AU Laundry day! yay! A theme that has been done to death. A machine as old as dirt and a girl uncomfortable with the prospect of washing clothes.
Kaoru eyed the washer and dryer in Misao's apartment. Just how old was that machine? It looked like it was older than... than something really old. Like that slice of pizza in the back of her refrigerator... Kaoru grimaced, pulling her mind back to the subject at hand. Her laundry. Megumi had been kind enough to sort her laundry and pinned notes to each bag with instructions for their washing and drying. Actually, Megumi had snatched her laundry bag and resorted her clothes all the while berating her for mixing whites and colors. What was the problem with that? She shrugged and chalked it up to one of Megumi's strange rules. Like the one where Kaoru wasn't allowed to make dinner. She scowled. Actually, she knew where that one came from. That fire wasn't her fault anyway.
Back to the washer and dryer. Kaoru was alone in the apartment. Misao was out with her martial artist friends and had graciously given Kaoru permission to wash her laundry since the laundromat was questionable. Finally gathering her resolve, Kaoru lifted the lid of the washer, cautiously peering into the dark interior. Was it supposed to have little holes all over the inside? She took a deep breath. “Okay, Kaoru, you can do this. You've done laundry before.”
Not entirely true but no one was there to call her on it. Someone usually loaded and pushed the buttons for her. It certainly didn't look that hard when they did it. Deciding that nothing was getting washed while she pondered her life, she reached for her whites and dumped them into the washer. Taking the little tupperware cup for whites—once again, courtesy of Megumi—she dumped the liquid and closed the lid. Now she just had to start the thing. Carefully following Megumi's instructions, she pushed a few buttons and stepped back proudly when the machine whirled to life. That wasn't that hard. The washer hummed merrily and Kaoru left the laundry closet to relax on the sofa with a book.
Thirty minutes passed quickly and she heard the washer shut off with a loud click. She was successful and she didn't even have any help from anyone! Well... almost no help. She was going to ignore Megumi's forced assistance earlier. With a light heart, Kaoru went to transfer the laundry. The hard part was over after all. Kaoru entered the laundry closet and set about pulling damp clothing out of the machine. Carelessly, she tossed the laundry into the dryer before she really gave the device a good look. Had the dryer aged fifty years in the thirty minutes it took to wash the clothes? Surely it wasn't that old before. She closed the dryer, cringing when she heard the metallic shriek of the hinges. Hopefully the thing didn't rattle apart on her when she was here by herself. She'd never live that one down.
There was only one large button on the dryer and Kaoru was relieved that at least she couldn't screw this part up. She pushed the button and the dryer groaned to a start, squeaking and creaking as it started its cycle. Kaoru barely had time to relax before a bright flicker came from under the dryer, a soft pop was heard and she caught the faintest whiff of smoke. Heart pounding, she lunged for the dryer door, yanking it open with more force than it probably required. Now what? Was that normal? Hands shaking, she closed the dryer door again and stared. Should she try again? She bit her lip. Megumi would kill her if she let the clothes sit wet too long. What's the worst that could happen if she tried again?
It was decided. Kaoru pushed the button.
POP! CRACK! SHHH...
She couldn't stop the surprised squeal that escaped her at the bright flash that erupted from beneath the dryer and she scrambled to wrench it open, getting a face full of acrid, gray smoke. She coughed, waving a hand in front of her face to clear the air. Great. Just great. Suddenly, she realized she was standing in semi-darkness. Had she forgotten to turn the light on when she walked in? She squinted toward the light switch. No, it was on. Could her day get any worse? A fuse was blown, she decided. She'd done it enough at her own apartment to know what to do now. For the next fifteen minutes, she searched the small apartment from top to bottom and failed to find a single fuse. Frustrated, she decided to dig for the phone book to call up the apartment complex. There was no way she was going to call Misao and interrupt the wedding she was attending.
The first number she tried was not a working number but the second one answered on the fourth ring. A bored woman's voice answered with a monotone, “Hello.”
Kaoru pursed her lips, trying to decide the best way to phrase the fact that she was standing in the dark before giving up. “I blew up the dryer.”
She cringed. That was probably not the best way to explain her problem.
At least the office lady sounded more interested now, might as well run with it. “Yes, I blew up my dryer and now the lights won't turn on.”
“Oh, well, our normal maintenance guy is off right now. I'd have to call the emergency maintenance.”
And that mattered to Kaoru because...? She was in the dark, the air conditioning was no longer working, and it was the middle of August. “Okay.”
“I'll call as soon as I hang up and he should be over there in a few minutes.”
Kaoru rattled off the apartment she was in, hung up, and settled on the sofa to await help.
Kaoru scowled. Who knew that “a few minutes” would be closer to an hour. She was just about to call the apartment office back to give them a piece of her mind when she heard a knock. She opened the door, scowl still firmly in place, only to blink in surprise at the man standing outside. This couldn't be maintenance. He was... short. Not much taller than herself really and she was short. Her eyes swept over his form. Blue jeans hung loosely on him, bunching over worn running shoes, and his button-up shirt was untucked... he also had the longest red hair she'd seen in a long time tied back in a tail. He had nice hair... He smiled and she stared. “Did you call for maintenance?”
“Uh... yes. Are you maintenance?”
His smiled broadened, amusement shinning in amethyst eyes. “That I am. May I come in?”
