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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 6

 

Wednesday 17 September

As far as hopeful and inspiring campaigns go, Kame has done worse. Having successfully evaded Iijima's petulant attempts to set him up on a lunch date with Matsura, he's made himself almost comfortable in a folding chair in a corner of the set, for all the world to see that he's working. He's reading the mission statement of his latest project, and he finds some of it… well. Inspiring would be the word, but all right. Why shouldn't he?

He scans the list of his co-campaigners and thinks he's also done smaller. Some of the names leave him impressed, and that's before he comes across Fujikage Sanako, and just smiles. They'll probably never have anything to do with each other, but it's a nice idea anyway, being involved in something together again. Kame doesn't even have to be terrified of her anymore.

Over in the head teacher's office, Morioka and Fukushima are doing an important scene that consists largely of silences, and the shoot is quiet even between takes, partly not to pull the actors out too much and partly because the camera crew have to work some magic around the giant bruise Morioka is inconveniently sporting on the left side of his face, the result of a messed up fight choreography the day before, and everyone is a little tense. Make-up could only do so much.

Kame checks his phone on the sly, since it's set to silent anyway. He's waiting to hear whether he's supposed to pick Midori up from work because she said she had things to carry. But there's no message from her.

There's another one from Tanaka, though, about drinks and meeting up. Between his schedule and being sidetracked by Jin, it's true Kame hasn't been to the club in a while, and he likes the place, for more than just the physical release when he takes an escort to a suite. He enjoys being there, unwinding with the other guests, not looking over his shoulder all the time.

It would be nice if he and Tanaka could get their schedules to match for the next visit. Maybe not this week, but soon.

The noise level rises after all; Iijima must be satisfied with the scene. Good for him. Since the article came out last week, he's made a point of being politely unimpressed with most things Kame does. Kame only added insult to injury by not being in the least repentant.

Half a minute later Fukushima and Morioka come strolling over, Morioka wearing a polite face while Fukushima tells him some story or other. The make-up makes the bruise look even more horrible, like something is growing under his skin waiting to hatch.

Morioka interprets his gaze correctly and grins. "Impressive, huh?"

"What did you do?" Kame asks, slightly stunned, because he's gotten his share of slaps and punches over the years and he's never looked like this.

Fukushima makes the face he always makes when he's about to go off on a variation of his 'junior colleagues and work ethics' theme, but Morioka doesn't care, just smiles at them both. "I'd like to say the other guy looks worse, but I think you would catch me out."

"Kobi-kun did seem a little contrite this morning," Kame says.

Morioka manages to be mostly straight-faced. "I swear he's tougher than he looks."

Fukushima seems to have no idea what to do with them, and shuffles off, saying something about leaving the young men alone.

"Anything good?" Morioka asks with a nod to the brochure on Kame's knees. It's only a draft, really, stapled together instead of properly bound.

"Just a campaign my agency signed me up for," he says. "Public awareness campaign, I mean. You know the sort of thing."

"Oh, yeah," Morioka nods. "I've seen you in spots before."

Kame tenses a little, irrationally; it's not as if he's embarrassed by his work. But Morioka doesn't comment any further on what he's seen or not.

"So more shooting for you after we're done here?"

"No, just this. It's a light day." He has three scenes scheduled: a solo scene, a short encounter with Fukushima's head teacher and then a slightly more intense one with Toyoda and Morioka, and that'll be it.

"For me too. I'm finishing with you and Toyoda-san," Morioka says. "Nice to get off early."

"I have to stay in the city. My wife is working late and said she might want a ride home." He folds up the brochure and gets up.

"Do you want to get something to eat?" Morioka asks. "If you have to wait around…" He trails off, maybe realizing that Kame is a senior colleague.

A senior colleague who is kind of pleased and thinks this is a really nice idea. "Sure. That sounds good."

"Cool," Morioka says, rubbing his neck in a slightly self-conscious gesture, and he stops with a flinch when he catches the thick layer of concealer on his chin. "Oh, right."

