AN:Hello, all! Welcome to my new chaptered story! It's all done already, all I have to do is upload it, which I will do by uploading a new chapter every Friday.
This was done as a sort of a collaboration between myself and the wonderful Maravelous. I told her I was planning on a 1920s fic, and she came up with an awesome plot and sent me basic outlines for each of the ten chapters.
Oh, by the way, it's Maravelous's birthday, so go wish her a happy one! If you've never heard of her (you poor, poor depraved reader), go check out her stuff. She's an amazingwriter. :D
Well. Without further ado, may I present you with:
Chapter One; Tastes that Linger
Ten Years Ago...
"Dear, hurry up!" a woman urged as the child behind her tripped over her feet, striving to reach her mother. The woman extended her hand out, and the little girl latched on to it with strength surprising for a five year old.
She turned her chubby-cheeked face up to the elegant woman whose hand she held. "Thanks for taking me shopping with you, momma!" the girl giggled, pressing close to her mother's side.
The woman smiled down at her and ruffled the chocolate brown hair that flowed freely to her daughter's shoulders. "Anytime, Tenten," she promised. Maybe it wasn't so easy to get around with a young girl latched onto her, and perhaps her shopping trip would take a little longer than usual, but those were a small price to pay for her dear daughter's smile.
"Spare change, please?" The request caught Tenten off-guard, and she tripped over her own feet. A firm hand that wasn't her mother's steadied her. "Careful there, little lady," the homeless man said cheerfully, his wide grin revealing a mouth that was more full of gums than of teeth. Tenten's eyes drifted down towards the crowd walking past. No one was stopping, despite the man's soft requests. The little girl sighed, a frown falling across her features. Not a single person was willing to even pause?
"Here, this is all the change I have, but I hope it helps," the melodic voice of Tenten's mother murmured, breaking through the girl's thoughts. A slender hand pressed a bill and some coins into the man's dirty hand, and an even broader smile broke across his face.
He carefully placed the money in a pocket of his worn clothing. "Bless you, lady, and your little daughter, too. I hope she grows up kind like her mother," he said, patting Tenten on the head. The girl was pulled after her mother, waving over her shoulder at the homeless man.
"Momma, no one else was stopping. Why did you do that?" the girl asked, a curious look etched across her features.
The woman gently pulled her daughter closer to her side. "What everyone else does shouldn't decide what I do. Besides, I had the change to spare, and he needed it. Is that not reason enough?" she asked mildly.
Satisfied with her mother's reasoning, Tenten nodded. Yet it wasn't long before she picked up her face again, her brow furrowed. "Didn't it make you sad to see him like that?" she wondered.
"A little. But maybe he'll be happier in the future. That's the kind of future I'd like to make possible for him."
Tenten frowned as she snapped the handcuffs on the rather dirty wrists of the man in front of her. Honestly, just because she was one of the few female police officers didn't mean she was any less capable that any of the males, she thought angrily as she yanked the man to his feet. And she certainly didn't do anything to deserve this lack of respect, either.
"You're under arrest for loitering and possession of alcohol. Or did being homeless keep you from understanding that prohibition went into effect quite a few months ago?" she asked, her tongue sharp in her anger.
The man at least wasn't resisting, she though, almost sighing in relief. All she would have needed was for someone to resist arrest for some of her male co-workers to exhort that she needed protection. Hell, she had earned her badge just as much as all of the rest of them. And she was a better officer than some of them. Stupid, misogynist, chauvinist pigs, the lot of them... well, perhaps not all, but still. "Come on, into the car, and don't even try anything idiotic."
He allowed himself to be pushed into the backseat, and Tenten slid into the driver's side of the Ford model-T. "What was that? Speak up," she demanded. All she'd heard was some incoherent mumbling from the back. Odd. He hadn't seemed drunk.
"I said 'what happened to compassion?'" the man replied steadily.
Tenten tried to keep from snorting. A rather crooked smirk appeared on her lips, and she started the automobile. "This is real life, not a drunken fairy tale. Now, where'd you get the bootleg from?"
. . .
Neji almost growled as he found himself shoved rather brusquely through the double doors of Ichiraku's. "Honestly, Temari, you're constantly dragging Miss Hinata and me here. It's becoming a little bit tiring, and more than slightly annoying," he scoffed.
The blonde in question just laughed and waved at the waiter near the front doors, a man named Kiba whose job it was to seat those not familiar with the restaurant. "Really, Neji. Come on, it's not like you don't like it!" she retorted cheerfully. Neji smiled in spite of himself as Hinata just giggled and pushed a lock of dark hair out of her eyes. Meanwhile, Temari's sharp eyes lit upon a table occupied by only two others.
