A/N: this is a response to a prompt for February jilychallenge over on tumblr! It's an AU which is a first for me but hopefully you all enjoy it! Also I'm considering doing a part 2!
A sharp wind licks across the steep rock outcropping that cuts into the emerald landscape below, far enough down that vertigo kicks in for even the bravest. Aside from James. He's traveled these lands enough times that nothing but that initial free-hand slide over the side to whatever makeshift handholds he can find will even bring his pulse above a resting heart rate.
Tucking the remnants of his lunch into his rather Spartan pouch – wouldn't do to climb on a too full stomach – James tightens his belt, stretches his limbs, and strides toward the precipice with the casual purpose of someone who knows themselves and their task. That is until the scratching of claws – four sets if his ears are to be believed – scrape across the rough hewn stone.
James turns at the last minute, even his highly trained senses too slow to defend beyond raised forearms protecting his chest and head. His vital organs should be well enough protected by the stiff leather that wraps around his middle, although his legs are vulnerable beneath the soft, worn cotton of his dark green trousers.
All this slips through his mind like a well-worn checklist – a product of years spent fighting and defending and being generally heroic – in the brief moments before the large, dark beast descends on him, the impact of its hulking form nearly knocking him to the ground.
As it is, he stumbles back a few steps which is a few more than he's surrendered to any opponent since he counted his age in double digits. Considering the circumstances, he lets the injury to his pride roll off his proverbial back as he flips the beast over his literal one and James quickly grabs his newly sharpened dagger from his boot.
With a few huffs that almost sound like indignant laughter, the dog like monstrosity stalks closer again and the two circle each other warily.
Relying on the adage of fortune favoring the bold, James quickly closes in on his opponent, its back to the sharp cliff as he wields his dagger expertly. And yet despite his prowess, each swipe and thrust is easily evaded despite the rather heavy appearance of his foe.
Their single combat proceeds in this fashion for a time, neither gaining ground, neither surrendering, until James finally sees his chance and herds the beast toward the edge.
In the split second before he intends to push it over, delivering it a fairly sympathetic death as these things go, the monster shifts before his eyes, thick dark fur melting from its body and revealing taught olive skin, but the silver-grey eyes remain the same.
Momentarily caught off guard, the beast – man – grasps at his forearm desperately. James narrows his hazel eyes inquisitively, jerking the man back from the sharp drop and shoving him toward his abandoned campsite.
Smirking rather arrogantly for a man who just barely escaped death's clutches, his companion pushes up onto his hands, legs extended in front casually as if spending a lazy day picnicking by the lake. "Quite the fighter then."
James huffs through his nose, not dignifying the statement with more of a response as he pulls his pack off to search for the necessary implements for his new plan of action – ah rope.
Undeterred, the man flips his almost too silken black hair back over a broad shoulder, and it slips back forward almost as quickly. "Strong silent type, eh?"
Putting every ounce of any anger or resentment he's ever felt into the glare he levels, James grunts and stands, closing the distance between them in two short strides. He gestured for the man to bring his hands together for easier binding but the man makes no move to comply. "I may be chatty, but I'm no pushover. As your newly stiff shoulder demonstrates."
Rolling his eyes, James crosses his arms in front of his chest as he grinds out a response, "I'm the better fighter, as your almost death demonstrates."
Pointing at him with dramatic triumph, the man crows with delight, "I knew I'd goad you into talking. Figures it took an affront to your pride."
"Surviving a minor injury is hardly an affront to pride. Especially when it was simply a step in the process of defeating my opponent," James shoots back, biting back the grin that starts to twitch at the corners of his mouth.
"I'm not sure if your memory is shoddy because of the few blows I got to your head, but as I remember it, there was no defeat," the man quips, brows raising challengingly.
James lets out an incredulous laugh at that, "I had you backed up to the cliff-"
"And you didn't follow through."
Tucking the blade back into his boot, James settles back onto the rocks he'd perched on during his meal earlier. "I'm sorry. Would you prefer I kill you?"
The man's barking laughter echoes across the landscape, head dropping back as his Adam's apple bobs. "If it's all the same to you, I would prefer not dying."
