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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 3

 

Wednesday 03 September

The train is due in three minutes and Jin snaps his gum, listening to the sound of the escalator drone through the station, sharp menthol stinging cold on his lips.

There's a chill in the air, the day more autumn than late summer, and he didn't dry his hair.

The tiny old lady to his left, pausing on her crutches, stares at him from under huge glasses, so thick she might just not be able to see him, but he shuts his mouth anyway and stops chewing until she's hobbled away, her green plastic backpack disappearing behind a vending machine.

The suit doesn't give him away but it stands out regardless, he feels he stands out riding the train at two in the afternoon with mothers and toddlers and pensioners, and he feels it more on the way back from an appointment even when he's showered, even when the appointment went well.

He even got out half an hour early today.

Karube's all right; banker in his fifties, rich enough to make a booking every week but not so well-connected he'd pass as a club member. He was Jin's first regular, one of his first outside appointments three weeks in that turned into this recurrent Wednesday gig.

Jin was glad. It's good to have regulars, a relief just to know what he's in for, and a day when he doesn't have to worry about chatting people up at the club. And Karube's all right. Uses some styling product that Jin hates the smell of but he's got good hygiene, gets it up fast; Jin isn't keen on the idiotic dirty talk but it's common enough and at least the guy is straightforward about what he wants, gives him cues. Means them.

He stops tapping his foot.

One more train goes by, and the swoosh of air as it pulls out is cold on his head. He'll shower again at the club, do his hair there before he changes into a fresh shirt. He'd never occupy a client's bathroom for the fifteen minutes it takes him to get the style right, and the hair is important. They were very particular about the cut when they first cleaned him up.

He just washed it at the hotel because of that weird product; Jin didn't have to do much this week, doesn't get that sweaty from holding still, and the guy's not gross. Jin knows gross and that's another thing that's good about the club, most clients are like Karube, well-groomed and neat and socially skilled.

Not that that has to mean much. Not that people can't be crazy bastards anyway.

His train arrives, finally, and he finds himself a spot to stand, ignoring the empty seats. He doesn't lean, though, mindful of his suit. He's going to be presentable.

He doesn't have to go to the club on Wednesdays. He's got the appointment with Karube and they don't require him to come in after that. Sometimes he doesn't want to, feels like he needs a breather, takes the afternoon as a lead-in to his day off; sometimes he goes in because it's a work day anyway and it's not like he can't use the money.

He has a feeling he ought to go in today whether he wants to or not.

Next stop is busy, shoppers and a bunch of kids that look like they should be in school barging in. Jin waits until the commotion has died down and he still has his little corner, then finally gets his phone out of the discreet satchel that could almost pass as a briefcase. The phone is off during engagements, naturally, and there are no check-up calls after established clients. He turns it on now, starts tapping his foot again while it connects. No messages.

Nobody called him last night, either. Like nobody expected— well, nobody did expect, presumably. Hopefully. Jin thought about calling it in, a shrill thought on his march to the subway because it's the rule to report appointments gone wrong, they told him that. He even did it before, all by the book, when Nakamaru just kept talking and talking upstairs in the room and didn't know what he wanted, and Jin didn't know what he wanted either, and the man is so awkward that if Jin had just kept his mouth shut Ootomo might never have shouted about incompetent ungrateful escorts not being worth their keep when they can't even get the client to have the sex he came for.

But this one… he just couldn't talk about it, didn't know what to say. Still didn't when he was in his apartment, the one the club gave him before he even earned enough to pay the rent. When he was showered and changed and warm, and still didn't have a clue what the fuck had even happened back there.

And then he needed to stop thinking about it, because he needed to stop the fucking memory replay, because he had to be able to sleep, because he had to be able to work the next day.

He's tried not think about it all morning, since the last thing he needed was to meet a client with that going round his head, but eventually he starts counting down the stops, and once he's out of the station and walking, he lets it run, a bit. How it started. What they did. What he did. And Kamenashi, and his heart starts racing when he gets to that moment, the pressure on his wrists and that look, when he realized—

He takes a deep breath and starts over. If he has to explain himself, he's not going to be thrown by Ootomo's first question.

He goes in through the staff entrance, the corridor leading him past the kitchen, still quiet at this time of day. It goes with the restaurant that gives the official entrance a second, more respectable purpose but also serves the club and the rooms. And sometimes, unofficially, Jin.

The club is still closed, and when he gets to the fire escape staircases, he can hear faint noises of the vacuum cleaner and the bartender refilling stock.

