A/N: Lots of people on tumblr helped me with this (I think some of you are on here, and I couldn't have done it without your help!) I hope everyone enjoys!
The briny smell of the seas follows travelers from the docks through the small port city of Hogsmeade, salt and sweat and freedom carried on the breeze that makes this a favored stop for those who struggle to find a taste for land. Still, the ground always feels oddly solid beneath beat up leather boots after a months-long voyage being buoyed by waves made predictable by years of life at sea.
The Captain of the Harpy drops over the side and onto the gangplank, fighting the urge to cling to the ship's side and refuse to leave her familiar walls, and strides down the wave-beaten docks toward the bustling market.
As far as safety goes for pirates, Hogsmeade is relatively high on the list. A small enough little village that the already disinterested and ill-prioritized Crown can't be bothered to do more than correspond with the mayor and his rag-tag militia made up of shopkeepers and herdsmen. Couple that reality with the surprisingly lively trade, plenty of ale to go around, and multiple cozy inns with warm beds and warmer stew, and you've got an easy-going pirate's dream.
In truth, most uncompromising pirates would prefer a brothel or coffers more ripe for the picking, but the crew of the Harpy was particularly selected for their low blood lust and high intolerance for injustice. All in all, they were as close as you could get to 'good' when you technically worked outside the confines of the law. Still, they kept to a code often flaunted by others of their ilk when it suited, and truly did attempt a life that would do Robin Hood and his Merry Men proud.
Even so, it was always a risk to make landfall, to stop pushing forward, to risk the possibility that law enforcers – however corrupt they may be – could catch up with you. But risks are a must, and a thrill, in all honesty, in the life of a pirate and the Captain has never backed down for want of a bit of courage.
Brim low over the brow, the Captain tosses a few coins toward the harbormaster who conveniently 'forgets' their arrivals and departures each time with a little motivation.
A few trusted men stay behind to guard the ship, some preferring so and others with promises from shipmates to share duties and frivolities alike. After a stern order to keep a low profile, the Captain strides off toward the usual errands — foodstuffs, supplies for repairs and upkeep, and a few morsels and small casks for private indulgences.
Once the expected spoils are purchased, the Captain heads for a favored shop and takes a deep breath before pushing the newly painted crimson door — the shade not dissimilar to the hair atop a certain pirate captain's head — and entering with a brassy clang of the overhead bell and a renewed grip on the well worn tapestry bag. Without looking up, the Captain plops the bag on the waxy wooden counter and slips the clasp open, only realizing the unexpected company when a man's voice drawls, "Long time no see, Evans."
The Captain – Evans – looks up, auburn brows furrowed on sun kissed skin, "Where's Mia?"
The man behind the counter ruffles his hair and pitches his voice to match Evans' tone, "It has been a while, but business is good. How are you James?"
"Pirates aren't known for their social graces, Potter," Evans grumbles, beard ticking up with the accompanying grin.
James winks, gaze lingering on Evans' emerald eyes, "You're not just any pirate though, are you?"
Evans leans forward on the counter, gloved hand tipping the hat brim backwards so James gets a full view of almond shaped eyes, freckled cheeks, and full, flirtatious lips that always seem a bit out of place behind the Captain's long bristly beard. "I am one of a kind," and then Evans sends him a glance that has his heart thudding.
Clearing his throat, James gestures to the bag, "So. What've you brought today?"
"Just what I usually bring to Mia – think you can handle it?" Evans asks teasingly, tugging out a few pairs of breeches, along with some vests, linen shirts, and a worn carmine great coat that clashes pretty terribly with the Captain's locks.
"Mum always had me do your orders," James laughs, gesturing to his spectacles, "Believe it or not, I have the best eyesight in the family."
James pulls the pile closer and begins examining the clothes, "How long'll you be in port? This seems worse than usual," his fingers poke through a slightly bloody slash in the sleeve of Evans' greatcoat, and then linger on the gritty slash of gunpowder staining one of the vests.
"As you can probably tell," Evans drawls, "We've been busy."
"Glad you came out in one piece, Evans," James offers.
Evans smirks, "Just 'cause I'm good for business, yeah?"
"I'll come back in a couple days?" Evans asks, trying to ignore the sharp jut of James' jaw, the glint in his hazel eyes, and most importantly the flash of his grin when he salutes and turns away. Which should make things better, but Evans has always had a particular…appreciation for watching James walk away. A proclivity that was hopefully camouflaged given that his mother was usually around.