She moved back, allowing him to step into the apartment. He glanced around before turning his attention to her, head tilting slightly. “I heard you blew up your dryer.”
Kaoru flushed with mortification. It was unfair. Now she looked like a moron. “Well, I don't think it was really my fault.”
He chuckled softly. “Of course not.”
She turned away, stalking toward the laundry closet, not noticing the appreciative gaze that followed her. “I couldn't find the fuse box so I had to call someone more familiar with the building to do that for me. After that, you can leave.”
He strolled after her. “It's not that easy, that it is not.”
He ignored the frown that she directed at him. “I've blown plenty of fuses. It's all a matter of resetting them.”
The laundry closet was dark and the maintenance guy—you'd think he'd give his name—whipped out a flashlight and handed it to her. “Hold this. I'm going to make sure you don't have a fire.”
Kaoru nearly swallowed her tongue. Fire? He jerked the dryer back from the wall, scrambled on top to peer behind it before sliding off and kneeling on the floor to peer under the machine. He certainly was an agile guy, Kaoru mused. She wondered how old he was. When he stood again, dusting his jeans, he gave her a sardonic look. “This thing's ancient. Where'd you find such a thing?”
“It's not mine. I don't even live here. I don't have a washer and dryer at my place yet.”
He nodded. “Is the dryer off?”
“I'm going to reset the fuse. Wait here.”
He stepped around her and she turned, holding up the flashlight. “I couldn't find the fuse box.”
To her surprise, he turned and winked at her. “You're in luck then. I know exactly where it is.”
The lights flicked on and Kaoru heard the air conditioner kick on. She sighed in relief. It'd been getting stuffy in the tiny apartment. The maintenance guy walked in a few seconds later and took his flashlight back with a smile. “There, that's better. Now, let's check out your dryer and see what's wrong.”
He picked up the plug—when did he unplug that? Kaoru shook herself. She should pay more attention to what he was doing and not the way his shirt tightened across his back and shoulders when he leaned. He was speaking. “Call an ambulance if I get shocked.”
What? No. “Wait!”
He started in surprise, settling back on his heels to look at her expectantly. She blushed. What was she going to say now? He'd probably think she was a mental case... he probably already thought that. Ouch. Not a very encouraging thought, Kaoru. “You never told me your name.”
She nodded. “If I have to call an ambulance I at least want to be able to tell them who needs help. I can't really just say 'I think some guy in my apartment is dead.' I don't think that'd go over very well.”
His lips tilted in amusement. “Kenshin Himura. I'm the emergency maintenance guy. The usual maintenance man is with his wife at the hospital. This is a hobby.”
Kaoru couldn't stop the sense of relief she felt. So he was emergency maintenance. Good thing. If he was the normal maintenance guy women would be breaking things all the time. She reddened. Now why was she thinking things like that? She was just relieved for him. Yeah, that's it. “My name's Kaoru.”
“Nice to meet you, Miss Kaoru. Are you ready for me to plug this back in?”
She nodded and watched as he leaned over the dryer again. Wonder if he has a girlfriend. He probably does. Kenshin lined up the plugs and she held her breath as he firmly pushed it into the wall... Nothing happened.
“Well, I'm severely disappointed.”
Violet eyes flicked towards her in amusement. “Shall we turn it on and see what happens?”
Kaoru eyed the machine warily. “I don't know. I don't really trust it.”
She raised a skeptical eyebrow. “That's supposed to comfort me?”
He shrugged with a laugh. “I'd rather it blow up when I'm here than when I'm not.”
Wasn't that just chivalrous of him? She motioned to the dryer. “Be my guest.”
Kenshin pushed the single button on the machine and it sounded like a few small bombs went off. Smoke filled the small room causing them both to cough. Kenshin jerked the plug from the wall and attempted to wave the smoke away from his face. It was with some satisfaction that Kaoru realized that she wasn't the only one to blow up the dryer. Kenshin stared at the machine in distaste before turning to Kaoru. “I am of the opinion that the dryer is dead. I'd advise you to not use it again and to find a new one.”
Kaoru scowled. “Easy for you to say. You're not the one with a pile of wet laundry and no money.” She showed him out, pausing at the apartment door. “Thank you for coming by.”
He nodded and she turned to close the door. “Miss Kaoru?”
She turned to look at him, taking in the pink dusting his cheeks and the sudden nervousness in his stance. It was strange seeing that in a guy who seemed so confident. He fidgeted. “You may finish your laundry at my place if you'd like.”
Kaoru stared. Was he serious? He had to be. Was he asking her out? That'd be a weird first date. He grimaced, taking her silence as rejection. “I'm sorry. That was unprofessional of me, that it was. Good bye, Miss Kaoru.”
He turned and Kaoru scrambled for something to say. “Can I do my laundry at your place?”
He nodded uncertainly and she grinned. “Let me grab my things. I'll be right out.”
She was out the door in five minutes and strolling along beside Kenshin. He'd been kind enough to offer to carry her wet laundry while she carried the dry. They loaded it into her car and he quickly gave her directions to his place in case she lost him in the traffic. He paused before he went to his car, looking at her carefully. “Have you had dinner yet?”
Suddenly, Kaoru didn't think doing laundry was such a terrible thing after all.
AN: I lost my train of thought halfway through the one-shot. You can probably tell. Anyway, most of this story has been sitting on my hard drive for about 2 months and I've finally finished it. I hope this isn't a complete failure.