Title: One for the Money
Warnings: Drug abuse, implied rape, mean Axel,
Summary: In the heat of the Prohibition, Axel reaches rock bottom, a victim of organized crime and piss poor spending habits. Finding Roxas on the streets begins a streak of luck. But how much can he push until someone pushes back?
It’s not my fault, really.
Fate just cast the die my way.
He walked along the moonlit streets. The concrete beneath him was cracked and weeds were growing through. People walked with their shoulders hunched, and everyone still managed to knock shoulders with each other.
A blaring trumpet could be heard down the hall, along with the shrill singing and piano accompaniments. He liked the trumpet. Along the street, heads nodded in time with the beat. He started to hum.
Cars roared past. A man shouted angrily and jumped off the sidewalk. He shook his fist and cursed the car that was fading in the distance. He was sopping wet. Girls crowded together in packs and laughed. One or two men could be seen on their arms. He couldn’t help but admire their short skirts and slender necks.
Oh, but they stood out compared to the gray crowd and the shabby men resting against the buildings. They shook their tin cans and pleaded, “Money for food? Money for food?” No matter how hard they shook those damned cans, no clinging and clanging ever came from it.
On the corner, between the street light and the tall, broken down building stood a rouged girl. The curls in her hair had lost their bounce. Perhaps she would call it a night soon. Oh, but she wanted to offer her wares to that one last gentleman passing her by. Please sir, she’s got no where else to turn. Have a little fun?
She looked at him and turned away. He had no money. He smiled and walked on. In the shadows, if anyone bothered to look hard enough, there were the corpses of homeless men who had picked the unlucky spot to rest. Their corpses were draining away to nothing and the flies buzzed around their heads like halos. Heartless perched atop the fresher ones’ heads.
The beady eyes of the heartless never settled on him, a testament of what he lacked compared to those surrounding him. Somewhere a child screamed and gunshots rang off. The crowd was unfazed. Into the gay night, from one of the bars the police appeared and swarmed together, flocking to the gunshot and the screaming child.
Poor kid was dead by then. The heartless were fast eaters, and only getting faster. He laughed and ducked inside one of the bars.
Smoke smothered him from the instant he opened the door. The deafening roar of the crowd was only outmatched by the talented trumpet player on the stage. Too gentle protests from innocent girls, and the loud laughter of the rough hands that caressed them. One more drink for the lady, sir.
Oh, but she shouldn’t. She silently pleaded for help as the drink was practically shoved down her throat. The curtain to the stage was drawn, and the final note hung on the ears of those who had been listening.
He turned to the bar and took a seat. It was surprisingly vacant, but the drunks were greedily watching the poor, drunk, innocent girls. One or two clung to the bars and demanded their moonshine. Unfamiliar bartenders stared at him and then insisted to the regulars that they didn’t serve alcohol.
They vanished into the back room to grab the drink of choice. No one cared beyond the simple lie, as if anyone ever believed they didn’t serve alcohol.
Blond, young, far too naïve, the one familiar bartender appeared almost out of nowhere.
“What’d you think, Axel?” Axel raised his eyes to look at the bartender before him. He smiled and reached for the drink he knew the bartender would have.
“That was you up there, Demyx?” Demyx grinned and grabbed a glass to wipe off. He wanted to look busy, though Axel never quite understood why.
Oh please, not another drink, sir. She thinks… She thinks that she needs to go home.
“Yeah. So where have you been?” he asked lazily, all the while shining that stupid glass. Axel wanted to break it. Stop trying to look like there’s something to be done. He wasn’t going anywhere and Axel knew it.
“To the fights, the races, the alleys…” He waved his hand airily as he took another drink. “To put it simply, I’ve been working my way into a hole known as bankruptcy.” He rested his elbows against the polished wood of the bar and frowned.
Demyx stopped as he pondered the meaning of Axel’s words. As it slowly dawned on him, he asked quickly, “Do you have enough--”
“Here,” Axel replied as he threw the last of the change in his pockets onto the counter top. “Congratulations, you’re fucking rich.” He gulped the last of the shot and slammed the glass down onto the counter as well. He stood up unceremoniously and stumbled away. The stench of the stinking breaths and hot bodies was making him sick.
“How do you stand it?” he demanded as he slammed the door behind him. People jumped away from him.
