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such_heights in rs_small_gifts

fic: a flame in two cupped hands, for glass_icarus

a flame in two cupped hands
author: such_heights
written for: glass_icarus
rating: PG-13
prompt: i would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. i would like to be that unnoticed & that necessary.
summary: Sirius didn't crouch down to tuck the coat under Remus's shoulders, didn't press a soft kiss to Remus's forehead the way he wanted
notes: title and prompt from Margaret Atwood's 'Variations on the Word "Sleep"'; many thanks to silyara and sunnyrea for the betas -- all remaining flaws are my own. Merry Christmas, glass_icarus! It was a joy to write for you.



"Oh hell."

Sirius sat on the shop floor, felled by an avalanche of top-shelf Christmas decorations, baubles still clattering down around him.

"What's all the-- oh my. Are you all right, dear?" Madam Thyme came to lean against the doorframe, her voice sympathetic but one corner of her mouth twitching.

"Yeah, sorry, I'll just --" Sirius struggled to his feet.

"No, don't worry, we need those down anyway - I want the shop to be sparkling with festive cheer by tomorrow. You can start on that now, actually, the stock take can wait."

Sirius looked at the debris he was surrounded by. Irritating little robins and fairies (thankfully, just charmed rather than alive) were chirping at him expectantly. "Right, of course. Marvellous."

---

Sirius walked home from work, passing a cheery sign advertising bookings for Christmas Day dinners, and felt irrationally homicidal. He didn't know what to make of it, whether it was a symptom of age and growing cynicism, a sign of the times, but every marker of the oncoming festive season felt mocking, a bright and twinkling symbol of things that Sirius wasn't allowed to be a part of. He weaved his way through the remnants of the day's shoppers and managed not to wreak any havoc.

He reached his block of flats and started. Remus was sitting on the front step, wrapped up tightly in that coat of his, twice as big as him and not as warm as it ought to be.

"What on earth are you doing here?" Sirius demanded by way of greeting.

"Sorry," Remus said, getting stiffly to his feet, "I don't mean to impose or anything, if you're busy or don't want the company I can go away, I just thought I'd drop by."

"No no, come in, of course - but what are you doing waiting out here? Front door's charmed to let you in, you know."

"Really? I didn't know that."

"You and James and Peter," Sirius felt compelled to clarify. "You know, my flat is your flat and so on, I figured it was easier."

"Oh, well." Remus laughed. "And here I've been freezing my arse off."

"Yes exactly, come in and warm up before I have to amputate several of your limbs."

Inside, Sirius took Remus's coat and tried to work out what on earth he had in his cupboards. His irritation at the world had completely vanished, replaced with that twisting, warm ache that Sirius had associated with being in Remus's company for longer than he cared to calculate. He made tea with too much sugar, moved piles of papers around as they talk, sat down at his rickety kitchen table across from Remus, not beside - all the small ways he'd learned to keep his hands occupied, to make sure barriers were in place. Anything to stop himself wanting so much, the instinctual desire to do something as simple as, Merlin so help him, hold Remus's hand.

There was no known remedy for this. His grave ailment was certainly not helped by Remus's tendencies to show up at his flat at odd times, and it was symptomatic of the fact that his illness had spread all the way through to the brain that Sirius didn't even care.

"Oh good, I do still have a working nervous system," Remus said, hands wrapped tight around the mug of tea. "Much better."

Sirius was rewarded with a smile, Remus's face lighting up with affection and amusement. Sirius felt himself going a little dreamy, and kicked his own shin under the table, hard.

"So," he said, then adopts the best aristocratic tones of his estranged mother, "I hear we are to attend our first party of the season tomorrow night."

"Oh indeed." Remus arched an eyebrow - sarcastic, fitting, unutterably brilliant. Sirius kicked himself under the table again. "This is the one with Lily's Muggle friends?"

"Yes, the ones I look forward to introducing to the miracles of firewhiskey."

