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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 12


Monday 29 September

"The guy's a fucking asshole no matter how you look at it!"

The break room is noisy, a whole bunch of them getting ready for a Monday afternoon when business travellers are back in town and local family men can blame work if they stay out late.

Daytime TV is on, too, with its stupid commercials for loan consolidations and senior health insurance, and even stupider soap operas.

"You just like him because he's pretty," Satoshi adds, over his shoulder, as he heads out to hit the shower, stopping briefly for Koichi who is coming in damp and rosy-skinned and with his towel around his head.

"But he is pretty," Hina says. "In an evil mastermind rape-slay-and-pillage kind of way. Still pretty."

"My girlfriend's really into him," Tadayoshi says sulkily, and it sounds like a long term grudge. "I don't get it. I prefer Cloud."

Jin has no opinion, he never got into the game. He looks at Koichi beside him, who shrugs. "Cloud. But I don't feel strongly. Did you hear about the big closing down sale at Oscar's? Your height, they might have some of the good stuff left even now."

"Could be I bought some of it yesterday," Danny says sheepishly while he's putting lotion into those curls which never do what he wants them to. "But I didn't clear them out."

"It's the hair," Hina is saying. "Maybe you should dye yours silver, too."

Danny pokes Yuuya, who has removed his suit from his locker and is pulling the cleaner's plastic wrap off. "I saw some for shorties, too."

"Thank you," Yuuya says politely, and then they all turn because the door is opening again.

"Hey, Takahisa!" Shota waves his hairbrush at the newcomer. Takahisa squeezes past Tadayoshi and Hina and dumps his bag on the bench next to him. "Did Satoshi tell you he let Nakamaru's sheik guy use the masterclass toys on him?"

Jin turns back to discussing cheap designer suits, only barely catching Takahisa's surprised, "Satoshi? But he's tiny."

"We can go check the suits out together if you like," he says to Yuuya, not that he needs anything new just now.

"That would be nice," Yuuya says. "I'd like another dark blue one."

"Dude, and get kicked the hell out by Ootomo?" Tadayoshi is laughing now. "You could get away with it."

"…took all night to get…" Shota's voice is rising and falling, and Yuuya is looking over in his direction.

Jin roots around his holdall – he's sure he put new socks in it, and sometimes he thinks it would make sense for the insides of these things to be white so you can find all your black stuff again. Instead it's like diving into a cave.

"Forgot something?" Koichi says easily. They share stuff around in an emergency, as long as they can get a decent fit. Socks are easy. But still.

"Hope not," Jin says.

"Now he's going to take Nino to New York for Christmas and Paris for New Year. Five star hotels all the way."

"Ask him to make a special ad?" Tadayoshi is saying enthusiastically. "Sephiroth cosplay in the dungeon."

Jin's found his socks, gives Koichi a triumphant smile. "Socks."

"Socks," Koichi confirms. He's rolled on deodorant and is flapping his arms a bit to make it dry quickly. "You got any appointments today?"

"No," Jin says. "Would have, but we made it an outside date on Saturday instead. You?"

"That much?" Yuuya's voice, sounding awed, and Jin makes himself not look to where Yuu-chan has joined the conversation about Satoshi and sheiks and… stuff. It's not his business.

"…too old to know who Sephiroth is."

"Relaxation at four, nothing else. But there's this guy from Friday who said he might be coming back tonight for more chatting." Koichi makes finger quotes. "Guess I'll see. Hey, there's Kamenashi."

Jin's eyes dart to the door and his stomach towards the floor, but it's not the door, of course not, it can't be, stupid, it's the TV, some worthy boring daytime campaign to brighten the lonely housewife's life. Jin looks long enough to note it's about bullying, doesn't laugh out loud and turns away.

"Damn, he's yummy," Danny says. "He must be the youngest client to come here since Takki."

"Hell, yes, ask Ootomo about kink rates! Or ask Hina here," Takahisa's voice soars above the background murmur as a few others are watching Kamenashi be fulsome about ethics and the efforts of the little people, too, and Jin can't decide what's worse.

