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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 9

 

Wednesday 24 September

The agency is pleased with Kame. His mood improves once that filters through. He isn't hung over, not by a long shot, and he slept all right once he was at the apartment and in his own bed, out of that room that was… perfectly comfortable and stylish and of course he could have stayed, he doesn't need an escort – a hapless one at that – to enjoy the amenities and good service.

But he starts the day fresher when he sleeps at home.

Anyway, they're pleased with him. DVD sales of last year's series are high, interview requests about the movie are piling up already, and the gossip rags' speculation about his part in the anti-bullying campaign has been all they could wish for, linking his name in highly satisfactory ways with numerous senior figures and benefactors. Kame isn't that cynical, he believes in what he's doing, but he isn't stupid, either; he knows how it works. He knows why there was a signature-ready contract for a kids' single line cellphone commercial attached to a smug e-mail from Hamaguchi in his in-box this morning.

This is it, working.

He's printed the contract and signed it, and drops it off at the agency on his way to the studio. Only a short take for him today, a quick confrontation with 'the cop' and Morioka in a bleak interrogation room set with tired beige wallpaper and a realistic – Kame supposes – ink- and ash-stained table for Morioka to drum his fingers on like he doesn't care about anything at all, for Kame to slam his fist down next to that hand in the end, before their eyes meet, and a few seconds later—

"Cut!" Iijima yells, and then "Okay!", and that's that.

"Lunch?" Morioka says, wiping his hands on a cloth the assistant has brought him.

Kame shakes his head regretfully. "Meeting Sakurai Sho for the other thing. We've got a press conference on Saturday and a talk show a week later, we need to sort some stuff out. How about tomorrow?" They'll be here all day, but there's bound to be an hour when they can sneak off for a proper meal.

"Sure," Morioka says. "That place again, or something with more variety? I know a good Chinese restaurant not too far away."

"Chinese sounds good," Kame says. "At least you don't look like you're sizing the place up for a robbery any more."

"Yeah, you can take me places," Morioka says, grinning widely. "Aren't you glad!"

*~*~*

Officially, Kame and Sakurai Sho have never met; or maybe they'd claim some random encounter in some obscure bar they can't remember because somebody else dragged them there, sometime last year, maybe. Kame supposes that this is why they had each other's agents set up this meeting, to get their stories straight.

Because Sakurai plays the game as well as Kame. Better than Kame, one might say, without a gay gossip scandal in his past and with not just a wife but three children aged between nine and sixteen, a happy and successful family man for whom his visits to the club are a pleasant hobby.

Midori has mentioned children, and not just once. It's always felt like a step too far for Kame, too wrong, but Sakurai-san's example makes him wonder whether maybe he's not looking at this rationally enough. Maybe he should be more thorough. He probably ought to work on a long-term plan.

*~*~*

Kame gets to the place first, and settles in a corner with his sunglasses still on. A waitress brings a menu, but leaves him alone when he tells her he's waiting for somebody. He plays with the ashtray, then hides it behind the small white vase with a couple of chrysanthemums arranged in it.

When he looks up again, there's Sakurai, in the doorway. He's Kame's height, not tall, but he managed to pass forty while retaining the trim physique of a twenty-year-old. With a stylish haircut and the faintest hint of brown dye, he cuts a credible figure as Japan's most popular sports commentator.

Every assured, urbane movement he makes says that he knows it, enjoys it and, Kame guesses, considers it well worth the price. If Kame plays the game right, he'll be just as confident and smooth when he's forty, when devastating rumours are so long in the past he will almost have forgotten, when he's got a couple of children in junior high.

He rises quickly when Sakurai approaches, shakes the thought off furtively, bows politely.

"Pleased to meet you, Kamenashi-san," Sakurai says, and the amused smile in his eyes is only there to see for those who know.

Kame returns the greeting and adds, "Let's work well together," and then they sit down to be jolly colleagues.

"When your agent called, mine was just looking out your contact details," Sakurai says cheerfully. "We seem to be on the same wavelength."

Yes, Kame thinks, they are, because they have to be, and maybe he should feel inspired by Sakurai who seems quite, quite happy with it.

"It makes sense, I guess," he concedes.

Sakurai orders a modest glass of red wine but Kame prefers to go with water. He picks a salad with grilled chicken breast and Sakurai, after a little wavering, decides on a katsudon set. The drinks come almost instantly, and once the waitress has retired, Sakurai raises his glass in a leisurely toast and they have a sip each.

"So what shall we tell them?" Sakurai gets right to the heart of the matter.

Kame's been trying to remember for days if he ever mentioned Sakurai to Midori, but he doesn't think so, doesn't think he'd have had any reason to.

"I could be fine claiming this here is our first meeting ever," he says. "I don't have to, but there's no reason why I couldn't." Sakurai will know what he means.

It's clear that he does from the way he's swirling his wine about thoughtfully.

"I don't think I've mentioned you to anybody," he says in the end. "No reason to, as such, and I tend to keep quiet about Johnny's members anyway. Easier than keeping stories straight."

Kame knows what he means, too. The only Johnny's member he will mention outside is Tanaka, and that's because they knew each other before.

And he and Sakurai don't really move in the same showbiz circles. It would be difficult to come up with a reason why they should have met that wouldn't involve third parties in the lie.

