against his leg. "And I think I might've marked you."

"Yeah?" Remus asks and brushes where Sirius bit him and hisses at the pain the brief touch brings. "Yeah, you did."

"Not sorry."

"Neither am I."

"Good."

They lapse into silence that's only broken by the telly and the sound of Marlene and Peter talking. Muscles tightening and protesting the awkward position, Remus tugs at Sirius's armpit to pull him up. "Come up here. Can't stay like this."

"Yeah, ok." Sirius tries to push himself off the floor and, after knocking their heads together, collapses back down. "Too much effort. You come down here."

"It's softer up here. Not by much but still." Remus sits up and tugs again. "Come on."

Sirius stands and then falls forward, bouncing into the mattress as he lands on his face. "You're right, it's barely softer." At least, that's what Remus thinks he hears as it's completely muffled by the mattress, sheets and blankets. Remus tosses a leg over Sirius's prone body and, after pressing his face into Sirius's side, falls asleep without responding.

He wakes to the unfamiliar feel of lips on his neck and arm. There's a light suction on his bicep and then a trail of kisses down until they reach his hand, each finger sucked in to a wet heat and then released slowly. "Mphmf?"

"Gotta get going back to my flat soon," Sirius says, making Remus awaken completely.

"Oh, yeah. Forgot."

"Not going to beg me to stay?" Sirius mouths the inside of Remus's wrist.

"I'd rather you spend the day thinking of what you're willingly walking away from," Remus responds, voice low as he reaches out a hand and traces Sirius's chest, side and then back, finger-walking down until he can tease the cleft of Sirius's arse.

"You're a smart one." Sirius sucks the index finger in to his mouth and gives a tug with his mouth before releasing it. "Keep 'em coming back for more."

"Always." Remus sits up so he can mouth Sirius's skin, echoing the way that Sirius's mouth is exploring his flesh.

"I have to go." He shows no sign of leaving as his mouth traces back up Remus's arm until it reaches his collarbone and nips the tight flesh there.

"You've said that."

"You're too skinny."

"Could say the same about you," Remus says as he nips Sirius's shoulder.

Sirius's mouth on his neck distracts him as it works up to his ear. "Guess I'll have to call for another date."

"Yeah?" Remus can hear how he sounds, hears the excitement in his voice. So much for blasé reactions.

"You did say you didn't put out on the second date. Maybe I can get you on the third."

"Keep talking like that and I might never put out."

"I'll just have to keep trying to tempt you." Sirius looks at the clock and curses. "I have to go."

"You've said that."

Sirius tilts Remus's face so that their mouths meet and this kiss is gentle, a play of lips and tongue with only a fraction of the hunger of earlier in the night.

"I have to go, Christ, I have to go."

"You've said that." Remus reaches out a hand and, after placing it on Sirius's chest, pushes him away. "Go on."

"I can't do anything tonight. What about tomorrow?"

"I've a performance."

"I could come." Sirius pauses and then leers as he adds, "in more ways than one."

"Yeah? That'd be good," Remus says, still trying for that blasé tone that he's been lacking the entire time. Sirius leans in and kisses him again, taking his mind off blasé or not blasé, accepting or not, nerves or no. Instead, all he can concentrate on is the way that Sirius's hands are touching him, running up and down the sides of his chest and tweaking his nipples, touching him everywhere but his cock.

The cocktease pulls back and whispers against Remus's lips, "Think about that and putting out next time, yeah?"

"You're an arse."

"That I am. Keep 'em wanting, that's the motto," Sirius says and then hops off the bed and starts to dress. Remus watches as he pulls on his clothes and hides the skin and the marks covering it.

"You'll be there?" Remus asks as Sirius buttons up his shirt.

"Just tell me where and when," he answers and pulls out a business card, handing it over. "You can leave a message with my secretary, if you'd want."

Pushing up from his reclined position, Remus grabs the card and grins at the feel of it under his fingers. He's missed having the other one. While he's staring at the card, Sirius sits down and pulls on his shoes. The bed dips under his weight and pulls Remus out of his contemplation and, taking advantage of the fact that Sirius is so close, Remus leans in and mouths his neck. He's rewarded by Sirius arching his neck to expose more of it.

"Keep that up and I won't leave."

"Then don't," Remus whispers and nips his earlobe.

"I have to get to work." Remus can hear how much Sirius wants to stay so he mouths his way along Sirius's jawbone. "Christ."

"He can't help you, you know," Remus says and then touches Sirius's thigh, squeezing it before sliding his hand up until he can palm Sirius's cock. Sporting a wicked grin, Remus abruptly pulls away. "Go to work and think about that."

Sirius laughs, head tilting back and hair falling. "You're such an arsehole."

"I am."

"I'm going to walk out this door and see you at your show. I won't look back or call or anything."

"All right," Remus agrees and watches as Sirius walks away. He's true to his word as he disappears from sight and then the door opens and closes. Remus falls back into the bed and drifts back to sleep.

It's only moments later (though the clock says it's about three hours later) when the phone wakes him. He fumbles for it and then answers, "mrr."

"Remus?" The voice sounds familiar but Remus can't quite place it. "Please tell me you've dragged yourself out of bed by now."

The identity clicks and Remus grins, stupid and goofy. "Can't tell you that or I'd be lying. I thought you weren't going to call."

"I wasn't. I'm not." Remus pictures Sirius in a large, expansive office with his feet kicked up on his desk while sunlight pours through the large windows at his back.

"Course you're not." Remus laughs. "Does this mean I won't have to call your secretary later today?"

"Exactly what I was thinking. Best to go straight to the source for this sort of thing."

"Half nine tomorrow at the same bar."

"Are you still nake – " Sirius stops speaking abruptly. When he continues, it's with a much more serious and professional tone. "So you'll be able to get those numbers to me?"

If Remus has to hazard a guess, someone important just came into that office and Remus's mental image of Sirius reclining at his desk shifts into him flailing as he tries to cover what he'd been about to say with a professional veneer. He can't help but laugh at the image and his laugh continues as he says, "Boss just come in to the office?"

"That's correct."

"Then I probably shouldn't tell you that I'm naked and that my hand's touching my cock right now." Remus's laugh continues as Sirius makes a strangled noise. "I'd rather have your mouth on me."

"I can schedule a meeting later to address that concern, if you'd like."

"Sounds fantastic as I think that's a concern that really needs to be addressed." Remus starts to touch himself. "Keep talking to me."

"Are you getting… results?"

"I am, keep talking."

"Are you really?"

"Of course I am. Does that surprise you?" Remus tugs at his cock while he listens.

"I never would've thought…"

"That I'd wank with you on the phone? We've only been out twice, surely you don't think you know everything about me." He's surprised at himself, though Sirius doesn't need to know that bit.

"Very good point. We'll have to explore your premise. I definitely suggest a meeting. Perhaps we could schedule a luncheon soon?"

"I think I'd like that."

"Right. Well, then we'll discuss your position at that time. It was good talking to you."

