“I’m in a bookshop and I really need to get that book but I'd rather get on my toes and jump at the shelf and do every single ridiculous thing to reach it than ask for your help, oh wait, you've read that book, let's have an aggressive in-depth discussion about it." for nessian au, pretty please :) (bc height difference and bookworm Nesta are life!)
(they really and truly are. Okay i had a go??)
Azriel emerges from the backroom with a large box full of new books to put out onto the shelves. He and Cassian had agreed to watch Amren’s book store for a few hours while she ‘did things’, which was all the information either of them had gotten on the matter. Az doesn’t mind, he enjoys working in the shop. Cassian sets up at the front of house and talks to the customers and deals with that side of things, leaving him free to sort out the backroom which, inevitably, is always a mess.
Glancing over at his brother as he begins to set up the display at the front of the till he notes the way he’s standing. Both elbows are braced on the desk in front of him, his chin propped on his hands, gazing across the room with unwavering focus.
Azriel spots the girl who’s become the unfortunate object of Cassian’s attention and frowns. A few years younger than them, by the looks of it, petite, brown hair that turns golden when the light hits in the right way, a neat dress on. Pretty, he supposes, but not worth the intense focus Cassian is levelling her way.
“You’re staring,” he says pointedly, hoping this will direct Cass’ attention elsewhere.
It doesn’t. He only gets an irritable wave of one of Cassian’s massive hands, he doesn’t even turn to look at him as he does so. “It’s a slow day,” he says, as though this explains anything, “She’s very entertaining.”
Frowning, Az sets down his box and pads noiselessly over to the counter for a better look at the woman. She seems to have her eyes on one of the books on the top shelf but, coming in at just a little over five feet, she’s having some difficulty getting the one she wants.
Az sighs, “Why don’t you go over there and help her?” he suggests, shaking his head.
Cassian turns to him with a look on his face that implies he’s just said the stupidest thing he’s ever heard in his entire life. “But this is much more fun,” he says, a wicked grin spreading across his face.
“She’s going to hurt herself,” Az says, casting a wary eye over her again, fearing for the straining muscles in her shoulders as she reaches for the book again.
He makes to slide out from behind the counter but Cassian grabs his wrist. “We’re right here,” he says, that annoying smirk firmly back in place, “She can ask us for help any time she wants. You know Amren’s policy is not to bother the customers.”
Azriel glowers, “I’m sure she wouldn’t want us to have to send a customer to hospital because you miraculously decided to start following the rules,” he comments drily.
Cassian irritably flaps his hands again in a shushing motion, then gestures back towards the woman, now apparently looking around for something to stand on. Cassian slaps a ten pound note down on the table, “I give her five minutes before she’s over here begging for one of us to help her get her book.”
Azriel eyes her again with an appraising look, then rummages in his own pocket and pulls out a ten pound note of his own, far less creased than Cassian’s and lays it neatly on top, “Not a chance,” he says simply.
As predicted, Azriel is correct. Five minutes later he scoops up the money, Cassian grumbling irritably with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, and the woman is still doing everything she can think of save simply asking for their help. When she gets to the stage of piling books out of her bag on top of one another to reach the shelf above, however, Azriel nudges Cassian in the ribs and orders him to go and help her. Now.
Huffing, and throwing Az a vulgar gesture over his shoulder, Cassian moves towards her.
“Need a hand, sweetheart?” Is how Cass chooses to open proceedings and Az groans, shaking his head. He resists burying his face in his hands only because he wants to fix this moment perfectly in his memory for the rest of his life.
The woman gives him a truly withering glare that would have caused any man save Cassian to shrivel before it and then replies with forced, terse politeness that no, she does not need help from some overlarge, hulking busybody, thank you very much.
Azriel’s eyebrows raise in approval even as he watches his brother cock his head at her, sizing her up, a new worthy opponent to distract him from the slow day they’re having. “By all means, knock yourself out, sweetheart,” he drawls, crossing his arms over his chest and stepping back to watch her struggle, smirking.
“Don’t call me that,” she snaps at him, eyebrows narrowing.
“Well if I knew your name, I wouldn’t have to resort to it…Sweetheart,” he replies with a casual smirk, laying a delicate emphasis on the petname. Azriel is thinking he should have started another bet before Cass left him, namely on how long he could pull this shit with her without having his head ripped off, which she looks altogether too capable of doing.
She isn’t forthcoming with her name, she only turns away from him, as though he isn’t worth the breath it would take to spit out a scathing reply, and turns back to the bookshelf with renewed determination.
Cassian simply watches as she climbs onto her teetering pile of books, reaches, stretches, jumps, snarls, and mutters a string of highly amusing curses that Azriel has never heard before in her attempts to reach the book.
When, however, she actually starts climbing on the shelves in her bid to grab the damn thing however, Cassian starts forwards in alarm. Not a moment too soon, either, as a second later her foot slips and with a gasp she topples from the shelf, right into Cassian’s waiting arms.
He sets her gently on her feet, looking a little shellshocked and she manages to grit out a stiff, “Thank you,” not looking at him. Before she can attempt any more dramatics in the pursuit of fine literature, Cass reaches up and tugs a copy of the book down, pressing it into her arms.
Amazingly, she opens her mouth to snap at him but he cuts her off firmly, “You have good taste, sweetheart,” picking up her pile of books he carries them towards the counter, “Why don’t you go home and read it rather than ending up in hospital trying, okay?”
She glowers at him but salvages her pride, lifts her chin, and marches towards Azriel. Cassian trails her like a lost puppy, watching her now with hungry eyes. He elbows Az out of the way to ring her up himself, studying the book she’d picked, “Let me know what you think of it when you’re done,” he says, “It’s a good read.”
“I’ve already read it,” she says coolly, digging in her bag for her purse, having replaced the pile of books she’d attempted to use earlier as a footstool. Then she looks up at Cassian, eyes slightly narrowed, “You’ve read it too?”
He grins almost wickedly, leaning casually against the counter, “Of course I have,” he smirks. When she further narrows her eyes, as though she doesn’t believe him, he launches into a debate about one of his favourite characters who was brutally killed off far too early, in his opinion.
She fires up at once in response to this, seeing red and ranting at him about how necessary that death was, how it had to happen, how the story would have been flat and meaningless without it. After fifteen minutes of hot bickering back and forth, neither of them stopping long enough to breathe in between bouts, she catches sight of the clock behind the counter and jumps, blushing faintly.
“I have to go,” she mumbles, pulling the book off of the counter and stuffing it into her bag.
Daringly, in Az’s opinion, Cassian reaches across the table and takes her hand, staring straight into this beautiful blue-gray eyes, “I’m free at five,” he offers quietly, “There’s a nice little coffee shop just down the street we could continue this in.” Azriel isn’t sure if she catches it, but he can hear the hopeful note in his brother’s voice.
She stares at him for a long moment, weighing, considering, then, “My name is Nesta,” is all she says, before turning and heading towards the door.
The smile that spreads across Cassian’s face in answer might have implied that he’d just won the lottery, rather than potentially secured a date with a woman who seems just as likely to devour him as to get on with him. Az just claps him on the shoulder in a universal gesture that implies he’s going to need a lot of luck to get through this, then shuffles back down into the storeroom, leaving Cassian standing at the till and grinning from ear to ear.