"Good for him," Tadayoshi nods at the TV. "There was this guy in my junior high, he was a fucking beast and nobody stopped him."

"We had one but we ganged up on him one day, seven of us, put him in hospital. Got a week's detention but it was worth it."

"The price depends on what exactly you let them…"

Jin tucks his shirt in his trousers, looks for the belt. Koichi moves to the mirrors with a can of hair spray and a comb and starts fussing around.

"…went with a golden shower instead, and…"

Jin stops listening, just stops. He doesn't want to know if any of the guys… doesn't want think which clients and look at them and wonder and it doesn't matter because not for any money in the world...

He takes a deep breath, he won't be sick. Nothing to do with him anymore.

He fumbles the belt through the holes and forceshis feet into his shoes. His hair will be okay. He grabs the jacket and slings it over his shoulder, the elevator has mirrors.

A quick squeeze past some guys and then he's out, arranging his clothes, heading for the safety of the lounge.


Unusually for him, he's the first one down. He bows politely towards the two clients who are there but doesn't linger. The stocky bald one is somebody who tends to go with Jaejoong for relaxations; the tall old guy with folds of skin dangling off his face like those ugly dogs is on his way to becoming a regular of Koichi's.

He turns the big TV on instead, flips it to some nature channel for starters. The rest of them will be sitting around here while they wait. He slides down a little in one of the single leather chairs, leaving the couches for those who prefer them. He can see the door from here if he turns his head a bit, but isn't immediately on display. His favourite seat lately.

Yuuya appears, bowing to the two waiting clients just like Jin and stopping briefly to exchange a few words with each, leaving them laughing and winking at him before he moves on towards Jin, who tries to look ready to talk about anything Yuuya might have on his mind now.

Thankfully, Yuuya takes one glance at the screen and squeals, "Oh! Penguins!", dropping on the couch close to Jin. "They're so cute!"

Jin starts to relax again, as much as he ever does in the lounge when… well. Six days since Kamenashi grabbed him, and counting.

More and more of the guys join them, Danny sprawling out on the far side of the couch from Yuuya, Takahisa squeezing in between them a few minutes later; Jin noticed them chatting before and they seem to get on well, which is good. Jaejoong sits down with his client, and Koichi doesn't even bother, just bows and smiles invitingly and leads the man upstairs.

Mondays are rarely sophisticated and the luxury escorts tend to stay away; Mondays you get the desperate quickies, the relaxations with the guys who had to play nice with their families all weekend and are nipping in for a palate cleanser; not the relaxed, measured appointments of the days later in the week. Still, for the same reason Mondays can get busy and most of them want a slice.

When a pair of new clients arrives, Jin sits up at once; he'll join any group just so he doesn't look too randomly available, just in case.

He ends up sitting at their table and trying to make small talk about expensive cars. Satoshi, Danny and Hina have come along – a bit of variety on offer for the new guys while everybody finds out what they like. Yuuya and Takahisa are staying with the penguins, who have been exposed as ferocious predators; they'll have first dibs on any strangers that appear next, together with Tadayoshi and Shota.

The new guests are business guys, shy about saying which companies they actually own, trying hard instead to discuss speed limits and cruise control, something which at least doesn't distract Jin from watching the door. One of them is fascinated by Danny's curls, and Jin guesses that's a sell at least for tonight. In the end, the other one goes with Satoshi, and Jin gets himself some water from the bar before having a look around while the place is still filling up.

Yuuya is already gone – that was quick. Half the unattached guys are hanging around the retired Toyota exec with the snapping dentures who likes to throw money around on weekdays and be the center of attention. Yamatani has arrived, too, in the corner with his newspaper and his tea, and Jin wanders over. They both know they won't get together today, but it's nice just to have a quick chat, even though Jin's determined not to let the quick chat last an hour like he used to, he's got to find somebody to make arrangements with before—

He's looking at the door again and there is Ohishi, looking around the room searchingly, and that's weird because they just had their date. But Jin's not about to complain, even if so soon after Saturday Ohishi might only spring for a relaxation. He excuses himself from Yamatani and goes to say hello.