Their food arrives; the salad is bigger than Kame expected, colourful with various leaves and tomatoes and raw yellow capsicums. Sakurai's katsudon set takes a moment to arrange, and they wait in silence until they have their privacy back.

"So we met today," Kame sums up finally, "had a long chat and attribute everything we know about each other to that."

Sakurai nods. "So. That's that settled."

And sure, Kame will find it easy to act like he doesn't know that Sakurai usually arrives around nine, that he buys pink champagne, and that he likes to go upstairs with Jun.

He's glad their tastes don't seem to coincide because he can find that a little freaky. It's part of the reason why he stays away from the men Tanaka favours. That, and the fact that he has Tatsuya who…

…gave him that odd look last night.

But that was just a moment. It probably wasn't important. And even if Tatsuya wonders, Kame can explain… well, not explain, because there's no reason to, but Tatsuya will understand quite easily that something like that isn't Kame's style, he knows it isn't.

He can probably get them to laugh it off.

And it's not like anybody else— well, there was Nishikido, but it wasn't a problem, and Nishikido seemed to be perfectly happy in his company after that first— well, that. That was a little impulsive, Kame doesn't even know what he was trying to do there. But the point is… the point is, it wasn't a problem, either.

"I guess they haven't told you any more about what we're supposed to do at the talk show than they've told me," Sakurai is saying.

Kame shakes his head. "No idea." And Hamaguchi is good at keeping him informed. "All I know is, it's about the stars meeting the unsung heroes of the campaign. There are lot of people involved on the ground. We're just there because if we weren't, nobody would pay attention."

And he can live with that, during his more realistic moments, is glad he can at least help get them that attention. That's when the fame is worth… something, something beyond the buzz and the money and having his picture on every magazine. Something where even looking at Sakurai he can still tell himself that it's worthwhile in the long run and he can make those long-term plans and live with them.

And there's always Johnny's. Still a lifesaver even if he didn't want to accept it at first, three and a half years ago when Tanaka first called him about it, with the magazines still screaming Souji's cruel and spiteful proclamations into the world in bright red headlines; told him that he didn't give a fuck if Kame liked boys or girls or goats but there were ways to be discreet and if Kame wanted, he could help him out.

Kame needed a year to take him up on it. When the worst fear wore off but being straight just wouldn't happen and he caught himself looking at strangers, daydreaming things nothing short of suicidal.

"So I guess they brought you into this because of the movie?" Sakurai says, pulling him back into the present. "I saw some of the promotional material. Interesting role?"

Kame moves his shoulders vaguely as he picks pieces of tomato out of the salad and deposits them in the ashtray. "Not so much from an acting point of view but… if more teachers were like that, perhaps some young people would have a better chance," he says. "But my opponent has a point, too."

"That would be the young pupil in that photo—"

"No," Kame says, putting down the fork he'd been lifting to his mouth. "The other teacher. Played by Toyoda Fumie, you may have heard of her."

"Oh, the pregnant lady."

That wasn't what Kame had meant, but fair enough. "Yes. She's a good actress." He explains about the character she plays while they finish their lunch, tries not to mention Morioka again and isn't sure why.

Instead, he ends up telling Sakurai a little more than he might normally have about the on-set bullying which had led to his press statement. It's only natural, connected to the campaign they are currently involved in, and besides, he knows that it won't go further – if he can't trust the discretion of Johnny's members, there's nobody left to trust. Johnny's is about more than easy sex, it's about being together in a place where nobody judges you, and it's maybe the only part of Kame's life where he can be himself and still be confident and liked and… except…

Except now, for the first time, because he ran into an escort whose lack of finesse and proper behaviour rubs all over every transaction that involves him. But it's all right, it's not a problem because anybody who's had him before will know that too; that's why Yamatani was so understanding, and Nishikido, too, it would appear, and Jin is sure going through them, it takes a firm hand to keep him in his place and who wants to pay for that sort of hassle?

Even Yamatani wasn't all that keen, Kame called that right, even if Jin seems to think—

I don't comment on valued clients.

Kame wonders how true that is. Sure, there'll be club rules, and not even that guy would be so clueless because if one client hears you badmouth another, he'll wonder what you're going to say about him.

But Kame wonders what the escorts talk about among themselves. Wonders what sort of word can get around just because one inept escort is incapable of having a normal date with him.

Sakurai puts his soup bowl down, a soft sound that clicks loudly in Kame's ears.

Sakurai wasn't even there. So Kame smiles, asks something harmless about how he got involved with the campaign himself and nods his way through the answer while he wonders about what this man has in his head about him, if he knows that Kame likes his company refined and mature, the sorts of drinks he has, that he's quiet in the lounge. Nothing he might have observed about Kame over the years is anything bad, anything to be ashamed of; Kame has made his peace with necessity and he's safer at Johnny's than anywhere else.

It's only the sudden awareness of an outside perspective that… Sakurai's probably not even thinking about Johnny's, may be thinking about his kid's school trip. And anyway, it doesn't matter, they're in the same boat and nobody's in a place to judge anybody.

It will matter even less once he's past that business with Jin, and he'll put that behind him before his next visit, soon. Once everything is normal with Tatsuya, once everything is like it's been for more than two years, stable and workable and a good foundation to keep the rest of his life in order. He looks at Sakurai, who has it all worked out so well, and then looks down and picks up his fork. They'll work well together. Everything will work out as they planned.

~

Chapter 10

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