Suspicious gaze sliding over the shape shifter, James recalls tales of interactions with shape shifters shared among other warriors during late nights spent gathered around flickering campfires
Although they were not considered trustworthy, they also generally hunt in packs and refused to shift into their human forms much once they were older. James scratched at his jaw thoughtfully, this one was alone and seemed more than comfortable with his human form. "So you're a shifter."
The stranger's grin fades at that, "Yeah."
James clears his throat, gathering his thoughts, "But no pack, unless they're just waiting," he pauses to glance at the forest to his left, "but I think I've been vulnerable too many times for them to be holding back."
Scratching at his stubble in a rather dog-like manner, he grins again, "Nah. No pack. Just ol' Sirius by his lonesome."
"How'd that happen," James questions, taking a few sips from his leather water sack.
Eyes darkening, Sirius lets out a low growl, "By the time I was old enough for hunts, things had changed. They wanted to start rounding up kids, keeping them like cattle."
James snorts, "So you left and you just eat demigods now?"
"I wasn't going to eat you, it was like preemptive self defense – kill or be killed."
Incredulous, James pulls some dried meat from his pack, waving it between them, "Well you've got to eat something."
Tilting his head in thanks, Sirius accepts the proffered snack, sniffing it cautiously before biting into the salty jerky with bright white teeth, "I stick to non-human meat. Never could stomach the idea since I realized I'm at least half human."
"At least?" James prompts around a mouthful of apple.
"I've never settled on an exact amount one way or another. When I'm shifted it feels natural, but not like when I'm back in my human form. So I guess I'd put myself at least slightly over into the man not beast camp," he supplies lightly
James nods, accepting the explanation, "Sounds good to me, Sirius?"
Sirius assents with a curt bob of his head.
Scratching at his neck with uncharacteristic bashfulness, James stammers out an unintelligible string of words that has Sirius quirking a brow mischievously. "Partners?"
Offering his hand, the men lock forearms and Sirius offers a wink, "At least until you bother me."
Warm months turn colder, leaves losing their waxy green in favor of autumnal golds and reds, the trees greying beneath their burdens. Over the months, James and Sirius have progressed from somewhat wary companions to inseparable partners, seeking adventure and glory as they made a name for themselves among the tiny villages scattered along the coast.
After successfully driving a herd of satyrs away from a grateful settlement, they camped in the nearby forest, politely rebuffing entreaties to stay with local families – both men preferring to sleep under the stars and away from eager townsfolk.
Once they'd cleared up the detritus left from a hearty breakfast – fresh eggs and meats care of a nearby farm – they took to the choppy waves beating against the sandy beach, ducking beneath the crushing force as they race toward the ever distant horizon.
Shaking saltwater from his ear unsuccessfully, James gestures toward the shore, reaching his destination in a dozen powerful strokes.
Close behind, Sirius wades through the foamy surf before plopping in the sand with a wet squelch, hair in thick salty tendrils. "Alright mate?"
James runs a hand through his dark locks absently, squinting at the setting sun sightlessly. "Yeah, just took a wave the wrong way."
Sirius hums in answer, one and pillowing his head as his eyes dart toward his friend. "Speaking of you being soft-"
He clears his throat but otherwise continues without recognizing the interruption, "We haven't sparred in quite some time. In fact, I think we've only fought as a team since the day we met."
Unimpressed, James' brows rise to his hairline. "Perhaps I'd decided to spare you the embarrassment in the interest of friendship."
"Or perhaps the great hero knows his 'trusty sidekick' – and I'd like to make my distaste for that characterization known – could actually beat his arse into the next century," Sirius volleys as he sits forward, sand in clumps across his tanned back.
Soon enough they're circling each other in a standard sparring pattern, each having landed hits with varying success, with dodges being the most common occurrence of the day. Noting Sirius' squint as the sun's dying rays hit his grey eyes, James swipes one leg beneath both of his opponent, knocking him to the ground just as a crack of lightening splits the sky, a bright unearthly light nearly blinding them both.
Dark waves part around the imposing yet delicate opalescent figure that appears in the darkness, glowing against the increasingly dim landscape. Silver-white hair cascades around her figure, face perpetually young.
James giving Sirius a hand up, the duo take a few steps back from the water, shooting wary glances toward each other, unsure whether the goddess before them came as friend or foe.
