It had all started out so innocently. It was hard to believe that now, but it really had. James valiantly fought down another rush of blood doing its best to fill his otherwise pale cheeks. And his friends weren't helping the situation at all, oh no. Remus, the unintentional instigator of this particular little fiasco, was bent nearly double with the force of his laughter. Poor Peter looked like he was ready to cry. And Sirius... Sirius looked like the cat who'd just wolfed down the canary and a whole pitcher of cream. Deeper blush. Bad analogy. Very bad analogy. Extremely bad analogy. James let out another heart felt groan and buried his head in his hands. He really was going to have to kill Remus later... Really.
James raised his eyes from his roll of parchment and glared at Sirius, "If it's bothering you that much, why don't you go check on him?"
Sirius shrugged, "Nah. He can take care of himself. Just that this damned thing is taking so long and if he isn't back soon, he won't have time to get it done. There should be some sort of law against teachers assigning punishment essays over the weekend." Good naturedly grumbling, Sirius returned to his own parchment.
It shouldn't bother him so much, this thing between Sirius and Remus. They were friends. Good friends. Had been for years. Didn't matter that he had known Sirius longer, been friends with him longer, shared a playpen with him, shared everything with him. In spite of all that history, this thing between him and Remus was special. Everyone knew it. Sirius and Remus were as inseparable as... as James and Lily. So it shouldn't bother him that Sirius was concerned about the fourth Marauder's tardiness. But it did. Damn it. James threw down his quill in disgust -- at himself or his friend, he wasn't sure -- and got up from the table.
Peter looked up from his parchment and frowned, "What's the matter, James?"
James rolled his shoulders and stretched his hands over his head, "If I don't take a break soon, my brain is going to ooze out my ears. I'm going to go take a bath."
Sirius said nothing, didn't even look up from his parchment, as James headed up the stairs into Gryffindor Tower. It shouldn't have bothered him. But it did. Double damn it. What was wrong with him? It wasn't as though he had an exclusive claim on Sirius just because they were friends. He should be happy that Sirius had found someone else to be close to, especially now that he was spending so much time with Lily. Hell, he had no right to be jealous, really, because he did have Lily. She meant so much to him... he thought he might even love her. So why the hell was he so bothered every time he caught Sirius and Remus sharing a look that he couldn't decipher? Why did he feel so much like a pouting child left out of a game?
Reaching the room that he shared with the other sixth year Gryffindors, James closed the door behind him and took a deep breath. He had to calm down. There was no reason for him to be jealous of Remus. Just because Sirius was now friends with him didn't mean that his friendship with James meant any less. Hell, James liked Remus. He should be happy. Really, he should. But he wasn't. He was jealous. Now the only question was... why?
James was so caught up in his thoughts that he missed the sound of another person on the stairs. He missed the sound of the door opening and that of footsteps entering the room. He didn't miss the sound of the door closing... nor of the bolt sliding home. He whirled to face the intruder. It was Sirius.
The two boys regarded each other quietly for a few moments. Sirius was the first to break the silence. He shook his head, "James... Somehow I expected more from you."
That wasn't what James was expecting to hear and the disappointment in his friend's voice stung. Crossing his arms over his chest, James regarded his friend with cool eyes, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Sirius sighed as he leaned back against the door, "Oh, I rather think you do. I don't know who told you -- or maybe you figured it out on your own -- but clearly this is bothering you. And for some reason, you're keeping it to yourself rather than coming and talking to me about it." He raised piercing grey eyes to meet James' hazel ones, "You owed me more than that, James. Or does our friendship mean nothing?"
Well, that was blatantly unfair -- Sirius acting like the wronged party when it was James who was being left out! "Sirius, I don't even know what the hell you're blathering on about! How can it be bothering me if I don't even know what it is?"
Sirius stared blankly at him. Blinked a few times. Stared some more. Finally spoke, more of a whisper, really... "You... you don't know?"
