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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

 

Chapter 1

 

Tuesday 02 September

Chiba

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 Nogushi-san's hair.

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 bits.

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 decaf.

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 becomes obvious.

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 sell it.

Iijima blinks in surprise. "You'll be shot with Morioka-kun," he points out. "I thought we'd have you two closer to the group shots."

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 Iijima relents.

"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 boys.

"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 this week."

"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 nice people.

"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 work.

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 look.

"I quit."

Kobi seems to expect something more, but Kame is not sure what.

"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 Tsudanuma."

"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, no more.

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.

 

Ginza

"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 turn."

Jun, leaning over him now, gives him a pitying look. "No doubt he's glad for that. But you need to stop collecting complaints, junior."

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 deep bow.

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.

"Welcome, Yuuya-san."

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."

Application?

"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 interview technique."

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, though."

"I don't mind. And actually, some—"

"—clients will like it."

"A lot."

"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 that."

"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 nice."

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 more.

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 up since.

"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 get hairy."

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 terminology, yes?"

Yuuya smiles. "The basics. It doesn't sound too complicated."

"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 get it."

"Ootomo-san said weird stuff is strictly voluntary," Yuuya hazards.

"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 those smiles.

 

Uguisudani

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 and changed.

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 phone.

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 been nice.

"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 club, all—

Kame stops.

"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 him?"

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.

 

Ginza

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 complain about.

"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.

~

Chapter 2

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