Logs:Clean Up On Aisle Ten

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Clean Up On Aisle Ten


Characters: Jules, Tris
Date: 2019-11-28
Summary: Jules teaches Tris that "just buy a new one" isn't always the right answer, among other important life lessons.
Disclaimers: {{{disclaimers}}}

Retail stores are built for business. The consumer is supposed to come, seek, find, hopefully find six or twelve additional items they didn't even know they needed, purchase, go home and enjoy their new purchases. Although a certain amount of product testing or comparison is expected, things going on in the portable appliances aisle of this particular location have probably gone a step farther than what is considered strictly routine. The scene is hedging in on bizarre, between the nearly-thirty-year-old man in the designer tee-shirt and jeans, a bright red vacuum that looks brand new but has no evident packaging and one that's a sleek grey with an abundance of packaging. It's quite likely that the definitely new grey model is supposed to still be in the box that's sitting right there on the ground with the cardboard ripped and Styrofoam torn asunder in what must have been a too keen effort to get it out to have a look. Even with all this, the most bizarre thing might be the way the tall brunette is standing with his arms wrapped around the chest, looking like he's trying to figure out something that is simply beyond his ken. Who knew one could drown on dry land in the midst of a generic retail locale no less? At least Tris hasn't begun flailing yet, but his lips are pressed together like he might be wrestling with an existential crisis the likes of which hasn't been seen on aisle 10 in the length of ever.

Jules is not exactly the maintainer of the status quo, because his own shopping trips often do not involve even a single unplanned item. He is probably personally responsible for the downfall of capitalism. But he is not responsible, at least, for making a scene. He's just here with his basket, which contains one package of plastic sheeting, a roll of duct tape, and a bottle of bleach. No groceries, because the grocery aisles of the store are a madhouse right now that no sane man would brave. He just needs, now... what? He may never remember, drawing up short as he does beside this debacle. He's in jeans and a flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Winter coalesces at his feet, a curious frost spreading across the floor around him for a foot or so. "You all right?"

The answer is really obvious in a glance. One shift of Tris' dark blue gaze over to the older man who may shortly regret drawing attention to himself shows plainly that the younger man is out of his depth. He shifts slightly, angling himself toward Jules as if he's about to speak, only then he twists his chest back toward the whole of the chaotic conundrum. And back again. The heat that radiates from his leanly muscular frame is subtle, but distinct, but it might explain his light-weight clothes in late November, even if this is New Orleans and not some point north. "Do these... look the same to you? I mean, if I bought this one here, to replace, this one here," his arms come away from his body to make broad gesticulations to indicate first the grey one then the red, "do you think they would both... vvvvvvv shhhhhhup?" That would be the sound effects of a vacuum at work, and then sucking up something it really probably shouldn't. "It stopped working," he adds as afterthought, giving the red machine a forlorn look as if it had personally betrayed him, and really, maybe it did.

"Well, they're similar models, sure, though they probably have a slightly different feature set." A normal person would be edging away by now. Jules is coming closer, setting down his basket and hunkering down beside the whole assemblage, to study both of the vacuum cleaners in question. "It just stopped? Did it... shhhhhup before stopping?"

At least Tris isn't the sort to let Jules go into the wilds of mechanical failure alone. When the older man hunkers down, Tris shifts to crouch beside him, but not too close. His elbows rest on his knees and his hands wring together between them. "Yeah. Shhhup, kkkkhkkhhkk fftzzz." The young man provides the appropriate sound effects for the nature of the problem. "I mean, I was just cleaning, I think." That doesn't sound worrisome at all. "When you say... 'feature set,'" the brunette begins slowly, "just what... does that mean? Don't they all... just... vvvvvvvv?" He makes a motion that might be forward and back in the style of routine vacuum use but somehow the younger man makes it look like a totally new concept. New to him anyway.

Maybe it's not pinching exactly, but there is a moment where Jules rubs at his forehead with a couple of fingers, there. "They should all manage basic stuff just fine. Some of them are better if you have allergies, or pets. Can you do something for me? Put that one back into the box?" This is exactly the sort of soft tone that normally gets reserved for children and frightened animals. Meantime, he starts to examine the one Tris already owns.

