She’s a sight you won’t soon forget.
The first thing you’d notice is the glint in her pitch dark eyes, lined with black and adorned with impossibly thin eyebrows. Her hair is straight, black, and sleek; framing a jawline so sharp it borders caution. She’s got pointed, clawed nails at the end of her bony fingers, and a red lipped smile so apprehensively charming and wide it reaches the corners of her skimpily matching cheeks. Her body is just as slender as the rest of her, with legs that only go up, and a waist so pinched that a man with large enough hands just might be able to hold it all around. She truly is someone you could not forget.
And she wants to make a deal.
New York City faces the general bustling crowd that comes with its usual Saturday afternoon fervor.
You can start to make out the warbles of people. Women who talk of hearsay in an incessant trill, men who voice sophisticated business within themselves, gather to advertise such a sense of animation. The street itself, is rich with the ongoing moan of vehicles, promoting the deep smell of petrol that undeniably gives itself out to the scenery. And, somewhere, possibly a block down or two, there’s the hint of busking pianists that sing the smooth tone of song that airs out down the street.
Through it’s common hum of life, one can spot a blonde man in tweed tearing down the sidewalk. In a rather clumsy manner, he rotates around the familiar crowds, albeit with a few ‘excuse me’s and ‘my bad ’s. His leather book bag bounces off his right thigh as he holds tightly onto his matching tweed cap, rushing beside the traffic of the black Ford’s that continue down the road. He thinks to himself, he’ll surely make it on time, if he can simply move his legs fast enough. He thinks this even though his watch tells him he’s ten past the time agreed upon.
On the street corner in front of him, he spots the man that he’s awaited to see. Below the Tom’s Restaurant sign, there’s a black-haired fellow with a cornered back and tired eyes. So, with a final flare of energy, he sprints toward him with a glowing grin. “Shikamaru!” He beckons, still pushing past the plenty of people in an ungainly fashion.
“Naruto, I don’t understand why we set a meeting time if you insist on being late,” Shikamaru says once the latter catches up to him. Naruto, absolutely red-faced and heaving, leans himself over his knees.
He pleads guilty with a laugh, “Sorry, Shikamaru. You, of all men, should know how quickly time seems to go.”
Shikamaru raises a thin brow, looking upon him with question. “And yet I’m always on time, despite that.”
Naruto straightens himself up, shrugs and takes his cap off, “Yes, well, you’ve always been a better man than me.”
And as both are pleased with that much of an exchange, Shikamaru makes way towards the entry of the restaurant while Naruto follows close behind.
Shikamaru is a fine friend, Naruto knows. Despite his monotonous face and sarcastic remarks, Shikamaru still manages to remain overly generous to the overly zealous Naruto. It’s a little bittersweet of a deal, considering Naruto is in constant debt towards the other man’s hospitality, yet such a relationship pursues otherwise.
Once inside, they are spotted by a blonde waitress standing behind the bar. She promptly gives the two a scowl before reaching somewhere under the bar to grab out a couple of menus.
“Welcome to Tom’s,” she announces in a terribly unenthusiastic demeanor. “Booth or bar?” “Booth.”
And with that, she groans and exits herself from behind the bar, leading them to the blue booth closest to the door. “Two coffees, I’m guessing?” She asks as Shikamaru slides himself onto one of the plumped seats.
“You know us too well,” He amuses, to which the blonde woman rolls her eyes.
“Ino, won’t you be a doll and ask Sakura to wait on us this time?” Naruto further sits down, brandishing an award-winning smile. Ino returns his look with a glower so strong that any normal man would feel inclined to rethink his words. However, Naruto was quite a load less shameful than any normal man, so his smile wavers none.
“You say that every blasted time you walk through our door,” She scoffs, placing the duo of menus beside each man. “Sakura is very busy as of now, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”
Naruto slumps into the seat of the booth and sighs, “I expected you’d say that.” He unclasps the top of his leather bookbag and fists around, finally pulling out a coin that’s roughly the size of his fingernail. “Do it for a dime, then?” Naruto asks, placing it on the table in front of her.
