Summary: In the middle of Prohibition, Ichigo is forced to work as a bartender in an illegal speakeasy even though the only thing he loathes more than crime is the blue-haired gangster hellbent on seducing him.
Warnings: AU, historical (Prohibition Era America), yaoi, lemon, violence, language.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach and Tiana came up with the idea, I just wrote it. Also the speakeasy mentioned was a real one back in the day. :)
Love On The Rocks - Part I
For the all around amazing, lovely, talented Tiana Misoro.
9:21 p.m, December 14th, 1925
Broadway and 48th Street, New York City
Ichigo Kurosaki's night was not off to a good start.
Currently he was making his way down 48th Street, already twenty minutes late and impatiently weaving around people in his haste. He passed a brightly lit opera house, a throng of well-dressed men and women waltzing through its open doors, and quickened his pace. Only the most naive would believe a crowd of that size was for an opera showing and the number of people alarmed him. No doubt his boss was cursing Ichigo's existence at the moment for his tardiness.
But it wasn't Ichigo's fault; earlier that evening he'd been involved in a... fiasco, of sorts. One ending in him smashing the windows of a top of the line Ford Model T with a baseball bat which, again, hadn't been his fault. Like most crimes of passion, a now former lover 's betrayal had compelled him.
Ichigo couldn't feel more like a fool. He'd really thought Sosuke loved him, but in hindsight that had been downright man had spoken the three words countless times insisted they limit their relationship to clandestine carnal sessions behind closed doors, for if word got out blue-blooded, filthy rich Sosuke Aizen lusted after men his reputation would eternally be ruined.
And Ichigo had so mindlessly believed him. Or at least up until an hour beforehand, when the young man had unsuspectingly traipsed into Sosuke's study to find his lover in the midst of thrusting in and out of a woman. Needless to say, despite Sosuke's half-hearted attempts to explain, Ichigo cursed the man to hell and back before storming out.
Since he'd left his Louisville Slugger at home, the trip there and back caused Ichigo to be late to work.
Striding up to a nondescript metal door, he quickly used a key to unlock it and step through to a flight of stairs leading down then barreling down them three steps at a time. A similar door awaited him but when he raised his fist to knock on it three times an eye-level slot slid open, revealing a portion of a male's face.
"Password?' a deep voice said through the opening. Ichigo rolled his eyes so hard it hurt.
"You know who I am, Ikkaku. Stop playing round and open up already," he said, exasperation clear. There was the sound of laughter before the door swung open, a bald, suited man standing in the entryway.
"You're late," he said, clearly amused. "The boss won't be too happy with you; place is really jumpin' tonight."
"Yeah, I know," Ichigo snapped, scowling and pushing his way past to hurry down the long, empty hallway where crimson velvet curtained an archway. He didn't hesitate to fling them aside, exposing the portal to the glamorous, underground world of debauchery and illegal indulgences.
Pausing in that archway, Ichigo's cocoa brown eyes drank in the sight before him, a vision so brilliantly colored and picturesque he forgot for just a moment every person in the room was a criminal.
The Hollywood speakeasy was easily the grandest in the whole city, its massive, dimly lit and smoke hazy hall a realized dream including a sprawling mahogany bar behind which were shelves upon shelves of various glass bottles containing the reason hundreds gathered there every night.. A great crowd pressed against the bar's other end, a few men pouring and mixing drinks with practice ease. The rest were either settled at round tables smoking, talking, and playing cards or flaunting their skill at the newest dance craze ,The Charleston to the band's jazz tempo. But all were dressed to the nines, women in short flapper dresses, feather headpieces, and long pearl necklaces while men wore tailored three-piece suits and fedoras, making it impossible to tell which were the wealthy fat cats or the high-powered gangsters with pockets full of laundered money.
At the table closest to Ichigo a mocha-skinned woman elegantly holding a long cigarette holder between two fingers and wearing a red feather boa and matching gloves turned in his direction and immediately his heart plummeted. She was the proprietor of the Hollywood, Yoruichi Shihoin, a.k.a. his boss and worst nightmare.
