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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 13

 

Friday 03 October

"It's just, they're artists, you know?" Tanaka rolls his eyes as he leans back into the red leather, but breaks into a grin at the same time; it's a fond exasperation. He hooks ringed fingers into the beltloops of his jeans, deep black and untorn in concession to the dress code, and a bounce of his knee jingles the modest strings of chains around his hips that are a concession to who he is. "And they didn't even have a manager until the summer," he says with a side glance at Takahisa, who asked the initial question, "and I swear, it's like herding cats."

"Do you have to deal with that, though?" Takahisa asks. "If you're the producer, don't you have people for that?"

"Actual managers?" the strawberry blond escort on Tanaka's left throws in; Satoshi, Kame remembers from their introduction on his last visit. Strange enough that they'd never met before, when he seems quite Tanaka's type and the two know each other. He's pulled up an armchair next to Tanaka's couch, after Danny scored the second seat there. Kame has chosen an armchair, too, a rather obvious signal in this place.

Takahisa is leaning in from the second occupied two-seater, shorter hair making him look more mature, and more attractive than the last time he was in a group with Kame.

"Sure there are managers," Tanaka says, tough-guy patterned eyebrows furrowing briefly, "but I like a hands-on approach. Like to know what's going on. Besides, they're good guys. Though you—" he gives Danny a brief nod, a quick grin, "—wouldn't like their stuff. It's rock, stuff for softies, not real men."

Danny grins back at him, lifts the Margarita Tanaka bought him in a salute. "Here's to stuff for men."

"Why do you produce it then?" Satoshi asks. Kame remembers asking that too, after they'd known each other for a while and Tanaka told him about the sultry-voiced female Soul trio he'd signed.

"Diversity," Tanaka tells him. "Better to have more than one thing in your portfolio. Keeps you fresher, too, open to new influences for your own music."

"Musical cross-pollination," Danny observes.

"Fertilization." Yuuya's voice, coming bright from where he's arranged himself on the couch next to Takahisa. "It's very important."

"Like insemination?" Satoshi asks, and giggles. Most of them laugh, because it doesn't matter that they've seen it coming miles away.

"But that's not what bees do." Takahisa looks at Satoshi, then at the rest of them when Satoshi just blinks at him. "Right?"

Tanaka finds this wildly amusing. "Right," he snorts, and the look he gives Takahisa is vaguely considering in a way Kame recognizes. "And it's not what we do either, I think it's against contractual law or something."

Takahisa opens his mouth, but Danny reaches over to thump him on the knee, and in the end they just laugh.

"So you still write your own songs? Do you still do concerts, too?" Yuuya picks up again, and Kame throws him a look. The brief moment of discomfort when he noticed Yuuya in the group headed their way after dinner faded quickly at the boy's sunny smile and polite greeting, and the few sentences they've exchanged since have been pleasant and genuine.

Tanaka makes his usual protest that he's thirty-two, not dead, and he'll still be rapping and breakdancing when he's seventy-five and beat all those wet-behind-the-ears newcomers who are just pop stars trying to look cool in funny hats.

"You must give us a demonstration of the real thing here some time," Yuuya says, only half teasing.

Tanaka makes a show of appraising the seating groups closest to them – two fat financiers in stiff suits and choking ties; sober politicians trying to unsober with the help of champagne and energetic young men, the environment minister being courted by the tall porn star again. Further away is old Yamatani – perhaps waiting for Jin or perhaps recovering from the experience, either way unlikely to appreciate an impromptu rap session.

"Not sure how well that'd go over with our esteemed fellow revellers," Tanaka says, echoing Kame's thoughts.

Jin, thankfully, is nowhere to be seen, hasn't been since Kame arrived. Busy as Friday nights are, it's not surprising that even Jin manages to score occasionally. Not that Kame cares, as long as he isn't here.

"You could educate the education spokesman," says Danny. "Generations of school kids would thank you."

Kame sips at his wine while he tries to imagine Tsukada moonwalking, surprising himself when he ends up laughing. Danny smiles at him, and Takahisa produces his deep grin, and Kame raises his glass at them, feels himself relax a little more. He should have come in sooner.

"I've never heard any of your music," Yuuya says to Tanaka, sounding very intrigued now.

Tanaka wags an indulgent finger. "That's not a very flattering thing to say."

"Maybe I'm a softie," Yuuya says, and then he sends Kame a passing look, friendly and a little flirty, like Kame might be a fellow softie who would understand. No, there's no problem here, he didn't leave the wrong impression. Kame admits he's relieved to know that.

"Now Danny here," Tanaka declares, "he can educate you, he's got all my albums." Kame knows that Tanaka gave him the last one, perhaps as an apology for really not being interested in him. "Unless," Tanaka adds with a little grin, "you'd prefer me to educate you myself some time?"

"That could be very interesting," Yuuya says eagerly. "You definitely should." Yuuya's smile hits Tanaka first, but lingers on Kame while Tanaka laughs, and Kame finds himself a little flustered.

