Quick recap: After visiting his parents, Aaron realizes his family's getting a bit more complicated than it used to be. With his parents supporting Aaron's older brother, Caleb, again, they don't have enough extra money to fund Aaron's expensive lifestyle, so Aaron's faced with a choice: get a job, or stop buying expensive things. Guess which one the spoiled brat picked...
Job hunting sucked.
There were a lot of things that Aaron hated. He hated low speed limits; he hated hangovers. He hated studying, boredom, ugly cars, people who were smarter than him, and beer. But, above all else, he hated job hunting. He could not stand it, and he'd only been doing it for a week.
Applications were exhausting. So many questions, so few of them actually relevant. And he hadn't gotten even one answer out of the six jobs he'd applied for. Not only was it discouraging, it was demeaning, and Aaron was done with it.
Or, he would be done with it, if he wasn't so afraid of letting down his parents. So he kept at it, kept browsing the classified ads, kept searching the web, kept looking for 'help wanted' signs. He was going to keep at it until he got a job, because he wanted to make his parents happy.
That didn't mean he couldn't complain about it, though.
"This is the stupidest thing ever!" he exclaimed, throwing an application with all his might, only for it to drift gently to the floor. "That was so unsatisfying." He glowered furiously at the paper. To his chagrin, it did not react. "When you throw something, it is supposed to hurtle to the ground and break!" he snarled.
Lucas said nothing, and just watched him with raised eyebrows.
"What?" Aaron demanded, turning his glare on Lucas.
"Nothing," Lucas answered quickly, looking alarmed.
Aaron grumbled incoherently and snagged the paper from the floor, slammed it back to his desk, and dropped abruptly back to his chair. He picked up his pen and kept filling it out, planning to deny that last outburst if asked about it.
This was getting so frustrating. Not to mention boring. Getting a job was something everyone did at one point or another. Shouldn't it be simple?
He sighed and signed his name on the back of the latest application, then reached for the next one. He wondered how many paper cuts it would take for him to bleed to death.
"This isn't going to be another one of those things that requires an intervention, is it?" Lucas asked, wincing. "I really hate having to drag you out of your house for your own health."
Aaron didn't even grace that with an answer.
"Please tell me you aren't going to work yourself to death before you even get a job," Lucas groaned.
Once again, Aaron stayed silent.
"I think you might put more stress on me than ten people combined. Please don't try to make it eleven."
Aaron sneered. "If I was going to try anything of that sort it would be on a much larger scale. Try thirty people."
Lucas's brow furrowed. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."
"Just assume it's bad," Aaron advised.
"That is standard operating procedure with you. Kind of wish it wasn't."
"Me too. Can I use you as a reference?"
Lucas scoffed. "You really want prospective employers to call me? The guy who had to haul your ass to bed when you were too drunk to walk?"
Aaron stiffened. "You were the one who gave me the booze. If you mention that episode to anybody, your body will never be found."
"You know, it doesn't even surprise me that you've resorted to blackmail. Not one bit. That is exactly the sort of thing you'd do."
"Obviously. Now, can I use you as a reference or not?"
"It would look pretty nice to have a police officer as a reference, wouldn't it?" Lucas mused, rubbing at his chin. "Go ahead, as long as you don't tell them that I'm only a traffic cop."
"Thank you. Please don't tell them about how many speeding tickets I have."
Lucas smirked. "I'll consider it."
Aaron shot him a dirty look, but continued writing.
"In all seriousness, please don't turn this into an obsession. If you can't find a job, you can't find a job. Pretty much every other college kid in the country is going through the exact same thing right now. There just aren't that many jobs out there," Lucas told him. "Don't freak out if you can't get one."
"I'm not gonna freak out," Aaron muttered. "And I resent that you think I would."
Lucas fell suspiciously silent.
Seventeen applications later, and Aaron finally had an interview. To his delight, it was for the place he wanted to work for most: a bookstore.
Aaron loved books. He had ever since he was little. It was his mother's fault; she was an English professor, and she started all but dumping books on Aaron the minute he learned to read. This was yet another thing that had fostered his love of writing. Books were some of his favorite things in the world, and working with them sounded fantastic, even if it was only as a cashier or something.
That wasn't the best part, though. The best was having an excuse to wear his nicest, favorite, most expensive clothes.
Another one of those things that made people think he was gayer than a diamond studded rainbow was his love of clothes and shopping. As it happened, Aaron just liked being fashion savvy, and it had actually attracted more than a few women. He wasn't sure why liking clothes was considered a trait only gay men and straight women possessed. Clearly, it was an admirable quality in anyone. You could tell a lot about a person from their clothes: their interests, their socioeconomic position, sometimes their job, and, of course, their vanity.
Judging by Aaron's clothes, he was interested in wine tasting, caviar, Rolls Royces, yachting, and all those other rich clichés. He seemed disgustingly wealthy, he might be a stockbroker, and he was enormously vain. Only one of these things was true. It didn't take much to guess which one.
He never dressed poorly, by any means. As casual as it got for him was an unbuttoned button down over a tee-shirt, plus jeans. By his standards, dressing up really was dressing up. For his job interview, he knew he couldn't be too dressy. Then he would look pretentious. He was pretty pretentious, actually, but his future employers certainly didn't need to know that. So, today he was dressed nicely, but not too nicely. His button down was navy silk, with the sleeves rolled down and all the buttons done up, for once. He wore a black tie, also silk, and he loved wearing ties, he really did. He didn't get to wear them nearly often enough. He was sadly lacking in the pants department, at the moment. His college attire was so full of jeans that he didn't really have much else, so he settled on a pair of khakis that he'd worn maybe once before. For his shoes, he really went all out: his very favorite Gucci boots. They probably cost more than his rent, but he loved them anyway, and they boosted his self-esteem (and his height) in a way he desperately needed. To top it off, he'd put his hair back, instead of letting it fall in his face like he normally did.