The orangette grinned sheepishly as she shook her heard, surprisingly only pointing towards the bar with a small smirk on her face. Despite Ichigo expecting a harsh inquiry about his tardiness in which he would beg not to be fired, he didn't question Yoruichi's motives and immediately headed towards the bar, divesting himself of his outer jacket along the way.
As Ichigo approached the bar, a small cheer rang through the crowd gathered there and the four bartenders' collectively sighed in relief upon seeing him. The latter were all dressed in the same white shirts and black pants and vest as he was; they all even rolled up their sleeves to their elbows the same way.
"Where have you been?" one of them said, carmine hair pulled away from a handsome face questionably tattooed with dark, jagged lines above the eyebrows that were currently furrowed in mild irritation. Renji hated doing his own work let alone picking up other's slack. "People haven't been moving from the bar because they want to see make you a drink."
"Uh, I... my sister was sick again, sorry," Ichigo lied, feeling awful when Renji's expression automatically softened to one of pity.
"Don't apologize for that shit. You're here now, and that lady over there's been hounding me about you," he said pointing to a heavily bejeweled woman at least two decades Ichigo's senior who wiggled her gloved fingers to show off the large bill in between them. She belonged to a select group of admirers who came to the Hollywood solely for him. Speaking of which...
"You haven't seen him around, have you?" Ichigo said quietly enough so only Renji could hear him.
"Nope. Guess you lucked out," the other bartender said before his attention returned completely to the three drinks he was mixing at once. Ichigo exhaled in relief, moving to stand in front of the flirtatious woman. When she leaned forward so that their faces were merely a foot apart, she spoke in a husky voice that Ichigo was sure wouldn't be attractive even if he liked women.
"I'm so glad you're here now. I've been waiting for you," she said, tucking the money into the young man's vest pocket. "Would you mind terribly whipping together a Brandy Alexander for me?"
"Sure thing," Ichigo said, grinning cheekily and, since he saw the fifty marked on that bill, gave the woman a wink as he turned away. It was all part of the job, and flirting was the least of his worries when it came down to it.
Prohibition of alcohol had been made law five years ago, a highly unpopular decision among American citizens even though it was supposed to improve the country's morality or some other bullshit like that. That meant it was illegal to drink or distribute alcohol, creating the need for speakeasy's like the Hollywood to underhandedly serve liquor. It also meant that if Ichigo were ever caught bartending by the police he'd be handcuffed and behind bars before he even knew what hit him.
That fact weighed heavily on his mind. Ichigo hated crime, hated criminals- like the mobsters overrunning the city and endangering all of its inhabitants. He'd never wanted to break the law; it was his belief that a moral human being obeyed its government's laws so that justice and order could be upheld. Criminals were scum in his eyes, they took the easy way out and hurt others just to make a buck.
But ever since Ichigo lost his mother his physician father had struggled to provide for his three children; there had never been enough money. Their troubles persisted even after the orangette moved out and started to support himself with a factory job both of his younger sisters, Karin and Yuzu, were diagnosed with tuberculosis. Desperate for a way to pay for their medical care he'd readily abandoned his morals when he found out the amount of money a bartender earned in tips alone. And actually now both of his sisters were nearly in perfect health.
"Do some tricks!" a voice called out from the crowd, several others seconding the demand, and Ichigo obliged. Tossing a liquor bottle into the air, it span a few times before he caught it behind his back, pouring its contents of creme de cacao into the glass before pitching it airborne once more and into his other hand. Applause rang out but he didn't acknowledge the praise, continuing to mix drinks in the flashy way as more customers tucked paper bills into his pocket.
Hours flew by and Ichigo focused everything he had into bartending, intentionally forgetting the anger and hurt he still felt due to Sosuke's infidelity. Everything was running smoothly... until the time of night normally when the people at the bar dwindled, most satisfied with their alcohol-induced buzz; that was when Ichigo looked up from setting in front of a customer their order of a gin and tonic to see him.
