book ends — p.p. au
summary : there’s a little bookstore on the corner of a street in manhattan, and when peter parker gets a job there he’s not really expecting to fall head over heels for the cashier in charge — you. just your typical bookstore au, where peter isn’t spider-man.
word count : 3.4k
author’s note : i love this so much i’m nUTTING this is literally my pride and joy i’m gonna weep okay i know it’s long but literally my favorite thing ever okay i love you
gif credit : @hllands (sorry for not including it before, was not aware you made it and i did not mean to discredit you work in any way)
A piece of white copy paper, written on in bold red ink and stuck to the front of the antiquated bookshop’s front door, is gleaming in the streams of sunlight that beat down upon it as Peter Parker makes his way down the busy street. He’s not usually one to spend much time in the city itself, only because of the unruly train schedule and the way that May worries herself if Peter isn’t home at precisely the time he said he would be. With the trains, you can never be positive that you’ll be getting to where you need to be in the estimated amount of time it says on the google, so he tries to never linger in Manhattan for longer than he has to.
However, it’s a Saturday, and he’s trying to figure out who will hire him despite his somewhat young age of only fifteen and his minimal work experience- which is to say, no work experience. He’s not even sure how jobs work, to be quite honest, but he needs to start pulling his weight around the house even if May insists that she’s doing just fine on her own. He sees her stress about the bills nearly every week, sitting at the kitchen table with her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose and her glasses slipping down her face as she punches numbers into a calculator with the other hand. He sees the little exasperated sighs and the worry lines that she’s far too young to have and so Peter decides that he’s going to get a proper part time job in order to help her out.
It’s the least he can do; she’s taken him into her little apartment and treated him the way a mother would a son. She pretty much was his mother. And if he had to get a job to repay her for everything she does for him, he would do so without complaints. Which led him here, standing in front of the little bookshop on the corner that seemed to be empty save for someone sitting atop the counter beside the register, from what he could see as he peers into the dusty, sun streaked window.
The aforementioned piece of paper that’s been strategically placed smack in the middle of the front door- you can’t miss it if you’re trying to enter the shop- has the words NOW HIRING: INQUIRE WITHIN scrawled on it in letters to bold to be ignored. Peter pretty much has to walk in, the quaint little store is calling to him and he turned down this particular street for a reason. He believes in the whole everything happens for a reason type of ideal, the coincidences and the little things in life that were such blatant, blaring signs that Peter would be a complete moron not to listen to them. So, he sweeps his gaze over the sign one final time and then pushes the door open, the tiny bell atop the door jingling in a quiet but melodious way as he enters. He shuts the door softly behind him, then takes a long look across the stores.
There are books stacked in irregular ways next to shelves and on windowsills and next to the front door. The ones placed among the main window like an enticing display are anachronistic, perfectly classic; weathered and yellowed from their ripe old age and collecting dust like there’s no tomorrow. Peter supposes that might be part of the charm of the store; to make everything look old so that the hipsters flock to it, bees to honey or birds to breadcrumbs. But really, it’s the emptiest store he’s ever been in aside from his nearest CVS Pharmacy at eleven o’clock at night to pick up gummy bears for May when she was craving them that one time last week. He walks further into the store and sweeps his hand along the row of the new releases, the ones he figures people would be the most interested in.
You tilt your head to the left curiously, watching the boy with the nicely side swept hair and the gray sweater examine shelf after shelf, and he’s all careful hands and scrutinizing eyes and he’s pulling his bottom lip between his teeth as he reads the back of a novel from the newer shelves and runs his fingers along the smooth spine of it and you have to admit, there’s a quite real possibility that he is, in fact, one of the cutest boys you’ve ever seen. Rarer still, he’s pretty much the only undeniably attractive boy to walk into this bookshop; the others were well under the age of twelve and hadn’t come looking for books willingly, they had been dragged in by excited mothers and begrudging older sisters. You shift from your position on the counter, your thumb holding your place in your book as you lean froward to continue examining the brunette whose eyes were glued to the shelves in front of him.
