Wordcount: 2, 450
Summary: "Sirius Black, Hero!"
Notes: For devynkel and her hp_au_ficathon request, which involved, Remus, Sirius, no Snape, Dublin, and a Newspaper office. I took liberties and set it in the 1930s because I'm a horrible sap for history. ;)
Brown paper bundle of two warm pastries - coerced from Rosmerta by the bakery on Lower Abbey - thumping on his back, red-brown dust in his mouth, sweet and raw like cane sugar, the scrape of his bicycle wheels on the gravel, empty canvas bag at his hip, and the silhouette of a skinny lad waiting for him on the stoop of the back steps, under the sign The Irish Times, est 1859: Lord Knoxville, Founder.
Sirius Black, Hero!, the headline declares, Saves Ninety Orphans From Fire and Solves World-Wide Problem of Poverty!
"Disgusting," grins Lupin. "You're completely ill in the head."
"Shut it," Sirius frowns, the dramatic splay of his hands wavering, just a little. "It's brilliant. And no one asked you."
"Except that even your fantasies of grandeur lack originality," Lupin points out, taking a bite of his pastry and licking cream from his fingers.
"Disgusting, he says. That's disgusting." Sirius rolls his eyes and swats at Lupin's hand, grabbing a fistful of thin, brown hair and tugging. "Stop't, you'll get sticky."
Lupin makes a show of sucking his entire finger into his mouth: dust, newsprint, clotted sugar-cream and all.
"Augh," groans Sirius. "Why I bought that thing for you in the first place, I'll never..."
"Yeah," Lupin smiles, stands, patting him on the head. "Horrible waste of your hard-earned money made fucking around with Potter and throwing rocks at the pigeons on Ha'penny."
"Har-har, geroff," Sirius grumbles, squinting up into the shadow of Lupin's body, the dawn behind him like a dusty glow. He flicks a pebble out into the road – a horse and buggy creak by and a man with a pipe yells good morning to a portly woman in green tweed. There is fog in the sky, gold and lifting. "See you evening, then?"
"Aye, evening," says Lupin, with a finger to the tip of his cap, the one that's always been a little too big for his skinny, smudged face. "Do behave."
He picks up the stack of papers with a scan of the headlines, tucking away Labour Strike, German Chancellor Ill, Draught in Spain, Lad Rescues Cat From Tree for the future, curling them to the tip of his tongue. They barely fit in his canvas satchel, thrown with a grunt over his shoulder, bike wheels scratching on the pebbles as he runs it out into the road. Sun on his face, the leftover crust of breakfast sugar and cream on his lips, the wind in his ears, feadaíl feadaíl. There is a clatter of rails and metal from the factory yards down the street, a shout from a workman in gray-brick boots, a curdling, overwhelming coo of disturbed pigeons, the heartbeat of their wings, as Sirius wheels 'round a corner towards the river Liffey, white bird-belly feathers whirling in the air.
Ha'Penny bridge is bustling by now, with the morning full on: there is the clatter of carts and puttering of motors, the wave of heads crossing over the cobblestones, kick of red-brown dust, smell of cooked meat and bread and the shout of fishermen from the water, iron railings curling up into the sky, river bright with the sun.
Sirius wheels his bike to the corner by the old turnstile, where the half-penny tolls used to be paid, where he and Potter used to skive off school to pick up dropped coins from the ground and climb down to the docks. Their pockets growing heavy and clinking, enough gathered at the end of the week to buy a slingshot, a bag of sweets, enough to dream of buying a fishing boat, a motorbike, an automobile, so Sirius could take off on his own, one day, and leave the starched collars of his school suit, the shrill voice and dark-coloured velvets of his Mother.
He hunkers down against the wall, lighting a cigarette and shunting the first pile of papers out of his bag, adjusting his cap, putting the winning grin on his lips – the one that'll get him far, he thinks, the one that could make headlines, Sirius Black, Hero!, the one that'll always make someone smile back, and that'll be enough for him, for a while.
The crowd slows a little past noontime, as always, after the workers head back from their meals and the housewives have done their errands for the morning, and just after Sirius's stomach starts to grumble up at him for something other than weak tea and a thick cream bun for breakfast. He squints up into the sun, digs in his pockets with absent fingers, and feels the cool edges of the extra coins – Ta, lad, keep th'change – Such a nice young boy you are! – Here y'are, Black, thanks again for th' help on my roof, eh? – he grins.