She swooped down on it, pulling Neji and Hinata along with more force than one would suspect from the young woman. They all took seats, facing the stage in front of them. A jazz band blasted a sultry tune into their ears, but the microphone stand at the edge of the platform was unmanned and looked strangely lonely. "It certainly took the three of you long enough," a dark-haired man drawled, his cigarette tipping precariously from his fingers.
Temari scowled rather fiercely at him. "Well, sorry. But you weren't the one stuck with bringing the Hyuugas here. No offense, Hinata, I was alluding more to your cousin over here," the blonde woman added quickly, lest the sweet Hinata worry that she had caused Temari any undue troubles. As Neji glanced to his left, he surmised Temari shouldn't have bothered.
His cousin was glancing sweetly and surreptitiously over at the blonde man on her left, and a light blush was spread across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. "Um, hello, Naruto," she said softly.
"Hey, Hinata! How are you?" he replied, his excited and slightly grating voice a marked contrast to her demure tones. Vaguely, Neji wondered if he should castrate the boy now and save himself some time. Then again, Hinata might get upset. But if it was for her own good...
Neji's attention was shifted from that fascinating topic when he noticed that Ichiraku, the owner of the bar, stood over the table, grinning. "Will you all be having the usual?" the man asked, looking over the group.
General murmurs of assent were his reply, but Neji frowned slightly and then shrugged. "No, I think I'd prefer to try something new today," he replied.
"How about I surprise you?" Ichiraku asked after a moment of thought. Neji simply nodded his head. Why not? "Well then," the owner continued, "I'll be back with your drinks in a moment." Just then the band finished their song, and the silence was greeted by rather unenthusiastic applause. A small frown appeared on Ichiraku's face. Clearly the diners were looking for something more than mere instrumentals, Neji thought, slightly amused. As he turned to go, the man nudged Shikamaru and then ambled off away from the table.
Shikamaru heaved a great sigh and took a drag out of his cigarette. "No way. I'm tired today, and I want to get a chance to finish my ciggy. Besides, we just ordered our drinks. They won't be out for a few more minutes," he hedged.
Whirling to face him, Temari slapped Shikamaru across the top of the arm harshly. "Stop whining and get your ass up on stage. Honestly, you can't even act like a man," she complained, her teal eyes narrowed.
"Fine, fine," Shikamaru sighed as he stood. "Naruto, are you going to help out?" he asked as he grabbed his fedora from the table and placed it on his head.
Naruto literally bounced out of his seat, nearly upsetting the table in the process. "Yeah, Shikamaru!" he said, his voice excited. Hinata's quiet giggle was only noticed by Neji, who rolled his eyes at the antics of the blond. "Let's go then!" he said, vaulting up onto the stairs, followed by Shikamaru, who ascended the platform in a exponentially more calm manner.
Both of the men were seen by the visitors at the restaurant. Neji noted that the newcomers simply sat and stared, but those who were familiar with the two clapped and cheered as Shikamaru approached the lonely microphone and Naruto opened the case for his trombone.
Turning to the band, Shikamaru tilted the brim of his hat slightly over his eyes. "So, do you know 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby'?" he asked cooly. Neji smirked as he heard Temari huff and mutter something unintelligible. A cacophony of agreement reached his ears, and Shikamaru smiled lazily and moseyed over to the microphone. "Naruto'll lead you guys," he told them over his shoulder. "Sorry about that part," he muttered into the microphone. Naruto whined some inane reply and Neji heard the crowd buzz with amusement around him.
For the first few bars, Shikamaru's smooth voice rolled like velvet over the entire restaurant. Good, as always, Neji though, a small smile starting to tug at the corners of his lips. Under the table, his foot was tapping in time to the music, just as Naruto started to blast clear notes through his trombone and the rest of the band slowly joined.
Even more interesting than the wonderful music, in Neji's opinion, was the starry-eyed looks playing across the faces of the women in Ichiraku's. Even Temari and Hinata, try as they may to hide it, seemed a little dazed and more than slightly captivated. As Shikamaru's gaze caught Temari's, Neji almost laughed. Temari, one of the more independent-minded women he ever knew, was blushing, the pink color splashed across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.
