(a.n.: Okay, I know this is ten times shorter than usual but I really felt this needed to be its own piece. Update soon! I’m going on a plane so I hope to write then!)
Every motion seemed to echo around him. Every rustle of clothing as he ran, every footstep that echoed through the castle halls. It was all in slow motion, the stone scraping his fingertips as he turned a corner, the doors closing behind him. His own breathing sounded loud in his hears as Remus ran down the stairs, dust stirring up in his wake, and pushed through the kitchen door and out into the summer night air. And even then he didn’t stop running.
The grass scratched against James’ uniform, too big on his body, the moisture in the air making it stick to his skin. He didn’t even know where he was going until he got there. He didn’t think, didn’t even allow himself to breathe. All he knew was that he had to get away. He had to leave. He was going to break. And he couldn’t do it there. Not in front of them. Not in front of anybody.
He was running, and then he was falling, palms stinging as they dug into rough, rocky, sand. It sifted through his fingers and he gasped, lungs burning, heart pumping too fast for the sudden lack of motion. He looked up and found the lake. It was quiet. He was alone. He let himself fall to his elbows and his pressed his forehead against the backs of his hands, his lungs letting the first sob tear up his throat. It hurt. Crying like this, it hurt so much. He dug his fingers into the rocky sand, as if it would hold him together. But it didn’t. It crushed into finer grains, the larger shards dug into his palms, and it slipped through his fingers.
He tried to breathe against his tears, tried to stop them as they tumbled out from his eyes, but he only choked.
This is what he had prepared himself for. This is what he had known was going to happen. Hadn’t they both known it? Hadn’t it been perfectly clear from the very beginning? Remus had been temporary in Sirius’ life. Remus had been a distraction from the things Sirius didn’t want to think about. Had been. Only it wasn’t like that anymore, was it? It hadn’t been like that for a while. What Remus was to Sirius and what Sirius was to Remus wasn’t a temporary thing, it wasn’t a thing at all. It was life. In all the meanings possible. Them together had become a way of living. It was an oxygen source. It was a never ending cycle of them. Only not never ending. What lives, also dies. What is, will be was. Remus would just be one of Sirius’ memories soon, and Sirius would be the same in Remus’ mind. Just something that had been. He closed his eyes at this, Mrs. Potter’s words playing in his mind,
The past can be a tempting thing, Remus.
And his own words, asking about the two brothers in the tale,
He’d have the memories at least. He’d remember the happiness. That’s worth the risk?
He leaned off his hands, sitting back on his heels. He tilted his chin up towards the sky, chest heaving. It was a clear night and the moon, full and round, glared down on him. That had been so easy to say while he still had the happiness still in his grasp. When he had Sirius waiting for him.
But that had never been true, had it? Really, he’d always been the one waiting for Sirius. He probably always would be the one waiting for Sirius. Prince or king. Unmarried or married.
Remus pressed his hands to his eyes, wiping angrily. He could remember the happiness, all right. Each smile was searing itself against the front of his mind at this very moment, each touch lingering, ghost-like over his skin and fingertips. But this. This would be remembered most of all. The pain, right over his heart, that definitely wasn’t ghost-like anymore. He wanted more than anything for it not to overpower the good parts. The smiles, the kisses, the embraces, the laughter… But they were tainted. Remembering them was to remember life, and, now that it was over, to remember pain. And the worst part was that, if Remus could go back, he wasn’t sure he’d change anything at all.
He felt Sirius’ presence before he heard him. His sudden halt from running sprayed Remus’ back with the coarse sand. He hoped for a moment that it might be one of the servants, sent to fetch him, yell at him, sack him. But then there was the crunch of the beach against boots and hands around his wrists and Sirius was falling to his knees in front of him, thumbs digging into his pulse point.
“Remus.” He didn’t sound out of breath at all, he didn’t even look it. Only his eyes looked slightly out of place. They were wide and frantic, “Remus-”
Remus just closed his eyes, turning his head downwards. He couldn’t. Not with Sirius this close. Not now.
“No, no, you look at me.” Sirius talked through his teeth, jaw clenched, like he was trying not to cry, “Please. Please, look at me right now-”
“Is that an order, your highness?” Remus did.
He wished he hadn’t.
Sirius’ face broke, “Of course it isn’t. Of course not- Stop, Re-” His voice cracked, his palms made their way to Remus’ cheeks.
Remus’ heart beat against his ribs, “You. Yousto-“
“No.” Remus pushed his hands away, falling back on his heels before scrambling into a standing position, “I can’t- I can’t believe-“ He wasn’t sure where the anger had come from. Maybe Sirius’ tears, maybe Sirius’ presence, maybe it was all setting in. This was it. This was it. He pushed a hand through his hair, swiped angrily at his wet cheeks, “God, is this what you meant? That night you were crying.”