He looked in the mirror, and smiled triumphantly. He looked like a business man. He looked grown up. He looked perfect, and he knew it.
With one last glance at the mirror, Aaron headed out, grabbing his car keys and heading out the door, only to run right into Miles, who had a hand raised as if about to knock.
"Oh, hey! What're you doing here?" Aaron asked, stepping out of Miles's personal space.
Miles gawked at him, looking him up and down. "Uh, wow," he murmured, still staring.
Aaron cleared his throat. "You all right?"
Miles's eyes snapped back up to his face. "Huh? Oh! Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. You just... you clean up nice. Not that you don't look fine normally! But... wow."
Aaron flushed, and tried to cover it with a laugh. "Uh, thanks. If you say so." He went to brush his hair out of his face, forgetting it was slicked back, and ended up awkwardly touching his own face without reason. His cheeks reddened even more.
Miles shuffled his feet. "No problem. And I do say so."
They stood there, silent, for a minute or two, before Aaron remembered why he'd left his apartment in the first place. "I've got a job interview," he said, pointing down the hall.
"Oh! And you... and I'm in the way. Right." He stepped out of the way. "Ah, I'll come back later, then. Good luck!" He started down the hallway at a brisk pace.
Aaron watched him go, curious. "Ooh-kay," he murmured to himself, before continuing along his way.
His workdays were Monday through Saturday, from ten AM to eight PM. It was a terrible schedule, and Aaron resented it, but at least it paid a whopping thirteen dollars an hour.
He'd been so enthusiastic about working for a bookstore. It turned out it sucked something awful. People were rude to him when he worked the register, no one could put books back where they found them, and he was pretty sure his co-workers were making fun of him behind his back.
All in all, he was extremely disappointed.
Currently, he was rearranging the young adult fiction section, for the third or fourth time today. Teenage girls, it seemed, were the absolute worst about putting their stupid vampire books back where they belonged.
He'd picked up one of those books while on break at one point. He'd put it back down almost as quickly- right where it was supposed to be, he might add. He had absolutely no idea how they were getting so popular.
Someone behind him cleared their throat. He glanced back to see a group of three middle school aged girls, all glowering at him. He gave them a sarcastic smile, and took his time getting out of the way. They all rolled their eyes at him, and he shot them a dirty look in return. They ignored him, and he stalked over to the romance section. That was usually almost as cluttered as the young adult section.
He really hated this job. Even more than he'd hated job hunting, which was remarkable, but his parents wanted him to have a job, so he would stick to it. Maybe this was finally his opportunity to prove to them that he was better than Caleb. In that case, the last thing he wanted was to let it go.
Again, that didn't mean he couldn't complain about it.
On his way home that night, he called Miles. "My job sucks," he whined as soon as Miles picked up.
"I'm... sorry," Miles said, confusion clear in his voice. "I don't think I can help you."
"No one can help me," Aaron sighed, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder so he could keep both hands on the wheel. "I am hopeless; stuck in a stupid, asinine retail job where I get no respect."
"That does sound like it sucks," Miles concurred. "Do you need to vent?"
"Oh, God. I need to vent so much you have no idea."
"I don't mind listening," Miles offered, and Aaron could practically hear him smiling.
"You sure?" Aaron asked. "It's gonna get ugly."
"That's fine. I really don't mind."
Almost instantly, Aaron could feel the stress of his bad day rolling off him. He started to talk. "You know, I love bookstores probably more than the next guy, but I hate this one. The customers are always in such a hurry, and they don't bother even trying to be nice, and the other employees are all total assholes, and since I'm the new guy, I'm the target, and it's just... I hate it, so, so much." He sighed. "If quitting wouldn't disappoint my parents, I would be outta here before I could even say 'I quit'."
Miles was silent for a second. "This might be off topic," he started eventually, "but have you ever noticed that your accent gets thicker when you're angry?"
Aaron's frown turned from tense to confused. "My accent? What accent?"
"You talk like a New Yorker. Y'know, broad A's, soft R's. You've always got a touch of it, but right now you totally sound like the New Yorker cliche," Miles explained.
"Huh," Aaron muttered, brow furrowing. "I guess I've never noticed. Been living here too long." He laughed.
"I dunno. I like your accent. It makes you sound tough."
Aaron snickered. "Yeah, right. Nothing about me seems tough."
"I don't know, you've got a pretty tough attitude. I know if I wasn't already your friend, I'd be terrified of you."
This finally got Aaron to crack up. "You're a liar."
"Nah, you're a tough guy," Miles insisted. "That's how I know you can survive this job. You'll kick its ass until school starts back up, and your parents are gonna be proud."
Aaron smiled. "Thanks. I guess you're right."
"I know I'm right. You need to vent anymore?"
"No, I think I'm good. Thanks, though. For listening to me."
"No problem," Miles assured him. "You can rant at me anytime you need."
"Thanks. So, uh, talk to you later?"
Aaron was left happy, but vaguely confused and extremely curious. Miles was being incredibly nice, even nicer than he normally was. Why? He wasn't complaining in any sense of the word; he really liked Miles, and being treated so well by him was fantastic. He wanted Miles to like him almost as much as he wanted to be better than Caleb. He wasn't sure why, but Miles seemed special, somehow, and Aaron was more than glad for his friendship. When Miles was nice to him like that, Aaron found himself reassured that Miles would stick around long enough for Aaron to figure out what was so special about him.