"I have pets," Tris volunteers cheerily. Isn't that terrifying? He squints at the red model and then at the grey. "I guess it says that kind of thing on the box?" He sounds unsure but he's not one to hesitate with this, or anything else, so he rises and is moving to pick up the large box and start searching it for words that might decipher some of this mystery. It's just possible that he didn't think to look before. "Sure?" It sounds a little confused about putting the sleek grey model back, and bless Tris' special little heart when he starts to collect bits of Styrofoam like he might be able to fit things together like a puzzle. He probably should start with the biggest piece first, like the vacuum, but no, that would be asking too much of the floppy haired brunette. At least his dedicated puzzling over beads of white puff gives Jules room to work without an over-eager manchild up in his grill.

Room to work: Very helpful. Jules spends a bit of time studying the thing, turning it over, opening up various bits of it, manhandling the roller, sticking his fingers into various pieces. When he's through with that process, he hauls himself back up to standing. "I think it's fixable. Save you a bit of money. I have some parts in my truck, if you don't mind coming out with me--oh, god. No, not like that." Apparently now he's helping to reassemble the packaging for the other vacuum, too, lest they be here all evening.

Naive? Yes. Tris is definitely that. Trusting? Not so much. It's one thing to let a stranger help you in an aisle of a very large, very busy store, it's another thing entirely to [s]take candy from the stranger in the van[/s] follow a man out to his vehicle with the promise of saved money on a repaired item. The look that is cast over the armful of Styrofoam Tris has collected is dubious a best. Let it not be said that Tris doesn't try hard; he's been very industrious while Jules has been absorbed in checking the vacuum for mystical secrets known only to him (and anyone else with a sense for these things). He's amassed quite a pile of white bits that surely did, once, fit in this large box with this sleek vacuum, still sitting there on the aisle floor. "Are you... sure? I mean, I can just by a new one." That is what money is for, right? Buying things? "What are you called?" That might be a step toward getting Tris to follow the older man out. In the meantime, obviously his Styrofoam will protect him, pad him from any danger Jules might present.

"You could, but it's a bit wasteful." It's not as chiding as it could be, perhaps, because Jules doesn't seem to take very seriously the idea that this is going to happen. "Would rather not leave the mess, but I'd also rather not attract attention, so you'd best just leave that here, just... out of the way. Jules. My name's Jules. We can talk a little more outside? I'm not going to ask you to get in a car or anything. You can go anytime you like." Jules has not thus far smiled, well, at all, but he manages a small one there.

"Wasteful?" Tris might not mean to sound like that's a new word, a new concept to him, but that's really how it sounds. Dark blue eyes blink at Jules studying the other man's face and then slowly the rest of him as if he's just taking him in for the first time. The younger man's breath catches slightly. He glances down at the mess as if he's noticing that for the first time too. He only adds to it when he crouches to spill his Styrofoam over the empty box. When he straightens again, he reaches into his back pocket and withdrawals his wallet, pulling a couple of (too large) bills and dropping them on the mess, before flipping the sleek leather thing closed and tucking it away again. "I'm called Tris." He replies before he steps over the box-and-static-cling-white-bead mess, as though he were completely washing his hands of the affair, to heft his red vacuum. "Lead the way," he invites, and if he twitches just a little in the jaw, well... not all reflexes can be controlled.

Leading the way unfortunately means that Jules has to go check out, first--apparently he really, really needs his plastic sheeting, duct tape, and bleach. It's fine. Perfectly normal. But after that, it's on out to the parking lot, to the white pickup parked way in the back of the lot, like it's trying to avoid catching something contagious from the mass of other cars. "Have you been back long?" Jules doesn't ask the question until they're well away from other people.

If Tris were paying any attention to the particulars of Jules' purchases, he'd probably be feeling completely reassured about his decision to accompany this near-stranger out to his car, but fortunately for all parties involved, he's busy just hugging his vacuum and rocking onto and off of the balls of his feet, watching the people while the older man makes his purchases. Nothing to see here. It's equally perfectly normal that Tris hangs back a little, though not so far as to say, get in the way of traffic in the aisle, as they approach Jules' pickup truck. He draws marginally nearer when the older man asks the question. There's an awkward, pregnant pause for all that these things are not at all secrets given the abundance of physical evidence. "About six months," comes the answer. He inches closer and sets the vacuum down between them as if it's a safety barrier. "You?" It might be the expected question, but the way Tris cants his head just slightly and blue eyes study the other man's face again might mean that the question isn't just casual but something that holds genuine interest to the asker.

