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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 24

 

Tuesday 28 October, 20:00

There's dust everywhere. A dry grey film on everything, dulling all colours, and Kame blinks for a moment before he remembers it's not a trick of his mind but the result of work he authorized. Great. Perfect.

He feels tired when he bends down to take off his shoes, sees the fine grit on the hardwood, decides not to bother. The way his day's going, he'll step in… nails or tools or whatever they left behind. He keeps his shoes on. Whatever.

His back feels sweaty from the drive, hard and knotty from air conditioning, or from not sleeping, who's keeping track anymore. He wants to sit, he wants to focus. He wants to feel like he knows how to do this. Maybe he also wants a beer.

He's running late already, some accident and endless waiting on the expressway, every traffic light jumping to red as soon as he looked at it. He had things to do, some preparation, a shower, the table… god, the dust on the table…

He'll deal with it. All of it. He just needs a few minutes to sort out his head, recover the plan. A moment's peace. A beer, and the blinds down. Somehow it's important to get the blinds down.

He looks for the remote forever, has a chance to get a really good look at the dirt up close before he finds it, and the high drone of the motor is a blessing. The bed's the only thing they covered up, and he pulls the thin fabric sheet off, throws it over the couch clean side up, to avoid ruining his shirt and pants because who knows when the whore will get here, and Kame can't look like shit. And then he gets his cool beer and sits down and looks around.

At least it looks like they're almost done, fresh plaster in a couple of places, no obvious holes in the walls. Watanabe-san will be able to clean the place up tomorrow, get some overtime in; she likes that. It'll be impeccable by the time she's done.

He takes several deep swallows of beer and closes his eyes.

It's just a few hours. He's had harder gigs before than a date with a whore who thinks Kame is pathetic.

Not the thought he wants in his head; not the right concept for expensive secret sex. But whatever, it's true and it'll do. It's just a few hours.

He stares hard at the dirty floor because he can't afford to fall asleep. God, wouldn't that be funny. Now, of all times. He can dream of the whore. The whore, laughing.

Stop.

He stops. Calculates how soon he has to get up to be on set at ten, with and without a breakfast stop somewhere. His mind goes blank somewhere on thick black coffee.

When he has the next conscious thought, the bottle is half empty. He thinks he should maybe wipe the table; one more step he won't have to take with the whore looking on and knowing he wasn't ready, he's not on top of this.

He feels the beer when he gets up, just a bit, because he hasn't slept much, hasn't eaten much, hasn't done anything that would help. But it passes with concentration, and he takes the bottle over to the kitchen, leaves it empty in some corner without minding the dirty worktops. He's not cooking, so it doesn't matter.

He gets the cloth, wipes the table, wipes the chairs for good measure, and then he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know. What to do, what to expect, how difficult it will be.

He's still holding the cloth when the doorbell rings.

For a moment he just stands. Then he gets it together, puts the cloth down carefully. Goes to the door.

He gives the security screen the barest of glances; he knows the voice. He buzzes him in.

He rinses his hands at the sink while he counts the moments until there'll be a knock on the door.

"Good evening," he says as he opens the door. Normal, civilized. A searching look meets him; inspecting, of course. Kame shouldn't be surprised.

"Good evening."

Not sure what that is – bland, tentative, maybe even ironic… maybe not. Maybe it's just the hair and the different mouth, the light and shadow on his doorstep, maybe Kame is hallucinating. But he's never seemed tall like this before, or met Kame's eyes like that.

No matter. Really, it doesn't matter. "Please come in," Kame says, stepping back. They're here. It's happening.

"Thank you for asking me over again." Also normal. Courteous.

"Leave the shoes on, it's dirty," he says, without apology, without looking for anything.

"Thank you." Maybe the ridicule is concealed. Maybe Kame just can't hear it for staring past the dark head. It's all such a mess. "I guess this was very short notice, huh?"

"Yes." Kame's not listening but at least this is easy, he's done this before. He gestures, at jacket and bag, the usual invitations to get comfortable. It works well enough. "My plans change. I'm often busy. I hope you had a good trip."

"Thank you, it was fine." And there's a pause after he's taken his jacket off, and an uncertain glance around, and now he's diffident again, the way Kame expects from this one. It almost feels reassuring until he says, "Do you mind if I use your bathroom? I'd like to wash my hands."

It sounds so harmless, so reasonable that Kame never figured it out at the start, until Takuya started to leave the door open and really just washed his hands. Until the client's known to be safe, this is where the first call-in happens. He laughed about it with Tatsuya.

This time the door is closed. After more than two years, he's back where he started.

He thought he did everything right. At least here. And he did until…

Just get through this.

It doesn't take so long. He doesn't hear water, but he's not listening for it. Didn't hear any last time, but last time… last time…

But Ootomo still took his call.

The whore is back. Beautiful, composed, waving his hands a little as though drying off the last of the excuse. Looking at Kame where Kame's just standing there, forgot to sit down.