Kame tries not to smile while Morioka is examining the make-up he just managed to smear on his hand.

"Better get myself fixed up," he says with a guilty little shake of his head.

"You've got time," Kame tells him. "I'm up next."

He watches Morioka leave and his thoughts stray back to the club for a moment. Some other week he might have dropped in there, just to pass the time where people know him, not for… he never would, not if he's meeting Midori after. But he's not in the mood for chats and gossip in the lounge, either.

He'll have dinner with a friendly colleague, and that's better in any number of ways.

*~*~*

Something happens during his solo scene – not a first for him but the first for this production, and maybe it's all the silences today. Iijima clears the set of distractions and keeps it quiet again for Kame in the tiny cubicle that is Seiji's office, where he takes a phone call from Toyoda— no, from Shoda the physics teacher, and he sinks past understanding the role, past being good at the role. Toyoda isn't even present. It's just a silent receiver but he hears it anyway, feels it anyway, loud and clear.

Stage magic.

He's restless with frustration even when they bring him water afterwards and a different set of clothes, still caught up in the sheer drive that keeps this man together, and then he does the scene again and it's different angles and accents and exactly the same sense of fitting.

It carries over into the exchange with Fukushima, which is almost a breather, someone who is on Seiji's side, whom he doesn't have to convince of anything, and it's still there when he confronts Toyoda, their youthful charge watching on the sidelines, and everything is sharp and fraught and perfect.

He gets why Seiji finds her so abrasive and infuriating and still can't leave it alone because if he can convince her, it'll mean… it could mean everything, and then her scepticism seems to burn him and he knows, for once, they will be great together.

It's easy with Morioka too, but then it's always easy with Morioka, and the whole scene is coming together flawlessly, all three of them, they do it once; twice; a last time where Morioka cranks up the volume and Toyoda's voice drops to a whisper when she confronts Kame's rage, and the two are the ideal complement to each other.

When the cut comes, Morioka and Toyoda are smiling at each other. Kame just needs a moment.

The crew start milling around, and the boys are hassling Morioka about his bruised face, and Kame stands and waits as he feels all that intense emotion falling away from him. Moments like these, he loves his job.

"Good work, Kamenashi-san. Toyoda-san. Morioka-san." It's the first time today that Iijima has said more than he had to to Kame, the first time he said anything favourable.

Maybe this was what they needed, Kame thinks when he looks at Toyoda, who looks like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders. If they can keep this going…

"Glad to see we're getting somewhere besides newspapers," Iijima is muttering, ostensibly to his assistant; he doesn't sound glad, but they've had to deal with worse from him.

And now Toyoda is sagging, too, not coming off the high like Kame, but maybe coming off the stress, the constant pressure, and if Kame didn't have much positive feedback all week, she's been going without it pretty much since she told them she was pregnant.

Morioka is simply happy. And, he says, hungry. "I can be ready in ten; five if I didn't have to get this gunk out of my face."

"Would you like to come along?" Kame asks Toyoda spontaneously. "Morioka-kun and I are going out for dinner."

"Hey, yes!" Morioka says, and smiles at her. "That would be great."

"Oooh, teacher-student romance," Genda says in a half-whisper, and Morioka swats him, saying he's a tough delinquent and he's not afraid to prove it, just look at his face. Even Toyoda can't help a grin.

"That would be some useful publicity," Iijima comments, eyeing Kame and Toyoda as if they can't hear him. "For our great leading couple."

"Well, at least we got a spark going there now, too," Iijima's assistant says in a lowered voice. Not meanly, and she's only echoing Kame's own thoughts but it sounds different out of someone else's mouth, almost like… but she can't mean that.

"How about it?" Kame asks Toyoda, but she just looks guilty when she wavers, too tired to say yes but too grateful to Kame to say no, and Kame feels a bit embarrassed. He lets her off the hook with a friendly smile and a promise of some other time.

Morioka looks at him. "Slightly less useful, huh?"

Kame knows it's funny. He just doesn't feel like laughing, and he wishes they could just have had dinner, without thinking about useful or romance or press; why isn't that possible anywhere outside— why isn't that possible?

