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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 5

 

Tuesday 09 September

Tuesday is a bright, sunny day, and they postpone the planned shooting on the police station set for getting the school-skipping scenes in the can first. The personnel is the same except for the guy who plays the police officer, but the guy is laid back about it; he'll get half pay for today's contracted time anyway and get to come back later on full pay.

Toyoda isn't required on set, and neither are Matsura and Fukushima; it's just Kame and the boys, and some extras posing as mothers with children and pensioners with dogs, and the atmosphere is great. During break time, they sit on the low stone wall around a lawn bed in the warm autumn sun with fresh tea and cans of coke, legs stretched out before them, and Morioka shares around manju sticks. Kame feels more relaxed than he has in a week.

"You'll probably bring your mom," one of the kids is saying to Kobi-kun about the premiere, but it's all in good fun, and Kobi laughs as he elbows him in the ribs. Leaning back on his arms, hands in the grass, Morioka reassures Kobi he's got a few months to find himself a girlfriend, while the other two whip out their cell phones and show around pictures they've taken of their current dates.

"Whoa, cool cell," Kobi says, girl troubles forgotten, and Kame thinks that his role as the class nerd isn't a wide reach for him. "That's the one with the GPS and the barcode reader and the video and the two cameras, right? You got a micro card in there? How much memory?"

Kame doesn't even know the meaning of half the terminology that gets thrown around for the next few minutes as cell specs are being compared. Even Morioka brings his out, a sleek black affair for which Kame has recently seen commercials, and which gets a few 'oohs' and 'aahs' and a resigned nod from Kobi, who mutters something about a tradeoff between looks and features.

Kame can't resist and produces his own, and Kobi says, "Oh, man!" into the ensuing silence, and Genda thwaps him over the head.

Morioka is grinning at Kame. "I guess it… makes calls?"

"It's got e-mail, too," Kame says innocently. He flips it open so they can see it's got sparkly lights on the display and everything.

There was voicemail from Ootomo after the drive to Chiba in the morning, 'Kitagawa Financial Services surveying user satisfaction with our products'. He's called back to reassure him, no complaints this time, but he declined making another appointment – he can do that once he knows his schedule for the next two weeks, there's no rush.

"And a camera," Genda is saying. He's laughing.

Kame makes a surprised face. "It does?"

"Two megapixels," Kobi says weakly between giggles. "If you, uh, want to take a photo of a… a… a house, in good light, it should be okay."

It'll be good to get back to normal, now that that Jin guy is dealt with, no matter how much of a turn-on that— it's just not Kame's kind of thing, not really, and he made that point to Ootomo, too, once he noticed the man was getting altogether the wrong idea.

He'll see Tatsuya next week, maybe.

He looks at what he guesses is the alleged camera with the alleged two megapixels. "How about this group?" he asks spontaneously. "The light's good enough, isn't it?"

"Could work," Genda says, "but I guess you have no zoom?"

That, Kame genuinely doesn't know about; he doesn't use the camera. A phone's a phone, he uses it for calls and voicemail and even uses e-mail rarely.

But the boys take him in hand, and ten minutes later he knows more than he ever wanted about his cell and its unfortunate limitations. He also has several shots of the boys sitting on the grass in various dorky poses, and has posed with them for a couple taken by more worthy equipment. Then the break is over, and he slides his cell back into his pocket.

"Kamenashi-san, Morioka-san, Kobi-san," Iijima's assistant calls, and they wander the twenty meters to the spot under a few evergreens, picked for the scene where Kame's character happens to overhear Morioka explaining the gang code to a terrified Kobi. A trail of cameras and microphones, of lighting and make-up personnel follows.

At the end of the day, the prints from the photoshoot come in, still smelling of chemicals, and cast and some curious crew gather around them in the wardrobe trailer. As the star, Kame gets his own set; there's probably one for Nogushi, too. Everybody else just gets to look.

