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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 19

 

Monday 13 October

He's not sleeping well.

It makes no sense. Nothing is wrong, it's all long past, but his thoughts circle and circle and when it's dark, it gets worse.

That's when they come out, the long-buried things, anger, misery, and… no, not fear, at least not that, not anymore. He's taken care of that.

But the rest isn't as far away as he's fooled himself into thinking. He thought he was more okay than this. He thought he was… not over it, no. You don't get over that. But he had it dealt with, he was able not to think about it, for weeks at a time, to tell himself it was in the past and this was his present, and that was that.

Now… he's not sure. He's not sure of anything; everything seems to be in the balance and he's losing control and he has to be careful, so careful. He can't afford to put a step wrong. He could forget about that at the club, he's been able to set it aside, but now that the club is problematic, too, everything's precarious. Everything is tense.

And he's tired.

They shoot late; long difficult scenes with endless wait and hurry, breaks that make him twitchy and exhausted, polite small talk that makes him long for a chance to close his eyes.

He goes to interviews, promotions; stays behind for photo shoots where the light is rough and piercing and the photographer's face too expectant for him not to deliver, and all he wants is quiet.

The campaign kicks off, loud with good intentions, bright and busy, kids to adore and colleagues to bond with, and he feels dull and worn with the drone of the engine when somebody finally drives him home and he can close the door, shut out their noise.

He still can't sleep.

Lies in bed for hours, listening to Midori's even breathing beside him.

And Midori…

He can talk to Midori about anything but he can't talk about this, because she doesn't know the truth. She'll tell him it's water under the bridge, his career is safe, the Morioka shots meant nothing. She'll think it's about past scares and paranoia, not about his only love coming back to haunt him, because he lied to her, too.

*~*~*

Midori is out, now, and he's packing his bag for a dissatisfyingly short day of work in the city, and a few long ones to follow.

He checks he's got the freshly laundered shirts from the ironing service on the main street, the new bottle of organic moisturizer sold by the new age commune a few kilometers down the road. They make a conscious effort to use local shops and services when they can. He checks for the ear plugs he never uses but always takes along anyway.

The air is sweet from Midori's bath, a light scent of apples lingering despite the breeze from the open window. She's left damp footprints on their blue bath mat, and Kame's reflection is a little spotty where she wiped the fog off the mirror with her hand.

Midori's meeting is at noon and she didn't have to leave until eleven. They took advantage of the late start for both of them to draw out the evening, first over dinner and then in bed. He was pleased with himself for being the one to suggest it.

And he took it slow, made it last, as he always does, because it's right and it's easy for him, too, none of that sweeping urgency, no rush of desire to keep in check, no wish to just take. It's relaxed and he knows he does a good job pleasuring her, he's competent and considerate, and it's a good thing if he needs a while to get into it – it means he can do nice things for her for a long time.

He likes to make it good for her. He owes her that, at least, and he takes pride in doing it well.

That's why it shook him wide awake when afterwards, curled up against him and tracing his collarbone with her fingers, she said, "Is something wrong?"

He rinses his mouth, spits; tries to ignore the tension behind his eyes, the swell of unease at the memory. Puts his toothbrush back beside Midori's in her old Tigger mug from her university days.

He doesn't know what happened last night. He did the things he always does, the way that always works. The things he knows she likes. And didn't think of Jin, not for a second, didn't let himself be distracted.

Didn't think of Souji, either, even though that's become more difficult since that free fall moment when Jin was there and looked like that and everything melted. He's been keeping Souji away since then, out of his head, his mind, out of anything he does. He's not going to sneak past Kame again, even when he's so tired from thinking about not thinking about him that if he closed his eyes, he'd feel Souji's skin under his fingertips. He didn't close his eyes last night and he didn't think of Souji.

He can focus when he has to. He knows he made Souji feel unloved, no matter how he loved him. He's been trying not to make that mistake with Midori, never mind the irony.

He can focus when he's in bed with his wife, who deserves a lot better from him.

He wipes his face, hangs the towel up to dry, puts it out of his mind. He has work later, he has things to do. He's going to focus.

*~*~*

He throws out half of his breakfast rice uneaten, though he finished the soup and ate the leftover half of Midori's croissant. He makes a new pot of coffee, strong enough to wake the dead, and softens it with a heap of sugar. Midori opened the curtains; it's a lovely morning.