"Sorry about that," he says, and before there can be more of those odd looks, Kame knows it's time to be decisive.

"I think we should sit down now." He hasn't even got the couch ready, just that sheet tossed half-hearted on top of it. But it will just have to fucking do.

"No. Wait."

Wait? What else now, how is that… who does he think, what does he think he is? Why is he looking at Kame like that, with his eyes strange and—

"I need to apologize to you."

No. Kame stares, just for a moment with the words high and floating, before it hits him low in the gut. Where this is going. And he can't do this. Not now. Not on top of all the rest. Not Souji now. He has to stop it. "I don't need you to—"

"I shouldn't have laughed the last time, when you told me that. I didn't know what happened there, with your boyfriend, but I get it now. I looked it all up."

He can't. No, he can't. Can't breathe, can't think. He always knew it was out there, never checked because he didn't want to see it, and now this whore did, Kame led him to it, and now he's got to listen to him talk about it.

"…and I'm really sorry." Fidgeting, an earnest blink.

But he's just some whore, and he doesn't know anything, even if this stupid light makes his face all wrong and confusing.

"It's enough," Kame says. His voice doesn't sound right. "I don't mind, it doesn't matter." You can't hurt me. He can't say that, it sounds pathetic.

"Don't say it doesn't matter. That guy… you broke up and then he went to the papers, didn't he? That's what happened?"

How does it not stop. Why can't Kame shut him up, why can't he find words and why are his eyes so hot? Why is it all rushing in on him, the fear and the lights and how alone he was, with some flawed version of Souji's face looking at him as if he needs pity.

"Yes," he says, turns away for a blurry glance at the couch, but he can't sit when that man stands there and looks at him and won't stop talking. He can't sit until he's shut him up. "Yes." It's all too much, every word is thick in his mouth. "That's what happened."

It goes quiet. So quiet that the single step towards him sounds loud enough to make him flinch, but thank god the man stops, thank god he doesn't come closer.

"That's pretty horrible."

Quiet; so soft it creeps under his skin, knowing and intrusive.

Kame closes his eyes and hopes the whore can't see, he doesn't know anymore what the whore can see and what he saw and what he knows when he looks at Kame. His neck hurts and his eyes hurt and he wants to run away but where would he go, this is it, he's stuck.

"It's fine," is what he says, or thinks, he can't tell with all this noise in his head, and why can't he stop this, why can't he just stare him down and set them straight about what can be dragged up here and whose business it all is, and where the fuck is his self-control that he's shaking like this?

There's silence again, and maybe he's done now, maybe… he's said his rehearsed little piece and this is it, and in a moment Kame will surface from this and in three hours he may even be able to have sex. He doesn't know how he'll get through dinner, but he's starting to feel less dizzy again, he can breathe, can look.

"No," the whore says. "It's not."

"Shut up," Kame hears, and it burns because he's back there, just like last time, he's going to lose this one too but he won't, he'll— "Please," he says. Gulps down the thickness in his throat and tries again, good-client-style. "Please. This is none of your business."

"I do look a bit like him."

Why does he sound like that, so quiet, like he's learned something, when Kame can see the similarity with his eyes closed?

And Kame can't throw him out now, he told himself he'd do better this time.

"I guess… I get that better now. Your…. The thing you have about him and about me."

Yes, the whore understands him. Gets it all. Because Kame told him and because Kame's spread out for the entire country to see.

"That… stuff. Did it help?"

"Shut up." He says it as coldly as he can, all his strength in his shoulders as he tries to stare, be stern, and the whore is wide-eyed and much too near, searching his face like he wants things, and Kame feels his throat close.

"I mean, I… oh, please don't—"

"Shut up." He backs away, trapped by the coffee table and the dark eyes that won't leave him.

The whore inches forward and Kame's skin feels hot with every heartbeat.

"Is there anything— if that helps, we could…"

They. Him and the whore and that face and Kame can't even breathe.

"I don't mind, if you wanted… to be rough again?" The whore goes blurred and distant before him and Kame wants to turn his back and run, to somewhere, anywhere. "Or if… I could ask for stuff, or…"

It trails off, finally. To blankness, everything torn and fraying but it's over, at last, it's—

"Like…" More. Kame wants to scream at him. "Like acting some— you could say that stuff again and I'll… I could beg for things, or if you wanted to…" He's faltering but it's not enough, it doesn't stop. "…to do stuff, to…" Stuff. Swimming up between them, skin ties come tight heat and apologies, and laughter, and the whore's busy eyes, not leaving him alone, thinking. "Would you want to piss on me." It comes fast. Kame blinks. "If that helps," the whore says.

And he's… waiting, and Kame is staring, and… and he needs to say something, to this, if only to wipe that horrible look of pity off his face, needs to do something and maybe… maybe he should just do what the whore wants and that'll shut him up. Shut him up good.