"Ah," says Ohishi with a polite smile, "Jin. I should… I need to… may I buy you a drink?"

Jin's not sure what to make of the diffidence, not Ohishi's normal style, but he nods agreeably, chooses one of Yuuya's green cocktails and lets Ohishi decide where they should sit. Is a little surprised when it ends up being one of the restaurant tables; when the drink in front of Ohishi is coffee.

"Listen, Jin," Ohishi says, playing with the rings on his thick stubby fingers that like to fondle Jin's balls. "I thought it's just polite… we've been pretty good together. I like you."

Right. Jin can tell where this is going. But maybe he can try— "I like you too," he says, but god. He's never going to be good at this.

"Yeah," Ohishi says vaguely, thick eyebrows drawn together. "And you know, I feel a bit bad about this, but the thing is, I feel like I should give myself a chance to… to grow, to try some variety, to…" He laughs nervously. "Not always to go for the same thing on the menu, I guess. I know that sounds bad."

Jin hears a lot worse in his position. This doesn't get to him. He shrugs faintly. "Don't worry about it." They're all used to it.

He wonders if he should suggest different styles, different ways of fucking – Ohishi's never been experimental, always the same viagra-assisted suck-and-fuck with softcore porn in between, and Jin liked that, he always knew what was coming and usually how long it would take. Maybe he should have taken the initiative sooner, made things more interesting for the guy. "Do you—"

"So I've asked Ootomo-san to cancel our standing arrangement," Ohishi says, and Jin shuts up. If he's already spoken to Ootomo, it's a done deal.

"I see," he says, thinks how best to handle this, what the career-conscious whore would do now. Smiles and doesn't care how fake it might seem. "But I hope that we can still meet occasionally?" he tries. "When you feel like something familiar perhaps?"

"Of course," Ohishi says, "of course. I look forward to it." He pushes his half-empty cup back and stands.

Jin stands too, bows. "Thank you for telling me in person." The guy didn't have to do that. "I look forward to seeing you again."

And Ohishi moves off, towards the seating areas. Jin sees him catch Shota's eyes before he turns away.

It's not a tragedy, of course it's not. Just annoying, because it means another day of hanging around in the lounge having to take anything that comes, having to work for it. Annoying because it was one of three regular weekly comforts, and unless he learns better to charm guys straight into paying to fuck him, it means quite a drop in income or finding a lot more dicks to suck.

Not a tragedy, not even a crisis. Just… it doesn't exactly feel good, either. And maybe he should go see Ootomo, just to apologize for not being able to keep this one. Maybe that would be good form.

And then he stops that thought because much as Ootomo likes his blow jobs, he's a driven enough businessman to like it even better if his staff do the work they're meant to do. So.

He starts looking around the lounge again. Ohishi has Shota and Takahisa toasting him and giggling at his come-ons. Definitely a new style. Jin lets his eyes sweep past quickly.

Yamatani is no longer alone; Handa has joined him and they'll be talking about the rotary club. Jin decides to leave them in peace and goes back to the TV.

"No luck?" Tadayoshi says. He's changed the channel to the news.

Jin shrugs. "Mid-life crisis." Because it's not just Jin to whom it happens, they have that word for it, when a regular client wants to experiment again. It's not just him.

And it'll get busier soon.

Only it takes a while, it's early yet. Koichi comes back, muttering things about flatulence as he flops onto the couch. Jaejoong returns next. By the time the door opens it's almost half an hour later, and it's Suzuki.

They all grimace at each other.

Jaejoong waves his hand generously at the rest of them. "No, after you, really," he says. "I insist."

"Client roulette," Tadayoshi says brightly, and they get up, let the guy have a choice.

Jin thinks of Yuuya and bath soap hand jobs, and the fact that he does need a client tonight, and pastes on a welcoming smile. Still, he feels guiltily relieved when Suzuki disappears with Tadayoshi after one round of drinks.