The boy is not his type; and even if he were, Kame isn't looking for intimate company tonight. He called in advance this time after fixing a day with Tanaka, determined to be a little more organized, though he wasn't surprised to find Tatsuya unavailable. It's no great tragedy; tonight is for seeing Tanaka again and for simply being here, being normal. It feels good.

"And now I can't even buy you a proper drink," Tanaka says to Yuuya, deep regret in his voice, and Yuuya apologizes with a funny little bow.

The other escorts don't say no when Tanaka offers drinks all around, and everyone enjoys the flirting that breaks out until they've settled on tequila shots and an 'Emperor's Delight' for Yuuya. Kame empties his glass, only the second of the evening; safer without lowered inhibitions, better without surprising developments. Even though he worried for nothing – if Yuuya or Takahisa or Danny heard any funny stories, they weren't impressed by them, and the good-humoured flirting that spills over in his direction now and then is proof of it.

He's made a date with Tatsuya for Sunday, at the apartment, because he has filming on the weekend. He's looking forward to that, to having things normal and relaxed between them and knowing everything is definitely all right.

The waiter arrives with the shot glasses and the bottle of Extra Anejo Tanaka decided he might as well buy, and another glass of wine for Kame. They're all giving him amused looks even though they heard him give the order.

"I want to take it slow," Kame says easily. He's not into shots for social drinking, anyway.

"That's because you're not just a softie, Kame, but also a lightweight," Tanaka teases, as he starts pouring out triples for everybody at the table.

"Says the guy who looks like the bullies keep taking his lunch money," Kame shoots back good-naturedly.

"Yeah, but I can hold my booze," Tanaka says. "And besides, that's all firm, compact muscle."

Takahisa and Satoshi nod agreement. "You work out a lot, do you, Tanaka-san," Satoshi prompts.

"Sure I do," Tanaka says proudly. "Got to be strong, supple, for moves like mine. But Takahisa here, he works out, too."

"So do I," says Danny, and Tanaka grins at him.

"What's your benchpress?"

The numbers mean nothing to Kame, though he can tell from Tanaka's discerning nod that Danny isn't scoring badly in the fitness sweepstakes. But it's Takahisa who earns some oohs and aahs and a slightly longer grin from Tanaka with his counter-figure.

Kame leans back and lets them talk about all sorts of machines Kame would probably have to hire a trainer for, and allows himself to just enjoy being here.

Yes, he should have come in sooner. The atmosphere, when it's undisturbed like this, with just a buzz of gentle excitement on a Friday night, feels like being on vacation, and he's missed that. Even the scare with Morioka looks less upsetting now: Tanaka didn't even see the pictures, surely a good sign, and just talking it over helped, too, hearing Tanaka be scathing about paparazzi on one hand, but doubtful that there's any real danger.

Takahisa is grinning and teasing Yuuya about his gym performance, and the easy nudge which Yuuya gives him with his thigh and his elbow looks like a familiar ritual.

Kame didn't know Tanaka had been with Takahisa and at first glance he wouldn't have expected him to fit Tanaka's preference, which tends to be for the short, delicate-looking type. But Kame can see how the boyish cheerfulness would appeal, and maybe now and then Tanaka is interested in a little more substance.

Not that it's his business, only perhaps in the sense that Kame is glad they look for different things in a companion.

"I perform fine when it matters," Yuuya informs his colleagues, then pulls it back from being a challenge with a quick bite of his lip and a blush that may or may not be deliberate. Kame smiles anyway when the boy reaps the fake outrage of his seniors.

"Do you go to the gym, Kamenashi-san?" Yuuya asks once the commotion starts to die down.

Yuuya is holding his eyes and his tongue flicks over his lips once, but it's a subtle come-on, as relaxed as everything else around Tanaka's table. Of course Tanaka won't end his evening alone; but the all-around lack of urgency is what makes it nice, and the fact that the escorts seem to be having genuine fun.

"I… run," Kame answers with a deprecating shrug. "I've tried the gym, but I prefer the freedom…" He stops, not really sure how to explain it. But Yuuya just smiles, and Kame finds himself smiling back. "And you see things along the way, it doesn't get so boring."

"I actually… I do go sometimes, you know," Yuuya says. "Well, we're meant to anyway, but you can hang out, and you can watch others do their stuff, it looks pretty cool when they're all sweaty. That's kind of nice."

"You ogle us?" Satoshi swoops in, scandalized. "I'm going to keep my sweater on from now."

"I don't ogle you," Yuuya says, laughing, and points at Takahisa. "I ogle him."

"Why not me?" Danny sounds offended. "What's wrong with my muscles? I demand to be ogled."

"They're pretty good," Yuuya concedes, and it's not long before jackets have been shed and sleeves are rolled up, and Danny and Takahisa are comparing bulging biceps. Tanaka is enlisted to determine respective firmness, and consoles Danny by offering up his own arms for groping when he has to find for Takahisa.