It's not Morioka's fault, of course, or anybody's, it's just the way things are and he gets himself together.

"Ten minutes?" Morioka is repeating, and Kame smiles.

"Race you," he says smoothly. "First one out gets to decide where to go."

*~*~*

Morioka eyes the katsudon with an uncharacteristically pouty expression before he decides to go with chicken teriyaki.

"I play a seventeen-year-old," he explains when they sit down on cheap but gleaming metal chairs. It's a sparse, modern restaurant; fake marble easy-clean floor, chrome fittings, a black vase with a single fake autumn gingko twig on every table. Good food and good prices and no frills. "I don't burn it like a seventeen-year-old." He grins wryly. "I tend to go chunky by nature these days. And then I look old, they tell me."

Kame has never had that problem; weight just doesn't stick, and they tend to age him up for his roles anyway. But Morioka looks relaxed enough about it.

"Just wait till you get to be my age," Kame ventures, and they both laugh.

A waitress comes up to take their order, and Kame chooses the chicken teriyaki set, too.

It's not very busy yet and they have a corner to themselves, several empty tables between them and a cluster of occupied ones, an illusion at least of privacy.

Morioka has noticed the way he habitually checks the newcomers and where they go. "Looks like nobody wants to get near us," he says, aptly, as a newly arrived couple chooses to sit in the busier section of the restaurant, too. "Between my face and your camouflage, we're probably scaring them."

Kame blushes a bit; it's not as if he likes the fuss. He just knows how these things work, the things you have to do to get people to leave you in peace. But Morioka's right, they make quite a pair.

"Sunglasses aren't scary," he protests, but he smiles.

Morioka gives him an assessing look, a sweep up and down with some over-the-top youthful rebel attitude. "You're right," he says, mock-pitying. "You look harmless, I'm the bad-ass here. You could be my social worker." He thinks his theory through some more. "Who just happens to have a sun allergy. Uh, indoors."

Kame catches himself at a very undignified snort.

Then their food arrives, and the waitress stays near Kame's side of the table as she rearranges the gingko stick and the napkin holder, sets down their bowls and plates. She doesn't make eye contact and seems to be in a hurry to get away from them.

"See?" Morioka says, managing to swagger even while sitting in a chair. "I'm tough, man."

Kame laughs out loud just as his phone starts buzzing. He fumbles it out of his pocket while Morioka raises his eyebrows with a pointed look at the food; Kame nods and tries to signal an apology for the interruption when he answers Midori.

She apologizes for only calling him so late, but she was in a meeting.

"It's not a problem," he says, and she can probably still hear the laughter in his voice. "I'm having dinner with a colleague."

"Oh, that's wonderful," Midori says, pleased for him. "Take your time, I have things I can finish here."

Kame admits he's glad to hear it. From the happy look on Morioka's face, the teriyaki tastes as good as it smells. "Okay," he says, quickly thinking through distances and traffic. "I could be there in about an hour?" Midori says it's fine, and to enjoy his dinner.

"Is that okay?" Morioka asks him when he's pressed the off button. "We could just eat faster. How long to get there?"

"Twenty minutes. We can finish in peace." He puts the phone away and takes the lid off the miso soup to take a sip.

"Where does your wife work?"

"Zoom4Star," Kame says. "It's a casting agency, based near Tokyo Central."

Morioka looks intrigued. "Casting agency? Is that how you met?"

"No," Kame says, picking up his chopsticks, and elaborates, "She was an actress, too, before she started this. We met on a film set."

"Romantic," Morioka says with a smile. "Maybe on my next film, I'll start looking around too. Not really any candidates in this one."

A man with standards. Kame smiles. "Matsura-san is not your type, I take it."

The face Morioka makes encapsulates everything Kame thinks about Matsura and her charming ways, too. "Besides," Morioka says as he picks up the bowl with boiled rice, "I think Iijima thinks he's got dibs."

Kame grimaces, too, and shrugs a little.