Speaking of pink, a rather fruity-smelling, pink-red drink found its way in front of Neji. The rest of the drinks around the table, even Hinata's, looked somber and businesslike in comparison. "Interesting drink, Neji," Temari snorted, her attention drawn enough by his cocktail for her to leave Shikamaru's voice behind for a moment. "Kind of a dame's drink, isn't it?"
Ichiraku, who had finished passing around the drinks, shot the blonde woman a look. "It's alcohol; how is it feminine?" he demanded.
Temari, who had no answer for that question, merely shrugged her shoulders. "Seeing as I paid for it, I see no reason not to drink it," Neji retorted, practical as always. Still, he was a bit apprehensive as he raised the cocktail to his lips and took a sip of it. He found the taste to be quite pleasing, fruity but slightly acidic and with a slight burn. Ichiraku paused to tell him it was a new drink called a Strawberry Daiquiri before turning back to chat with Hinata and Temari.
As Hinata giggled and Temari chuckled, Neji looked around the bar. Already he was slightly bored. Although Ichiraku made excellent drinks and Naruto and Shikamaru were amazing musicians, Neji still found merely sitting around and listening to others talk about inane things to be a waste of his time.
The opening of the main doors, then, was quite a welcome distraction.
There were some tastes that lingered in Neji's mind; the taste of his first kiss, the sour taste of his uncle's criticisms, the taste of smoke in his mouth the first time he tried a cigarette. The taste of the strawberry daiquiri and something else, something unidentifiable, swirled in his mouth when he saw her for the first time, and he knew that the taste would be one of those that would linger on while others faded.
The sun was setting behind her, giving a strange sort of glow to her while making it hard to stare too long, making his eyes hurt when he tried to drink her in. While the police uniform wasn't something he'd quite wanted to see on such an adorable woman, it somehow only served to add to her charm, like the dark brown hair pulled into a bun at the back of her neck, or the large brown eyes that narrowed as she seemed to ask something of Kiba.
Neji's eyes were fixated on Kiba's finger as the younger man slowly pointed to Ichiraku, who was still too engrossed in conversation to notice what was going on. Neji even continued to stare unabashedly as the policewoman fixed her hands on her hips and made her way towards his table.
. . .
Well, if the homeless man was expecting to get alcohol from this place again, Tenten thought, he was in for a rude awakening. She was about to crush this tiny establishment.
Just as she reached the table where the owner was, the band finished their song, and Tenten watched as a man in a fedora slouched off the stage while his blonde friend literally vaulted off of the platform and to the table she was at. "Are you the owner of the bar?" she asked Ichiraku, tilting her chin slightly up so she could see directly into his eyes.
"Yes, I am," Ichiraku replied, his voice not a bit hesitant. "Is there any problem here, officer?" he asked, the last word spoken with a sarcastic lilt that wasn't missed by the policewoman.
Tenten tried to keep from rolling her eyes. "Other than this being a gin mill, no. Did you know that there was a homeless man I arrested today who told me–"
She was cut off by the blonde man, who appeared to have just keyed into the fact that she was even there. "Doll, how about we switch roles and I'll handcuff(1) you," he suggested, his eyebrows wiggling in a way that reminded Tenten slightly of her chief and one of the other boys at the police station.
"Beat it, drugstore cowboy(2)" she replied, her voice dry. He pouted, and a dark-haired, well dressed man gave a quiet chuckle. He was quite handsome, she noticed, but her face remained stern as always. "Something funny?" she asked.
The man shrugged, all elegant ease. "Yes, it is, at least a little bit. Anyway, how do you know Ichiraku isn't simply serving soda? Or there are virgin forms of most drinks; it could be one of those."
Tenten eyed the man. "Well, if you're so confident that you're not breaking prohibition, let me smell your drink," she demanded, detaching a hand from her hip to hold out as she waited for him to give her the alcohol. The man wasn't as stupid as she had expected for him to be, being in a speakeasy. He passed her the pinkish beverage without anything more than a sigh. Tenten took a quick whiff of the drink; it definitely was alcoholic. She whirled to the owner of the cheap, dirty little bar, ready to accuse him.
"Look, officer," the man who'd been singing interjected, his voice calm and sounding tired, "give him a break. It's not quite like anyone here is ossified(3). Besides, it's a small bar; what harm could it possibly do?" he reasoned cooly.
Brown eyes narrowed and flickered to the jazz singer. "I already had one taken in today for bootleg that he bought here. Besides, I'm one of the first female police officers. Everyone's watching me, looking for me to slip up just once so they can say that dames can't do this job. I will not have any drunken accidents in this town on my watch," she snapped as she half-slammed the strawberry daiquiri onto the table.