"You're a terrible person," Remus told him.

"Yeah, I know," Sirius agreed.

---

The party was chaotic, and a definite all-nighter and an all-round success according to everybody there, which appeared to be the entire late teen population of Spinner's End. It had hit that stage of the evening where coupling off was the activity of choice, a practice Sirius loudly proclaimed to be vile and perverse. That won him a combination of bitter or amused agreement, superior tutting from the boys and girls involved in said couplings, and sideways looks from a bunch of people who were probably wondering who the hell this bloke was anyway, and why Lily had decided to bring him along in the first place.

Sirius also noticed he'd earned himself some pretty speculative glances from a boy sitting across the other side of the room. On reflection, he probably had just put up a neon sign above his head, advertising 'Flaming Queer, Open For Business'. He looked back at the boy, attempting to convey a variety of reactions, mostly along the lines of 'yeah, you are not at all unattractive, and under difference circumstances I'd be pretty amenable to absconding with you to a nice airing cupboard somewhere where we can get to know each other better, but I have a problem in that I'm sort of madly in love with the idiot sitting over there and laughing at me, and it's basically scuppered me for all normal human interaction, you shouldn't take it personally'.

The boy blinked, looking completely bewildered, and turned to talk to the girl sitting next to him. Sirius shrugged to himself, and noticed that Remus was still watching him, looking entertained.

"Oh shut it," Sirius mouthed, praying that he actually was as bad at non-verbal communication as he suspected.

Remus grinned, and Sirius laughed, because really, Remus hadn't got the first idea about it.

---

It was some hour of the early morning that should never be seen by a living being. Everyone had either vanished, or they were asleep or getting there. Remus had curled up in a corner, breathing deep and even, fingers tangled in the thick pile of the carpet and face peaceful and relaxed in a way he'd never be in the waking world, not surrounded as he was by so many strangers.

What limited sense of self-preservation that still remained prompted Sirius to get up and walk away. Then he glanced back - he couldn't help himself - and after a moment's deliberation rescued Remus's coat from its hiding place under the sofa and draped it over him, letting the heavy material fall from upstanding, outstretched fingers. He didn't crouch down to tuck the coat under Remus's shoulders, didn't press a soft kiss to Remus's forehead the way he wanted. Instead, he exited the room, found the remnants of a bottle of some unidentifiable spirit, and downed his first alcohol of the evening. It felt just about like release.

He turned out to be entirely unsurprised when he noticed that Lily was standing in the doorway. She smiled at him lopsided, sleepy but with keen, enquiring eyes.

"Are you and Remus . . ?" she asked.

"No. It's just me." It was the first time Sirius had given his confession aloud.

"God. I'm sorry," she offered. "That can't be fun."

"It's --" Sirius didn't really have the words. He had no idea what he was doing with his life and James kept making hints like he was going to pop the question to Lily -- what -- and Peter kept disappearing from their lives for extended periods and it was bloody Christmas, which Sirius had realised he now hated. On top of all that? The way he felt about Remus was at least a constant, even when he wished that it weren't.

"It's not as bad as you'd think, sometimes," was all he said.

Lily slid up onto the counter next to him, visibly restraining herself from taking his hand. "So who knows?"

"James - well, I've never told him per se, but he knows. Pete probably knows as well, though what Peter is and is not aware of at any given time is a mystery for the ages, frankly. Remus doesn't know. Obviously."

"And he . . ?"

Sirius laughed; short, regretful. "It's not even that he's not that way inclined - couldn't tell you if that makes it better or worse. But like anyone with sanity, he's got no interest in someone he's shared seven years of teenage fuck-ups with. Whereas, I -- well. No one's accused me of being anything but a tad deranged in a long time." He shrugged. "But yeah. It's all right. Except for when it isn't."

