Synopsis: (AU) (KK) A chance meeting at a local Laundromat brings two unsuspecting people together. Their differences draw them to each other and bind them with an invisible tie. See what happens in this 3-part story of discovery, friendship, love and subtle humor.
Author's Note: This is definitely not the most original idea for a story I've come up with, but I do like the idea. Funny enough, it was actually written inside a Laundromat while I was washing my hoard of laundry, because the washer in my house conveniently broke when a pile of clothes the size of Mt. Everest accumulated in the laundry room. Fortunately, I had a notebook with me, so when I was struck by a sudden zing of inspiration for this 'extended one-shot' I was able to start writing before my muse deserted me.
I plan on making this a 3-part story. I'm not sure how fast the next two installments will come out, but since I have the story completely planned out, the gaps between the two updates will be as minimal as possible.
Erm…and I know I'm a little insane for starting another fic, no matter how small it is. But, hey, I can't help what pops into my head, right? (wink)
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin
Carrying a full, pink laundry basket awkwardly in her arms, Kaoru deftly weaved through the numerous people clustered randomly on the congested sidewalk. The worn blue jeans she wore hung on her slim frame while the faded aqua t-shirt had definitely seen better days. The beautiful weather of the mid-afternoon cloaked the busy city street with cheerful brightness; the brilliant sun shining through the thin clouds. The trees adjacent to the overcrowded sidewalk flourished with green beauty while many multihued flowers peppered the mulch-filled flowerbeds. Kaoru smiled absentmindedly at a giggling toddler who passed by with her fussy mother.
Scanning the broad and colorful signs above the doors of the businesses lining the street, Kaoru chewed her bottom lip in thought. Megumi had said the local Laundromat was on the corner of 8th and Duncan, but as she neared that very corner, Kaoru sighed in mild frustration when she didn't see it immediately. A Chinese restaurant emitting a delicious aroma of pungent spices hugged one corner while a cozy coffee shop, smelling of freshly brewed coffee beans, bordered the other.
Oh, but wait.
There it was.
The small Laundromat with shiny yellow lettering over the door hid subtly between two small knick-knack shops on the third corner. The door was made of partially shaded glass, hiding the occupants within.
Shifting the heavy basket in her arms, Kaoru shuffled up to the door and pushed it open to step into the crowded self-serve Laundromat. The thick air was filled to the brim with jumbled voices, whirs of machinery, and the hum of the noisy air conditioner. People stood in literally almost every corner of the small building. And, unfortunately for Kaoru, it appeared as if all the rumbling washers were already occupied with a current cycle of dirty laundry.
Somewhat frustrated that she would be forced to wait before beginning her washing, Kaoru parked herself next to a row of washers and leaned against the stark white wall, propping the increasingly heavy mass of clothes she carried against the top of a black metal stand holding free real estate brochures. She scrunched her toes inside her green tennis shoes and shifted her right shoulder in a circular motion to work out an uncomfortable kink.
With curious eyes, Kaoru let her sapphire gaze dance over the many occupants of the room. All of the hard orange plastic chairs lining the wall were filled with people who lazily scanned brochures or newspapers, waiting as patiently as possible for their current laundry cycle to end.
A woman with dark hair sat in one of those chairs, a young girl perched merrily in her lap. The woman held a colorful children's book in her hands, reading with excited animation and bringing the characters within to magical life. To the woman's right, a man with dark brown hair tapped his fingers against his leg as he scanned the headlines of the day's newspaper. Many others slouched uninterestingly, their blank faces hiding their thoughts.
But, there was one person who stood out from the rest of the crowd. Maybe it was his vividly bright, red hair that made the slight young man visually pop from the mess of people, or maybe it was the way he was dressed in such a haphazard manner.
Kaoru tilted her head to the side and blinked with amazed curiosity as she took in every detail of his miss-matched attire, from the tips of his shoes to the top of his brilliantly colored hair.
The brow and white checkered button-up shirt he wore was comfortably wrinkled and only tucked half-way into his dark brown slacks. The end of one side of his shirt spilled over the lip of his pants, partially covering his white leather belt. His slacks were almost an inch too short, baring his yellow socks and scuffed black loafers. He had a shiny silver bracelet on his left wrist while a regular rubber band barely controlled the long mass of tangled red hair. But, because his back was turned to Kaoru, she couldn't see his face. A shame since Kaoru became more and more intrigued by him with each passing second.
With a sigh, Kaoru slid her eyes down to the dirty gray linoleum floor and shifted her legs to alter the onslaught of pressure from the laundry basket. She was just about to pull out a single piece of cotton candy flavored bubble gum when she noticed the red-head open the lid of his washer and start to unload a mangled mass of wet and tangled clothing.