"Fine." His breath is dry. The air is still, static; the whore unwavering.

And then there's a surge, a whole-body shiver when that look stops strangling him, lets him breathe, because they know how to deal with it now, and his thoughts spin off in crazy colours with the rush to his head, the reeling sensation.

A nod. No hesitation. Pulling him back, to ground him. Kame holds his eyes. It's easier now.

"Over there," he says.

The whore just goes, goes where he points. Away from furniture. From the kitchen. Empty space.

Kame can feel every hair on his body, tingling and eerie. He rolls up his sleeves on the first two steps, because he won't… it won't… he will…

And then he's there and the whore goes down, clothes and all, kneels down into the dust, and Kame's legs feel heavy with heat, the floor pressing up against the soles of his shoes.

The last step feels slow, feels like work.

He thinks he's aroused but there's so much else, the blood in his ears, the need to set them right, the naked feeling where his hands move and the whore waiting, looking up tame and unthreatening now and maybe this is all it takes to keep him in check, maybe he likes it.

Doesn't matter. So they'll both like it. And know where they stand, and how much he has to care what the whore thinks, and the heat is spreading out along his spine, the slip of his clothes is so easy it hardly registers.

Only the metal of the buckle, because it's colder, because his fingers are hot and numb, and then he has to breathe.

This is crazy. This— That guy, on the floor. Ready for. The floor, and his home and this. This is crazy, and he's not that crazy, not yet.

Those eyes focus, sharpen. The chin comes up. Tall while kneeling. Or something. Something in his face. Not quite right. But wrong. Darkening.

"How about it," the whore says, low and knowing. "Kazuya."

And his breath stops again, thoughts collapsing and the heat gone and grey, and he does it.

Flinches when the first spurt hits, high, and those eyes fly shut but that's it, all stillness once the stream stops wavering, wetness spreading, shining tracks running down, missing nothing, turning everything under them shut, closed, tight.

Darkness bleeding into pale fabric. Drips on the floor from hair; trickles seeping from seams, still, steady, like the draining rush that leaves him low and loose and shaky…

Then it's over.

Kame hears his own breath, loud and stuttering. That's all.

No breath from below. No nothing.

He doesn't move. Doesn't know where, to what. He can't stop staring. At that strand of hair, limp and wet down along his face, like there's nothing to be done about it. Eyes closed. Mouth tight, white, wet.

Finally the soaked shoulders stir, slow and heavy. Breath, maybe, or thoughts, or some focus. Maybe something clearer than the lurching tangle in Kame's mind.

The eyes open. Blink moisture from the lashes fast, once. And stay low. That's… maybe that's a good thing.

Stay low where… Kame's hand with Kame's dick… and something pulls tight in Kame, heavy and dull and cold, he's naked here…

"Should I…"

Oh. That. Kame didn't… but they do that. So often. He's probably right it's next, what else… Kame should have thought of it. "Sure," he says, and his voice sounds no better, no more alive.

No nod, no sound. Just leaning in, follow-through… Kame's almost scared but of course it'll be fine, he asked, it comes next, it's happening.

He's jittery, out of place, everything tender and weird and it does nothing, the heat and the pull and the high spike of sensation, nothing to help the mess in his head.

Nothing is clear – it's too strange, too much, he's high with how much he can feel but it's all spinning, bright shifting swirls and he can't track anything, feel where it's good.

He stares unfocussed, down between them at hair and skin and slickness and he thinks they're faster now, maybe he's responding. His legs feel weak. Too fast, lips slipping off with a wet startling sound… and then the heat comes back and everything sinks further. He wants to cringe and he wants to stop and then suddenly it rises, every hot splinter of the night coming together and dragging him up, up, and over, a soggy washed-out flare and he puts a hand on Jin's shoulder, he's not sure he can stand.

He tries… he doesn't want to be too heavy, he just needs a moment. This has to go away if he just waits. The damp under his hand is better than falling.

Just one moment. Or two.

But now. Now he has to stand, to think, to figure out what now.

Jin is so still. Not even tensing against the burden.

What are they doing.

It's only when he pulls back, stands on his own again, that Jin even moves; seems to look for Kame's retreating hand, and along, and up, and suddenly Kame doesn't know how to face him, but when he meets Jin's eyes there's nothing demanding a response, they're so wide and dull that Kame wonders how he can see through that haze at all.

His head is swimming, and he can't see Jin breathe, he can't see anything through that distance except—

His face, he thinks, I pissed on his face, and it almost pulls him under again, the hair, it got in Jin's hair and on his clothes, it got everywhere, and he pissed on Jin's face, and now… now… now maybe he shouldn't go to pieces.

Jin looks like Kame shouldn't go to pieces.

Jin shouldn't kneel there anymore.

