The Same Deep Water As You
by Solo & Jo
Tuesday 02 September
Kame stops with the meaningless piece of writing in his
hand, gives it its moment of stunned deliberation, then puts it down
slowly on the cheap wood of the desk. The focus on him as he takes
those two steps towards Toyoda-san has grown sharp, the silence tense.
"You don't want the truth," he says with a mixture of disbelief and
disappointment, ignoring the bright glare coming in through the windows
that is starting to hurt his eyes. It's supposed to be early spring,
but Kame has been sweating under his dark corduroy jacket for the last
hour and a half. "You're teaching these boys how to lie."
Toyoda looks like she's been slapped. Again. It's
starting to get to him.
"I want to teach them how to survive once they get out
of here," she replies, a subtle crack to her voice. "How to make
something of their lives." She's given them all sorts of degrees of
defiance but now she's hitting desperate. Kame isn't sure if she's
trying new things or if she's losing composure and making the best of
it. He wants to give her an encouraging look, but there's no room for
that. "This isn't some story where all you have to be is honest and
trying hard and then your mistakes will be forgiven. For these boys—"
She adds a pause and an imploring gesture that are new, but nobody
calls her on it. At the edge of Kame's vision Morioka and his peers are
reacting to her words. It would have looked better with defiant,
though. "All it takes is that one mistake." She's shaking her head
again, but it's a little too fast, she's rushing them. "There's no
second chances here."
"There are always second chances," Kame corrects her
emphatically, though her sceptical little frown isn't forthcoming now.
"And just because the world isn't always fair it doesn't mean we should
say that it's okay to lie, or that it's an excuse to take it out on
others." He pulls back his shoulders and remembers that they said
they'd do something about the fact that she's actually taller than him.
"That's not what I became a teacher for."
The tension holds for a moment; they have shot the rest
of his speech from a different angle and were pleased with him after
the second take. Then there's the cut, and everyone in the room seems
to slump a little, everyone but Toyoda, who avoids the passing glances
by focussing on the paper prop on the desk.
This has officially gone on too long. People are
starting to forget lines they've been repeating all afternoon. Nogushi
Yukiko pushes herself out of the headmistress' chair – the leather is
worn and shabby but they put Nogushi-san in a designer suit anyway –
and tries to roll stiffness out of her shoulders. She has two lines in
this scene and delivered them with her usual charisma, but the rest of
her job this afternoon consisted of sitting rigidly in a chair. The
boys start whispering together, and Kobi-kun, who plays the nerd to
Morioka Akihito's troubled rebel, pushes up his thick-framed glasses to
wipe sweat off the bridge of his nose.
The girl who plays Morioka's older sister has been on
set all day waiting for them to get around to shooting her scene, and
it never happened. She seems happy enough to stick around, though,
showing everyone in general and Iijima in particular how eager and
uncomplicated she is.
Toyoda gives Kame a small, tight smile while they wait.
He smiles back, tries for reassuring. An assistant passes water around
and the make-up artist fusses with Morioka's bruised cheek and
Then, finally, comes Iijima's call from the director's
chair, "All right, everyone! We've got it now." It wraps up filming for
the day for the teachers, a good four hours behind schedule. The boys
were supposed to shoot a separate scene, but Kame remembers something
about a music rehearsal of some kind they have to be at later.
He follows his colleagues as they flock towards the
coffee cart, ignoring the hushed discussion between Iijima and the
camera crew over the last of the dailies. Toyoda is hanging back,
though she's stepped out of the set lights, her fingers nervous at her
sides as she finds herself an unobtrusive spot to stand.
Fukushima Minoru lets Nogushi-san make her selection
first, making some respectful chit-chat, but she declines the sugar he
offers her. Like everyone else on set, Kame is very aware that they've
used an entire day of Nogushi's contractually limited set presence on
two brief scenes. The producers aren't going to be happy.
Nogushi steps back with her foamy mug and nods at Kame,
looking neither annoyed nor enamoured by her young co-stars and the
rocky first few days of shooting they've had so far. But on her way to
the assistant director's empty folding chair she gives Toyoda a brief
smile, saying, "Your second take was very good, I thought."
Nogushi isn't the type to walk around praising people,
but Toyoda merely thanks her politely, her reactions carefully blank.