Lily radiated sympathy and avoided saying anything saccharine. She reached for the firewhiskey bottle Sirius was idly toying with and necked a long shot of the good stuff. She coughed unexpectedly, and Sirius laughed at her while she looked embarrassed, and the atmosphere in the room went back to normal.

In a while, she'll slope off to wherever James had undoubtedly found himself a bed, the grabby bastard, lie down with him because she was allowed, because she could have that, and Sirius will sit up later still. He'll note the first rays of a murky sunrise peek through the slanting kitchen blinds, and think. He'll think about Remus, of course, but also about how on earth he's going to make himself presentable for work later today, and he'll resolve to finally call his landlord as his own surreptitious charm work was no longer holding the heating system together. He'll wonder inanely if he's out of milk yet, and whether he should buy more before he goes home, or after he leaves work.

Eventually, Remus will appear, sluggish and sleep-ruffled, and he'll make tea that Sirius will drink without reaching out to trace his fingers along the architecture of Remus's wrist.

---

Sirius's newfound hatred of the holiday season flagged a little in the face of James' rampant adoration of Christmas. It was quite astonishing, how enthusiastic James got about it, the archaic traditions he dug out of the woodwork then insisted on performing. He acted like some benevolent monarch, bestowing riches on his citizens. James couldn't be so generous without also being self-aggrandising, Sirius supposed.

They were all still too young to escape the entrapment of familial obligations, those of them who still had parents that wanted them. Peter and Remus, Lily too, were summoned back to their various ends of the country to be fed and pampered and scolded and immersed in the bosoms of their families. Sirius was jealous of their cheerful resignation, their complaints about how dull it will all be, but mixed in with their certainty that they were loved and had been missed.

James was insistent that Sirius came home with him for the holidays. It wasn't that Sirius didn't want to go - far from it - but he was so afraid of outstaying his welcome with the family he threw himself upon, worried that now they've left school it was wrong and imposing of him to expect James' parents to continually treat him like a second son.

"Don't be daft," James told him. "They love you more than me, you know that."

Sirius grinned. "Doesn't everyone?"

James threw a cushion at him.

The next day, Sirius took almost all of his wages and bought expensive wine for Mr and Mrs Potter and a multitude of small and stupid things designed to make James laugh, and thought about the family you were given against the family you go on to make.

---

Considering how obviously dejected James was when Lily left for Spinner's End with the intention of being entirely unavailable for a good two weeks, Sirius figured that he was privately allowed to feel a little bereft when the day came that Remus was also planning on heading off.

The four of them were piled into Sirius's flat -- and it was utterly ridiculous that a grand total of four nineteen-year-old boys could fill up the space so much -- they were messy and exuberant and full of the festive cheer that maybe - maybe - Sirius was beginning to share.

"Right," said Remus, getting to his feet and looking towards the hallway, where there are boxes and suitcases waiting to be taken back to his family abode. "I'm getting collected in a minute, I'd best be off."

Peter and James waved him cheery goodbyes and Christmas wishes as he left the room, and Sirius followed him out, because Remus was probably his centre of gravity now.

"Well," he said, his heart feeling high and vulnerable in his chest when they were stood in the corridor, just the two of them, "you'll be back for New Year's, right?"

Remus nodded. "I'll do my best. If I haven't offed myself in the meantime, dear Lord. There's a reason I've been hiding from my family out here all the time."

"You'll be fine. Try not to do any irreparable damage."

"Nah, that's more your style anyway." Remus's arms hovered up slightly, but dropped again. He glanced to the door, where his father was waiting. "I'd better go. See you soon, yeah?"

"Yeah." Sirius grinned a little goofily, Remus smiled back, and they were just two smiling idiots stood in a hallway.

Remus laughed a little, then he pulled Sirius into a hug. Sirius's eyes flew open, surprised, as Remus wrapped his arms firmly around Sirius's shoulders, and this wasn't some macho back-slapping prelude, this was an undeniable embrace, and Sirius didn't know what to do. His hands lingered uselessly into mid-air, and he was terrified that if he touched Remus, if he held him back, then he'd never let go.