He tries to sound normal, low enough so his voice doesn't break when he finally pulls the words together. "If you want to get cleaned up…"

And then the floor shifts under him as Jin comes alive and Jin sees him and his eyes are naked, naked and scared.

Oh god. Kame doesn't know, doesn't get why now, why Jin looks as if the ground suddenly opened into free fall and how do you stop it when you don't know, how can he catch this after what he did?

"You can have a t-shirt of mine," he says, voice cracking high and helpless. "Please…" He doesn't know what he's even asking, what right he's got, and Jin blinks at him, slowly, like nothing makes sense.

"I… I've got one… that could fit you. Maybe a bit small but it'll work…"

And he is stuck; hears Jin breathe out as if it hurts, but at least something's changing behind his eyes, or Kame thinks so, hopes so because anything's better than that… thing Kame did to him.

"It's blue," he says.

And Jin's still staring at him like he's drowning, but Kame will take even that because at least he no longer looks so afraid.

He should get up… he should really get up, he's been there so long, way too long, and maybe it would help if Kame got out of his way. He steps aside— and goes cold and weak at the quiet splash around his shoe. He doesn't look, feels his face flame as he stares at Jin. Jin who's barely flinched, seems to be concentrating quietly on something else, something far away while his eyes never leave Kame's face.

"Come up?" Kame says, still with a stranger's voice, all wobbly and wrong. "Please."

He's so relieved when Jin nods, once.

It feels like a long time. Jin moves like he's drugged, or stunned, and Kame tries not to listen to wet fabric unfolding and stretching when he finally pushes himself up, stands.

"You should shower," Kame says. Like it's news to anybody. "I mean." Jin has never even showered here. "It's there." He tries to point and even his arm feels all weird. "And it's not— it does—" Complicated things, and maybe, with Jin looking like that… "I should show you that. How that works. And towels. Where they are. But I'll get your shirt first." And maybe wake up, or sober up, or get some common sense back.

Jin nods again. Kame steps back again, but doesn't turn before Jin has started moving, has understood… good. Bathroom, shower, shirt. It should help. Clean shirt.

He rinses his hands in the kitchen sink. Goes to the wardrobe, dust on all the handles and he wants to apologize for that, but Jin is waiting and his brain feels so stupid.

He can't find the blue shirt. He knows the one he meant, it's too big on him, but he can't find it and he doesn't know why, but then he stops himself from freaking out, takes a white one that's not tight on him and hopes it will do.

"Sorry for the wait," he says when he's at the bathroom door. Jin has left it open. He's standing before the glass shower wall, and when he looks at Kame it's hesitant, fragile. But he keeps looking.

Kame swallows, tries to be slow, wishes his bathroom were even larger. "Here, this," he says, and when his brain has a lucid moment he thinks to put it on the rim of the tub next to the shower. Jin won't want to touch it now. "I couldn't find the blue one. Sorry."

"It's fine," Jin says, vaguely, looking on as if he's memorizing where it is. "Thank you."

"Towels are in the tall cabinet. Large ones… wait." Kame gets three out, puts them on a stool closer to the shower. "There. Take more if you want. As many as you like."

"Yes. Thank you."

"Now, the shower," Kame says, and he feels guilty that there's so much to explain. "It's not really complicated, just the spray thing—" Oh god, spray. "It gets pretty strong, I like it when I'm tired and I've been—" Jin doesn't want to hear Kame's life story, Jin wants to clean Kame's piss off his face and hair. "Anyway. If you turn here you get it softer, and you can switch the lower jets off with these buttons if you want. Okay?"

"Okay," Jin says.

"And this is the soap and this is shampoo and this is conditioner," Kame finishes quickly.

"Shampoo," Jin repeats, watching the rack in the shower. "I got it. Thank you."

"Just, take as long as you like. Really."

Time to leave, high time. Some privacy. Kame backs away, but stops halfway because… "Okay?"

Jin's eyes are still wide, but he's not afraid of looking at Kame. "Okay."

Good. Okay works. Jin knows… stuff.

Kame's out and closes the door and leans against it quietly. Calmly. Breathes. Looks forward to the moment when he can just crumple and maybe drink himself into oblivion. Right now he can't, he shouldn't, he doesn't get to. He has things to do.

He backtracks along the trail they left between kitchen and bathroom, sidesteps… the main site, and takes off his shoes when he's on dry marble. Rinses the soles quickly in the sink, puts the shoes on some paper towels in a corner.

He can't leave this for the cleaner. He can't leave it until Jin comes out of the bathroom, either.

He takes a minute or three to stare ahead out the window anyway. Just to make himself think. He never does any cleaning here.

A day of firsts.

Paper towels. He's got paper towels. He's got freezer bags. That'll have to do.

The puddle's gleaming, misshapen, and when he sees the little specks of dust floating on it, and the trail where their wet footsteps turned the dust to smears, he almost feels sick.

But he doesn't get to do that either. He gets to work instead.