The photos are impressive, as Soga Jou's work always is; they are impressive because Kame still remembers what he felt like that day and it doesn't show, but even more impressive because the photographer managed to make the shots with Kame and Toyoda look as though they could make a convincing couple. The group shots of Kame and the boys are also very good, Morioka's position as the leader established subtly but unmistakably, not interfering with Kame's status but complementing it. There are a couple of shots of only the two of them, and—

"Nice," Morioka says over his shoulder, admiration in his voice.

Kame nods, lifts up the top one so Morioka can see the one below. They are excellent, perhaps the best of the bunch; there's an ease in them that reminds Kame of the impromptu scene they did last week.

He hands the rest over to Morioka. "Soga Jou is a wizard with a camera. Always get him for your important photoshoots if you can."

*~*~*

When he shows the photographs to Midori that night after they've cleared the table, she is full of praise too. "She's looking good," she says, holding the photograph with Toyoda critically at arm's length. "She must be very self-disciplined. There's only so much even Soga Jou can do."

"She's determined to stay in the production, and she doesn't want her role reduced, either," Kame says, raising the wine bottle with a look at Midori's empty glass. She nods. "But Matsura is pushing hard for some of those parts. Between her and Fukushima, they're poisoning the whole set atmosphere."

"Nobody's speaking up?"

"I talked to Iijima, but he likes Matsura just a little too much. And I guess it would be more convenient for him, too. He'll need to do some adjusting soon."

"Press?" Midori says over a thoughtful sip of her wine. Kame doesn't flinch, but he puts his own wine down because even the thought makes him want to have a clear head. Press is part of the job, and he's learned how to charm them, how to make them useful; he had to, after the scandal, or his career would have been ruined no matter what he denied. He depends on hungry gossip rags as much as the more legitimate magazines for his promotions, his visibility. But it always feels like a gamble, judging what he needs to give them to keep them safely satisfied and at a distance. There are no reporters among his friends and he doesn't talk to them unless he has to.

"I'm not sure she'd thank me," he says.

"You could ask," Midori says, but she says it easily because she knows how he feels and she knows why, and she lets it drop, and goes back to looking at photos, the boys, Kame and the boys…

"Who's that?"

"Morioka Akihito," Kame says. "Plays the leader of my delinquents."

"You look good together."

That… Kame throws her a quick, cautious glance, because that isn't exactly the comment he's been looking for, not what he wants anybody to think about pictures of him with other men. But she just looks pleased, appreciative; and she's right of course, they do look good together. Kame thought so himself.

"Yes. We hit it off well. And somehow Soga Jou… you know what he's like, he sees things… puts them in pictures." It gives him pause, but only briefly.

"Yes." She smiles, studies the other picture of Kame and Morioka, then the first one again. "These are really good."

Fanservice, Kame thinks to himself. It can be fanservice, nothing's wrong with that, it's safe, everyone knows that.

"You should show them to your parents. Your mother's been e-mailing me about how you never write her back."

Kame manages a guilty smile and promises to do better.

"By the way," Midori says, "I'm going out tomorrow night, Enoki-chan has a pre-premiere showing of her new play, just family and friends. They're doing something a bit more experimental this time. It should be fun. Want to come along?"

He cringes inwardly. He likes his theatre simple, accessible, nothing abstract or overly philosophical.

But. Midori wouldn't make a fuss if he said no, she wouldn't complain about his taste or lack of it, not like—

He stops the thought, taken aback. He doesn't know where that came from all of a sudden, he stopped these thoughts so long ago.

"Small reception," Midori is saying dreamily. "Average wine, horrible little pastries…"

"You make it sound tempting."

"Don't want to lure you there under false pretenses. But it's a friendly crowd."

Midori's friends are nice people, he knows that. They're always welcoming when he comes along, and do a good job of not letting it show when they don't quite know what to do with him. It could be good to meet up, sometimes he really enjoys it.

"Let me think about it," he says.

 

Wednesday 10 September

"You have no right to say that," Matsura says to Toyoda over the cluttered desk. "You just don't understand." Her disdain is not so much well-acted as simply unleashed, but Kame grants it is effective. "He—" Matsura turns towards Kame who is standing there with his stack of poetry books and flashes him a winning, too-winning smile, "tries to find the good in my brother but you just want academic achievement." And back she is to Toyoda, spitting her contempt. "You have no heart, and no time for anyone who doesn't meet your phony standards. You should never have been a teacher!"