Fukushima ignores her as he goes to join Nogushi, and
Kame tries to ignore the string of flattering comments that start
drifting over, especially the ones that mention Kamenashi-san's hard
work. The girl who plays the sister is laughing at some joke of
Iijima's, shyly and with a pretty little blush, while the boys are a
noisy cluster at his right, waiting for their turn at the cart and
sharing weekend adventures, their voices dropping for the interesting
He catches Toyoda's fleeting glance while he waits for
his espresso to come hissing out of the machine, but she looks away
quickly as if she doesn't want to bother him, or doesn't know what to
do with her eyes.
So he grabs one of the mugs and presses the button for
She smiles a little too gratefully when he hands her the
mug, but then she takes a sip and makes a face, and that is better.
Kame sips at his own little cup twice, holding the
saucer steady. "You showed a lot of range today," he says eventually,
even though he feels a little awkward about it. "I'm glad to be working
with you on this film."
She doesn't manage blank this time. After a moment, she
mumbles another thank you, forgetting even to add any pleasantries in
return – which is good, because that wasn't the point, anyway.
"I heard you have to stick around?" he asks.
She nods. "Shoe fitting." She sounds a little
embarrassed. Kame involuntarily looks down at her feet, and they're a
little embarrassed together.
The boys are trying to see how many espressos they can
fill into one mug before it flows over – the answer turns out to be
five by Kame's count – and then they look sheepish when Morioka,
reminding Kame of an annoyed older brother, says that now they should
at least drink the stuff. Their characters are all the same age, and
Morioka plays his sullen, troubled seventeen-year-old so young and so
fragile you'd never know he's already twenty-one himself, but once the
cameras are off, the difference to the boys who play his friends
Kame isn't sure if having three overcaffeinated
teenagers on set is a price worth paying for this particular lesson,
but Morioka is the one who still has to film with them.
"First soccer-field scene tomorrow," Toyoda says, but
sceptically, given how the weather's been all week. They're scheduled
to start at eleven, to make the most of the midday light.
Kame is glancing around for the director, wondering if
there's a chance he can get home before the worst of the rush hour, but
he smiles at Toyoda anyway. "At least they'll know what to do with
their energy then."
Kame has already changed out of his character's
ordinary-looking and unstylish – if very well tailored – teacher garb
into his own jeans and old polo shirt and is packing up his stuff when
Iijima comes striding into the cast break room and announces a small
change of plans.
Toyoda-san looks up from her paperback with instant
wariness, though she tries to hide it. Nogushi-san is still in her set
clothes – both women have been told to stick around for wardrobe
adjustments, and they're waiting for the tailor. She's enjoying a chat
with Fukushima, and Iijima gives first her, then Kame an at least
somewhat apologetic glance at whatever he's about to spring on them.
"Soga Jou has had to cancel the Friday shoot and asked
us to make other arrangements."
Kame's immediate reaction to yet another scheduling mess
when they've been shooting for less than a week is one he chooses to
keep to himself. He's worked with the photographer before, on the
promotion of the unemployment movie Kame did last year, and there's a
famous half-profile shot of him in front of a run-down train station
that Midori finds so stunning she insisted they hang it up in her
office, even though neither of them likes having tidbits of Kame's fame
decorate the house. Getting Soga Jou on board for their first serious
promotional shoot is very fortunate, and it's easy to see why
production would try to accommodate him.
"In light of the weather and Soga-san's availability,"
Iijima continues, "we're going to move the photo shoot up to tomorrow
morning. Nogushi-san, if you could be here at ten as planned, Soga-san
would start with the group shots then."
With the evening shoot taken off the Friday agenda,
they're going to get off unexpectedly early for the weekend, Kame
realizes. He's going to have to cancel on Tatsuya.
Iijima is still talking. "I apologise for the
inconvenience. We have to start early tomorrow. Soga-san is going to be
ready to start at six. Toyoda-san, could you be here at five-thirty to
get ready for your close-ups?"
That's harsh. That's obvious, even, and not just to
Kame. Nogushi regards Toyoda with a look that holds some pity, whereas
Fukushima isn't shy about putting his opinion into a smirk, and Matsura
Juri the industrious sister has momentarily forgotten to look sweet and
loveable as she waits for Toyoda's reaction. The boys might just be
glad it's not them, but Morioka seems to have sensed that something is
up even if his face shows mostly puzzlement.
Toyoda is trying her best at a polite little smile but
just now her best amounts to little more than frozen.
