Title: All The Stars and Bleeding Hearts (also at AO3)
Pairing: Andrew Garfield/Jesse Eisenberg (some Justin Timberlake/Britney Spears and Emma Stone/Joe Mazzello).
Word Count: 40k
Warnings: some non-explicit homophobia.
Summary: Notting Hill AU. In which Jesse runs a bookstore, Andrew is a famous film star and they’re both faily dorks in love.
A/N: A long time ago, I told harriet_vane that this fandom needed a Notting Hill AU and then she won me at help_japan and told me I could write a Notting Hill AU and, well, I did. This is entirely and completely for her (and would be even if it weren’t her auction fic) ♥ Oh and I also made her American-pick it, because I’m awesome that way.
Jesse is elbow deep in first editions and rarities, trying not to let his supplier see quite how badly he wants to sweep them all up into his arms and buy all of them, when his cell phone buzzes on the table.
“Sorry,” Jesse says, only lifting one hand off the cover of the first American edition of the Hound of the Baskervilles, the pages papery and splintering at the edges and the warm, reassuring smell of old book rising up to surround him.
The text is from Emma:
taking lnch early. spdrman2 filming dwntwn. leaving abi in charge. :)
“Shit,” Jesse says then looks up at Mr Glover, who’s the oldest and frailest human being he has ever met. He has the look of someone who could be knocked off his feet by a careless curse word. “Sorry. Again.”
Jesse stands up, stuffing his cell into his satchel and pulling out his chequebook. He’d like to pretend to negotiate here, but they both know he’s going to buy everything Mr Glover is offering; he always does.
“I have to go,” he says, signing the bottom of the cheque and dating it before sliding it over to Mr Glover. “Just add in the amount and have them shipped over to the store, please?”
Mr Glover takes the cheque and folds it, tucking it into his shirt pocket and looking happy. “Always a pleasure, Mr Eisenberg,” he says and Jesse knows that he thinks Jesse is the worst businessman ever, but Jesse doesn’t really care.
“You too,” Jesse says, even though he’s not sure that makes sense. “I’ll see you next month.”
Mr Glover nods solemnly. “You will.” He pats the 1918 edition of King’s Solomon’s Mines, fingertips brushing the red leather cover and leaving just the faintest sheen of oil. Jesse tries not to wince.
“Maybe I’ll just take that one now,” Jesse says, grabbing the book and tucking it into his bag. On second thoughts, he takes The Hound of the Baskervilles too. And a really beautiful, though not hugely rare, copy of Tell Me The Truth About Love. “Can you box up the rest and...”
“Yes.” Mr Glover waves him out of the main room and opens the door for him pointedly. “You’ll have them in three working days. As usual.”
“Right, sorry,” Jesse agrees before the door shuts in his face. Jesse isn’t offended; he has new books in his bag and more on the way, it’d take a lot of offend him right now.
Which doesn’t mean he’s not pissed at Emma. He left her in charge of the store for one morning and she left to watch a movie being filmed? Like they don’t film movies every day of the week in some part of the city.
He pulls out his cell again and calls her but she doesn’t answer so he calls the store while carefully belting his satchel into the passenger side of his car.
“Dust Jacket Books, winner of Brooklyn’s hidden gem award 2009 and 2010,” Abigail’s voice chirps and Jesse stares at the steering wheel in horror before managing to choke out, “Never answer the phone like that again. Please.”
“Oh, hi, Jesse,” Abigail says cheerfully. “Emma said if you called I had to tell you to stop worrying and keep perving over your old books like a weirdo.” She laughs. “That’s a direct quote by the way.”
Jesse has no doubt about that. “Please tell me she hasn’t really left you there alone,” he begs. Since Abigail is only seventeen, Jesse isn’t even sure that’s legal. Besides which, Abigail doesn’t even work for him; she’s just a kid who comes in and reads in the corner after school.
Jesse appreciates kids who like to read, so he’s never chased her out. That doesn’t mean he’s hired her.
“It’s okay,” Abigail says like she doesn’t see the problem here at all. “If anyone comes in looking for Twilight, I’ll make sure they leave with Holly Black or someone else on the approved list. I know the rules.”
“That’s not really the point,” Jesse tries but he knows he’s lost. His only other option is to tell Abigail to shut the store until he gets back but he hates shutting the store; people should always have access to books when they want them. If he could, he’d stay open twenty-four hours a day, but apparently there are laws about that.
“Jesse, Jesus,” Abigail sighs which is a sign she’s been hanging out with Emma far too much. Jesse may have to think about rescuing her. She used to be so cute. “Buy yourself some lunch. The store will be fine for a couple of hours.”
No way is Jesse leaving Abigail alone in the store for a couple of hours. Lunch does sound good though. “I’ll be a half hour,” he tells her. “Call me if anything happens.”
There’s a pause then, “What if Justin comes in?”
“Then kill him,” Jesse tells her seriously then, “Wait, did he just come in?” Justin likes to touch things; he’s worse that a five year old for leaving sticky fingerprints on Jesse’s beautiful books.
“No, of course not,” Abigail says brightly. He’s sure she’s lying. “Bye, Jesse. See you later.”
Jesse sighs and leans his forehead on the steering wheel for a minute before putting the car in gear. “Don’t worry,” he tells the new books, which are probably cowering in fear right now. “I’ll put you in the restricted section. Justin hasn’t been back there since he realised that it wasn’t where I kept the porn.”