He thinks about riding 'round to the office, again – stuffing his papers back into the satchel, climbing astride and taking off up to Abbey – see if Lupin is around for a bite to eat. He thinks about going over to the butchers on High Street, buying the biggest, reddest, pork sandwiches and baked potatoes he can carry, and plopping them down in Lupin's lap with a grin, saying, "Lad, you don't eat nearly enough."
But not enough for that, he frowns, aware of the number of coins in his pocket. Not enough for that, and then some, for all Lupin needs, he thinks, with him sucking dust from his fingers like sugar and living off the newsprint and ink on his lips. Lad was already skinny - he thinks, riding 'round by the Liffey Pub – and his Da out of work, now, going to the factory every day to stand in line for a job. And patches all along Lupin's favourite suit, he thinks, and that ridiculous hat he won't stop wearing, sticking it out for the little 'Press' tag in the brim, with all the pride in the world.
He jumps off the bike at a run, grinning, tucking it against the railing of the pub stairs. The bell overhead clinks dully – like the squawk of a rusty crank – and Sirius squints in the heavy half-light. The Liffey smells like deep cherry ale, dark wood, the crispiness of a sour pickle.
"Oi, Potte – "
"Oi, yourself, sit down, you're late," says James, from behind the bar, dish cloth wrapped 'round a glass, smudgy little specs sitting crooked on his nose.
"Ah, what can you do, it's a proper job," Sirius sighs, spins on the stool.
"Aw, fuck off," James laughs, sliding Sirius a heavy, thick sandwich, smelling of earthy lettuce, of turnips and chicken, and a dark, meaty bread. "Just eat, will you?"
"What, it any good?"
"I made it, didn't I?" James sniffs.
"Oi, Potter - I know what comes for free."
James laughs, and snaps the cloth. "Yeah, your knob an' your Mum, Black."
The world is a good place, thinks Sirius, when you can flick a piece of turnip at your best mate for insulting your Mother and your prick, and care more, in the end, about your prick. The world is a good place, he thinks, when you can eat for free because you love well, when you ride a street you know like breathing to the bank of a river that makes you smile, when you can think of an evening sit upon a stoop with your favourite, skinny lad in all of Ireland, and make him happy.
It's 'round five or six, he thinks, when he leaves Ha'Penny again for the High Street corner, one lone paper left in his bag, stomach no longer full and skin itching for seeing the sunset on the back stoop of No. 4 Lower Abbey St., Lord Knoxville, Founder, thank you, with a bony shoulder pressed against his. The corner's full with Pettigrew, who's got a stack left, poor lad – so Sirius flips him a coin and shouts a hallo good luck there! as he scrapes past.
And poor Pettigrew almost makes him miss the deep-blue plaid lines of a skirt, the easy lope of two legs, the ivory stockings and the heavy, red curls. He nearly throws himself off his bike with laughing, skidding round and crowing.
"Evans! Oi – Evans!"
"Don't even say it, Black, I'll not waste a half-penny on you."
"Oh – " he spreads his hands, heartfelt, splitting grin. "Oh, Evans. Brilliant little lass like you's got to keep up on the news. Did you hear? Chancellor of Belgium – "
"Germany." She purses her lips, tilts her head in that imperious, schoolteacher way that makes Potter lose his specs in fits of lust and makes Sirius grin all the way down to his ruddy toes. Ah, kindred spirits.
"Can't put one past you!" Sirius waggles a finger.
"Oh, go on," she rolls her eyes. "Fine. What d'you want for it?"
"Ahh, let's see -- a kiss for Potter, a scholarly quote for Lupin, and a good smack on the behind for me!"
"You can give this to Remus," she smiles, leans down to kiss his mouth, all rosy lips - "And this to Potter!" and she slaps him hard, open-palmed, laughing.
"Augh. Fucking women," Sirius groans, grinning, rubbing his sore cheek, tilting his chin to the swish of her plaid skirt down the street.
"Sore luck, lad!" says a voice from behind him – a tall man in a smart suit with a tie and bowler, pipe crooked in the cup of palm. "Bloody birds, right?"
"Yessir," Sirius grins.
"Whatev' you got, then?"
"The Times, sir."