But the last decade or so living as a pirate captain has done nothing if not make Evans a master of mind over matter, so with a steadying breath, the Captain raises a gloved hand in silent farewell and disappears out into the busy street.
It's later, when the sun's fully set and the hustle and bustle of the wildest dinner crowds has already moved on to the most freewheeling pubs that Captain Evans sees James again. A few of the Captain's favorite crewmen have all gathered together in a secluded corner, holding court with the locals as Gideon and Fabian regale them with slightly exaggerated tales from their latest adventures. As the duo begin acting out a daring feat involving the crows nest, a little too much rum, and a lifeboat in need of repair, Evans' eyes flit back to the tailor. The lighting's dim, but it's not hard to see he's been sitting in that corner alone for far too long, empty mugs littering the tabletop and meal barely touched. He looks so dejected that even the hardened heart of a pirate can't help but be softened, and Evans is tromping across the room, ale in hand, before giving it a second thought.
James startles, his hazel eyes go wide as the dinner plate he nearly upended in shock, but manages to smooth out his rumpled vest and gather himself as Evans plops down on a stool. "'m alright, yeah."
"Mia just give you a raise? Out to celebrate?" Evans teases, gesturing toward the half dozen empty glasses on the tabletop.
And Evans is fairly perceptive, a trait learned from years of a life where reading a room could mean life or death, but even a dunce on the moon would've seen the way James' eyes shuttered at the mention of his mother. Which is when it all clicks into place – his hedging about when Mia would be back, his assurances that he could still keep up, the relatively empty inside of the shop – "Has it been long since she – "
"Just since spring," James murmurs, making rings on the table with the condensation from his mug, "We had to cut back on business for a bit when she got really bad, and it seems – "
Fighting the instinct to clasp a gloved hand over the tailor's fidgeting ones, Evans finishes, "Everyone found somewhere else to go in the meantime?"
"Sorry enough to ask after her health in the market, but not enough to come back once she's gone," James shrugs, "Guess that's business."
"Shite is what it is, James," Evans rumbles, gruff, before gesturing to the barman for another couple drinks.
James snorts a laugh, but accepts the proffered libations with a small smile, which Evans returns, "You should've told me about Mia before."
"You're the first customer I've had in weeks," James sighs, stabbing aimlessly at his abandoned potatoes, "Didn't want to jinx it."
"And you thought 'my mum died' would make me take my business elsewhere?"
"It worked for everyone else," James answers with a shrug, eyes distant, "Figured a dastardly pirate captain wouldn't be any better."
Evans lays a gloved hand to the chest and gasps, "I am hardly dastardly."
Quirking a brow, James takes a gulp from his new drink and plops his face in his hand a bit clumsily. "Sure."
"Dastardly pirates don't pay for clothing repairs," Evans drawls around another sip before swiping a flaky bit of fish from James' plate.
Nudging the dish forward, James sighs, "True enough, I suppose," his eyes search the pirate's face, hidden beneath a broad brimmed hat and wiry beard, "I've never found myself questioning your goodness, odd as it seems."
Slapping a handful of gold on the table, the Captain stands. "Sober up, we can leave at first light, eh?"
"We?" James chokes, slapping his mug down so drink sloshes over the lip.
Grinning in that way that always leads to getting people to do exactly as you please, Evans answers, "Aye, even a pirate has too much of a conscience to leave the son of an old friend poor and lonesome when adventure on the high seas awaits."
"Sounds like an advert," James laughs, "Though it does sting that I'm merely 'the son of an old friend'," Evans chuckles and James flushes because he's somehow flirting with a pirate, but stranger things have happened.
The Captain's eyes roll playfully before Evans turns again and makes for the cheerful quintet of pirates calling for their best player to join the next game.
Before Evans can get far, James grabs onto a rough sleeve, dragging the pirate to a halt, "D'you think she'd – is it betraying her to leave the shop?"
"I think she'd want you to be happy more than anything, James," Evans says, low, "And if you'd be happy with me – us – then I think she'd want you to come."
Luckily, James' sea legs have set in by the time the first clash with another ship occurs, though anything he'd got used to over the past fortnight of sailing is nearly incomparable to the jolting and swaying of the ship as shots are volleyed between the hulking schooners.