"Very nice talking to you too." Remus's voice comes out as a growl. He hears Sirius sigh and then the click of the phone. It'd been a very nice way to wake up. The remains of Sirius's professional tone flit through his head and he continues to wank with the mental image and voice combined together. When he comes, Sirius's name is on his lips.

He stumbles in to the loo, thankfully empty, and showers. The bite on his inner thigh aches as the water washes down it, little stinging needles that remind him of Sirius's mouth on his cock. That stupid, goofy grin spreads over his face as he leans his face against the cool shower wall. For once, he's going to luxuriate in the feel of the water and not worry about the bills. Or at least he would if it isn't for Peter banging on the door.

"Come on, mate, gotta get to work. Hurry it up in there."

"Out in a second." Remus rinses, turns off the water and then grabs a towel and wraps it around his waist. He steps out into the hall and says, "All yours."

"About damn time." Peter slides past him, shutting and locking the door.

Remus dresses and then heads in to the kitchen for something to eat. The cupboards are just as bare as they'd been for the past lifetime. There's a loaf of bread that's gone stale but, Remus decides, would make perfect toast regardless. He pops it into the oven and adds in a few more slices for Peter on the off chance he hasn't eaten. He's just finished buttering his pieces when Peter comes rushing into the kitchen.

"How'd it go with Marlene?" Remus asks and is heartened to see the same goofy smile cross Peter's face.

"Well. She was a bit off about you until…"

"She was, huh? Not a fan of gay men?"

"Not that. I think she might've had a crush or something."

"Well, then, no impediment to the great courtship by Peter Pettigrew, now is there?" Remus gestures towards the toast. "There's toast if you want."

"Ta," Peter says as he picks up one of Remus's slices and eats it.

"Oi! That's mine, bloody arsehole." Remus slaps at him but Peter dances out of the way only to dart back in and steal another slice before dancing out of the way and towards the door.

"Ta for the toast!" The door opens and shuts, leaving Remus alone in the flat. Feeling inspired, Remus forgets about the toast and cleans up the flat, debating the merits of running laundry or ignoring it for another month. The idea of Sirius or Marlene coming back to the flat and seeing the filth is enough to have him gathering both of their piles of laundry and heading to the basement for the machines. As the machines start spinning, Remus heads back to the flat, grabs his guitar and then descends once more.

With the racket from the old machines as his accompaniment, Remus starts working on a new song and the time passes so quickly that the laundry is finished and his stomach is growling before he realises. He should probably fold it but that would necessitate staying here in the basement longer so, instead, he grabs all of the clothing and stuffs it back into the baskets and hauls all of it upstairs.

"Want some help?" Peter asks as they almost collide.

"Sure, thanks," Remus says as he gestures towards the top basket. "These're yours anyway."

"You did my laundry?"

"Don't want Marlene seeing it, do you?"

"You did my laundry."

Instead of answering, Remus shoves the basket at Peter and then continues up the stairs with his guitar banging along his spine.

"You write anything new?" Peter asks as he trails Remus up the stairs.

"Got something started."

"Will you play it for me?"

"Not until I get it cleaned up better. Can't get it to work out right."

"Yeah, all right. Here, let me get it." Peter bumps him with his hip and then opens the door, barely balancing his clean clothes as he does so. "You didn't eat all day?"

"Got distracted."

"Come on, my treat." Peter puts his laundry down on the sofa, making Remus roll his eyes. "Oh right."

He picks the laundry back up and heads in to his room. Remus puts his own in his room.

"Curry?" Peter asks as they meet back in the hallway.

"Sure."

~~**~~

Remus's nerves the other night are nothing compared to his nerves tonight. Tonight, not only does he have the money and future shows riding on this show, but he also knows that Sirius is out in the audience. Or at least he thinks Sirius is out in the audience. He hopes Sirius is out in the audience.

The lights shift to focus on the stage and he walks out, concentrating on not searching the audience to see if Sirius showed up. The music slowly takes over until he forgets about Sirius and the eagerness to see him again, the wonder about whether or not he would've called again or any of that. Instead, he loses himself in the music like he's done since seeing that street busker working the crowd.

He stops only when his throat gets scratchy. After announcing a break, he makes his way to the bar.

"Come here often?" Sirius whispers into his ear as he leans against Remus's back. Remus can feel Sirius along his spine and arse, even down his legs where they brush against one another.

"Every night. You?" Remus tries to hide his breathlessness at the contact. It wouldn't do to build up Sirius's ego any larger.

"I just come for the musician. Have you seen him?"

"Can't say that I have." Remus barely bites back the moan as Sirius presses closer and then brushes his hand as he reaches up to the bar to gesture for the bartender's attention.

"Two pints of bitter, please, whatever you've got on tap." Sirius's breath brushes his ear as he orders and then his lips are where his breath just was. "He's mine, don't get any ideas over him."

"And if he doesn't think that he is?"

"He's mistaken." Those two words send a thrill through Remus, curling deep into his gut as he flushes.

"Sure about that? I bet he doesn't put out." Remus would've said something else but Sirius reaches past him, fingers brushing up his sides, as he grabs the glasses and pushes one in front of Remus.

"He's appealing in other ways."

"Oh yeah?" Remus watches as Sirius plays with the glass in front of them, not stepping back to make space in the slight crush at the bar. Instead, he leans in closer and Remus's heartbeat sputters for a second before starting to race.

"Got talented hands, a pretty voice and plenty of brains, too." Sirius's hands drop back along Remus's body as his lips leave Remus's ear. "And a show to do in a few minutes so I should let you get back to it."

"You're a cocktease," Remus says, voice low as he grabs his glass and turns to face Sirius.

"Too right," Sirius responds with a grin as he stays close to Remus, this time face to face.

"Don't think I'm going to put out with that sort of attitude."

"Just help yourself to his lips, to his arms just say the word," Peter sings, interrupting the moment. One of these days, Remus would commit roommate-cide and not a single jury in the entire world would dream of convicting him, not once he brought up Pete's propensity to sing Tom Jones.

"Pete," he says calmly and grimaces when Pete winks.

"About time for you to go back on. Probably should wrap this up," Pete says and waves his finger in a circle. "I can turn my back, if you'd like a moment of privacy."

"Not necessary," Remus responds and then taps the back of Peter's head before turning towards Sirius once more. "Will you wait after the show?"

"Course, I've nothing else to do tonight," Sirius says drolly, making Remus grin.

"Well, I'm glad that you can pencil me in."

Remus heads back through the crowd, recovers his guitar and, all too quickly, slides right into the zen state where the music is the only thing that matters. He plays through original songs before heading into Simon and Garfunkel before sliding into The Doors and then back into his own music. The audience seems larger this go round. Perhaps they're here for him or, more likely, they're here because the lager's cheap.

When the set's over, he takes a quick bow, thanks the crowd and then starts gathering his things. Pete's already wrapping up cords when Sirius and James join them. Between the four of them, they make short work of cleaning up the bits of equipment Remus has before Remus fetches his payment.

"What's the plan, mates?" James asks as he sweeps his arm out. "The world is our oyster and it's time we suck it down into our guts."

"That was poor, even for you," Sirius says as he slaps the back of James's head.