Utter conviction in this one, and Toyoda can read the subtext, too. She stays in character, though, doesn't look any more upset than her no-nonsense physics teacher is meant to be by an irrational outburst, and exchanges the scripted wry look with Kame as Matsura turns and sweeps out of the chipwood construction that is the teachers' common room; only then does she sag a little.

Kame sighs. That'll be a re-take. Matsura's character is supposed to be grateful to him, not come on to him.

"Matsura-chan," Iijima is calling, and she goes over and there is some quiet discussion. He won't criticize her openly. "Okay, folks," he then shouts, "try again. Good on the first few lines, Matsura-chan, and the exit was splendid. Toyoda-san, are you all right or would you like to rest a little before we do another take?"

Fukushima, whose only role in this take is to stand there and look wise while the underlings battle it out, snorts quietly.

"Thank you kindly," Toyoda says, "but it is unnecessary."

"We wouldn't want you to wear yourself out."

Toyoda nods politely. "Thank you for your consideration. I'll let you know if there is any danger of that."

She's holding up, but she's showing the strain – and who wouldn't.

When the take is done, and Kame has a break, he takes her aside and gets her agreement; then he calls his agent, persuades her that this is important, discusses with her what he's going to say, and leaves further arrangements with her. The Arts & Entertainment desk of Asahi Shinbun calls him back five minutes later.

*~*~*

"You're going to cover it with a hat, Kazuya," Midori calls from the hall. "I'm sure every strand doesn't have to be perfect before you ruin it all again."

Kame scowls at his mirror image in the brightly lit bathroom and turns away. "Point," he says, loud enough for her to hear.

When he comes out he finds her waiting, looking fresh and natural and not made up at all, though he knows she is, he's learned enough about make-up over the years. She's simply good at this, at being the unpretentious girl next door, somebody you want to be friends with. She always has been, right from the start when they were still wannabe stars together. Kame is sure he looked more artificial than she, back then. He probably still does.

He smiles at her. "You look great."

She smiles back. "The ogling kind of gave it away."

"Sorry," he says, illogically, feeling bad because that wasn't what it was, even if she can't know about it.

They take a cab because they'll be drinking. The play, a community initiative for deprived families, is staged in a primary school a couple of suburbs over. Midori is reading the small home-printed program, laughing quietly at the quirky picture Enoki-chan chose of herself. Kame's phone rings halfway there, Tanaka's number, but he screens it with a brief shrug at Midori; it's not the right time, and he's not ready to set up a meeting, anyway.

Enoki-san welcomes them delightedly, hugs Kame without self-consciousness, and directs them to the buffet, set up on wobbly school desks with some large white paper sheets thrown over them. Midori is quickly surrounded by people who want to get her opinion or advice on any one of the things she's involved in, or just talk to her. Kame tries the wine and it is exactly as Midori promised; he avoids the pastries. If she'd said something beforehand he could have made sure they wouldn't be quite so horrible, but she does her own thing.

He watches her laugh with her friends and is glad for her. Then another tag-along husband snatches him and he fakes his way through a half-hour conversation about Japan's chances for the soccer world cup qualifier until finally they head into the auditorium which serves as the theater.

He likes sitting in the dark.

*~*~*

It's experimental right enough. But the audience seems to like it. Kame wonders what they're seeing that he doesn't.

On the stage, two women in cooking aprons are arguing about censored school books. He doesn't know what the child dressed up as a goat is doing there. He ought to pay more attention. But it's just not his thing – and it isn't the kind of 'not his thing' which he mysteriously finds himself enjoying anyway, and then spends days trying to figure out.

It was good; he won't deny that.

The man is attractive – very attractive, when his cocky attitude can't interfere with what he's there for, when he's under no illusions that Kame cares about his opinions, when he just does as he's told.

