Title: Laundry and Lightning, by SubtlePen
Category: Sappy Sweet, rated not quite M
Standalone or From Story: Stand Alone
Inspired by the following twitter prompt from rebekahwsm : rich boy finally kicked out on his ass. normal girl saves him from bleaching his darks. sex ensues.
I collapsed the handle and dragged my suitcase up onto the counter, blowing a stray hair out from between my eyes. I popped my earbuds out and shrugged my backpack down between my feet, tucking the tiny wires into a side pocket for safe keeping. Unzipping the overlarge case, I silently surveyed the room, simultaneously grateful and apprehensive at finding myself alone. The sounds around me told me I wouldn't be alone forever, though, and I wondered which of the other regulars would be joining me.
I dug into a corner of my backpack and pulled out a roll of quarters. I counted out enough for four loads, selected temperatures for each machine and shoved the slides forward. The sound of washers filling echoed around the room, adding a layer to the rhythmic noise of several dryers and tinny muzak.
I filled each machine with my presorted loads, added premeasured detergent from snack-sized zip bags, dribbled a little bleach into one from a reusable bottle, and closed the lids. I tucked my supplies away and clambered up on the table to read from my sociology textbook while the washers did their work.
A few pages later, a brief gust of fresh air cut the thick scent of fabric softener when the front door slammed open. I was surprised the plate glass didn't shatter.
"FUCK!" he screamed, stumbling over the cracked concrete threshold and barely catching himself from freefall onto the grimy laundromat floor.
My heart pounded in my throat, my face and fingers tingling with adrenalin from the shock of his startling entrance. He stood to his full height, his head hanging limp between his shoulders and fists clenching and unclenching at his side. I held my breath, wondering what the hell his problem was. He was tall and slender, like a distance runner, and was well dressed in expensive looking clothes and shoes, with a shock of too-long auburn hair hanging chaotically around a striking, angular face.
I must have gasped, because he looked up at me sharply, scowling. "What?" he demanded, hands on his hips, sounding defensive.
Fuck that. "Nothing! God. You just scared me, is all. Calm down."
He muttered under his breath something that I couldn't understand and muscled a military-sized duffle bag onto the table across from me. He went back out through the door to grab from the sidewalk, where he'd tripped before, a gallon bottle of bleach and box of laundry soap, big enough for a family of twelve. A corner of the box was crushed, and leaving a trail of white flakes across the floor. "Goddamned son of a…"
He froze in his tracks, staring daggers right through me. "You're making an enormous mess, and the attendant won't be in to clean until late tomorrow. Here." I rummaged through the interior pockets on my suitcase and offered him a plastic shopping bag big enough to hold his detergent box.
He looked from the bag, to me, and back again with a puzzled expression.
"Put the box in it. At least you won't waste any more of your expensive soap."
He reluctantly took the bag from my outstretched fingertips without another word, and clumsily stuffed the box into it, muttering obscenities all the while.
"Asshole," I mumbled, settling back onto the table with my book in my lap.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his head snap up, then tilt, his eyes heavy and sad. "Sorry. Thanks."
I nodded silently, keeping a subtle eye on his actions as he began to pour bleach and too much soap into the washer closest to mine.
He opened his duffle and dumped it onto the floor, scattering jeans and shirts and linens and socks and underwear in a huge mishmash pile at his feet. He pulled out several pair of artfully distressed and very expensive jeans, and I had to stop him just as he started to put them in the washer.
"What?" he asked, whining and annoyed.
"You just dumped enough bleach in there to send those jeans back to the eighties."
"Unless you want to look like something from a WHAM! concert, I suggest you save that washer for your whites."
"Oh. You don't bleach jeans?"
"Not with that," I said, gesturing toward his Clorox. "That's for whites – sheets, socks, towels, underwear. Whites."
"Great. Okay." He started fishing through the pile, pulling out anything white, which didn't amount to much. "Like these?"
I nodded. "Yep."
"Okay." He scratched his hand through his messy mop of hair, pushing one foot through the rest of the pile, eyeballing me. "So…"
"Let me guess. Mama's boy? Never had to do your own wash? Girlfriend kick you out?"
"No," he said, with a childish smirk.
I raised my brows, waiting.
"Pissed off my brother. He took our car home for the weekend without me, refused to take my laundry with him. Accused me of being an incompetent brat. He's an ass."
It took every ounce of control to hold back my laughter. I simply nodded, holding my fingers tightly over my lips.
Finally, he quietly acquiesced, roughly toeing through his laundry. "But apparently, he's right."
Minus the defensive attitude, he was adorable.
I watched him begin to sort his clothes, offering a little advice now and then, which he seemed to genuinely appreciate. I moved my clothes from washers to dryers and caught him watching me fold bras, peering up through his lashes while fiddling with his mp3 player, ears turning pink.
Forty-five minutes later, I loaded up my suitcase and left, offering a little wave as he awkwardly stood by the door and let me walk away.
