A/N: This is AU! I got inspired to start a fun, light romantic AU fic about Byakuya and Ichigo. It's sooo great to write about them again! However, doing AU's can be scary, so keep an open mind if you decide to venture into this story. I tried to keep everyone in character as best possible but this is not Bleachverse oriented, although a lot of Bleach chars make appearances here and there. I even gave Byakuya his father...Eeeyeah! I HAD to do something where I could write about Sojun Kuchiki. You understand, right?
**This story is mostly light and silly. I LOVE humour so it is here. There may be moments of angst, but generally just fluff/romance/goofiness. Some smut later on. The chapters will vary in size. My spelling is Canadian, eh? :P
***Weeee! This story makes me happy and I hope it makes you happy, too!
Pâtissier stands for = Pastry Chef
Disclaimer: I write this stuff for my own shits and giggles, not to make any profit from it.
Sugar and Spice – Chapter 1
Everything in the world stopped moving, ceased to exist completely, the moment Ichigo saw him. The cool fall wind, the surrounding hum of cars and people with their clicky shoes disappeared.
People, what people?
As far as he knew, he was the only person standing on the sidewalk under the warm glow of the shop he'd stopped in front of on this fair evening in Karakura Town.
For what lay beyond the window of this shop simply took his breath away.
Behind a counter, a tall man wearing a white chef's coat was delicately dusting a tray of sweet nothings with powdered sugar. But it wasn't the sweet nothings that caught Ichigo's eye. It was the man holding the sieve with hair as black as ink scooped up into a loose knot with a few lazy strands shading his left eye. The warm shop lights above him made some of that hair shine like spun silk.
There was such dedication and focus displayed on his face—such perfect pale skin. It was not just the way he looked, but it was also the way he moved. Every action was precise, smooth. The man worked accurately without hurry. There was something very dignified about this man, with the hard set of his eyes, his straight nose and the stern set of his mouth. It was the most adorable thing Ichigo had ever seen.
Ichigo knew he was looking at a distinguished man who was definitely a master of his craft.
The most handsome, downright sexy, finger-lickin' yum, yum chocolate chip... Ichigo wanted three scoops!
Nothing like this had ever happened to Ichigo before. No man or woman had ever compelled him to pull open a shop door. To proceed into unknown territory like a possessed creeper and try to utter something sensible.
I think you're so fine. Hi, my name's Ichigo and I was just spying you from outside and thinking you make my body do scrummy things.
"I...err... you are..."
The dark-haired man looked up calmly, standing straight after giving his pastries one final pat of snowy sugar. The full effects of his cool grey eyes were directed fully on Ichigo, which widened slightly as they registered a man with the most remarkable orange hair. Keenly, his eyes began to wander casually over the nice build of this young man's body. A small devilish smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. My, my, what do we have here?
Slowly, the baker blinked as if perhaps this was a vision standing before him and if he blinked, it would surely disappear. But it didn't. There remained a striking young man with his wild orange hair dressed in fitted dark jeans, white T-shirt and a purple zip-up sweater with a hood.
"I apologize but we are closing for the evening." The dark-haired man spoke with a deep baritone that gave Ichigo delicious chills.
But Ichigo couldn't just leave now. If he left now and didn't do something, no matter how socially inept he could be, he'd never be able to live with himself. Just as he was about to utter more rambling nonsense someone else appeared.
"Byakuya-sama...? Who are you talking to?" The girlish voice came from the door that led to the kitchen in the back of the café.
Ichigo got shaken out of his possessed state as he looked over at a pretty, petite woman with a bob of short black hair that hung to her shoulders. She wore a white blouse with a knee-length black skirt over which she wore a black apron. She had a serious look in her violet-blue eyes.
"Oh," she sounded as she spotted Ichigo, a frown settling over her small features. She sighed with annoyance. "Nii-sama, not again?" she stated with chagrin colouring her cheeks pink.
This was brother and sister. Ichigo was relieved to hear it since he instantly thought this woman was something else to this handsome pâtissier , Byakuya. So, that was his name. What did the small woman mean by 'not again'? What was he missing?
"Rukia, I assure you I have instigated nothing. Perhaps he came to inquire about the 'Help Wanted' sign on the window. You are being very impolite." Byakuya sounded irritated by what his sister had said but he remained very calm looking.
Immediately, Rukia apologized with a bow to her brother and to the orange-haired stranger that stood amidst their shop. "You're right, nii-sama, please forgive me. I have forgotten my place. And to you..." The woman smiled softly this time. "What is your name, sir?"
