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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 11

 

Monday 29 September

The commercial is… Kame very much wants to put a better spin on it than dumb, but it's proving difficult. The DoCoMo PR department sent the storyboard to the agency before the weekend, and Hamaguchi knows that he likes to prepare. At least he'll be prepared enough not to roll his eyes at them when he goes to the shoot.

He flips through the print-out again, wipes off the few breakfast crumbs that got stuck to the last page, and pushes it aside. Not that he would really roll his eyes. But he'd be tempted.

They also sent him some scripts, some stuff that's under discussion for after the teacher film. He's had time to study them over the weekend, with Midori gone in the evenings and him not having any other sort of plans, and that's as far as he's going to contemplate that while sitting at his breakfast table.

At least the period drama looks kind of exciting. And he's heard it through the grapevine there's talk of turning the story of Daisuke Namba into a movie; Hamaguchi will roll her eyes if he says he'd like to play the would-be assassin of an Emperor, but that might be worth keeping track of. He's the right age, and the role must be fascinating.

He glances up at Midori, who is meditating her way through her second cup of coffee, forgoing their serious newspaper for some handbag-sized colourful thing she must have bought for the train ride home from Shizuoka. He woke up briefly when she came in, very late from her all-weekend work trip, knocking over the mug with her make-up utensils in her disorientation.

They both slept in a little, in exchange for working the weekend. Kame sneaked out when he could feel Midori migrating towards the middle of the bed as she drifted out of unconsciousness. He doesn't plan to spend the entire morning in bed even if he isn't due on the set before noon.

Sipping at his own mug, its contents mostly cold by now, he watches her trying to operate the sweetener dispenser before she gives up with an endearing little frown. Midori, in a bit of a contrast to her girl next door aura and her general good cheer, does not rise and shine.

"Are you staying home today?" he asks, only really noticing now that she's still in pyjamas and her blue dressing-gown, and would at least be showered if she planned on going to work.

"No," she says with a sleepy blink. "I'm meeting Enoki-chan to go to a reading. In the afternoon. Though there might be drinks. Later, after the thing."

"Good," he smiles. "Have fun."

He's fine by himself at the house, really. He catches up on sleep, catches up on work.

Easier to dodge Tanaka, too. He doesn't feel good at the idea of going to the club again, and it's not like he can explain to Tanaka that he doesn't want to run into some incompetent escort unexpectedly and spend another week with this weirdness hanging over him, these things that aren't like him at all and definitely not how it is all supposed to go.

Things he is definitely not thinking about while he's sitting across from his wife.

He flips through the pile of scripts again. That romance is insipid. Kame likes happy endings. He even likes happy scenes, as an actor, finds them more challenging than dying or portraying endless gloom with a twist of his mouth and a carefully deliberated stare. But the guy they want him to play is such an utter moron he really shouldn't get the girl, and Kame doesn't want to spend weeks or months getting into his skin, really not.

Midori will probably agree when he shows her the scripts, though the way she turns her pages slowly and the distracted blinking of her eyes under a too-long fringe suggests he'd better give it a miss this morning. He smiles into his coffee mug. Maybe they can talk it over later tonight, if they're both awake enough when she returns.

Another upside to staying at home more often.

A proper arrangement will be better anyway, for when he sees Tatsuya again. He'll feel better if he doesn't have to improvise, and Tatsuya knows how he does things, anyway, and once things are normal and like they always were everything will be… normal. Everything will be fine. Maybe he shouldn't dodge Tanaka, maybe he should just go in and be… normal.

Enough of that, he tells himself firmly, and looks up. And Midori has gone still.

When she looks at him, Kame can tell she's suddenly awake, though the smile she gives him is soft and untroubled; a little too pointedly soothing, in fact, to not set off Kame's alarm bells, even if she's not a mind reader and it really isn't about that.

"Don't get worried," Midori says, and there's a quirk to her mouth that tells him she knows exactly how reassuring an opening that is.

"That's…" He raises his eyebrows, and she laughs.

"Just, here," she says, pressing the spine of her magazine flat with one palm. "I think you look better with the floppy hats, by the way. More mysterious."