James practically exploded with pent up anger, "I have no clue!"
The two stared at each other for another long moment before the utter ridiculousness of the situation finally struck them. Sirius started to laugh and James shortly followed suit. Sirius slid down the door until he was stretched out on the floor still howling with laughter. James did the same, but against his bed. It felt good. The tension had been growing so thick between the two of them that James had felt like it would never give again. The release that the laughter allowed felt like a heaven-sent gift... even if it was just this side of hysteria.
When they both finally sobered enough to talk, Sirius took the initiative. "I owe you an apology, James. I know you better than this and I should have talked to you instead of expecting you to come to me." He took a deep breath, as though mentally preparing himself for a duel, then blurted out, "I'msleepingwithRemus."
Sirius' eyes grew worried when James didn't respond. James would have liked to reassure him, really he would have... but his mind was busy turning somersaults and twisting itself into pretzels trying to incorporate this new piece of information. He had known Sirius was no virgin. Like himself, Sirius had never wanted for bed partners. The girls of the school were positively smitten with the young Gryffindor and even the Slytherins didn't seem to mind sharing him as long as they got a piece of the action. But this... this was a complete and utter surprise. His brain promptly crashed. All he could manage to get out was, "You're... what?"
Unbelievably, Sirius, the ever-cool, blushed. He repeated himself, "I'm sleeping with Remus. For a few months now."
James' brain desperately tried to recover. Sirius was sleeping with Remus. He thought he might understand now. All this time he'd felt like he was being left out of something... because he was. His best friend Sirius might be, but this was a part of him that James could never share. First, because he wasn't gay. Second, because even if he were, Remus was his friend, too, and the last thing he wanted to do was cause the young werewolf more grief than he suffered already. And third... he couldn't do that to Lily. They'd made no promises of fidelity, but he intended to spend the rest of his life with her. He wanted her to have his children. Somehow, screwing one of his friends didn't seem conducive to that arrangement...
And all this time that he'd been getting jealous of Remus, Sirius had noticed. He must have thought that James was acting strangely because he disapproved. And he might well have... if it weren't Sirius. They'd been best friends for longer than he could remember. He trusted the other boy implicitly. If this was what Sirius wanted... how could he disapprove?
"James... say something already!"
Oops. "I... I donít really know what to say, Sirius." James met his friend's eyes and shrugged, "Except that this explains a lot."
Sirius frowned, "Well... that's better than what I was afraid you were going to say, so I guess I'll take my wins where I can get them. But one thing I'm confused on... if this wasn't what was bugging you, then why have you been acting so weird lately?"
Blush. Sirius raised an eyebrow. James blushed harder. Sirius raised the other eyebrow. James threw a pillow at him, "Enough! It's not what you think!"
Sirius caught the pillow and threw it back with a smirk, "How do you know that it's not what I think it is unless you're thinking it, too?"
James scowled, "I've been jealous of Remus, OK?"
The other boy began to laugh, "See! It is what I thought!"
"Damn you, Sirius, it is not." James tried to glare that smirk off his best friend's face to no avail. Giving it up as useless, he tried to explain, "I'm not jealous of you sleeping together. I'm just..." Feeling his sadness from earlier starting to come back as he spoke, James dropped his gaze to the floor and finished quietly, "He gets a piece of you that I can never have. I'm not used to that, to someone knowing things about you that I don't. I knew it would happen eventually, but I guess I thought it would still be a long way away."
"And you think I didn't feel the same way when you started getting serious about Lily?" The response was so subdued, so quiet... so un-Sirius, that James jerked his gaze back up to rest on his friend. Sirius' face was full of understanding... and some pain. James' recognized it. It was kin to his own.
How could he not have realized? He'd never even asked Sirius how he felt about him dating Lily, hadn't even talked to him about it. And yet, he'd expected Sirius to do it for him. He'd expected not only to be given a heads-up when Sirius might be falling for someone, but had half-expected to be consulted about it. How could he have been that selfish? What little lingering anger he was harboring dissipated, "Damn... Sirius, I didn't even think."