Jesse should probably worry that he talks to books, but he’s done it all his life and no one’s had him committed yet, so he just takes off the parking break and rolls forward into traffic.
Most of Jesse wants to abandon his car on the side of the road and race to the bookstore as soon as he gets close enough, but the rest of him is hungry, so he parks in his usual space and crosses the street to his favourite coffee shop instead.
“Jesse, yo, Jesse,” Joe the Coffee Shop Guy says, leaning half over the counter to greet him. “Did you find my book?”
Joe’s a college student with what seems to be an allergy to the library so he always orders all his text books through Jesse then sells them back to him at the end of the semester. It works for him and it doesn’t hurt Jesse so it’s a good system.
“Yeah,” Jesse tells him. “It should be in tomorrow.”
Joe makes a kissy face at him. “You’re a gentleman,” he says. “Coffee?”
“Yes.” Jesse leans against the counter, looking down at the display. “And two cream cheese bagels.”
“Is one for the lovely Emma?” Joe asks, dropping two into the slicer. “One came out of the oven kind of heart shaped, do you think she’d notice?”
“She wouldn’t notice,” Jesse tells him, because that’s kinder than saying that if she did notice, she’d laugh. “And anyway, it’s for Abigail.”
“Ah.” Joe grins. “In that case.” He slides a couple of brownies out of the display and drops them into a paper bag. “On the house.”
“Thanks.” Jesse takes the brownies and tucks them under one elbow - he doesn’t want to put them in his satchel in case they get oil on his new books. He pulls out a ten dollar bill, drops it on the counter and lets Joe load him up with the bagels and coffees.
“You gonna be okay with all that?” Joe asks, coming around the counter and holding the door open.
“Yeah, sure.” Jesse feels the brownies start to slide and clamps his arm down tighter. Elbow prints will add flavour, he’s sure. “The store’s two minutes away.”
“Two minutes is a long way,” Joe warns but he can’t leave the store so he has to let Jesse go.
Jesse hurries around the corner, concentrating on not dropping the bagels and not letting the brownies slide again. He figures Abigail will be happier with a crushed lunch than a sidewalk-splattered one.
It’s safe to say Jesse’s not exactly looking where he’s going, which is why he doesn’t realise that he’s walking straight into someone coming the other way until he’s, yeah, walked straight into someone coming the other way.
“Shit,” Jesse snaps, watching in slow motion as one cup of coffee crunches straight into the guy’s chest and the other falls to the floor, exploding over both their shoes.
Jesse sets his bag safely down out of the way of the spilled coffee and drops the bagels and brownies on top.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” Jesse straightens up and winces, sneaking a look at the guy. He’s got thick brown hair and warm brown eyes, which is convenient because they match the huge brown coffee stain splashed across the front of his thin white shirt.
“I’m...” The guy shakes his head, pulling his shirt away from his body and making a face. “No, that’s all right, don’t worry about it.”
Shit, he’s British. Not only has Jesse just thrown coffee at a total stranger, he’s thrown coffee at a tourist.
“It’s not all right,” Jesse says, because the guy is making faces and flapping his shirt and, fuck, Jesse knows how hot Joe makes his coffee. “Are you burned?”
“Um.” The guy flaps some more. “No, I don’t think so.” He tries to let his shirt drop back against his body and grimaces. “Maybe a little.”
Oh god. Jesse is a terrible person. “I’m so sorry,” he says again. “Can I give you a ride somewhere? Are you staying near here?”
The guy has stopped staring at his shirt and is now staring at Jesse. “No,” he says slowly, “No, that’s fine.”
“It’s not fine, you can’t go around like that all day.” Jesse isn’t usually this pushy; it only really happens when he’s freaked out. “Okay, this is going to sound bad, but my apartment is literally right over there.” He points at the curtained windows above Dust Jacket, which is three storefronts down from where they’re standing. “You can take a shower.” No, that really is creepy. “Or I could just lend you a clean shirt.”
The guy is still shaking his head, darting looks at the store then Jesse then back again. He probably thinks Jesse is a serial killer, great.
“I think I’m just going to go,” he says, “but thank you.”
Okay, well Jesse tried; he’s not going to frogmarch anyone into his shower. “Okay,” he says, nodding. He digs a pen out of his pocket along with a folded napkin from Joe’s coffee shop. “Look, write down your name and address and I’ll mail you a new shirt.”
“There’s no need to - ” The guy stops, looking closely at Jesse. Jesse tries not to feel intimidated or make any stupid faces or anything. “You don’t know what my name...” The guy trails off suddenly and he smiles. He was always hot, but with his eyes lit up like that, he’s really attractive. Jesse isn’t supposed to have those thoughts about people he’s scalded. “You know what, I’d really like to borrow a shirt if the offer still stands?”
“Really? Okay.” Jesse has no idea what he said or did to change his mind, but he feels better now that he knows he can fix his clumsiness. He pulls out his key and heads for the door that leads up to his apartment. There’s a door through the bookstore too, but if Justin’s still in there, Jesse doesn’t want to troop this poor guy past him. Covering him with coffee was probably bad enough for one day.
He waves him through the door and says, “I’m Jesse, by the way.”
The guy hesitates for a second then, “Andrew,” he says and laughs softly. Jesse has no idea what’s funny.