Her cool voice like silk slips around them in smooth tendrils, otherworldly enough that James wonders whether it merely echoed in his mind. But closer inspection reveals her lips moving, a serene smile tilting them at the corners. "I've heard much about you James."
Sirius folds his arms with a huff, ever unappreciative of being left out of praise for their heroism. Biting back a snicker – one generally didn't snicker in front of gods and goddesses – James strengthens his stance as she continues.
"I am Ishtar, and do not worry, my shape shifting friend, I know how you have assisted our great hero."
James winces at the unfortunate phrasing as Sirius simply lets out another scoff, tossing his hair back impatiently. "Is there a reason for the dramatic entrance?"
Her eyes flash angrily, but only for a moment before its hidden beneath swaths of flattery and coolness. "I find myself in need of things that you, James, can supply."
She pauses, and James wonders if she expects a reply – he's surprisingly not had much experience with gods and goddesses, particularly considering he's a demigod of sorts. But before he can worry too long, she proceeds, "I am in need of a hero to defend my court, and a consort to continue my line."
A quick elbow to the gut cuts off Sirius' barking laugh as James flounders for a polite way to say 'no way in hell.'
Summoning up every ounce of humility he has, James dips his head in gratitude before answering, eyes sharp, "My companion and I would be glad to assist with any problem you currently face regarding beast attacks, but I'm afraid a long term commitment is not in the cards."
She arches a slim brow questioningly as he continues, "We prefer to serve the humans as much as possible, considering their general inability to battle the creatures that cross over from the immortal realm."
A light tension slips into the cool night air; her piercing gaze indicates his jab toward the gods' inability to keep a tight rein on their beasts did not go unnoticed. However, when Ishtar does speak, it's with that same saccharine tone she apparently believes is enticing. "Quite chivalrous and noble of you. Especially considering what benefits you would reap from my gratitude. Much better than – what was it? Eggs and dried meats?"
James mentally begs Sirius to refrain from false gagging at the statement – although he's barely able to keep himself from actually gagging. "Despite your generous offer, I'm afraid my mind is set."
Ishtar hums thoughtfully, sea foam swirling around her pale robes that glint in the moonlight. "I think, in my haste, I may have forgotten to tell you there are also consequences if you refuse."
Apparently no longer able to keep a hold on his tongue, Sirius snorts, "The demanding goddess who thinks way too highly of herself leaves him alone?"
She narrows her eyes dangerously before turning her gaze back to James, assessing, cataloguing, leering. "I'll send my messenger to confirm your final answer."
Finally losing his patience, James nearly growls, "I can tell you right n-"
Ishtar raises a hand, cutting off his refusal, "And if the answer is no you'll face combat with the very same, and my messenger never leaves an enemy alive."
James practically feels the rage flowing from Sirius at his back, his breaths short and tight through presumably flared nostrils.
Almost as an afterthought, Ishtar adds, "In case you're considering it, running won't help. Perks of being a – what did you call me dearest shape shifter? Demanding goddess?"
Without another word, she disappears in the same flash that brought her, the waves resuming their natural course up the beach, water swirling around bits of coral and sea glass.
James lets the tension fall from his shoulders, sighing in frustration. After a moment, Sirius claps him on the shoulder, pulling his loose white tunic back on as he rifles through their bags to begin making supper. "You know if one of us was going to have goddess groupies, I'm way more attractive."
The next morning finds the duo packing up camp and debating their next plan of action. "I'm not saying we should run, just that you might not be best situated here, tactically speaking."
James hums in agreement, only half listening as he ties his mat to his leather pack. "We're in agreement about getting out of here, but not about where we'll be going or why."
Sirius perks at that, interest rippling through his stance in a dog-like manner. Nearly snickering at the sight, James explains, "I think we need to know more about my dear friend Ishtar."
"And ruin the surprise?"
Not dignifying the statement with a response, James settles his pack over his shoulders comfortably. "Remus will know more."
Frowning in though, Sirius follows as James begins the ascent toward the main road that cuts through the countryside. "Should I know him?"