Initially, he'd blanched at the idea of staying hidden away while the battle raged above, but Evans foresaw this tendency and had list of reasons why exactly he should stay far from the fray – namely James' near complete incompetence in any sort of armed conflict, the inevitable distraction to the crew if he were to be involved when so unprepared, and lastly the Captain's gruff threat to lock him in the brig if he disobeyed orders.
But when things quiet above deck and James hears members of the crew lumbering past toward their shared quarters, James unlocks the door – Captain Evans had given him a tiny room as the ship's resident tailor – and is so intent on making his way above deck and into the fresh air he nearly misses the sharp wince from the Captain's cabin. He waits a moment, then knocks sharply just once, with no answer. At least until there's another gasp, a few choice swears and a massive thud – then he's shouldering the door open and across the room before he can second-guess.
"Bloody buggering hell," Evans yelps, sending the instruments – and red beard – littering the tabletop to the floor with a clatter, then grits through clenched teeth, "Do you know how to knock?"
James' eyes flit over the tight wrap around the Captain's chest and linger on the growing deep red stain across her middle, "Normally I dispense with formalities when I have reason to think someone might be bleeding out on the other side of the door."
Batting Evans' hands away, James lifts the loose-fitting undershirt away from the bloodied area, inspecting the wound with gentle fingers. "Seems alright, but I should probably stitch you up."
"Which is what I was in the middle of doing when you interrupted," the Captain grumbles, sucking in a breath when James prods a particularly tender point and gesturing to the instruments on the table and floor.
"I think a tradesman tailor is going to have better stitches than a burly she-pirate."
"You know I may have to kill you now," she grunts, tossing her messy locks behind her shoulders as he presses a rum-soaked rag to the wound.
Chuckling, James shakes his head and lights a candle from one of the lanterns that hang throughout the cluttered Captain's Quarters, threading the needle before running it over the flame. "If knowing your secret got people killed, you'd've ended my mother long before the pox did," she frowns and he tries to ignore the adorable wrinkle of her brow, "Me too, come to think of it," he makes the first stitch and the Captain's jaw clenches, "Ever wonder why we made clothes to disguise curves and create bulk so well, and by accident?"
The Captain huffs and James continues his chatter, easy as if he were stitching cloth instead of flesh, "We knew from the start, Evans."
James blinks, confused, and pauses halfway through his ministrations to glance up at her, "Pardon?"
"If you know part, you may as well know the whole truth."
"In your own time," James answers, easy, "I've never been a fan of wrenching secrets from grudging hands – it's not in the Potter nature."
Lily hums, quiet, and all's silent but for the creaking and groaning of the ship around them.
Over the next month, Lily watches from beneath her disguise as James slowly wins over the rag-tag group of pirates that live and work aboard the Harpy — often joining their gambling for extra rations and fewer hours on duty — and finally finds her mind.
After supper, she sends Fenwick — her first mate — to fetch the tailor and bring him to her quarters, with instructions that they not be disturbed. Benjy nods, short and sharp, and returns in a handful of minutes with his charge looking decidedly less concerned than the first mate.
The moment the door snaps shut, James settles into one of the leather-backed chairs in front of the captain's desk and eyes her steadily. "I guess I should've figured you were one for drama."
Lily snorts removing her hat and beard, "You're one to talk, mister, 'I dispense with formalities when someone's bleeding out.'"
"I think the phrase you're searching for is 'thank you for saving my life,'" James drawls, toying with some beat up compass that has Lily jolting forward and grabbing it from his hands before he has a second chance to toss it overhead.
"No need to worry, I've got excellent hand-eye coordination."
"All the same," Lily sighs, tucking it away in one of the deep drawers of her mahogany desk, "I'd rather you not play with it."
James raises his hands defensively and settles more upright in his chair, hands folded in his lap, "Of course, my apologies," she blinks at him, and he's still not quite used to seeing those freckled cheeks uncovered by bristly red beard, those full lips – that are currently curling into an all too knowing smirk… "I assume you had a purpose for summoning me? If not, I'm still making the necessary repairs after your latest skirmish," he laughs, "You don't need to go shredding yourself and your clothes to get your money's worth out of bringing me on you know?"
"Don't I?" Lily murmurs, fingers steepled and elbows propped on either arm of her chair.
"I have other uses."
"I think having you as my mistress might raise some brows 'round here," the Captain answers with a smirk that has James flushing.