"I don't get what's up with them and Toyoda-san, anyway," Morioka says. "I mean, what did they expect her to do?"

"Get an abortion," Kame says instantly. "Or drop out of the production. It's getting a bit too late to recast her but they can still cut down her parts." It's kind of nice to put it this bluntly. Even with Toyoda, he's always just known, never said it.

"That's not fair. She's good in the role."

"She is." After today, Kame is sure of it.

Morioka's had the same thought. "That was great today, wasn't it?" he beams. "We were so good!" Then it's his turn to blush a bit, but Kame just grins and agrees. They were.

For a short while they concentrate on eating. The chicken is juicy and the sauce is just spicy enough, and they are both hungry. Kame polishes off his cabbage in a few minutes while Morioka picks away at his, trying to get some shreds out from underneath the layer of mayonnaise.

"Should have asked them to leave it off," he says, resigned. "I keep forgetting." He drags out a piece or two before he gives up.

"So, your campaign," Morioka says when Kame has moved on to the watermelon and talking becomes easier again. "What's it about?" He's eyeing the remains of his rice with a conflicted expression, and Kame is amused despite the serious change of subject.

"Bullying in schools," he says.

"Hm." Morioka looks at him thoughtfully, then has one last mouthful of rice before setting the bowl down off to the side. "Topical."

"It's been an issue for a long time, I guess." Kame lowers his hand so the watermelon juice doesn't run down his arms. "But more and more pupils are simply not going to school any more because of it." His brochure told him that; children who stay at home, parents who let them.

"Any particular reason you're involved?" Morioka asks, and Kame knows what he means though if he wanted, he could pretend not to, and technically the answer is, 'My agent thought it would be a good idea.'

"It wasn't bad, but yeah, a bit," he says. "I looked weird, all arms and legs and caterpillar eyebrows." Morioka grins, then tries to hide it guiltily. "It stopped when they noticed I was a decent pitcher," Kame says. "You?"

Morioka looks sheepish. "I cried every night of my first week in middle school. And then I hit the guy really hard and got suspended for all of the second week. After that, it was okay." He reaches for his own dessert. "It shouldn't be like that. You shouldn't have to pitch well or hit people just to get them to lay off you. I think this is a good campaign. Let me know if I can do anything."

"I will," Kame says. He's finished his food, checks his watch. He'll have time for another cup of tea so he signals the waitress.

"You've got a good line-up?" Morioka asks.

"Yes. We've even got Fujikage-san."

"Boy." Morioka sounds awed. "Think she was bullied?"

Kame tries to imagine it and can't. "She's always been into good causes. And she really likes to help people out, she helped me a lot when I started, even if I was too scared of her to actually realize it then."

"You've worked with her before?"

"The Water House. Six years ago. I was totally green behind the ears, it was my first big-screen film."

Morioka looks a little embarrassed. "I don't think I've heard of it."

"It was an independent production. Low budget, but we had a great time making it." They'd all been so passionate about it.

The waitress comes to put a new cup of tea in front of him, and Kame leans back to let her clear away plates and bowls.

Morioka waits until she has left before he asks, "Low budget and you got Fujikage-san?"

She'd possibly been the most passionate of all. "She was really invested in it. I think somebody she cared about cared about it, something like that. I wouldn't like to stand in her way when she's determined." To this day Kame is glad that his agency let him do it even though the pay was a joke, even though it didn't fit in with their plans for Kame as a romantic hero. He'd been so happy, feeling himself grow into the challenge, a great role and wonderful colleagues, and Midori's friendship, new and uncomplicated.

"I met my wife on that set," he says to Morioka.

"You've been married for six years?"

"No," Kame says. "No, we were just friends at the start." He can't help smiling. "We bonded over being scared of Fujikage-san during our first take with her."

They'd talked each other through their nervousness, and then giggled about it afterwards even though nothing spectacular had happened at all.

"I would have been, too!" Morioka says, and Kame isn't so sure, but maybe even Morioka's easygoing, unselfconscious manner would take a hit in the presence of the grand lady.