"Long time now," says Jules, as he gets the passenger's side door of the truck open and goes rifling around in what appears to be a mass of junk in the foot well. If there's a rhyme or reason to it, it isn't obvious. "The first few months are rough. It sounds like you're doing okay on cash, place to stay?" He winds up with several vacuum cleaner belts in plastic packaging sitting on the seat, but also a variety of other things. And a variety of small tools.

There's a small handful of mundane lines that form on Tris' face in reaction to Jules' non-specific answer. "Yeah. Someone set something up for me." It's possible he doesn't even know the name of that someone. "My dogs like it." The place, wherever it is. "I just moved down here." He adds, reaching up to scratch at his cheek with manicured nails. His eyes track every movement that Jules makes with the wariness of one with it taught into the automatic survival responses of the body. It must have been that kind of thing for him. "Don't really know anyone here yet." He looks at his vacuum and back to Jules and his assortment of parts. "Are you sure I shouldn't just buy another one?"

"I'm sure you shouldn't just by another one," Jules insists. Okay, maybe this doesn't look like the best place to work. It isn't. But he takes the vacuum cleaner, gets it opened up on the pavement beside the car, and starts to work on getting the belt replaced--only to have the thing snap audibly in the middle of the process. He yanks his hand away, shaking it briskly. "Okay, that... was not the right one. Hold on." Back to the drawing board.

Perhaps Tris' skeptical tone can be forgiven given the band snap when he follows this up with a, "Do you do this a lot?" His eyes crinkle a little as they narrow, looking from his machine to the evident mechanic and on back toward the store where there was a perfectly good shiny grey one with as yet unknown features (ooooh). "When you say a long time... what does that mean?" That's not quite skepticism in his tone when he says that. It's more like subdued curiosity as his eyes move to scan the parking lot like something might step out of the air at any moment to threaten their persons. Crazier things have happened in his life.

"Fix vacuum cleaners? Often enough. In parking lots, uh, not so much. This is what I do. Real work, pays cash, that's about as good as it gets." He gets back up to go rifle through all the junk in his car, finds another vacuum belt, gets back to work on it--and this time it actually fits properly. "Decade, give or take. Now, you're going to want to make sure you pick up everything before you use it, right? She's really good at her job, but she's sensitive, you need to make it easy on her."

"Doesn't seem like enough vacuum cleaners would break to pay the bills, even in a city this size," Tris observes, though his tone is slightly detached as he watches the parking lot more than he watches the man and his work. His eyes do flicker back now and again. "Was this what you did before?" Before everything that goes unsaid and unasked about. His eyes fall to the vacuum and he purses his lips. "Pick things up," novel concept, "I can do that." Probably. Maybe. "Do you have a card in case it breaks again?" It's probably likely. "How much do I owe you?" The wallet comes back out in that practiced motion and he flips it open gracefully to rifle through the many, many bills therein. If it weren't for the fact that every one if his muscles it tensed in anticipation of a fight that might not come, he might seem just the type of target for a good snatch and grab and go.

"Vacuum cleaners, faucets that drip, outlets that don't work. I do okay." Jules gets the vacuum cleaner back standing up, and himself as well. He shuts the door of the truck, brushes his hands off on his jeans. "Guess I ought to have cards or something," he muses, at least half to himself. "Twenty bucks should do it just fine." This might be kindness, but that doesn't mean it has to be charity, right? "I can give you my number. If you have more vacuum trouble, or anything else."

Given that Tris withdraws a pair of bank-crisp twenties and folds them over before putting away his wallet to offer it over to the older man, maybe the young man is doing more than okay in the cash department. "I'd have paid double this or for that grey one." Or more. Still, his next move is to reach for another pocket in the jeans to pull out his cell phone ready to receive the jack of all trades repairman's number. With issues like his, he might even be preparing to put Jules in his favorite contacts. "Is there... do you know if there's anywhere... our... kind frequents?" Obviously New Orleans is strange by anyone's standards, and it seems like six months is not enough time to make Tris seem an old hat about seeking his own. "I could use..." Friends? Connection? Well, whatever he could use, he just shrugs.