When he finished and stepped away, Kaoru hesitated a few moments to see if anyone else planned on using it. Everyone remained impassive, continuing their immediate exploits to alleviate the impending boredom which threatened to take them over. With a slight shrug and hint of a small smile, Kaoru pushed off from the hard wall and headed in a quickened pace over to the vacant washer. Dropping the pink laundry basket on the floor with a semi-loud plop, she reached for the small sample packet of laundry detergent Megumi had thrown at her on her out of the apartment. Kaoru opened the lid of the washer, looked inside…then froze.
A pair of white boxers with little pink and red scattered hearts lay dejectedly at the bottom of the washer, abandoned by their former owner. Kaoru let out a little cough and stared at the boxers for a moment, unsure as to what her next move should be. Hesitantly, she reached her hand inside, wrapped her fingers around the elastic band at the waist and pulled them out from the bottom of the washer.
She held the colorful boxers a little away from her body, while eyeing them with careful suspicion. Turning, Kaoru quickly scanned for the young man who stuck out like a sore thumb. Thankfully, he had only traveled a few feet away and was still loading his damp laundry into a dryer. A few quick steps later, Kaoru stood by his side.
With a thrust of her arm, Kaoru dangled the underpants beneath his unsuspecting nose.
In a somewhat sardonic tone, she asked, "Forget something?"
He jumped slightly, caught off guard by Kaoru's abrupt interruption and turned wide amethyst eyes to her frowning face. His face, though slightly subtle in its beauty, was clear, kind and striking. His unusual eyes slid down from her own face to the boxers she held out in her hand. Kaoru watched, silently amused, as a faint blush crept across his pale features, revealing his acute bashful embarrassment. He swallowed, opened his mouth to reply, and then closed it when he could think of nothing immediately to say. Reaching out, he gingerly took the boxers from her and let his now full hand to fall limply at his side.
With a last glance at his attractive features, Kaoru turned and went back over to her laundry before someone else stole her washer right from under her nose. She had just started to throw some of the clothes she brought with her into the washer when she heard a hesitant voice behind her.
"Um, thank you."
Kaoru stopped in mid-motion and turned to the young man while clutching a yellow t-shirt in her hand. She straightened from her bend position, laying the t-shirt down on the edge of the washer and tilted her head to the side as a smile of quizzical questions graced her lips.
"You're welcome," she replied softly in a kind voice. "I'm sure it happens all the time."
He nodded slowly in response, his expression unreadable, though a hint of curiosity loomed in his blinking amethyst orbs.
Tearing her eyes from his captivating gaze, Kaoru bit her bottom lip between her teeth and shifted her stance, bopping her foot against the bottom of the metal washer with a muted thump. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him fidget as if plagued by some unknown matter. He rested his hand atop an adjacent washer and leaned toward Kaoru slightly.
In a polite voice, strengthened with acclimated confidence, he said, "You aren't planning on putting all those clothes together are you?"
The red-haired man blinked at Kaoru somewhat anxiously as an onslaught of self-consciousness hit him full force. He froze as Kaoru turned her suddenly perplexed gaze to him. In response, he rolled his weight back on his heels and sucked in a cautious breath.
Kaoru darted her eyes back and forth between the baffling man and her load of colorful laundry, her eyes filling with a cloud of befuddlement. Leaning over to grab a white blouse and a deep red t-shirt from the laundry basket, Kaoru peered at him with a frown. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to her.
"Not going to what?" she asked, involuntarily clenching the cotton shirt in her hand.
He hesitated a split second, obviously debating on whether to go on with his unknown advice. But he sighed solemnly, deciding to forge on dangerously. "You aren't going to wash those clothes together, I mean. It's a common rule of thumb not to, uh, wash your whites with colors. And especially avoid washing your delicates with casual clothes, like jeans for example," he replied, pointing to blouse she held, then motioning to countless pairs of jeans and kakis underneath more shirts in her laundry basket.
Having never actually journeyed into the complex art of washing clothes, the young man's words were confusing alien babble to Kaoru. Delicates? Not washing everything together? She had never heard anything like that before. Megumi would have warned her about this, right? After all Megumi's clothes were mixed in the pink laundry basket with Kaoru's, and she knew Kaoru had never operated a washer.
Plus Kaoru was completely hopeless in the area of home and personal care. Especially in the kitchen and with the housecleaning. Kaoru's expertise ran towards the 'cross me and I'll give you a black eye'. She definitely wasn't known for her patience.
Kaoru sighed shallowly, narrowing her eyes in thought. Her eyes scanned slap-dash appearance of the male specimen standing somewhat nervously in front of her, and expelled a breath of weary musing.
"I don't mean to be rude, but if anything was wrong with the way I'm washing this stuff," Kaoru started, waving her hand over the basket of miscellaneous clothing, "I'm sure my roommate would have told me."
Her reply caught him off-guard, causing him to blink wearily her. "Ah. Well," he responded with a slight wince, "I guess you should follow the advice of someone you feel comfortable with, right?"
He shoved his hands into his shallow pockets and moved back from her with an unsteady step of indecision. He hated for the pretty young woman to bungle all her laundry, but he couldn't force her to follow his correct logical advice. Some things, it seemed, had to be learned the hard way through perilous experience.
