Author's Notes: This has been sitting in my 'in case of an update break' folder for a while and I thought I'd post it now because I got a prompt on Tumblr that suited this really well, and it only required a little editing. It's just a fluffy little thing. Rest assured that I'm still working on Filthy Animals whenever I have time, but it might be another little while before I update because I'm so busy with the website I work for.
Kristina has planted the idea of a pun-making James in my head and now I can't undo it. Blame her for everything. (I'm kidding Kristina you're the best)
For anyone not in the know, here's a mini glossary.
Trolley = shopping cart in these fair British isles.
Marmite = a salty brown paste that people eat on their toast, which people either love or despise
Tesco = British supermarket chain
I've also been made in aware that online grocery shopping isn't a Thing in some parts of America, which is crazy! I haven't set foot in a supermarket for anything more than milk in about six months!
The first time James sees her, he's preparing for a date with somebody else.
Her name is Elin – the girl he's dating, not the girl. The girl deserves an introduction with more fanfare, a sonnet perhaps, the kind of thing that Chaucer might have written - not that he knows a thing about Chaucer or what he wrote, if he wrote – the kind of thing, really, that James is utterly shit at.
And Elin is nice. Elin is very nice, in fact. They've already been on one date, to a restaurant, and if there was a checklist of all the right things a person could do on a first date, she could have ticked them all off with charming efficiency. He liked her brown curls and the way she twirled her slim, elegant hands when she spoke, she'd kissed him after dinner, and he hadn't been nervous at all - which he rarely is, once he's landed a date, because that's enough assurance for him to pick up and run with, but it's a nice bonus, all the same.
He's planning to cook dinner at his flat, having kicked Sirius out, and he thinks that this is going to be nice, dating Elin, as he pushes his trolley through the wine aisle and looks for something flavourful – one from the list that Peter gave him because again, James is shit at this kind of thing – and that if everything turns out well tonight, perhaps a third date will be on the cards.
Then she appears, and James and Elin are never to be.
It's not her he sees first, but her trolley, which rounds the corner at high speed and collides with his just as he's reaching to a high shelf to pick up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. She comes after it, yanking a pair of bright blue earbuds out of her ears, eyes widening in surprise.
"I'm so sorry!" she says, as his own trolley slams into his hip. "It's got a funny wheel, won't go where I want it to."
She's wearing a loose t-shirt and a pair of jeans, her feet in scuffed trainers, with long, dark red hair that's pulled over one shoulder in a thick, messy braid, certainly a far cry from Elin, who works in a hair salon and is always perfectly put together. Her eyes are green, a vivid, stop-and-take-a-second-look emerald, and her cheeks are a rosy pink, probably from the embarrassment of having nearly killed him when she careened around the corner.
His brain grinds to a halt, twitching frantically in an effort to get going again, like an animal in a trap, unsure of how it got there or what the hell is happening, but he manages to open his mouth and let the words, "That's alright." tumble out, which feels like an achievement in itself.
"Are you sure? I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"No," he replies, goodness knows how. "I'm fine, don't worry about it."
James has met dozens of attractive woman, scores of them, one of which is the woman he's seeing tonight, but never in his life has he had a reaction quite like this one and he can't understand why. He's a very big fan of monogamy and he's certainly not the type to fantasise about one woman when he's seeing another, and yes, this redhead with her runaway trolley might be the most beautiful person he's ever met, but that doesn't explain why the inside of his mouth has gone dry, or why his heartbeat has become audible.
Luckily, she doesn't seem to notice, and slants a smile at him.
"Alright, then," she agrees, and nods towards their trolleys, which are still touching. "They seem to like each other. Should we give them some privacy?"
He laughs - an anxious, ridiculous sounding thing - and thinks to himself you fucking idiot, but she merely smiles and moves on with her trolley, tossing a final apology over her shoulder.
After that, James is pretty much doomed.
His date with Elin goes terribly, which is understandable, because James's head is full to the brim with Trolley Girl and he burns the lasagna. That's only the first of a series of missteps that send her out the door before 10pm with a frosty goodbye, and leaves James certain that he won't be getting a third date.
He doesn't even want a third date, which is the worst of it. Trolley Girl knocked a bruise into his hip and Elin out of his brain.
He texts Sirius after she leaves and tells him the night has been a bust, so he comes home from the pub early to gloat at his best mate's failure, only to be disappointed when James isn't remotely upset - well, perhaps a little, but only because Elin deserved better than the minimum of his attention. He can't help but feel guilty about that. He's supposed to be better than this. His mum raised him better than this.