"Ha-ha, not my usual fare," the man digs in his pocket, coins clinking, Sirius's grin widens. "But you'll need th'luck I wager, to win her back!"
"Thank you, sir," Sirius says, handing over the last of his papers; the man pats far too many coins into his palm. "Erm – si..."
"Buy her something nice, then, eh?" The man winks, and turns, and all Sirius can think of, by now, is Lupin's silly, ink-smudged smile when Sirius hands him a bag of tart candies and says, from me.
"Oi, you," Sirius swings himself down, over the railing as Remus looks up, dusty and sucking caramel from black fingertips. "What's'at?"
"Sweets, and not for you," Remus grins, lips shining with sugar. "I'm starving."
"Ah, sweets," Sirius grins, looping an arm around Lupin's shoulders and stealing a dollop with his fingertip. "What trouble you get up to, then?"
"Hitched a ride with Da to the factory," Lupin says, swatting his hand. "Protest coverage, yeah?"
"What, you fall in the chimneys for the sake of in-depth reporting? They won't give you any sort of a raise for daring feats of stupidity, la," Sirius laughs, raising an eyebrow at the soot on Lupin's nose. "Oh -- got a present for you from Evans."
He grins, smears the caramel in a spiral on Lupin's cheek and kisses it off, open-mouthed, as sloppily as he can manage.
"Nngh -- get off!" Lupin's cheeks go pink under the dirt, and Sirius doesn't care one whit, because his skin tastes an awful lot like licking the rime of sugar off of the rim of a porcelain tea mug, an awful lot like eating a lemon-flavoured ice at midday in the shadow of a bridge, an awful lot like the sweet dust of a dirt road after a bike ride.
"Black!" Lupin wipes furiously at his face, shoving a hand at Sirus's shoulder, and Sirius can only laugh, because he still tastes him on his tongue. "Augh..."
"Needed a wash-up anyway, mate," Sirius grins, pushing back against Lupin with his body, so they settle together, shoulder to shoulder. Lupin is slightly hunched, eyeing him suspiciously, cupping his hands in his lap with the caramel wrapper cupping the sunset. He did need a wash, Sirius thinks, absently, happily dazed with the sun in his eyes. Lupin's face is pink and smudged with red-brown dust and ash, fine as his hair; there is ink on his lower lip, and a smudge of newsprint on his forehead, above his eyebrow, where Sirius knows he fell asleep on his desk after noon. His wrists are white on the undersides, skin on the opposite curve tanned, freckled; his palms are streaked with dirt, his fingers are dark-pink and sugary - lucky, Sirius thinks, because they continually touch Lupin's small, red tongue.
"So, what," Lupin grins, into his lap, hat flopping over his eyes in the way that means he's nervous. "All from Evans and nothing from you? "
His heart leaps. And the world is good, thinks Sirius.
"Oh, you wouldn't want mine," he grins.
"Try me, Black."
And now Sirius knows – he knows why that little imperious tilt of the head makes Potter go ill out of love, all the way down into his stomach and spine, and the chills it can give a lad, that bared white neck and line of jaw.
"Try me, he says," murmurs Sirius, and pinches Lupin's chin with thumb and finger, tilts it up, kisses that soft, challenging little smile with all the try he has.
Lupin makes a sound like a pigeonwing, a rustle-startle, and Sirius pins him there with his thumb and tongue, until the sunset is painting the inside of his eyelids with dark, wet, whispers and Lupin's mouth gives a proper sort of kiss, the kind that makes the world shiver, heart – crith, croí - in his ear.
"Ah – " Sirius mumbles; Lupin's eyes flutter against his cheek and make him dizzy with it. "There's this... too."
"Too...?" Lupin mumbles, the dry brush of his lips makes Sirius's fingers fumble in his satchel.
"Too," he smiles, presses a bag of tart sweets - sharp and yellow, and smelling of Spanish oranges - into Lupin's lap.
"Oh," Lupin whispers, and then: "Oh. You -- " He laughs. "Best for last, hm?"
"'Course. See you morning, then?" Sirius grins, heart pinpricking all the way up into his eyes.
"Do behave," Sirius whispers, because he doesn't need to speak any louder, doesn't need much else: with Lupin's nose brushing against his own, with all the love, heroism, sunspit and pebbles, inksmudges and creampastries that make the world worth being in, he thinks, all here.