He balls up several sheets and throws them on where it's deepest. More and more as the stains soak through. He tells himself they could be anything. When the whole area is covered and the tissue doesn't turn to mush anymore, he pulls two of the freezer bags over his hands, remembers the trash can, pulls it close.

He watches carefully where he steps, lifting the wet rags into the can, large handfuls he can't let go of quickly enough.

More fresh towels for the rest, damp stains, no mistaking now what they are. He just tries not to think about it. Tries not to think when he goes for the smeared outliers, when his trash can fills so high he has to push the tissues down, when he starts a new roll to wipe with water and then dries it all up again. When he looks at his floor and the clean path he has made among all the dust, almost as noticeable as the puddle and their tracks had been.

But clean.

He's lost track of time. All that must have taken a while. He can't hear the sound of the shower any more, that soft hiss in the pipes. Jin could come out any moment.

He washes his hands again, then stands a moment with a hard grip around the edge of the sink. The metal is colder than the wood. It's dark outside. Dark and cloudy. That probably means the night won't get so cold.

Maybe he should open a window.

Maybe the draft will be cold if you have wet hair.

Jin hasn't come out yet.

Kame didn't say where the hair dryer is.

He waits, and waits some more. Opens a window after all, but stays beside it, watching the night, listening for the bathroom door, letting the shudders crawl through him at every image that returns.

He can't even remember the anger.

He closes the window. Shuts down on wondering how on earth it could happen like this, because he should be alert, and with it, and capable of stringing more than two thoughts together when Jin comes out. Make sure Jin gets home. Make sure he's not in some crazy state that will scare Jin again.

He wipes his hands on his trousers. Just sweat. He knows that. He rinses them again anyway.

Jin still hasn't come out.

And suddenly it seems too long, it seems dark and meaningful and when Kame closes his eyes he sees tiny dots again, like something is pressing down on his lungs.

It's the last thing he wants, to invade Jin's space. But it's too quiet, and Jin was so still, and when Kame stands in front of the door with his head low and his eyes closed, he still hears nothing. He knocks softly. Nothing.

Jin didn't lock.

Faint steam drifts through the open crack, and the familiar scent of his shampoo, and no reply when Kame asks, "Are you okay," to check, to warn.

The haze clears more when he opens the door all the way, and Jin's there, at the far end of Kame's long bathroom, on the edge of the tub. He's got the shirt on, and it's tight over his chest; Kame had forgotten there was a Gucci print on it. Jin's own black boxers. He hasn't looked up.

Kame steps in slowly. Jin's shirt is a soggy bundle of fabric outside the shower; but set aside from it, draped more conscientiously, are Jin's pants.

That's what Jin's looking at, so focussed that he's not raising his head to acknowledge Kame even for a moment.

"Hey."

Jin only breathes, stretching the fabric more, and seems to focus harder. His hair is wet and back from his face but he doesn't look like anyone else now, just drawn in, and small even with the close fit of Kame's shirt.

Kame crouches down, holds his balance carefully so Jin can see his face. "Jin?"

A nod; it doesn't disturb the focus. "Yeah."

Jin's naked legs. The pants. And Kame swallows hard because god, he wouldn't want to put those on either.

"Leave those," he says, and his voice cracks again because he should have said that minutes ago.

"I'll get dressed," Jin says, going tense with slow resolve, and Kame grabs his wrist before he can push himself upright, holds him down so he can't reach for that filthy thing.

"Just leave it," he says, all thick and low, and Jin doesn't pull out of his grasp, but he's not settling again, either, just waiting.

"I've been worse," he says, still staring past Kame. "It's okay."

"No. I'll find you something. Something better. Really."

And finally Jin nods, nods while seeing him, never mind how fragile it all feels, and Kame presses Jin's hand down on the rim of the tub once more, for emphasis, despite the wrong tingle of handling him.

"Just wait here," he says, and Jin nods again. Okay.

And once he's gotten up he looks at the pants again, at Jin's withdrawn expression, and he thinks he won't take chances here, won't risk a fit of heroics, and picks the pants up without thinking about the damp or their weight or his hands, and takes them out.

More bags. He takes a bin bag this time, takes two bin bags, and then remembers about the wet shirt in the bathroom; but first, he needs to find Jin some pants.

Sweatpants are probably best. He's got a few, no cuffs, short maybe but workable, better than that. Blue like the t-shirt isn't. He grabs the jacket that goes with them too because it's October, and dark outside, and night.

This time Jin meets his eyes straight away.

"Sweatpants," Kame says, "they should work," is glad when Jin just nods and takes them. "I'll be outside, okay?"

Jin holds the pants with both hands, but he's nodding again, and clear-eyed, and Kame almost thanks him for that.

He grabs Jin's shirt as unobtrusively as he can on his way out, and by the time he's bagged it and washed his hands again and remembered to get the jacket of Jin's suit, Jin edges out of the bathroom. Kame stops, keeps his distance.