He and Sirius watch Casino Royale with a few beers each and a pizza that Sirius bought on the way home - the leftover lasagna isn't fit for human consumption - and James doesn't mention Trolley Girl. Sirius will think he's mad, or worse, a soppy git.
He plots, though, as Algernon dozes in his lap and he absently strokes his head.
Trolley Girl isn't someone he recognises, and James is sure he'd remember if he'd seen her before. The supermarket is his local, but it's also huge, situated in a retail park, and the only one for miles around. Furthermore, her trolley was piled up with groceries. She hadn't popped in there for a couple of items because she was just passing by, she was doing a big shop, which means she lives in the area, which means she'll probably shop there again.
After his third beer, and just as Vesper Lynd drowns herself in the elevator, it occurs to James that he's acting – for want of a better word – creepy. Or thinking creepy, at least, if he's considering stalking a woman through his local Tesco.
"I'm going to bed," he tells Sirius, and shoves Algernon off his lap. Sirius grunts in response, and James goes to his room, determined to forget about Trolley Girl, and perhaps convince Elin to give him another shot.
But when he does call Elin, it's only to offer an apology for his behaviour and wish her well, and the next Friday sees him back at the supermarket, furtively glancing around in the hopes that she'll turn up.
She does, bless her heart, appearing in the frozen aisle fifteen minutes after James arrives, her trolley already half-filled. She must be a creature of habit, which is a good thing – he'll be able to plan his trips to coincide with hers, and a terrible thing – he's doomed to spend his Friday evenings acting like a creep until he gets over this worrying new habit of his.
She looks as beautiful as she did last week, gently bobbing her head to the tune of whatever song she's listening to while she considers a selection of ice creams with rapt attentiveness. She's settled on mint chocolate chip when she turns around and sees James, who is moving past her at a snail's pace, pretending to be deeply invested in a wall of frozen pastry.
She smiles at him, not a bright, beaming, 'I'm so happy to see you' smile, but a polite, 'we've just made eye contact so I feel I must acknowledge you' smile that is inherently British enough for James to recognise what it means immediately.
Still, it's a smile, and it's enough fuel for his sad, needy little heart to run on until next Friday.
After that, James becomes a creature of habit himself, showing up at the supermarket every Friday evening to do the weekly shop, and to see her, though the order of importance is never what it should be. It's not exactly stalking, he tells himself. He doesn't follow her around, just passes her in the aisles whenever he gets the chance. He's never tried to follow her outside or attempted to look her up online, and he's never wandered into the toiletries aisle when she's there because some things are sacred. He never would do any of those things.
He's not a total weirdo, as he frequently reminds himself. He'd just rather do his shopping when she's doing hers.
Sirius notices after several weeks, and asks him why he's suddenly stopped shopping for groceries online, as if anyone who doesn't buy their food online is serving some sinister purpose.
"Thought I needed the exercise," James responds, prompting a weird look from Sirius, because they both play football three times a week, and James is in better shape than most people. "And they do better deals in-store."
This does nothing but earn him another weird look, because neither of them are exactly short on cash, and have certainly never needed to bargain-hunt.
Trolley Girl does, though - needs to or wants to - and gets very excited over 2-for-1 deals on a number of items, particularly chocolate biscuits. Most Fridays, she comes alone, but occasionally she brings another girl with her, and after catching snippets of a few of their conversations, James surmises that her friend's name is Mary.
Mary is not, as James had feared, Trolley Girl's life partner, because Mary has a boyfriend, about whom she often likes to complain at the top of her lungs. Mary is almost certainly Trolley Girl's housemate, because James has heard them discuss what they've run out of, and debate the merits of custard creams over chocolate digestives before ultimately agreeing to buy both. Mary calls Trolley Girl by a variety of pet names, including Sweetie, Darling and Honey, but never by her actual name. Mary is not aiding James in his endeavours one bit, but Trolley Girl seems to adore her, which must mean that she's okay.
Mary is always the one to push the trolley when she's there, acting as if it's a battering ram, and heaven help any foolhardy shoppers who stand in her way. Sometimes, Trolley Girl clings on to the end with both hands and lifts her feet in the air, laughing as she allows herself to be pushed along, though it's hardly safe.
Trolley Girl - and James wishes he knew her name, but imagines it must be something pretty, like Lily or Rose - isn't all that responsible with trolleys, when it comes to it.