"That was a brilliant metaphor for our lives. I can't help that you are far too much the plebian to understand my wit and witticisms."

"We can't all be bloody wankers with too much mouth and not enough brains."

"Oi! No call for that!" James slaps at Sirius before turning to Remus. "Do you see how he abuses me? Friends since first form and how does he reward me? Insults! Bloody insults!"

"You're really bringing up the first form? The first form where your bloody rabbit bit me?"

"Unlike when your bloody cat bit me as it chased after my rabbit? Your cat killed my rabbit, you bloody savage."

"Your rabbit was taunting my cat, you arse!" Remus watches the play between the friends as they argue back and forth and then their words catch up to him.

"You went to school together?" he interjects before they can come to blows over the supposed death of the rabbit or the cat and something about a goldfish.

"Course we did," Sirius says. "How else you think I'm able to put up with him?"

"Long years of practise, my friend, it takes long years of practise to know the ins and outs of Sirius Pollux Black."

"Go on, the lot of you," the owner calls out from behind the bar as the waitstaff put the chairs on the tables and start mopping. "Lupin! Got your money whenever you want it."

"Be right back," Remus says and dashes over to pick up his check. It's a bit bigger than the last one and the thought of paying even more of the back rent flits through his head. He starts thinking that maybe he can afford a new mike or an amp. Maybe… maybe he could start paying some of those bills instead of dreaming.

"With a grin like that, dinner on you, then?" Pete asks as he carries Remus's guitar past.

"Fuck off," Remus says, tossing a rude gesture.

"Not in this lifetime, mate," Peter responds and continues walking past.

"Not me, either," James says and walks by.

"I'll take you up on that any time," Sirius says, leaning in close and brushing his lips against Remus's ear.

"What're the plans?" Peter asks from near the door.

"Drink?" James asks.

"Bars are closing, mate," Peter answers.

"We could go back to my place. I've got some drinks lying around there somewhere."

"Or mine. We could have our own personal Remus Lupin show," Sirius says with a waggle of his eyebrows.

"As long as the clothes stay on." James fakes a grimace. "After all those bloody years of rooming with Sirius, I've seen more than enough of his naked arse."

"At least I don't prance about in my pants singing show tunes." Sirius glares at James though there's little heat in it.

"That was one time! One bloody time that you promised not to say a word about!"

"What song?" Remus can't help the morbid curiosity as they walk out of the pub and towards an Underground station.

"Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, meet me at the fair," Sirius sings in a falsetto while James flushes and Peter laughs hysterically, leaning against the wall for support. Remus tries, for the sake of the burgeoning relationship with Sirius and the length and depth of relationship that he has with James, to keep from laughing too much.

"Arse," James mutters and then slaps Sirius's shoulder. "Let's catch the train."

The train is surprisingly full for the time of night as far as Remus is concerned. His guitar bumps into a woman as she shuffles on and then the man that pushes between them. Sirius gives the guy a light shove when he turns to say something, thrusting him further into the train and away from them.

"You live far?" Peter asks as the train gets underway.

"Westminster." Sirius looks at Remus oddly, making Remus wonder what's behind it.

"Sirius's flat is down the way from Buckingham Palace, mate. Posh doesn't even begin to describe it," James says to Peter.

Ah. So that's why Sirius is looking at him oddly. Sirius's flat costs more in a week than Remus's flat does in a month. It's another example of the differences between them.

"You should see the art, too, mate. Won't believe it until you see," James babbles on while Sirius stares at Remus and Remus stares back.

It takes a moment to shuffle about so that Remus is standing next to Sirius instead of with James and Peter between them. As their friends go on about the flat and neighbourhood, Sirius leans in to Remus and says, "This ok with you?"

"Yeah, fine," he says and, ignoring the doubts about this lasting beyond even tonight, Remus leans against Sirius.

The train finally rattles into the station and they exit into Sirius's neighbourhood. It's very different from the one they'd just left. The women wear diamonds here instead of cheap glass. Their dresses glitter in the light cast by the street lamps while men hold open the doors of Porsches and the occasional Aston Martin.

Remus and Peter exchange a look, one that speaks volumes about how out of place they feel. They'd not been this out of place since they'd gone to school together. They'd gone to school on waivers and scholarships, their parents barely able to cover the basic costs let alone the tuitions and rooming costs. It's another regret to add to the long list of regrets that Remus has, that he'd not been able to use that schooling in a positive manner before his parents had both passed. But with being so sick all the time for awhile there, he'd not been able to hold a steady job. The symphonies, orchestras, bands with steady jobs and performances, they all need an employee that would show up on time every time and Remus can't promise that.

By the time he pulls himself from his regrets, they're heading up the lift to Sirius's flat. They get off on the third floor and Remus breathes a sigh of relief. At least it isn't the penthouse or some ridiculous thing like that. His guitar bumps his leg as they walk down the hall and then enter the flat.

"Home sweet home. At least for now," Sirius says as he opens the door with a grand sweep.

Remus walks in and stops in the middle of the foyer. The flat shocks him. Not the poshness of the surroundings nor the views out the barely covered windows. It's the way that the flat is so sterile. The walls are white. The furniture is white. The linens are white. The pieces of artwork are barely splashes of colour on sterile walls. There's not a thing on the floor or the tables other than artfully arranged collections of white balls in white bowls. It's not at all what he would've thought Sirius would've chosen.

"See? Posh. Look at this view, mate," James says as he pulls Peter towards one of the windows.

"You all right?" Sirius asks as the other pair look out the glass that takes up most of one wall and part of the other.

"This is a nice flat," he says as he can't think of anything else to say.

"You don't sound like you mean that."

"Bit sterile, isn't it?" Remus flushes. That isn't what he'd meant to say. "Would've thought you'd have a stuffed flat, full of colour and… and… things."

"Never home, work too much or I'm over at James's. It's easier to have the maid come in and clean if it's plain."

"That makes sense. I like it, it's just not what I was expecting."

"Come on, I'll give you the tour. You can lean that up against the table, if you'd like," Sirius offers before taking Remus's hand and pulling him towards the fireplace built of white brick.

"Is that a Warhol?" Peter asks as he leaves the window. "That's Dennis Hopper! I know that one!"

"I've a Mick Jagger, as well. I like Warhol," Sirius says as he looks at the painting and tightens his grip on Remus's hand.

"Oh man, the Stones. You ever seen 'em live? I bet they're amazing."

"I haven't seen them yet but I hear they're playing a few shows next year."

"Thought you'd want to see Tom Jones," James says as he joins the four of them.

"Well, yeah, he's the best but I wouldn't mind seeing the Stones, either."

Remus gets warm in his coat as they stand there and he separates from Sirius to shrug it off. "You've a place I can put this?"

"Anywhere. Doesn't matter." Sirius watches as Remus pulls the coat off and winks as Remus strips. "I've changed my mind. This way."

Sirius leads the way down a narrow hallway to the only bedroom in the flat. Here is the room that Remus had expected. It's full with odds and ends, the spread fits with the colours he associates with Sirius – deep reds and golds – and the art on the wall is much more personal. Before he can take in more than a quick impression, Sirius turns and pushes him against the door, sending it slamming shut. His mouth is at Remus's neck, kissing and sucking at the skin that's barely exposed in the vee of his shirt.

