In stream the other day, we started talking about an Avengers Mall AU, and now I can’t stop thinking about it, because I have so many years of bad retail stories built up in my head and non-powered AUs usually don’t work for me, but the longer I think about it, the funnier this gets.
Steve and Sam are two guys who retired from their military branches and teamed up to run an artesian bespoke candy shop. Steve has no idea half of their sales comes from the fact that Sam put the candy pulling hook in the front window and teenage girls just stand there, drooling. Sam is totally aware of this, and uses it to ALL his advantage when he’s doing the sugar work.
Bucky took a part time job at the Hot Topic across the way because hell, he was spending all his time hanging out with Sam and Steve, might as well get paid. He was the only reliable employee over the age of seventeen; he is now the manager and he’s FURIOUS about it. His staff is made up of Nico, Kamala and Sam Alexander and various people who get hired and then don’t make it through the training because Bucky glaring at you while you take register training is just SO HARD TO HANDLE. No one is sure if he’s after Sam or Steve or both.
The SHIELD crew runs a pretty decent mall restaurant, but yeah, used to be a Golden Corral and Fury reserves the right to yell “Do you see a buffet here?” at anyone dumb enough to think it still is. He doesn’t actually do it, because most of the people who are confused enough to ask are retirees who remind him of his grandma, but still. He reserves the right. Nat is a truly terrifying line cook, Maria’s front of house, and Phil’s the head waiter. Clint doesn’t actually work there, but he’ll put on an apron and belt out an impressive rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ in exchange for free food, and no one else on staff wants to do it, so he eats there A LOT.
Clint is always in the mall. In the back corridors. Hanging out in the food court. Wandering up and down the anchor store escalators. Everyone thinks he works somewhere else. No one knows where he actually works. There is a betting pool. It has been building for YEARS.
Jan runs the sort of high end boutique that has like, four outfits in two sizes on six gigantic racks. There are no prices. You do not ask how much it is. You know if you can afford it. If she likes you, you can afford it.
Thor runs the hardware store. No one knows why the hardware store is there. This is not the sort of place one would see a hardware store. Thor says he inherited it from his father, and it was there before the mall, and no one really wants to look into it. Mostly, they seem to get by on selling knives.. Big knives. Little knives. Knives as long as your arm. They get by on selling knives, because who’s buying screws at this place? Oh, right, anyone Sif TELLS to buy screws. "You need screws.“ "Oh, no, I-” "You can always use more screws.“ "Y-yes, ma'am.” She might be domming half of their customers without knowing it. The Warriors Three run the stock room. Badly.
Bruce runs the used bookstore down on the lower level where he can’t really afford the rent but the mall management like saying there’s a bookstore, and no one else is going to rent that hole, so he gets to stay, hiding in his piles and piles and piles of used books. Mostly science and history, but he does a brisk business in romance novels and murder mystery paperbacks. He likes it down there. He wishes people would stop trying to get him to come upstairs to socialize. He also kind of wishes people would stop coming down TO socialize. His cousin Jennifer runs the register and helps the customers most days, she’s very quiet and very mild mannered and wears very lumpy clothes and giant eighties style glasses, so no one recognizes her when she goes to her second job, as a crossfit instructor for the gym on the top floor. Jenn is, as they say, RIPPED. Put her in a leotard and her whole personality changes, it’s like she’s a different person.
Carol is a recovering alcoholic ex-pilot who runs the bar at the ‘bad’ chain restaurant down on the far end of the ground floor. Other than the SHIELD place or the food court, it’s the only place to eat in the mall, and honestly, you’d be better off in the food court. The food is trash, but she can mix a mean mojito and she knows every secret of every worker in the place, and she’s paid double on Saturdays because she’s her own bouncer.
Jessica Drew runs the arcade on the main floor, one of those stupid ones with 'glow mini-golf’ and games that constantly spit out tickets, you know, legalized gambling for children. It’s a chain, but the give out far too many prizes and she and her staff (Peter, Miles, Anya) would be fired if they also weren’t the highest grossing location on the eastern seaboard. They throw the best birthday parties in the state, and have a waiting list that’s like, months long.
Wanda’s shop sells… Something. No one knows what any of this stuff does. Or if it’s legal to own. But when you find something you want, OH GOD YOU REALLY WANT IT. She mostly sits and reads, and drinks tea from Hank McCoy’s tea shop.
Stephen Strange quit his job as a surgeon and retired to run a magic and joke shop. If you ask him why, he just shrugs and said he made some very bad choices. A relative somewhere oversea, Asia, Clint says it was somewhere in Asia, died and left him some sort of inheritance. So now he just sells fake rubber vomit and teaches slight of hand. Buy him a drink, and learn more than you wanted to know about card tricks. Walk into his shop, and be prepared to sit through at LEAST four card tricks before you can escape.
Greer run’s “Tigra’s Treasure Trove” on the second floor, it’s the anime and manga and gaming and comic shop. She wears cat ears and a tail. Every day. No one’s sure if she does it to bring in the otaku, or if it’s a lifestyle choice. No one wants to ask.