Kicking at the pebbles that litter the path, James shakes his head, "Nah, haven't seen him in a few years myself. But he's quite the scholar. Lives in one of the bigger settlements that actually started writing down important history." He pauses, then adds as an afterthought, "Although Remus was part of the oral tradition in his village."
"To Remus we go!"
It takes a little less over a week of travel to reach the settlement – with a pause around day three to drive a trio of giants back to their clan in the hills and away from a small fishing village – and James and Sirius opt to splurge for overnight accommodations in one of the less seedy inns.
Leaving only their most replaceable possessions behind, James and Sirius slowly pick their way through the city and its central market teeming with vendors plying their wares with nearly overwhelming levels of salesmanship. Both remain impervious to the various objects offered until the warm scent of freshly cooked meats tickle their senses and both cave, buying two overfull skewers a piece for an early lunch.
Sirius buys a spiced wine a few streets down and forces James to take a few swallows, and soon enough they're arriving at what James proclaims is the place to find Remus.
James pushes the plank door open, a weak groan sounding from its hinges as he enters and waits for Sirius to follow. The shop appears empty, save the various instruments that litter the shelves as well as a few unfinished ones – half strung or partially carved from rich woods – that are spread across a small worktable in the far corner.
Daylight slices through threadbare curtains while unlit half burned candles are scattered around the room, ready to come to life when the sun sets and blankets the city in darkness.
With keen eyes, Sirius catalogues all this, unable to keep himself from noting the limited entries and exits – the former making defense relatively easy, the latter making retreat difficult. But he'd never been one for retreats anyway. "Perhaps he's moved?"
Before James can answer, a tall lanky man emerges from the back room, clothes dusty with wood shavings and fingers littered with tiny scars, presumably a product of his profession. Apparently still unaware of his visitors the man tugs a few delicate silver knives from the slots in his leather apron, brushing his fingers over the dulled edges with a frown.
James breaks the silence with a haughty clearing of his throat, drawing Remus from his reverie with a jolt and a tense expression. Once his eyes take in the intruders, lingering on Sirius curiously before looking toward James, his face lighting happily, "You bastard!"
Boisterous laughter fills the air as the two old friends reacquaint themselves, James introducing Sirius in the process – and it's as if the three had been together from the start.
Too soon, the sun begins setting and Remus looks thoughtful for a moment as he bustles about, lighting the candles and locking up his profits from the day's customers. "Not to sound ungrateful for the surprise visit, but I have a feeling this is about more than rekindling an old friendship."
"I think we might need a drink for this," James murmurs, eyes wandering to the back room Remus had emerged from hours before.
Following the line of his gaze, Remus grins ruefully, "'fraid business isn't quite successful enough to keep that type of refreshment on hand," he pauses, "but I'm fairly certain there's a vendor nearby that'll discount our purchases for a heroic tale or two."
Securing the small shop, the trio sets out for Remus' acquaintance a few streets over, selecting various delicious smelling meats, as well as creamy cheeses and surprisingly still warm bread. Along with a healthy supply of ale. Once they make their purchases, Remus leads them toward the back entrance to his shop and gestures for them to gather around his small but comfortable table.
Quiet settles again after they've begun eating, Remus' shoulders tense with waiting to find out just how much danger James has brought on himself this time. "So?"
James shoots a glance toward Sirius, who shrugs most unhelpfully before swiping another slice of crusty bread. With a sigh, James visibly relents, wiping his hands nervously over his thighs. "Ever heard of the goddess Ishtar?"
Remus rolls his eyes in answer, and James sets about weaving the tale with occasional input from Sirius – when he deems it more important than snagging another chunk of soft cheese.
Tapping his fingers across the scrubbed wood table rhythmically, Remus considers his friends for a moment, before his eyes catch James', biting back a grin. "Well I'd like to say I'm surprised. But you were always one for mischief."
Sirius snorts at that, "So 'm I, but even this seems a bit much for my taste."
With a grunt, James shoves Sirius, "S'not as if I tried to get a blood thirsty goddess desperate for my – bedroom assistance."
"Anyway, what d'you want from me? I'm assuming it's not about my fighting ability – or lack thereof – since Ishtar's messenger only engages in single combat."
Extending his finger to gesture toward Remus face dramatically, James nearly shouts, "That! That is what I need. As much information as that beautiful brain knows about Ishtar and this messenger."