Nobody's there to see him on the first floor. He can get properly changed before he has to talk to anyone. In the break room Danny, who has a morning appointment every Wednesday and doesn't go home after, is trying to nap on the couch in sweatpants and one of his washed-out UCLA t-shirts. His eyes open sleepily when Jin sneaks into the room.

"Sorry," Jin says, keeping his voice low. "I'll be gone in a minute, just getting my stuff."

"You're in early," Danny says at a normal volume, squirming up to sit against the arm of the couch and pushing brown curls out of his face. "No break this week?"

"No." Jin hangs the jacket up in his locker and grabs a towel. "Thought I might as well."

"Everything went okay?"

Jin stops short, turns without appearing panicked, word can't have got around that fast—

But Danny doesn't seem suggestive, just friendly and a bit more awake.

"Yeah, you know. The usual," Jin says, slinging the towel over his shoulder, almost calm. "So what's new?"

Danny sighs. "He wants to see you. He said to tell you. I said I was going to sleep." Danny's blue eyes meet Jin's meaningfully, and Jin nods.

"Thanks," he says, tempted briefly by the offer. But it won't help him. Too much to hope Kamenashi wouldn't make a big stink for Jin. Just like Nakai with his stupid tantrum.

Danny raises one shoulder. "Maybe better to get it over with, though."

"Yeah," Jin says. "Guess I'll do that then." No time like the present to find out if you still have a place to live.

This one was different, though. This one wasn't his fault.

Danny looks at where he's fiddling with the towel. "You look okay. He should be in."

"Thanks," Jin says again, running a hand through his disorderly hair, wiping off the dampness on his trousers. He'd feel better looking his best, like he can be a proper asset to the club – but Ootomo picked him up when he hadn't washed his clothes in two weeks and still thought he had potential. It's not the state of Jin's suits that's the problem.

He knocks on the door – second time in two days, a new personal record – and is called in after a moment.

Ootomo is in front of the computer, in jeans and a hideous print shirt. When Jin steps inside, he sets down his coffee mug with exaggerated deliberation, and leans back. Jin has seen that look on his face before and it's not good.

He knew that, though, he reminds himself as he stops a meter from the desk and briefly wonders what to do with his hands, before hiding them behind his back.

"Jin," Ootomo greets him with a biting friendliness. "How was your appointment?"

And Jin can't even say how much he hates that. But getting pissed off isn't going to do him any good. So he stands and sweats like Ootomo wants him to until Ootomo seems satisfied enough to reveal, "With Karube-sama. You had an appointment at noon? I assume you went?"

"Yes, I did," Jin nods, biting back anything more emphatic. "It went well."

"Good, good." Ootomo adds fake-pleased to fake-friendly, and by now Jin just wants them to get to fucking Kamenashi and maybe he should— "I'm glad to hear you're not making it a habit to walk out on our clients."

Well, there they are. "I don't."

"Oh, good," Ootomo repeats. "Because Kamenashi-sama called Konoe-san at ten this morning and asked for a refund. Apparently, the rest never took place."

He called the manager? That's worse than Jin had expected.

"Needless to say, Konoe-san asked me for an explanation. Which I was unable to give him. It was quite troublesome."

"I'm sorry," Jin says, bows a little for good measure. "We didn't get very far." He's learned that management doesn't like to hear clients criticized. "We didn't seem compatible."

Ootomo nods slowly. "So I gather. I should remind you, though, that it is part of your job to make yourself 'compatible'."

"I tried," Jin objects. "I asked him— I asked him what he wanted—" He stops, reminds himself it's Ootomo; Ootomo who's pissed off and who'll kick him to the curb whenever he wants to, he's got people applying for this gig, people who don't get him complaints. When he goes on, he makes sure he sounds totally professional. "We— I—" Damn, he practiced this one. "The meeting ended prematurely because Kamenashi-san had requirements that fell outside of the agreement."

"I see," Ootomo says. "What was the problem?"

God, what wasn't a problem. What isn't a problem with a guy who— how are you supposed to make yourself compatible to crazy mood swings and weird staring and prompts that— But that doesn't matter, he could have handled all that, he'd been handling it, what matters is—

"He wanted to tie me up."

At least Ootomo gives that some serious consideration. Kink costs extra, and they have specialized personnel for it. "How did he want to tie you up? Did he have some sort of dungeon setup? SM gear?"

"No," Jin says. "He wanted to use my belt."

A brief pause, then Ootomo nods again, slowly. Jin doesn't find it reassuring. "And?"

"And what?"

"And… anything else?" When Jin just stares, Ootomo turns up his eyes and elaborates. "Anything else he asked you to do?"