Shame it had to be so difficult to get him there, but at least it was worthwhile this time, he didn't let himself be rattled, knew what he wanted, and maybe that's the key with someone like that, to make it good, and… yes, that was good indeed, once he got down to business, got in close, when warm skin and friction and heat lived up to what that body promised.

And if the escort had just done his job properly from the start, he could have had an easier time of it, or if he hadn't opened his mouth or looked at him with that provocative… something, that way of being all distracting eyes and clumsy meddling that Kame doesn't need, least of all from someone he's paying for a service. If the man needs to be shown who's in charge, Kame can do that, and he's made that perfectly clear, too. It even turned out more arousing than expected.

And he can stop thinking about it now; he's made his point and he had a very good time, got it out of his system, that man and the things he makes Kame want to do which he never wanted to do before. Made him want to do, because it's over.

Two salarymen have appeared on the stage, carrying briefcases, rushing back and forth as if to catch a train, complaining about their activist wives and how nobody has their dinner ready when they come home. They run off at last, accompanied by train noises, and the aproned women reappear (no goat this time) to confront a man dressed as a samurai who, Kame gathers, is meant to represent the minister for education. A long discussion follows.

Slowly, he stretches his legs out under the seat in front of him, careful not to kick any handbags or dropped coats. Good thing he didn't drive; the darkness is making him a little drowsy.

He's looking forward to his next appointment with Tatsuya, whenever that will be – good wine, good conversation and the right sexual chemistry, no rush and no strange experiments… He doesn't go to the club looking to be new and edgy, he doesn't need weird thrills or someone like Jin, who may be beautiful when he's all spread out for Kame to touch wherever he likes and make him shiver—

There is applause and quickly, he claps his hands together, too. On stage, somebody wearing a cooking apron is, apparently, dead.

*~*~*

"You didn't like it," Midori remarks in the cab on the way home, but she doesn't sound upset.

Kame remembers to take off the hat. He didn't wear the shades on the way out. He would have felt silly in front of Midori's friends, and it's not such a terrible secret, going to a community play with your wife. "I was a little distracted," he says. "I'm sorry. I'm sure it's very good. It'll make people think."

"True," she says. "But our next date can be a comedy film and traditional food afterwards." She smiles at him warmly, before she huffs out a breath and rolls one shoulder. "With better chairs, too," she adds, and Kame laughs.

He wonders if he should try to draw the evening out a little, to turn it into another romantic night. It's been two days since… since that other thing, the thing that's over… and he's sure he could manage. In fact, the way he suddenly feels a little hot seems to bode very well for that.

But Midori is suppressing a yawn, and then she says, "I'm going to regret this a bit, tomorrow. But it was worth it. Enoki-chan was really happy. And it is a good play."

So Kame just nods, agrees again, leans back. He wonders how the interview will play.

"When do you have to be in town tomorrow?"

It should be interesting on the set. "Not until lunchtime," he says. "I was going to drop in at the agency beforehand, but I can always call them and have them send somebody out to the set."

"Are you filming late then?"

That depends on a lot of things. He doesn't expect miracles from his chat with Asahi. "Could be," he says. "We have a complicated scene coming up. Someone's getting pushed into a pool."

Midori smiles again. "You don't want to have to do too many retakes."

"No." He could take the bag, just in case, but… "I'm coming home, though," he adds. He doesn't have to be at the apartment with time on his hands. He doesn't need to make another appointment this soon, he's not someone who has to grab at opportunities.

"You sure?" Midori asks, pausing to fight another yawn. "You'll sleep more if you don't have the drive."

"Yes. Friday's going to be a light day." He thinks so, anyway, and he feels oddly relieved. "I'll be home."

 

Thursday 11 September

"One, two."

The TV is on mute already, flashing silent images of chatty newscasters across the empty bar. Jin stops squinting up into the corner for the text crawl once the soccer feed is past, and brings the stool around a bit, propping up an elbow on the dark and still reasonably clean surface of the bar.