Maybe he was a bad boyfriend. He doesn't know. He didn't think he was, then. But he's a bad husband, and now he's failing as a client and… who knows. He doesn't know. Maybe the only thing he's good at is his job. Towards the end, Souji kept saying that was the only thing he cared about, anyway.

He should read the romantic moron script again, to see if he can truly face the screen tests. He has new project proposals and interview outlines that he takes to the couch along with his coffee, and then he breathes in the bitterness and tries to think about what answer he's going to give on his high school experience.

He told Morioka about the bullies and the baseball, but it's not a story for public broadcast, just a careless confidence. Morioka doesn't swap stories with him now. That's for the best. He should have been more careful there, too.

Maybe he can claim he was lucky in his teachers, and say not everyone has someone looking out for them.

He gave Souji everything he wanted; everything except public acknowledgement, and Souji should have understood that you can't, not in this industry, not if you get cast as the boyfriend and lover, the role model and hero… not if you want any kind of part worth having, if you are hoping for promotion deals and involvement in the big, government-sponsored campaigns.

He blinks back to the start of the list of questions. Bullies in his school, seniors who supported him. And then the cute stuff that might come up, high school sweethearts, his first valentine, and what his favourite subject was. It's a good cause, though, and he's glad to be involved.

The government doesn't run gay pride campaigns.

He's still tired despite the caffeine, despite the rattling thoughts, despite the restlessness that has him tapping out rhythms he can't even hear.

He keeps telling himself Souji wasn't worth his career, and that what happened proves it. But he doesn't know if he isn't just lying to himself, and it's going round and round in his head, and he can't go to work like this.

He's got time, nowhere to be before three. Might as well take advantage of living in the suburbs.

He drops marching orders and helpful guidelines on the coffee table, changes into his jogging gear, takes nothing but his car keys and leaves.

*~*~*

The park is small, but the absence of skyscrapers around it still makes it seem more spacious than the much larger ones in central Tokyo. The birches are already a glowing yellow, the other trees turning more slowly.

The fresh autumn air helps clear his head from the first moment, even while his body is still twitchy and his fists want to hit something. He takes the first three hundred meters too fast, before he comes to his senses and slows down. Pushing too hard for a quick burn-out won't give him what he needs.

So he paces himself rigidly, tries to find satisfaction in the tight grip of control over impulse as he racks up the rounds while he waits for the real strain to set in, the one he's going to ignore so he can push into proper exhaustion.

It takes a while.

But when he finally stops, it's because he simply can't go on, and it feels wonderful. His side hurts, and he's dizzy for a moment before he bends over to catch his breath, raw and hot in his throat. His eyes are stinging with sweat.

"Uh… Kamenashi-san?"

He straightens at the female voice.

"Oh my god, you are him!"

A teenager, or maybe early twenties, hair dyed half orange, half green, her eyes thickly mascaraed underneath pierced eyebrows with spiky ornaments. She gazes at him in awe, even though his face must be red and blotchy and sweaty and his hair is plastered to his cheeks.

Kame smiles faintly, and it takes him a moment to stop staring back and notice her companion, pretty and soft-looking in an innocent schoolgirl kind of way. She has her eyes fixed on his face and her mouth vaguely open, and giggles when he nods hello at her.

"Excuse us… we are so sorry; we don't want to bother you," the colourful one says. "It's just… we're such fans, and we've watched everything you've been in and so many interviews and suddenly there you were…"

Yes, here he is, and because this is not central Tokyo he thought he could do without any cover. He hates disguises when he goes running, slippery sunglasses and caps that make him sweat, and he'd thought he'd be okay. Oh, he knows he's been watched before, but it's the first time somebody actually stopped him here.

Well. He was the one who stopped. They just took advantage. Can't really blame them. It's nice to have fans.

And these ones are nice, he can tell that much from looking. Not the other kind he gets, from fifteen to fifty, the kind in whose eyes he can read just what they really want from him, who'd buy him if they could. These are fans who just like him, like and respect his work.

"Don't worry about it," he says, gives each of them a smile. "So you like what I do, huh?"

"Totally," says the one who has been speaking throughout. The other one giggles again and nods and clutches her handbag closer to herself. "We both love that movie where you played the blind guy – that was so convincing, and you were so cool. And that series where you're the defense attorney? That really taught me how to stand up for what I believe, so my folks couldn't hassle me into becoming an economist and I'm studying to be a social worker instead."