They rope Satoshi and Yuuya in on it, too, and Satoshi wonders if Tanaka-san has been eating more because there's more to squeeze before you get to the muscle now, making Tanaka laugh.

"Softie," is Danny's verdict again when he pinches Yuuya in the side, which leads to them both feeling up Tanaka's abs through his t-shirt, to compare.

"Wow," Yuuya says, "those are solid," and when Tanaka punches a fist in the air in 'victory' mode, Kame can't quite resist.

"Worth ogling?" he asks.

Yuuya hmms thoughtfully, peeking over at Kame through hazel strands of hair. "But he's not naked." The yet is unspoken, and Tanaka doesn't take him up on it but he's laughing and a little red in the face. Even if Tanaka is gravitating towards Takahisa tonight, Yuuya is certainly leaving an impression.

It's not long before everybody is comparing everybody else, and Kame ends up shedding his jacket and nodding at Satoshi's eagerly curious expression because Tanaka is just daring him to. Satoshi's air of intense concentration draws Takahisa over for a joint examination and soon Kame has Satoshi crawling along the back of his armchair to feel both his arms at the same time, while Takahisa is leaning in from the front, and they have an expert consultation about which of Kamenashi-san's arms feels more muscular.

When Kame glances past Takahisa and sees Takuya approaching, he is unspeakably glad he didn't encourage anyone to fondle his abs.

Small mercies, he thinks while the first sweaty flash fades, and looks at Takahisa with a silent entreaty to please climb off him.

Takuya still looks tanned from the summer, and as good as ever, moving light and confident in a warm red shirt under a dark suit.

The way Kame stilled – or maybe shrunk in mortification – has not gone unnoticed, and while he's finding a not-at-all embarrassed smile for Takuya, a smile that says how pleased he actually is to see him, he notices stealth maneuvers to straighten cuffs and ties and hair all around him.

"It's good to see you after such a long time," Takuya says. "I keep meaning to tell you that what you did with your hair for that internet commercial in August really suits you." If Kame weren't blushing already, he knows he'd do it now.

"It's good to see you, too, Takuya-san." Under the circumstances, good comes seasoned with more than just a pinch of self-consciousness, but that's not exactly new, even if he's normally not in the process of being felt up by Johnny's gym team. He's never gotten over the instant jolt of diffidence when Takuya rests his eyes on him and smiles and turns Kame into an awkward schoolboy going on his first date.

It usually passes. Kame assumes it's not a rare reaction, anyway.

"May I borrow a seat for a few minutes," Takuya addresses Yuuya and Takahisa, now quiet along with everybody else, and they bow several times as they squeeze up against the far end of their two-seater to make room. Takuya gives them a brief smile and a wave as he sits – "Please, do continue." – and somehow glasses are reappropriated circumspectly and Takahisa asks Tanaka a low-voiced, well-behaved question about his summer house.

Kame pulls his armchair toward Takuya's couch corner, closing the gap enough for easy conversation. Then he leans into the soft leather more, crosses his legs and waits for the rest of his body to catch up with the signals that he's ready to relax. "May I buy you a drink?"

"Thank you, but I can't stay long," Takuya says, nodding subtly in an unspecified direction. "I just wanted to stop by."

"I'm glad for it."

Takuya smiles, and it's not as if Kame ever had a crush on him, but there are moments when the sheer fact that Takuya likes him makes him feel a little funny. He lives with that.

"So, I hear you are playing a teacher now," Takuya says next. His hair has grown since Kame saw him last, chestnut strands flashing under the lights, a little messy at the front but neither artificially nor carelessly so. Takuya always looks exactly like he means to look. Or maybe that's just how it seems when he walks in and catches you off guard.

"One of the good guys, of course," Kame says. He knows how Takuya, mostly self-taught, feels about the state school system.

Takuya gives him a critical look. "That doesn't sound too enthusiastic."

That's always been the thing about Takuya – he's perceptive.

"It's a great role but I'd like something more challenging. I'd like to play a bad guy." He thinks for a moment, aware how unrealistic it is. "Or a medium guy. Or a good guy with some real flaws."

Takuya inclines his head, gives him a fondly appraising smile. "They won't let you. You're too pretty."

And Kame had just stopped blushing.

"How is the book coming along?" he changes the subject quickly. Takuya spends most of his time restoring old furniture. He's told Kame quite a few interesting stories about hunting up authentic materials and rescuing endangered pieces from thoughtless owners or their heirs. The theoretical research that goes into that is slowly adding up to a book. The three rests a week he works for Johnny's these days ensure that he doesn't have to worry about a regular job.

"I got sidetracked by a beautiful paulownia merchant chest with persimmon graining and amazing lockplates. Now I'm chasing for matching fern hand drawer pulls to go with it. But chapter twelve is almost finished, too."