She gazes at it, before discreetly slipping it into the front pocket of her uniform dress. “Now, don’t get all cocky on me next time, unless you’re ready to front a quarter,” Ino hisses at him, turning away, “And blouse the purse, you look like a pansy.”
“This is the age of acceptance!” He calls out after her as she leaves “Calling me a pansy-- Dammit...” He stops short once she’s too out of ear shot to hear him.
“What a shame,” Shikamaru etches out, reaching out for the menu, “She’d be a babe if she didn’t have such a sharp tongue.”
“Ah, Shikamaru, some men like that these days,” Naruto responds, shrugging his coat off.
Shikamaru shakes his head, “How troublesome,” and keeps his eyes on the menu.
It’s not long before Sakura shows up with two coffees and a pitcher of cream in hand, sharing a shrewd scowl that was eerily similar to the one Ino had worn. She nearly shoves the two cups onto the table, and begins to fill the mug she had scooted towards Naruto with cream.
“Ah, so you even know the way I like my coffee, then?” He entertains, chuckling faintly.
Sakura quickly goes red in the face, “I wait on you every afternoon,” She manages to choke out, shaking her head hastily, “Don’t start making any sort of assumptions.”
Shikamaru takes his coffee untouched, as he had always preferred it black anyway, “Don’t be so shy, Sakura. You’ve always been his blue serge .”
Sakura stiffens immediately, possibly even redder, “I am no one’s blue serge. And most certainly not to a dewdropper like Naruto.” She takes back the pitcher of cream awkwardly, which humors Shikamaru to the point he has to suppress a laugh.
Naruto, on the other hand, places a fist on the table, “I’m not a dewdropper, I’m a musician .”
And that seemingly amuses Shikamaru even more, “Please, Naruto, even I know that’s a stretch.”
Sakura, who had collected herself easier, speaks again, “You’re lucky the Cotton Club opened up again, or else you two would have nowhere to play.”
“Say, Sakura,” Naruto adds, “You should find time to swing by.” Shikamaru gives Naruto a knowing glance that entails his disappointment. Shikamaru had never been too fond of Sakura.
“Oh, please, as if I’d ever have an interest in such a thing as that skimpy music club,” Sakura mutters, crossing her arms like a child. Naruto, nevertheless, slaps his knee in alike hilarity, and Sakura simply takes the cream pitcher off the booth table, “Besides, I won’t be doing anything of the sort. I took up a job as a telephone operator during the night-shift, so you can’t invite me to join in on any of your… activities.”
Naruto raises his brows, “You can work a telephone?”
“Yes, I’m actually quite good,” She retorts arrogantly, “They nearly hired me on the spot-- Something you’ll never be familiar with.”
“Ah, Naruto is plenty good at many things, Sakura,” Shikamaru tells her, but by the condescending tone he uses, you’d imagine Naruto isn’t very good at anything.
“Please,” She says, and with that, she struts off and disappears somewhere behind the bar, Naruto eyeing her the whole way back. Sakura Haruno had always been the one Naruto could never take his eyes off of.
He releases a deep sigh he had been repressing, and embraces the warm sides of his coffee cup. At the blue booth closest to the door, he can spot the same crowds of people making their way down the sidewalk out the window. It’s a strangely calming sensation to watch others go about their daily lives, he thinks to himself. With the sky as blue as it is, and with the day so warm, no one would’ve guessed it was nearing the close of September. It’s a matter of perfection that Naruto has yet to fathom. All thanks to Shikamaru, he reminds himself. All thanks to the man who sits in front of him with the matter-of-fact look that Naruto knows much too well. What a guy.
“Say, Shikamaru,” He breaks the shortly lived silence, looping one of his fingers through the handle of his drink, “What do you think it’ll be for today?”
He places the menu down on the table, “Well, I was just wondering if I should get ham, or chopped ham,” Shikamaru laughs plainly. “And, I imagine you’ll be getting the steak?”
“As always,” Naruto says back, bringing his coffee mug to his lips, and immediately burning his tongue.
“Well, if isn’t our old pal, Uzumaki!”
His hand is greeted by the firm grip he feels honored to be accustomed to. He beams brightly, returning the grip of the hand graciously. In the corner of his eye, Naruto can spot a small smirk on Shikamaru’s face as well. Shikamaru reaches for Naruto’s collar to straighten it out slightly, then lays his hand on top of his upper back.