"Hey there, dollface."
Of all the orangette's admirers, there was just one he found simply insufferable. Ever since Ichigo's very first night on the job six months prior, for some reason this man appeared to have made it his mission in life to bed the bartender and even after his inevitable rejection he would sit at the bar and watch Ichigo work with his unnaturally bright blue eyes that the other could feel on him every second.
However, after he left there would always be where he'd been sitting a few highly numbered bills amounting to more than the rest of Ichigo's tips combined. That money had paid for nearly half of his younger sister's treatment and that was the only reason he bothered to respond verbally. Not that he went so far as to actually be polite.
"What do you want, Grimmjow?" Ichigo snapped.
"Well, since you asked-"
"Oh, shut up with that already."
Ichigo really didn't understand Grimmjow Jaegerjaques' persistence to seduce him. It wasn't as if the man was homely and couldn't find someone else. In fact one could say he was kind of, sort of devastatingly handsome. His face was just about perfect and he had these cobalt blue eyes that looked like they were glowing in the dim lighting and he easily cleared six feet, boasting broad shoulders and this wicked grin with whiter than white teeth and he always wore black pinstripe suits tailored to fit him just right and a fedora over his head of tousled sky blue hair and...
Okay, so maybe Ichigo originally thought Grimmjow was attractive at first sight and spurned his advances solely due to his relationship with Sosuke (apparently the only one of them to do so.) Nevertheless, after that first conversation with the man, Renji had pulled the orangette aside and informed him that Grimmjow Jaegerjaques was a highly ranked gangster. He was a criminal.
"Aw, don't be like that, Ichigo, ya know it hurts my feelings," the blue-haired man said, ultramarine orbs gleaming as he grinned bemusedly. It was like he got off on the other rejecting him; the more Ichigo cursed and shouted at him the more he was determined to continually harass the bartender.
"I highly doubt you have any to hurt in the first place so are you going to order a drink or sit around and make perverted comments all night?" Ichigo crossed his arms as he looked at Grimmjow expectantly.
"I'll 'ave my usual. No reason I can't do both, right?" the man said, a deep chuckle rumbling from his chest when the orangette's scowl deepened, chocolate brown eyes spitting fire but Ichigo merely turned around and grabbed a tumbler to fill with only a few ice cubes and some dark golden liquid to fix Grimmjow's usual of scotch on the rocks.
Ichigo slid the drink across the bartop to the gangster who caught it with his hand, disappointing the former who'd been hoping he'd miss and it would fall on the ground. Whilst Grimmjow lifted the tumbler to his lips his gaze was trained on Ichigo.
"So how's tha' lover ya won't consider leavin' fer me doin'?" he said before taking a sip and setting the scotch back down. At the indirect mention of Sosuke, who he'd told Grimmjow about to try and dissuade his affections, Ichigo's face must have shown the heartache that was still so fresh. "Oh, trouble in paradise, is there?"
"That's none of your business," the orangette said harshly, attracting the attention of a few people close by.
"I'll take tha' as a yes," Grimmjow said, smirking arrogantly. Ichigo huffed in exasperation, desperately scanning for another customer to serve so the man would leave him alone but finding nothing. "So, what'd he do? From the look on yer face I'd say it was pretty bad."
When Ichigo let his gaze travel back to Grimmjow, he was just finishing lighting a cigarette between his lips, tucking the lighter away back into his inside jacket pocket. He exhaled smoke from his nose as he held the cigarette in the corner of his mouth, the thing dangling precariously but never falling. The orangette wondered how in the world he could consider smoking a disgusting habit and yet find the vision of Grimmjow smoking a cigarette so... pleasing to the eye.
"Well? C'mon and tell me so we can get ta where I take ya to my place so I can console you," the gangster said, cigarette still in his lips as they twitched in amusement at his own innuendo.