"Excuse me," Kame says before she can open her mouth and
before he can imagine getting up at fucking four in the morning, if not
earlier. "If it's not too inconvenient, I would like to go first. I
have another appointment tomorrow and would like to be done with my
individual shots as early as possible."
Now they're all staring at him, but Kame doesn't care
much, even if he vaguely hopes he won't have to pull an appointment he
could have in the middle of a day of shooting out of the air. Though he
will if he has to. It's not like he doesn't have the acting skills to
Iijima blinks in surprise. "You'll be shot with
Morioka-kun," he points out. "I thought we'd have you two closer to the
It hangs in the air; by now it's clear that Morioka's
filming will go on late into the evening, but before Kame can even feel
conflicted Morioka interrupts, "I totally don't mind," looking a bit
bewildered as to what's actually going on but happy enough to help out
the star of this picture.
Kame gives him a quick, grateful bow. "I'd appreciate
it," he says to Iijima, like he trusts that the director is going to
help out the star of his picture as well, and after a very brief moment
"Of course," he says. "Morioka-kun should be here by
seven then. So that means Toyoda-san at eight-thirty." The look he
throws her is not nearly as polite as his voice. "Please be on time."
Toyoda turns to look at Kame as soon as Iijima has left
the room, but she can't say anything, and Kame shrugs lightly, giving
her a quick smile as he slings his bag over his shoulder.
He stops by the canteen to pick up some bottled water
for the drive, because by now he's almost certain to get stuck in
traffic no matter where he goes for the night. It's a long line, with
most of the crew taking advantage of the break between scenes. Kame can
feel the glances, knows they'd let him jump the queue, but he keeps his
eyes to himself, legitimately withdrawn after a long day at work.
Shuffling towards the register, he thinks through
logistics more logically. Midori will be home tonight, but the idea of
commuting from the house for a six a.m. shoot is eating at his mood
already. Since his Friday schedule just got curtailed, he might make
use of getting home early then, and take her out somewhere. He hasn't
done that in a while.
With his water paid for and any further conversation
avoided, he stops by the bathroom and then finds himself a quiet corner
outside the emergency stairwell to call his wife.
He catches her on a break between castings; some sort of
friendly banter is going on in the background when she picks up, but
Kame is glad he doesn't have to hash this out with her voicemail.
"Midori. It's me."
"Hey!" She sounds like she's in a good mood. "How was
the filming?" The voices in the background drop in volume, and Kame
imagines Midori's friendly shushing gesture. "Or aren't you done yet?"
"I'm done," he says. He hears the relaxed voices of
Morioka and Kobi a moment before they walk within his line of sight,
but when they see he's on the phone they fall silent. Morioka grimaces
an apology when the handle of the door to the emergency stairwell
clanks loudly, but Kame waves it off. "When are you getting home
tonight?" he asks, watching the door swing slowly shut behind the two
"It could be a while. The boss wants to catch a train at
seven but we think he's dreaming. Nine, maybe. Why?"
"They changed my schedule for the promotional photos
"Oh, for the shoot with Soga Jou?" The name prompts a
half-audible comment in the background, but Kame can't put a name to
the voice. He knows the colleagues she's sharing the office with,
though, has met them at the house on several occasions. They're very
"Yes, that one. They moved it up to tomorrow morning,"
he says. "I have to be here at half past five."
"Can you stay at the apartment?" she asks. "You didn't
pack a bag."
Kame wonders how she notices these things. He pays
attention to what she does, what her schedule is, but he knows he
wouldn't notice whether or not she brings a spare set of clothes to
The first time he'd gone on location after they moved
into the house, three months into their marriage, she'd looked at his
general state of disorder and asked if he wanted her help making sure
he at least packed a toothbrush, but it's not something they do on a
regular basis. The idea of Midori packing his overnight bag for the
apartment is one he'd just as soon not have in his head. "I've got
enough stuff there."
"Good. So I'll see you tomorrow night?"
"Yes." He thinks for a moment but then goes ahead as
he'd intended. "Did you make plans for Friday evening?"
"I was talking to Enoki-chan about going out," she says
slowly. "Are you going to be home then?"
"Yes." He hesitates; he doesn't want to derail her
plans. "I thought I could take you out to dinner, if you want."
"That would be nice." She hesitates too, but then her
suggestion sounds genuine. "We could all go together?"
As far as he can recall, Enoki-san is also very nice.
It's not a problem. "Sure, let's do that. We can talk it over tomorrow."