She's still smiling when he walks around the table, because she knows him, knows how much he doesn't like gossip and pictures, and she wouldn't smile if it were anything serious. He has to lean a bit over her flannel-covered shoulders and there it is, blurry grainy pictures of his face hidden behind wide sunglasses and his name in screaming sharp font, and there's… Morioka. Happily undisguised and exiting their favourite Chinese place, and Kame feels like a creepy cold gaze is crawling down his neck and the air tastes thick, hollow, devoid of oxygen.

Dinner. They were just having dinner.

"Just so it doesn't hit you," Midori says quietly, puts a hand over his on the table. He doesn't remember reaching down, touching that picture, invasive and wrong in all its harmlessness, and he can't pull away now, Midori would notice, Midori might wonder what the fuck is wrong with him, when it's just dinner.

It's not the same at all. Gods, no. No. Morioka is a colleague. Morioka is two steps behind him and smiling but that means nothing. They're colleagues and they like each other and what's wrong with that. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It means absolutely nothing.

"Sparks on the set," it says, and something about unexpected new dynamics.

"I don't know how they even know it's you, I wouldn't recognize you wrapped up like that and I'm your wife," Midori says, getting up slowly so she doesn't push her chair into him, and she kisses him lightly on the cheek.

"It took me a moment myself," he says, too long a pause to be natural, too desperate to be true.

"Don't worry about it," Midori says. "You know they follow you sometimes."

He knows. And she's right. "Yes, it's okay," he says, and tries to believe it. "Part of the game." He knows.

*~*~*

His phone buzzes just as he's getting in the car, and he nearly jumps out of his skin. Not the agency. Not any news outlets, either. It's just Tanaka, and he screens it, fingers clumsy on the small buttons. Later. He can't use this now.

And then he wonders if Tanaka has read the article and is calling about it and… and then he fastens his seatbelt, puts on his driving sunglasses, and calms the fuck down.

Because this is nothing but stupid gossip and people eating up the fanservice, running with it. They can't help that they have chemistry. It's generally considered a good thing among co-leads. The scenes with Morioka are the best thing about this movie, and there's a reason they set them up like that in the photo shoot.

Right. He takes his cell out of his jacket, puts it somewhere it won't give him a heart attack in the middle of the expressway, and pulls out of the drive.

Sparks on the set.

He read the article while Midori was in the shower. It's clever. Sly and clever and mean and they're not breathing a word about Souji, and Kame doesn't know why, they're so full of nudge-nudge, wink-wink that that would be prime fodder. Kame is under no illusions that it's really been forgotten, no matter how good the agency's damage control was.

Good friends. Right. They've known each other for a month and they work well together, and sometimes they share a meal. Maybe that already moves him into the good friend category, because how would Kame know? It's not like he has many friends.

His throat feels tight, and he should have brought something to drink. Should stop overthinking, just be… be normal, and that's when he changes lanes, takes the early exit. Spending 'quality time' together. At least they got that right. If that means he actually enjoyed talking to Morioka.

The silence in the car feels almost deafening. But he can't drive to radio when he needs to focus, needs to think.

They added that picture from the promo materials, to underline the 'chemistry', and Kame flashes back to that shoot, how tiredly grateful he'd been that it was easy with Morioka and that he even admired the intensity Morioka packed into his role, and for a horrifying moment Kame isn't sure whether he slipped and didn't notice, whether he looked at Morioka as anything other than a colleague and a nice guy.

But he didn't. Kame is careful. This sort of thing has no room on the outside, and he's had years of getting that right. He'd know if he found someone on the outside attractive beyond theoretical appreciation, and he'd know not to go to dinner with him and not to show pictures of the two of them to his wife.

He should think about the scripts. The romantic moron and that samurai and whether he feels up to that, the physical aspects of it and what promises to be a lot of freezing his ass off in out-of-the-way filming locations.

God, that… He hasn't thought of that birthday in years. Out in the middle of nowhere, cold and wet from sleet and not a soul who even remembered he was turning twenty-two, and he was still glad he wasn't home in their— in Kame's tight, constantly crowded apartment, and that's when he knew…

A warning sign by the road flashes '50' at him and he lifts his foot and unclenches his grip on the wheel, drops below the speed limit again.

He'd thought it couldn't get any worse, that he couldn't get any more miserable, crying his eyes out over dumping his boyfriend. Turned out he was wrong about that.