"Kurosaki Ichigo." Ichigo replied stuffing his hands into his pockets uncomfortably.
"Have you come to apply for the baker's assistant position?" she asked. "That must be why you've wandered in, yes?"
Before Ichigo could think about what he was doing, he answered. "Yes, that is exactly why I'm here. I want to apply for the baker's assistant position." Holy crap! What am I doing?
Now Rukia seemed truly pleased and less vexed. "That's great! Then I'm sure you've heard about us, right? Café on Sixth is a very reputable place known for a lot of French and Italian confections, we do other stuff too. Nii-sama is an amazing pastry chef," she bragged. "He owns the place exclusively, but I help with the front serving the customers and handling other business affairs, like hiring. My name is Kuchiki Rukia."
Byakuya seemed uninterested with the conversation and slid the tray of delicate pastries he had been dusting onto his hand. He moved along behind the long the L-shaped glass display case and placed the tray of crispy pastries inside under the soft light on the top shelf.
To Ichigo, now that he finally noticed, everything that was displayed inside the counter looked like something straight out of a food magazine. Pastries, chocolate goodness, cakes, breads, mousses—this place looked as good as it smelled.
He let out a sigh of appreciation.
"Wow, this place is amazing. Mmm! The smell makes me hungry," Ichigo told them truthfully.
He glanced shyly at Byakuya, catching that cool cautious gaze briefly before he did a three-sixty of the entire place, his cheeks feeling hot now. From the street it was a long and narrow café, brightly lit with booth-like seats set up along the right side of the wall all made of warm varnished wood. He noticed pretty abstract paintings, all with soft sensual motifs and colours lining the walls. But what caught his eye were the salt and pepper shakers on each table. It was a pair of hugging human-like shapes, one pink and one white. The shakers fit together like a puzzle.
"Why do you need salt and pepper in a place like this?" Ichigo turned to ask them curiously, his cheeks feeling a little cooler.
"It is not salt and pepper. It is cinnamon and icing sugar." Byakuya Kuchiki explained in a manner as if he should know.
Ichigo felt a little stupid just then. "Right, well, you sure know how to spoil your guests." He chuckled uneasily but stopped quickly when he realized no one else was chuckling with him.
Hmm, tough crowd...
"So what kind of baking work have you done, Ichigo? Why should we hire you?" Rukia wondered as she crossed her arms across her small chest.
Byakuya was quietly washing his hands at a small sink on the other side of the counter, his eyes secretively watching over his shoulder. He waited to hear the man's response curiously but gave no evidence that he was actually listening.
"I dunno if it counts, but I've always had a knack for sweet things. My sister bakes a lot and sometimes I help her. I once worked in a restaurant before college started a few years back—just so you know, I graduated six months ago—I helped out the garde manger, mostly slicing veg and mixing salad dressings for them." He used one of the few French cooking terms he knew. Ichigo smiled brilliantly and added. "But I ate a lot of sweets from the pastry department. I wished I could make the things they did."
From the sink area Byakuya could not hold back a scoff.
Ichigo frowned and looked over at the high and mighty Mr. Pastry Chef who was now drying his hands with a white hand towel. "You know, I'm a quick learner," he snapped at him. "Take me on and I'll show you just what kind of man I am."
The fine brows on Byakuya's face lifted slightly. Intriguing.
"Look," Ichigo began seriously, "I may not have a ton of baking experience but let me give it a shot. I promise you won't regret it. I'll be like your apprentice or something."
Fleetingly there was a mischievous glint in Byakuya's eye, but it was gone as fast as it came.
"Or something," he mocked coolly which caused his sister to glance back at him carefully. He ignored her and reached over to a set of light switches, turning off the main overhead lights in the shop.
The place was dim now with only the glow coming from the display counter. The three of them stood there like ghosts.
"Alright, you seem like a nice guy, Ichigo. But don't get any crazy ideas," Rukia warned. "Don't disrespect nii-sama and listen to what he tells you. This place can get really busy, especially in the mornings. Tomorrow, be here for nine am, you can shadow Byakuya-sama to see how we run things. We'll give you a jacket but wear dark pants and comfortable shoes. If it all works out, I'll put you on the payroll and you can start training."
There was a whirlwind spinning inside of Ichigo's head now. "Ah... right, nine am. I'll be here."
Over Rukia's shoulder Ichigo watched as an impassive looking Byakuya released the tie from his hair, sending his raven locks to fall freely across his shoulders.
Oh gawd! What a handsome jerk.