Something is not going right here, Jin can feel something slipping and he doesn't like it at all. "I don't do further services," he says. "We don't have to. You said so yourself."

"So that was it? Nothing… painful or dangerous, nothing that would actually fall outside of the agreement?"

"He tried to tie me up." And how the hell it's not dangerous to let some scary asshole tie you to a bed, he doesn't know, but that's probably also something he'd better not say just now.

Ootomo's mouth goes tight. "Let me put it plain for you," he says, fixing Jin with a patronizing look that Jin would find infuriating if he were less afraid of being fired and having no place to go, of being on the street again. "You go to a rest or a comfort, you have an agreement to provide certain services. It doesn't matter whether you do so lying down or standing up, in the shower or tied to the bed. And if somebody like Kamenashi wants to play around a bit, you let him."

"Kamenashi—" Play around. How does it not matter whether you're— no. Later. Not here.

"Kamenashi-sama has been with us for two and a half years now and there has never been even a hint of a complaint about him."

If Tatsuya and Kimura-senpai put up with Kamenashi's creepy shit uncomplainingly, they're sure earning every yen of their twenty per cent luxury premium.

But he says nothing, waits. He's been doing better. The thing with Nakai was right at the start and even Ootomo said he could be difficult. People have been pleased with him. He doesn't think of the money he's saved and how little it still is.

"This isn't the streets," Ootomo says as if he's been reading Jin's mind, "and you cannot treat a client like a random nobody who slipped you a couple of thousand yen, and who may not be safe. Our customers are carefully screened, and they pay a lot for an engagement."

Jin bows again, wordlessly, puts up with the condescension. He can't lose this job. He needs this job, this one right here, to get out of the job.

"So you better be careful," Ootomo says, none of the fake friendliness in his voice anymore. This is hard warning. "I don't need you walking around alienating our best clients. Konoe-san managed to talk Kamenashi-sama down and he's getting his money back, and maybe Tatsuya-san can clean up your mess the next time. I'll let you know if you're going to apologize to him or if you'd better just stay out of his way the next time he's at the club."

It's a warning, and he's so relieved it's pathetic.

Ootomo is looking at him expectantly.

"Thank you for your advice," he manages after a moment, glad he remembers the appropriate words. "I will remember it. I'm sorry for causing you such trouble."

It seems he is looking appropriately chastised and intimidated, because finally Ootomo nods as if satisfied. "If that is completely clear," he says, "let us chalk Kamenashi-sama up to experience for you, part of your training. I expect you to know better next time."

"Thank you," Jin says, bowing some more, "Thank you very much."

Ootomo smiles, benevolently. "I realize that you need to get ready for downstairs, but perhaps you can spare me another five minutes. It has been a stressful morning."

Whatever, Jin thinks, nods, makes himself look willing. "Of course."

Ootomo comes around the desk and the zipper goes down; Jin drops to his knees and runs his tongue over his lips.

 

Thursday 04 September

The third take of Fukushima's monologue is coming over from the set that is the head teacher's office, the rest of the cast waiting and keeping quiet behind the tech, ready for the next scene. Matsura's takes for today are finished, one with Kame and one with Morioka, but she has stated her intention to learn from her respected seniors and is now busy giggling with Fukushima and waiting for words of wisdom from Iijima, pointedly ignoring Toyoda for all to see.

Kame's got a bench to himself where he is sitting with the script on his knees, refreshing his memory. He caps his water and sets it down next to him.

It's Thursday, and Toyoda is still apologizing to him. This morning she brought him some home-made plum pickle for which he had to be suitably grateful, and she's hovering around him to make sure he has all the coffee and water he needs as if she were a very nervous personal assistant, and he doesn't know how to get her to stop.

He's denied that his state of exhaustion yesterday had anything to do with the four a.m. start, and that was true, though at some point he started finding 'I slept badly' as his politic summary of 'I didn't sleep at all except for half an hour filled with weird dreams about things I stopped thinking about long ago' vaguely hilarious. Still, as the day dragged on and the make-up artist took more and more time over him, slapped on more and more layers to hide the signs of Kame's all-nighter, Toyoda clearly decided that she was the one to blame and she's sticking by that with a tenacity she doesn't have the energy for.

It makes her even more nervous, and it's incredibly counterproductive. Kame wants to shake her when he doesn't want to sit her down in a corner and give her hot chocolate and a cuddly toy.

"Hormones," was Midori's verdict over a late dinner last night, when he'd finally made it home and gave her a quick, censored and, he fears, rather whiny account of his two days in the city center. "They mess you up, she can't help it."