Remus shifted, and he must have noticed the awkward tension Sirius was giving out. Sirius gritted his teeth, because however pathetic and useless he'd become, he must still be able, surely, to hug his friend. As soon as he'd thought that, his hands started moving of their own accord, moulding against the small of Remus's back and fitting against the structure of his body like they were meant to be there.

This was the least platonic hug imaginable, this was Sirius being so, so obvious, and he knew he'd blown it by how slowly Remus moved away, how he was openly staring at Sirius.

"I --" Sirius didn't know if there were any words that could prevent disaster. His breathing was shaky and a litany of curses and desperate pleas were running through his head. "I'm really sorry," he said.

"Oh god." Remus's tone was that of soft disbelief, and Sirius didn't understand, not until Remus reached a hand out and lays three fingertips along the trembling line of Sirius's cheekbone.

Oh.

It seemed like Remus wasn't out of surprises yet, though, because before Sirius had time to process this new knowledge, to store it deep in his heart and head and bones, Remus was pressing him against the wall and kissing him. Remus was pushing against him like he'd wanted this a long time too, like he'd been waiting and wishing and hoping, and how did Sirius never see this? That was for later, because now Sirius needed to get with the programme, because Remus was kissing his mouth open with slow and certain intent.

Sirius was too dazed to be embarrassed by the gasp that left his throat as Remus pulled away.

"Sirius. Sirius, listen. I have to go."

Sirius suddenly registered what Remus was saying. "You have to go -- oh, crap. Okay, okay, here, here's your things, you can just --"

He was babbling, but Remus's hands fumbled as he picked up bags, and it took him three tries to open the front door.

"Oh my god," Remus muttered. "Oh, god, look. I'll be -- we can just -- I will see you soon."

The low intensity of Remus's voice and the look in his eyes as he turned away from his departure to stare at Sirius nearly sent Sirius back three paces. He gulped. "Yes. Um. Sounds good. Merry Christmas?" he offered weakly.

Remus burst out laughing, and made himself leave. Sirius stood in the hallway and traced the curve of his mouth, the place where Remus Lupin had just kissed him, and he had to go collapse in his bathroom for ten minutes, shaking with silent, near-hysterical laughter.

---

The time passed in a haze of counting down days and exchanged letters. The notes ran mostly along the lines of I completely loathe you why have you done something like this to me, and this is ridiculous I just started laughing maniacally when my aunt asked me for the salt.

The Potter family holiday was just like Sirius remembered, warm and bright and full of so much food that it's probably criminal, but he'd gone completely round the bend and had to stop himself greeting everyone he saw with "Remus Lupin kissed me, and how are you today?"

He reckoned that James had figured it out after about three hours, but he'd decided not to say anything until he could maximise both his gloating and mockery rights. Sirius was all right with that, really.

All in all, this was probably both the worst and the best Christmas he'd ever had.

---

Sirius was back home before Remus, and so he picked up overtime hours at the shop and did his best to keep himself busy. He sent accusatory owls from time to time, mostly along the lines of where are you?, and grinned at Remus's responses, which ranged from informing him that he was five years old to elaborate plans of how he could do away with his entire family and make good his escape.

It was early evening, still three days before New Year's Eve and Remus's likely return, and there was a knock at the door. Sirius got up, hoping that it was James and not his landlord.

Remus, package-laden, was waiting outside in the dingy light of his block of flats.

"Uh," Sirius said, intelligently.

"Right." Remus pushed past him, dropped his belongings unceremoniously onto the floor. He turned to Sirius, opened his mouth to speak then balked. "Oh, oh no, this isn't --" He looked back at his bags. "Christ, I'm not trying to move in, I just. This was quicker."

"Okay." Sirius managed both syllables without doing something idiotic.

Remus was staring at him wonderingly. "Do you have any idea?" he asked.