It was clear to Ichigo that this chef was full of himself, standing there acting all cool, like it made no difference at all that tomorrow they'd be working together. What an unfriendly sack of...
Grr! He'd show this guy. He'd wipe that smug attitude right off the table!
"Well, goodnight, Rukia. Byakuya," he said politely, a disoriented look on his face. "I'll see you tomorrow morning. Thanks again."
"Goodnight, Ichigo," replied Rukia.
Byakuya said nothing.
With a nod, Ichigo turned and left the shop leaving the two siblings alone.
"Oh nii-sama, I like this guy. I think he'll be good for you and the business." Rukia expressed. She loved the eager fight this Ichigo guy displayed. He seemed so passionate about everything, she could just tell.
"You would," droned Byakuya.
Rukia seemed a little concerned. "Is everything alright?"
"It is fine."
"But you sounded a little funny earlier."
"I am fine."
"I sure hope he lasts longer than the others, please try to get along with him. Do you agree with hiring Ichigo? Did I make a mistake?"
"It is hard to find a worthy assistant. We shall see. We won't know until he starts, however."
Rukia hid a smirk behind her hands now. "I haven't seen you look at someone that way in a long, long time. You thought he was cute, didn't you?"
Nothing on Byakuya's face changed to show that he even heard what she had said. But his voice reproved. "Rukia, why do you stubbornly insist on focusing on my love life?"
"Because you're my older brother and I care about you. I know you loved my sister but she's gone and... It's time to move on. It's been six years." Rukia's smile was gone as she looked gravely up at Byakuya. "I just want you to be happy."
Byakuya softened a little. It was true, he loved Hisana in a way he believed he would never love anyone again. She left him alone and empty when she passed away from a terminal illness. The memory gnawed at his heart.
Nothing in the world could measure how much his little adoptive sister meant to him. She was always here for him, worrying about his needs. He tried to show her the same amount of respect but felt withdrawn about many things in life. Over the years he'd unthawed a lot, learned to become his own person, especially since he found something he loved to do, creating things with his hands. He could have ignored it but for once he'd listened to his heart.
It had not always been that way...
He placed a concerned hand on Rukia's small shoulder. "Rukia, are you not happy here?"
Violet eyes looked stricken at him. "How can you say that, nii-sama? This is the best thing you've ever done for yourself and I'm proud to be a part of it. Even your father was happy you left Kuchiki Enterprises to start your own business, to do something you love. He and I are proud of you."
"Besides," Rukia continued, "There is no place I'd rather be. You and Renji are the only family I have. That makes me very happy. To ask for more would be selfish."
Byakuya nodded. "You've grown to be a very sensible woman, Rukia. I am also proud of you."
"Oh, I don't know about that after I say what's on my mind," she chided. A stubborn, almost motherly look came over the small woman. "For a moment I thought that new guy came in here to pick you up. I thought I'd have to beat him off with a stick. It wouldn't be the first time." Rukia narrowed her eyes. It was no secret that her brother admired both men and woman and he didn't try to hide it from her.
Byakuya huffed mildly with amusement, Rukia could be so over-protective. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"Don't play dumb with me, nii-sama. You attract the weirdest types."
"But he asked for a job, clearly it wasn't to 'pick me up'." Byakuya tried to defend himself. "Perhaps he was a little peculiar though."
"Well, he wasn't as weird as some of the horn dogs that come in here."
This time Byakuya actually chuckled softly, something he didn't do often enough. His sister could be so outspoken to the point of absurd. He admired that about her but would never tell her that. "That's a new one, Rukia. It's not like I've bothered with all these 'horn dogs'. I suppose it is the nature of the business. A lot of people come and go through here."
Rukia actually rolled her eyes and said sarcastically. "Have you looked in the mirror, nii-sama? You're a horn dog magnet."
Byakuya sighed. "I think that's enough discussion for the evening. You should go home and get some rest. Tomorrow will come quickly," he urged.
"Alright, I'll tell Renji you said 'hello'. Be careful on the way home," Rukia said and went into the back kitchen to get her coat and remove her apron.
Byakuya spoke quietly to himself. "Thanks for everything, dear sister."
He turned his gaze out to the street, wondering about the cute young man with fiery hair that had stumbled in his shop like a lost puppy with big brown eyes. He wondered what the man had tried to say to him before Rukia interrupted. He wondered if Kurosaki Ichigo would even bother to show up tomorrow.
Most of all, he wondered if he'd be able to stop staring at him if he did.
A/N: There will be more to come! I hope you enjoy! ^_^