"She'll be good for this campaign," he says, thinking of her no-nonsense approach and the way she'll stand up to anybody at all. "Maybe I should introduce Toyoda-san to her."

"Maybe you've already made yourself unpopular enough with the guys who run this production," Morioka says, and then he looks like he did earlier, like maybe he wonders if he's stepped out of line, and Kame just laughs.

"I guess I have," he says.

 

Saturday 20 September

The gym's always busy on a Saturday. It starts at eleven when the guys who stayed overnight on rests have seen their clients off, or the ones who got stuck in town on comforts crawl out of the dormitory. Then it's a steady trickle, because everybody works on a Saturday, and unless you've got a pre-booked outside appointment, it makes sense to come in a few hours before opening time and make use of the club's state-of-the-art equipment.

When Jin gets in at two, wearing sweatpants and a tank top under his hoodie, it's not too bad: there's Junno and Tatsuya and Tadayoshi, and over on the sit-up board is Shingo, just rising and picking up his water bottle to move on. Shota isn't around, which is strange, because he's always here at this time. Maybe he got a surprise appointment.

Jin nods at Tatsuya, who nods back from the lat machine without stopping the repeats. Junno has his nose against the mat in a stretching move, but Tadayoshi gives a little wave from the treadmill.

Jin sits down on the leg curl two machines over from Tatsuya and adjusts the pins. You can always tell when Satoshi used a machine last, because the weights are set pathetically low. He must have just missed him.

Jin's halfway through the second set of repetitions, eyes on the office building beyond the tinted windows because the two TVs are set to a boring drama on mute, when Shingo waves all round and leaves. He holds the door open for Jaejoong, whose hair is held back with a Naruto sweatband. Behind him follows Yuuya, looking even younger than usual in a baggy t-shirt and next to Jaejoong's height, enthusiastically repeating Korean pick-up lines.

Jin vaguely remembers learning those about six weeks ago, but the English Danny taught him stuck in his head a little better. Korean is Korean, English is cool. Not that he'd use it, even on their foreign clients, because he doesn't need to embarrass himself horribly in front of the vice-president of somewhere important and he's probably better off not causing an international incident.

"Jin-senpai!" Yuuya lights up when he sees him, and excuses himself from the language class with a quick bow.

Jaejoong shoots Jin an amused glance.

"I didn't forget my own water this time!" Yuuya announces cheerfully when he gets to Jin, holding up a small plastic bottle with the label peeled off.

Jin slides his legs out from under the roller pad and turns sideways, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. He smiles at Yuuya; there's no way not to when he looks this eager. "I really didn't mind," he reassures him.

"Please don't stop because of me!" Yuuya says immediately, but Jin waves him off, and Yuuya stops fretting.

Jin has gathered that Yuuya isn't so into sports, though he likes the gym for the social aspect and does the necessary minimum without complaining. He used to like soccer back in primary school, Jin's heard him say, before he ran away from home. His reason for supporting Frontale when the guys are watching matches on TV is that he finds their dolphin mascot cute.

Yuuya's clean new indoor sneakers scratch along the rough carpet when he leans against the beam of the chin-dip station. "How was your Friday night, Jin-senpai?"

"It was a Friday," he says easily. "I did okay." A comfort would have been better, but the two relaxations he got were fine, uncomplicated.

"I had Suzuki-san for comfort," Yuuya reports.

"Yeah," Jin says, making a face. Jin's had Suzuki, too. Most everybody has had Suzuki because no-one particularly wants him twice. "I saw him chat you up, but Tsukada was in the middle of telling me this story which was supposed to be funny, and I couldn't get to you in time."

It's not that Suzuki is a bastard, not like some, and unlike some he doesn't have weird requirements, either; it's just that his ideas of personal hygiene aren't the same as those of the guy who has to blow him.

"It was okay," Yuuya says brightly. "Tatsuya-san helped me out."

Tatsuya, standing now and towelling off sweat, turns at the mention of his name, and Yuuya gives him a bow followed by a cheerful little wave. "Thank you very much," he says, raising his voice a little more. "It worked out very well."