Sirius let out a huff of tight, relieved air at that. "Well. You know. Some."

"Right." Remus nodded to himself, considered the floor for a moment, looked at Sirius again. "Okay."

"Okay."

Sirius beamed, he couldn't help himself, and Remus started laughing, full guffaws emanating out from this new place they had found, and as Sirius reached behind him to push the door shut, he was joining in.

Comments

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*squeals with delight in a terribly girlie way*

I really, really love this! Saving to bookmarks :-) The build-up of tension, and then the release, and this:
"Oh my god," Remus muttered. "Oh, god, look. I'll be -- we can just -- I will see you soon."

Perfect. *loves*
*beams* I'm so pleased you enjoyed this, thank you!
Awww :D I love this! It's so warm, and happy, and it makes me as giggly as Sirius must have been when he ducked into the bathroom and shook with restrained laughter for ten minutes straight. So much to love about this!

This! Sirius followed him out, because Remus was probably his centre of gravity now. I love the center of gravity bit! It's such a lovely phrasing.

And this too: "Okay." Sirius managed both syllables without doing something idiotic. Ohhh Sirius! You are so so adorable.

Very lovely story! Made me smile so very hard :D
Smiles! Yay! I'm delighted you liked it, thank you very much!
*flails* Wheeeeeeee, I'm all squishy and happy now. I feel the urge to grab you in a hug and swing you round in circles with glee now.

he'd gone completely round the bend and had to stop himself greeting everyone he saw with "Remus Lupin kissed me, and how are you today?"

Love that bit best I think.
Hee! *twirls you round* Thank you so much. :D
you see, now i feel festive!

thank you.

sk
xxxxxx
Hurray! Festivities all round, thank you!
This is without a doubt one of the cutest fics I've read in a long time. There really isn't anything else to say. ♥
Thank you very much, I'm so pleased you enjoyed it!
Oooo, this was wonderful. Sirius suffering silently, completely in love with him was slightly heartbreaking and then the final coming together was just brilliant! It made my heart whole again!

xxx
Happiness all round! *grins* Thank you very much indeed.
Oh god, I loved this. I have read the "least platonic hug ever" scene three times now -- such an amazing moment. I liked the conversation with Lily too, and James' "rampant adoration" of Christmas. :-)
I'm so pleased to hear it stands up to re-reading, thank you very much!
Adore!!! I loved this. You described that ache of unrequited love so perfectly and the realisation that came with the hug was so simple yet so powerful. And the kiss and the confusion after was marvellous. ADORE!
I'm delighted it worked for you, thank you very much!
Oh this feels soooooooooo good! You have me made extremely happy and cheery and giggly.
Beautiful, so lovely, and funny, and perfect with the kiss and the notes and the wanting and the HUG!!! :D
Aww, yay! Thank you very much indeed!
Oh. That was so lovely. It's been a long while, if ever, that I've read a pining!Sirius fic like this - seems to me it's usually the other way around - and so this was just beautiful to read. And the kiss, oh. My heart is all warm and happy now. Beautiful!!
*beams* I'm thrilled you liked this, thank you! There's just something about pining!Sirius, and you're right, really not a whole lot of it.

Edited at 2008-12-20 05:01 pm (UTC)
Least platonic hug ever? Even less platonic than the infamous "brotherly hug"? Wow.
So sweet. So lovely. I giggled madly at Sirius's attempts at non-verbal communication, and all the little things Sirius did to avoid touching Remus. Then the kissing started, and I melted into a puddle of squee.
Haha, I see it more as a prelude. *g* Thank you very much indeed!
AMAZING! Absolutely adorable.
Thanks so much!
I still don't know how you manage to be brilliant every single time you write fics.

This was great. In fact, it's the next best thing to a warm cup of tea in these cold and rainy days. I always fall in love even more with your Remus and Sirius.

*blush* ♥ I'm delighted you enjoyed this, thank you very much!
So much to love about this.