Takuya is an engaging narrator, and the little story that comes with his latest project makes Kame laugh in the end, relax even more. It feels good, cultured but comfortable and normal, just as it should. He admits he's never heard of lockplates before, but tells Takuya that he is still looking forward to a signed copy of the book so he can educate himself.

Takuya laughs. "When it's finished," he says with modest confidence, "I'll be happy to trade autographs." Another generous smile, and then it's time for him to go.

Kame doesn't want to know where he is going, turns back to the group. Danny has made his excuses by now, and Takahisa has moved to sit on the sofa next to Tanaka. Tanaka stares after Takuya for a brief and slightly awed moment, but then just shrugs when he meets Kame's eyes. Koki doesn't go for Kame's type, either.

Maybe once things are all sorted with Tatsuya, and Kame has a better grasp on his overall schedule, it could be nice to get together with Takuya for a full night, follow up on things without any sort of hurry.

When he reaches for his glass he notices they're almost out of drinks. After a token protest from Tanaka, his offer is accepted, and he finds himself taking orders for one glass of red wine and three of green gloop. Yuuya's alcohol-free beverages seem to be catching on.

He seeks a waiter with his eyes. The place is much busier now, some of the groups rowdier, some cozier. Jin is still nowhere to be seen, and just the thought of him rattles so uncomfortably across Kame's easy mood, he can't even say how glad he is for the man's absence. Must have been a comfort, or maybe some unfortunate guy ordered out.

Once the waiter has left again, he finds Yuuya's eyes on him, bright and curious. "I didn't know Takuya-senpai is writing a book about his antiques," he confesses. "He's so cool."

Kame doesn't want to encourage the kid, so he doesn't react when Yuuya lets his gaze drop along his body to say Kame isn't half bad, either. But the boy's smiles are infectious and they have a nice circle here, everybody enjoying themselves, so he is mostly unembarrassed when he concurs, "He is pretty cool. I wouldn't know a fern hand drawer pull if I fell over it."

"I'm terrible with crafts and things," Yuuya says, curling up a leg and slinking into the corner of the couch.

"Tanaka-san is good at stuff like that," Kame says, and gives Tanaka's foot a little nudge with his own. "Go on, tell them about the cap and sneaker set you made for that one concert. The one that brought in almost three hundred thousand at the charity auction afterwards."

Tanaka makes a face. "It wasn't that great, honest," he says to Yuuya, who looks just as pleasantly interested to have the conversation head that way. "It was fun, sure, but it was a rush job at the end and the materials…"

Kame has heard this before. "Substandard rhinestones?"

Tanaka grins back at him. "Shut up. You do something, you gotta do it right, even if it's putting bling on leather."

Kame concedes the point along with everybody else.

"By the way, Kame," Tanaka says then, "speaking of autographs. Can you bring one in next time?"

"I sure can," Kame says, lifting it into a question at the end.

"I just like you so very much," Tanaka explains, with a badly acted look somewhere between ecstasy and horrible pain, and Kame laughs. Tanaka leans back a little to let the waiter reach across to deposit Satoshi's wine, and then he stage-whispers to Takahisa, "I like to get one every month, so I have a full set."

Fruit juice potions are distributed, too, and then the view across the table is clear again. "Singer from JUNGLELOW, that rock band I told you about earlier," Tanaka explains more seriously. "She's a fan." He reaches for his bright green glass. Everybody else waits to see what he'll make of it, but Tanaka doesn't even notice, has no reaction. "You know her, I think," he says instead, with a little frown of concentration. "You talked to her at the launch party this summer."

Kame remembers after a bit of mental digging; bright red hair and asymmetrically pierced ears, and they had a nice conversation about nothing to do with filming, even though Kame was approaching his two drinks limit and left soon after. "I didn't know she was a fan."

"She's a well-behaved one," Tanaka says. "Might have found out if you'd stuck around for a bit." For a fearsome rapper he can look weirdly mild sometimes, almost gentle.

Kame says nothing, shrugs an apology. It's good of Tanaka to invite him and they're nice parties, whether he brings Midori or not, but it gets tiring to watch himself, especially when he's having a drink, almost harder when he feels like he's among friends and has to worry about lines that may blur, gestures that may slip.

Tanaka considers him a moment longer, but there's nothing to be done, it's just life. Eventually Tanaka nudges Takahisa with a sprawling leg. "Total lightweight," he says, eyes still on Kame, but he says it fondly.

"If you take orders for autographs, I know someone who'd be very happy," Satoshi says to Kame. His colleagues nod energetically.

It's not news to Kame. "I gave him one a while ago," he says. He's glad Koichi has stopped trying to land him, though. It would feel weird to sleep with a fan; maybe that's another reason Tanaka doesn't go with Danny.

Tonight, he is obviously planning to go with Takahisa, and soon. The earlier nudge has turned into a somewhat more intent perma-contact, and Tanaka's hand is on Takahisa's thigh as if to make sure his leg stays right where it is. Not that Takahisa shows any inclination to move; no, he's leaning his shoulder against Tanaka's and is stretching to whisper something in his ear that makes Tanaka look very pleased indeed.