"I didn't mean – "
She winks, "I know. And I did have a purpose when I called you here."
Wriggling into his seat more comfortably, James leans forward, "Purpose away, then."
Lily fiddles with quills and papers stacked across her desk, straightening them needlessly, "I snuck onto this ship ages ago – nearly fifteen years come next spring. With the Captain's knowledge."
James doesn't answer beyond a raise of his brows and Lily continues, "He was a childhood friend of my father's. William Evans, my father, was a self-made man, came up from nothing and built up his business as a shipbuilder while his best friend from the orphanage took to a different life."
Pouring herself a couple fingers' worth of brandy, Lily does the same for James and nudges it toward him, delicately carved beads glinting in the lamplight among the waves of her hair. "But he was a good man, as good a man as you can be while also being a pirate. And when my sister and her husband snaked the family business away and lost it all just after my parents' deaths – which is a story for another time – he came to see me in the orphan's home."
"But your sister?" James asks around a swallow of brandy.
"She had no interest in me, and honestly the feeling was mutual by that point," Lily answers, eyes downcast and distant, "Though looking back, she couldn't have been much worse than the orphanage. But the Captain didn't let me stay there long – he knew what it was to be orphaned, and he offered me a way out, the only way he could."
"As?" James prompts.
"The cook, in name," Lily finishes, quickly quashing any less savory possibilities for a woman aboard a pirate vessel, "I did serve meals, mind you, but each night, he trained me to be his successor. The son he'd never had. And I was, in every way but the most obvious."
They share a quiet laugh and Lily fills their glasses again.
"But clearly neither of you paid that fact much mind," James put in, leaning forward and propping his chin on his fist while Lily relaxed back into her chair.
"The crew managed to get past any superstitious fears about having a woman aboard, but neither of us were confident enough in their loyalty to be sure it would continue after his death, if I took over," Lily continues, "So when his health began to decline, we changed out the crew and I renamed the ship — as Captain Evans."
"And the Captain?" James queries.
"He stayed on as first mate, talked me up to the crew and helped me get my sea legs, so to speak," Lily answers.
They're silent, ship rocking beneath them as Lily's green eyes go distant, getting lost in the maelstrom of the past while James tries to comprehend the revelations of the last half hour.
After finishing the half-filled bottle of brandy between them, Lily clears her throat and James jolts, turning to her. "D'you think – you've watched the crew over the last month."
Dragging Lily's 'secret' stash of Turkish Delight toward him and flipping the gilded latch on the box, despite the Captain's death glare, James selects a morsel with deft fingers. "I have."
Lily tugs the dagger from its customary place at her hip and needlessly sharpens it — unless a need to keep her hands busy counts — while James kindly pretends not to notice the nervous twitch of her lip. "Do you think they could handle me as me?"
Lily hums, standing and sauntering over to the nearest window where the moonlight spears past clouds and stars and miles of ocean to lick over the dimples and sweeping curves of her pale face. She tilts her head down and sighs, "My stance is a bit melodramatic, eh?"
"It was working," James laughs, "Pirate captains have to be a bit overdone, right?"
Loosening her vest and the laces at her throat, Lily smiles, yawning tiredly, "S'pose."
James wanders over to the door, pausing with one hand pressed to the frame. "For what it's worth, I have been watching," Lily quirks a brow and James grins, "The crew. And I do think they'd be loyal. They follow you – not some false beard."
Despite James' assurances, Lily's not in any rush to foist reality on her crew without due consideration. Which requires at least a fortnight of internal angst and lots of muttering. And entirely too many knowing glances from a certain tailor just begging to be put off at the next port. She's addressing the crew — as a he — and finishes up with a few barked orders about a recent tendency to 'accidentally' neglect more menial tasks in favor of raucous nights gathered in the kitchen, before sending an imperious glare James' way as he makes to follow the rest of the crew as they move to disperse toward their tasks with surprisingly minimal grumbling. "Mr. Potter, I'll see you my quarters please."
James' eyes widen behind his spectacles but he doesn't hesitate, changing direction and heading toward her room. But by the time she reaches the small corridor, it's empty, so she enters her office and makes herself comfortable behind the broad mahogany desk she'd inherited from her predecessor, boots propped on the corner as she lounges comfortably and works her beard free from her face with a sigh. After two short knocks, James slips in with parcel wrapped what appears to be in a scrap bit of sail. He grins crookedly and ruffles his hair in what she's come to recognize as a nervous gesture, "Alright, Evans?"