Remus stands, poking at the fire absentmindedly, "Well you should know most of what we know about her is rumors. Hearsay. Not as reliable when things are passed down orally. People forget things and fill in blanks."
Barking out a laugh, Sirius claps Remus on the shoulder, "If he dies I swear I won't come back and hold you accountable for faulty information."
"But I will haunt you," James drawls, hazel eyes glinting.
"Is it true he's never lost?" Sirius prompts, pulling his knife from its slot in his boot to sharpen it needlessly.
Remus shakes his head, grimacing, "Not that I've heard or read."
"And it's a pretty safe bet that if someone beat the unbeatable we'd hear about it," James puts in, picking at a gouge in the table.
"First time for everything," Remus offers softly, setting water to boil before spooning tea leaves carefully into three cups.
Silence descends once again, the sounds of the night eking through the cracks of Remus' humble cottage as they each consider what is practically a death sentence hanging over James' head.
Eventually, James slaps his hands to his knees, "Well! Seems my best bet is training until Ishtar gets tired of waiting for me to decide to – "
"Become her boy toy?" Sirius supplies unhelpfully.
James wrinkles his nose, "It's even creepier when you say it, and I thought it was pretty creepy to begin with."
They share a laugh, taking advantage of poor attempts at levity to lighten the tension of James' predicament, until Remus cuts in, demanding their attention, "And in case you get antsy and want to consider just – helping her continue her line – I know for a fact she often shows her 'favor' in a rather black widow type manner."
Sirius' brows shoot into his hairline, face ashen, "Kill him after they –"
"If he's lucky."
Sharp iron bites into the supple bark of the tall oak Sirius had tossed James toward after parrying his attack with a quick shift of his shield. Wrenching the blade free with a grunt, whipping back around as his sparring partner renews his attack.
James rolls over his shoulder tightly, regaining his footing without hesitation as fallen branches crunch beneath his booted feet, old leaves sticking to the sweat that covers his exposed skin.
"Give up yet demigod?"
He's about to answer, smirk already tickling at his lips, when twin screams echo through the forest. Instantly, his face shifts to stony determination, eyes darting to Sirius, who mirrors his expression, and the two vault through the underbrush with expert strides, soon reaching the tree line. Just in time to see a young girl and what is presumably her mother, tugged roughly into the arms of two hulking men speaking in low, threatening tones.
Before they can charge in, both of the highway robbers are quickly dispatched with a dagger to the throat each – thrown by a hooded figure fifteen paces away.
James grabs Sirius' forearm, urging him to linger, waiting to see if this is just another more skilled thief. But the hooded stranger advances toward to the women, crouching to rifle through the men's clothes and retrieve the stolen goods, as well as the knives, swiping the latter along one of the dead men's cloaks.
The grateful women make to leave, but the hooded figure stops them, pulling a small sack – presumably filled with gold – from within their thick cloak and hands it to the mother and with a gesture that brooks no arguments. James smirks to himself, reckon no one would want to argue with someone that skilled.
Offering grateful words, the travelers depart and the remaining lone figure begins dragging the large bodies of her enemies toward the ditches near the dusty roadside.
Sirius shakes his arm free of James' grip, mouth opening to question him regarding their next move when James nearly shouts, frantically gesturing toward the knife thrower, whose hood had fallen off to reveal waved of deep red hair beneath. "A woman."
Intrigued, James continues observing her from afar, fighting stick strapped across her back snugly, intricate carvings curling around the ebony wood in delicate swirls that belie her deadly abilities.
Shaking himself from his temporary stupor, James immediately moves to assist, and this time Sirius brings him to a halt. "I think she can handle it herself, mate."
James shrugs is shoulder free, grinning, "I know she can, but I've got to be chivalrous right?"
With a dramatic eye roll, Sirius releases his friend, following a few paces behind. Close enough to hear James low call, "Plus, I think I'm in love."
"I think I'm going to be sick," Sirius volleys back, miming nausea.
Gesturing rudely, James strides over toward the red head and taps her shoulder, lips parted as he prepares to woo.