Satoshi is back and has joined Handa and Yamatani. Yuuya is still gone – must have been lucky and got a comfort. Jin goes back to waiting, eats a sandwich, waits some more, watches Satoshi go off with Handa. Tries two newcomers with Shota and Takahisa but is left behind, and waits some more.

Around seven things get lively when four sober-suited businessmen appear. The second wave of relaxations just finished, too, so most of the guys are around, only Hina missing, and Satoshi who skipped out for dinner with Ninomiya.

They end up with a few seating groups pushed together and several large bottles of champagne, playing a silly drinking game designed to make everybody lose their inhibitions fast. Jin's okay with that, even with the unsubtle fondling that's the object of the game. At least it means he doesn't have to sweat over finding clever things to say. All the moving around also makes it easy to keep an eye on the door.

So he makes sure to seem pleased about being felt up, return the fondling with some enthusiasm, and look like he's drinking the booze and enjoying it.

In the end, though, the clients pick Yuuya, Koichi, Tadayoshi and Jaejoong.

"Damn," Shota says on the way back to the TV. "I fancied the not-so-ugly one. I could really do with another relaxation sometime tonight."

"You mean the one who didn't have hair growing out of his nose?" Takahisa asks with a bouncy grin.

"Or his ears."

"But some on his head," Danny says. "We sure ask a lot. I've only had one, too."

Takahisa nods. "Yeah… but it's not even eight."

Jin says nothing.

There's billiard on the TV now, not Jin's choice of entertainment no matter how often Junno explains how cool it is. At least it's not likely to get him too distracted. Shota beside him is sipping hot tea and commenting on the player's butts. Other circumstances, this would be peaceful.

"Hey," Shota hisses next to Jin but Jin's already seen, he's still watching the door, and Sakurai Sho has just come in. Jun isn't around on Monday nights.

Shota and Jin smile at each other and get up, and Satoshi quickly rises, too. "I'm sure he likes the dainty type when he gets a chance."

The three of them get Sakurai comfortable on one of the light-coloured couches and Jin makes sure, for once, that he's actually sitting on the couch next to the client, not in a chair with some space to himself. He's trying; and this one is a good one to try it with.

Sakurai is not exactly young, but still on the youngish side for Johnny's clients, and he's got a pretty interesting job. Jin doesn't mind talking about sports in very general terms, and with Sakurai he can do that because Sakurai knows a bit about lots of stuff, isn't just a fan of one thing like Jin. In fact, Sakurai knows a lot about lots of stuff and he likes to hear himself talk, and it's actually fun to listen to him.

Half an hour has passed in no time; the champagne bottle is almost empty and Satoshi and Shota have made their excuses one by one as it became clear that Sakurai is mostly addressing himself to Jin. Jin is on his second bottle of beer, and Sakurai has told him about funny backstage incidents during the Olympics, what the national women's volleyball team really like to do during their teambuilding exercises, and which of the four main football commentators takes longest in the make-up room, and Jin says, "You must be really busy with all that stuff going on, then."

Sakurai shrugs. "It's my job. I love it. And it's got amazing perks."

Free passes to all the big games, Jin thinks; exclusive interviews with people like Kazu Miura or Marquinhos. Business class flights to Australia, America, Greece, Italy.

"…nice to have people take notice of what you say," Sakurai is saying, smiling at his champagne flute. "It goes beyond sports, once they have decided to give you their respect. Right now, I'm involved in a big campaign against bullying in schools, I couldn't—"

Jin feels his heart miss a beat. It's a horrible, dizzying feeling. Then it's over.

"That's… good," he manages when there's a pause he realizes he's expected to fill. "You… good." He stares at his beer. "That's, um, an important topic."

Maybe it's a different campaign, maybe… can there be two? Sure, if the government suddenly decides it's important.

He puts his beer down because his head is reeling enough.

"Would you like another one?" Sakurai asks.

"No. No, I… there's still some in there, it's okay, thank you." Jin takes a breath, tries to look normal when he sees Sakurai's slightly puzzled expression. "Do many stars like you get involved in these campaigns?"