"Sirius," Remus moans as he touches Sirius's arms before running his hands down Sirius's back.

"Mm?" Sirius murmurs against his skin.

"Our best mates are probably just outside the door listening to us."

"Your point?" Sirius's lips switch over to Remus's ear and then along his jaw line.

"My point is that your timing is rubbish."

"They'll entertain themselves."

"Seriously, Sirius," he says and then chuckles at himself.

"Not on a third date, either?" Sirius pulls back and then touches the red spots where he'd nipped a bit too hard on Remus's neck.

"Not right now, no," Remus says and he flushes when Sirius grins at the implication.

"Right. Let's get these arses out of my flat so we can shag."

"Sirius," Remus says and is promptly interrupted by Sirius's hands on his arse, bringing their cocks in line. He kisses Remus, sucking Remus's bottom lip in between his teeth and nipping at it before salving it with his tongue, licking along the abused length and then pushing into Remus's mouth. For all the need that Remus feels from both Sirius and himself, it's a surprisingly gentle kiss, more tasting than ravaging. It's very different than any of the other kisses they've shared. Remus forgets what they'd been talking as Sirius tastes him, hands kneading his arse while their mouths mingle.

Sirius steps back abruptly and, grinning, nods at Remus. "That'll let them know exactly how fast they need to leave."

"Arse," Remus says as he rubs at the stubble burn.

"That's what I was just touching, yeah. Needs more meat though, not even a handful on there. You're far too skinny."

"Never had any complaints about it before," Remus responds and is shocked when Sirius's face twists into jealousy.

"Anyone right now other than me?" It's said low.

"No."

"Good," Sirius says and he slides back into teasing. "I'd hate to have to take out any of my competitors. It's what I specialize in, you know. Cleaning out the competition. It's the sort of business I do best."

"You're a scary, scary man, Sirius Black."

"Oi! Pads! Get your arse out here. You've guests, you arse!" James shouts from the main room.

"Sooner we join them , the sooner they'll leave." Remus whispers against Sirius's lips.

"Good point." Sirius licks across Remus's lips and then leads Remus back in to the main room.

"You're no guest, Prongs." Sirius ducks into the large kitchen (the one that's bigger than his room at his flat, Remus is embarrassed to realise), and comes back with a few bottles of lager.

"Fuck off, I am if I say I am." James reaches for a bottle but Sirius pulls it away from his grasp and hands it to Peter. The other goes to Remus while he keeps the last one for himself. "Where's mine?"

"Told you, you're no guest."

"Fuck off, Padfoot," James says as he tosses a gesture towards Sirius and heads to the kitchen to pull his own bottle.

"What's with the nicknames?" Pete asks the question that's been floating in Remus's head.

"Funny story, that. See, Pads, here, is known as Padfoot because, when he was a wee lad, he had a dog that he decided was his best friend. He'd talk to it and tell it all sorts of amazing things. Like all tragic stories of princes, Pads here was ignored by his family and Padfoot was the only one that listened. When he got to school, he'd only talk about Padfoot. Padfoot did this and Padfoot does that." James gestures with the bottle, barely avoiding spilling on the white sofa.

Remus watches Sirius as James tells the story, watching the way that his face slowly closes. It's obviously more personal than he'd ever wanted anyone to know. Remus is embarrassed for him even as he's leaning forward to hear more about Sirius's childhood.

"Prongs's nickname is easier to explain. See, he teased me one too many times at school and he ended up getting his trousers and pants hung up on a set of deer antlers." Sirius punches James in the shoulder and then continues, "While he was still in them."

"That happened to a kid that I went to school with," Pete says as he laughs. "Poor bastard hung up there for a few hours until the caretaker got him down. It was absolutely brilliant."

"It's not nearly as funny when you're the one hanging, I assure you," James says, his aristocratic accent coming through loud and clear.

"Still brilliant," Pete responds. "I can remember the poor sod crying for his mummy."

"So what about you two? Any embarrassing nicknames we should know about?"

"Not really," Remus says, trying to keep Pete from doing the same to him that James had just done to Sirius. He doesn't want Sirius to know how sickly he'd been as a child nor how he might just have a relapse tomorrow. This whole thing is too new. Maybe in a few months or so, Remus will share with Sirius but until then, he really doesn't want Sirius to know.

"Bit of a lie, that," Pete says. "He's 'Moony'."

"Oh yeah?" Sirius looks too intrigued for Remus's comfort and it's tempting to kick Pete. Hard.

"Has a habit of mooning about. Plus add in the way that he always seemed to get si-"

"Enough, Wormtail," Remus interrupts.

"Wormtail?" James asks, eyebrow rising.

"We were in biology class, had a big rat to dissect. Someone, here, got just a bit of a tail and thought it looked like a worm. When he found out it was a rat tail, he fell over in a faint."

"Not on, mate, not on at all," Pete says as he crosses his arms and glares. Sirius and James erupt in laughter and Remus tries his best not to look too superior to Pete.

"That's too bad." Sirius's tone clearly says differently. Sirius's phone chooses that moment to start ringing, the shrill tones interrupting the awkward silence that had started to encroach after the laughter dies down.

"I'll be just a moment." Sirius gets up, answers the phone and mutters a few things before gesturing for James to come over. "It's Lily. She's wondering where you are. I've told her that you've been out drinking."

"Why would you do that?" James glares and then answers the phone. Remus grins at the way that it's obvious Sirius had set him up. James is instantly contrite, trying excuse after excuse to get back on Lily's good side.

"Right. Thanks to this bloody wanker," James glares at Sirius once more. "I've got to take my leave. You three have a brilliant night while I'm sleeping on the sofa."

"I'll follow you out. I've work early in the morning." Pete stands and starts for the door.

"It's Friday. Since when do you work on a Saturday?" Remus wonders if he should follow, too.

"I'm getting a spot of overtime in." Pete nods at Sirius, "Thanks for having me over. I'll not wait up for you, eh?"

"I wouldn't," Sirius says and walks them to the door. Looking to James, he asks "Ring me tomorrow?"

"If I can get any sort of sleep at all." James cuffs Sirius's shoulder and then walks towards the lift.

"Bye," Pete says and then scampers off behind James.

Sirius shuts the door and, leaning against it, looks at Remus. "We're all alone."

"Master of stating the obvious," Remus says drolly and is rewarded by Sirius's barking laugh.

"I want you." Sirius stalks towards Remus. Remus can feel his cock responding, getting hard at the way that Sirius is looking at him. "You put out on the third date?"

"This was a date?" Remus leans back against the sofa, watching as Sirius stops in front of him.

"Too right." Sirius sits on his legs, straddling his lap while kneeling over him. "I bought you a beer, I brought you home, plied you with more alcohol, showed you my etchings…"

It's Remus's turn to laugh, embarrassing, little giggles erupting at the etchings line. "I don't think I got to see too many of your etchings before we were interrupted."

"Never let it be said that Sirius Black isn't a good host. Come on, I'll show you. My favorite etching is in my bedroom."