“Um.” He ushers Andrew toward the stairs. “My apartment’s just up there. I promise not to kill you or anything.”
Andrew smiles at him. He still looks kind of thrown, but Jesse is too so that’s understandable. “I’m not worried,” he says, “You already tried to assassinate me with coffee so I know the score.”
Jesse bounces on his toes then tells himself to stop that immediately and leads the way up the stairs. “Maybe that was just the beginning,” he throws back over his shoulder.
“I’ll take my chances,” Andrew promises.
When they reach the top of the stairs, Jesse points out the door to the bathroom, standing half open at the end of the short corridor past the tiny living room.
“There’s a wash cloth by the sink,” he says, “If you want to clean up or anything.” He realises suddenly that, if Andrew takes him up on that, he’s going to be shirtless and wet in Jesse’s apartment in a couple of minutes. He turns away quickly. “I’ll find you a clean shirt.”
“Thank you, Jesse,” Andrew calls after him and Jesse waves over his shoulder, not turning around.
He listens to the sound of water running in the bathroom and concentrates on sticking his head in his closet, hunting for something that might fit Andrew. He isn’t used to having hot guys in his apartment - Justin totally doesn’t count - especially not hot British guys who are soon going to be wearing Jesse’s clothes.
A couple of minutes later, there’s a quiet knock on the bedroom door. “Jesse?”
Jesse spins around. He’s found an oversized NYU hoodie which he thrusts out to Andrew before reeling it back in and saying, “I know this isn’t as nice as the shirt you were wearing, but I don’t think you’ll fit in any of my dress shirts.” Andrew is taller than Jesse and has really nice shoulders. Jesse tries hard not to look at his shoulders.
“This is great,” Andrew says, taking it from Jesse and smiling gratefully at him. “I can pick up another shirt when I get back on s... When I get back to work.”
“Okay.” Jesse forces himself to let go of the hoodie and forces himself not to look at Andrew’s chest which is very bare and very much right in front of Jesse. Then he notices that there’s a pale pink mark over his sternum and spreading to his left peck, which has to be from the coffee. “Shit, you are burned.”
Andrew shakes his head, holding the hoodie against his chest. “It’s fine. Honestly. It doesn’t even hurt.” He shakes the hoodie out and shrugs into it, smoothing his hair down afterward when it stays sticking straight up. He rolls his shoulders and smiles when the fabric falls into place. It looks so much better on him than it does on Jesse. As does a lack of shirt actually, come to think of it. “Thank you.”
Jesse swallows hard. “No problem.” He shakes himself. “You, um. You said you were working? I guess you need to get back?”
Andrew glances at his watch then swears softly. “I really should. I’m so late.” He tugs on the bottom of the sweatshirt and smiles up at Jesse from under his eyelashes. “You’ve been great,” he says, “I’ll bring this back to you.”
“You really don’t - ” Jesse gets as far as saying, but then Andrew’s leaning forward and brushing a kiss across Jesse’s cheek and all of Jesse’s words run out.
Must be a British thing, Jesse thinks dazedly, then: maybe he should move to Britain.
He clears his throat. “Um, you’re welcome?”
Andrew flashes him another smile then turns away, clattering down the stairs. “Sorry to run out on you,” he calls back.
Jesse follows him more slowly only to find that Andrew’s waiting for him at the door, standing half inside the stairwell and half out on the sidewalk. He hands Jesse’s his bag and the beat-up paper bags that hopefully still contain something lunch-like even though Jesse had apparently just left them out on the street.
He left books unattended for this guy; Andrew’s eyes or his accent or his slightly lopsided smile must be hypnotic, that’s the only explanation.
“I’ll be seeing you,” Andrew says just as Jesse hears the bell ring next door, mean that someone is going in or out the store. He hopes it’s in and that Abigail hasn’t had to serve anyone while he’s been gone.
“Sure,” Jesse says even though he really doubts that Andrew is actually going to bother to bring his shirt back to him. “Sorry again about the coffee thing.”
Andrew shakes his head. “It was worth it,” he says inexplicably then turns around, only to nearly run into Justin who must have been the person who made the bell ring.
“Sorry, dude,” Justin says then his eyes go wide and the end of dude somehow becomes the beginning of “Holy shit.”
Andrew shoots Jesse a quick, unreadable look. “Hi,” he says to Justin and, “Bye, Jesse,” and then he’s gone.
Justin grabs Jesse’s arm. They’re both watching Andrew leave although Jesse has no idea why Justin is or why his face has such a weird expression on it.
“Ow?” Jesse says, trying and failing to shake Justin off. “What’s the matter?”
“What? Why? How?” Justin shakes his head quickly. “Dude, what the fuck was Spider-man doing in your apartment?”
Jesse frowns so hard that he actually feels his eyebrows hit the ends of his eyelashes. He pulls Justin around to face him, checking his pupils. “If you’ve been smoking up in my store,” he starts but Justin waves him off. His eyes do look fine.
“Jesse, Jesse, don’t front. That was Andrew Garfield.” He flaps a hand. “Andrew Fucking Garfield in your apartment, wearing what looked a hell of a lot like your old college sweatshirt. Fuck, dude, tell me you’re banging Spider-man? Please.”
“I don’t...” Jesse has no idea what he’s talking about. Sure, Justin knows everyone, but Jesse hadn’t realised that he actually knew everyone. “You know him?” If Justin has slept with Andrew then Jesse may just kill himself. Justin only sleeps with guys once in a while, but he always seems to accidentally pick the ones who Jesse really likes.