She wishes him luck for the photo shoot before they say
their goodbyes, and he tucks his phone away and presses down on the
clanking door handle himself.
At the bottom of the stairwell, the emergency exit that
leads directly to the car park is held ajar by a scruffy black backpack
squeezed between the frame and the metal of the door. Morioka and Kobi
are having a smoke outside, standing close together under the narrow
roof to protect their make-up and hair against the drizzle. The sky is
an unpleasant grey, the difference to the fake spring they've been
acting in all day disorienting, and Kame stops just long enough that
Morioka feels compelled to offer him a cigarette.
Kame shakes his head. "No, thanks." Bringing his bag
around, he starts rummaging for his car keys.
"You don't smoke?" Kobi asks, giving Kame an oddly frank
Kobi seems to expect something more, but Kame is not
"I do that a lot, too," Morioka admits with a little
grin, and at least he doesn't look like he expects to be lectured. It's
easy to forget that there are just four years between them. Then again,
when Kame was twenty-one, he'd had three lead performances in major hit
films under his belt. He'd already quit smoking, too. It feels like
more than four years.
But it reminds him that Morioka volunteered for the
early shift just because it seemed to suit Kame, so he says, "I'm
looking forward to working with you tomorrow." It's as true as anyone
can look forward to a six a.m. photo shoot, but he adds a meaningful
nod to get the praise across for sure, and Morioka looks really pleased.
Feeling chilly by now, Kame hurries on his way to the
Lexus. The air is so damp that the windows start fogging up the second
he slumps back in the leather seat, and he turns on the engine for the
heating system before he's even sorted out the water bottle and the
GPS. He hasn't driven to the apartment from here before, and he takes a
moment to look at the route before he pulls out of his space.
He's just past the security gate, trying to stash his
parking pass away without taking his eyes off the wet road, when he
sees Fukushima Minoru walking ahead of him on the sidewalk, holding a
newspaper over his head. Not a good day for forgetting your umbrella.
Kame pulls up next to him, slow and careful so his
wheels don't cause a splash. Fukushima bends down when Kame rolls down
the passenger side window.
"Can I give you a lift, Fukushima-san?" he asks,
offering a smile.
Fukushima, suffering from wet hair on top of his
generally irritable character, looks grudgingly grateful. "Just to the
subway would be very good, thank you." He yanks open the door and drops
himself into the seat, and then the car shuts out the sound of the rain
again. "It's not a day for walking, is it?"
"No, it really isn't," Kame agrees, pulling into the
road. Sure, they can talk about the weather. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going home," Fukushima says, before he volunteers,
"I live in Nakano."
"I'm going to Uguisudani. I could drop you off at
"You live in Uguisudani?" Fukushima asks with some
surprise, and looks Kame up and down as if the reason for his poor
residential choice has to be evident somewhere on his person.
"My wife and I live in Mikata," Kame clarifies,
focussing on the road. "I have a second apartment for when I have to
stay in the city, for work."
"Ah," Fukushima says slowly, but he doesn't seem
satisfied yet. "It's a rough neighbourhood, though."
Kame can't quite read the man's tone; it seems half
chiding, half impressed that Kame is toughing it out in the residential
badlands, but it's annoying either way. Kame knows what the place looks
like to outsiders, but it hasn't always looked like that. It was just
normal, back when Kame first bought the converted warehouse. The gate
and the swipe cards and the cameras are supposed to be about privacy,
Not that he's going to say that. "It's not so rough," he
states politely, and adds, "So, Tsudanuma station?" It's too late for
the subway stop anyway. The wipers scrape across the windshield with a
rubbery noise, no setting really fitting for the light rain.
"Oh, yes." Fukushima laughs, not really embarrassed.
"Thank you." He leans back comfortably in the seat. "A very nice car
you have here."
Traffic is thickening, and Kame has to concentrate. Grey
clouds and grey cars and grey buildings make everything a bit blurry.
"Thank you," he says. The navigation system tells him to
take a left and he throws a glance at the projected length of the trip.
"I drive a lot. It's good to have something comfortable."
"As well you should. You've worked hard for your
success. You should enjoy it." Fukushima has had a moderately
successful run as a television actor; recently he seems to specialize
in mentor roles and wise supporting characters. It's almost the exact
same tone he uses for when he plays the kind and understanding Head
Teacher, and Kame is not even sure why he finds his approval so
grating, but he does. "It takes the right mindset," Fukushima is
carrying on. "You have the discipline for it, even at your young age."