Tatsuya nods acknowledgement, but doesn't seem eager to pursue the matter.

"He made up a little story to take me aside," Yuuya says to Jin, and now Tatsuya looks faintly embarrassed, "and warned me to get Suzuki-san to clean up first, that it would help. He was right, it helped a lot."

"You got him to do it?" Jin tried both times he had him, harder the second time than the first but with as little success. And there's only so far you can push in suggesting that your respected client really should take a shower.

"Sure," Yuuya says. "I got him to have a bath with me. Nice hot water, hand jobs with bath soap… why would he turn that down?"

Right. It's depressing to think that he could probably learn a lot from Yuuya.

Still, he reminds himself, he's not doing so badly these days. He handled Kamenashi, got him out of his life without provoking another complaint. Tonight, he's got a comfort with Yamatani, and Ohishi, his other regular, is coming in for one tomorrow, so that's the weekend already in the bag, and he'll probably pick up a couple of relaxations on top of that. And he's noticed that after Kamenashi, he's come to appreciate the other clients a bit more, just for not being assholes. The assignment with Kato went well; he hopes he didn't overstep any lines, though the man seemed unoffended at the time.

Jin casts a glance at Tadayoshi, who had Kato again two nights ago as usual, wondering if Kato said anything at all. Probably not, though.

He decides to ask, anyway, because Kato doesn't come into the club often, and who knows when the next time will be, and maybe he said something and Tadayoshi just didn't know it was important. Once Yuuya has adjusted the counterweight for some chin-ups, Jin goes to join Tadayoshi, who is cooling off from his run, stretching on the mats. "Kato-sensei doing fine?" Jin asks.

"Yeah," Tadayoshi says. He props up a heel, bouncing soreness out of one leg. "Thanks for taking over last week. I felt really bad about letting him down a second time."

"No problem," Jin says, crouching down next to him. "We did okay. I think." He doesn't really know how to ask his question. "Um… did he say anything?" he tries vaguely.

"About you?"

"I just thought… you know, maybe—"

Tadayoshi laughs. "He didn't complain! Look, just because one client can be a bit of an asshole doesn't mean they'll all run to Ootomo on the flimsiest excuse."

"Right," Jin says.

"For what it's worth, he did mention you, and I think he likes you."

Likes. It hits him because for once he wasn't even worried and here it is, just like that, like it's easy.

"Yeah," Tadayoshi says. "So, you know, don't stress."

"Great," Jin says, and then he wonders whether— "Uh, you don't mind, do you? I know he's your regular—"

Tadayoshi laughs again, waves him off. "Regular, yes, and he's a decent guy, but we're not exactly Tsubasa and Takki-san."

Jin rolls his eyes because he didn't think they were, he doesn't think that kind of nonsense.

"What's Tsubasa and Takki-san?" comes Yuuya's clear voice as he's hopping down from the dip station, curiosity drawing him over. He's got good hearing. And now Junno, who's hanging from the top of the wall bars by his feet and doing show-off sit-ups, is looking interested, too. Jin can feel his mood dropping.

"Club myth," he says curtly. "Fairytale for little whores."

Yuuya stops with his towel in one hand, the water bottle in the other, and gives him an uncertain glance. Now he feels bad because it's not Yuuya's fault and he can't be blamed for asking. It's just that… it's everything about this stupid story.

And of course Junno has dropped off the bars and is bounding closer. "Tsubasa was one of us," he says to Yuuya, ignoring Jin. "Nice guy, had his head screwed on right, too. I started here just a few months before he left. Takizawa-san was a client, and from what I hear he took to Tsubasa from the start and… well." He produces a big dorky grin Jin wants to punch him for.

"Oh, right," Yuuya says, nodding. "A sugar daddy. I've had a coup—"

"Nope," Junno says, "not those two, that was love. Boyfriends, the whole deal, Takki-san got Tsubasa out of here and they set up house together, all official, meeting the in-laws and stuff."