You slide off the counter and your shoes land on the wooden floor with a soft thump that makes Peter’s gaze shoot up in surprise, the description on the back of the novel in his hand forgotten. The book he’s holding drops to the floor as you make your way over to him, weaving through the maze of shelves like you’ve been doing it all your life before coming to stand in front of him.
“I’m supposed to ask if you need help with something,” you explain, brushing your hair out of the way so you can tap on the name tag hanging from your shirt. Y/N. “But you look like you’re fine over here. Unless you do need help…” You trail off a bit, hopeful that he does indeed need your assistance today because no, you don’t really have to ask him if he needs anything, you just kind of want to. Peter nods vigorously, bending down to pick up the book he’s let fall to the floor and shoving it back into place.
“UH- yeah yeah no I need help,” he says quickly, placing his hands into his pockets and thinking to himself yeah Peter, help with your inept social ability is what you need. Damn it. “I’m, um, I’m Par- no, no, I’m Peter Parker, not Parker Peter. That wouldn’t sound right. I keep doing that, sorry,” his face goes red as he grows more and more flustered. You watch him with thinly veiled amusement before grinning and sticking your hand out for him to shake.
“I’m Y/N. Nice to meet you, Peter Parker, not Parker Peter,” you press your lips together to stop yourself from laughing, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He releases a little breath, shakes his head at himself, then matches your handshake. You turn toward the shelf he’s been staring at for the past seventeen minutes, and it’s your favorite section: young adult. “So… what’d ya need? I’m kind of an expert around these shelves,” you motion at the books.
Peter tries to ignore the sweaty feeling on his palms where he shook our hand. “Oh, well actually, I saw that you guys were hiring and I- I need, you know, a job thing. I can do whatever,” he adds, eyes widening when he realizes that he needs to sound more qualified than he does. “You know, I like, read and whatnot… I can count money? I know how to put things in alphabetical order…”
“So, uh, basic human skills then?” You tease, raising an eyebrow. He runs a hand through his hair, giving a nervous laugh. All right, so he was pretty fucking cute. You had to give him the job. You’d be mad not to. You pretend to think about this, then you take him by the sleeve of his sweater and lead him to the register as you slip behind the counter. “Kidding. Don’t look so nervous. I’m like the least intimidating person ever.” I beg to differ. Peter’s hands twist the hem of his shirt around. “You’re hired. Fill this out and you can start Monday. I’ll let the boss know.” You hand him an application form and smile at him, his nerves dissipating as quickly as they came when he saw you. Your fingers trace over the cover of your book out of habit, and his eyes follow the cover.
“You sure your boss will be okay with you hiring a kid with no work experience whatsoever and bad social skills?” He asks, grabbing a pen off the cup beside your register as you shrug.
“The boss is my mom so… I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine,” you lift yourself back onto the countertop so you can peer down at him as he begins filling out the application right then and there. “Benjamin. That’s nice. I like it.” You point to where he’s scrawled his middle name in terribly messy handwriting.
“Yeah? Thank you,” he smiles back at you, but it’s soft and it’s sad even though he knows you couldn’t possibly have any inclination as to who he was named after. Swift to change the subject, Peter lets his pen rest against the paper and grabs the book lying next to you on the counter. “The Night Circus. What’s this about? Any good?”
He flips it over so he can read the back of it, the cover a shining black and red that he can’t help but run his hand over because it’s smooth and surprisingly nice to touch. You can’t help the way you light up inside when he asks you about your book. People never took much interest in what you read, and your friends had a habit of teasing you about your intense reading habits since no one else enjoyed it quite as much as you did. “Yeah! Yeah I love it so far, it’s about magicians and stuff but… way more complicated than that. Really good though. It’s right over by where you were looking earlier.” You point in the vague direction, but Peter is aware of what section you’re referring to. “I kind of just grab the books off the shelf sometimes and take ‘em home. My mom doesn’t really notice and there’s not that many people who come in here anyway so I have a big collection at home.”