Kame knows that. But looking over at Toyoda now, at the fixed bright smile she hopes will carry her through and her rather desperate politeness towards a haughty Fukushima and a sceptical Iijima, he worries. He wants her to pull this off, but, well, as for getting what he wants…

Iijima calls for a cut, then announces they're good for this scene. It will take a few minutes to adjust the lighting for what's up next. He waves Toyoda over for instructions, and she puts on a brave face.

At least things have been going reasonably well today. Kame is focussed. The weather has eased up and Morioka and the boys got the soccer field scene finished. Kame's character's appearance at the end of it and his first grudgingly civil exchange with Morioka's character was finished in a single take – Morioka is good, very good, and somehow their interaction in front of the camera has just fallen into place.

It's been going so well that Iijima decided to let Morioka read for a revelatory exchange that is originally between Kame's character and Nogushi's, and he's currently trying to learn those lines on the bench at the far end of the studio while the boys are enthusiastically rehearsing a fight scene next to him.

And as for the things that could still stand improvement, some sleep and a lack of distracting images flashing through his tired mind at inopportune moments apparently make all the difference. Kame nods politely at Fukushima as he's coming off the set, smiling down at Kame like an approving uncle before he stops a random assistant for some water.

A few hours into the neverending nightmare that was yesterday's filming, Fukushima had commented mirthfully that he felt a little less like an old man when even a youngster like Kamenashi-san wasn't immune to the effects of a four a.m. rise. Kame had been too sleep-deprived to come up with an answer. He'd also been too tired to deflect any of the jabs at Toyoda, from predictable corners, which had rounded off his day in a congenial working environment.

But the make-up artist did her job competently and with great patience, and he trusts Soga Jou to have done the very best he could with what Kame had to offer after a night of tossing and turning, and it will be fine. Kame did his job and he did it properly, remembered every single line and didn't need any more takes than usual, and he'll get over the feeling that he appeared weaker than he should have as the star of the show. Everything will be fine.

As if to confirm it, Iijima, who has abandoned Toyoda to take a phone call, flips his cell shut and turns toward them with an expansive gesture, declaring, "Good news, folks!"

The random conversations die down; Kame tries to guess the level of good from Iijima's expression, then exchanges a glance with Morioka, who's been doing the same.

"They can close off Katsuta train station for us on Monday night between seven and ten. We can get two trains coming through, which will give us a second chance if something goes wrong, and we'll have the rest of the time to get close-ups on location."

There's some cheering, and Kame supposes it's good news, because rumours that they might not get the location at all and would have to make do with composites have been circulating since before shooting even started. He notices relief on Toyoda's face that the good news doesn't involve changes to her schedule; she isn't in that scene.

Kame is… and it means he'll be spending Monday night in town. He won't start before eleven on Tuesday.

He can call Ootomo.

With the thought of the name comes the image of the man Ootomo sent him, which is wrong, he doesn't want to think about that, about awkwardness and inappropriate opinions, judging him and mocking his work, hell, he was done with that years ago and he doesn't need the anger stirring, or the memory of that body that wasn't even naked and still fucking hot under him— no. He can think more constructively than that.

So he does, and his mood improves. He breezes through the rest of the afternoon filming, manages to make Toyoda relax enough to produce a real smile during their one-on-one coda to the head teacher scene, and makes Iijima's day by hitting the screen test for the scene with Morioka instead of Nogushi out of the park.

Then he's done for the day, and says the usual goodbyes and thank yous, drives the car out of the compound and around a few corners and then he stops to turn his cell back on.

The first thing it does is beep gently but persistently and flash the message Don't forget! at him, and he looks at it and feels a little bad again. Has it really been three weeks already?

He knows it happens easily enough – Midori has a busy schedule, too, and they rarely have much quiet, relaxing time together; and it's not like she has been complaining, or that he has ever turned her down. But he keeps promising himself he will do better, he won't leave it until he gets a reminder again.

Well, there it is, and perhaps… yes, he'll stop at Hévin's and take some of those chocolates home for her after shooting finishes, she likes those, particularly the ones with the cherry filling. And maybe after the night out with Enoki-san they can put on some candles and finish off with a private glass of champagne, and maybe one thing will lead to another if only he tries a little. It has worked like that before. And then he'll try not to leave it so long again.

He decides to feel neither weird nor sad about the fact that normally he'd have been seeing Tatsuya on Friday night; this has happened before, too. And he can make an appointment now. He ignores the feeling of guilt when he okays the reminder and flips to the call history where he forgot – careless but for the best, in this case – to delete the club's number after calling for his refund yesterday, a rushed exchange between having his make-up retouched and getting his hair re-arranged after the photoshoot.