Sometimes… Junno should just shut up. "Don't fill his head with crap," Jin says. "It doesn't help anybody to believe in nonsense like that." Love gets people into this sort of mess, not out.

"I think it's nice," Junno says.

Thankfully, Yuuya looks sceptical.

"It doesn't happen," Jin says.

"It has happened. Tatsuya was there, he saw it happen." They all look at Tatsuya, over in the corner with the weights, even Jin, even though he knows what Tatsuya is going to say.

"Last I heard, it seemed to be working out," is what it is, and of course Jin's not surprised, it wouldn't have become some stupid myth in the first place if they didn't believe. Tatsuya shrugs at him, vaguely apologetic. "Takuya-san says Tsubasa keeps in touch."

It doesn't matter. Jin glares at Junno, shakes his head at Yuuya. "It doesn't happen. Maybe it was a fluke, but there's no point going on like… like it's real."

"It's—"

"You're not using those bars any more," Jin says before Junno can say anything even more stupid. "Right? So I can have them?" He doesn't wait for an answer, just turns his back on them and walks, and when he's there he doesn't even know what to do with those stupid things, but at least they're at some distance, so he sits down and hooks his feet under them and does fast sit-ups, which are more comfortable on the padded bench meant for them, but whatever.

He ignores them all until knees appear beside his face, and then he looks up. Tatsuya is looking down at him.

"You want the bars?" Jin says between one crunch and another. If Tatsuya followed him to talk about idiotic stories, he doesn't want to know about it.

"No," Tatsuya says, "I was just wondering…"

And he lets it hang until Jin has disentangled his feet and gets up.

"Thank you for helping Yuu-chan," Jin says, before he can forget. "I felt kind of bad that I couldn't warn him."

Tatsuya shrugs lightly. "No problem." His eyes rest on the boy who is still talking to Junno, who has twisted himself into a pretzel. "He's going to do well here, I think."

"Hm," Jin agrees. "Knows how to handle them."

A nod, then Tatsuya turns back to Jin. "How did it go with Kamenashi-san?"

Jin's pretty sure he didn't start or make a funny face or anything. After all, he's got no reason to any more, anyway, he really doesn't. He looks as neutral as he possibly can. "It was all right," he says. "I think he was happy enough."

Tatsuya seems pleased. "I'm glad to hear it," he says, like Jin proved him right on something or other. "What did you talk about?"

"Uh," Jin says, "we didn't really talk much." He shrugs, hoping it's a cool kind of shrug. "You know."

The look of concern that crosses Tatsuya's face has, Jin is sure, nothing to do with him, but with worry that maybe Kamenashi isn't getting his money's worth. Jin can't help him there. It's not like the guy encouraged any sort of conversation. It's not like Jin is eloquent when he can't move and can't see.

Tatsuya studies him a moment longer, a little too measuring for Jin's comfort. A mishandled weight clanks loudly over the conversations, and Jin can hear Jaejoong teasing the culprit about it in his accented Japanese. There are raised voices somewhere outside, but fading, maybe someone having a fight over fridge space again.

Tatsuya seems to come to some sort of decision, and it looks favourable enough if it didn't turn out to be, bizarrely— "He likes to talk about work sometimes, get things off his chest," he says. Advice about Kamenashi. "But he doesn't like to brag, so you have to draw him out a little."

Jin doesn't need advice. He and Kamenashi are done. "Right," he says, and tries to look thoughtful.

"He doesn't like to be presumptuous, so you have to take the initiative sometimes, a bit. Without pushing him, of course."

Is this it? Is that supposed to be the secret handshake that keeps Kamenashi from going nuts on you? Jin says nothing, tries to look appreciative.

Tatsuya hesitates briefly for the next one, whatever weird thing he's going to come out with next, but apparently Jin passes muster again. "And watch out for these moods he gets," Tatsuya says in the end, and that's more like it because no kidding. But Jin keeps his mouth firmly shut and just as well because Tatsuya continues, "He won't ask for it but sometimes he likes it, if you notice, if he's in that sort of mood, and then he likes it really slow…"

Jin blinks because that is out of some alternate universe where— is Tatsuya even saying what he thinks he's saying? "Uh… yeah…," he contributes.