"Oh," Sakurai says, "this one has far bigger stars than me. Some veteran actors and actresses, some famous singers. We're there to help the people who have been working on the issue for years get recognition."

It's the same one. Jin even recognizes some of the same words from that ad earlier on, party line he guesses.

"Right," he says. Drains his beer after all. "Uh, do you have to see them often?"

Sakurai gives him a curious look. "It's not a hardship," he says with a smile.

Of course not. Jin is an idiot.

"No, I know, I mean… it all takes time, doesn't it. Must be stressful."

Of course Kamenashi doesn't treat Sakurai like a cheap hole to fuck, and Sakurai probably thinks Kamenashi is someone who deserves respect, too, and now Jin's wondering why they don't just fuck each other, and this is not good.

"Coming here is a very welcome relaxation," Sakurai agrees – pleasantly, Jin notes – and he's waiting for some response, but Jin's neck hurts and he stretches his shoulders a little, looks around a bit. Two other clients, small groups around them, nothing he couldn't join but this is better, surer, he ought to make this work.

"Uh," he says, trying to think of something to say, something that's not related to Kamenashi only now his thoughts are back to spinning around the asshole. "We are always glad to see you here."

Lame but at least he formed words, he'll count that as a plus. Maybe he should just push ahead, get them to a room because this guy is not Kamenashi, there's no reason why they shouldn't work, if Jin can just get his head together, so he says, "If you'd like, we could—"

And stops the smile before it turns into a manic grin because he hears himself sound half-hearted and he knows he looks fake and if he was a client, he'd run for the hills. In the end he gives up, shakes his head. "I'm sorry."

"No problem," Sakurai says, and he doesn't sound like it is one, there'll be no complaints. That he doesn't sound sad either is hardly surprising.

"Well, it was nice speaking to you," Sakurai says, and that's Jin's sign for getting up and getting out of the way.

"You too," he mumbles, feeling stupid. "Really." He bows. "Please excuse me."

He moves as far away as he can, all the way back to the TV seats, checking the room on the way. He should wait before joining another group, so it doesn't seem like too much of a snub for Sakurai. But the place is fairly empty, and Jin will be right there for snatching up if—

There's an insisting tightness behind his eyes.

He gets a couple of aspirin from the concierge, then heads for the break room to chill for ten, be someplace where he can close his eyes without wondering who's going to sneak up on him.

He needs a client. Just one will be fine but after Ohishi, he could really do with one for tonight just so he doesn't feel like a total loser.

Doesn't help that he knows he was an idiot over Sakurai – he could have had that one, and it was a good one, and he had to go and ruin it because…

Fucking Kamenashi.

He's got to get over that.

He stretches out on the couch, legs dangling over the armrest, arm across his eyes. When he's rational, when he's up here and not down there, it's not too difficult. He doesn't have to take Kamenashi's dates – he can just say no next time even if the guy creeps up on him creepily and acts like he already owns him. Might not seem like the most logical option when he's short on clients anyway, but on the other hand, he'll be more use with the normal clients if he doesn't have to worry about Kamenashi… so in the long run, probably good.

That's what he'll do. And if Ootomo wants to give him grief… well, then he'll have to re-think because he does still need the job, but maybe if he explains… anyway, he'll deal with that if it happens.

He can turn the asshole down. He just needs to keep reminding himself of that.


And the aspirin has kicked in, and he still needs a client for tonight, so he had better go down again.


He stops at the screen as usual – then reminds himself it's stupid, he can turn the asshole down. Straightens his shoulders, walks in. It's almost nine.

He joins the first group he comes to, and okay, so he can still watch the door from where he is but that's just lucky coincidence. He says something about the weather to the nearest client, then realizes it would have helped if he'd looked outside first. But at least the man laughs, showing crooked teeth and an impressive array of gold crowns. Jin doesn't think he's seen him before, he's pretty sure he'd have remembered.

He accepts the drink he's offered, makes it a shot because he's hoping they can move upstairs soon, is disappointed when the man orders a bottle of champagne for himself and the entire table at the same time.