"Do you find that your signature changes when you have to sign many autographs?" Yuuya asks Kame, and they all pretend that Takahisa hasn't just moved Tanaka's hand on his thigh in a rather more intimate direction.

"It happens to doctors, doesn't it," Satoshi says gamely. He knows he has no chance with Kame but good manners keep him from zeroing in on a new prospect straight away.

"By now, it's kind of settled into a practical scrawl," Kame says. "But I used to get terrible cramps at the start, and if there was a long session, my name would turn from Kamenashi Kazuya into Kame-Ka-scribble."

They both laugh. "So that's how you got that name?" Satoshi asks.

"Ka-scribble?" Yuuya asks innocently, and Satoshi takes a breath to explain before he sees Kame smile and catches on.

"No," Kame says then, "that was earlier." When requests for autographs were still few and far between and nobody thought twice about naming the shy newbie a turtle. "Maybe I should have started signing like that right away, though, and saved myself a bit of RSI." It's what the world is calling him anyway.

"So you were pretty young?" Yuuya asks, while Satoshi's eyes briefly focus on something or someone in the far corner.

Kame has to do the math for it. "I was nineteen," he says, because it was already spring by the time they started filming. "And I guess it just kind of stuck."

"They do that, nicknames," Yuuya says thoughtfully. "At least you didn't get one that sucks."

Satoshi is giving the group a last once-over before he sits up straight, ready to move on.

"Yes, that could have been worse," Kame says, and then leaves a pause.

"If you'll excuse me," Satoshi says with a smile. He bows to both Kame and Tanaka when he stands, thanking them for the drinks, and they in turn thank him for his company, the usual thing.

Tanaka is sitting forward on his sofa, too, elbows on his knees and one hand dangling between them while the other is holding on to Takahisa's, pulling him forward, too. "Nicknames, huh?" he says. "Don't think I ever had one."

"You'd have beaten them up," Kame says, knowing it's not true.

"Don't frighten my company away," Tanaka says with a wide, pleased grin. "Takahisa, I think we should go before this evil man can slander me any more."

"What is 'Joker', then?" Takahisa asks, giving Kame a quick, polite bow as they rise.

"That's my nom d'artiste," Tanaka says with dignity and a terrible accent. "I picked that myself." Which of course makes all the difference.

He gives Kame a brief questioning look, mildly guilty maybe, but they've had a very pleasant evening together and it's getting to that stage of the night.

"I'm fine here," Kame says easily, and Yuuya is smiling.

"I'll keep Kamenashi-san company," he says, no trace of innuendo, and that's fine, Kame will make sure he at least buys some more expensive drinks before Yuuya has to move on.

"I'll see you soon?" he says to Tanaka.

"Hey, it's not me who's never around," Tanaka says, taking the sting out of the accusation with a grin.

Kame bows his head. "I promise to do better."

"It would be good to see you around more, Kamenashi-san," Takahisa says candidly, and Tanaka goes, "you tell him," while Yuuya agrees with a slow nod, final reassurance that Kame shouldn't even need with how nice things have been between them all night, but it feels good anyway, and he can forget about that last time now.

When Tanaka and Takahisa have left to get a room, Yuuya picks up his nearly empty glass, curling up more comfortably into the corner of his sofa.

"Sorry you're stuck with me," Kame says with an apologetic lift of his shoulders, because the kid really wouldn't have to do this and probably wants to get some work done tonight, too.

"That's fine." Yuuya smiles, holding Kame's eyes with the sort of self-assurance that comes from being a professional in a high-class environment who would know how to leave if he wanted to. "You're interesting."

Kame laughs a little, and wonders if he's actually feeling flattered. "I'm glad you approve."

Tilting his glass to get to the rest of the drink under the remains of light green foam, Yuuya says nothing to that, just shoots him a lingering look over the rim. Instead he says, "I had this old friend once who called me Kitty-chan," and there's a reminiscent blink, but he waits to see Kame is interested before he explains. "The first time I was at his house alone, I ate the tuna sashimi he'd bought for the cats, not the kind meant for us." He's smiling, to himself more than at Kame.

Kame guesses what sort of friend it was. But Yuuya's expression stays fond. "I take it you didn't get sick from the stuff," Kame hazards.

"Oh no, it was perfectly good, lots of people eat it, they were just very fussy Persians, and he only ate the most expensive kind and I didn't know any different back then. He thought it was really funny." Yuuya gives a little laugh. "I guess it was. Living with him was pretty educational. That wouldn't happen to me now." He flicks his straw against the side of the glass, contemplative. Around them, the lounge is buzzing now, glasses clinking loudly at the bar where the bartender can hardly keep up.

"No fighting the Persians over their fish?"

"No," Yuuya states confidently. "I'd taste the difference."

"Really?" Kame isn't sure he would, but then, he likes all kinds.

