Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, I make no money from this.
It was a little nowhere club, at the end of a nowhere street, but anyone who really needed it could find it. The sign outside was covered in flaking gold paint and the name of the club was barely legible, only a few letters to separate it from the slew of pawn shops and dirty book stores that surrounded it.
Behind the faded gilt façade was The Tea Dance.
Inside beautiful girls were waiting to take a few turns around the floor with any guy willing to part with a few bucks. There were drinks available, and cuisine, and for a few extra dollars one of the girls would sit with a guy and make him feel like a big man for a few hours.
In the broad light of day Naruto could see that the girls were far from beautiful, hard lives and hard years left their mark on sunken cheeks, shadowed eyes, and figures more gaunt than delicate. And for a few extra dollars they would do more than have a drink with a guy because, after all, everybody had to eat.
And when the sun streamed in through the big picture window it highlighted the threadbare rugs and worn velvet furniture, the cracks in the walls and the thick gouges in the wooden surface of the dance floor.
But at night when the room was thick with romantic fantasies and warmed by flickering candlelight, the girls were beautiful, and the music tinkling softly from the fingers of the drunken piano player was magical.
At night, Naruto could believe.
He took his post at the door, a stalwart guardian of the taxi dancer's negotiable virtue. It was a slow night, but every night was a slow night. The girls did their best to keep a guy on his feet, a dollar a song, a dollar a dance.
The regulars were in. Shikamaru was slumped over a table in the corner, Ino at his side and her hands firmly planted on the sake bottle. The long haired man was happy to sit for hours drinking and not talking and Ino was happy to pour.
Rock Lee was dragging Sakura around the floor. Half the time he was stepping on her feet, and the other half he was dancing on air. Naruto could have warned the man not to fall in love with the pink-haired dancer, but he wouldn't have listened, and Naruto made it a point to stay out of other people's love lives anyway. It just made life easier.
The new girl, Hinata, was off at the bar. She'd danced three dances so far, a quick foxtrot with a loudly laughing tattooed guy, and then two slow dances with a man in a high-collared coat. She spent the entire time blushing and Naruto could hear her stutter from the door, but she was doing a good job.
The other girls were dancing or waiting to dance, their eyes on the thick bulges in the men's pockets in the hopes that money could travel from hand to hand by desire alone.
Though Naruto supposed that it could, sometimes.
"Excuse me," someone said and Naruto turned sharply, torn from his thoughts.
When he saw the figure in the doorway he held back a gasp by sheer force of will.
The guy was beautiful.
Real beautiful, not the underfed and over painted version Naruto was used to. He was all class from the tips of his meticulously shined shoes to his hair, which gleamed a rich blue black in the reflected glow of the street light outside.
Dumbly Naruto stepped back, making room for the man to walk into The Tea Dance.
The man took a few steps in before shrugging off his coat and half throwing it at Naruto.
"Do something with this, would you?"
Naruto nodded and the man walked away, further into the club. The coat was heavy, and still warm from the stranger's body. It smelled of a light and musky aftershave, but there was the slightest hint of oranges that made Naruto's mouth water. After one deep breath that brought the scent up into his nose as if it were filling his brain, Naruto laid the coat gently over a chair by the door. There was no coat check in the club. Whatever the patron brought in they kept on them. There weren't a lot of safe places anywhere anymore.
The man walked across the dance floor, moving carefully among the swaying dancers and dragging their attention along with him as he approached the bar. Naruto tried to return to his task of guarding the dancers and watching the door, but his eyes kept slipping over to the man now standing at the bar.
Sakura and Ino had spotted him already, and like the delicate sharks they were both had
abandoned heir partners and made their way to the bar.
Naruto was too far away to hear their conversation, but he knew the routine. The two girls worked together like a married couple, long term partners who knew every move the other would make and how to counter or support it.
Sakura would come on strong, leaving Ino to demur and laugh. The blonde girl's family owned a flower shop before the city went to Hell in a handbasket, but she was riding high long enough to pick up a little polish. Where Ino was coy, Sakura was brash, and together the two of them had never met a man they couldn't divest of his worldly possessions before the sad bastard knew what hit him.