"Do you keep it there all the time?" Remus says as he allows himself to be led to the bedroom. They're really doing this, they're going forward with this and Remus feels butterflies fighting for freedom from his gut as he walks down the hallway.

"Take a look." Sirius points to a painting on one wall, a beautiful red and gold painting that immediately draws Remus's eye. "That's my favourite piece of artwork."

"It's gorgeous. Look at those colours, so vibrant."

"It's an O'Keeffe, called Still Life With Twat." Remus turns and gapes at Sirius.

"Sorry, what?"

"It's called Still Life With Twat." Sirius presses against him, pressing his chest against Remus's back. Remus leans back, bringing them just that much closer.

"You're saying you've got a twat on your wall?"

"A twat on my wall and a cock in my hand," Sirius says as he reaches around and palms Remus's cock through his denims.

"Better that than the other way 'round." Remus pushes into the pressure, moaning when Sirius tightens his grip, rubbing and kneading.

"I would hope a twat wouldn't press out into my hand like this else they'd need to check that with a doctor."

"Good thing that's a cock, then." Remus moans again when Sirius squeezes his cock in response. His other hand circles and, between the two, they unfasten Remus's denims and then push them and his pants down his hips. He tugs off his shirt and he's completely naked while Sirius is still dressed. His trousers are smooth on Remus's bare arse.

"You should see yourself," Sirius whispers into his ear as he wanks Remus, grip light, slow and teasing. "See the way that you arch into my touch."

Remus opens his eye and looks towards the mirror where he can see himself, legs splayed wide, hips thrusting into Sirius's grasp while his arms arch up to twine around Sirius's neck. Completely on display, he watches as he fucks Sirius's hand, arching and writhing as Sirius's other hand runs up and down his chest. Pausing to tweak a nipple or tickle his abs, Sirius's hand doesn't stop moving. He's going in to sensory overload with the touch and, more, watching the touch.

Moans echo about the room, the rustle of Remus rubbing against the clothing – in to Sirius's hand, back into Sirius's groin – all made a sweaty melody. Sirius's mouth on his neck adds to it, the wet slipslide of tongue and teeth on flesh as he fucks Sirius's fist. When Sirius's hand drifts up Remus's body to hold on to his chin in a tight grip, holding his head steady as he sucks Remus's earlobe into his mouth and bites down hard, Remus comes, his legs turning to jelly, his knees giving out as his hand tightens in Sirius's hair and yanks.

"Never would've taken you for a hair-puller," Sirius says against his ear, tone low and seductive.

"Was going to fall."

"You stick to that story, mate," Sirius says in that same tone and then raises his hand and licks, sucking each finger into his mouth as Remus watches in the mirror.

Unable to resist the way that Sirius looks, Remus lets go of Sirius's hair and turns, pushing his hand away and licking at Sirius's lips, tasting himself on them. He sucks in the bottom lip, nibbling at it as licks across it. His hands aren't stationary as he touches Sirius's face and then his neck before playing with his buttons and opening his shirt. Finally letting go of the lip, Remus swipes his tongue across it once more, as if to apologise, and then kisses Sirius fully, tongue intruding into his mouth as Remus fumbles with Sirius's belt and denims.

"Relax, we've all night," Sirius says as they break apart for breath.

"I'm going to have to head home sometime tonight," Remus says against Sirius's lips as he thinks about the medication waiting for him.

"Oh yeah? You have someone waiting at home?"

"Yeah, a big, butch blond named Sven." Remus laughs as Sirius snarls and then forces them onto the bed where Remus lands and bounces.

"Like bloody hell you do." Sirius's mouth explores his skin, lips rough and teeth even rougher as he bites and sucks his way across Remus's chest.

"He holds me down and fucks me," Remus says as Sirius bites his stomach hard enough that he'll have an awkward bruise to explain later.

"Does he now? Like to be held down and fucked, do you?" Sirius asks as he looks up along the length of Remus's chest.

"God, yes," he hisses as Sirius licks at his cock. His legs fall open, inviting Sirius closer. Instead of taking the invitation, Sirius's fingers trace between his legs and then tease as his arse. One finger, in particular, is enamored of his hole as it presses against him and then withdraws, teasing and worrying at him. "Christ, Sirius, stop teasing."

"Would you prefer that I was Sven?"

"No!" Remus shouts and thrusts towards the finger as it teases again, forcing the tip of it to enter him slightly. "That's it. Fuck me already."

"Well, with an invitation like that, what's a bloke to do?" Sirius's warmth disappears from Remus as he strips away his remaining clothes. It's back when Sirius pushes his legs further apart and then slides between them, one hand roaming at will while the other fumbles in the nightstand drawers. "A-ha!"

A moment later (and a moment too long, as far as Remus is concerned), Sirius's fingers push up into his body, fucking him slowly. Another finger joins the first two as Sirius holds Remus's gaze. Remus opens his legs further, folding them so that he can thrust into those fingers.

"More, Sirius, I need more."

"As ever, I'm your servant," Sirius says, the idea of a subservient Sirius making Remus laugh. The laugh turns into a moan as Sirius's fingers leave his body and tugs him up and over. "Turn over. Going to hold you down and fuck you."

"God," Remus moans. He flips himself over, pushing up on his hands and knees only to get Sirius's forearm against the back of his neck as it pushes his face to the mattress. He hears the rip of a condom and then muttered cursing.

"I'm much better than Sven at this sort of thing, I promise you." Sirius's other hand spreads his arse cheeks as he slowly pushes in.

"God," Remus moans once more.

"Sirius. My name is Sirius, not God." Sirius thrusts the rest of the way in, hand shifting to hip as he does so. Remus is certain he'll have bruises in the morning but he can't bring himself to care much as Sirius pulls back and then thrusts back in roughly.

"Keep fucking like that and you'll have to change your name." Remus pushes back into the next thrust. Sirius's barking laughter echoes as he thrusts, harder each time.

"Tell me when it's too much," Sirius says as his lips mouth at Remus's back while his arm continues to push Remus's face into the mattress. When Remus pushes back to meet him once more, he grabs Remus's hip harder and pulls him into the following thrusts.

"Not enough, not yet."

Sirius's hand shifts from his hip to his cock, pulling in time. Onetwothree and Remus is coming, blood pounding through his body as his muscles lock and then spasm. Sirius's hand around his waist holds him up as his knees give way.

"Fuck," he whispers against the sheets.

"Not thinking about Sven, are you?" Sirius asks as he slowly lowers Remus's hips to the bed and releases his neck. Remus rolls over and then leans up, kissing at Sirius's jaw and then lips.

"Can't. Brain is mush," he whispers against Sirius's lips and then falls back to the bed. "Ugh, I can't get up and go home yet. You're stuck with me for a while."

"Stay the night, then," Sirius offers. Remus looks over to him and raises an eyebrow. "What?"

"You mean that?" Remus is used to leaving right away if they're not at his place. Then again, he's also not all that used to the concept of relationships. He needs to get home but Sirius is right there, rubbing small circles into his arm.