“Do I - ?” Justin starts to say then cuts himself off, staring at Jesse. “You actually don’t know who he is, do you?”
“He’s the guy I spilled coffee all over ten minutes ago,” Jesse says impatiently. “But I don’t know anything else about him, no.”
“You spilled coffee all over Spider-man?” Justin echoes, sounding strangled. “Wow, Jesse, only you.”
Before Jesse can get really annoyed, Justin tightens his grip on his arm and pulls him out onto the sidewalk and then through the door into the store.
Abigail looks up and waves at them both but she doesn’t get to say anything before Justin is pushing Jesse around the counter and swinging himself up to sit on it, legs dangling between her and Jesse.
“Abi,” he says, pointing at her. “Andrew Garfield 101, go.”
“Um,” she says but then gamely tries to give him what he wants. “Actor. British. Late twenties. Stared in Boy A, Back Roads, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus, The Amazing Spider-man. Currently in New York filming the Spider-man sequel and being stalked by Emma and... What?” She stops, looking annoyed when Justin makes a negative buzzer noise over her last point. “He’s not being stalked by Emma? Oh my god, has she been arrested or something?”
Justin shakes his head. “Nope, Emma hasn’t had a chance to stalk him, since our very own Jesse had him locked away in his apartment for an undisclosed amount of time.” The look he’s giving Jesse is strangely impressed and Jesse wonders what he thinks happened up there.
Abigail makes a strangled, high-pitch squeaking sound and Jesse shakes his head at both of them.
“What are you talking about? He’s just a guy. I spilled my coffee on him so I loaned him a clean shirt. I really don’t think he can be whoever you think he is.”
“Not whoever,” Justin says, leaning down and looking him seriously and soulfully in the eyes, like even if Andrew is some movie actor, it should matter to Jesse or something. “Andrew Garfield. He’s like, he’s seriously famous, Jess.”
“Was this him?” Abigail interrupts, holding out her iPhone to Jesse. She’s pulled up something called Google Images and Jesse is faced with row after row of someone who definitely could be his Andrew. Not that Andrew is Jesse’s or anything; that was just a figure of speech.
He takes the phone from her and scrolls along until he comes to a pictures of Andrew, shirtless in front of some ugly 70s print wallpaper. Jesse had that bare chest in front of him less than ten minutes ago and it’s imprinted on his memory forever; he’s convinced.
“Oh,” he says, handing the phone back to Abigail. She looks at the photo he stopped on but doesn’t say anything about it. Jesse likes her.
“Oh,” Justin asks. “Is that all you have to say? You just met Andrew Garfield.”
Something about the way everyone keeps saying Andrew’s full name sets Jesse’s teeth on edge. “There’s nothing to say. I spilled coffee on him, gave him a fresh shirt and that was it. It’s over now.” He drops the battered paper bags on the counter and says, “Have some lunch. I have to make space for the new books.”
He ignores their protests and picks up his satchel, moving to the back of the store and trying hard not to dwell on anything. He’d known already Andrew wasn’t actually going to bring his sweatshirt back, that Jesse wasn’t going to see him again. The fact that he’s apparently a famous enough movie actor that even Emma is impressed by him just means that Jesse was right.
In fact, it’s good that Jesse won’t be seeing him again. People who kiss strangers on the cheek are not Jesse’s sort of people. The whole encounter was strange. Strange and baffling, slightly inappropriate and... completely disarming.
Jesse shoves Five Quarters of The Orange back into place more roughly than he should then immediately apologises and pulls it out, checking the cover for any tears. It’s fine but Jesse still smooths his palm over it a couple of times just to make sure.
He’s flustered, he thinks, and hates that. He’s not allowed near the books when he’s flustered so he pulls The Hound of the Baskervilles out of his bag and curls up in one of the corner armchairs. There’s nothing that can’t be cured by an hour or two of reading.
Three days later and Jesse is no longer thinking about hot, apparently famous British guys who steal his shirt and kiss his cheek. Mr Glover delivered Jesse’s new books yesterday evening and Jesse has been knee deep in delicious, rare book goodness ever since.
He may be high on the smell of must by now, but it’s worth it.
It’s ten a.m. on a Thursday morning so it’s almost a surprise when Jesse hears the bell ring. Emma’s in class and Abigail’s in school and Jesse hasn’t had any customers yet today. Jesse much prefers it when he doesn’t have customers, honestly. It’s just his accountant who doesn’t.
“Hello?” calls a voice and it’s... Jesse sits up so quickly he nearly falls over a pile of unsorted books. The voice is potentially familiar.
“Yes, hi, hang on,” Jesse says and smacks dust off his pants while making his way out of the stacks.
He stops when he gets within sight of the counter because wow, yes, he did recognise that voice.
“Hi again,” Andrew says, beaming at him. He’s holding something that looks like Jesse’s hoodie, folded up and pressed against his chest. “How are you?”
“Hi. Um.” Jesse waves awkwardly then stuffs his hand in his pocket. “This is my bookstore.”
Andrew’s smile stretches slowly across his face. “Yes, I know, you mentioned.”
Oh, Jesse thinks, so not just the world’s most ridiculous coincidence then. “Did I? I mean, of course I did.” His bookstore is all Jesse ever talks about, he’s been told.