But the new fish didn't seem to be biting as both girls stomped away, returning to their partners with mulish expressions on their faces.
Naruto saw Rock Lee sweep Sakura back into his arms with a grand flourish. Shikamaru just shoved Ino's chair out from the table with his foot so the blonde could sit back down.
As Naruto watched Hinata tried her luck with the guy, but she was rebuffed as well. From what Naruto could see it was a gentle brush off and the girl walked over to him, beaming.
Naruto never trusted a smiling woman.
"Kitsune-san," the girl said softly, "The stranger wishes to speak with you."
Naruto snorted. The nickname was part of his aunt's plan to stop him from getting a fox tattooed on his back. Tsunade thought linking it with the Japanese might remind Naruto of the mother who had abandoned him to a series of relatives throughout his childhood. It hadn't worked, but the name caught on.
Now he wore it, and the tattoo, with pride.
"I'm sorry, Hinata-hime, but I have to stay at the door to keep the riff-raff out."
Hinata blushed and nodded before turning away and walking back to the bar, her head a little higher and her back a little straighter than it had been before. He liked calling the girls princesses. It didn't cost him anything and it made them feel a little better about themselves and their lives.
Hinata returned to the man and Naruto could see them talking from his post at the door. They weren't moving much but Naruto could feel the tension from where he stood and he readied himself to move to Hinata's defense.
It turned out to be unnecessary because after a few more minutes the girl shook her head and stepped away, returning to the small table where the loud tattooed man and the quiet one in the coat were sitting.
Naruto's breathed a sigh of relief that turned into a gasp as the man stood and began walking towards him, across the sparsely populated dance floor and among the little tables.
As he got closer Naruto turned away to pick up the orange and musk-scented coat and to hide
the rush of heat that flooded his cheeks. He didn't know where the blush came from, but he knew he didn't want the stranger to see it.
Leaning back further into the shadows around the door, Naruto held up the coat, but the man ignored it, placing his hand on Naruto's outstretched arm instead.
He didn't smile, but there was the idea, the rumor of a smile, about that beautifully symmetrical face as the man said, "Are you for sale?"
Naruto's mouth dropped open and she snapped it shut again before growling at the man. "No one here is for sale."
The man shook his head. He still wasn't smiling but there was a brief flash of laughter in his dark eyes. "My mistake. Are you a dancer?"
Naruto shook his head and held out the coat. "Sorry, I watch the door and the girls, period. If you're interested in that sort of thing, Manda's is just down the street."
Manda's was a small club that catered to a different crowd. Naruto went there once with his cousin Gaara. Both boys pretended it was just a joke, a chance to laugh at the freaks, but once they were past the door and the tall, long-haired door man that watched them with hungry eyes, they were silenced by the beat of their own hearts. Inside the club there were men dancing with men, and women dancing with women. Some of the men wore make-up and dresses, and some of the girls looked more like boys than Naruto and Gaara did. The air was thick with potential and passion and fear and Naruto and Gaara ran out of there as though the hounds of Hell were on their heels.
And if they were breathing a little harder, or if their pants were a little bit tighter, well, they didn't think about it.
The stranger's mouth twisted slightly in something that was almost a smirk, almost a pout, as he drew his arm back, taking the coat with it.
Naruto almost leaned into the receding warmth, but he held back.
The man stepped towards the door, before turning and saying over his shoulder, "I'm afraid what I want isn't at Manda's. Though the fact that you know what that club is makes me think it isn't so far out of my reach after all."
And with that he was gone into the gloom of night.
Note: So, this is my first Naruto story. Or, rather, it's the first one I've posted. I have a few more that are nowhere near done enough to post, but I wanted to try something in a new fandom.
'Taxi Dancers' were also known as 'Dime a Dance Girls.' The basic premise was that a man could go to a night club and buy a few tickets. If he saw a girl he wanted to dance with he gave her a ticket and they danced. At the end of the night she got paid by how many tickets she had received. It took on a national popularity in the 1920's and 1930's. the idea of the dance halls being a front for a brothel or prostitution was something I made up, there is no evidence that it ever happened in real life.
I don't have a sequel or continuation written for this story, but I could write one, I suppose. Let me know what you think and we'll see what happens.