There is no protest to tipping on this scale. As long as it can be construed as a tip, Jules will take cash from his tall young friend here, sure, and put it in his own wallet. He rattles off a phone number, there. "That's Landry, Jules Landry," he adds on at the end. "There's no freehold yet, but we've been working on making arrangements. Actually... quite glad to see you, here, and I've never said that to Summer before. If you've got the time, there's this jazz club, Salome. Relatively safe. Owner's a man named Louis."

The numbers are input with the aplomb of a Millennial who's an old hat at technology tricks and the phone is tucked away again. Tris pauses in the act of lifting his flashy red vacuum to look up at Jules, the slashing look belying some intelligence as yet undemonstrated. "Not... Louis Verte?" It may be conspicuous that the younger man doesn't remark on the heat obvious in his bearing or the matter of the freehold directly, but he seeks to hold Jules' gaze while he waits for an answer, straightening without lifting the machine, one hand resting on the handle in too casual a pose to be as benign as it seems.

"Oh, yes. You've met? Black man, very... Spring. New, but everyone's new." Says the man standing here sounding like a local. Or probably enough like a local to a New Yorker's ears. Jules can't manage to hold eye contact that long; his head ducks and he rubs at his face by way of some kind of excuse. Or maybe more than that. "Please, tell me that he's charming and you're delighted at the prospect of getting to see him again.""

"I guess," is non-committal of the charm. If Tris thinks so, that's staying Tris' secret. "He's good at what he does, though. We've met." It's equally hard to say just how in depth a knowledge the Summer has of Spring's devotee. "I have been meaning to look him up though. I'm having-" The younger man hesitates, a hand going to scratch at the short beard covering jaw, "-trouble finding good help." Finding some might well be in the favor trader's wheelhouse. "If you come across anyone that's... well, in need of work, send them my way?" That wallet comes back out but this time to slide out a fancy business card, on classy paper. It's proffered over to Jules. The embossed words say, 'D. Kesel, Kesel Holdings, Photographer' with what must be the number to that expensive looking phone.

Jules makes a very deliberate attempt to relax, visible in his posture, his shoulders. It's also visible how it doesn't completely work. "As long as you can hold off murdering him a bit until we can get a freehold around here, I'd really appreciate it." Hard to tell if he's serious or not. He does take the card, studies it carefully. "I'll give you a call if I meet anybody. Are you..." Concern in the furrowed brow. "Are you going to be okay in the meantime?"

Button, button, who's got a button? OH, that'd be Jules. Jules has that button. It's right there on Tris. Tris' expression is abruptly, painfully cold. There's hot rage and there's cold rage. This is the cold version. Maybe a Winter can appreciate that. His grip on that vacuum is now none-too-friendly; maybe Jules' services will be needed again before they part ways. "I don't have a problem with Louis." The man's formerly easy baritone holds a hardened edge now. He doesn't have a problem with Louis, but he sure has a problem with someone. "I'm always fine." It's the first lie Tris has told Jules and he has no poker face to speak of, so it doesn't take much to sort out that Tris is probably very much not okay; aisle 10 may have been a first clue, but there have been several more along the way. Still, he doesn't ask for help.

"Ease up there, sport." Like when Jules first stumbled upon Tris in there: A softer version of a man who might on the surface not look like he ought to be soft. "I don't need you to not have a problem with anybody. I just want a freehold oath before Solstice. If you can help me with that, I'll help you until you're a bit better settled." He reaches out like he might put a hand over the younger man's, possibly to save that poor piece of plastic, but it's not particularly assertive in the face of any resistance to the idea. "How does that sound?"

"It's Tris," is clipped but firm. "I only look this old." Those dark blue eyes that are fairly blazing with their intensity seek to hold Jules' again. It's not the softness he objects to, but the assumption. The hand loosens under Jules' touch: plastic saved! Really, Tris, for all his leanly muscular body, looks more like he's built for speed not the crushing of any poor plastic handles, but cracking it was a real possibility there for a moment. His eyes search the older man's face, not just his eyes, but his expression and after a long, assessing moment he nods slowly. "I don't know what I can do to help, but a freehold..." The shoulders roll in a shrug, though this one is sort of a positive gesture if the nuances are heeded.

