250 sighed noisily and fwumped yet another stack of clothes on the counter. A freshly pressed dress shirt stared up at him from the top of the pile, buttons winking in the light. 250 eyed the offending article of clothing before shooting a sharp look at its offending owner. As usual, 300 sat in his favorite armchair, legs crossed, a newspaper open. He looked the picture of a 1950s sitcom father. 250 huffed and crossed his arms behind the counter.
The newspaper twitched. 300 looked up. "Is something wrong?"
250 frowned. Normally, 300's refusal to help around the house wasn't a real issue - more like something to be thrown in the Scot's face periodically, just to remind him who did the actual work when the day was done. But today, 250 had cleaned the entire house top to bottom: dusting, sweeping, wiping, scrubbing, even vacuuming and mopping; from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchen to basement. And 250 could have tolerated doing all that by himself - it was, after all, his house, and it needed a clean - but having to iron and fold 300's laundry after all that had pushed him just beyond his breaking point.
"Look," 250 sighed, thumping his hand on the stack of shirts, "I know you always bring up the maid, but is it really too much to ask you to help out even a little?" He held up two fingers a centimeter apart. "That much. Just that much."
300 frowned a little, his newspaper drooping. He furrowed his brow in thought, his gaze drifting toward the wall. 250 could've sworn there was a flicker of guilt in the man's eyes. Finally, 300 exhaled and snapped his paper open, burying his nose in it. "I don't see why you need me. You seem to do a fine job of it."
250 summoned his patience. "I don't need you to help. Technically. But I'm exhausted today. I did a lot of work around the house, and it would've been nice if you'd at least helped with the laundry or... or the dishes or something." He sighed and loosened his arms, massaging the scar around his bellybutton. "I'm not asking you on the grounds of fairness, because then you'd just bring up the maid. I'm asking you, as your partner, to help me because that's what partners do."
300's eyes were steadily filling with guilt behind the thin screen of the newspaper. 250 couldn't help but feel a little bad - 300 was an unintentional master of the kicked puppy face, after all - but he couldn't go on doing all the work forever. His fellow agent needed to be taught a lesson. So 250 sighed and went for the kill: "Hell, even my scars are aching, and you know I wouldn't usually complain about that."
300 shrank into the armchair a little, the newspaper rising higher to block his face. He'd already heard about 250's extensive spring cleaning when he'd first arrived - he'd even complimented the amount of work that the man had somehow managed to fit into a single day. He couldn't very well insult the effort that he'd already praised, especially not when he was getting a guilt trip on top of it. "I... suppose that's fair," he conceded from behind the newspaper.
"Uh-huh," 250 droned. He leaned over the counter to get a better look at his partner. "So if I asked you to come finish the laundry right now because I'm tired, and my scars are aching, and I've worked hard around the house all day, you'd do it?"
The newspaper rose a little higher as 300 slumped a little lower. "Well..."
"Well, what?" 250 asked, more drily than he'd intended.
With a sharp sigh, 300 snapped the paper shut and neatly folded it. "Well, all right." He dropped the paper on the coffee table, shucked his jacket, and strode to where 250 stood behind the counter. Gamely, he rolled up his sleeves and picked up one of 250's unfolded t-shirts.
And frowned at it.
Then frowned at the neat pile of folded shirts.
Then frowned at the t-shirt again.
250 watched the inaction skeptically. Finally, he asked, "Is there a problem with my t-shirt? Because if this is about my wardrobe again, I don't wanna hear it."
300 swiveled around, his expression halfway between flustered and irritated. "Aren't you supposed to be off relaxing now? Isn't that what this is about?" He flapped the t-shirt in the general direction of the armchair. "Why don't you go read the paper?"
250 stifled a smirk and complied, settling himself in the cushy chair and slowly unfolding the newspaper. And he spent several admittedly relaxing minutes studying the day's headlines. After polishing off the front page, the editorials, and the sports section, he peeked up over the top of the paper.