He'd had learned that a long time ago.
Nodding slowly, he told her, "My name's Kenshin. If you need any help, feel free to ask me."
Leaning against the washer, Kaoru smiled and watched him turn his back on her before she could reply to his simple statement. Slightly abased at her refusal to acknowledge his advice, Kaoru turned to her laundry and loaded it into the white machine soon to be full of sudsy water. Dumping the detergent on top of the clothes, Kaoru shut the lid, inserted her coins into the small metal slots, and made sure the button for the cycle with warm water was depressed. Sighing with cautious approval, Kaoru rested her hands on her hips and turned away from the complex machine.
She walked languidly over to the wall of orange plastic chairs and plopped down into an empty one, slumping as a small wave of doubt flushed her face.
What an unusual name.
At this moment, the unusual Kenshin stood in front of his dryer as if guarding the tumbling clothes that warmed from the building heat within. His head was downcast while his arms were crossed over his chest.
Kaoru fidgeted in her chair, and crossed one leg over the other. She wiggled her foot in an agitated fashion, impatiently brooding while her laundry revolved in the rumbling washer. Picking an Avon pamphlet sitting on the small brochure stand beside her, Kaoru thumbed through the brightly highlighted pages with disinterest.
The shrill melody of a cell phone ring broke through the mindless chatter of the Laundromat occupants and the irritating jumble of machinery. Kaoru lifted her head slowly from the pages of the small commercial magazine and watched as Kenshin pulled a phone from his pocket and began to speak in a calm manner to the person on the other line. A vague smile touched his lips while his expression shifted to a sardonic tilt. Running hand through his mussed hair, he laughed softly into the phone, muttered some cryptic replies with a humorous slant to his lips, then hung up as he shook his head slowly in disbelief, silently amazed by some unknown event.
With a heavy sigh, Kaoru turned back to her boring magazine and decided to ignore the whirl of life going on around her.
Thirty minutes later, Kaoru snapped out of her listless daze, deciding her laundry better be good and clean, else she'd personally go talk to the management about the ridiculously slow machines. Placing her feet flat on the floor, Kaoru pushed up from her seat and stepped the few paces over to her washer. Thankfully, the cycle had ended. Lifting the lid, Kaoru smiled triumphantly as she peered at her wet clothes. It appeared as if the washer had done its job admirably.
Kaoru grabbed her laundry basket and proceeded to dump the clumped, wet clothes inside it for easy transportation to the wall of countless dryers. Once the basket was full and the washer deserted of every piece of clothing, Kaoru shut the lid with a resounding clank and hefted the heavy basket with some difficulty. Straining under the unexpected weight, Kaoru trudged slowly to the dryers. Loading the clothes inside, she let out a low expletive when she scraped the back of her hand against the hinge of the door. With a grunt of annoyance, Kaoru closed the dryer's door loudly and shook her head in agitation as she placed the coins inside the machine to bring it to glorious life.
"They better dry fast," Kaoru muttered to herself in an agitated tone, slipping her hands into her back jean pockets as she watched the machine commence its motions of revolving torture.
An estimated forty minutes later, Kaoru leaned wearily against a washer behind her and watched with revealed relief as the dryer beeped and slowly stopped, coming to a gradual halt. Kaoru smiled to herself with congratulatory glee as she opened the dryer's door and started to pull out her crisp, warm and thankfully dry clothes. Though, her happy motions slowed as Kaoru pulled out a formerly white shirt, now dyed a splotchy red, also statically clinging to a shirt that looked like it belonged to a hobbit. A distressed moan of horror bubbled in the back of Kaoru's throat as her eyes widened with unbelief.
Megumi was going to kill her.
Frantic now, Kaoru shuffled through many clothes and felt her erratically beating heart slip down into her churning stomach. Rubbing a hand over her eyes in a weary move of disbelief, Kaoru slumped against the edge of dryer with a hysterical laugh and gritted her teeth together. The blouse Megumi had paid a bundle for now looked like a swirled mass of nightmarish blue and red streaks.
Definitely not the best day of her life. Not by a freaking long shot.
With jerky motions, Kaoru shoved the clothes quickly into the basket while muttering to herself angrily.
Minutes later, on her way out of the nightmarish building of demonic machines, Kaoru made a last scan of the people, searching for Kenshin in particular. Apparently in one of her moments of acute distraction, she'd missed his departure. Guilt settled heavily in her mind as she thought of the way she'd easily dismissed his careful and well-meaning advice. Now, she wished with all her heart she'd followed his simple instructions.
Sighing, Kaoru pushed out into the dark night, her breath creating a small puff of humidity in the frigid air. She shuddered slightly against the bitter breeze and plodded down the sidewalk, the laundry basket underneath her arm.
She doubted she'd ever see Kenshin again.
Author's Note: Make sure to leave me a review and tell me your thoughts. I live for reviews! (wink)