*~*~*

He leaves the car in the underground parking garage and makes sure he has the scripts and the storybook, everything he needs.

He thinks of changing his shirt because he feels oddly sweaty. But that would be a hoot, some intern or parking attendant or personal assistant seeing Kamenashi Kazuya topless in the agency's parking garage. He might get a reputation.

He's never liked the building much. He feels watched from the moment he steps through the first glass door, everyone from secretaries to the higher-ups that deal with people like him in see-through cubicles. He's been to where Midori works and it feels different, busier and warmer at once, even though it's basically the same style, lots of glass and stainless steel and expensive industrial carpet in muted greys and blues.

Nobody pays him much attention on his way to Hamaguchi's office, and that's good to know, good to feel normal when he smiles at Hamaguchi's secretary and she smiles back and there's nothing strange in her face or her eyes or the way she tells him to go on through yet another glass door.

He sees two grey outlines through the wide milky privacy stripe on this one, and recognizes Hamaguchi in a sharp expensive suit and her personal assistant in the same basic cut and colour, minus twenty or thirty thousand yen.

It's not unusual that Hamaguchi has time for him, even when he drops in unannounced; he's important enough, and why is he even nervous, he wouldn't want to be kept waiting in the lobby wondering what's going on behind those doors. He smiles at her, too, and there's a polite round of greetings, and there's a look passing between the two women that he almost misses, and shit.

"I came about the scripts," he says and tries not to twirl the briefcase that contains them. The case is at odds with his jeans and polo shirt, and somehow that makes him uncomfortable. Maybe he should have changed after all, or thrown on a blazer at least.

"You didn't have to come in, Kamenashi-san," Hamaguchi says to him, sitting down in her yielding leather chair. It draws the eye, black and thick in an office that numbs you with its ivory-and-mint austerity. The flashiest piece of decor is a slim arrangement of white-painted twigs on Hamaguchi's desk, curling elegantly up and around each other in a long fragile glass vase. "It's not really that urgent."

She gestures towards the white guest chair in front of the desk, raising one corner of her mouth as if to apologize for the delay. The assistant stays, standing off the side.

"Those are some interesting possibilities," he says, and she nods pleasantly.

"I thought so. A lot will depend on which direction we want to take you in after the current project."

He didn't pick her. She just ended up in charge of him, when they signed him and sent him to his first serious assignment, a nervous fifteen-year-old who still wore cheap ill-fitting suits when he got called into the agency.

She was there, too, when his life nearly ended and the agency handled it, made it all go away. He suspects it was expensive, though he never asked how much. It hurt him too much to think about it, when he was still thinking about it.

It must be paid off by now in any case.

And apparently the assistant isn't going anywhere, and Hamaguchi is surprised enough to see him that she waits him out, and so he says, "I don't know if you've seen it," because he'd better bring it up on his own terms, with a chance to explain. Not that it doesn't take him two attempts to actually go on. "There's a paparazzi report about me and a co-star of mine going out to dinner. I don't know what they're getting at but I was surprised to see it."

They don't talk about it. Nobody ever, ever talks about it. They just look at him. Like now, and Kame doesn't talk either, just waits and tells himself that the assessing stare is just regular Hamaguchi, she's got ten years on him and has managed bigger stars, and that's all it is, some level-headed assessment by someone who has a brain for business.

"I saw it yesterday," Hamaguchi says politely. Kame doesn't know if she reads gossip magazines but she's probably got someone for that, had that article in her press clippings… yesterday. She didn't even find it necessary to call him. And then she smiles, properly, and it feels weird. "This all seems to fit in with the promotional slant. Morioka-san and you enjoying a good relationship off set can only help the success of the picture." Or can it? is what she doesn't add, doesn't need to because that's why Kame is sitting in her office, to answer that question before it can be asked.

"Of course," he says. "We're very good colleagues."

And she looks pleased enough. "I understand you wanting to be careful," she says, and what she means is that she approves of him being careful, Kame knows. He once got a crash course in all the little ways they talk to him without talking to him. "But as long as there's nothing to worry about…" She stops and thinks, and then she laughs. "Then there's really nothing to worry about!" She looks almost charming when she smiles, amused by her own unplanned joke.