On the other hand, the Ogre, who could probably crush something without thinking--but no, his hand is very, very careful, and withdrawn as soon as it possibly can be after the grip relaxes. "Tris. Just don't hurt a hair on his--well, leave him in one piece, I mean. He's doing too much to coordinate right now. I'll go with you to meet him, if you'd like, but I understand if you'd rather it was private." Winter always understands privacy.

"Jules," Tris uses the name carefully and with weight, looking to catch the older man's eyes again. "I don't-" he starts, pauses for emphasis, "-have any issues with Louis. He's helped me in the past." He's trying to be reassuring, but there's still those feelings bubbling just under the surface. "Come, don't come, it doesn't matter to me." Maybe it's just Tris, or maybe it's the Summer in Tris that's too bold to care if his business is witnessed or not. "I meant what I said. I've been meaning to get in touch with him. Just because I don't want to wax poetic about him doesn't mean I don't respect him." That's an attempt at humor, but it's a hard thing to reach for in this moment.

Harder still for Jules to smile, apparently. He attempts it. Briefly. It doesn't stick for even a moment. "Good. That's fine. I'm afraid I've run into a few young--young-looking--Summer fellows who've preferred a way of solving problems that might make a mess of this. I'm sure," and here Jules claps him on the shoulder, but only the once, "I've got nothing to worry about with you."

"I'm sure a Winter won't make the mistake of assuming every Summer is the same." Tris replies, managing to summon more humor to help take the edge off the heat, off the rage. There's actually some of the customary warmth back in his eyes now. Now that Jules isn't stroking his buttons anymore. He hasn't missed Jules' chill, it just wasn't something he needed to remark on without reason. As long as Jules doesn't know that solving problems with a poorly timed show of poor self-restraint is right up Tris' alley, who's to worry?

"Wouldn't dream of it," Jules replies mildly, now. There, the corners of his mouth, turning up just the slightest. "Now, how are you situated for the weekend? Stores will be a mess tomorrow and Friday, and I've seen... some bad things happen in those sorts of crowds. Do you have food, a safe roof over your head for the next few days at least? Is there anything urgent?"

The briefly fish-like open and close of Tris' mouth as he considers the answer to these questions is not an encouraging start. Nor is the, "Uh," that indicates a less than prepared state of being. "I mean, I have a bunch of cup o' noodles, and cans of tuna." That counts, right? "And cat food. And dog food." So encouraging. "But I guess I didn't think about it." Of course not. He's only now starting to look vaguely concerned like Jules may have pointed out quite a few problems he didn't know he had. "I mean, I have my apartment." So that's one out of however many items on Jules' mental list of concerns.

Was Jules looking a bit relieved? Now, a bit less. Much less. "Are the lights on at your apartment? Water running? Everything sanitary?" Surely these questions are born of some past time when the answer was no, for some unfortunate soul, for Jules to look this serious.

"The lights are on and the water's running." A good start for Tris two out of three this time. "I mean, my vacuum broke... and I have some pets. And I don't have a cleaning service yet because..." Reasons. The young man reaches up to push a hand through that floppy hair that helps his face scream things like 'I'm a helpless adult, take care of me.' "My therapist say I'm making progress." That last is a mutter and probably the least reassuring of all. Progress is good, but progress from where and toward what?

While Tris is messing with his hair, Jules takes a moment to peer at him, like he's going to find some kind of answer to this conundrum on the man's face. He settles on, at the end: "My house is in Milan. If you want to come by for supper now and then, I don't mind cooking for two. Or bringing you something you can heat up for a few days, if you'd rather not. Nothing fancy for the holiday, mind. Place isn't really cleaned up enough for fancy."

Tris' dark gaze flicks up to Jules' face again, the consideration of his offer playing across the younger man's presently expressive face. There's concern there, doubt, and after a moment and a breath, the smallest touch of hope. He nods, looking to the ground as the phone is fished out again, "What's your address?" And then, almost as an afterthought, "I can pay you, for the food and help." Currency for help is a language Tris understands even if he lacks the finesse in speaking the language himself.