"I'm done," Jin says.

"Yes. Good."

The pants are too short, just three or four centimeters. The jacket ends high at the waist but Kame's glad Jin has put it on, he knows it's soft and warm. Jin's holding his shoes in one hand.

"Can I please drive you home," Kame says, and his voice fades out high again. "I'll call you a cab, if you don't want— but I'd like to drive you home."

Jin looks surprised, uncertain, and maybe—

"Or somewhere close by," Kame says quickly. "I don't need to know where you live. I can drop you somewhere and you can wait until I'm gone, anywhere is good. Wherever you say."

He doesn't want to put Jin in a taxi, in those clothes, in that state, with some stranger, but he knows the thought is ridiculous after…

"That would be nice." There's a moment when the corners of Jin's mouth lift in a determined kind of fashion, but there's still the vague frown, like he's pondering the options after the fact. "If it's not too much trouble. It's far."

"It isn't, really," Kame says. "Thank you."

And Jin is looking around and the frown doesn't clear up, and Kame bites his lip and stays very calm.

"What is it?"

"I need… my bag is here, somewhere. I need to take it."

"Oh." Kame throws a look over his shoulder. It's fuzzy for him too. But… "Um. Wait." He's faster than Jin now, and Jin doesn't need to wander around among tracks of clean and dirt, and it doesn't take him two steps to spot it beside the dining table because it's black and stands out, and maybe they should just get the fuck out of here.

Jin is following him more slowly, not looking much at the floor, and Kame hands him the bag and gets his own shoes. Then it's his keys and his jacket and Jin is waiting for him by the door, and Kame nods twice and gets a move on, gets—

Jin's suit.

Just one big bag now. He lifts it by the knot. "I'll put it in the trunk," he mumbles. If it were his, he'd dump it, but he can't just dump Jin's suit, and then he thinks he should really— "Unless… I could send it. I mean, get it cleaned…"

"It's okay," Jin says quietly. Kame's starting to wish he'd stop saying that.

But this time he doesn't contradict, he wants them out of here. Jin takes his jacket back but makes no move to put it on. Kame keeps the bag.

"My car is in the garage," he says when they're halfway there, when Kame leads them down the back stairs towards the grey steel door and it feels like he ought to explain that. "Down here. Sorry."

"Yeah," Jin says, from two steps above him.

His garage is half as big as his apartment and also houses junk and various security and utility controls, but the lights come on brightly as soon as they enter, no shadows and creepy corners, thank god. Jin is quiet getting into the car, quiet sinking small into the thick leather. It's not so echoey when they have the doors closed.

"It's all automatic," he explains. "I don't have to get out. I have a remote."

"Yeah."

He reaches for it in the usual place and then the gate rolls up. Starting the car, he thinks of the beer he had, of how he never risks it, but it was an eternity ago and it was only one, and he's got it together now, and the only other choice would be taxis, so it's going to be fine.

He takes them up the ramp, very slowly, and out the main gate. Jin says nothing at all.

Kame won't bother him, but once they're down his lane, there's one thing he has to know. "I'm sorry," he says, "which direction should I go?"

There's barely a pause before Jin answers. "I live in Chidori."

Okay. That means a good long drive on a couple of expressways. Kame won't have to ask directions for a while. "If you'd like music," he says, "just go through the CDs." It's the last thing he wants, some barrier of sound between them now, but Jin might find the empty silence uncomfortable. "Or if you want radio…"

"This is good," Jin says, and leans further back into the seat.

The streetlights sail past them.

Kame concentrates. Careful driving, checking all the mirrors, a decent speed but not so fast it gets risky. Nothing risky.

Jin is looking ahead with his hands in his lap, eyes shutting briefly when they hit brighter lights at the first bridge, a turn-off.

Miles across Tokyo, just lights outside, growing bright and fading as they pass the suburbs.

It's quiet. What sound there is gets sucked up by the car, nothing but some soft clicks when he signals, rarely, because he's not aiming to overtake anyone.

"I don't usually take a cab home," Jin says, after Kame has found the next turn-off and navigated them onto route one headed to Shinagawa.

Kame glances over. There's the small frown again, Jin's eyes on the road.

"I'm not sure I can direct you after we turn off here. Or tell you where to turn off."

"I'll find it," Kame says. "There'll be signs."

He feels Jin nod, but the silence feels thoughtful.

"Is there a train station close by?" Kame asks after a moment, after he's imagined Jin telling him to let him out wherever in Chidori and walking home for an hour. "I have navigation." He nods at the dead little screen, stretches his fingers around the steering wheel. Gives Jin time to think.

"I'd know how to direct you from the Seiyu shopping centre," Jin says. "Will that be on there? It's kind of the main thing around." After a little pause, he adds, "Or there's a library."