Then she sends her assistant for coffee, and asks him what he makes of the romantic comedy he's been offered, mentioning that Kikuchi Rinko is being talked about as the female lead. She sounds excited; they've tried to pair Kame with Kikuchi-san before, only the plans fell through.

Kame stops holding on to the briefcase with both hands, crosses his legs at the ankles, wills his shoulders out of square rigidity. "It looks interesting," he says, and doesn't care that it's a lie. "It could be fun."

*~*~*

They're shooting outdoors. Production has recreated a street festival, and it almost feels like the real thing, excited extras milling around and a herd of nameless assistants ushering and shooing and trying to protect booths and cameras and hairstyles against the light showers that keep interrupting them. It makes shooting gappy and frantic, but when Kame has made it under the large white parasols he hears the boys laugh about something, again, and Matsura say something light and possibly funny about the plastic bag someone pulled over her hair after she stops from her sprint.

The parking lot has been cleared for the main cast and core staff, white folding chairs set up in little groups so that it almost looks like a street café. The boys are certainly treating it as such, sharing lunch snacks from the cart with their legs sprawled in front of them. Even Iijima seems to have found some kind of zen along the way and has stopped pacing the perimeter, is getting the street juggler they hired to teach him a three-ball toss.

Kame isn't hungry, and he isn't keen on all these breaks, and the low patter of rain feels foggy and damp around him, clouding his brain. It's hard to make out words over the distance, figure out proper context for the laughter and the nudges, and the light is weird and uncomfortable.

"Did you have a good weekend, Kamenashi-san?" Toyoda asks him where they have ended up together under the central umbrella, while he pours them both coffee at the cart. It's not a hard question, has nothing to do with the magazine, because Toyoda wouldn't, he's pretty sure of that.

"It was quiet," he says, and tries not to look at Morioka, who is just outside the boys' circle, being polite going through a scene with Matsura that they have coming up whenever the rain will allow it. "My wife was out of town for work." He hands Toyoda her decaf and manages a belated smile. If anyone is harmless, it's Toyoda, and it's nice that she's making conversation. "What about you?"

She tells him something about her husband and her mother, a friendly little story that passes the time and is better than the endless drum of the rain. At some point he remembers to take the frown off his face, smiles at her because she is a very nice woman.

Matsura is coming over to join them at the cart. Kame stirs his sugarless espresso, focussed and calm.

"Yeah, I feel so famous," Morioka is saying, and Kame knows without looking he's got a big, winning grin on his face. There's laughter, as if it doesn't matter when the press is after you, and there are scratches of chairs being dragged over rough concrete, the boys making room for Morioka, probably. Then the voices drop, not whispers exactly but Kame can take it for about fifteen seconds before he does check, and Kobi is teasing Morioka about sparking and they all look like it's nothing.

He's known they know, felt it somehow… he probably should be glad he hasn't imagined the interested glances, the boys checking his mood, wondering if they're allowed to tease; Iijima's raised eyebrows when Morioka greeted Kame, a passing and innocent hello because Kame was busy talking to the hairdresser.

He catches something else, something about sparks and good angles. That's when Morioka meets his eyes, still grinning, and maybe the others look too, maybe they're watching eagerly for his reaction but he doesn't find out because he's calm and it's all harmless, and he just nods and taps off the tiny plastic spoon on the edge of his cup.

"Really?" he says to Toyoda, and she says yes, her mother really does breed mice, Matsura standing silently a meter away as if she's waiting to be invited into the conversation.

Eventually the rain stops again. The boys go out and so does Matsura, and Kame and Toyoda stay behind, switching to warm tea and preparing their lines in silence.

Kame knows his already; always does. Could play this scene in his sleep, it's not hard, a little wide-eyed romance and a Cinderella moment and he doesn't need to find her attractive, it doesn't work that way, though it might help if she'd started off a little more confidently, a little less like a lost younger sister.

Sparks on the set.

Morioka seems to find the whole thing amusing, as if he weren't an unestablished young actor with a hungry, impatient agency that can drop him at the first sign of displeasure. But he can't be unaware of the way these things work.

It gets quieter outside the parking lot. The extras have stopped being an excited crowd, the brawl must have ended at Matsura's intervention.