“Mister Jiraiya, my good sir, if there isn’t a man as cordial as you!” He laughs, the skin around his eyes crinkling.
Jiraiya returns the laugh, “Don’t be so formal,” He banters, motioning them to follow as he leads them into the club further. Naruto can already hear the music playing, ever so softly. “What a nice surprise to catch you boys here tonight, yeah?”
“We’re always here Saturday night, mister,” Naruto answers, rearranging his suit jacket around his shoulders. “And, say, think there’d be anywhere to get a glass of whiskey? ”
“Ah, if there is any then I’m sure you’d know, mister,” Shikamaru adds.
Jiraiya waves off Shikamaru’s sly comment, finally guiding them to a round table that stands closest to the stage. “I’ll ask Kakashi once he comes around, he’ll get you both the best panther piss he can manage,” He playfully ribs at the two. “Anyways, the show doesn’t start for another ten minutes or so, boys,” He pulls out a chair for himself and slumps upon in, “Make yourselves at home, why don’t you?”
Shikamaru sits before Naruto does, “My pleasure, mister,” placing both elbows on the top of the sheeted surface.
Cotton Club is just as lively as Naruto had remembered it. Full lights come down from the high-topped ceiling, bouncing off the walls and floor against the sharp character of the orchestra. The orchestra, along, is adorned with the plentiful batch of men he’s come to recognize so well over the years, ceremoniously embracing the gloriously light music that emits from the end of the room. In the center of it all lies the grand piano; tall, black, and sleek, it’s glossy exterior glistening against the lights shone down upon the inky wood. It’s without a muse, though, positioned with prestige, alone among the lines of fellow men. It’s presence heeds not to waver, even so. It’s a deep bellowing existence, at that.
Feeling as though he’s gotten a good glance at the scenery, Naruto bends over to pull out his own chair. However, he’s halted in the process by a small murmur somewhere behind him. He turns himself around, where he is faced with a dark, indigo haired woman.
Her hair is straight, for the most part, excluding the slight wave that curls up at the ends, right near her waist. She’s got light, sparkling eyes that cast downwards within his vicinity, with a slight smile that seems more of a defense mechanism than a greeting. She also has a very fine body, Naruto notices. She’s small at the waist, and yet quite busty at the top. She clasps her gloved hands close to her breasts, pushing them slightly more into his view. It also doesn’t help his manlihood that she wears a rather distracting dress, gold and bedazzled and barely making it past her knees.
“Sorry,” He breathes out, “Did you say something?”
Her hands clasp even tighter, and her expression becomes bashful, “Would you like me to take your jacket, sir?” She asks, seeming to fix her eyes towards something on the floor. Her voice is extremely airy, almost unreachable.
“Yes, thank you,” Naruto nods, pulling off his black suit coat and handing it to her. She takes it with a level of daintiness, and holds it as if it could break at any moment given. In a quick second, she looks up at him, then turns her back, disappearing behind them in between the tables.
In a slight amount of awe, Naruto finally sits down beside Shikamaru, slipping into his chair slowly.
“You little weasel, Uzumaki! Barely walked through the door and he’s already stealing a woman’s heart,” Jiraiya chuckles, but Naruto can sense he’s more than a bit envious.
Shikamaru slaps a hand on Naruto’s back, beaming widely, “Man, she was a doll, wasn’t she? Too bad you won’t be doing any dancing tonight, or else you wouldn’t be going home with me.”
Naruto goes a little red, scratching a place on his neck. “She was a bit of a cancelled stamp though, was she not?”
“Oh, please,” Jiraiya waves him off, “That woman is a choice bit of calico, I’ll tell you that.”
Naruto smiles a little to himself, “I’ve never seen her around before, she ought to have only started working here a little bit ago.”
“A week ago,” Jiraiya tells him. “Saw her last Sunday waiting on a few tables.”
“Man,” Shikamaru laughs, keeping his hand on Naruto’s back. “You can barely remember how to work a washing machine, and yet you manage to keep tabs on every woman that walks in here. The only weasel here is you, mister.”