"Little elephant, little elephant, you have a long long nose…"

It's not a fancy place, nothing polished and classy about it like the club, the smell of spilled drink and cigarettes clinging stubbornly to cracks in the old wooden floor and the worn upholstery of the seats even an hour before opening time, when the doors and windows are wide open. Jin likes it here.

He takes a sip of cold beer and wipes the condensation off on his jeans before he leans over for the small stack of newspapers that will be left out for the guests, and pulls the top one towards him. He got the first beer cheap, at staff price. That was a really nice gesture, since he doesn't do all that much, just comes in early to hang out and shuffle the odd crate around if they need an extra pair of hands.

"…my mother has a long nose too…."

It's only the second time he's done this, too. But he's here almost every Thursday night, and it's not as if he has much to do with his afternoons on his day off, except be glad he doesn't have to be at the club.

On his left, the sound of heavy equipment being dragged over rough wood is complemented by mumbled swearing, and Jin looks over, but the two tech guys are deep in thought over some plugs and aren't looking for his help. He flips open the paper, skims the sports section, but it's a Thursday and he's not going to read the depressing speculations about the future of Tokyo Verdy before they've played their weekend game. It's way too early in the season to talk about relegation again, anyway.

He hears voices through the door behind the bar, where the office is, loud enough to compete with the random noises outside, but not angry. He doesn't think Tomo-kun is in trouble. It's the one of his jobs Tomo really enjoys, so he works really hard here at the bar. He told Jin that two weeks ago, the first time they sat around for a slow hour and just chatted.

The music section leads with an article on Metallica and their new album. Jin has followed the story about the leaked songs. Today he almost flips past it for some reason, but he is curious, and he still likes their music even though it was Naoki's to begin with.

They rode out to hear them at Summer Sonic that year even though they had no money for tickets, had barely enough left of what Naoki made for them to keep the motorcycle moving. They camped out on the parking lot of a supermarket that was just outside the fences, and Naoki bought him beer and told him what the songs were when the distance and the screaming fans turned the music to noise.

They never had any money. But that was still a good summer.

It's an odd review though, talking about all kinds of weird theoretical stuff and the future of record labels in general when what Jin wants to know about is the new songs and what they're going to be like.

So he turns the page, and feels something cold and uncomfortable rush through him at the picture of Kamenashi, looking out at him from next to a long article, all bright smile and determined eyes.

It takes him a moment before the article headline comes into focus. 'New Leading Couple: Kamenashi Kazuya Praises Rising Co-Star.' There are two more pictures, smaller, a studio picture of a pretty woman looking a little nervous and an alleged candid shot of the two of them, smiling at each other with a camera and an overhead microphone hovering at the edge of the frame.

So that's Kamenashi's clean, appropriate love interest for his clean, hopeful film. If his league of housewife fans had any idea what the guy gets up to in his spare time—

Wrong turn. Wrong, wrong turn, he doesn't need this. This is his day off, he doesn't want to think about Kamenashi and what Kamenashi gets up to and might want to get up to in the future. No, he just wants Kamenashi to go back and be happy with Tatsuya, who seems to like him so very much, and he can leave Jin the fuck alone.

Three days, and he hasn't heard anything about any new appointments. But he hasn't asked.

He scans the article anyway, because it's just an article and it's not like it's going to hurt him. He wants to see the humour in the situation, Kamenashi promoting his family-friendly image, the gushing words he has for his pretty young co-star – 'I can only congratulate the casting director for his judgement, it's an absolute pleasure to be working with Toyoda-san' and '…looking forward to all of our scenes, we're really building these characters up together…' – and maybe Jin has a hard time finding any of this funny but at some point – '…it's admirable how hard she works and never lets her pregnancy interfere with her responsibilities, and I'm so glad she decided to stay with the project. I wish her and her new family all the best…' – he manages some disdain and that's better than anything else he feels when he thinks of Kamenashi, and then he decides that that's enough of happily pregnant hard-working women and secretly crazy assholes. He flips the paper shut, folds it up neatly, and puts it back. Then he has a long drink of his beer.