An assistant brings them the props for their next scene. Toyoda grins at him, looking good in her subtle smoky make-up and sporty smart-casual clothes. He does like her, more so when she's not nervous, likes her sincerity, and he hasn't caught a single assessing glance from her all day.

Kobi is the first one back, and Kame stands up. "Let's get this done before it starts raining again," he says, and Toyoda nods.

They leave it after the third take. It's a decent average. Iijima says nothing to Toyoda, which is as good as praise, and she seems confident enough about her performance for a change. Iijima has said nothing out of the ordinary to Kame, either. It went well. You can't expect magic every day. They're being competent enough together.

He ignores the extras on his way back, reassures Toyoda about a line delivery of hers, and they're still in the middle of comparing notes when she steers them back towards the food cart where Morioka is standing with a water bottle in hand, so Kame doesn't have much choice. He just goes.

"Cute," Morioka says, nodding at the large, fluffy yellow duck that Kame is carrying, and caps his bottle. "Can't say I ever managed to win one of those."

Kame sets the prop down into his folding chair because it's too yellow and fluffy to drop on the ground, and then he feels fussy and awkward about it. "Yes, I don't really know…"

Morioka smiles at them both, quite untroubled by paparazzi pictures and Toyoda's presence, and of course that's the way to go, it's good that Toyoda is around and can see that there's nothing at all to see, and with her around there's nothing for anybody else to see right now, either.

Kame isn't thirsty but he takes some water anyway, unscrews it slowly. He doesn't need to look now; he's given it some thought over the day, watched cautiously when Morioka was filming, and he's sure. There's nothing there. He knew before this morning that Morioka is good-looking and funny and nice. He's a rising young actor and they don't usually pick them ugly and sullen.

"They take up a lot of space," Toyoda says with bit of blushing pragmatism. "My husband once won a purple dragon for me, when we were in high school, and I felt so bad, but I was sharing a room with two sisters and it was small enough as it was."

"Yes, exactly!" Morioka says, and looks at Kame.

"I don't think my wife would go for something like that either," he says, and he's so far from thinking about Midori and giant plush animals that he's almost confused when Morioka and Toyoda laugh.

"So, about that thing," Morioka says, with a final look at the duck. Kame keeps so still he doesn't even blink. "I guess the Lucky Garden is out of the question now? It must be annoying for you to have reporters everywhere."

"Yes, that…" Kame's eyes skip to Toyoda, find nothing but understanding for their restaurant problem in her face. "That's probably a good idea."

"Shame about the Szechuan squid," Morioka smiles. "That was good."

"Yeah."

"Should get myself some proper sunglasses now, though. I think I picked mine up at a conbini check-out, and that can't be good for my image."

"I'm sure Kobi-kun can help you out," Toyoda suggests, "he seems to know what's hip," while Kame stares blind between them and doesn't understand.

He's glad he saw Hamaguchi. Glad he has it settled and that he's not the only one who knows there's nothing going on, nothing there at all, and he's glad Morioka knows that too but he doesn't understand how it adds up to jokes about sunglasses.

Morioka isn't even married.

Eventually Kame's called for his solo scene. He's glad to get out from under the umbrellas and away from this weird conversation, and it should be easy, just him and the role and some despair as he curls his fingers into the mesh of the fence, yelling for Morioka to stop, and he's not supposed to care that everyone is watching him, not supposed to feel anything but a driving mission.

Morioka's not in the take, nobody here but dozens of extras, and their eyes gravitate towards him as soon as the camera stops rolling. It's not unusual. He's the star of the picture and they look at him all the time.

Iijima makes him do it four times before the rain starts again. It's Kame's last take and Iijima gets an intent look on his face as the first drops fall dark on Kame's shirt, and then he asks politely if they could try it with the added wet effect, too. Of course they can. Kame yells some more, ignores the stares, ignores the extras. It's not going to do them much good with all the connecting scenes being shot dry and fake-sunny, but Iijima can't resist a pretty image and Kame feels oddly calmed by just letting the water hit him, cushion him from the stares.