“So, I was just - ” Andrew starts to hold out Jesse’s hoodie then stops when the door opens behind him. Two customers in two minutes; it’s like a record. Well, one customer and one Andrew, which it still counts.
“I’ll be... I’m going to look around,” Andrew says quickly, scooting behind the corner display before the girl who’s just come in can see him properly. Jesse tries not to find that weird.
“Hello?” says the girl and Jesse stops staring after Andrew to try to smile professionally at her instead. Emma always hits him when she sees him trying that; apparently his professional smile makes him look like he’s craving brains.
“Can I help you?” Jesse asks. Serving customers is his least favourite part of owning a bookstore but he isn’t terrible at it. Sometimes. When they pick decent books.
“Hi, yes, I’m looking for PS, I Love You?” She stands on tiptoes and peers around the store like a signal flare is going to rise up and show her where to look.
Jesse points to the left. “Under A for Ahern, just down there.”
“Oh, no, right.” She’s still peering; he wonders if he was unclear. “I wanted the DVD?”
Jesse blinks. “This is a bookstore.” He’s sure it says so outside. It did when he came in this morning, anyway.
“Right, right.” She keeps nodding. “But you sell DVDs too, right?”
“Why would we...? No.” Jesse walks around the counter and opens the door for her. “Try Pegasus Videos on Union,” he says, pointing her in sort of the right direction. He closes the door before she can say anything else and turns away, muttering, “And don’t ask them if they sell kittens.”
Behind him, Andrew laughs and Jesse turns around, blushing. He’d forgotten Andrew was there.
“In her defence,” Andrew says, still grinning, “Lots of bookshops do sell DVDs now, and CDs and stationery and things.”
“Well, not this one.” Jesse shudders. “Movies are the bane of my life, they always fuck up the story and - ” He breaks off guiltily, realising that Andrew probably doesn’t share Jesse’s opinions on books versus movies.
“Go on,” Andrew says, circling a finger in the air encouragingly and not looking at all offended.
“It’s just...” Jesse deflates, embarrassed. He rubs the back of his neck. “I have no objection in theory to movie adaptations, it just always seems to me that they cut out the parts that matter and sensationalise the drama.”
“What are the parts that matter?” Andrew asks. He’s leaning in and he looks fascinated. Jesse can’t be sure, but he doesn’t think he’s making fun of him.
Jesse swallows. “The heart,” he says, lamely. He can talk about books for days, he has a Masters in it for fuck’s sake, but something about Andrew’s big, interested eyes makes him stutter. “People don’t care about books because sometimes shit explodes, they care about how they make them feel. That’s the part that no one ever seems to want to capture in movies.”
Andrew looks at Jesse for a couple of long seconds after Jesse finishes rambling on, his eyes are locked on Jesse’s, his lips slightly parted which probably means that Jesse has bored him into a stupor. Great. Then Andrew coughs slightly and draws back. “Have you ever read a book called Never Let Me Go?” he asks, apparently out of nowhere.
Jesse shakes his head. “No,” he says. “Should I?”
Andrew sort of half-shrugs, like he wants to say yes but doesn’t. “Well, I feel stupid recommending a book to you when you basically live in Belle’s library but, maybe? You might like it.”
“Okay, I’ll look out for it,” Jesse says and makes a mental note to find a copy immediately. Andrew smiles and Jesse smiles and, honestly, this has the potential to be humiliating in a hundred different ways so Jesse clears his throat and falls back on his standard way of interacting with human beings inside his store. “Are you looking for a book?”
Andrew smiles slowly. “I might be,” he says. “What do you recommend?”
Those are essentially Jesse’s favourite words in the English language (closely followed by ‘kitten needing rehoming’ and ‘library stock sale’) and he relaxes, back on firm ground.
It takes Jesse two minutes to determine that Andrew has read absolutely nothing (“That isn’t true,” Andrew protests, rubbing the back of his neck, “I’ve read all the Harry Potter books a couple of times and I read a lot of Enid Blyton when I was a kid.”) and they spend a productive half hour with Jesse dragging him through the store, filling his arms with everything he’s been missing out on.
(Honestly, Jesse is stupidly jealous that Andrew gets to read these books for the first time; sometimes Jesse fantasises about losing his memory just so he can get the same thrill from reading The Brothers Karamazov as he did the first time.)
“Um,” Andrew says when they get back to the register. There are three piles of books between them, the middle one so high that Jesse has to stand on tiptoes to be able to check that Andrew is still smiling. “I don’t think I can carry all of these back to my hotel.”
“Well, you don’t have to buy them all today. You can always come back,” Jesse tells him, shrugging. He used to give out plastic bags but the guilt kept him up at night and he doesn’t have a paper bag big enough for all these books.
Andrew smiles slowly. “I’ll definitely do that.”
There’s something about his tone that’s just, possibly, almost a little bit flirty and it leaves Jesse flustered, fingers jittery when he tries to pick out the books that it’s most vital for Andrew to read immediately. The piles start to slide and they grab for them at the same time, Andrew’s hand landing on The Daughter of Time and Jesse’s hand landing on top of Andrew’s.
“So,” Jesse says, drawing his hand away again quickly. “Apparently you’re really famous.” He didn’t mean to say that, but apparently it’s a big deal to other people and he wonders if Andrew minds that he didn’t know.