The door opens twice in brief succession, but the new arrivals are taller. Briefly, he considers abandoning tooth guy to see if one of the new ones is in more of a hurry; then he wonders whether he should maybe just start feeling the man next to him up a bit to move things on. He shifts unobtrusively, at least enough for their legs to touch, and makes sure to laugh at the joke he just almost missed.

Feels stupid and ridiculous when the man shifts accordingly so that they are once again not touching, but at least he's got a clear sign that he'll probably do better elsewhere.

Half an hour and two groups later, that thought has turned out to be wrong. Sure, the first one was just unlucky, the teams had already been pretty much decided, and that's Jaejoong and Takahisa gone again. But the second one… he guesses maybe he came on too clumsily and it didn't help that he couldn't see the door from where he was sitting and felt like he constantly had to turn around.

More water from the bar, and then he checks out the far away seating corner where Yamatani is long gone, turns around again, and… there's Eda, and Jin folds himself quickly behind a pillar, and closes his eyes and takes a breath.

Eda's his for the taking; he knows that. Not just that, he's a comfort. All he needs to do is look happy to see him and say that Akamine scored well on Saturday or that the referee should never have given that one free kick, and accept the drink Eda will offer to buy him.

And Eda will call him Jin-kun and enthusiastically dissect the first match with him while they have that drink. And then they'll go upstairs and Eda will be funny about Verdy's performance while Jin works to get him excited, and spreads his legs so Eda can fumble his fingers into him, and gives up an answer when Eda seeks his views about which player might be bought by what club, until it's finally time for fucking and Eda shuts up.

That's the way it went the first time, and that's the way it's gone since then, whenever Jin wasn't quick or clever enough to look busy or hide from the guy because Jin could hardly tell him to just fucking stop.

Still, there are worse clients.

And this one is his own fault, his first comfort when he'd been too new and stupid to keep stuff that matters safe and away from this, when he'd been so glad that he could talk to a client in the lounge and laugh with them without feeling totally fake.

Maybe he can't blame Eda for thinking they've got something. Maybe Jin's just a stupid whore that he even cares, maybe he should simply be able to forget, ignore the teasing about his favourite players and the league tables and the pally reminders of how they bonded when he lies back for Eda to enjoy the taste of his dick, and not hate it so fucking much.

Because there's worse. He knows that for a fact by now.

So he takes a breath and turns the corner. He hasn't had a client all night, and he's already bailed on a possible comfort, which was… blind panic, maybe, and he won't do that again but Sakurai will probably never come near him again, either. He should at least bring himself to go through with this. How bad can it be? He's done it before.

So he looks across, and it's no more than a few seconds before Eda is looking his way again, and Jin nods and smiles.


Jin bows one last time, politely, and the door shuts on Eda's cheerful, "until next time, Jin-kun!", and that's that over. He closes his eyes as he waits for the elevator down, not keen on the chilly stairwell.

It's after midnight, after the last trains. It's the dorm for tonight. He doesn't like spending money on a taxi fare at the best of times and a day when he's lost a regular sure isn't one of those.

He hadn't expected to stay so late. This day's not turned out like he expected in many ways, though looking back it's like he should have seen it coming.

It doesn't matter. Ohishi doesn't matter, Eda doesn't matter and the stupid soccer… for all Eda knows, he was just telling stories anyway, a smart whore would have, and at least he never mentioned music, to anyone, and he'll never have to deal with Eda again once this is over, all over, and never think about it when he… goes to a match or watches TV soccer with… some friends, some time, when it's all over.

He's hungry. That's why he's feeling so wobbly. The sandwich was five hours ago, before Sakurai, and he hasn't had a warm meal today. He worked out that he'd have to stay over sometime during the run-up to the second fucking session, but while he's telling Eda how much he loves to get it nice and slow isn't a good time to call a halt and ask him to order snacks. Anyway he didn't want to have to start over.

No cartons of instant noodles are conveniently lying around the break room. A quick look in the refrigerator they all share reveals several bottles of cold tea, two lemons, and Jun's specially mixed facial cream.