"Course. You got any plans tomorrow?" Sirius takes off the condom and ties it off.

Remus waits to answer until Sirius returns from the loo. "I was thinking of getting fucked through the mattress again."

"I like your plans," Sirius says and then rolls over, pulling Remus into his arms and spooning up behind him. Thoughts of getting home disappear under the weight of Sirius's arm over his waist. It's weird and awkward and wonderful to fall asleep like this.

In the morning, though, he instantly regrets putting off the leaving. He shouldn't have stayed the night, shouldn't have given in to Sirius and, most especially, shouldn't have given in so easily. Remus knows better than to go without his medication. It's a lesson he learned the hard way years ago, a lesson that's caused him issues since forever but what does he do the first time Sirius opens his mouth and asks him to sleep over? He says 'bugger it' to his medicine and stays.

He needs to get home. Now. If he's a few hours late, it should be all right but if it goes much longer, if he doesn't get something in his body, then he's in for a world of hurt. He tries to inch out from under Sirius's arm but it only tightens while Sirius murmurs something or other.

"I'll be back, promise, just have to get home for a bit," Remus says as he shoves at the arm.

"Stay," Sirius mutters against the back of his neck. "Gotta fuck you through the mattress in a bit."

"I really have to go," Remus says and then forcefully removes himself.

"Why?" Sirius sits up and rubs at his eyes.

"I have to get something from home. I'll be right back."

"What do you need that I don't have here?"

Remus is stuck. Does he admit that he takes medication on a regular basis for his epilepsy or does he continue to pretend that he's completely fine and whole?

"I"ll cook you breakfast," Sirius says, leering and reaching a hand out to touch Remus's hip.

"I have to get my medication. I should've taken it last night," Remus whispers, sitting on the edge of the bed with his back turned towards Sirius.

"Medication? You sick?" Sirius's hand leaves his hip.

"I've epilepsy, nothing transmittable or anything. You can't catch it but I have to take my medication or I'll …"

"Oh," Sirius says. The silence is awkward and goes on for forever. "But you'll be back?"

"Yeah, if you want me to, I'll be back."

"K. Can you pick up some fruit? I want strawberries on my pancakes."

~~*~~

"Can you grab the file out of my bag, Remus?" Pete calls from the sofa.

"Can't you grab it yourself?" Remus yells back as he washes the dishes that they'd both allowed to accumulate for weeks.

"Be a mate and get it for me? I've almost worked through this one code."

"Fine but you're washing the next load of dishes."

"We'll just buy new."

"You will as it'll be your turn for dishes," Remus retorts as he digs through Pete's bag. As he grabs the file, a small, worn business card falls out. When he flips it over, he notices the name on it and his breath catches. "Pete?"

"Yeah? Don't tell me I grabbed the wrong file or forgot it entirely!"

"No, I've got your file." Remus walks into the main room and tosses the card into Peter's lap.

"Oh."

"Yes, 'oh'. Want to tell me what you're doing with Sirius's business card?" Remus tosses the file to the side of Peter.

"You weren't going to call him and you were mooning over him."

"Wasn't."

"Was. So I rang him and invited him to your show."

"What gave you that right?"

"You were mooning, Remus. 'Sides, it worked out fine, didn't it? And didn't you do the same with Marlene?"

"Not even on the same level."

"You mad that I rang or that you didn't?"

"More the latter than the former."

"This is just like a Tom Jones song."

"Oh yeah? What one?" Remus asks, arching a brow and crossing his arms.

"Can't think of the one just now but when I do, I'll tell you. Think of the romance of it all."

"No one's thrown their knickers at me yet. Can't be a Tom Jones song."

"Laugh it up now, but Tom Jones is a classic. His songs have passion and romance and staying power, just like you and Sirius and me and Marlene." Pete pauses and then asks, "Things are still working between the pair of you, right?"

"Yeah, thanks." Remus slings himself into a chair.

"He all right with the whole being sick thing?"

"Yeah. Didn't bat an eye, just asked me to pick up some strawberries when I told him."

"That's good." Pete looks about and then says, "You think it'll stay working?"

"Best thing that's ever happened to me, Pete." Remus doesn't care that he sounds like a love-stricken girl right about now. "Never thought I'd get someone charming let alone this good. What about you?"

"Yeah. Same." They both share mutually, embarrassingly, besotted smiles.

"We're both goners."

"That we are, mate."

~~*~~

Remus lugs his guitar along to Sirius's flat. It's an easy enough trip now that he's been navigating it for six months. He barely notices the odd looks at his clothes and he pretends that he's really just trying to look ragged and poor rather than being ragged and poor. The gig at the bar has turned into a couple of gigs at a couple of bars. The back rent's paid up. They're eating on a regular basis. Pete's gotten a promotion. Hell, he's making rumblings about inviting Marlene to move in with them. Remus might be clueless, at times, but even he realises what it means when Pete's staring in the window of every jewelry shop they pass. Remus has three pairs of nice trousers now (secondhand but nice all the same). They're on their way up in the world so it's easier to not take offence.

The guy in the lobby just waves him through now, a sure sign that this relationship has a sense of permanence to it. When he gets to Sirius's door, he rings the bell and then grins at Sirius's shouted "It's open" as he opens the door.

"Mister Lupin, you are late," Sirius says as he hurries towards the door and then embraces Remus, sliding his hands around until he can hold onto Remus's arse.

"Mister Black, the door is open and you are giving your neighbours a show."

"Mister Moony, you are being far too demure for current company."

"Mister Padfoot, you are being far too inconsiderate."

"Mister Moony, give me a kiss and I'll allow you to shut the door."

"Fine then, Mister Black," Remus says and then pecks Sirius's cheek, reaching behind him with a leg and kicking the door closed.

"Cheat."

"Lazy."

"Miscreant."

"Sloth."

"Malcontent."

"Indolent."

"Impressive rhyming."

"That would be why I'm ever so talented with the music."

"You going to play for me?"

"Thought I would."

"Naked?"

"Miscreant."

"Sloth."

"Not again."

"Naked, Remus, I want naked guitar playing. I dream about it and wake up shouting your name in ecstasy."

"You're full of it."

"But you're going to do it, aren't you?"

"Fine."

"Brilliant. Let me get you started. Guitar and then shirt. Though seeing you in just a shirt might possibly be the hottest image I've had since the last time you were here. So maybe trousers and then pants."

"What about my shoes?"

"If you insist."

"I do."

"Then that's where I'll start."

And that is exactly how Remus found himself sitting on Sirius's bed, naked, with his guitar in his lap as Sirius curls around him like a dog.

~~*~~

"Isn't that your boytoy?" Peter asks as he points to the newspaper.

"Pardon?" Remus cocks an eyebrow.

"Isn't that Sirius?" Peter folds the newspaper and then flips it around to show Remus. "See? It looks like him in the gossip column."

It is Sirius, in a handsomely tailored suit. Remus grins at the photo and the way that Sirius is smiling as he shakes hands with an older gentleman while James beams at his side. When he looks at the headline, his stomach freezes.