Andrew withdraws slightly. He doesn’t actually move much but his smile definitely dims. “I suppose it was too much to hope you’d never realise,” he says, mouth quirking, clearly embarrassed.
Jesse shakes his head. “No. If it’d been left to me, I probably never would have. I don’t watch movies.” He wonders if that sounds really bad and adds an uncertain, “Sorry?”
Andrew laughs. He leans his forearms on the counter, relaxing again. He’s wearing a shirt with short sleeves and his arms are tanned, slender and strong. Not that Jesse is looking. “Don’t apologise. It was charming.”
Charming, right. Jesse supposes that’s better than idiotic.
“I, um.” Jesse flails about for some words. “Aren’t you filming this afternoon?” Stupid question, of course he’s not, or he wouldn’t be wasting time with Jesse.
But Andrew’s eyes go wide and he looks down at his watch, making an hilariously pained face at what he sees. “Well, I’m not,” he says, sounding strangled. “I’m supposed to be though. Um.” He looks up at Jesse, biting his lip.
Jesse waves him off. “It’s okay,” he says, trying not to sound disappointed. “Just leave the books if you’ve got to go.”
“No, no,” Andrew shakes his head hard and holds out his hands. “Load me up. Just, um, quickly.”
Jesse has already picked out three books, which Andrew can absolutely not go another day without having read and he hands them over, watching as Andrew tucks them safely against his chest.
Andrew shifts his arms around, sticking a hand in the back pocket of his pants and pulling out a roll of bills. “Um, how much?” he asks. Jesse stares at all the money sitting on the counter and Andrew blushes suddenly. “Fuck, that wasn’t me trying to show you how much money I have or anything. I just got a wad changed up and I’m pretty crap at telling the denominations apart; they’re all the same size and colour.”
Jesse pulls out one more book, contemplating. “That’s why we put numbers all over them. To prevent confusion just like that.”
“Hush,” Andrew says, still distractingly pink across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. “Take some money for these books, please.”
Jesse does, trying his best not to laugh at Andrew’s fluster. He contemplates tucking the rest back into Andrew’s pants’ pocket, but that’s the sort of thing that he does in fantasies, not in real life so he just hands it over.
“You’ve been lovely,” Andrew says quickly, turning to leave. “Thank you.”
“For being lovely?” Jesse asks, just to check.
“Shut up,” Andrew says cheerfully, still backing toward the door. Jesse takes pity on him and opens the door for him in case he tries to walk through it. “Thanks.” Andrew leans into him. “I’ll be back,” he says, sounding oddly serious about it.
“Sure, yes,” Jesse agrees, letting the door swing closed with Andrew on the other side of it. He’s sure that Andrew plans to come back, but he’s obviously really busy so Jesse’s not going to hold his breath. He is going to hold the books though, just in case.
A couple of days later, Andrew hasn’t come back - not that Jesse was expecting him to - but Jesse’s overall number of customers is definitely picking up. He hopes they didn’t get another write-up in Time Out or something. Last time, it took months for people to stop coming in just to look around.
He’s on his knees, rearranging the bottom of the LGBT YA display when a couple of kids come tripping in. They’re giggling, which isn’t usual behaviour for his customers, but it’s not forbidden or anything, so he goes back to work.
“Excuse me,” says one of the kids and Jesse looks up. She’s fiddling nervously with the leather thong around her neck, looking like she’s trying not to run away.
“Yeah?” Jesse stands up, trying to look reassuring. He’s not sure what he’s reassuring her about, but he wants to be supportive if she’s finding all the books overwhelming or something.
“Has Andrew Garfield been in today?” she asks, all in one breath and Jesse has to cock his head and replay it a couple of times to understand what she said.
“What?” he asks, blinking. “How do you - ? Why would he - ?”
The other kid, the boy one, who’s been sort of lurking awkwardly in the background, steps forward and waves in Jesse’s direction. “It says in The Post that he comes in here all the time.”
Jesse gapes at him. “Seriously?” he asks, but doesn’t wait for an answer. He puts a hand out, not quite touching either kid but walking them back toward the door all the same. “Well, he’s not here now and I need to close the store for a minute, so.” He grabs a couple of promotional flier off the counter, left over from the last book signing and presses them into their hands. “Here, have these. Enjoy. Please leave, now.”
He turns the sign on the door to closed then pushes the kids out onto the street, following them and quickly locking the store.
“Keep reading!” he calls back to them encouragingly then dashes down the block and into Joe’s coffee shop.
Joe’s wiping down a table in the back when Jesse pushes through the door but he looks up and grins when he sees Jesse.
“Jesse!” he says. “You’re early; is it an emergency? Are the books under-caffeinated?”
“Do you have a copy of The Post?” Jesse asks quickly, then winces. “I mean, please? And thank you, and other necessary words of politeness.”
“Sure, yeah.” Joe waves at the pile of newspapers they keep by the counter for customers. “It’s one of the popular ones so we always pick up a couple copies.”
Jesse hurries over to the counter and picks up the paper. He flicks through quickly, while Joe peers over his shoulder, making concerned noises.
It’s maybe kind of embarrassing how Jesse immediately zeros in on the picture of Andrew nestled into the corner of a slightly dog-eared page. It’s blurry and Andrew’s wearing clothes that make him look like a hobo, but he’s curled up on a park bench at the back of some movie cameras, a book open against his knees. Underneath it says:
Jesse stares. Wow.