Yuuya nods. "I'd offer to try some blind from the kitchen – they have various types. But I don't want to get you to buy me food under false pretenses." His lips curve up slowly as he waits for Kame's reaction.

Kame can enjoy the harmless sort of flirting since it's obvious that Yuuya is enjoying it, too, and there's no urgency behind it. It's simply nice; his paranoia about coming here seems almost funny now, when they're getting on so well together. He wouldn't even mind treating Yuuya, but then there's the question of who'd be setting up false expectations. "Can I buy you another drink then?" he asks instead.

He manages to flag down a fast-moving waiter; Yuuya ask for an orange something-or-other, and Kame looks at him in question when he specifies, "The original version, please."

It comes in a very tall glass, and Yuuya informs him this one is catching on as an upgraded version with added rum, which to Yuuya defeats the point. "A decent wine, now that's different, it can round off a meal nicely," he says. "But if you add rum to this, you don't even taste it."

Kame agrees. "I prefer my spirits neat. Not rum," he concedes, "but I like a good whisky."

Yuuya is smiling again. "I noticed," he says, in a voice that says he notices all kinds of things, and there's another one of those looks, full of subtle attention. He has to admire Yuuya's skill a little.

But there's nothing he wants to say about that, so he continues, "And you lose too much of the taste if you dilute it with things. Though I take ice sometimes."

Yuuya nods agreement, but tells him that many guys who drink it mix it up with something because they find it too rough or too strong or too something else.

"I don't drink much," Kame insists, laughing, before he can get a reputation as the local hard man with, quite possibly, a drinking problem.

He lifts his wine glass and empties the last drops, then laughs more when he realizes that this didn't give the right impression. Yuuya's smile is amused and a little warm.

"No, really," Kame adds, but fair enough.

Yuuya is already looking around for the waiter. It turns out a greater challenge this time, maybe because a large and lively group in the Chrysanthemum corner is drawing the resources.

"Would you like a whisky now?" Yuuya asks after the second aborted wave. "I'll get you one at the bar."

"Thank you," Kame says. "Not a whisky, but I'd have another glass of wine."

He watches Yuuya leave, walking slow and assured between the busy tables, exchanging hellos here and there with patrons and colleagues alike.

Kame leans back, holding on to his glass, and he deflects a questioning glance by the Korean – but easily, like everything about tonight.

He won't stay much longer. He feels good about Sunday, too… for a moment he lets the thoughts play; Tatsuya's familiar rhythm, his pale skin when his dark shirt opens… but that's not for now, now is for socializing.

He has an easy look around; Tsukada has disappeared but Nakamaru is still downstairs, abandoned by all escorts but talking intently with the stylish Toudai history professor. Kame's heard they golf together, too.Yuuya is still leaning against the bar, fiddling with his fingers by now, and when Kame lets his gaze wander on he meets interest in Tadayoshi's face, and a tall, long-haired escort checking him out quite noticeably, and fine, he could probably play this better.

Better to let them see he's not truly sitting alone, let them see he's taken even when he's really not, and he turns in his seat towards Yuuya and his wine hunt, puts a smile on to send his way, and there's Jin.

No. Oh no.

He almost says it; feels the words sharp and hot in his mouth, and then he stops because what the— he was past it. Past it.

Jin has reached the bar, deceptively elegant, like he's easy to— and Kame blinks; it doesn't have to mean… it doesn't have to be anything. He can sit here, and wait for his wine, and Jin can stay over there, and try to find some client, and Kame can just… stay here, sit here, until the blow to his gut has trembled flat, evened out into numbness.

Just sit here; just drink his wine. Just not pay attention to Jin, and Jin is smiling in a way Kame has never seen before, like he means it, and he says something inane and props himself up on the bar like no proper escort ever would, and pokes Yuuya in the side.

Kame doesn't hear Yuuya squeak; knows that he can't because the room is busy and noisy and Yuuya knows how to conduct himself even if he squirms around and Jin is laughing now, but it doesn't matter. Jin's ridiculous smile doesn't matter. Kame's got it together. The bartender will… surely there'll be a glass of wine and Yuuya will come back and they'll drink up and Kame will leave, leave Jin to try his luck with some other guy and he'll be safe and private in the cool back of a taxi, out of here.

He's got it together, there in his seat, right until the smile vanishes from Jin's face, which should be good, should be less unsettling, except Jin's eyes are suddenly on him with all their recrimination and self-inflicted wariness, and Kame knows what they've been talking about, and then it's over.

One second he knows exactly what is going to happen and the next he doesn't, the next he's standing and moving politely around tables and unsteadily on the inside, but the one thing he knows won't happen is Jin talking to Yuuya behind his back about him, telling stories.

And Jin has shut up. At least that's something.

It was such a pleasant evening, with Tanaka, with Yuuya, so nice and relaxed, and Kame doesn't know what makes him angrier, the way Jin's face closes when he approaches or the sense of something spoiled.