He really likes that about her. He likes everything he knows about her, which is not much at all, but enough to keep him coming back every week.
After seven weeks of this nonsense, there comes a Friday when Trolley Girl doesn't turn up, and James immediately starts to imagine all sorts of terrible catastrophes that may have befallen her. Perhaps she died in a tragic accident. Perhaps she's a spy, and was called away on a top secret mission. Perhaps she and her friend moved away. Perhaps she fell in love with a wealthy baronet who whisked her off to a new life in a vineyard in the south of France. James has distrusted the French since he was a child, for a myriad of reasons, though he can't remember any of them.
Either way, she's not there, and he's so stupidly distracted by her absence that he forgets to buy half of what he came in to get, including some essentials like cat food, milk, and vodka for Sirius, who finds this out on Saturday morning and is not happy about it.
Neither is Algernon, who is very put out to find that James hasn't purchased his preferred brand (Whiskas), and turns his back on him when he tries to tempt him with the emergency cat food - a non-brand name from the local garage. James has to feed him the bacon from his own sandwich to make him happy again.
He goes back to the supermarket that afternoon to get what he missed, unable to suffer another minute of Sirius's resentful glares, and finds the place packed - as it would be, on a Saturday. He moves through the aisles as quickly as he can, thinking to himself that at the very least, he's been handed an opportunity to get over his creepy, demented crush on Trolley Girl. There are other women out there, after all. Even Elin, who sent him a friendly text the other day to see how he was doing. He's still contemplating this when he joins the shortest queue for a self-service checkout that he can find, behind two people with large, overloaded trolleys.
It's annoying, because he only has six items, but it's not like he has any plans. He takes out his phone and starts to play a game, and is happily immersed in a world of brightly coloured fruits until he hears movement behind him, and then a voice, a gorgeous, melodious voice.
"I'll be as quick as I can," she's saying, and James can't help himself, he turns around.
There's no trolley today - in fact, all she's got on her is a bag of limes - but it's her, in the flesh. She hasn't been murdered or moved away at all, she's just-
-looking at him. Strangely. Of course she is, because he's just turned around to gawk at her.
"What?" she says, to the person on the other end of the phone, still looking at James. "No, it's packed. I told you it'd be packed, it's Saturday afternoon." She rolls her eyes and points to her phone with her other hand, the bag of limes knocking against her arm, as if inviting him in on her annoyance. "I'm in a queue of people, I'll be out when I'm out."
Whoever she's speaking to says something that makes her nod several times. "Mmhmm," she says. "Got it. No problem. See you in a few."
She hangs up, and stashes her phone away in her handbag, sighing.
"You can skip ahead of me," James hears himself offering, sounding far more confident than he feels. "If you're in a hurry to get somewhere."
Her eyes widen a little. She's even more beautiful when she's standing this close, which James didn't think was possible. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, go ahead, you've only got one thing."
She beams. "You're such a sweetheart, thank you," she says, and scoots around him. He takes a step back to give her space and she drops her bag of limes on the conveyor belt with another sigh.
He really wants to ask her why she's buying nothing but limes in the middle of a busy shopping day, among a whole other bunch of questions he'd like to ask, preferably over an intimate dinner, but he doesn't want to be rude. As it turns out, it doesn't matter, because she notices him eyeing the bag and preempts his question.
"It's a long story," she says.
He glances over her head. "We've got a whole trolley's worth of time."
She smiles prettily, a blush of pink colouring her cheeks. "It's my best friend's birthday today," she begins. "We're having a party at our flat that starts - well - about half an hour ago, and roughly around that time she comes barging into the kitchen and screams, 'Where are the limes, Lily?!' as if limes are a thing that people buy on the regular and just leave lying around-"
Her name is Lily.
For a second, James feels like he's fallen into another dimension. Of all the things - numerous, countless, endless things - that he's been wrong about in his short-but-brilliant life, he can't fucking believe that he actually got this right, out of thousands of possible names, and if that's not a sign...
"-and Mary can't come and get them herself because it's her birthday and I'm the idiot who forgot them, even though they weren't on the list that I checked five times over, and heaven forbid we have a party without limes. So here I am," she finishes, indicating to the bag. "Stupidly late because of a bag of citrus fruit. Though you've come to my rescue now, so thank you. Again. For letting me skip you, and for listening to my not-so-long story."