Tatsuya nods, kind of to himself, maybe. "Do you think he'll ask for you regularly now?"

"No!" Maybe a little too emphatic. Tatsuya looks faintly surprised. "I mean, no, Ootomo told me Kamenashi called and he had no complaints but he doesn't want me again, either. He said so, last week. He's not going to ask for me again." He stops himself because he's babbling. "So," he says. "I guess he's just, you know, busy. With his film."

Tatsuya nods again. "His schedule gets crazy. Filming, promotions, campaigns, everybody wants a piece of him, I don't know how he stays sane with all that going on."

In Jin's opinion, that battle is lost, not that he'll say that either, and he's not sure how to get out of this conversation without sounding moronic or pissing off Tatsuya, but then there's voices through the door again, clearly Ootomo this time, clearly shouting, and everyone stops in their tracks.

They've both turned towards the door, and when it opens, Jin half expects Ootomo to come storming in, but it's only Jun, looking stylish even in sports gear.

"What's going on?" Junno asks him, as perplexed as they all are. Jin checks on Yuuya without thinking, and finds Yuuya looking back at him, puzzled and a little lost.

Jun raises his eyebrows, and then he turns and carefully closes the door. They wait because Jun can be a drama queen but this feels real, and when he turns back, he still has their collective attention.

"He thinks Shota kept an appointment off the record," Jun says in an even voice, and goes over to the treadmill. He doesn't need to say more. It's the thing they're most paranoid about, right after discretion.

"Well, shit," Tadayoshi says, still on the mat.

Tatsuya is frowning, clearly sceptical. "How? Who was it?"

Jun slings his towel over the rail and puts his water within arm's reach. "I just heard him yell about commission," he shrugs at Tatsuya. "No idea about the rest."

"And did he?" Junno asks. "Shota, I mean."

Stepping onto the treadmill, Jun gives him a pointed look. "I wasn't in there," he says with a hint of impatience. "I only caught the loud bits, and he wasn't doing much of the yelling."

It's not good. Jin exchanges a glance with Tatsuya, who tilts his head vaguely.

It's quiet for a bit, under the regular thump of Jun's feet on the treadmill. Jaejoong and Tadayoshi start talking in low voices. Jin isn't interested in speculation, but when Yuuya comes over, questions in his eyes, he doesn't wait for him to ask.

"They're really paranoid about people cutting commission and seeing clients from the club behind their backs," he explains quietly, and looks at Tatsuya, who nods.

"Oh," Yuuya says. "Does that happen?"

"Yeah, sometimes." It's not so surprising given the margins, and how tempting it must be once you know a client well enough. But to Jin… he's already glad when he's not pissing management off the regular way.

"Not often," Tatsuya says. "Most people are smarter than that."

Jin certainly wouldn't take the risk. "Last time was right before I got here," he says, and Tatsuya nods again.

"Hiroki."

"Yeah." Jin knows the name. They told him all about that two days in, with the appropriate warnings. "I got his apartment." He still finds that a bit creepy when he thinks about it much.

"They kicked him out?"

"Straight away," Jin says, and Yuuya blinks at his harsh tone, but he can't help it, suddenly it's like a grimly pleasant counterweight to that other stupid story. "Was gone from the club overnight, no place to stay," he lists it, almost calm. "Forget security, or screening, or knowing where you sleep."

He doesn't want to scare Yuuya. Yuuya doesn't need scaring. But this is what it's like.

"What about the client?"

Jin shrugs. "They didn't tell me that. Slap on the wrist, I guess." He looks at Tatsuya, in case he wants to address the rumours, but Tatsuya's face is closed. "Some say it was that baker, some say it wasn't," he sums it up for Yuuya in the end. "Guy had more than one regular. They're all still coming here."

Yuuya meets his eyes, and yeah, he gets it. This is what it's like. These are their stories.

~

Chapter 7

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