A short chuckle in response, "Yeah, I guess neither of us are too great at that. Act first, apologize later, right?"
James smiled, "No hard feelings?"
Sirius shook his head, "Nope. You?"
"No. But Sirius... I am glad you told me. And I'm glad you found someone... even if it is Remus." And to his own surprise, James found that it was true. Sure, he would miss being the only one that knew Sirius' secrets... but really, just because there was going to be someone else in his friend's heart from now on, didn't mean that there wasn't room for him, too. After all, in spite of his new feelings for Lily, his feelings for Sirius hadn't changed. Why should it be any different for Sirius?
A fist pounding on the door prevented Sirius from saying anything in response. The voice on the other side of it sounded frantic and more than a little worried. Then again, Peter always sounded like that... "Would you unlock the door, guys? Please? We need to get in!"
As one, James and Sirius rose and dusted off their robes. Sirius opened the door to find Peter frantically wringing his hands together and Remus leaning on the doorframe as though it were the only thing keeping him upright. Sirius immediately jumped to his friend's side to help him to his bed... and earned a withering glare in response. Remus pushed himself off the doorframe and wobbled his way over to his bed unaided. As he collapsed onto it, the other three Marauders gathered around him, each wearing expressions of sympathy and guilt -- the unexpected and highly unwelcome assignment had kept them all from joining their friend on the prowl this month. Remus heaved a large sigh and grumbled at them, "You don't need to hover. I'm perfectly OK. Just tired." When none of them moved, Remus half sat up, scowling at them, "What is it, already?"
Remus was never at his best just after a full moon. He was tired, irritable, usually in pain and often skittish of humans for at least a day afterwards. He often spent the "day after" in the Infirmary. Tonight, in spite of it clearly having been a bad full moon, he'd obviously chosen otherwise. Maybe a craving for the company of his friends had driven him back to Gryffindor Tower sooner than normal, but whatever the case he was here and clearly having second thoughts about the wisdom of that decision. James found his tongue and answered, "You remember that essay that Professor McGonagall assigned?"
Remus nodded, grey eyes flashing with more than a little irritation, "I finished it Thursday. Why?"
James coughed into his hand, "Well... things got a little out of hand in class on Friday..."
"And...?" A world of hurt promised in that single sentence.
James got the rest out as fast as he could, "And the four of us were assigned a little extra as a punishment."
Stunned silence. Remus' eyes widened. He shook his head as though to clear it. He opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again as he whispered, "But... I wasn't even there..."
Sirius let out a nervous laugh, "Well, you know how they all think by now... If one of us is up to something then all of us are up to something."
Remus groaned as he levered himself up into a sitting position, "How much, exactly, is 'a little extra', James?"
James couldn't fight the wicked, yet bitter, smile that crept across his face, "Five feet."
The werewolf stared at him for a full 30 seconds. James began to sweat as he tried to calculate how quickly he could get to the door and how quickly an enraged werewolf could be after him. He'd just about reached the conclusion that he was a dead man when Remus let out an outraged yell, "Five feet? Are you fucking serious??"
Still distracted by trying to figure out the best means of escape, James blurted out, "No! He's my best friend and that's all! But what the hell does that have to do with anything?"
It took James a long moment to realize that he wasn't being attacked. It took him an even longer moment to figure out why...
Remus, eyes dancing with suppressed laughter, drawled out, "Well, well, now... isn't that interesting."
Grey eyes met grey eyes and the two canines shared a grin. Sirius commented philosophically, "Now, I believe that what we have here is a classic case of a Freudian slip. Don't you agree, Mr. Moony?"
Remus' smile stretched wider, "Why, Mr. Padfoot, I do believe that you've hit upon the very thing." He turned to James, "Now perhaps you could tell us, Mr. Prongs, why having sexual relations with Mr. Padfoot was on your mind?"