He checks his watch. He is not going to wander through the dark back streets to the nearest twenty-four-hour conbini. He wouldn't do it even if he wasn't feeling worn out and unsteady with this stupid endless day.

Thankfully, he doesn't have to.


Maeda-san looks up from the steel work-surfaces he is polishing.

"Jin-san, good morning. They kept you late again?"

The restaurant closes at midnight, the kitchen half an hour before that, and the cook always stays last, putting the finishing touches to the cleaning up once the underlings have dealt with the rough stuff. Jin found that out on his third night at the dorm, when he got lost in the building and ended up in the kitchen somehow.

"Yeah," he says, and bows slightly as Maeda gestures for him to come in and grab one of the slotted-away folding stools. He lets himself drop on it and props his arm up on a clean bit of worktop, leans his head against his hand. "Didn't expect it." Didn't expect too many things. "Any chance—?"

"Spaghetti?" Maeda says with a smile. "Or something different for a change?"

Jin can't even tell how grateful he is that for once, something today is easy. "Spaghetti," he nods. And then he yawns, and apologizes, and adds, "Thank you."

Maeda doesn't look at all like one expects a cook to look. He's slim, almost as small as Satoshi, moves gracefully, and if he wasn't in his forties, with his face scarred from a serious case of acne, he could have been an escort. Of course that's stupid, Jin thinks fuzzily, he's much better off being a cook.

"Not a good day?" Maeda says, and Jin pulls himself together enough to say something not too whiny, and ask about the restaurant, and then they chat about seasonal vegetables and customers with weird food allergies while they wait for the spaghetti to be ready.

Jin's not sure why Maeda does this for him; he knows it's not his habit to do late-night specials for tired whores. And it's not like Jin even offered anything in exchange the first time round, he'd been too new and disoriented for it to occur to him.

Jin actually feels better now that they've established a… well, an arrangement. Cook cooks for him, he offers what he's got to offer, everybody happy. The man is nice, Jin is grateful, it's no hardship.

The spaghetti are delicious as usual; Jin doesn't know how Maeda does it when he just cuts up a tomato and mixes it through them with some olive oil and herbs.

It feels almost like a sacrilege to polish them off in five minutes, but he feels so much better afterwards, warm and grateful and still tired but no longer quite so horrible.

"Thank you," he says again, and gets up to rinse the plate and fork; Maeda's already cleared away the rest, removed the white apron. "I really… that was really good."

"Good. I won the recipe off an Italian star chef in a drunken 'go fish' match." Maeda smiles, and Jin smiles back.

Then he drops his eyes briefly, a little. "May I…"

He doesn't need to say more, it's established now. And Maeda's hand drops below his beltline and… hovers, and he's staring at Jin strangely… and then he sighs, puts both hands into his pockets.

"Have you looked at yourself at all, boy?"

Jin blinks into Maeda's frown. He wipes his mouth – tomato, maybe? No. Maybe his hair sucks? "What?"

Maeda looks at him like he's deciding whether to forgive Jin for being an idiot. "Go sleep. You've done plenty for today."

Which… Jin laughs once, tiredly, because if the man only knew, and no matter what, he's not so tired he can't keep up his end of the deal. "It's fine, really—"

"It's not fine," Maeda interrupts and reaches for his coat, pulls it on. "Long day, you don't need this. I don't need this." He starts on the buttons, focussing with his chin down. "I don't need to be the guy who makes your day even longer and crappier."

"You didn't," Jin says quickly. "You made me spaghetti!" It's the nicest thing anybody has done for him all day.

"Yeah," Maeda says, "spaghetti." He's straightening his front, adjusting cuffs. But his eyes come to linger on Jin's mouth and Jin knows that look, knows the man is thinking of what Jin can do with his lips and his tongue.

"I really—"

"Well," Maeda interrupts him again, "if you insist on staying, just make sure you turn out the lights when you leave."

He turns as he buttons up his collar, and then he's gone.


Chapter 13


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