300 had laid the shirt face-up on the counter and was staring at it very anxiously, his chin cupped in his hand. Hesitantly, he picked up a sleeve and turned it inwards, then immediately reversed his decision and went back to tapping his mouth worriedly. 250 lowered the paper a little.
"Have you... ever folded a shirt?"
The immediate flush of scarlet on 300's face was all the answer 250 needed. Sighing, but unable to suppress a small smile, he re-folded the newspaper and dropped it on the coffee table. He hauled himself out of the seat and crossed to where 300 stood behind the counter. Taking his time, 250 flipped the t-shirt face-down, folded each side in, creased the center horizontally, and then folded the whole thing in half. "There. Easy."
300 was still bright red. 250 raised his eyebrows. "300? You okay?"
The Scot blinked as if waking from a dream, his cheeks fading to pink. "Yes. Of course." He picked up another t-shirt and laid it on the counter. And frowned at it worriedly.
Fighting back a grin, 250 elected to take advantage of the situation. He slipped behind 300 and guided his hands through the process. "See, you fold one side in first. Then the other. Then you fold it in half so it makes a box." Tucking his chin over 300's shoulder, 250 flipped the t-shirt over and wiggled his fingers. "Tada."
Sighing again, 300 added it to the stack and picked up yet another t-shirt. Cautiously, he laid it face-down, folded in both sides, and brought the bottom up to the top. He flipped it back over.
"See? Easy," 250 murmured, wrapping his arms around 300's waist.
300 was still a little pink. "I suppose," he mumbled.
250 nestled against the juncture of 300's shoulder and neck. "Why didn't you just tell me you didn't know from the start? I'd have been happy to teach you."
300 managed a smirk. "Ah, yes, and then you'd never hire a maid because you could simply guilt me into doing all your work?"
250 poked him in the ribs. "Maybe I wouldn't have guilted you so much if you'd just told me you didn't know how to fold clothes."
"Well maybe I just didn't want to look like an idiot," 300 replied, wriggling to escape 250's grasp.
Rolling his eyes, 250 turned him around by the shoulders and offered a smile. "300. You don't look like an idiot." He brushed a thumb against 300's cheek. "All I wanted was for you to make an effort to help. And you did."
300 leaned into 250's hand for a moment, but he soon frowned and pulled away. "I don't see how I can possibly be much help if you have to re-fold all your shirts or re-wash all your dishes."
250 had to blink. "You don't know how to wash dishes?"
300's blush was redder than before, if possible. He glanced left and right, avoiding his partner's gaze. 250 stared at him uncertainly. Finally meeting the American's eyes, 300 ventured, "No?"
250 blinked once more before his features softened into a gentle smile. "Have you ever done any housework at all?"
300's face turned fluorescent. He folded his arms and pouted at the wall. "I... I don't see how that's relevant."
250 snorted. He caught 300's wrist and pulled him back in front of the unfolded laundry. 300 blinked at him in confusion. Smiling, 250 picked up a pair of jeans and motioned to the pile. "C'mon. We'll practice together." His grin widened. "I'll reward you for trying."
Still blushing lightly, 300 cleared his throat and picked up another pair of pants. He mulled that over for a moment, looking at 250 sideways. Finally, he asked, "Is it with the chance to burn some of your t-shirts?"
250 thwacked him with the jeans.
Obviously this is a bit different for me, but what can I say? I stumbled across Niels & Gang by the lovely Humon and fell in love with these two.
According to Humon, "Agent 300's dark secret is that he doesn't know how to do housework because his family always had people to do the dirty work, and seeing 250 do it makes him feel useless and embarrassed."
The word that caught me was "useless," because I've known people exactly like that. And if there's one thing I've learned from them, it's that there's few worse feelings than the sense that everyone knows how to do something commonsense but you.
So naturally this fluffy little thing came out of that tragic sentiment.
Let me know what you think, and as always, thanks for reading.