Tony owns the mall. Owns like a hundred malls across the country. No one knows, Obie does the day to day running of the management company, but Tony owns them. He’s mostly in it for the buying and selling, but he likes this mall. This one. He likes it here.
He has a Sharper Image type store on the top floor. It’s him and Rhodey and Pepper and Pepper will kill them both one of these days but he sells the sort of stuff you do not need but God you want it. You walk into his store and it’s all apple store chic, white and chrome and gleaming surfaces, collapseable tablets and robots and holographic projectors and all the geek chic that you want and everyone in the mall wants something from him, they’ve all got something on layaway (he only does layaway for other retail workers because he doesn’t want to keep track of this stuff) except Steve and it makes him insane. He spends far too much time trying to figure out what he can stock or create or build that will get Steve into his shop.
Pepper calls them “Steve-Grabbers,” Like 'grandma grabbers’ but designed to attract the most sincere hipster she’s ever met and she’d kill Tony over adding this stuff to stock without telling her, but it all sells. It all sells. In his desperate attempt to attract Steve, Tony misses and attracts EVERYONE ELSE.
Aries: The Chosen One~ “This wasn’t how my life was supposed to go. When I turned 18, I wasn’t expecting to be thrust into the Underworld. I was gonna go to college, be a normal student and rush Sigma Phi Chiapet my sophomore year. But everything is different now. The prophecy has spoken and I’m going to go through a training montage and become really badass really quickly even though I was against being the chosen one in the first place but now I have a black belt after a month of punching bags of sand and now I’m ready to save the world. And guess what. At the end of the book…………. I save the world.”
Taurus: The“you don’t know think you’re beautiful until a boy tells you so / not like the other girls” average looking protagonist~ “Hi. My name is Tookiewisp Flowerspark. I’ve got mousy brown hair and bright brown eyes. I’m tall and thin and I don’t have boobs yet. I love to wear my worn out high top converse and skinny jeans. Maybe if I wore a dress, boys my age would notice me. But to be honest, I’m just not into girly stuff like most other girls are. You could say I’m different.”
Gemini: Crush throughout the entire novel turns out to be an asshole~ “He’d never notice a girl like me. He doesn’t even know my name!’ *sudden makeover transformation where she takes her hair out of a ponytail and takes off her glasses* Boy: ‘Wow, Winteria Snow. I never realized how pretty you were until you put on makeup and put in some contacts. Will you be my girlfriend?’”
Cancer: Instant love~ “That’s when a saw her, walking down the street. She was coming my way. Her hair blew in the wind like a majestic mane of gold. The way she walked made my heart skip a beat. I started sweating and I couldn’t stop my heart from racing. I stared at her as she walked past and I tried to say hello, but my words came out in a jumble. She gave me a weird look and walked away. It was at that moment that I knew I had fallen in love and found my soulmate. Also, by the end of this book she falls in love with me even though I basically obsessively stalk her throughout the entire novel and have no redeeming qualities.”
Leo: The Queen Bee~ “That’s Brooke Richardsworth. She’s the coolest, most popular girl in school. She’s got long, straight blonde hair and wears pink skirts, pink cardigans and pink headbands. Those are her two slightly less attractive friends, Chelsea and Paige. Brooke is also dating my crush. We used to be friends, but ever since I accidentally spilled my chocolate milk on her back in the third grade, she’s done everything she can to make my life miserable.”
Virgo: Problematic parents~ “My parents recently got divorced, so now on the weekends I hang out with my dad, and during the week I hang out with my mom. It gets pretty tiring going back and forth after a while, but every other Saturday my dad (who is also a professor at a university) takes me camping and we roast hotdogs over a campfire which really makes up for it. Recently though, he’s been hanging around a new young blonde woman named Tamara Blake. He’s been spending all of his time with her. We haven’t even gone camping since they met!”
Libra: The improbable love triangle~ “What am I going to do? I have two boys who just got into a fight at school because they both are in love with me, average annoying weird superiority complex girl. On one hand, there’s Jackson- the brooding bad boy who wears leather jackets and rides motorcycles and treats me like garbage when he’s in a grumpy mood. Then on the other hand, there’s Theodore- the quiet sensitive one who reads books and drinks tea and I always catch him watching me from behind a bookshelf in the library! This is the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make in my life. I HAVE to choose one of them. But… who?”
Scorpio: The dystopian society~ “Hi, I’m Bland McBore. In our society, the rich and the poor are divided into two groups and all the rich people are evil and live in a city where there are floating vehicles and all the buildings are white marble and/or chrome, and all the poor people live in mud huts and have to eat bugs and also everything is a weird shade of gray to represent sadness or something. I am going to start a revolution and overthrow the government with the help of my two best friends and once we start to cause trouble with our rebellion, the leader who is probably an old white guy with a pointed beard will offer us riches that we originally fought against in the beginning but don’t worry we will heroically reject them and fight for equality and won’t stop until society is no longer divided. Also people will definitely die but it will all only be people we are conveniently close to. Me and my two best friends get to live until the very end because we move the plot forward.”