Joe leans down closer, nose almost pressed against the page then jumps up straight. “Woah,” he says, eyes wide. “Dude, how cool is that? Did you know he’d been in the store? Did you serve him?”
“I, uh, yeah,” Jesse manages. He doesn’t know how he feels about this. It’s really, really nice of Andrew, obviously. You couldn’t pay for that kind of publicity and Andrew did it just because... well, Jesse doesn’t know why he did it, which might actually be the problem. “Um, thanks for letting me borrow the paper. I’ve got to go do something now.”
He isn’t sure what he’s going to do exactly, but Andrew just praised his bookstore to reporters, the least Jesse can do is take him the rest of the books he bought.
Going to the set to visit Andrew sounds like a good idea in Jesse’s head until he tries to put the logistics into practice. Having to call Emma to ask her to watch the store and to find out exactly where Spider-man is filming is only the first humiliating step that Jesse has to go through.
They’re filming back alley shots behind a couple of rundown warehouses down by the river and Jesse wants to draw his coat tight around himself and his shoulders up to his ears as he approaches because it feels like the sort of place he shouldn’t be, even with what looks like a million crew people dressed in black running around, hissing things into their headsets.
“Hey, man, restricted area,” says a girl with pink-tipped black hair and truly terrifyingly huge ankle boots.
“Yeah, um.” Jesse forces himself to drop his shoulders and appear even slightly confident. Only slightly though because that already takes a lot of effort. “I’m looking for Andrew? I’m a friend.” That’s a lie, he wonders if she knows it’s a lie. He hates lying to people, but I spilled coffee over him and he wore my clothes and then I made him buy books would take too long to explain and she looks like she’s in a hurry.
Her eyes flick over him. “I’m sure,” she says flatly which, hey, is kind of offensive. Jesse knows he looks like a guy who spends a lot of more time around books than he does people, but who’s to say that Andrew doesn’t like that in a person.
Andrew probably doesn’t like that in a person, but still.
“He... I just - .” Jesse waves his rucksack at her. “I’m delivering some books he bought?”
Her gaze flicks past his shoulder like she has nine hundred places to be and none of them are here. “Leave them with Tony over there,” she says, nodding her chin at another black-clad, radio-wearing person, this time with an eyebrow piercing. Jesse is clearly no way near cool enough to be on a movie set.
“I really want to see - ” Jesse tries again, hopelessly this time and he can already see her start to get annoyed with him when someone calls his name.
He turns and Andrew is jogging toward him. Well, sort of Andrew. Andrew wearing the tightest, most ridiculous blue and red costume that Jesse has ever seen. He’s pushed the hood part back so his hair stands up at right angles and he’s wearing sneakers but otherwise all Jesse can see is... tight. The outline of his biceps, the ridges of his pecks, the... Jesse stops looking down when he reaches the juts of Andrew’s hipbones.
“Shit,” Jesse says then tries to swallow his tongue.
Andrew stops in front of him, laughing and rubbing the back of his neck. “I know I look stupid,” he says, “There’s no need to hold back on my account.” He spreads his arms. “Feel free to mock.”
“No, no, I - ” He can feel Radio Girl’s eyes on them both. “Is that what caped crusaders are wearing this season? Do you have a show at London Fashion Week?”
Andrew laughs again, slightly less embarrassedly this time. “The caped crusader is Batman,” he says.
Jesse frowns. “And you’re - ?”
“Spider-man.” Andrew points at the black lines running through the red and blue that’s moulded around his body. “See? Webs.”
Oh, that makes sense. Jesse wonders if Andrew honestly doesn’t mind how clueless he is, or if he’s secretly getting annoyed. He really hopes Andrew isn’t getting annoyed.
“I, um.” He drops his back off his shoulder, holding it out to Andrew. “I brought your books.”
“Jesse,” Andrew tuts. “I said I was going to come and get them from you.”
He sounds almost disappointed, which Jesse doesn’t understand at all. “Sure, but I have elderly customers and if you’d walked into my store dressed like that, you might have given them all heart-attacks.”
Andrew grins. “Don’t you think I look fetching?” he asks. “Pin Up Guys dot org called me the second sexiest super-hero of all time.”
“Who was the sexiest?” Jesse asks, ignoring the part where Andrew asked for Jesse opinion.
Andrew shrugs. “Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man.”
“Oh well,” Jesse says. He knows who that is because his little sister made him watch that Sherlock Holmes adaptation during the holidays. She didn’t speak to him for two days after he told her what he thought of it.
“Exactly,” Andrew says and smiles at him. It feels like they’re sharing a secret, but Jesse’s not sure which one unless it’s an appreciation of Robert Downey Junior. He smiles back anyway, because he’s not sure anyone could look at Andrew’s face and not smile at it.
There’s a cough from behind them and Radio Girl says, “Dude, you have a trailer, you might want to use it.”
Andrew’s cheeks go pink which Jesse is just not going to think about it and, “Sorry, Amy,” he says. He reaches out and grabs the swinging handle of Jesse’s bag. “Come on. Come with me for a sec?”
Jesse doesn’t know where they’re going but he follows. He has to, he’s still holding onto the other bag strap so he can either follow or let Andrew run off with his books without checking that he knows how to take proper care of them.
