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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 27

 

Friday 21 November

Tanaka has put a blue streak in his hair. Kame stares at it whenever he doesn't know what to say next.

It's the usual Friday bustle at the club. There are people all around who'd like to sit with Tanaka, but he's waved them off so far, with a little nod at Shota which Shota knew to interpret. Kame feels guilty but grateful. He has a tiny sip of his juice and thinks it can't be as dull as it tastes. He tries a smile.

They're at a small table, two armchairs, and a two-seater which is still empty. Tanaka gives him a thoughtful look over his Montrachet and Kame's stomach flips a little but that's normal by now, par for the course this evening, so he just sits and waits for it to pass.

"I like the samurai thing," Tanaka says. "Hope they give you a real sword."

"As long as they teach me not to chop off anyone's arm by accident," Kame says doubtfully. "Or my own." But samurai boot camp isn't where his mind is right now.

"Bad publicity," Tanaka nods. "And insurance would skyrocket."

Kame tries his best to answer Tanaka's grin. "Yes, probably."

"So are they training you up a bit?"

Kame thinks over the answer for a second, he doesn't want to sound too…

God. Tanaka wouldn't keep calling him if he didn't like hanging out with him. Which probably includes Kame's conversation. Preferably in full sentences. "They're talking about sending me on a program," he says, "but I hope that's just about how not to look like an idiot while waving a painted stick around."

"Oh?" There's a purposeful gleam in Tanaka's eye. "When's that? Can anybody come?"

Kame finds himself laughing, and it feels odd. "Not until December. I'm getting a bit of a break, now that we've wrapped up the school film."

Kame spent an hour at the wrap party; long enough to be polite, long enough to say friendly goodbyes to everybody who wanted to hear them.

He parted with Morioka on polite terms and with few words. There'd been no real chance to talk in private, not without making an effort. And it probably would have been a bad idea, anyway.

Tanaka squints at him. "A break, in your language, means that instead of filming all day and doing promotions, interviews, photoshoots and PR campaigns, you just do even more promotions, interviews, photoshoots and PR campaigns."

Kame flushes a little, which is silly. But he says, "That's finished, too. The campaign."

Midori had been really happy to speak to Fujikage-san, and Kame had found the girl bands pleasantly distracting.

"You're practically unemployed."

Kame leans back, rolls his shoulders a bit. "Yeah, like a holiday," he says, succeeding in making Tanaka grin again. "Speaking of which, you're the one who's been abroad."

"Just a week," Tanaka shrugs. "Barely worth the jet lag. And anyway, that wasn't a holiday, that was serious business."

"Let me see," Kame says slowly. "Big lunches with producers during the day, and a different rap gig every night." He hopes they're really called rap gigs. He dares a smile. "It's a hard life at Jokerface Records."

His smile disappears when he notices Yuuya standing up and leaving a seating group over on their right. He'd been obscured by a rather large old guest before. Now Kame suddenly wishes Tanaka had already gathered his usual crowd around him and those seats nearby weren't empty.

As if Yuuya would come near him. But seeing the boy avoiding him won't make him feel good, either.

Par for the course.

"…and they let me be DJ that one night in the only rap club in Little Japan," Tanaka says with unabashed pride, and Kame could kick himself for getting lost in his own business again.

Anyway, Yuuya is at the bar and hasn't even noticed him.

Tanaka tells him more about some of the rap people he met; with whom he hit it off well and who was sceptical of Japanese rap, and this time Kame pays proper attention and doesn't miss the little details.

Jin isn't here. Maybe he has a client. Maybe he has the day off. Surely he's not afraid to go to work, three weeks later.

"What did he say?" Kame asks. He's glad he's here with Tanaka. He wouldn't know what to do with himself at all if it weren't for him.

"Said he can't rhyme sushi." Tanaka rolls his eyes.

"Do you want to… Would you like to expand?" Somehow he doesn't want to ask another work question. But Tanaka's not married, and they don't like to talk about their lies anyway.

He's not even sure why he's thinking that.

Tanaka shrugs. "I doubt there's a market. And it's tricky when you don't speak the language."

"Yeah, I suppose." Kame never liked English much, with its weird sounds his mouth doesn't know how to produce. He thinks he's probably picked up more bad French by now than he learned bad English in school.

But Tanaka has given the question some thought and has things to say on the subject. Kame is listening. He knows he's strange company tonight, and he doesn't want Tanaka to regret asking him to come.

He's more antsy watching other groups form and dissolve than usual. Oddly attuned to the clients, old for the most part, surrounding themselves with young attractive men who are pleased by the money. The flirting everywhere, the acting.

He dusts his hands over his pants. He made sure to dress well. Nothing scruffy, he doesn't want anybody to cut him film star slack. He did his hair, though it's getting too long and hard to handle unless he catches it at the right moment. Today wasn't one of those.

He hasn't seen Tatsuya. Somehow that's a relief.

Tanaka's drink is almost finished, and maybe Kame should have something that looks less pathetic than a glass of juice. On the other hand, maybe he should just get used to looking pathetic.