Okay, that might be a reason. At least now he knows
where it's going. Kame concentrates very hard on the navigation's
instructions and on not thinking of when he has to get up tomorrow.
"It's true, I don't have that many years experience yet," he
acknowledges. "It's a real honour to work with Nogushi-san."
He adjusts the speed of the wipers again, hopes for the
monotonous sound to go away, wonders how Fukushima is going to bring
them from Nogushi worship back to Toyoda and her lack of work ethics.
And they're only one week into shooting.
"The boss wants to see you in the office," Jun's voice
comes over the back of the leather couch where Jin has sprawled out
while the place is empty.
Something in Jin curls up annoyingly, but all he says
is, "That time of the week again? Get Shota or Danny, it's not my
Jun, leaning over him now, gives him a pitying look. "No
doubt he's glad for that. But you need to stop collecting complaints,
The twisty feeling gets worse. But he can't think of
anybody who's seemed unhappy with him since the incident with Nakamaru.
He's been getting better at this. Trying a little bit harder, too. He
can't afford to lose this job.
And it won't do to keep Ootomo waiting, so he sits up
and slips silk socks into smart leather shoes – clean, black, shiny –
to take the staff elevator behind the lotus display to the main office
on the first floor.
Knocks on the door and mutters the requisite
politenesses as he enters.
Ootomo is not alone. Rising from the chair in front of
his desk as Jin enters is a boy who looks about sixteen, hazel-dyed
hair and big eyes and everything about him soft-focus, pretty. Jin is
learning about clothes these days and this boy's are worn but elegant,
like he found them in a Ginza charity shop, if such a thing existed.
He gives Jin the brightest smile Jin has seen since he
started working here, or in the two years before that.
"Jin, this is Yuuya," Ootomo says. They have a choice
here whether to tell each other their family names; few do. "He's
starting with us today. You can show him around while he waits for
proper clothes to be ready for him."
"Please take care of me, Jin-senpai," Yuuya says with a
He has to be eighteen. Ootomo has his peculiarities, but
he wouldn't take anybody who could get the club into trouble.
Jin smiles back, aware that he can't match the
brilliance and also that at twenty-one, he's suddenly feeling old.
The boy looking sixteen going on twelve bows again. "I
look forward to working with you."
And then he smiles again, and in his head, Jin already
sees the clients eating this up.
"You're really eighteen?" he can't help asking as they
walk down the soft-carpeted corridor, back to the elevator.
"Just turned," Yuuya says. "I submitted my application
the next day."
"Ootomo-san called me two days later, made the
appointment, and here I am."
Application. Appointment. Jin doesn't normally ask
questions because he doesn't like answering questions, but… "You applied
to work here?"
Yuuya shrugs as the elevator pings. "It's the best."
True, but it doesn't explain how the boy found out about
it in the first place.
Yuuya nods back down the corridor, towards the engraved
'Assistant Manager' sign on Ootomo's closed door. "Interesting
Jin can't tell whether it refers to the nature of the
interview or Ootomo's laboured performance. "He likes his perks," he
says after the elevator door has closed behind them, and Yuuya gives a
soft little laugh, seems to think that's fair enough.
"He didn't have a fit that you knew about Johnny's? I
mean, the whole point is that it's all hush-hush."
"Oh, I explained. This client mentioned it to me," Yuuya
says. "A really rich old guy, children abroad, wife dead, he didn't
have long to go, either. He took care of me for a bit. He said this was
a great place and he used it when it still mattered but well, he liked
them younger, and it didn't matter so much any more. I was fifteen.
After he died, I followed it up."
Jin nods. "They won't let you drink alcohol here,
"I don't mind. And actually, some—"
"—clients will like it."
"Cherry on top."
They exchange a knowing grin.
"What about you," Yuuya says. They're in the main lounge
now, and he's captivated by the glass, the leather and the lights, the
marble and the mirrors, the dark cherrywood luxury everywhere, so Jin
gets away with a fairly cursory reply.
"Been here six weeks. Year and a half street before
"Lucky," Yuuya observes, sounding happy for Jin. And
then he moves on and is curious about everything: how many of them, how
many clients, how do they get allocated, what about rivalries? Who to
watch out for, who's weird and how, whom not to cross, the dos and
don'ts of working in a setup like this. "I'm good with clients," Yuuya
explains. "I'm not used to having colleagues."