James was wrong about Mary. Mary is a godsend. Mary is an angel. He wants to buy Mary a whole truck full of limes to demonstrate his thanks.
"Well," he says. "I suppose it's all worth it, if she's your zest friend."
It takes a second, but Lily squeals with laughter, startling the old man ahead of her, who pauses in scanning the last of his shopping to stare at them.
"Did you just make a pun?" she asks, after a moment, with one hand on her chest.
He grins at her, and ruffles his hair, which doesn't need any help to look untidy, but he likes to contribute when he can. "Caught that, did you?"
"That's a risky move," she says. "Puns are like Marmite, you've got to be careful with who you use them around."
"What's your opinion?"
"On Marmite? Hate it," she says thoughtfully. "But I'm okay with puns. That was a good one."
"In that case," he says, getting braver now. "I think your friend is being unraisinable."
"Oi," she warns, giggling, and points at him. "That's enough of that for one day. I'm drawing the lime."
"I'm berry sorry."
Lily snorts, shaking her head at him, but in a nice way, in a 'you're unbelievable' kind of way, rather than 'you're awful, please never speak to me again' which is half what he expected. The old man has loaded up his shopping bags and moves slowly away, and she weighs her limes, laughing quietly the whole time and throwing him sly glances. When she's paid up, she swings the bag over her shoulder and gives him one last, stunning smile.
"This has been a fruitful conversation," she says, and he laughs. "I'll see you around."
"See you," he says, and she strides away, while any chance he had of getting over her melts like butter in the sun.
Sirius buys a new game a week later - one that involves gunfire and long, drawn out battles - and invites Remus and Peter over to play. He's meant to go out and buy drinks for everyone, but consumes his last two beers earlier in the evening and James won't let him take the car, though Sirius probably would, because he can be that kind of irresponsible on occasion. Remus and Peter are guests, so it falls to James to go and get them, which is how he finds himself back in the supermarket on a Saturday night, though he doesn't expect to see Lily in the wine aisle - back where it all began for him, though she probably doesn't remember that at all.
Nevertheless, there she is, staring forlornly at a shelf of crisp whites, resplendent in a dress that's as blue as a summer sky, and James thinks to himself, fuck it anyway.
"Hey," he says, and comes to a standstill next to her. She turns, looks up, and smiles at him - a real smile, not the polite smile she saves for people she passes in the frozen aisle, but one that reaches those stunning green eyes of hers.
"Hey!" she says. "Lime Boy."
He grins back. "Trolley Girl."
"Oh, god," she says, and winces. "I was hoping you'd forget that I assaulted you with a trolley."
"I still bear the scars, so not bloody likely," he says. "You alright?"
"Yeah," she sighs, completely negating her answer.
"Oh, not really," she admits, transferring her weight from one foot to the other. "I just had a really shitty blind date, so I thought I'd come and buy something to dull the memory of it, or completely erase it altogether, which would be even better."
James is instantly torn between delight, because she's clearly single, and despair, because she went on a date with someone who wasn't him. However, Lily is unhappy, which, at the moment, is more important than his own internal struggle - strange as that is to admit to himself, when he barely knows her.
"Bit of a Marmite situation, was it?" he suggests, keeping it light. She smiles at him, less enthusiastic than before, but James is still pretty sure that it's genuine.
"Sort of," she says. "I mean, I knew from the first that it wasn't going to go anywhere because he couldn't have been any less my type - I think Mary was punishing me for the limes or something - but he immediately got really shirty with me because I ordered water, even though I told him that I never drink on first dates."
"Why would that even be a problem?"
"I dunno, ask him, if you can get him to stop talking about his bloody car for five minutes," she says, with a dry laugh. "Mercedes this, Mercedes that, like I was supposed to be dead impressed because I turned up in a crappy old Corsa, as if I give a shit what you drive if you can't talk to me like I'm an actual person, you know?"
"I do," he says. "I've been on dates where the girl just talks on and on about all the other blokes who are into her, and I just think, go out with one of them, then, and don't waste your time trying to make me feel like I'm so fortunate to have been granted your attention, or that I have to chase you around."
"That's the worst!" Lily agrees. "What's the point? If you're going to be into someone, just be into them."
"I know, right? Just be upfront, and save everyone involved a lot of time."
"That's what I did," says Lily proudly, and presses a finger into her collarbone. "I mean, not immediately, but once he made a homophobic comment about the waiter I was pretty done, so I just told him, 'this isn't going to work out, and I'm going home,' because what's the point of faking an emergency or pretending to fall ill?"