But when his eyes skim Yuuya, the boy looks at him happy as always, and that's all right; why should Yuuya believe anything Jin might—

"Jin," Kame says in a warm voice, because he knows his manners, and if Jin wants to make himself interesting to Yuuya by casting doubt on that, Kame can prove him wrong right here. "I thought you wouldn't show up tonight at all."

The pause stretches, but it's not Kame's fault. He doesn't have to help Jin out, doesn't have to help him fumble his way towards an answer behind that blank stare.

"I just got in," Jin says eventually, about as bright as expected. Really, where he gets off trying to give Yuuya advice, Kame can't fathom, because there's none of that perpetual glumness in Yuuya's face, none of that awkwardness when he turns a warm smile on Kame.

"I'm sorry your wine is taking so long," he says with a nod towards the harassed bartenders. "It gets a bit slow on Fridays and one of the guys is sick."

"That's perfectly all right," Kame says. "I'm in no hurry."

And he isn't, he's just decided that. Why should he be? There's no need for him to run away, he is welcome here; even escorts who know he won't engage them for more like to spend time with him. Nobody has a problem with him except Jin, and if Jin insists on standing here with his eyes wide between Kame and Yuuya, as if he's held in place by something, by Kame… well, that's unexpected, and unfortunate, but Kame's got no reason to be intimidated and he certainly isn't going to leave Jin free to ruin the nice mood between him and Yuuya any more than he's already tried.

"Slow night?" he prompts pleasantly. "Not too busy?" Watches Jin's eyes dart around the club quickly, briefly, two entertainingly frantic blinks before he's staring dumb into space between them again, lips parted… and now Kame can't stop watching Jin's mouth while he waits for the answer, can't stop remembering heat and sweat and resistance, and that desperate little sound Jin made…

But no, he didn't mean it like that, he isn't desperate. His intimate plans are settled and he has a date with Tatsuya to look forward to.

"It's all right, don't worry about it," he waves it off, throws Yuuya a smile. Jin can remove himself and try to score elsewhere, hang around the lounge aimlessly and hope to lure in some client who likes them sullen and tongue-tied. "Yuuya and I were having a very nice chat."

Jin turns his head towards Yuuya, fast, takes a breath, and Kame stiffens. Then Jin says nothing. Good. He's already said too much for one night.

"About fish!" Yuuya says next to Kame, like from far away. "And kitties." But the smile in his voice feels good even at a distance, the truth right there for Jin, that Yuuya appreciates his company.

Jin opens his mouth, closes it. Opens it. "I'm… not busy."

Obviously. Hardly a surprise. Neither is the way Jin's lips are an unwelcome distraction, that's just sense memory flashing through Kame's body.

"I didn't know you were waiting!" Yuuya says, like it's a happy revelation. "I could have told you when Jin-senpai was supposed to be back!"

"I wasn't waiting," Kame says. But Jin… Jin is offering. Kame can't read it any other way, the way he's just standing there and keeping his eyes passive and averted, standing there for Kame to look him up and down from the rich dark fall of hair around his face to the slim hips in soft black trousers, and up again. And it's… intriguing. "Not as such." But then he stops taking in Jin's gleaming lips, finds Yuuya watching them relaxed but attentive, with his hips leaning into the bar and one of his pleasant smiles for Kame.

"But aren't you glad you stayed longer after all." Yuuya sounds pleased, encouraging almost, and the flirty little hint at the end isn't tasteless at all. It speaks well of Yuuya that he's trying to support his bumbling colleague.

"I was hardly suffering," Kame says, returning the smile, because there is no reason for Yuuya to think he's a second choice to that; but then he realizes it might sound like a dismissal and adds, "Not that I mean the evening is over."

A shift from Jin, movement… or not, because when Kame looks at him there's no change, only Jin's blankness and his eyes coming back from Yuuya and meeting Kame's, briefly, and then down again, taking any challenge out of it. Good.

"Oh, it's fine," Yuuya reassures him, "I understand." He shoots Jin a glance that carries a hint of congratulation and Kame doesn't even need to look, he can almost feel Jin freeze rigid.

"I am enjoying your company very much," Kame insists, because the last thing he wants is to trade in Yuuya's engaging presence for being left alone with the mute amateur.

Yuuya looks delighted. "And I yours." He lets his smile deepen just so. "And I'd look forward to any other—"

And stops and blinks at Jin, and Kame only catches the last bit of a flash of something, something which leaves puzzlement, some concentration on Yuuya's face, and if Jin's got something to say, maybe he should be made to say it out loud.

"Something the matter, Jin?" he asks, quite politely.

Another careful stillness, and that timid eye contact; not without appeal, but Kame is waiting for an answer here. He'll pin Jin down for it if he has to.

"No," Jin says, then drags up some manners from somewhere, maybe because even he doesn't want to embarrass himself in front of a junior colleague. "No, of course not, Kamenashi-san."

"I do hope you're not taking it personally…" Maybe he does; maybe that's why he always looks so glum. Maybe Kame should enlighten him that nobody wants to fuck the ones with attitude, and few people want the hassle of learning how to handle him.