"Ask me anything you like," Jin says, and when he finds
himself smiled at gratefully, he gives Yuuya his cell number on
impulse. Then the, "Thank you, senpai, I am so glad you are going to
help me, thank you so much for your kindness," gets kind of
embarrassing. "Stop with the bowing, Yuu-chan," he says, and Yuuya
stops instantly and says "Yes, senpai," in a cheerful voice, dark eyes
sparkling in his soft face, and for the first time in six weeks, Jin
feels like he's actually useful.
They do a quick tour of the kitchen, then Jin shows
Yuuya the gym, the washroom, the lockers, and the small tatami room
where futons are ready for anybody who gets out of a comfort or rest
appointment too late to get home. Next to it is the break room: table,
couch, two chairs, television and water heater. "Some of us hang out
here if they have long breaks between engagements. If you find somebody
playing computer games, that's Junnosuke-san. Just talk to him, he's
The door opens. "Well, Jin, why don't you observe the niceties
then and introduce us?" Junno saunters in wearing jeans and a t-shirt,
carrying a clothes bag and a holdall which Jin knows contains shoes and
electronics. He smiles at Yuuya, who for once doesn't smile back.
Yuuya is staring. When Jin does the introductions he
remembers to bow, manages the polite responses, and then he stares some
Junno is grinning widely. "I have that effect on people."
He didn't have that effect on Jin, but then Jin missed
out on some basic cultural education for this environment. He's caught
"Granmarie," Yuuya says hesitantly. "You are Gran—"
"TA-DAAAA!" Junno says. "Nice to meet you, Yuuya-san.
Let's work well together."
"But… your hair?"
Junno is still grinning. "The hair was too conspicuous.
If a client took me out for dinner and I was recognized, things could
Jin bites his lip. Yuuya laughs and has thereby probably
made a friend for life.
"What are you two up to?" Junno strips without further
ado and starts to dress up in club-appropriate gear.
"I'm showing Yuu-chan around," Jin says. It just slips
out, but when he turns to Yuuya to correct himself the boy is smiling
and telling Junno what a help Jin-senpai has been today.
They leave Junno pondering his selection of ties, and
Jin shows Yuuya how the lockers work and how to avoid the loud snap of
the bolt, essential for harmonious coexistence with the others.
"This is our last stop, though," he tells him then. "We
can't do the rooms and we can't go back down, not with clients
arriving." He'd lend Yuuya his emergency spare suit, but he's too tall;
Junno is even taller. Shota's way too short, Jun unlikely to share out
his Versace. Asking Tatsuya is possible, Jin supposes, but…
In the end, they lie in wait for Hina, to catch him
before he disappears into his dungeon. Hina's clients are usually
pre-booked so he rarely spends time in the main lounge. He's friendly
and helpful, and after some tucking and pulling, Yuuya is presentable
in dark blue and violet.
By the time they're done, it's almost six and the place
is starting to fill up. Tatsuya is around but holding back – he's got a
rest engagement booked, like every Tuesday night, and will soon be
changing into formalwear for the high-class restaurants his client
usually takes him to. They like to impress him; Tatsuya doesn't take
just anybody as a regular. Shota is chatting up a CEO who has started
dropping in more regularly, usually staying for relaxation, no more.
Yamatani is in the chrysanthemum corner with the dark leather seats as
usual, dapper in an expensive business suit, but comfortable enough in
his retirement that he's given up on ties. He gives Jin a little wave.
"Here's a nice guy," Jin says, and takes Yuuya across.
"Owns that big cleaning company all the hospitals use, though he's
handed the management over to his son. Comes here almost every day for
chat and drink. He's up for relaxation or comfort maybe once during the
week, and usually comfort on Saturdays. Ootomo explained the
Yuuya smiles. "The basics. It doesn't sound too
"You've done all the standard stuff before?"
"I've done street since I was twelve, on and off," Yuuya
says easily. "There's very little I haven't done."
Jin nods and tries not to think about it much.
"Not that I liked it all," Yuuya adds quickly. "I'm not
weird, you know."
His eyes are on Jin, waiting for his reaction. What's
weird is having somebody look to you for approval. "Yeah," Jin says, "I
"Ootomo-san said weird stuff is strictly voluntary,"
"That's right," Jin reassures him. "We're encouraged to
be flexible, but we don't have to do anything extreme."
"Or painful," Yuuya adds a little too persistently.