The streets weren’t quite so full then as he walked alone. The street lights winked in erratic spurts every now and again. He passed a tattered Chicago Tribune stand. Several heartless ran past him. On the mildewed, brick walls was a poster. Champion of Heartless: Tournament to be held Saturday. He ripped it from its spot.
He didn’t know where he was going. He had no money or no home to go to, not anymore. Angry shouts from the windows above filled the streets below. Some clothes fell into the streets and were run over by passing traffic. He smiled ruefully. Ah, the times, how they had changed.
Here’s your great victory over evil, Congress, he thought with a laugh. Here’s what life is like without alcohol in the slums.
When he wasn’t paying attention, she knocked him in the head with a metal bar. As he reeled unsteadily from the blow, she pulled him back into the alleyway and towered above him. Unlike most women, she tried to dress as much like the men as possible. The last thing she wanted was for them to not take her seriously.
He blinked his eyes, his mind wondering what the hell had just happened. She pulled him to his feet, he blonde hair all a mess from the sudden motions she was making. She punched him with her free arm. He stumbled as she punched him again, his arms flailed blindly, trying to protect him.
She laughed and punched him again. His nose was bleeding, probably broken. The evidence was all over his white shirt.
“What the hell!”
She tried to punch him again, but he reached out and grabbed her arm. She fought his grip and then let go of his shirt to punch him in the gut with her other arm. He let go and hunched over. She kicked him in the groin, and he toppled over with a loud thud.
“Oh God, you bitch!” he seethed. His breath was very audible through his crooked nose.
She laughed again and crouched over him. “You’re over due, Axel.”
He looked up at her and frowned. “Over due? But I’ve still got a week.”
The harlequin on the corner turned a blind eye. He eye was so blind she ran away as fast as she could, and the woman over him didn’t care.
“The date changed. We need our money back now.”
“Larxene, I don’t have the money,” he replied as he slowly, gingerly sat up. He didn’t realize she still had her bar until she took a swing at his head and hit it.
“I said now.” As he forced his aching body to sit up, she kicked him in the side. The evening had not been going his way at all, and he cringed to think that he was getting mugged by one of the most petite women he knew.
“I need three days,” he pleaded. He ignored the tears that slipped from the corners of his eyes. Oh, but how he hurt. She loved watching him squirm and curl up, afraid of where her next blow would be.
Somewhere, a trumpet wailed, a man screamed, a gun fired, a harlot cried. And somewhere he heard the clinking of change in a tin can. She couldn’t hear beyond his pathetic gasps.
“Alright. I’m feeling a little merciful tonight, I guess,” she said as she swung the bar over her shoulder. “I’ll give you your damned time. In three days, we want two thousand.”
“But that’s double what I borrowed,” he gasped. She silenced him with a kick to his face. His nose cracked further. He had a small pool of blood forming by his cheek.
“Two thousand dollars, three days.” He heard the bar clatter to the floor. She listened to him whimper as she walked away. She would have loved to sit there and listen to him, but she had other appointments to keep.
He lay there for some time, long enough for the sky to turn purple and the moon to vanish completely. He sat up and felt around his nose, dried flakes of blood sticking to his hands. He could feel it out of alignment and he placed both hands to it.
He quickly inhaled before pushing it back into place with a loud crunch. The pain was momentary, but the pain in his sides was enough to keep him against the wall. Heartless crawled past him. Some stopped to examine the small puddle of blood at his feet, but they all headed for the shadows.
Daylight presented a whole new set of problems for him. How was he supposed to meet Larxene’s demands? After all, she was simply a messenger. The others could be a lot worse, even if they didn’t enjoy it quite so much as she did, the sadistic bitch.
He pushed himself up against the wall. As he stepped away from it, his balance tilted and he almost wound up on his face again. Three days to get two thousand! She was insane. What was worse, he couldn’t think of any easy way out of his predicament. Poor people never had enough money to leave town. He stood awkwardly in the alleyway.
The night time city was shutting down for the daylight. Everywhere, neon lights flickered off and flappers and their escorts ran down the streets in a mad dash to get home before anyone was the wiser. Tired harlequins vanished into the safe houses where their pimps backhanded their wasted efforts.
Jazz music no longer filled the air. Men with briefcases started descending the stairs of the cheap apartments. Construction hats, women with purses, and finely dressed children slowly followed suit. Shouts of a new kind filled the air as Axel crawled out of the alleyway.
A rat followed him and scurried to the street where it was ran over.