"A Seiyu should work," Kame says before he's even thought it through. "It's got gas stations on it and things." He switches on the system and waits while it boots. Jin watches the logo turn, the colours come on.

Kame tries to remember what his last trip was that he needed navigation for. Some campaign thing, probably. But even if it shows that, it's not like he's got anything left to hide from Jin. At least this isn't something to be ashamed of.

"That's pretty useful," Jin says. "I mean, with gas stations even. And things."

Kame doesn't look over now, though he wants to. He's got to watch the road, not do anything stupid. "Yeah," he says after a moment that feels much too long. "It just saves time. Less hassle than with maps."

"Yes."

More road, more silence. "So, the Seiyu," Kame says, because he can't think of anything better. He hopes he's reading this right. "It's convenient?"

"Yeah. It's really close. I buy my stuff there."

Stuff. Jin's stuff.

Like the suit in Kame's trunk. In bags. Two layers.

"You know, t-shirts and things," Jin says, quiet like his thoughts went there, too. He's looking at the hem of the one he's wearing under the open, too-short jacket. "This one's nice, too."

Kame feels queasy again, queasy and like his skin is burning, and Jin smoothes down the shirt and turns his head towards the passenger window, watching lamp posts snap by, or the city, or nothing.

Kame can pay for it. He can pay for all of this, however much, whatever it says on Ootomo's list. And the cleaning, too. He'll add that; make sure it's added somehow.

Jin folds in his knees a bit, still staring out the window. "I don't want to do that again," he says.

"No," Kame says, with clammy hands. "No, let's not."

He waits a moment. Waits to check that Jin's still present, calm. Two checks in, Jin meets his eyes. There's a small awkward smile.

Kame is sure his own doesn't come out much better. He presses his lips together and watches the road.

Jin shifts a little, fussing with the seatbelt as though it's constricting him.

"Are you okay?"

Jin doesn't answer, not at once. "Can I ask…" He's sounding tense, and Kame glances over again but he looks okay, just needs another moment. "Please don't tell Ootomo about this."

Kame stares blankly, then remembers the road. Thank god there's not much traffic. "I… why? You mean you won't?"

"If he knows… he'll think..." His voice is rising, and then nothing.

Kame's mouth goes dry, he's getting sweaty. "But..."

"He'll want to put it in my profile as an option," Jin says from low in the seat. Thin like paper. "I don't do that stuff."

"It's just," Kame says, "you won't… they charge for— I saw the list once."

"I don't care." Jin turns. He looks like he's going to be sick. Sounds it, too. "Please. Don't tell him."

"Okay," Kame says quickly, "I won't tell him, I promise. I'll do what you want."

He means it. He'll promise again, he can still feel Jin panicking…

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me." His own voice is high, and this isn't finished but they both need a moment, Jin needs a moment, and he lets half a suburb pass before the air doesn't feel tight anymore.

"Can I give you the money then?" he asks very calmly. "It can be cash. Ootomo won't know, I swear. The suit, the cleaning, too."

"I don't want money for this," Jin says. "I don't do this." Categorical; and Kame wants to argue but he won't, this doesn't have to make sense.

Jin sighs. "I know it's…" A helpless shrug. "But I don't. Okay?"

"Okay," Kame says. "I get it."

He doesn't get it, but he got that. If Jin did this, they wouldn't be here, like this. If Jin did this, he wouldn't be in such a state. Jin doesn't do this.

"I'm sorry," Kame says. He's shocked how new it sounds. How hasn't he said this before?

Jin doesn't stir. "I offered." He sounds calm now. That's good. But what he's saying is absurd.

"And I should never have accepted." He's not looking for a waiver, he's sure. At long last he's sure of something. He blinks fast; there's a draft from the air condition. "I'm really sorry."

He can feel Jin watching him for a thoughtful moment. "I said you could," he says.

Kame wants to argue that it really doesn't matter, would never matter if Jin knew the dark place it came from in Kame's mind. "Still," he says roughly, and then, "I think we're almost at the turn-off."

"Ah."

"Is it okay if I switch on the audio for the navigation?"

"Sure," Jin says.

So Kame presses the on switch and the polite female voice informs him that the next turn-off is theirs and it's about time to get in the correct lane.

They're both silent again; silent as he takes the filter lane off the expressway and it gets darker around them; silent as he drives five below the speed limit along quiet main streets in successive suburbs. At one point, Jin's hand comes up to his face, and Kame thinks he's hiding a yawn.

He's surprised at himself that he's so awake; wide awake, awake like he doesn't think he's been in weeks.

And hungry, his stomach reminds him with an embarrassing yowl. He never had dinner. Jin never had dinner. If Kame hadn't fucked up everything, he could stop them at the nearest restaurant.

"I've got a peanut bar," Jin says into the quiet that follows. "Do you want it?"

Kame tries to relax his shoulders, flexes his fingers around the wheel. He's not… he can't eat Jin's peanut bar. That would just be… "Aren't you hungry?" he tries.