"That's great," Kame says at once, processing, remembering… okay, he was a good guy there. He always is. But he figures there are worse things than inspiring people to want to help the underdog. "It's an admirable choice. I feel honoured my work had some part in it."

The girl blushes rather a lot, and then she says quickly, "And Momoko-chan is thinking about being a teacher." She glances towards the other one, who is still blushing and giggling and trying to cover it with her hand.

"That's great," Kame says again, as is expected of him. "What kind?"

"Art," she mumbles.

"Well," he says, "I hope you get an easier class than the one I have in the film."

There is a pause.

"Uh," his aspiring social worker says, when it's clear that this is likely to be the end of the conversation, "do you think I could have your autograph? It would mean a lot to me."

"Of course," Kame says. "Only I don't have anything to write.

"Oh, that's okay." She dumps her bag on the ground and reaches in, comes up with a thick paperback on working with offenders, and flips the title page over. "Here will be fine. It'll remind of me how I got into doing this."

"It's very appropriate," Kame says, and they share a smile. He finds out that her name is Kaori, and he writes something about working hard and persevering, wishing her good luck with her career. His fingers leave damp marks on the page, but she doesn't care in the least, and she bows deeply when he hands the book back. He turns to the giggly girl.

"Would you like me to write something for you, too?"

She blushes even more but nods quickly and rummages in her own bag, extracting a folder with a large picture of a cartoon turtle on it. Kame doesn't comment.

"Momoko, right?" he says instead.

"Yes…"

"That's a nice name," he says. "Would you like me to write Momoko-chan or just Momoko?"

She asks for the 'chan', and he writes a couple of lines for her, too.

They don't try to keep him after that; he doesn't even have to find a way to excuse himself politely. As they move on he turns into the other direction, back to the car.

He's starting to cool down, and he's got his breath back. The satisfied numbness of his limbs makes him feel floaty, distant from the world, and there's a deep burn in his lungs when he inhales. It would be even better if he could have shut out thinking for a while longer. If he could just have been nobody for a bit.

Still. It ought to make him feel good. People like him, admire him, and he can make them happy. Just by talking to them and signing his name on their textbooks and folders, he can make them happy.

He slams the car door shut. Starts the car.

It would feel better if he thought they'd like him if they knew him.

But that only happens in one place, and it's getting more and more difficult to go there now because he can't trust himself, and others think he can't be trusted now he's doing all these strange things, things that get noticed and aren't like him just because Jin… just because Souji… just because he can't keep the past from fucking up his present even more that it already has.

It's been ten days since he almost fucked a child, since he took some old hurt out on a guy who was just trying to do his job; since he orchestrated a bizarre setup it took him way too long to…

He can only be grateful he was saved from himself, that Jin knew there was something wrong before Kame did.

The house is as he left it, with his unfinished packing sitting in the middle of the tidy quiet like an intruder. After his shower, he avoids the cologne he wore last night.

He misses proper sex. Sex that's about desire and connection and not about duty, and certainly not about anger or confusion.

And sure, he and Jin got it to work between them in the end, and it's good to know it can work like that with Jin, but they were awkward and tense, and Kame was exhausted and confused by then, and it had taken hours to get them to that point. Hours and some bad choices. Why can't it be easy?

Well, he knows that now.

He dresses simple and casual, the first pair of jeans he grabs. He's only working on the set today, doesn't have to be worthy and upstanding for people who look up to him, people who think he's some kind of hero.

When he checks the mirror he looks normal, unobtrusive. Not like a hero, but at least like a decent person.

If he tells Jin what was wrong, maybe they can start over. Do it right without the weird prelude.

If… he stares at himself in the mirror and imagines saying… he can't even imagine yet. He doesn't have any words yet. He'll have to figure them out.

It's the last thing he wants, to explain this, to talk about this at all. It's too raw still, even after three and a half years. Too personal. But he has to let Jin know what was going on there, that first time and that last time. Why he wasn't more patient with him the first time they met. Why things went so wrong and he was so unlike himself last time. Jin didn't do anything that time. He owes the man an explanation, and a more honest one than the one he gave Ootomo.

He'll apologize, and explain, and apologize again, and they'll manage to have a proper appointment, with conversation about whatever they can find in common, and with proper, nice sex, and it will be sorted out. They'll be clear, and there'll be no more weirdness when he goes to the club, no more strange decisions, they'll be cool.

He throws the last bits and pieces into the bag and leaves for the second time.

~

Chapter 20

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