Clutter: Mangled by forthright
Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this bit of fun... especially for the one who goes to great lengths to right a terrible wrong. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess.
Author's Note: These events occur somewhere midway through Clutter. Links to that tale can be found on my profile. Clutter's Summary: AU. Mrs. Higurashi decides to help her daughter put her life together; enter Sesshoumaru, professional organizer extraordinaire. Kagome resents having a perfect stranger rummaging through her messes, but he's bound and determined to show her the folly of her easy-going ways. A romantic comedy told in 100-word snippets. Complete in 200 chapters.
More often than not, Sesshoumaru Saiga regretted signing his dignity away on the dotted line of his contract with Kagome Higurashi’s mother. Mostly on Mondays. As he let himself into her silent apartment, the taiyoukai’s sensitive nose twitched and wrinkled at odoriferous funk emanating from her kitchen. With a longsuffering sigh, he tied back the sleeves of his drab kimono and entered the fray.
As he’d come to expect, the area around the sink and windowsill were spotless. This was not as per his instructions. No, no... she liked for Speckles to be “comfy.” The orchid seemed healthy enough, and he dubiously addressed the thriving plant. “Where did she stash them this time? Oven? Cupboard? Coat closet?”
To his relief, it didn’t appear that his client had tried one of her more creative hiding places for the weekend’s accumulation of unwashed dishes. Instead, the kitchen table played host to a teetering collection cups, plates, and bowls that vaguely resembled a castle. On closer inspection, he discovered that a thick layer of some syrupy substance helped keep the construct together. Wilted lettuce leaf flags, cast-off pizza crusts, and a neat row of browned apple cores were clearly meant as decoration. I shall have to inform her that I don’t give points for presentation. Suppressing a shudder of disgust, he set to work.
“If this continues, I shall be forced to come in on weekends,” he notified Speckles as he sniffed at a take-out carton that had been left on the counter. Assured that the contents were no longer safe for human consumption, he added them to the sink with a firm shake and a squelching glop. Tossing in the crusts and cores, he turned on the water and flipped the switch for the garbage disposal.
Moments later, he groaned, for the grinding gears whined in protest as the sink backed up. Drumming his claws on the countertop, he snidely inquired, “What shall we find today? Fish bones? Silk stockings? Yesterday’s mail?”
Growling softly under his breath, Sesshoumaru located a pair of long-handled tongs and hunted for the culprit. Minutes later, he successfully wrested the blockage from the drain and scowled at the mangled mass suspended between his thumb and forefinger. “Hnn.” Pink innards spilled out from a matted fuzz of iridescent fabric, and there was something terribly familiar about the sodden nuisance. With a start, he realized why. “I killed Squishy.”
As seemed to happen regularly whenever it came to dealing with Kagome, Sesshoumaru’s balance was tipped off kilter. He grasped the ruined dish-scrubber in a tight fist and rued the day. Squishy represented his first real step forward in gaining both Kagome’s trust and cooperation. If she found out he’d caused her little friend’s demise, it could undo everything. Convinced there was only one thing to do, he destroyed the evidence.
Luminous green poison hissed and bubbled, filling the kitchen with a slightly sweet scent as it did its devastating work. Naturally, that was the very moment when a key turned in the apartment door, and Kagome’s cheerful voice called, “I’m home!”
With lightning quick reflexes, the taiyoukai slipped the ties from around his shoulders and hid his hands within his full sleeves. Leaning against the counter in what he hoped was a casual manner, Sesshoumaru calmly answered, “Welcome back.”
The young woman poked her head into the room and asked, “Are you mad?”
“Do I seem so?”
“Nooo,” she admitted, her eyes skimming a kitchen that was only halfway restored to order. “But you might be. It looks like you started without me!”
“Hnn.” Quirking a brow, he remarked, “Must I remind you that I am a professional organizer, not a maid.”
With a huff, Kagome explained, “I meant to take care of everything this morning, but I overslept!”
“Don’t be so grumpy,” she pouted. “I rushed right back to help!”
“How gratifying,” he drawled. “However, since I have already disassembled your weekend’s craft project, I shall assign you a different task.”
She flinched visibly. “Is it more numbers? I don’t like numbers.”
Eager to get her away from the scene of his crime, he took her elbow and steered her towards her bedroom and its attached bath. “Your grout is in need of attention, and I have just the tool for the job.” Plucking a vivid pink toothbrush from amidst the clutter on the bathroom counter, he declared. “This.”
“But this is my toothbrush,” Kagome retorted with a glare.
“It has seen better days,” Sesshoumaru replied breezily. “You shall use it to combat mildew, and as a reward, I shall secure a new toothbrush.”