"Maybe you can pitch in for groceries here and there if you hang around too much. Help out a bit around the house. I do this because people helped me, not to make a dollar." Or a lot of dollars; one doesn't go very far in this day and age. Jules considers for a moment, then says, "Just tell me that you'll bring no harm to my house, and I'll seal you to that, and I'll call that enough."

The frown is faint but there. "I have dollars. I don't have..." So many words could finish the end of this sentence but the one the younger man settles on is: "Skills." Tris tilts his head slightly his hand going back to the handle of the vacuum. "I'm willing to learn." There may be a lot to be desired in the brains department for this particular Summer denizen, but even he knows sealing is significant and he doesn't answer without pause. "Will anyone seek to harm me while I'm under your roof?"

"I'll not seek to harm you in my house, or allow through inaction any harm to come to you, if you don't bring any trouble in of your own. Does that work for you?" Easy enough, this kind of negotiation. Jules, not a man of letters, but he seems to have had some practice with working out this kind of wording. Every one of the Lost is a bit of a lawyer, though. "I just want to know you're safe for me, my home, and whoever else might need to be there."

One of Tris' hands comes up to rub his cheek with his palm and then, unconsciously, his fingers brush across the deep scar under his chin that's catching the light and spinning off a silvery luminosity in return. "I'm not... concerned with you, or whoever else may be an invited guest. If I have a problem with one of you, I can take it outside." He'd like to think he could control himself that much anyway. "I'm concerned about committing to inaction myself if we," he makes them a group, "were attacked by something or someone uninvited." His brows lift, "Unless you have provisions for that?" Summer is known for their vigilance after all. "I can commit to your terms if you provide that an attack from an outside source releases me from the obligations of the seal in order to act in defense of those invited to your home."

"In a pinch, you know you can--well." Sometimes Winter really should keep its own council; Jules bites his own tongue, if not literally. "Say you won't harm anyone, or willfully cause any harm to be done, except in defense of yourself or another legitimate occupant. Does that work?" Now, he does seem to have settled into a more relaxed posture, letting himself lean against the side of the truck. "I didn't expect you to be fussy, but it's good, sensible."

Maybe Tris' beatific smile can make up for all the complicated negotiations. Maybe not with Jules, but there's a youthful brilliance and charm to it nonetheless. The necessary repetition is completed easily now that his personal hang-ups are satisfied. "I'm not sure anyone has ever called me sensible before." That might be half the reason for the smile. "Hard-headed, stubborn, idiotic." He lists the things he has been called before, helpfully. "Thanks." He lifts his phone a little along with his brows, "Address?"

Once Jules has bound Tris, however lightly, he repeats off the address for entry into that phone. "Only street parking just now, you might wind up a couple houses down, but the house is the big white one. It, uh, needs some paint." This is going to turn out to be an understatement of the things it needs, but for right now, Tris doesn't need to know that. "Go try out your vacuuming. If you want supper, just let me know a bit earlier in the day so I can plan, that's all I ask."

With the address in his portable life center, the phone is tucked away again and Tris dips his head in a nod of understanding. "Thanks, Jules." And he means it, it's easy to see that in his earnest look and searching blue gaze. Then he dips to tug the vacuum against his chest and turns. There's no real goodbye, but it turns out that it's good that Jules parked so far away from the store because so did the other man. Only the car he's heading for (and it can't be any other car because there aren't any other cars) is a sleek, matte black Lamborghini Aventador, a sports car that is plainly reserved for the stupid rich or the massively in debt. As he heads for it, there's a shift of that vacuum so a hand can fish in a pocket and with some unseen movement there, the car growls to life while Tris is still some distance away. It really does make that, I'm an asshole, deal with it, roar to life. And this is the man Jules just invited home. Sometime.

It does take Jules a little bit to get back in his truck, because apparently he'd much rather smoke standing beside it than in it--some tiny shred of the modern world has gotten through, if not enough? Which gives him time to murmur a "Jesus Christ" as he catches the car, at least, but he does seem at least mildly interested in getting a look at it, or possibly just at getting a look at how Tris fits a vacuum cleaner into it, before he finishes his cigarette and gets going.