He's just short of soaked when he makes it back to the wide white tent, and someone rushes towards him with hot tea and a towel. The stylist arrives armed with make-up and hairdryer, but Kame waves her off, he's done. The others will hang around for a while longer while someone tries to find out if it's going to let up early enough for them to finish the boys' scenes in good light. Kame takes a rest in a chair, ignoring the wet stickiness of his clothes.

"You should get changed, Kamenashi-san," Matsura tells him, but doesn't linger, and he just nods, feeling his shirt cool down fast against his skin.

"Wardrobe trailer's empty just now," Morioka says, behind him, and Kame doesn't start, of course he's here, they're colleagues. "If you want to change in peace."

"Thank you. I'll… yes, I'll do that." He blows into the cup absent-mindedly. Morioka is next to him now, but doesn't sit down.

"You gave him ideas, by the way," Morioka goes on, nodding at Iijima when Kame gives him a questioning look. "We're going to shoot the running away scene again, with rain."

"Sorry," Kame says, and Morioka laughs. He's really very charming. A nice guy. Good friends.

"Yeah, at least dessert should be on you then!"

"Ah." He tastes hairspray when he takes a sip. Wipes his hand over his face. "Yeah."

"We won't be long, I think. Half an hour, tops."

"Tonight's not good for me," Kame says. "I have to get home, I made plans with my wife." He tries a smile. "I'm sorry." And he is.

Morioka is only surprised for a second. Only a moment that something blinks across his friendly features, a passing thought. Plans can change.

"Hey, no problem," he says then, shrugs. Smiles. "Some other time."

"Yes, sure," Kame says. "Some other time."

*~*~*

Kame leaves while Morioka is sitting on a chair with his back to him, getting quick bruises reapplied to his face for the rain shoot. He says goodbye to Toyoda and to nobody else; they're all busy.

There's a large supermarket with a good food selection before he even gets to the expressway and he stops there to pick up something for dinner.

That's fine. These dinner dates weren't… a fixture or anything. Or dates. He puts on his sunglasses before he gets out of the car, then thinks of…

It's fine. Morioka's not going to need those sunglasses for a while yet, and Kame is going to be more careful.

He walks briskly through the rain, ignores the look the trolley attendant is giving his celebrity get-up because he's used to that, and slows for the automatic door to open and let him in, picks up a basket.

The magazine racks are always at the front of these shops, he doesn't know why, full of primary colours and red promises of other people's secrets. He ignores them, picks up a newspaper, a respectable one, instead. No reason why there should be anything— well, there was no reason for the other thing, either, but this isn't a gossip rag and— he puts it back on the shelf anyway because sometimes he just can't be bothered trying to pick through people's words to get at the truth, of anything.

He can read scripts about morons instead.

An arm stretches past him politely, reaches for the magazine he recognizes from their breakfast table and suddenly he feels trapped; he doesn't want to look at anyone and be recognized but he also can't— It's a woman, practical, sporty dress, a little older than Midori with a stroller in arm's reach, and her eyes skip past him, taking no interest.

He shouldn't have stopped here, should have gone straight to the back where the chiller cabinets are, not get stuck between the headlines and the people who want to read them, and he turns around. Leaves.

He feels better with the car around him, the doors closed, even welcomes the fucking rain that splashes a thick blur on the windows, the grey haze over everything. He doesn't need this. Maybe he should just give up on… It's just buying dinner, what normal people do. People who can just talk to other people, at dinner, and not feel…

But there'll be rice in the house, or one of those cups of instant ramen Midori likes to slurp at home after a late night out. He doesn't need much, just some peace, and not worrying about anybody – not about dragging Morioka into this, Morioka who doesn't know how to be careful and hasn't had to learn what to be scared of; not about himself. Dinner at home, alone, will be good.

And now he's sitting in the car and he isn't starting it.

Because it doesn't have to mean hiding away alone, or didn't, hasn't for years now, and… something must be wrong with him to be avoiding the one place where none of this is a problem, where he doesn't feel hunted. To be sitting here like this when he has Tanaka demanding his presence, when he can go and enjoy himself and talk to people who know about him and don't care, if he can only avoid that one escort, and how hard can it be? How hard can it be just to be… normal?

He's going to stop acting like he's got any reason at all to stay away, like he's suddenly a stranger uncertain of his welcome.

He fishes out his phone and dials Tanaka's number.

~

Chapter 12

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