James' jaw dropped. He couldn't believe that Remus was taking this so calmly... was, in fact, joking about it. Shouldn't he be jealous? "I... I..." Shouldn't he be demanding a pound of James' flesh right about now? "I wasn't..." Why was he bloody smiling like that?
Remus climbed to the edge of the bed, a wicked light in his eyes, and stage-whispered into James' ear, "You know... he wants you, too, James. And honestly, I don't really mind sharing..."
And for the second time that night, James' mind ground to a halt. It just didn't compute, what Remus was offering. He couldn't imagine being that generous with Lily, even if she'd been willing. And yet... Almost desperately, he tried to deny that the feeling beating against his ribcage was hope... and failed miserably. Remus knew full well how much he and Sirius had always loved each other. Remus knew also, that James was destined for Lily. And so... perhaps it was all right, to allow him this small thing. Because he understood.
Now if only they'd quit laughing about it! He crossed his arms over his chest and tried to invite a scowl to rest on his face. He only managed to entice a vaguely irritated pout, "You know... we still have those essays to finish, gentlemen."
Sirius and Peter groaned. Remus, however, merely resettled his smirk. "You know... I think I'm feeling pretty ill, after all. Peter, perhaps you would be so kind as to help me to the Infirmary?" He turned to the other two, "Don't wait up for me. I expect I'll miss most of my classes tomorrow, as well." Leaning heavily on Peter, Remus left the room.
And suddenly it was very quiet. James cleared his throat a few times before speaking. And what emerged wasn't what he had planned to say by a long shot, "Moony really wouldn't mind?" Open mouth... insert foot. James cringed. He wasn't gay. Why was he even considering this?
Sirius smiled, a rare smile, devoid of wickedness, "We've discussed it before. Actually, before he and I became lovers... he thought you and I were. He didn't want to get in the middle of anything. It's why he kept quiet about how he felt about me for so long."
Instant guilt. Until that moment, James hadn't really realized the effect his selfishness had had on his friends. Wanting to keep Sirius all to himself... it wasn't right. It wasn't fair. "I'm sorry, Sirius... really I am. If I'd had any idea..." But he hadn't. Remus played things too close to the vest. Well, if Remus could be so selfless, then so could he. But if Remus was willing to share Sirius... then maybe, just maybe he'd let him. He coughed, trying to hide another blush, "You know... we still have those essays to finish..."
Sirius leaned over him and leered. James had never fully appreciated what having that expression turned on a person could do to said person. He vowed right then to never again make fun of the girls who swooned around Sirius when he got so intense. Sirius' smile widened as he drawled, "But I could have sworn you said something about a bath first..."
"Yes James. A bath."
Swallow. "Oh..." It was times like these when James really regretted that his and Sirius' animagi forms put them on opposite sides of the predator/prey line. I'm in trouble. I'm in trouble. I'm really in trouble...
Sirius' smile grew teeth. Big... white... teeth...
James fled. Took off like a stag in hunting season. Discretion being the better part of valor, after all. He tried not to think about what would happen if he got caught, because if he did... he might not have the heart to run away. And after so long, he at least owed Sirius a good hunt... didn't he?
Remus: *sweatdrop* Wasn't there enough silliness in the fic? Isn't this a little superfluous?
Sirius: *big smile* There can never be enough silliness. Besides... I want to see where this goes. *evil grin*
Remus: *snickers* You just want her to write us a threesome.
James: *snorts* Yeah, like that'll ever happen. She doesn't go in for graphic smut, remember? *under breath* Thank goodness.
Sirius: *leers* Just let me work on her for a while... We'll just see how long that resolve of hers lasts...
Tasuki: *rueful sigh* Better men than you have tried, you know. And look how far it hasn't gotten them. *sad look*
Nuriko: *patpats* I'm working on it, I'm working on it...
R-chan: *eyes the crowd of chibis* *blushes* *runs away*
Comments, criticisms, thoughts of any kind?