A cold tingle clung to the back of my neck like fingers, and I wondered if it was because he watched me walk up the street. I wasn't brave enough to turn back and look, in case he hadn't.
I watched her walk away, and felt an odd twinge in my chest, and my feet twitched to follow her.
I stumbled through the laundromat door a week later, tripping over the same cracked stoop he had. It made me smile to remember. I pushed my hair out of my face and saw him standing there, hands once more full of dirty jeans, with his mouth hanging open and a slow smile overtaking a look of surprise. I had a feeling our grins matched.
"Hey," I said. "Pissed off your brother again?"
He laughed and shook his head, shoving his jeans into a washer. "Nah. He inspired me to pursue greater self-reliance."
I nodded, smiling, taking up a spot beside him with my suitcase full of laundry. "Self-reliance is good. So is knowing when to ask for help."
He bumped my hip with his. "Yeah. It's good when you're lucky enough to ask the right person, too."
I looked up to him then, and his cheeks were mottled pink as he made enormous effort to sort his whites from his colors.
After a few minutes, during which he gallantly averted his eyes from my load of delicates and underwear, he finally spoke. "What's your name?"
"Bella," she said. "Bella Swan."
I raised my eyebrows, fighting the response that leapt to mind. Seriously? Beautiful swan?
She rolled her eyes. "I know, I know."
I was glad I held my tongue.
Two weeks later, Edward brought me McDonald's, and we talked for hours, long after our laundry was dry.
"So, there I am, getting ready for prom, while my dad cleans his shotgun in front of my date. I was surprised he had the courage to kiss me goodnight!"
"I don't know, Bella. I still think headgear, acne and coke-bottle glasses trump the embarrassment of having the local sheriff for a dad."
I scoffed, laughing. "I still can't picture you like that. I may need to see evidence."
He rolled his eyes at me. "I'm still that kid, Bella. I may have straight teeth, clear skin and contacts now, but inside I'm mostly still that awkward, moody, helpless kid. I feel like that's all anyone ever sees. I'm lucky my sister has the sense to dress me well, or you probably wouldn't even be sitting here now."
I locked my eyes on his. "What did you just say?"
"Nothing." He moved to stand up, but my hand on his knee froze him in place.
"Edward that's not…"
His shoulders sagged. "Look, Bella…"
Just then, a loud crack of thunder startled us both, and the lights flickered. It made me jump, and his hands immediately covered mine. Apparently, a storm had rolled in while we wiled away the evening with small talk.
"Well, shit. Looks like it's gonna be a wet walk home."
"I can drive you. I have my truck," I offered.
"Yeah. Finally got it back from the shop."
"You don't mind?"
"Edward, you live like two blocks past me, right? No, I don't mind."
"Okay. Let's go then."
We finished packing up our bags and barely managed to get to my truck before the deluge started. Just as we drove past my building, another bright flash of lightning, too close for thunder, momentarily blinded me. I blinked, and the entire street had gone dark.
"Shit," I muttered, looking over my shoulder at my dark apartment.
"You have candles or something at home?"
"Yeah, I just get really creeped out when the power is out."
"Oh. You'll be fine, I'm sure. Right?"
"Sure," I muttered. I didn't sound very convincing, even to me.
Another long flash of lightning, this time accompanied by enormous thunder, made me shriek. My hands shook on the steering wheel as I pulled up in front of the house he rented with his brother. I looked over at him, hating to let him leave. It felt like we'd been on the brink of something back at the laundromat, and I really didn't want to be alone during this storm.
"Okay, well, thanks for the lift. I guess I'll see you next Friday. Laundry day and all…"
"You wanna come back to my place?" The words tumbled out of my mouth and I cringed afterwards, feeling like a pushy whore. "I mean, you know, to talk. And stuff. 'Cause we were talking… before, and 'cause I really hate storms, and with the power out I just…"
He cut me off. "Um, yeah. Sure. I can do that. I'd like that. Definitely. We could talk more."
I let out a deep breath, tightening my shaking hands on the steering wheel. "Okay. Cool." Another round of thunder and lightning made me jump.
"Whoa, hey." I felt his warm hand on my shoulder. "You're really not good with storms, are you?"
I shrugged with a forced smile, and pulled a u-turn to head back to my apartment.
We parked in front of the converted old Victorian, barely able to see the darkened front door through the sheeting rain.
She fumbled in the glove box and brandished a wicked looking Mag-lite, probably courtesy of her sheriff father. "I'll get the door if you'll carry my laundry? You can leave yours in here if you want, and I'll drive you home later."
"Okay. On three?"
She nodded, eyes wary.
"Three!" she yelled, jumping out of the truck while I struggled to wrangle her laundry and the truck door at the same time. She had to fiddle with the sticky front door lock, while the rain soaked us both to the skin. We scrambled through the doorway laughing and grumbling, looking like a pair of dishrags. She clicked on the flashlight and led me up the stairs.
"My apartment's up here. It's a great old house, kind of a shame they chopped it up into apartments."