“That’s awesome!” Peter genuinely grins at you, chin perched in his hand as he hands you back the book. “When you’re done, d’you think I could borrow it? So we can have something to talk about during work. Plus it sounds interesting.” The smile you give him, absolutely radiant, is indescribably beautiful in Peter’s eyes and he watches you disappear for a moment only to return with a shiny, new copy of the book sitting on the counter.
“Mom doesn’t check,” you say again, your face heating up when your fingers brush against his in the exchange of the book. “Gonna warn you, though, I’ll be done by the end of the weekend, so don’t expect me to have the same book come your first day of work.”
Peter opens the first page. “Whatcha gonna be reading on Monday, then?”
You meet his eyes for a split second. Warm, watchful, careful eyes. Eyes that you could definitely see yourself falling for. “I’ll let you know.”
He’s indubitably happy for the rest of the weekend. He bounces his knee whilst on the train ride home, he grins to himself alone in his room as he lies on his back and holds the book above him so he can read by lamplight, and when he sits down to dinner with May he keeps blushing for no apparent reason as he eats boxed macaroni and cheese that May insists she could make from scratch if she really tried.
“You’re awfully happy tonight,” she remarks, taking a bite of the Kraft dinner and surveying her nephew carefully. “Anything special happen today in the city?”
Peter shrugs nonchalantly, trying to play it off as if it were nothing special, but he knows that you’re special, and he’s only known you for maybe an hour and he had forgotten to ask for your number like the clueless idiot he was more often than not. Didn’t matter, though, because he was sure that he could get it on Monday when he headed over at noon. Thank the Gods for summer vacation. “Oh, um, nothing really,” he says, trying, and failing, to contain his excitement. “I just got a job and I met a girl and I like her already and now we work together and we’re gonna talk about books all the time and I’m really excited because I start Monday and she gave me a book and we’re gonna talk about it and I might fall in love with her but I don’t know yet but there’s a very strong possibility of that happening and I’m really really happy right now but that’s it no big deal you know?”
May blinks. Peter often goes off on tangents when he’s overly enthusiastic, or when he’s nervous. But she reaches across the table and squeezes his hand tightly. “Let me know when you’re positive that you’re gonna fall in love with her, because I’d like to stamp my approval on this one. I’m happy for you Peter.” May pauses, then says, “Don’t even think about giving me your paycheck.”
Every morning from Monday on consists of Peter arriving at work with a cup of coffee in his hand, iced coffee because it’s summertime and there’s a Dunkin Donuts on every corner of New York City, promptly at twelve to see you sitting in your usual position with a book in your hand. You read rather quickly, and Peter can hardly catch up with the five books you go through each week, but he tries since he needs to be able to talk to you about something. After sometime, though, you start talking about things other than books. There’s science, and math, art, and school, and your parents and his Uncle Ben, and May, and anything and everything you can think of. But your day always starts the same.
Peter, walking in with his coffee in hand and a lanyard slung around his neck, his little ID picture adorably dorky because he’s half blinking but still smiling. He slides another coffee across the counter toward you- he eventually received your number that same Monday morning he started working there and then texted you asking for your usual order. Sometimes he gets you a donut, too, if you ask him. Then, he starts sorting through the new orders that have just come in, stacking them alphabetically of course (it was one of his special skills, after all) and calls across the store, “Whatcha reading today, Y/N?” And you’ll yell back the answer, typically a different one every two days, as he pulls his phone out of his pocket and marks the title on a list of what he has to read. He refuses to read Game of Thrones, insisting the show was much easier for him to follow. You practically threw a fit when you found out he hadn’t finished the Harry Potter series, so that was at the very top of his list and he came in this particular morning with a copy of the third book sitting in his shoulder bag.