"What a wet blanket," a dirty blonde woman muttered. "Anyway, didn't your mother teach you any compassion?" she asked.
"Well, my mother's dead. What's your excuse; did yours not teach you to think before you spoke?" Tenten retorted sharply.
The other woman only smiled bitterly. "I manage to think before I speak just fine; mine's dead, too, after all."
Before Tenten had a chance to reply to that, the man in a fedora laid a hand on her shoulder. "That aside, it's not like Ichiraku openly hands out hooch to anyone who comes in the doors. People have to ask him, and they have to be people he knows."
She didn't even bother to keep from rolling her eyes this time. "Prohibition doesn't exclude people who know the owners of speakeasies."
"How is alcohol even evil, like you people try to make it out to be?" he demanded with a sigh.
"Well, aside from impairing judgement, doing bodily damage, and making people act even more dumb that they usually manage to, I suppose it's not evil at all," she retorted. Tenten could feel her temper rising as this man tried to convince her that alcohol wasn't bad. What next, would he try to convince her it would be helpful? She almost snorted at the very thought.
Sighing, the man pulled off his hat and held it loosely in his hands. "If people don't get alcohol from here, they'll go to another joint and get it from there. You can't prevent people all around the world from getting their booze."
Tenten gritted her teeth; surely if he was smart enough to put forth these arguments he was smart enough to know not to bait a police officer. "Listen here. Maybe I can't enforce prohibition all around the world. However, I can and I will shut down this little gin mill and all the rest of them in this town," she snarled.
The man who had been trying to convince her otherwise sighed and placed his fedora back on his head, adjusting it slightly as he appeared to think. "Listen," he sighed, "I didn't mean to anger you. You should give us some time to prove that Ichiraku's won't cause any 'drunken accidents'. Three weeks, and then you can make your decision."
As she drummed her fingers on her hips, Tenten thought the proposition over. She'd been a little bit bored lately, and it was hard to find some decent company. The man had already proved himself to be levelheaded and at least passably intelligent, and the others couldn't be too bad. Besides, she could make any decision at the end of three weeks. He wasn't telling her she had to make a choice either way.
"I suppose I agree," she said after a moment, tilting her chin up even as she met the singer's dark eyes. "I'm not making any promises either way, though."
"Swell," the man said, a slow smile breaking across his face. "My name's Shikamaru, by the way. This is Neji, Naruto, Hinata, Temari, and Ichiraku, of course," he said, gesturing to each person in turn. "How about you come tomorrow to listen to me sing?" he invited.
It took her only a moment to consider. "Fine. I need to keep an eye on this place, anyway, if I'm to honor this deal," she said. Then she turned to go. She'd spent too much time in this little joint; there were other places to go, other criminals wandering around somewhere, no doubt, she thought.
A low voice cut into her thoughts. "Why are you even bothering us?" the man Shikamaru had introduced as Neji asked evenly. "Being a female police officer is ludicrous enough. Why do you find the need to dabble in other people's lives, as well?" he asked. The girl named Hinata tried to hush him, but he'd already said his piece.
"Listen here," she cut in, her voice cold. "Woman or not, I am still a police officer and I still have the power to arrest you on the spot. It's a power which I will certainly not hesitate to use if you have the poor judgement to insult myself or even my gender again. Are we clear, Neji?" she demanded, almost amused as he tried to match her glare for glare. She was the one with the handcuffs. The pale-eyed man shrugged and muttered something that she didn't even bother trying to listen to.
Without another word, she turned on her heel and stalked out of Ichiraku's. The taste of the place, the ambiance and the people, remained on her tongue, a feeling she couldn't get rid of. And even as that taste lingered, the smell of the strawberry daiquiri permeated her nose, and she couldn't help but wonder if it tasted as good as it looked.
Tenten shook her head as she close the door behind her, just barely catching the wailing of a trumpet flowing through the crack in the doors before she firmly shut them. It was silly to wish for a drink of the liquor, of course. Especially when she had her own reasons for trying to be a police officer and for enforcing prohibition.
She wanted to keep the place clean and safe for the residents, even if they weren't pleased about her so-called intrusion. She had to do her best for her town. All for the sake of her mother. Tenten pulled the door to her car open and started the automobile.
She had dreams of her own. And a low-class bar wasn't going to ruin them.
. . .
1920s slang dictionary!
1) A double entendre. Handcuffs in the literal sense, but also in 1920s slang, in which it means an engagement ring.
2) A guy who hangs around street corners trying to pick up girls. Desperate.