"I've got two," Jin says. "I'm almost home anyway. You have a long drive back."

"Thank you," Kame says, and he's not even thinking about driving and low blood sugar. "I'd like one." It still feels better than turning Jin down on anything. Though the sugar is probably good anyway; who knows when this crazy awakeness will crash.

He wants to protest when Jin starts unwrapping it for him, but Jin's right, he needs his hands. Kame is careful not to touch him when he takes the bar from him with a second, "Thank you."

And more silence, occasionally broken by the voice of his navigation.

"I think I know this bit," Jin says at some point. "It should be less than five minutes now."

He's right; it's one more street down and then a complicated set of turns in a one-way system, and then the shopping centre is in front of them, dark and closed except for a small convenience store on one corner.

"Okay," Jin says, "if you continue driving along here, on the third intersection, I think, you turn right. There's a shrine on the left corner. But you turn right. And then it's straight ahead for a bit."

They find it and he turns, and they drive straight ahead.

"Next convenience store on the right, there'll be a street going off just a few houses later, take that."

Kame does that, too, and follows further directions in Jin's quiet, sometimes cautious tone. He sounds together, like a guy who's just a little tired but knows how to find his way. Kame would find it comforting, if he had any right to.

Finally Jin says, "This will be fine. There's a bus stop coming up on the right, you can just pull in there and let me out."

So he pulls up, and stops. He'd like to reassure himself that this isn't too far for Jin, that he's not planning to get on a bus now, but it'll sound like he's fishing for an address, so he doesn't. "Here we are," he says.

"Yeah. Thank you."

Their seatbelts click, one after the other, but quietly. Jin's hand is on the door, waiting. It feels kind of odd.

"Will you be okay from here?" Kame asks after all, and it comes out half a mumble.

Jin nods quickly. "Yes. It's fine. It's really not far."

Then they both get out, after Kame has slowly snapped his door open. Kame gets the plastic bag from the trunk for Jin.

It's hard to look him in the face when he hands it over, but he does it anyway. "Are you sure you don't want me to—"

"I'm sure," Jin says, his arm with the bag dropping slowly, pulling it back. "It's fine."

"Okay," Kame says, and now he's staring at his hands after all. "Okay, well, then. I hope you get home okay. And…" He shrugs helplessly. "I'm sorry."

"I hope you get home okay, too. Drive carefully," Jin says.

"Yeah," Kame says. "Yeah. I'll do that."

They stand for another awkward moment, then Kame pulls himself together and gets in his car. Gives Jin a final nod as he starts the engine again, and drives off, and doesn't look back.

He drives carefully. Navigation tells him where to go, and he follows. He's awake, attentive, and glad when he's around the first corner and can use the rearview mirror too.

He's calm and careful and Jin gave him a peanut bar, and he takes those turns and the long rows of houses with steady hands and a steady head and a gaping blackness just behind the helpful lights, swallowing his thoughts.

He drives.

No music. The car hardly makes noise at all. Dry streets. No rain, no wind. That's good, for Jin to get home okay.

It splashed. When he moved, it splashed. His foot twitches. His hands are hot, aware, distracting when he's driving.

He doesn't see Jin because he sees the road and the lights and crawling white stripes on the ground. Only his clothes chafe, only his back aches from the soft leather.

But he drives carefully.

Carefully, until those lights in the mirror are burning his eyes, so bright and so close, like they know what he did and he feels everything twist and crumple and then there's a penetrating noise and three cars zipping past him, one after the other, and Kame is left in the dark, in the grey mess of images that's sucking him under.

The meter shows walking speed. The navigation has been talking for two empty streets and he doesn't know where he is.

There's a gas station and he pulls across the road, pulls in, parks beyond the roof and the pumps, where it's dark. Turns the engine off and sits.

His fingers are trembling and suddenly he wants a cigarette. He hasn't wanted one in years. Over by the pumps the lights are unsteady and cheating and he closes his eyes against each passing car but there's never darkness in his head, and it always hurts when he forces them open into brightness.

There are people over there, filling up their cars, buying cigarettes and peanut bars. But he can't go there. He thinks he might burn up when he goes there, when he even opens this car door. He can't breathe.

Can't breathe, and it's all right there, playing out on dark leather under his hands and on the back of his eyelids and in the sharp shadows outside, and right here where Jin was sitting and slowly finding words again and showing him where to go, and now it's all empty.

Now it's just him, and he doesn't know who that is anymore. Someone who'd do this, who thought he'd like it. Who thought it would set things right, could make anything right, and the lights just keep shifting, shifting and spinning and dragging him down into the truth.

He's someone like that. Someone who'd enjoy Jin's fear. Because this wasn't even the first time, just the worst. Maybe. He doesn't know.

He doesn't know how long he sits before he thinks he's okay to start the car again. He doesn't know anything anymore.

~

Chapter 25

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