"Little elephant, little— fuck!" The melody gets cut off by a metallic screech, and Jin turns with the stool. One of the tech dudes, the one who wears a different ancient Slayer t-shirt every time Jin sees him, is glaring at the microphone. "I can't hear a damn thing from up here anyway."

"The sound's okay from the bar," Jin offers. "Want me to go sit in the back and listen from there?"

Slayer guy looks him up and down, then sighs. "No, I'd better do that. You could come up here and make some noises, though."

"Sure, no problem," Jin says, unhooking his feet from the metal footrest. He puts his beer down just as the door behind the bar opens and the manager comes out, followed by a slightly harassed-looking Tomo.

"So I'll see you tomorrow?" the manager says to him, resting his snappy leather briefcase on the stool at the end of the bar, and Tomo nods dutifully, bows, and watches his boss leave through the wide-open door before he rolls his eyes a little and sighs. Tomo's as tall as Jin but sturdier, more solid, not like someone who's just started to lose the hungry street look. He's a few years older, too, though with his big round eyes he can look like a lost kid, particularly on days when work and worry are piling up again.

He turns to Jin, and they share a small smile about nothing in particular. Bosses, maybe; Jin doesn't think about it too deeply, just lets it slide.

"Are you working here Fridays now, too?" he asks.

Tomo shakes his head. "No, just this week," he says, eyes wandering back to the open door with an expression of doom. "He left me with the inventory." After a moment, he digs his set of keys out of a pocket and turns to lock the office door.

"I was just going to help with the sound check," Jin says. "Anything else I could do?"

Tomo looks over to where Slayer guy is adjusting the third microphone to guitar height. The stage isn't that big, but sometimes people perform in sets of three or four. Jin thinks it must be fun to have a band like that, but he's still new here, is just starting to tell the Thursday night regulars from those that wander in randomly for the Open Mic.

"Are they still not done?" Tomo asks with a plaintive note. "What's the problem? We do this once a week."

He looks so stressed that Jin really wants to say something reassuring, but he doesn't understand the tech and doesn't really know if this is normal.

"Well," Tomo says eventually. "If you could help them out, that would be great."

Jin is more than happy to. With instructions from Slayer guy he gets on the stage, his hair flipping lightly into his eyes because he didn't bother to style it right, and sings a few verses as prompted by the tech guys, and in the end they get it sorted with half an hour to go before opening.

Then he helps Tomo carry some more wine out of storage, and goes to take down the chairs from the tables at the far end, where it's not old sofas and armchairs.

His phone rings in his back pocket when he's just finished distributing new ashtrays on the tables. He sees it's Ootomo's office before he flips it open, and tries not to think about what it could be for fear it'll show on his face.

"Jin." It is Ootomo.

"One moment," he says, excusing himself with a brief look at Tomo, who nods understandingly, and he gets out fast before he gives himself away with anything, prompts questions he doesn't want asked in this place.

Ootomo doesn't speak until Jin is outside and on the other side of the parking lot. Discretion extends to the whores. "I'm outside," he says, coming to a stop between a small yellow city car and Tomo's ancient van. "And alone."

"Good," Ootomo says. "Can you go see a client tonight? Tadayoshi came down with something and it would be the second time we'd cancel on Kato-sama. Tadayoshi said he might like you."

He's heard the name. Might have seen him at the club but they've never spoken, and Jin feels a bit thrown. It's his day off. His one day where he doesn't have to deal with… "Tonight?" he repeats slowly.

"Yes."

Jin stares at the flecks of rust around the edges of Tomo's bumper. "I don't know," he says vaguely. Something in him goes tight when he thinks of the singing and then thinks of dressing up, fixing his hair just so, maybe wearing the lip gloss. "I made plans."

A second van rumbles into the lot, green and rickety, its back window covered with a multi-coloured variety of stickers.

"We all make plans, plans change," Ootomo says nonsensically, and he sounds stressed. "I need someone to go and meet this guy, but the place is bursting and nobody wants to go, they're all hoping for a rest or something, deluded bitches."