I just adore the whole thing, but especially the tension.

I liked the Sirius/Lily interaction, too. There just isn't enough of that in fics.
I love Sirius and Lily hanging out so, so much. I'm delighted you enjoyed this, thank you!
*babbles incoherently at the immense cute* I love this so much! I'm jealous of how you can get so perfectly into Sirius' head, and I love your Lily and James too, so yay!

Little favourite bits include Lily going home to Spinner's End, Sirius' attempts at non-verbal communication with the boy across the room, the fact that 19 year-olds are still boys and the note "I completely loathe you why have you done something like this to me", brilliant. There's others too, but I'll just end up quoting your whole fic back to you so I'll just say thanks for posting such a lovely fic!
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked this.
I absolutely love this story!!! It's adorable and heartwarming and makes me all warm and fuzzy. :D
Warm fuzzies for all! :D Thank you very much indeed.
oh my god, you do the best fluff and ust. ohhhh man *feels all fluttery* sirius in love is so... loveable, and uncertain and adoring, and oh, can i have one of my own, please, i promise to feed him every day and brush his hair. :] i'll even get him a remus for company.
OH and james's mockery and gloating rights, i wish you had included that.
Oh, that was perfectly darling and delightfully awkward! Poor Sirius, his utter sincerity (not to mention hopeless love) was really endearing:

There was no known remedy for this. His grave ailment was certainly not helped by Remus's tendencies to show up at his flat at odd times, and it was symptomatic of the fact that his illness had spread all the way through to the brain that Sirius didn't even care.

But how blind could be be?

I really loved the nervous, awkward bits of dialog and how they both "knew but could not acknowledge.

Exceedingly well-written and enjoyable!
Thank you so much, I'm glad you liked it! And yes, oblivious Sirius is oblivious, really, bless.
Gorgeous and wonderful and the tension nearly killed me and I loved Sirius more than I thought was possible and then, then dear lord this;
"and Sirius followed him out, because Remus was probably his centre of gravity now."
my new favourite fic ever : )
Thanks so much, I'm delighted you enjoyed it! :D
Oh, I love this! The tension is so wonderful, and the overall balance of the story is just perfect ) It is sweet, bitter, funny and awkward in just the right places. Lovely work ) Thank you!
Oh yay, I'm so glad you thought the balance was right, thank you very much!
Oh! Oh! Unrequited-love-for-your-friend!fic! This was so charming and funny that I hardly even noticed my heart breaking for poor Sirius, and then the mania when they finally get together... *happy sigh* Brava! I always love your writing, which is so warm and so genuine, but you've outdone yourself here. Maggie
*beams* You're very kind, thanks so much!
Now I feel festive! Lol. This was adorable! I loved the humor, and the tension, and the complete idiotic-boys-in-love quality of this whole thing. It was marvelous and made me postpone cleaning my room. Great job! I'd pick a favorite part but then I'd quote the whole thing back to you.
Hee, glad to help with the procrastination, and thank you very much indeed!
This was just delightful from beginning to end. I do love a pining Sirius, especially when he gets Remus in the end. :-)
As it should be, yes. :D Thank you very much!
You've written a highly quotable story because each line is packed with meaning and implication, yet this is my favorite:

he had to go collapse in his bathroom for ten minutes, shaking with silent, near-hysterical laughter.

because you are oh, so, correct with this being the excited reaction after first-kisses. It's a devastatingly accurate quirky description.

Lovely work that suggests both Sirius and Remus are at the mercy of their feeling and managing them quite differently. Plus, I prefer Remus making the first move as I consider him being less swallowed up by his emotions than Sirius, so I'm personally sentimental to your characterizations here.

Wonderful fic.
I'm delighted the emotions of this rang true for you, thank you very much indeed!
Oh, Amy, this just makes me feel all squishy inside.

Much love!
Yay, thank you very much!
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