The phone buzzes in his hand, startling him briefly. His agent's number, and he presses the button to send it to voice mail. He'll call her back after speaking to Ootomo.

Ootomo sounds relieved to hear from him again, even though Kame already told the manager that Tuesday's incident hasn't prejudiced him against the club in general.

"Kamenashi-sama," he gushes, "what a pleasure, thank you so much for calling. I was hoping you would because I wanted to let you know that I have spoken to the escort in question."

"I… see," Kame says. "That was really not necessary."

Or particularly welcome. He can imagine what the escort had to say about him. Probably painted him as some sort of weirdo. But he can't stop people talking, he knows that, and it makes sense for the club to enquire into problems, even imaginary ones. They probably have some sort of policy, they have a policy for everything.

It makes him uneasy again, anyway. He's thought it through from all angles – he had enough time on Tuesday night to do that despite the fury and frustration, despite getting helplessly turned on whenever he thought of the escort's mouth opening for him, of how he'd tried to control his breathing when Kame had touched him. Time to wonder whether maybe he did cross a line, whether the escort might just, maybe, have had a point.

But there's a policy there, too, and he knows the rules. Yes, this was new territory, unexpected territory, but he knows the rules. He thinks. He's sure… most of the time he's sure. And then he wonders again, and he wonders now, and he doesn't want to think about it, wishes he didn't have to, but it's best to know, especially if it turns out that he owes that guy – that guy who stared at him, startled and shocked as if he'd grown a second head – an apology.

"But since you have discussed it," he says to Ootomo, running his finger along an almost invisible seam at the side of his seat, "I'd just like to… I wonder if I could just check with you. Could you let me know whether I was perhaps unreasonable in my requests? I wouldn't like someone to be reprimanded for something that is not his fault. If I was at fault—"

But Ootomo is already flailing politely at the other end of the line. "Oh no, not at all! You were entirely within your rights."

He's surprised how hard the relief hits him, and then he's angry at how he was made to doubt himself in the first place, at how he has let himself be made to doubt by a guy who was simply fussy and judgemental and incompetent.

"This was merely an unfortunate misunderstanding for which we would all like to apologize again," Ootomo is saying. "Of course our escorts will be happy to accommodate you, and if you would like to make an appointment…"

That… wasn't what he'd had in mind, either. Really… he pictures Tatsuya tied down on his bed, self-contained and amiably indulgent and the image is ridiculous and pointless and he isn't sure why that should be so when Jin… Jin…

He puts his hand over the phone as he takes a deep breath, suddenly flushed and a little hot because that was beautiful to look at, Jin straining with his arms over his head, the naked skin, and those dark eyes soft and wide, that… worked very well and he's within his rights, and maybe he needs to make that point and maybe he should just… do that.

Ootomo is saying something or other and Kame simply interrupts. "Yes, an appointment would be good. I wonder if Jin might be free Monday night."

There's only the briefest of silences on the other end of the line. Then Ootomo asks, "Jin? Are you sure? You sounded rather dissatisfied…"

But this time he knows what to expect. This isn't Tatsuya, this will not be like dates with Tatsuya, and as long as he doesn't expect it to be, it'll be fine. And he is sure that he didn't like an escort acting as though he was being irrational and presumptuous, when he was far from breaking any rules and just wanted to try out something a little different, something that's perfectly all right for him to demand. He's sure he'd quite like that settled, acknowledged. And why not this way when he's also sure that the thought of seeing Jin like that, of touching him like that turns him on while he's sitting right here in his car.

"It was a little problematic, but since you have spoken to him, I'm sure the misunderstanding is all cleared up now," he says breezily to Ootomo. "And since he is still new, I'd like to give him another chance."

He tells Ootomo the time – nine-thirty should give him plenty of room even if his part of the train station filming runs long – and ends the call.

Then he checks his voicemail, now that that's taken care of and he's no longer going to be distracted. It's about a new campaign they want him to take part in, perfectly timed with the message of his new film; they sprung it on him a week ago and when Hamaguchi uses words like "heartening" and "inspiring" Kame doesn't want to imagine the catchphrase they're going to stick him with. But he's a professional, it's part of the job and they'll be pleased with him. Fine. He has his private plans sorted and it's time to go back to his responsibilities.

Hamaguchi is happy to hear back from him so promptly, and she's even happier when he says he'll do the campaign. Then he turns the car towards the city center to pick up those chocolates. He should be home by eight.

~

Chapter 4

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