House of Black Heir No Longer Black Sheep

The Fall of the Ancient House of Black is a well-documented one. The parents went mad after Sirius went rogue and Regulus committed suicide. The scandal, only a few years ago, is still fresh in this reporter's mind.

It turns out, though, that Sirius Black is the only remaining direct descendent House of Black to not succumb to madness. His cousins might be members of the House of Lords but Sirius Black, the disowned black sheep of the family, has helped steer Great Britain into the financial future as the British Stock Exchange opens its doors.

With his best mate, the heir to the Potter dynasty, James Potter, at his side, these young geniuses are sure to bring to London, fame and riches that rival New York.

He'd known that Sirius was rich, he'd slept at Sirius's flat enough times to have that brought to him clearly if not just due to the way that Sirius had joked about it way back when. He just hadn't known that Sirius was in line for the throne, that his family was old enough to have been royalty however long ago.

Remus remembers the death of Regulus Black and the way the boy had taken his life after a polo match. It had been all over the telly and the papers. No one that lived in London had been able to miss the coverage of the death let alone the resulting fall of the House of Black. The telly had been vicious in its coverage, showing Mrs Black screaming at the camera crews to leave their home alone while Mr Black had clutched at his chest and hid within his winter coat and hat even in the middle of summer.

He can't quite help feeling slightly betrayed that Sirius hadn't told him about his family after being together for six months. He'd told Sirius plenty about his family, about the poverty, his illness, the music, the guitars, the way his parents had died. He'd told him things he hadn't told another soul, not even Peter. And yet, in all that time, Sirius has never told him he's related to the Blacks let alone the heir and scion of that dynasty.

"So you landed yourself a hell of a rich man," Pete teases and then starts singing, "He's the kind they'd like to flaunt and take to dinner. Well he always knows his place. He's got style, he's got grace, he's a winner. He's a Lady. Whoa whoa whoa, He's a Lady."

"You're an awful friend," Remus says.

"He is, isn't he?" Marlene says as she brings their breakfast. "He's absolutely appalling."

"Hey!" Pete says, looking affronted but laughing, ruining the look. "I just so happen to like Tom Jones."

"That's what's so awful."

"What's awful?" Sirius asks as he comes up behind them, reaching over Remus's shoulder to snag a slice of toast and then the paper. "I hate these things."

"Hate what?" Remus asks, waiting to see if Sirius is going to tell him about his family.

"These photo ops. At least I look good." Sirius holds out the paper for all and sundry to see. "Don't you think I look good?"

"You look fantastic," Marlene says as she rolls her eyes. "You want something for breakfast?"

"Be a love and get me the same as Remus, here?"

"Course, be right out with it." Marlene heads towards the kitchen and Sirius turns the paper around and looks at the article. Remus can see the way that he freezes though it's subtle enough that no one else would probably catch it.

"Sirius?" he asks, reaching out a hand and touching Sirius's arm.

"It's fine. Just fine. Really. I like how going to a different university is considered going rogue." Sirius forces a laugh. Remus squeezes his arm but Sirius doesn't look up. "So what are you fine gentlemen doing today?"

"It's Saturday. I'm planning on heading to the park for some footie. You two want to join in?" Peter asks.

"Thought maybe I'd work on a song or three today," Remus says and then looks at Sirius. "You?"

"Listening to you work on a song or three?"

"Dunno if they're ready for an audience but you're welcome to listen to me argue with notes."

"Shall I abandon the flat?" Pete asks.

"We can go back to my place, if Remus doesn't mind carting his guitar all the way over there."

"Yeah, that'd be fine. I just need to gather a few things up."

"You think you'd maybe want to be at a thing with me?" Sirius asks as he puts the newspaper down with the article hidden from sight.

"What sort of a thing?"

"Work party that I'm hosting. It's to celebrate the big bang."

"You're celebrating astronomy? Your parents really were astronomy nerds." Remus realizes just how far he'd just put his foot in his mouth when Sirius goes still once more and then forces a smile that twists his lips unnaturally.

"Big bang is what we're calling this stock market thing. I'm hosting a small party in celebration of it. I thought it'd be nice if you'd want to be there. You don't have to, though." Sirius is clearly fumbling and Remus doesn't know how to help him with it. "Nevermind, it's a bad idea."

"I'd like to attend." Remus means it, surprising himself. He's not at all certain how he'd fit in with Sirius's coworkers or even what he'd wear but, surely, it'll work out. Sirius spends so much of his time with these people that it would be nice to meet them. They don't have to be completely open about the relationship, maybe just make it obvious that they're very good friends. There's a thrift store near the flat that sells some nicer things at a steal so Remus thinks that he can get a suit that'll look nicer than the things that he currently owns (and four pairs of nice trousers? He's really moving up in the world).

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

~*~

Remus finds himself strumming the guitar while Sirius lounges on the bed behind him. He's hunched over it, completely forgetting about his audience as he works out a series of chords that will fit with the lyrics and the mood. There's another show coming up, in a classier place than any of the dives he's played before, and he wants to have a few fantastic songs ready. He hasn't a clue how long he's been like strumming the guitar as he plays or even where he's at until Sirius's hand rests on the small of his bare back.

It's almost instinctive to lean back into that touch as it brings him back into the world, anchoring him. Giving up on the song, for now, he plays another song, this one a love ballad, as Sirius curls around him and watches him play. When he's done, Sirius kisses his knee and smiles at him.

He wants to capture that smile somehow and, not for the first time, wishes he could afford a camera and the film to go in it so he can take thousands of photos of Sirius and paper his room with them. This still, happy and contented Sirius isn't one that everyone else gets to see as far as Remus knows. They always see the man in motion, the loud, boisterous Sirius that's larger than life. Remus likes to think that this Sirius, the quiet and contemplative one, is one that only comes out with the people that Sirius loves.

"Will you play that at the party?" Sirius asks in the silence that follows as they stare at one another.

"Play it?" Remus asks. He doesn't want to play this for the world, yet. This is the song about Sirius and Remus, not for public consumption, not yet.

"Yeah, when you're performing at the party. I really liked that one."

"Performing?" Remus asks again.

"Well, yeah. I thought you'd be able to make plenty of contacts and maybe get a few more gigs and things if you were mingling with the people I work with. Plus, I get amazing entertainment to stun them with how awesome my friends are. It's totally a win-win situation."

"You want me to play at your party?" Remus asks, once more, rather numbly.

"Um, yeah?"

Remus hasn't a clue how to respond. Instead, he looks down at his guitar, loosens the strings and then calmly packs the guitar in the case before searching for his shirt and shoes.

"Remus? Where're you going?"

"Home," Remus says, anger and disappointment and betrayal taking the place of the numbness.

"Why?"

"If I stay, I'm going to say something I'll probably end up regretting eventually. So I'm just going to go home for now and talk to you when I'm much more calm."

"Huh?"

"I just really thought you'd be different but you aren't, are you? You're just so wrapped up in yourself and you… you… you know what? I'll just talk to you later," Remus says and then throws up his hands, barely avoiding hitting himself with the guitar and then walks out of the room.

Sirius catches up with him in the main room, holding on to his arm and stopping him in his tracks.