There are a row of trailers around the corner and Andrew bounces up the steps to the one in the middle. Jesse carefully doesn’t look at the way his costume stretches across his ass because there’s appreciating that someone’s attractive and then there’s creepy perving - Jesse saw some of the pictures on Abigail’s google images page and he knows there are enough people creepily perving on Andrew already.
“Hi, so,” Andrew says when they’re inside his trailer with the door shut. It’s cramped and kind of dark in here, covered in clothes but Andrew pushes some jeans onto the floor and looks hopeful so Jesse sits down on the bed.
Andrew pulls up a chair and straddles it backwards, wincing a little then laughing. “I always forget how tight this suit is,” he says. It’s not fair, Jesse thinks, that someone can be so attractive and this endearing.
“Be careful,” Jesse warns. “Farmers castrate cattle by tying an elastic band around their junk and waiting for it to fall off.”
Andrew stares at him for a second then his lips twitch and he drops his head onto his folded arms. “Oh my god,” he says between giggles and Jesse tries not to look too obviously smug at having made him laugh. “I...” Andrew says eventually then shakes his head. “I have no idea how to lead on from that.”
Jesse drums his fingers on his knee and tries to think of something to say that has nothing to do with animal husbandry.
“I’m really glad you’re here,” Andrew says, leaning across the foot or so of space between them. “I was going to come by yesterday but filming overran and then the others wanted to go out for drinks and - ”
Jesse holds up a hand, cutting him off. “You don’t have to explain,” he says, “It’s not like we had a date planned or anything.” He clamps his lips closed abruptly because, shit, could he be any less smooth? (He could actually, yes, and he has been in the past, but he does at least want to talk to Andrew, which seems to be helping.)
Andrew starts to smile. “No,” he agrees, “I really fell down on the job there, didn’t I?”
Jesse frowns. “What?”
“Nothing.” Andrew shakes his head quickly and pulls Jesse’s backpack up onto his lap. “You know, I can’t remember what I bought. Are you appalled?”
“Yes,” Jesse says. “I own an entire bookstore and I know exactly what we have.” He takes the books as Andrew starts to unpack them. “Have you started on the other ones?”
“I have,” Andrew says brightly. “I read half of Regeneration between takes yesterday. I bought the rest of the series, right? Are they in here?”
“Yes,” Jesse tells him, remembering abruptly why he’s here. All the unexpected Spider-man suit and almost flirting temporarily distracted him. “That’s actually, um. That’s why I came. You didn’t... You didn’t have to advertise my store like that.”
“Like...?” Andrew starts to ask then, “Oh, you mean to the reporter? Did she print it?”
Jesse nods. “Yeah, yes, it’s all over The Post and now there are teenagers coming into the store to see if they can spot you skulking in the aisles or something.”
Andrew’s lips curl into an O shape like he hadn’t expected that. “Sorry,” he says. “Do you mind terribly?”
“What, no. Just, people don’t tend to come in. I don’t really know what I’d do with a lot of customers. They might buy my books.” Jesse wrings his hands together so he’ll stop flailing them. The idea of people pawing at his books makes him feel twitchy, okay?
Andrew bites his lip, obviously trying not to laugh at Jesse. “Isn’t that the point?” he asks. “Or am I misunderstanding something fundamental?”
“Yes,” Jesse tells him seriously. “You’re missing my cunning and innovative approach to book selling, where I don’t actually like to sell any books. My accountant loves it; he’s always wanted a peptic ulcer.”
“I’m sure,” Andrew agrees, nodding. “You’re very kind to help out with that.”
“Right,” Jesse says and then he can’t help laughing. Andrew joins in immediately, reaching across and resting his hand on Jesse’s knee. Jesse suddenly doesn’t feel like laughing any more, but he makes himself anyway so Andrew won’t take his hand away.
On the table, something buzzes and Andrew squeezes Jesse’s knee for a second before drawing away. “Sorry,” he says, “That’s my alarm; I have to get back on set. I get to dangle off balconies this afternoon.”
“Um,” Jesse says, “Cool?”
Andrew stands up then sits down agains suddenly, reaching over and touching Jesse’s wrist this time. “Feel free to say no,” he starts. His eyes dip a little, looking somewhere around Jesse’s collar. “But, would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”
Oh, wow, really? “I can’t,” Jesse says, surprising himself by actually wishing he could. Normally, he freaks out at the first hint of a date but Andrew doesn’t scare him half as much as most people do. Which should probably scare him more.
“Okay,” Andrew says quietly. He lets go of Jesse’s wrist and starts to draw back. “Right. Obviously. No, that’s fine, that’s - ”
Jesse is normally the one who babbles in any given conversation. “I can’t tonight,” he amends, “It’s my friend Justin’s birthday. I mean, I wish I could say screw it and have dinner with you instead, because Justin’s idea of fun and mine are very different, but - ” Jesse shrugs.
Andrew’s smiling again now. Jesse’s confused by the fact that thinking Jesse was turning him down was apparently enough to kill his smile. “But he’s your friend,” Andrew finishes for him. He fiddles with the sleeves of his suit for a moment then, “I could come? Unless it’s a terribly private party or anything?”
“You want to come to my crazy friend Justin’s birthday party?” Jesse asks incredulously.
Andrew bounces his fingers on Jesse’s knee. “I do,” he says firmly. “Unless you’d hate that.”
“I... No.” Jesse takes a deep breath. “That’d be good. Please come.”
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five