“Morning, Peter,” you call out happily, not looking up from the pages of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater when the bell overhead the door sings out an announcement of his arrival. You hold out your hand for your drink, and it lands there without hesitation.
“Good morning,” he grins back, pushing up your hand to see the cover of your book properly. “Whatcha reading today?” He looks up at you expectantly, taking a sip of his drink. You place your bookmark in your book and hand it over to him, kicking your feet back and forth. “Should I add this one to the list, too?”
“Yes!” You exclaim, waiting for him to be finished with the first page. “But don’t you dare read anything on it before you read Harry Potter, got it, Parker?” The warning is so playful it makes Peter laugh before he nods, taking his spot behind the register this time. You have to write up the chalkboard signs for outside the store, and it’s been agreed that you have the prettier handwriting out of the two of you. “My mom thinks you’re doing a good job helping me out,” you mention casually after a few minutes of comfortable silence, your tongue between your lips as you slowly begin drawing a purple stack of books on the chalkboard stand.
“Really?” Peter asks, eyebrows raised in surprise. He didn’t do much around the store, to be quite honest, mostly because he never worked the register. Even if he did, the way you did every day, there weren’t many customers that came in. You received more online orders than anything else. “I’m not even really sure why you hired me in the first place, honestly. I wasn’t qualified, like, at all, Y/N.” He laughs again, he’s always laughing with you.
You purse your lips, the pink chalk in your hand hovering over the book you were attempting to illustrate properly. There were a lot of ways you could reply to this. There was the risky way. There was the safe way. There was the in between sort of way. After an internal debate, you say, “Well, what can I say? I have a penchant for looking at pretty things, and, um, you’re not bad to look at, Peter. For a boy, you’re kind of pretty.” You don’t look at him when you say it, but he’s staring at you like he’s never seen you before. It’s the look of a boy falling in love for the first time. You can feel it in the heat in your stomach when you finally turn around to face him, standing up and brushing chalk dust off your jeans as he contains to gaze at you with that soft air about him. “What?” You lightly shove his arm.
“Wh- what? I mean, um, nothing, uh, nothing.” Peter runs a hand through his hair, messing up the carefully gelled way he does his hair every morning for work. “Absolutely nothing.” His face is burning red, eyes trained on the register like it’s the only thing he can look at without fainting, and there’s a trace of a smile on his lips but he doesn’t want to show it just yet.
You lean against the counter. In his peripheral vision, he notices the tiny smirk playing at the corner of your mouth, a smirk bordering on something gentler and kinder than you desired it to. Arms folded across your chest, staring at him hard. Your smile is burning as bright as the spring sunshine in April after a particularly hard day of rain the day previously, but he’s still not looking at you, so you say, “Did we just reach the part in the young adult contemporary novel where you start falling in love with me?” You see his hand freeze atop the register, and he can feel the way his cheeks are glowing too red to be blamed on the heat of the summer. “You know, I bet we did.” You move to make your way to the front of the store, but Peter turns around just in time to grab your hand and pull you into him.
His fingers smoothly slip through yours. “If we did, that’d be okay, right? You wouldn’t mind your love interest being… all me-like?” The self doubt is always so clear with him, but you bring yourself closer still with a shake of your head.
“You’d make a great love interest,” you reply softly.
The taste of cold coffee from Dunkin Donuts lingers on his lips when he kisses you for the first time that day, the coffee that he dumps copious amounts of sugar packets into because he can’t stand the bitterness but wants to keep drinking it. The coffee he loves despite the odd looks he receives from passerby that can’t help but stare at the boy with messy hair and a lanyard around his neck and bright eyes who keeps ripping open packs of sugar at the counter and pouring them in. You’ve loved cold coffee already, but you love it a little more now that there’s a new way of tasting it, and the next day when he walks into your little bookshop you’re the one with mouth that tastes like his morning pick me up- and neither of you have ever been more grateful for books in your life.