"Definitely not," Jin says, and it earns him one of
The rain stops just as Kame pulls off the street,
Fukushima's comments nagging at him. He circles wide around two blocks
of rock that have been broken out of the little stone border for the
shrubs on either side of his driveway. Bored youths or a carelessly
turning car; Kame has had both happen before.
Leaving the car in the underground garage, he passes the
security door into the backyard, and walks up the outside stairs to the
second floor. His immediate neighbour – one half of an elderly couple
who were Kame's first tenants when the conversion was completed – is on
the balcony running along that side of the building, watching what he
can see of the traffic over the high fence, having a slow cigarette.
They greet each other, but leave it at that. Kame appreciates the
couple's utter lack of interest in their rich young landlord.
The paparazzi never found it. They lurk around the house
sometimes, but this is secret, safe.
Lunch was a brief affair and he's starting to feel
hungry. By the time he got Fukushima out of his car he just wanted to
get home, so he put his faith in the freezer and his housekeeping
service and didn't stop anywhere to shop.
And it's not their fault, Kame tells himself first thing
when he opens the door and sees traces of the rewiring he's having done
before he even turns on the light. The wardrobe has been moved away
from the wall, close enough to the door to block the tall mirror. At
least it's not in the way of getting to the bathroom or toilet.
There's a funny smell, too, but he has no idea how
that's related to the renovations. He sure hopes it isn't.
Bending to take off his shoes, he hesitates briefly when
he notices the fine layer of work dust on the laminate, but then he
just sighs. He told them he was coming in on Friday; if they'd known of
his changed schedule, someone would have cleaned, maybe tried to make
the open wall less of an eyesore. Can't be helped now.
He walks past the bathroom and drops his bag by the
couch. If he looks too much at the ragged wallpaper he's going to get
depressed. At least the rest of the apartment looks normal and well
kept, and the dust isn't as bad the further he gets from the wall. They
must have put sheets on the furniture.
He sits. Thinks of pulling out his laptop and his phone
but then doesn't; waits, thinking about taking a shower. At least the
bathroom's already done. Wonders about TV. He's been looking forward to
the quiet but it's odd now; the place feels unfinished, unready. TV
will just be noise.
Things would have been different on Friday, he'd have
had food in and the cleaner in and— well, yes. Something to look
forward to. He should call and cancel, it's only polite.
He also needs to figure out where the hell the
unpleasant smell is coming from.
That takes a bit of investigation; it's not the fridge,
thankfully, and even more thankfully it's as stocked on the basics as
he remembers from two weeks ago. He'll have a beer after he's showered
The rubbish bins are empty, too, and it's not coming
from the sink either, but then it finally rings a bell and he finds the
open box of dry cat food at the side of the kitchen counter, right next
to the high sliding window. The cleaner didn't dare put it away or
throw it out, apparently, though when he opens the window he notices
she has taken in the small plate that Kame left outside. He picks up
the box, leaving the window open for fresh air.
Does cat food keep? He's not sure, it's not his cat and
he only bought the stuff because he doesn't always have meat leftovers
around, but not being sure by itself makes him throw it out. He
wouldn't want to eat something that's been sitting somewhere generating
smell for two weeks.
After that, he grabs a glass of cold water and settles
on the couch again. The place is a mess, and he's going to have to get
up at a god-awful hour, and he's wired and shooting is going to be hell
the next few weeks, and—
He gets out the computer, inserts the broadband card and
waits the moment it takes for the wireless to come on. They're still
having trouble getting landlines to the house but for Kame, wireless
and cell phone works fine.
He doesn't have the phone number saved anywhere but he
types in the web address from memory and gives them his name and the
password. Then he puts the laptop onto the coffee table and gets his
He has reception on the line first, but when he says who
he is and that it's about a booking, the young man with the polite
cultured voice puts him through to Ootomo.
"I have to cancel my appointment this Friday," Kame says
after the initial pleasantries, and adds that he doesn't know when
he'll next have time.
"Of course, of course," Ootomo says, giving him a few
seconds, and he makes up his mind.
"I have to stay in the city tonight. I don't suppose
Tatsuya-san would be available on such short notice?"
He's not surprised when Ootomo says no, Tatsuya is
unavailable this evening. He's a little disappointed anyway. Would have
"What about Takuya-san?" he asks after a second's
hesitation. He's done this before, it's fine, but when it seems like
working down a list he still feels a flush of embarrassment.