"You just have to break it off later, anyway."
"Or stop responding until they get the message and bugger off," says Lily, and snatches a bottle from the shelf at random. "D'you know anything about wine?"
James peers at the label. "Not a thing."
"Me neither," she says. "Whatever. This'll do."
"Still set on drowning your sorrows?"
"Maybe," she says, and tucks the bottle into her shopping basket. "Do you have a better idea?"
And there it is. His opening. And he's nervous - terrified, even - but he's got to do it because the worst thing she can do is say no, and if she does, he can move on and spend his Friday nights doing something else, something more productive than chasing an unlikely dream around the fruit and veg section.
It's a positive outcome, either way, but he really, really hopes that she says yes. He guessed her name out of thousands, after all.
"I have one."
She raises an eyebrow.
"If you wanted to have, y'know, a nicer date," he continues, carefully looking at the wine bottle in her basket. "I don't have a Mercedes, and my night just opened up."
She doesn't respond, so he's forced to look up to gauge her reaction. She's a little stunned, but the second his eyes meet hers, she smiles.
"Are you asking me out, Lime Boy?" she says, her voice teasing.
He nods, grinning at her, and she smiles more widely than before.
"Just like that?"
"Well, no, actually," he admits. "In the interest of being totally upfront, I've been working up the courage to ask you out for weeks."
"Oh," she says, and looks down at her feet. "If we're being totally upfront, I don't feel bad about admitting that I ran my trolley into you on purpose."
His heart gives a whopping great bang against his ribs. "Are you serious?"
"You were walking around with your nose in a list!" she cries, looking up at him. Her face is pink again. "How else was I supposed to get you to notice me, or my terrible attempts at flirting?"
"You could've - actually, I don't care. It worked."
"Best injury I've ever caused, then."
"Do you injure a lot of people?"
"One or two," she says. "My name is Lily, by the way. Evans. Lily Evans. I'd give you my middle name if I were that pedantic, but I don't actually have one."
"I do have one, but I'd need to be really drunk before I tell you," he says, and his cheeks ache from smiling but she's smiling back, so what does it matter? "I'm James Potter, anyway."
"James Potter," she repeats happily. "Do you like Chinese food?"
"Love it, why?"
"Because, now that I've got this wine in my basket, I quite fancy drinking it," she says, with a smile that could be the last thing James ever sees and he'd still die a happy man. "And there's a really nice Chinese takeaway down the road from my flat. We could go there and order in - my car's just outside, and my housemate's at her boyfriend's for the night."
Bang goes his heart again. "I thought you didn't drink on first dates?"
"I don't invite blokes back to my flat, either, but here I am, taking all kinds of risks."
"I'm a real advocate for risk taking."
"Well, you're welcome to take one with me, and tell me your middle name, while you're at it," says Lily. "Is your car outside, too?"
"Yeah, should I follow-"
"No," she says, with that wicked smile again. "You can come in my car, unless you think you'll need to go home tonight."
"Do you think I'll need to go home tonight?"
"Dunno," she says, with a shrug. "See how it goes, right? Are you in?"
James remembers - vaguely - that he's supposed to be getting drinks for the guys, and that Sirius will be furious when he's forced to spend an evening blowing up enemy bunkers without a cold bottle of beer to wash it down. He'll be made to suffer for that when he gets home in the morning.
He also remembers that Lily already told one crappy date to get lost, rather than letting him down gently, and that's what could be in store for him if he blows this evening. The thought of that is rather daunting, even though he's got the date he wanted - had the date before he ever met her, if she's to be believed - and that's usually all he needs to muster every vestige of his confidence. Not this time, though.
This time, despite her invitation, despite her frankness, despite the fact that she seems to fancy him a lot, he's still unbelievably nervous, and maybe that's a good thing. He's never been excited by a date, not truly excited, the way he's been excited to go to the supermarket every Friday and catch a glimpse of her, this beautiful, witty, fascinating woman who makes him laugh and says exactly what she thinks - and he's only just scratched the surface of who she is.
Maybe she'll keep him on his toes. Maybe that's exactly what he needs.
Maybe, he can make her smile eight or nine more times before the night is out, or make her laugh even once, or make her happy, in the long run.
So he grins at her and takes a risk of his own - her hand, which he catches easily in his, and his heart swells at the smile that steals across her face.
"Lime in," he says.