In a matter of moments, James finds himself flipped over the slight figure's shoulder and onto the stony road, her wine colored locks haloed by bright sunbeams at her back, stick at his throat threateningly. Anger permeates her features, until she blinks a few times, taking in his prone form and her expression clears, "Oh."
Deciding to deal with the fact that he'd hesitated long enough to have been nearly killed, James kicks his legs out, shoving hers from beneath her and flipping her onto her back, stick caught between them, fingers brushing as they clasp the slim weapon tensely.
James lets out a huff as he presses closer, knees boxing her hips in, "Oh?"
She rolls her eyes and with a heave, pushes him off her backwards. Both scramble to stand, circling each other warily.
Steps shuffle across the rocky terrain, Sirius, and James waves his friend off, mentally calculating how quickly he could reach his dagger if need be. "I was just trying to offer my assistance."
The woman bears her teeth in a dangerous smile, emerald eyes flashing, "And I don't need your assistance James the hero."
His careful steps falter, dust kicking up around his boots as his dark brow furrows, sweat cutting salty lines down his temples, "Do we know each other?"
"Too many women to keep track?" she drawls, unimpressed and skeptical as her gaze runs up and down his form judgingly.
"I take offense at your dubiousness."
Eyebrow quirking, her jaw tightens along with her grip on the reclaimed weapon, "Well I take offense at arrogant men horning in after I've already won the victory just so they can steal the glory."
Apparently fed up with waiting on the sidelines, Sirius jogs between them, hands held up bracingly in front of each, "Alright lets break it up, we've got places to go, people to see."
He holds James' gaze meaningfully, but the stranger cuts in loftily, "People like Ishtar's messenger?
Growling, James brushes Sirius aside, poking a demanding finger in the red head's face, "Ok how do you know about me?"
Sirius groans, chin dropping to his chest, defeated, "James, there's a thing called denying the truth and not telling everyone your business when they ask? Valuable concept we should work on."
She ignores the shape shifter, challenge and something else in her face as she explains, "Because I'm the messenger."
By some silent agreement, the trio begins the trek back toward Sirius and James' campsite, the former in the lead, James bringing up the rear. He's not a complete ingrate despite what Sirius might say.
"Well this puts me in a spot," James finally responds, running a tired hand over his tanned face as the late afternoon wind winds through the trees, whistling over branches.
"How so?" she asks over her shoulder, dodging a tree limb Sirius let snap back rather violently to be accidental.
James steps forward, pressing the offending branch back and gesturing for her to move first, the scent of something flowery and smooth tickling his senses when he nears her. "I've never been this attracted to someone trying to kill me."
Barking out a laugh from ahead, Sirius, who apparently maintains his canine hearing even in his human form, calls out across the distance, "James.I thought we had something –"
Before he can finish, James and the messenger maintain eye contact, shouting in unison, "Shut up."
She smirks, stepping toward James in an effort to back him into a broad tree, feet padding quietly, "Does that mean you'll be letting me win?"
Instead of giving ground, he merely steps closer, their boots brushing, "Don't see how that helps me."
"You get on my good side by making my job easier," she answers simply.
He nods, conceding the point, "But then I'm also dead."
In a clatter of angry stomps and kicked pebbles, Sirius is back at their side in a moment, "James I understand you're doing some weird mating dance right now," both let out an affronted gasp, stepping apart, as he continues unperturbed, "but she's been sent here to kill you and we know she can do it."
The messenger grins dangerously; shooting a sideways glance at Sirius, "Thank you for appreciating my talents."
Sirius narrows his eyes, "Didn't catch your name, dear."
She folds her arms across her chest haughtily, "The name's Lily if you must know," she pauses running her eyes over James' broad chest, "I have to say you've made things difficult for me."
James raises his eyebrows challengingly, inwardly celebrating when she a flush spreads over her cheeks, "Because my heroic reputation precedes me?"
Suddenly they're only a breath apart, her mouth tickling his ear as she whispers, "Because I've never been this attracted to someone I'm supposed to kill."
Throwing his arms skyward, Sirius storms off, no longer interested in waiting for the weird foreplay to end, grumbling under his breath, "You guys are disgusting."
"Don't be jealous dear," James calls out after him, congratulating himself at his ability to tamp down on the rush of desire her words brought on.