She quirks a brow and James corrects himself, "Captain Evans."
Lily lets her head drop back against the leathery cushion of her chair, working the brass buttons across her front open with one hand while the other tosses her hat aside and scratches moodily and her scalp, bringing more tendrils free from her already loose knot. "The concept of remaining incognito may evade you," she drawls while James huffs, "But if you could cease and desist all judgmental glances aimed my way whenever I address the crew, I'd appreciate it."
The package drops from James' arms into his lap and he levels a glare of his own, "If you'd just come clean I wouldn't have to —"
"Be that as it may," Lily cuts in, feet dropping to the floor with twin thuds, "It is my prerogative if and when I do tell anyone my secret. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the results of the last time I told someone."
She tries to ignore the way his face falls and forces her expression to remain stern, despite the way her heart drops into her stomach. The cabin is cloaked in a heavy silence, save the steady sway of the unusually calm waves outside, the creaking ship beneath them, and Lily's on the verge of apologizing — which she hasn't done since she was eight — but James speaks first as he stands and sets the mysterious package on her desk. "Anyway, this is for if you change your mind."
About a thousand possible responses — mostly various ways to apologize and bring that lightness back to his eyes — run through Lily's head but never quite make their way to her lips and James leaves with a quiet click of the door that's somehow worse than if he'd left with a huff and a slam.
The wooden clock tucked on Lily's shelf ticks away the minutes as she gulps down a healthy serving of port retrieved from her secret stash in the bottom most drawer and lets her mind remain blissfully clear, eventually dropping her forehead to the desk. Only to have it land on the still wrapped gift from James.
Letting out a groan, she pushes her chair back and fingers the haphazard wrappings thoughtfully, eventually tugging the twine until it falls limply to the desktop.
"Might as well finish the job, eh?" Lily mutters to herself, letting the worn cotton drop open.
Inside is the richest midnight blue wool — she lifts it free of the wrappings and finds the most extravagant great coat she's come across in all her years of travel. Embroidered hems and brushed copper buttons with unflinching faces of regal lions glitter across the front like the bright stars in the night sky, leading her ship through the water. As her fingers brush over the coat, she finds darts cleverly placed across the middle as usual. Though these accentuate rather than hide her telltale curves.
Caught up as she is in admiring the gift, Lily nearly misses the note scrawled messily across a scrap of parchment tucked inside.
Give them a chance, eh? If they mutiny, I volunteer as your marooning companion.
A fond smile crosses her face and Lily finds herself letting her fingers follow the looping writing for a moment. Until she shakes her head free of the unwelcome overly "fond" feelings that have a certain messy haired tailor cropping up in her dreams and stomps over to her sea chest where she stuffs the coat — and the accompanying missive — inside, letting the lid fall shut with a thud.
The weeks pass, as is the custom at sea, a blur of too long days, painfully swift nights — and unexpected conflict just when you begin teetering on the edge of complacency. An enemy ship — one part of a particularly vengeful band of pirates that tends to view themselves above all others — had emerged in the early morning mist in time to give them just enough warning to retrieve their favored weapons and batten down the hatches before the first cannon was fired. After that, the crew of the Harpy worked seamlessly as a unit, all perpetually aware of the rest of the group and diving in when healthy danger rose to courting death. Today had been a good one — if one can call a day filled with blood and gunpowder and slashing blades such a thing — no casualties on their side, a healthy addition to their coffers, and a victory party on deck. It was a celebration to remember; Marcus whipped out his fiddle, everyone's favorite pirate twins performed a sort of juggling act that ended with James balanced on a plank between them while they tossed flaming bottles overhead, and Benjy got a bit rum-drunk and recited his favorite Shakespeare monologues.
And despite the levity, it's often after one such clash that Lily finds herself wandering above deck like the ghost of a sailor's widow, silent, pale, with eyes trained on the horizon —waiting for something that will never come.
Though, Lily chides herself, your longings are of your own making. She rolls her shoulders and makes her way below deck and to her cabin in a few strides, eyeing the clock as she enters. It's late — too late for her to be awake — but she's always like this after a skirmish, that strange level tiredness where you're too worn out to sleep.