Sirius hands had fallen hopelessly on his knees, palms up as if they didn’t know what to do now that they were empty. His lips were parted, cheeks tear streaked, “Wh.. I-“
“You knew then, didn’t you? That’s why you were so upset.” Remus choked, pressing a hand briefly to his mouth. He felt like he would never breathe again, “Is this what you meant? By ‘don’t leave’?” He was almost shouting now and thanked god for the heavy night air around them.
Sirius’ eyebrows raised in realization, a tear dripped off his jaw. His voice was thick, “No. God, no, that isn’t what I-“
Remus spat the words at him, barely able to get them out, “‘Don’t leave, Remus. I have to get married but please stay around for me to fuck from time to time-’”
“Don’t say that. Don’t say that, you know that isn’t true. Remus, you fucking know that isn’t true-”
“What am I suppose to say?” Remus shook his head, spreading his hands, “What am I suppose to do?”
“Just- Please,” Sirius’ eyes were pleading, hands gripping his knees, “Please, it wasn’t suppose to be this way, I was going to tell you, I needed more time-“
“How, then?” Remus’ throat felt raw. His chest felt raw, “How, then, Sirius? How did you think this would end?”
“I-“ Sirius didn’t seem to know how to finish his sentence. The words hung there, in the summer air, awful and necessary. Finally, he shook his head, hands slipping from his knees and into the sand, head bowed, “I don’t know… I didn’t think about it, I just wanted…”
Remus slipped too, knees falling to the ground in front of Sirius. He was too tired, “How…” He questioned. Sirius looked up at how close Remus’ voice suddenly was, how soft. His eyes were a cloudy grey, sad and shining. Remus thought he was more likely to drown in them than the lake, “It was all I thought about.”
Sirius let out a breath, “Remus…”
And Remus let his eyes drop away from Sirius’, down to his lips, because he knew what was coming. And he had to see it. Just once. If it was the last thing he ever heard from Sirius, and he knew it should be, he needed it to be this,
Sirius’ lips shook around the words, but his voice was so strong, “I love you.”
And Remus broke. Tears sprung and they fell, creating dark dots in the sand. He closed his eyes against it, against it all.
“Re…” Sirius’ voice was a rasp, more tears than sound, “Re, I love you.” He let out a sob at the silence, “Say it back. Please, say it back. I love you.” It was a vow and it was a prompt.
“You can’t.” The words were barely there. Remus breathed in and the tears took over for a moment, making it impossible to breathe out, “I can’t.”
“No. No-“ Sirius was leaning forward then, hands holding Remus’ face, stroking his cheeks, gripping his hair, “You can. Yes, you can. We have time.” He sounded out of breath, “Can’t you see that? We have time. Please… You can. We can.”
Remus leaned into Sirius’ palm, his tears trailing down Sirius’ wrists. He shook his head, but not hard enough to make Sirius let go, “How?” He breathed in and it was like he was breathing through mud, “I don’t… Didn’t you feel it?”
Sirius wiped away Remus’ tears as fast as they came, shushing him softly, “Feel what? Feel what?”
Remus focused on Sirius’ fingers. The weight of them, the thickness, how long or short his nails were. How his thumb felt across his cheek. Then his palms, the left smooth with lack of work, the right calloused from weapon-play. If there was a last thing he could feel, it would be this. “What goodbye would feel like, Sirius. I felt goodbye.”
“No, you didn’t feel goodbye, this isn’t- we aren’t saying-“
Remus cut off Sirius’ please, covering his hands with his own, “I’ve been left my entire life. My parents left me at an orphanage, and then the orphanage left me in this town.” He took a breath, thumbs involuntarily stroking over Sirius’ hands, “I’ve been left… but I’ve never had goodbye. I’ve never been able to say… And it’s been painful every time but I’ve always been glad.” Sirius was desperately trying to stop his tears despite the fact that he could barely see through his own, “A goodbye would be worse. It would be worse to say goodbye to my parents, worse to say goodbye to my friends. They were good. How do you say goodbye to good things?”
Sirius was shaking his head, and his shoulders shook too. He was unable to speak but he dropped his forehead against Remus’ and the message was clear, don’tdon’tdon’t.
Remus’ voice was going, cracking, fading, but he pressed on, “You’re good. You are so good, Sirius… And I knew I’d have to say goodbye to you, didn’t I? But I… I took the risk because…” Remus closed his eyes. He couldn’t say it. It would be cruel to say it now. He pushed his hands through Sirius’ hair, over his cheeks, his neck, memorizing one last time, “You’re the best thing that I’ve ever had to say goodbye to.”
“Remus…” It was a beg.
He shook his head, “It’s difficult enough to do it once,” his breath hitched, “please don’t ask me to do it again.”