Lily's still close – too close or not close enough depending on when you ask – so James sidesteps her lithe form, following in Sirius' wake. "This could be the explanation for the whole perfect kill record."
He receives no answer beyond the furrow of her brows, so he elaborates, stepping over a wide log that bisects the path, "You use your womanly wiles."
This time, a growl comes in response, followed quickly by a shove he'd admit was almost powerful enough to knock him off his feet. "Excuse me. I know you saw how easily I dispatched those two, she nods in the direction of the roadside where they'd left the thieves, "and they're twice my size, no wiles in sight. In fact, most of my assignments haven't even known I was a woman."
Hands at his hips, James considers her, "Any chance you find me attractive enough not to kill me?"
Lily bites her lip thoughtfully and James fights to tear his gaze away, although not quickly enough if her sparking eyes are any indication. She doesn't speak, simply twirls her finger, motioning for him to turn in a circle. And James is just a little bit stupidly infatuated at this point, so he does.
She hums, meaning indiscernible, then grasps his arm, bringing him to a halt, and maybe squeezing the muscles beneath her fingers for good measure, "Not sure I'd risk the wrath of a goddess for what could be a passing fancy."
James makes an affronted noise, but she continues, "I would risk it to escape said goddess."
"Well I did win technically."
They start walking again, this time side by side, and their hands may brush accidentally. "How do you figure?"
"I slayed your heart," James answers easily, flashing her a flirtatious grin.
That draws a startled laugh from her, and she stumbles into his side, and he finds his arm wrapping around her shoulder easily. After she dries her tears, breathing calmed. "Was that supposed to be taken seriously?
He doesn't answer for a moment and she prods his ribs. "I'm sorry, I got sidetracked trying to turn that into a Sirius joke."
Her arm is now slid around his waist familiarly. "You're terrible."
Head dropped back, James sighs, "I know."
They're nearing the campsite now, the fire already crackling thanks to Sirius' quick work. After a few glares shared between the messenger and the shape shifter, they agree a truce – at least temporary – is in order until everyone has eaten.
As Lily dunks her second slice of thick cut bread into the stew, she stares into the fire, apparently lost in thought until she finally speaks. "There is a slight loophole."
Sirius' grey eyes narrow to slits, "How so?"
Unintimidated, Lily explains around a mouthful of stew. "Well. Ishtar heavily implies that I'm to kill my enemies, but its not part of the technical obligation."
"Meaning you two could fight but not kill?"
Lily nods, "Hate to break my record."
Hope blooming in his chest in that dark place he'd kept hidden in the weeks since his near death sentence was leveled, James smirks, "I'll try to make it worth the shame."
"Fat chance," Lily replies with a snort.
Nocturnal animals shift through the trees as the three fall into contemplative silence, until one of the logs in the fire snaps and James jolts. "I hardly think this will get us on Ishtar's good side."
"True," Lily agrees, chewing her lip.
Sirius rifles through his pack, raising his fist in success as he unearths a cloudy green bottle and quickly uncorks it with his teeth, taking a long draught before passing it to James, "I think instead of worrying about getting back in her good graces-"
Lily grins at that, "I hate to see what her bad side is like."
He clears his throat imperiously, but leaves his reproof for another day, "Anyway we're not on her level, in terms of deification."
"Big words," James interrupts with a smirk, passing the bottle to Lily's waiting hand.
"Do you want to hear my plan?"
James slides down to the ground, bracing his back against his former perch as he waves Sirius off, "Fine, fine."
"Thank you," Sirius grumbles, accepting James' surrender and the bottle of rum from Lily simultaneously. "We just need to find another god or goddess that hates Ishtar as much as we do, and get on their side."
"And until then?" James prompts, tugging the bottle from Sirius' still grasping fingers.
"I'm willing to knock around with you two louts for a bit of adventure," Lily puts in, folding her long waves into a neat plait.
James grins while Sirius lets out a long suffering sigh, although the sour expression doesn't reach his eyes.
Swiping James' pallet without asking, Lily quickly settles down to sleep for the evening, "We'll be partners in crime we three." She sighs and they think she's drifted off, James contemplating what he's supposed to sleep on now, when her voice drifts across the fire, "As soon as I beat James' arse in one on one combat."