Jiraiya crosses his arms with a bright look, “My boy, Shikamaru, women are meant to be remembered, and men are simply meant to remember them.”
Naruto remembers Sakura right then. She’s an absolute bearcat, he knows that. She’s opinionated and feisty, and her body is nowhere near as glamorous as the women that make their way through Cotton Club. Yet, there’s something within her quality that infatuates Naruto to no end. He knows he’s a good man when he sees a woman as glorious as the one who took his jacket, and still longs for Sakura much more.
The lights dim down right then, and the room that had previously been full with chatter goes silent in its wake. A proper man walks up to the grand piano in the center of the back of the room. The orchestra starts to play, leaving everything else long forgotten.
Shikamaru is a fine friend, Naruto knows. He holds Naruto with his arm around his waist as the blonde man lumbers down the sidewalk, leaning forward so awkwardly he could fall over any second. Mister Jiraiya walks a bit ahead of them with his hands in his pockets. The street twists as it grows deeper into the darkness, split apart only by the faint brightness of street lamps that pass by every ten feet, or so. The shops that he remembered being to inviting earlier in that day are closed and dull; Lighted billboards have long shut off, and Naruto’s eyesight is so utterly failing that he can’t seem to make out what they say, and his memory is so boggled he can’t remember what they said. The street that was full of black Fords that afternoon is now completely empty, except for every five minutes that one may roll down the street and flash Naruto’s vision with brilliant headlights.
“I’m going to assume you’ll be spending the night at my place, then?” Shikamaru asks him, straightening him up slightly from his bent form, which Naruto does his best to comply to.
“Yessir,” And even in Naruto’s drunken state, he can tell how slurred together those words sound coming from himself.
Jiraiya snorts from somewhere ahead of them, Naruto can’t really tell, “If I’d known you were this much of a light weight, I would’ve stopped you much sooner.”
Naruto can’t even remember when he started. The last thing he remembers clearly is the orchestra beginning to play amongst the dimmed room, and now he’s here. He remembers the music too, all the trumpets and the guitars and the piano, but he can’t place a visual to any of that.
“‘Music was lovely,” He says out loud to no one in particular, and he can catch Shikamaru nod at his words with a grin.
“And the women,” Jiraiya turns around to face them with a pervertedly passionate expression that Naruto would’ve liked to grimace at, if he had the energy.
Besides, the women? He remembers the woman who took his coat vaguely, but he doesn’t recall seeing anyone of interest besides that. “What women?” Naruto asks, bringing an arm up to sling over Shikamaru’s shoulders for leverage.
“The dancers ,” Jiraiya tells him. “You do remember the dancers, don’t you?”
Naruto shakes his head with an amount of robust that he assumes makes him appear ridiculous. “No… Just the music.”
Shikamaru lets out a nice laugh, “You seriously don’t remember?” He asks in an amused shock, and Naruto just shakes his head once more.
He really can’t wait to get into a bed. He knows Shikamaru has a nice guest room he’ll offer, where the sheets are always white and the room is always spotlessly clean. Shikamaru has got this rather pricey luxury apartment that’s so large it doesn’t seem like much of an apartment at all.
“This is where we part ways, boys,” Jiraiya says once they reach the end of the block, waving a hand farewell. “Now, you boys take care. Especially you, Uzumaki.” He rubs at the top of Naruto’s head, forcing his slicked hair to ruffle up across his forehead.
“Take care, mister,” Shikamaru tells him as Jiraiya disappears past them in the opposite direction.
“Alright, Naruto, you’re pretty heavy, think you can stand on your own now?”
He gives an affirmative hum, and allows himself to stand up straight. The world sways slightly, but he thinks he can manage the walk. He briefly looks up at the night, admiring the way the stars luster across the broad blackness of the sky. “‘s sure is charming tonight..”
Shikamaru shoves his hands in his pockets, responding, “It looks just as it does every other night.” He gives out a sigh, catching a slight glance at Naruto.
Does it? He looks up once more, and he’s still sure that the stars are much brighter, but he guesses it would be more reasonable to trust Shikamaru.
Truly, Shikamaru is a fine friend.