"Of course not," Jin says again, ever flatter, still no grasp on seduction. Only thing he has a grasp on is looking… like that. Like you shouldn't make yourself wait any longer before prying those lips apart, getting him out of those clothes and naked in front of you where he belongs.

Kame waits for it to pass. Because he had plans, and he's not ruled by nonsensical impulses, not tonight. Even if Jin is holding his eyes now, for longer than Kame expected, and they're dark with memory, responses and images that… maybe.

He's already had the hassle. Learned what it takes.

"I could just forget about the wine order…" Yuuya, cheerful and forgiving, professional about this in ways Jin can only dream of.

And considerate, making it easy for him because yes, this is the most straightforward solution. Jin will go with him and it will put an end to the whispering; Jin's going to be glad because who else is lining up for the task, and if he isn't, it'll hardly be Kame's fault no matter what Jin might say…

"Depends on Jin," he says to Yuuya, a little bit bashful, and then fixes Jin with a look again.

Who stares, unblinking and unmoving, for heavy seconds before he says, "I'm free."

Kame ignores the sudden rush of blood. Ignores he's getting hard, because now that… that'll be taken care of. Just waits, because that's not how it goes around here, not how it goes with him.

"I would be glad to accompany you upstairs, Kamenashi-san." It even comes with a halfway engaged expression.

Kame nods; that's better. Maybe Yuuya is having a good influence on him. He smiles an apology at Yuuya, shrugs a little awkwardly.

"No reason for worry, Kamenashi-san," Yuuya says, and laughs a little. "It doesn't always work out! I enjoyed talking to you a great deal."

"I'm glad you did; so did I."

Jin says nothing; the good example only lasted so long, apparently, and why Yuuya even seems to like him…

He stops that thought, he doesn't need to know. Maybe Jin actually develops the ability to speak, magically, behind the scenes, and he sure seemed a bit more lively when he came and nearly hugged Yuuya for all to see, inappropriate though that—

"I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening," Yuuya tells them, bright with encouragement as he gets ready to leave them to their business, making even that smooth.

"I hope your evening works out to your satisfaction, too," Kame says sincerely, bows a little when Yuuya does.

"I'm sure I will find some company almost as interesting as yours, somewhere around here," Yuuya says with a good-natured dip of his head, and a wink at Jin, and Jin is taking a step back, like it's all settled and he's in a hurry when Kame is just thinking that it's really unfair—

"Yuuya," he says, and Yuuya halts again, eyebrows drawn up in friendly curiosity. "I just wondered…" Wonder is right; he hasn't thought it through, has never felt the need to think anything like it through, might blush if he did. But it's so pleasant with Yuuya, so easy, and his sunny presence outbalancing, correcting… it might be worth a thought. A try. "Would you perhaps like to join us?"

Yuuya's eyes widen a little in surprise. He stands still where he is, confidently elegant while he considers, intrigued.

His gaze flickers towards Jin, who looks even less helpful than usual, but it figures, Jin's probably never been invited along to anything. Yuuya has more manners than to let that distract him, though, and looks back at Kame with a charming little smile. "If it's all right," he says, with just a hint of a question.

"It would be a pleasure," Kame says sincerely, because of course it's all right, Kame wouldn't have suggested it if it weren't. New, and might take some adjusting, but… yes, this could work quite well. Yuuya's face seems alight with possibility; his enthusiasm infectious. And Jin, hot and promising even with his urgent eyes, even with that familiar stiffness settling in. "You won't abandon us now, Jin, will you?" he asks, waiting for Jin to meet his eyes, and then Jin does, and shakes his head, and then it's done. Kame nods. "Very good."

There's no need to stay in the lounge any longer; he and Yuuya have had their drinks and Jin has indicated he's available, may well be glad for a date he got within ten minutes of arriving.

Kame smiles at Yuuya, and as if he's read his mind, Yuuya says, "Should I get us a key?"

"Please," Kame says, and adds, "Pick a nice room, something you like." Yuuya bows and waits another beat, gives Kame a chance to remember. "Three hours," Kame says, is rewarded with a beaming nod, and then Yuuya excuses himself and walks along the polished bar towards the concierge desk.

Kame turns towards Jin, only to find him looking after Yuuya with dark eyes. "This is going to be fun," he observes leisurely. He gives Jin a few seconds to work on his attitude. Then he adds, "Don't you think?"

The dark look meets Kame's, and Jin is breathtaking even when he's like this, withdrawn and unyielding, and they'll see how much of that is going to stick when Kame doesn't have to do it alone, how withdrawn he can be when… the image makes Kame swallow hard so he doesn't embarrass himself with a sound.

Eventually Jin produces a nod, manages, "Yes." Kame looks at him until he lowers his eyes again.

It's fine. He knows he's not taking Jin for his conversational spirit, and Jin knows it, too.

~

Chapter 14

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