"Just... shut up about it, okay?" Ichigo said without his usual fire, slightly weary as his mind played back the scene of the man he'd loved and been faithful to having sex with that woman on his desk. His brows pulled together and mouth pressed into a thin line as he remembered Sosuke's reaction to being discovered; there hadn't been a trace of guilt or remorse in his eyes. To be honest, Ichigo couldn't actually recall a time when he had seen anything in those eyes.
"Yeah, okay," Grimmjow said, rough velvet voice rougher than usual. "Ya know, if ya tell me his name I could arrange a swimmin' lesson with cement shoes for 'im."
"Oh, is that how people like you solve everything, by murdering someone?" Ichigo retorted before he thought better of it. But it was the truth, mobsters killed people for a living, made money off of other people's spilled blood and it was disgusting. He couldn't forget this deceptively attractive man was one of them.
"People like me?" Grimmjow's lips thinned and he looked serious for the first time since Ichigo had met him; he never failed to smirk and leer like a lecherous drunk- if lecherous drunks looked like Greek statues and Botticelli paintings, that is.
"You know, you're... uh, the kind... the kind who..." the orangette stammered, unable to think of the right words to explain himself. In the Hollywood it was utterly taboo to outright declare another to be part of the mob or a gangster, it shattered the illusion that everyone was equal and no one would be judged for who they were in the law-abiding world.
"Yeah, I get it," Grimmjow said curtly, cutting Ichigo off. "Yer one of those people."
"Never expected ya to be one of 'em, thought ya were different," the blunette said, now truly frowning, furrowed brow and thin mouth not even marring that perfect face of his. "Yer one of those people who look down on 'people like me' and can't see what fuckin' hypocrites they are."
Ichigo's tangerine eyebrows shot up to his hairline, surprise rendering him speechless for a few seconds as Grimmjow's fathomless blue orbs regarded him now with an unfamiliar hint of contempt, a sneer appearing around the still burning cigarette.
"Are you calling me a hypocrite?" the bartender asked though the answer was clear. "You don't even know me, how can you "
"Exactly what? No, never mind, I don't care. You harass me all the time with your stupid, perverted come-on's even though I'm never going to say yes because I'll never be that desperate so why don't you just pay for it instead with all the money you've probably stolen or made peddling drugs to children or whatever and I hope you catch a venereal disease and then drop dead."
Immediately after that last word, Ichigo's brain caught up with his mouth and his face burned with embarrassment; they had barely been arguing for a minute before he'd irrationally exploded like a time bomb. What he'd said had been undeservedly harsh and loud judging by the number of people in the immediate area staring at him. It was just that he was still sore over his earlier debacle with Sosuke and then this man who harasses him all the time called him a hypocrite and he kind of lost it.
Grimmjow was silent, his handsome face too expressionless to read and alarm bells were ringing in Ichigo's mind.
"I-I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that," was all he said and then the orangette fled to the opposite end of the bar, the bartender there giving him an incredulous look as he pretended to be busy doing something important whilst he really only stacked and moved glasses around and avidly watched Grimmjow in the periphery of his vision.
The blue-haired gangster downed the rest of his scotch, then pulled out from his jacket pocket a handful of money to drop right next to the empty glass and pen with which he scrawled something on his square, white napkin. After staring at what he'd written for a moment, he stood and walked away, disappearing into the throng of people.
Dying of curiosity, Ichigo waited about ten seconds to make sure Grimmjow was really gone before walking back to the spot the other had left the money and possibly a note. The bartender's jaw dropped as he saw the green paper bills first, picking the stack up to count to an impossibly high number and needing to know why a man he'd just insulted would leave him so much money, he hesitantly lifted the napkin written on in blue ink.
I figure you must have a good reason for being a hypocrite.
P.S. Just take the money. Don't try to be noble and try to give it back or some shit like that.
It was around four in the morning when things started to wind down at the Hollywood and Ichigo was dead on his feet. Too much had happened that night and he was beyond ready to go home and collapse onto his bed. He watched the few dancers left as they swayed, leaning on each other for support, as the band halfheartedly played a slow tune. Most of the people were already gone but a good thirty or so were still sitting at the circular tables, some of them wearily smoking their last cigarette or cigar while some were simply passed out in the chairs, slumped over the card game they'd been playing.