"Don't leave like this. Just talk to me."

"You want to know what's going on?" Remus says, voice low and far too calm to be believed.

"Of course I do. Let me have it."

"Then fine." Remus turns, leaning the guitar against the wall and then shoving Sirius back with both hands. "I thought you were inviting me to your party as your boyfriend. I thought, maybe, that you cared and, instead, I find out that I'm just the entertainment. Well, fuck you on that one. I'm not entertainment for you and all your rich friends to goggle at. It's just fine to walk about the poor areas holding hands and kissing but when it comes to being in front of your people, well, then, shoe's on the other foot, isn't it? I might not have as much money as you but I don't need you to do me any favours and try to get me a job like you're my pimp or something."

"That's not – "

"That's exactly what you meant. Christ, Sirius, I thought you cared. I thought maybe this was more than just fucks and hanging out. I thought this was a relationship but, instead, I'm just the entertainment when I'm moving in your world."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Sirius crosses his arms and glares.

That he has the audacity to act annoyed only pisses Remus off more. "I'll use small words, shall I? I don't want to be the entertainment. I want to be there as your partner or not anything at all."

"Well, yeah. I just thought it'd be nice to have you show off a bit but if you don't want to play, than that's all right." Sirius crosses to him and grabs the back of his neck, pulling him in so that they kiss briefly. "I want you there as my partner."

"All right, then."

"There something else going on here that I should be aware of?"

"Why didn't you tell me about your family?"

At Remus's question, Sirius's hand drops from his neck and he steps back, once more crossing his arms. "Because that's got nothing to do with who I am, who we are."

"It's got everything to do with who you are."

"You want the dirty details of how my mum and dad went insane? How I had to have them committed after my brother died? How they doted on my brother but barely paid two shits to me? You want all those details?" This time, it's Sirius with the temper and Remus that appeases, reaching out a hand and threading their fingers together.

"I want to hear about anything that's bothering you. Isn't that part of what being partners is about? You listen to me about my parents, I want to hear about yours."

"I don't want to talk about them."

"Then you don't have to. Just don't block me out."

"I won't."

"Good." Remus grabs his guitar and then tugs Sirius back towards the bedroom. "I've a few songs for you to listen to."

"You going to take off your shirt?"

"Maybe."

~*~

"Marlene, you look lovely," Sirius says as he opens the door to the three of them. "Come on in. You guys are just in time to sample some of the food before anyone else gets here."

When Remus enters, he sees the waiters bustling about in their tuxedos and wonders if his suit is a little too threadbare. He'd picked it up in one of the nicer secondhand stores but it's still secondhand. Pete's in similar straits, though Marlene looks lovely in her dress.

Sirius leads them to the kitchen where James and Lily are snacking off trays of finger foods. "Oi! What took you guys so long to get here?"

"Someone decided to bring their guitar. Have you tried to maneuver through Friday night traffic with something so bulky?" Pete says as he joins James at the table. "Lily, have you met Marlene?"

"Pleased to meet you," Lily says as she reaches out an elegant hand. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Have you?" Marlene asks as she looks around at the group.

"Anyone that can put up with Tom Jones is a saint, as far as I'm concerned," Lily says with a laugh. "James, here, is rather addicted to the most god-awful music I've ever had the misfortune of hearing. If only he preferred things like what Remus plays."

"Remus is quite the musician but don't you be getting any ideas about him," Sirius says as he slings an arm around Remus's waist and then grabs a small sandwich and presses it to Remus's lips. Remus takes it and flushes with pride and embarrassment.

"I'll stick with Potter here."

"Good thing since you're a Potter, too. And there's another Potter on the way," James says with a remarkably fake bland tone.

"You old dog!" Sirius yells as he lets go of Remus to hurry over to James, messing his hair up as they race one another around the kitchen and into the main room.

"Congratulations," Remus says as he hugs Lily.

"Thanks. I don't know what we're thinking. Having a baby when I already have one infant," she says and then pauses as the sound of glass breaking sounds from the main room. "Make that two."

"You'd think they were still in grammar school or something."

"Or something is right." Lily rolls her eyes and then excuses herself to the main room. The rest of them follow.

As the doorbell chimes, people start arriving. Sirius and James put their serious business faces on, mingling with the crowd. Remus trails after Sirius at points, coming over when Sirius waves a hand to meet old school friends or his boss.

Hours go past before Remus realises that the party is winding down and he's had an amazing time. He hasn't felt at all awkward, not even in his secondhand suit. Sirius isn't exactly introducing him as his partner but he isn't exactly hiding it, either. Remus is beyond pleased at the casual way that Sirius introduces him, as if it should be bloody obvious what they are to one another.

By the time the last guests leave, the six of them are knackered. It's been a long night of new faces and being on his best behaviour, as far as Remus is concerned. He just wants to curl up in bed. Preferably with Sirius.

"That, my friends, was a resounding success. Did you see Fenwick's expression as he tried the pate?" Sirius asks as he slumps onto the sofa next to Remus, slinging an arm around his shoulders.

"Brilliant job on picking out the caterers, if I do say so myself. And I do," Lily says as she curls into James.

"Dearborn seemed impressed with you, Remus," James says as he looks to Remus. His face twists into an approximation of Dearborn's grin as he deepens his voice, "I hear you're quite the musician. I expect you to play for us, one of these days."

"McGonagall seemed to be impressed that I'd cleaned up so well. You remember what a terror she was when we first started at the firm?" Sirius grins. "She's scary but she loves us, for some reason."

"You don't get to head of Financial Development without being a terror. You're just lucky she likes you enough to come. You know she never goes to these things."

"That's a very good point, my friend." Sirius gestures grandly as he lays his head onto Remus's shoulder.

"About time we head out." James stands and tugs Lily up with him.

"Same for us," Pete says and does the same with Marlene.

"You're more than welcome to stay here."

"That's all right. I'd rather sleep in my own bed," Lily responds and they all head towards the door.

When they're gone, Sirius turns towards Remus. "You're staying, right?"

"Course."

"You ever think about…" Sirius's voice trails off.

"About what?"

"About moving in?"

Remus stills, unsure how to answer. If he says 'yes' (and the answer is 'yes' because of course he's thought about it hundreds if not thousands of times), then they're taking that next step and Remus isn't at all certain that he wants to take that next step, not when either of them has yet to say those three words. If he says 'no', then he's lying and maybe that'll be the end of it. Maybe Sirius wants him to say 'no' or maybe Sirius wants him to say 'yes'. Maybe Sirius wants him to say 'no' but then say 'but I'm thinking about it now'.

"Never mind, it's a rubbish idea," Sirius says before slicking his hair off his face and then allowing it to fall back down and obscure his vision.

"Of course I've thought about it," Remus says, reaching out a hand and lifting the hair from Sirius's face, smoothing it backwards.

"Would you want to?"

"If you want me to." It seems the safest answer. That way, if Sirius is having him on, he can go along for the laugh and if Sirius is serious, well, then he'll find out.

"Good." Sirius obviously has all of his confidence back as he grabs Remus and kisses him. "Want to get your stuff now or tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow's good enough."