Inevitably, she ends up enthroned behind her desk, completing little more than busy work she hates and avoids at all costs at any other time. She blearily works her way through the pile of charts tracking their supplies and attempts to estimate how far each store can stretch until they make port. Over the course of her seafaring, she's determined where she can manage the best deals and made enough friends — and enemies — that the process is something of a logic game.
After a fourth failed attempt — half because her eyes are constantly drawn to the chest tucked at the foot of her bed — Lily crumples the parchment filled with her tiny scribbles and tosses it aside blindly.
She throws her head back rather dramatically, eyes squeezed shut as if doing so will make the proverbial elephant disappear from the room.
Though, when she cracks an eye open, her sleep deprived hopes are in vain, her nemesis of a sea chest looming like a bad luck omen.
With a grunt, she heaves herself from the sometimes too comfortable chair and clomps across the room to flip the chest open before pulling the 'James coat' free with somewhat more care. Despite being tucked away with her scant personal effects for nearly a month, the wool holds the faint scent of James mixed with the fresh freedom of sea air that in tandem has Lily's heart thudding and her hands working the sleeves over her arms, if only to carry it closer.
In the quiet of her own cabin, Lily allows herself to bask in it, nuzzling the brocade collar 'til her emerald eyes merely peer over the edge.
Her hands smooth over the front, fingers deftly working the buttons through the holes. After a moment and a steadying breath, Lily glances around and finds her small hand held mirror, shifting it to view the coat piece by piece – though she gets more of an impression when she runs her palms over the smooth lying front.
As her hands trip down her sides, Lily's fingers find the sway of her waist — free and uncamouflaged for the first time in nearly a decade — and she's surprised by the overwhelming sense of relief that warms her chest.
The thudding in her veins drifts into calmness until Lily finder herself gripping the door handle before she can think twice, her feet striding toward the helm without input from her mind.
Still, her thoughts do catch up with her boots about halfway across the deck, where she's still able to duck for cover in the shadow of the mainmast and gather herself. Part of her wishes she had just ridden the momentum of her decision like foam on the crest of a breaking wave, but her greatest — and possibly most annoying at times — strength is her simultaneous ability to jump into things head first and think the consequences through.
The trouble is when the jumping may lead to lost friends — loyal, beloved friends she's had for a decade. But then there's a new voice in her head, one that sounds suspiciously like James, asking if someone who can't accept her really is that loyal of a friend.
Biting her lip, Lily squares her shoulders and steps back into the moonlight and makes her way toward the helm where Benjy stands at the wheel, shoulders broad and dark hair shot through with a fiery red like her own — the resemblance enough that they're often mistaken for siblings. Brothers.
She stops about a meter away, one hand resting on the railing as she clears her throat, jolting Benjy from his thoughts. "Bloody – "
He blinks, jaw working, before he finally grinds out, "Captain Evans?"
"At your service," Lily answers back, light, and hopefully without a tremor in her voice.
Benjy grips the wheel tighter, "You're — this is a bit unusual."
Hands going to her hips, Lily draws herself up taller, "Yes, not many women manage to successfully captain a pirate ship."
"No —"Benjy answers, "I mean that's true. But normally you're pretty private about your unusualness."
Fingernail picking at a gouge in the wood beneath her hand, Lily sighs and lets her gaze fall on the dark horizon, "I find I've tired of my purported usualness, and I'd quite like everyone to know just how strange I am."
"I wondered when you would," Benjy muses with a boyish grin, the moon lighting his freckles where they speckle his sun-red cheeks.
She drums her fingers along the railing. "I must admit I'm riding on a bit of possibly temporary courage, so if you could fetch the crew sooner rather than later —"
Stepping back, Benjy steps away from the helm and moves toward the crew's quarters, turning back to smirk at her, "I'm in full support, but I feel obligated to point out the crew may be less open to new things when sleep deprived."
Lily laughs lightly but grabs his arm before he gets too far off. "Let them know there'll be some rather important news," Benjy nods and Lily takes a breath, "And if anyone —including you — wants to leave, they're free to go."
"Unless you're planning on tossing me overboard, I'm here to stay, Captain," Benjy affirms with a nod, turning on his heel and striding toward where most of the crew sleeps.
Once he's disappeared below deck, Lily melts back into the shadows, only partially regretting her impulsive decision as she watches the men, her men trickle tiredly from their quarters. In the midst of the slow moving horde, Lily spots a familiar messy head of hair, slightly more tousled from sleep and the wind whipping across the deck. Biting her lip, Lily's fingers find James' sleeve in the dark and pull him toward her. "I gather you're taking my advice?"