"All right, you all start cleaning up," Yoruichi said as she strode past the bar. "Renji, wake those people up and get 'em out of here so we can go home."
Everyone groaned at her words, especially Renji, but sluggishly moved to begin the arduous process of cleaning up after the night's events which had left spilled drinks, empty glasses, and napkins everywhere. Ichigo reached underneath the counter to pull out a wet rag from the bucket and began to wipe down the smooth mahogany wood of the bar top. Inevitably his mind returned to the note currently in his vest pocket along with his tips and he furiously tried to understand why that man, a ruthless mob leader, would so willingly gift him that ridiculous amount of money. He'd lasciviously taunted the orangette for months now, apparently wanting one thing... that he'd never even gotten close to getting and yet still persisted to try to woo Ichigo, who was nothing extraordinary, certainly not remarkable enough to garner that kind of admiration.
Ichigo was so lost in thought he didn't realize someone was standing right behind him until a familiar voice called his name. Heart plummeting, he whirled around to glare at the tall, brown-haired man who'd betrayed him not ten hours before.
"What are you doing here, Sosuke?" he spat in greeting, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I was hoping we could speak of what transpired earlier this evening. You stormed away before we had the chance to resolve matters." Sosuke was as irritatingly calm and mild as ever, not a hint of emotion in his appearance nor voice, and it was only now that Ichigo realized he hated that about his former lover. He spoke of that devastating moment in the younger man's voice so casually, like it was of no importance.
"There's nothing to talk about, we're done," Ichigo said resolutely.
"I understand you're upset, so much so you saw fit to vandalize my automobile," Sosuke said, sighing a little afterwards and he reached out with a gloved hand to brush against Ichigo's cheek, the latter jerking out of the way. "Please just think rationally for a moment; I am the only male in a wealthy family line that I must provide an heir to further ensure its longevity and that requires me taking a wife. I simply needed to enhance my attraction to women and unfortunately that was what you walked in on earlier. You are the only one I care for."
"That was your plan all this time? You were going to get married and have me on the side like some mistress?" Ichigo asked breathlessly, too distressed at the revelation Sosuke really never loved him to shout and curse at the other like he normally would've done. "I can't believe I was so stupid to think you ever cared about me."
"I do care for you, Ichigo, and if you loved me you would be willing to stay by my side," the brunette said, bringing his hands up to wrap around the other's upper arms. "Where else will you find someone who loves you as much as I do?"
"Stop trying to manipulate me into staying with you," Ichigo said through clenched teeth before roughly pulling himself out of Sosuke's grip. "If you loved me you would've helped me pay for my sisters' medical care, you wouldn't have even entertained the idea of marrying another person, and you definitely wouldn't have been screwing some woman on your desk. So do me a favor and just leave me alone."
After he was done speaking, Sosuke's lips historically twitched, showing his anger for the first time ever since Ichigo had met him.
"I had hoped you wouldn't make the mistake of rejecting my gracious offer of reconciliation after you so savagely damaged my property but now I know I made the right decision."
"Decision? What decision?"
The sudden flashes of movement in the hall's two entryways were Ichigo's answer, bodies clad in navy uniforms flooding into the space drawing several gasps and feminine shrieks and the orangette's blood ran cold, realization dawning upon him. It was his worst nightmare come true.
"Everyone put your hands up into the air! You are all under arrest for violations of the eighteenth amendment."
Ichigo had turned to stone with dread, not even able to follow the one direction but he knew without a doubt Sosuke had been the one to tip off the police about the Hollywood's illegal activity.
"Oh, Ichigo, it seems you're in a bit of trouble."
To be continued...
A/N: Yeah, that ending was lame, I know but~ I'll try write part two as soon as possible. I've written so much this weekend I'm exhausted. Hope everyone enjoyed (especially you, Tiana!) and thanks for reading!