“New?” she demanded skeptically. “Is it going to be some crazy, technological wonder that’s super efficient... because I won’t lie. I like plain-old bristles.”
“Bristles,” he assured, inclining his head.
“Fine,” she grumbled. “I’ll change and get started.”
Sesshoumaru had nearly accomplished his escape when her voice carried back to him from the vicinity of her shower. “Make sure it’s pink!”
As if any other color would do?
“Out of stock, out of stock, out of stock,” Sesshoumaru muttered under his breath. He’d been in and out of half a dozen variety stores, and it was the same story everywhere. Who knew smiling pink kitchen sponges might be so popular? He was sorely tempted to call his retainer to say needed the matching scrubbie he’d purchased for Rin; however, he knew for a fact that Jaken had taken a liking to it. He’d named the wretched thing Frizzy.
Stalking through the door of a shop two neighborhoods over, Sesshoumaru strode confidently towards the housewares section. By now, he knew what to look for... or rather, where the empty space would be. He’d found kitchen sponges shaped like flowers, waffles, and even bananas... but the prototypical Squishy still eluded him.
This time, he whisked past twittering housewives to the proper aisle only to find the prize waiting for him. All that stood between him and success was a tiny old woman with a cane, which normally wouldn’t have worried him; however, she seemed to have her tiny, bright eyes on Squishy II. More desperate than any demon should be over something pink and sparkly, he glided over and loomed ominously. Standard procedure. Always works. Except... it didn’t. The granny frowned deeply at the posturing taiyoukai and stood her ground. “Excuse me,” he murmured, reaching.
With an angry squawk, she thumped his foot with her walking stick, snatched the last pink scrubbie, then made her getaway by shuffling towards the checkout counter. He watched her go with fists clenched in frustration. So close. Still close enough, if he wanted to play rough.
“Excuse me, sir? Can I help you find something.”
With a weary sigh, he turned to the round-faced shop assistant in a green smock, ready to explain his ridiculous quest yet again. Then, his gaze dropped to the carton in the middle-aged woman’s hands, and he did a double-take. Reading and re-reading its label just to assure himself it wasn’t a mirage, he placed his hand atop the box. “This is precisely what I need.”
“Give me a moment, and I’ll open....”
“Not necessary,” he crisply enunciated. “I will take the whole lot.”
She glanced between him and the box and warned, “There are twenty.”
“Excellent,” he rumbled, brimming with satisfaction.
She blushed and stammered, “W-will there be anything else?”
“A toothbrush,” he decreed, for he was a demon of his word.
When Sesshoumaru returned to Kagome’s apartment, the sharp smell of cleaning products welcomed him. Much better. Gliding silently into the kitchen, he withdrew Squishy’s replacement from his sleeve and set it beside the sink. He favored Speckles with a warning look, saying, “This never happened.” Then, he went to check on his client’s progress.
Leaning in the bathroom door, he took a few moments to make sense of her attire. Kagome wore saggy, baggy grey sweats that had seen better days and a bubblegum pink halter top with several rows of ruffles decorating its hem. The two articles of clothing were entirely unsuited to each other, yet managed to suit the frustrating woman perfectly. “I have returned,” he announced importantly.
Peeking over her shoulder, she greeted him with a scowl. “I hate grout.”
“The grout is not at fault for its current state,” he smoothly countered. “However, I do not think the mildew will survive. Let’s try a different occupation.”
“Fine by me,” she hastily agreed. “What’s next?”
“Dishes,” he replied. “But first... your reward.”
When he produced the promised toothbrush, she practically glowed with happiness. “Oooh, it’s so pretty! Even the bristles are pink!” she enthused. Giving his arm a pat, Kagome praised, “Not bad for an amateur!”
“Wash or dry?” he inquired blandly.
She smiled hopefully and wheedled, “You’ll help me?”
“Then Squishy and I will wash, and you can dry.”
In the kitchen, Sesshoumaru insisted on scouring the sink before allowing her to wash the dishes. She mostly ignored his lecture on bacteria, but then, he placed Squishy II in her hand and said, “You may proceed.”
“Finally,” she muttered.
To his delight, she didn’t notice the exchange, and as she swished and scrubbed, rinsed and rambled, he stood by with a faintly smug smirk on his face. The day was saved, the future was rosy, and he was prepared for any eventuality... nineteen times over. Confident that all was right with his world, he gleefully went back to playing havoc with hers. “You missed a spot.”
End Note: This oneshot was written for the Live Journal community dokuga(underscore)contest and their prompt for Contest #80—Indignity. 1,580 words. Originally posted on October 7, 2011.