Jin knows the guys getting out of the van by sight, has seen them play. They're starting to unload a drum set, and he pulls in his shoulders, holds the phone close even though they're far enough away. "I…" He can hear Ootomo's impatient sigh and swallows uncomfortably. Maybe he should just give when he's going to anyway, and save himself pissing Ootomo off any further.

But then Ootomo surprises him, sounds almost understanding. "Look. Jin. I know it's your day off. I'm not going to make you go. But you don't exactly have a fantastic track record with making the clients come back for more, so if I'm offering you an easy comfort with an uncomplicated client… I'd think about it, if I were you."

"Did somebody— Did anything happen? Has anyone said—" Nobody said anything to him; nobody seemed unhappy. And if it was Kamenashi he can't believe he went to that appointment and let that freak do all that… all that stuff and it still got him in trouble with Ootomo, and he wants to be angry but mostly he's afraid. "Was Kamenashi-san not satisfied?"

"I think you managed not to offend him this time around," Ootomo says curtly. "I called him about you, and let's just say he was kind. But he didn't want to book you again, either, that much was clear."

It takes a moment to sink in because this… is more than he'd dared hope for. "It was clear?" he asks. "I mean, you asked him? And it was clear?"

"Pretty damn clear, yes."

"Are you sure?"

Now Ootomo's voice turns strict. "Jin, let it go. Play in your own league."

Kamenashi isn't interested in booking him again. Thank fuck. "Sure," Jin mumbles through the relief, and, "I'm sorry," for good measure.

Ootomo grunts his forgiveness, then asks, "Well? What about Kato-sama?"

"Sure," Jin says again. He doesn't care. He'd go with Nakai again and watch his biker porn with him, gladly, if he doesn't have to go see Kamenashi again.

"At eleven," Ootomo says, his tone surprised but pleased. "I'm glad to hear it, Jin. It's noted."

Yeah, yeah, whatever. "Hotel or house?" Hotel would be better, being at clients' houses when you've never talked to them before is always weird. "I don't…" He pats down his jeans, but no. "I don't have anything to write."

Ootomo sighs. "It's the Park Hyatt, room 232. But I'll e-mail that to you. You can take a taxi, we'll pay for it."

That's nice. "Thank you very much," he says obligingly. "I won't let you down." He hangs up, and feels like he's taking his first free breath in days. It's over.

He says hi to the band guys on his way back to the entrance, and they smile at him, seem to recognize him too. Stepping into the bar, he forces himself to get past the urge to celebrate and think; about scheduling, when he'll have to leave to stop by his apartment, ten minutes away if he walks fast, and be at the Park Hyatt on time.

Eleven means he could still do his song, if they let him go on early. Normally he wouldn't, he doesn't like the idea of mixing it up, an evening like this and then going to see a client afterwards, but he doesn't care. He can do his song, like every week, and it's going to be fun and then he can do an easy, uncomplicated client and it's not going to matter, and he doesn't have to go back to Kamenashi, ever again.

Jin tells Tomo he has to leave early for a work thing, and Tomo purses his lips and sucks in his cheeks, which makes him look boyish again, and he gives him a sympathetic nod and doesn't pry. He's nice that way. He also knows all about work hassle, with the three jobs he's juggling that still don't quite add up to a living.

"Can you stick around for your number?" he asks instead. "It would be a real shame if you couldn't, people would miss you." He smiles.

The compliment feels weird with all the things Jin's not telling him. But he has done the calculations by now, and can answer that part. "I should get going around nine."

"Oh, good! You have to go on then!"

Jin can't help smiling back. "Yeah, I'd like that," he says. "That's cool."

He should aim for eight-thirty, Tomo says, because it should be busy enough by then, and Jin agrees. He buys them both a beer when they sit down at the empty bar and he tells Tomo about his song while they watch the drum set being put together in the corner of the stage.

"I can watch the bar if you want to take a turn after me," he says, because he doesn't know when Tomo's girlfriend will come in tonight, to help out, and he's happy when Tomo says yes because Tomo enjoys the singing too. "I don't have to leave before nine," he repeats, smiling again, not caring. He doesn't… yeah. It's all good.

~

Chapter 6

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