Sagittarius: Protagonist just moved to a new school~ “My dad got a new job so we had to move across the country. I’m really shy and quiet and dorky so I know that my first day is going to be horrible. The teacher will make me stand up at the front of the class and then I’ll cry because I’ll be thinking about my life in my old town. Then as I sit back down at my desk, the teacher will keep on teaching instead of addressing that one of her students is visibly upset and crying. Then, the boy behind me will tap on my shoulder and introduce himself- this boy will be the guy I keep as my friend until the end of the novel where, plot twist, he ends up being my perfect match all along.”
Capricorn: The Intellectual~ “My favorite past time is to go to this tree up on a hill where my mom is buried that is also conveniently in the middle of the woods but also within a short walking distance from my house. I go there and I just think. Not of a lot of kids from school do that these days. Everyone is so obsessed with the latest gossip or the latest trend that it seems like everyone forgot how to, well, think. Sometimes I wish I was like them. I wish I could turn off my brain and mindlessly walk around without a care in the world. But I can’t because I’m different and smarter than everyone else and I also like to read and I love the smell of old books and reading and did I mention that I also love to read.”
Aquarius: Really weird “quirky” names~ “Hi, I’m Ingridagelica Applewindbalmkettlefish and this is my story. I know, I know, my name is pretty strange. My parents picked it because they said that when I was born they knew I was going to grow up and do something really great and unique and they also said that it means “not like the other girls” when spoken in Latin.”
Pisces: The “nice guy” guy friend who turns out to be The One all along~“I just can’t believe my crush won’t notice me! Tell me Carter, what am I doing wrong?” “Nothing, Skylightquia. If it’s worth anything, I think you’re pretty…. uh, pretty awesome, I mean.” *Skylightquia sighs and looks up at the stars from the rooftop they got onto somefuckinghow* “The stars are really beautiful, aren’t they?” *Carter looks at her meaningfully* “Yeah they are”
please consider: Steve the really uptight, clean-cut perfectionist wedding planner & bucky, his grungy tattoo artist bf that scares Steve's clients when he brings Steve coffee during appointments.
Um. Totes magotes.
Steve has a very minimalist, modern office – everything is white and chrome, and there are beautifully-arranged vases of lilies all over the place. When Bucky rolls in with mud-crusted ten year-old Docs and a grungy indie band t-shirt so worn you can practically see his nipple piercings through it, he sticks out.
Whenever Steve gets the call that Bucky’s around, Steve drops everything and prances over to him like an over-excited retriever. Clients think it’s endearing to see their wedding planner so in love up until they get a good look at Bucky. Then they’re just confused.
Steve has convinced more than one couple to get wedding tattoos at Bucky’s shop. Bucky grouses like it’s a problem, but he secretly loves doing it, and has been caught doodling ideas for he and Steve in the margins of his notebooks.
Nobody knows it, but Steve has a full back tattoo, done by Bucky. He had been terrified of needles, but had been so taken with Bucky when they first met that he just dove in, just for an excuse to keep coming back to the shop. When Steve admitted that to Bucky a few months after they started dating, Bucky nearly smacked him. “You spent $3000 just to hang out with me? I would’ve been happy with a cup of coffee.”
(Steve thinks it was totally worth it.)
Steve is organized to a fault, but he has no brain for numbers. At the end of each month, Bucky pulls his hair back, puts on his glasses, and spends the afternoon crunching numbers at Steve’s office. It’s everyone’s favorite day, because Steve will just sort of sit at his desk and stare dreamily over at Bucky. Bucky will shoot him a glare every so often and tell him to knock it off, but everyone knows he loves it.
Sometimes Bucky tags along to weddings when Steve needs an extra helping hand. At some point they’ll end up slow dancing together in a corner, and more than one wedding photographer has caught pics of them whispering sweet things into each other’s ear and put them as examples of their best work on their website.
Bucky wants a big wedding. Huge. Monumental.
Steve wants to elope. He’ll bring Sam, Bucky will bring Becca, and with the money they’ll save they’ll fuck off to Napa Valley or Paris or the Grand Canyon for a month.
They promise each other that they won’t ask the other to get married until they figure out some kind of compromise.
That is until Steve finds Bucky’s secret wedding Pinterest board one night while surfing the net and sighs. He goes out and buys rings the next day, and tells him they’ll do a beautiful destination wedding, wherever he wants, however big he wants, because he’s a sap and he just wants to marry this guy already, even if he’s an overly romantic sap who isn’t completely disillusioned with wedding parties.
But Steve does his damnedest to make sure that their wedding is the most beautiful wedding he’s ever seen. For Bucky’s sake.
Shaolin Fantastic by Elicia Donze. Drawn in PS. Please do not remove caption.
[Caption: A realistic digital painting of Shaolin Fantastic from The Get Down. Portrait is from the chest up. Shaolin is wearing a 70s red and black striped velour shirt, a red flat cap, and a large pair of headphones with polished white plastic and chrome ear pads. He has a goatee and a thin gold chain around his neck. The background is deep red-brown.]