"I'm afraid not," Ootomo says, very apologetic and
sounding distressed at having to turn Kame down a second time, when
it's perfectly obvious that these aren't men who have to sit around
waiting for his phone call. "Maybe Jun…"
"No," Kame says, slightly embarrassed by how quick it
comes out, but— no. He's wired enough. "I'd be willing to go with
someone new," he offers instead.
Ootomo seems pleased and directs him to a few profile
pages, all good-looking men, vaguely familiar from his nights at the
"The fourth one," he says, "he's…"
"Oh," Ootomo finishes his sentence for him when the
pause gets a little long. "He's been with us for a few weeks, and we
like to introduce him to our long-term guests. You may…"
Kame has started tuning him out after 'a few weeks'
because he would know if he'd seen that man before. And he doesn't
remember seeing him, not at the club. He would remember.
He tries to catch up on Ootomo's information because
something about the way the man looks into the camera seems different,
but then he just says, "That will be fine, thank you. When can I expect
He'll have a bit over an hour to get ready. It will be
enough to shower and change and heat up something from the freezer. He
leaves his phone on the coffee table and stands. The picture is still
on the screen, looking out at him, a soft face in a mass of dark wavy
hair which seems to invite touch even now. The mouth isn't bad, either.
Probably a very flattering shot, but that's the point, isn't it.
Better get going. Kame folds the laptop shut and grabs
his bag, stowing the laptop away in the shelf that half-shields the bed
from the dining area and dropping the bag into a corner of the
wardrobe, and then he checks if someone remembered to iron his shirts.
Yamatani is delighted to meet Yuuya, buys them Nikko
beer and plain mineral water. Jin suspects Ootomo will be stocking
luxury softdrinks and creating expensive non-alcoholic cocktails soon.
They've started discussing the merits and demerits of
strict licensing laws when Ootomo bears down on them, and Jin is
annoyed that his first thought is what did I do wrong now?
Ootomo bows elabourately to Yamatani, apologizes
profusely, and says something about errors in scheduling,
Yamatani-sama's valued patience, and Jin.
Jin keeps quiet. He's got no idea what's going on, but
saying that tends not to go down well. Yamatani is easygoing as usual;
there's a reason Jin likes him better than the rest of his clients.
Yamatani would never complain about him.
So Jin ends up apologizing, too, still not sure why, but
he's learned you can never go wrong with it.
"Not a problem," Yamatani says, elegantly waving his
age-spotted, perfectly manicured hands. "The nice young man and I can
chat some more, and we'll have our meeting some other time."
Jin says, "Yes, definitely, thank you very much," while
Ootomo is still communicating his regret at interrupting next to him,
and by now Jin is really curious.
"It's Kamenashi-sama," Ootomo says under his breath as
soon as they have turned away and put a few paces and a potted plant
between them and the others.
Jin's first thought is relief, because that can't be a
complaint; Kamenashi is Tatsuya's and sometimes Kimura-senpai's, and
Jin has never had anything to do with him that he might want to
"He's had to cancel the rest with Tatsuya-san on Friday,
something came up," Ootomo is saying. "He wanted him tonight—"
But Tatsuya has rest with somebody else and Kimura
doesn't work on Tuesdays.
"He asked for me?" He knows he sounds surprised, but
people who afford the likes of Tatsuya on a regular basis don't tend to
go for him.
Ootomo gives a tight little smile, subtext 'don't fuck
this up'. "Maybe he's slumming it. He liked your picture. I told him
you are new."
"Okay," Jin says. He's seen Kamenashi maybe twice since
he started, from afar, hanging out with Tanaka who is way more
interesting – famous rappers just are. Not that Tanaka ever shows any
interest in Jin, though Jin thinks it's got nothing to do with his
skills. Tanaka doesn't seem to go for the taller escorts. He'll
probably try Yuu-chan; but that's okay, he's got a decent reputation.
Jin wonders if Yuu-chan likes music.
Kamenashi is famous, too, for something – Johnny's exists
for people too famous, important or paranoid to visit less rigidly
discreet establishments. Jin vaguely remembers hair dyed some shade of
brown. From what he's picked up, Kamenashi is all right and has no
special requirements; the fact that he isn't fat and fifty is likely to
make things easier. "Comfort or rest?"
"Rest. It's his usual thing."
Even better. Jin doesn't expect to get this lucky. He's
never made that much in a single day, never mind a Tuesday.
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