Lily sighs and lets her head drop for a moment, before looking back up at him through her lashes, a small grin on her lips, "I like the coat."
Smiling, James runs his hands up the collar, fluffing it around her neck and brushing the stray hairs that fall around her chin back. When his thumb lingers, stroking her jaw, Lily sucks in a breath and James' eyes widen as they find hers. A flush heats Lily's cheeks and she hopes to God it's dark enough that he can't see. His lip tilt in that smirk of his, that dangerous smirk, and he shrugs a bit self-consciously before ruffling his own hair. "You've got to look your best, yeah?"
And apparently, it's a night for tossing aside inhibitions, because just as James turns to join the rest of the crew, Lily grips his collar and tugs his face to hers, lips warm and seeking on his until she realizes he's frozen against her.
As she pulls back, James groans and knits his fingers through her hair, brushing the beads that glitter in the moonlight as he returns the kiss, though much shorter and more chaste than she'd have hoped. Pressing his forehead against hers, James smiles again, pupils blown wide, "You're getting all messy again, ruining my work."
Fingers scratching at his scalp, Lily murmurs, "Well this is your work too."
Tilting down, James quirks a brow, "Stop stalling. We'll work together after you do your thing."
She steels herself, taking a steadying breath and gestures for James to join the crew while she smooths her front and her hair. Pushing forward, Lily somehow ends up at the helm, facing the crew as their expressions clear from sleep clouded to variations of shock, confusion, and much fewer that appear a bit angry.
"I think some of you have already caught on to my 'important news,' but for those of you still catching up," Lily says with her usual swaggering smirk that she doesn't quite feel, "I, Captain Evans, am in fact a woman."
There are a few snickers and grunts peppered throughout the crowd, but Lily's heart doesn't return to its normal rhythm until Gideon snorts, "I for one am utterly shocked."
"Not as much as I am, brother of mine," Fabian laugh.
Then her eyes find James, who nods encouragingly, and she stands a little taller. "I've decided I no longer wish to masquerade as something I'm not, and if anyone has a problem with things as they will be from now on, you can leave at the next port," she smiles stiffly as a few men seem keen on the offer, "No hard feelings."
Benjy folds his arms over his chest and grumbles, "Well some hard feelings."
"Aye," Fabian agrees, nudging Gideon who smirks, "But nobody will get hurt."
"Irreparably," Kingsley amends, from his place toward the back of the group, and Marcus chortles next to him.
Somewhat bolstered, but still mindful of the need to keep things under control – particularly in the coming hours and days – Lily clears her throat meaningfully, "We'll make port in the next few days, so you've got until then to make your decisions. I'd like to be able to pick up replacements in Godric's Hollow."
They all nod and grunt in turn before Lily dismisses them with a wave of her hand, a few of her closest friends sending her small grins as they depart, Gideon and Fabian doffing imaginary hats while Benjy swipes at their heads.
Biting back a laugh, Lily misses James as he sneaks up, shoulder brushing hers. "No mutiny – for some reason this lot seems attached to you and your scowl."
Lily narrows her eyes, "I don't scowl."
Unimpressed, James blinks slowly, "Do I need to point out the fact that you're currently proving my point?"
"I can make you walk the plank, woman or no."
"You don't have a plank," James taunts, leaning against the wall as he examines his nails.
"I'll build one just so you can walk it, tailor," Lily threatens, leaning close, brows pinched together and shoulders tensed.
Smiling flirtatiously, James leans forward and presses a chaste kiss to her lips, "Nah, you like me too much."
Marcus emerges to take the helm just as Lily begins walking back toward her quarters, James following along somewhat puppy-like. She tosses her head, loosening the leather strap that keeps it from her neck, "Sadly, that is true. Though I do think you're more trouble than you're worth."
Throwing one arm around her shoulders, James sighs, "Oh Evans, that would hurt if I thought you meant it."
She waves a careless hand and James continues, "Anyhow, I do intend to be particularly useful in the coming days."
Shrugging his arm off, Lily unlocks her cabin and gestures for him to enter and take what's rapidly becoming his seat in front of her desk. "How so?"
"I have a friend or two in Godric's, as it happens," James hedges, steepling his fingers, "Who may be up for a bit of marauding."