We reached her door, and she had to fumble with her keys again, juggling the enormous flashlight and her backpack. "Here we go. Come on in." She opened the door and pushed it aside, ushering me in ahead of her.
"No, you go," I said. "I don't know where I'm going and you have the light."
"Oh, yeah. Right." She walked in and automatically turned to the right to flip on a light switch, which of course didn't work.
"Shit. That was dumb."
I had to laugh.
I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity, glad he couldn't see my blush. He was here, in my apartment, after weeks of laundry, innuendo and half-assed flirting. Here, where I had dreamed about cooking for him, watching movies with him, doing stupid nothing with him, and it had taken the mother of all thunderstorms to loosen my lips.
I told him to just drop the laundry anywhere, and left him standing in the dark while I went to the bathroom for towels. I came back with three towels and two battery-operated lanterns, which seemed to surprise him. I tossed one of the towels over my shoulder, handed him the second, and dropped the third by the door, where I kicked off my shoes and encouraged him to do the same.
"Camp much?" he asked as I lit the lanterns.
"Worked two summers at a sporting goods and outdoor store," I shrugged. "They're handy."
He nodded, shivering, draping the towel around his neck like a cape.
"Oh, Edward! You're freezing!" I took the towel off my shoulder and stepped closer, wrapping it around his head, scrubbing it through his hair and then gently across his face. He hummed and leaned into my hands, but continued to shiver.
"C'mon." I dragged him toward my room. "I can give you something dry to wear before you freeze to death."
He followed me somewhat reluctantly, and stood stock still beside my bed while I rummaged through the back of my closet for something that might fit. I came up with a pair of my 'fat day' sweat pants, which would probably look like capris on him, and an oversized tee shirt I'd stolen from my dad.
"Here." I started to hand him the clothes and walk away, but he just stood there, locked in place and staring after me. I turned back to him and finished rubbing the towel through his hair, then began to tug his shirt up over his head. He let me, standing like a small boy needing to be tended, while I fussed and cooed over him, trying to warm him up. I vigorously rubbed the his towel over his shoulders and chest, standing close and mumbling nonsense about goose bumps and pneumonia, when I realized his hands had slowly crept up my back and begun to do the same for me.
I stopped instantly.
I felt his warm, shaking breath in my ear as his hands worked the towel through my hair, gently squeezing the water out. I leaned toward him just until my cheek grazed his jaw, and his breath caught. I thought I heard him whisper my name, so I whispered his in return.
When I felt his fingertips graze the skin of my waist, the only other sounds in the room were that of rain and wind, the creaking of the old oak outside my window, and the low rumble of receding thunder.
He lifted the hem of my sopping shirt, and I lifted my arms in encouragement as he mumbled back to me my own words about goose bumps and pneumonia.
I think I heard my shirt hit the floor with a wet plop, but was more focused on his arms around me; steel bars holding me to him, immovable from shoulder to hip as I felt my body surrender and sag against him with a sigh. His skin was cool and damp, but rapidly warming as my hands explored his back and arms.
His lips silenced mine with an insistent kiss that mellowed into hesitant tenderness as he second-guessed the bold move.
"Oh, Bella… I don't know how to do any of this." He pressed his forehead into the crook of my neck, holding me tightly.
"Sure you do," I comforted.
"No, Bella. I don't. There's never been… no one has ever…"
"Shhh. Do you want…?"
"So much, Bella. You're all I think about. Fridays at that damned laundromat. Every day, I wish was Friday."
"Then don't worry about it. Just be here, with me. I want whatever you want, and I don't care what you have or haven't…"
He kissed me again, sweet and slow, gently pushing for more, but never demanding, never rushing to whatever came next. We fell to my bed, clumsily kicking aside the rest of our wet clothes, laughing at ourselves, nervous and eager. His lips and hands were so strong and gentle, ready to learn and try, willing to take what was offered, and finally unafraid to take and claim. He was shy with his own body at first, but as he listened to my words and felt the way my body responded, I think he began to believe. He was beautiful.
Hours later, the storm long since passed, we settled into a happy tangle of warm skin and loose limbs. Sated and silly, and suddenly bashful, he curled into my side, hiding his face.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Stroking his cheek and encouraging him to look up, I asked him "what for?"
"Always taking care of me. Since the first time we met… and tonight. I'm not very…"
"Hey. I don't want to talk about what either of us isn't. What matters is what we are, and that's here, right now, together. Right? Besides, you take care of me, too."
He smiled and quietly agreed. "I really liked that you needed me tonight."
"For more than just the storm, Edward. And not just tonight. For everything. Always. Fridays aren't enough for me, either."
He kissed me, softly, with the promise of more right behind it as his body began to move against mine once more. "Yeah?"
I sighed, moving to take him in again, right where he belonged. "Yeah."
I'm cleaning out my fic folders and posting things I've written as gifts or previously posted elsewhere. This was originally written for the Friday Free For All on twilighted back in December 2010.