His shoulders are all stiff no matter how he sits, even with his back flat against the leather. But he's not waiting to relax, he knows better. He can start to think about relaxing once he's managed to spend an evening without acting like a crazy person, dragging people off or pushing them into things…

He exhales slowly. He's not doing that anymore. Now he only has to prove it; to himself to begin with.

He starts by having something intelligent to say on the bias of home markets. At least Tanaka has stopped examining him as if he's waiting for Kame to giggle or scream or cry.

They order another round, and while they wait for their glasses, Tanaka lets his eyes wander.

"Anyone you'd like to ask over?" he asks, discreetly but without embarrassment. It's usually Tanaka making the invitations, and Kame never has much to suggest. He just occasionally asks Tatsuya or Takuya-san, because they're not part of Tanaka's usual crowd.

The thought of going upstairs with anybody makes him feel unsettled and cold. He isn't planning to; he's known that since the first time he had the nerve to think of his next club visit, but it's weird to feel it this physically. Maybe that's his body telling him to back the fuck off when his head is screwed up. A bit late, all things considered. Really fucking late.

"Not really," he says, and from Tanaka's expression he can guess he didn't hit smooth quite like he meant to. "I really just came for drinks," he adds in a quiet voice.

Tanaka raises his partly-shaved eyebrows.

"I can't just come and drink with you?" He means it lightly, but somehow he's not hitting light either.

"Orange juice," Tanaka points out, but then his face gets that nice look again that makes him look not at all like a rapper. "Sure, you can come drink orange juice with me."

"Do ask people," Kame rallies before Tanaka can think too much. "I don't mind. I'll enjoy the company."

Tanaka gives him a last appraising look. At least he's stopped asking if everything is really all right. "I'm sure Shota is looking forward to speaking to us," he says.

He turns to the left, where Shota and the Korean man are casually hanging out, keeping the fact that they're essentially waiting fairly low key. At Tanaka's inviting gesture, Shota comes bounding over, touching the blue hair with a curious smile. When he bends down to Tanaka's ear, Kame can just about catch something like 'glad you're back'.

The Korean bows politely to Kame and of course, he'd have been staying around for him. It's not like Kame advertised the fact that he doesn't consider himself safe for company these days. His name is Jaejoong, and he is very attractive, tall with dark hair and very dark eyes… and now Kame remembers considering him in the online catalogue once. He smiles and offers a small bow back; there has to be a way to indicate 'not tonight' without making it feel like an out-of-hand rejection, and he's going to work at it. He remembers feeling surer of himself and fluent in all the little signs, not too long ago.

"I brought you something," Tanaka says to Shota, who breaks into a grin despite Tanaka's modest tone.

"From your trip?" he slinks into the corner of the two-seater that's close to Tanaka's armchair. The lingering look he gives him suggests Tanaka really could have picked a more approachable seat. But the night is young.

"Yeah. Just a little thing. I'll show you later, if that's all right?"

"That is very all right."

A slow start then. Maybe Tanaka really isn't in any hurry, or maybe is being considerate for Kame's sake. Kame crosses his legs the other way and tries to look not so self-conscious when he picks up his orange juice.

Jaejoong, sitting beside Shota, is watching him with a subtle edge of interest. But then he turns to Tanaka. "You travelled, if I may ask?"

So Kame gets to hear half the story Tanaka just told him again, not that that's a problem. Nothing that spares him from having to come up with proper small talk himself is a problem tonight. But he tries to take part in the conversation and make relevant comments here and there, just so he doesn't spoil the mood.

Tanaka is in the middle of doing an impression of JFK airport security when Kame lets his gaze wander again, and now it's Takuya-san he sees at the bar, relaxed and stylish, and his heart does a little skip.

And it's silly, it's not like Takuya can see into his mind and know what he's been doing, what sort of client he's turned into. Silly, because Kame doesn't even need an excuse why he's not up to asking for his time because Takuya would not be in the lounge if he didn't have an appointment here—

—and by the time Takuya turns his way and sees him, he's got himself together enough to manage a bow and a smile, and look like there's nothing wrong with him at all. He's almost sure.

Takuya looks like he's really, honestly pleased to see him, swirling his longdrink glass around in a quirky greeting, which doesn't look odd on him at all, only charming. Kame's hands feel clammy, and he gives another nod, hoping there won't be a question on Takuya's face. When there isn't, he looks away as if released, feels the relief trickle in.

Tanaka has segued into another story, as if he knows Kame isn't up to bringing his own anecdotes, and Kame shoots him a grateful smile. He nods a few times at the descriptions of kosher Chinese food before his glance skitters away again over familiar glitter and the people in their fine clothes, mindless chatter, and then it all freezes around him because Jin is back, Jin is here now.

The room narrows, moves in to almost nothing. Nothing but an endless second, Jin still and breathless.

Oh god, Kame shouldn't have come. Maybe he's just proving it; what an asshole he is. Coming here, ever again. Because Jin is still, and breathless, over there, in a different suit and with his eyes dark; so dark.

Jin blinks, and bows. Hello. Jin is saying hello.

Kame rises, because at least he's not slow on top of everything, and he doesn't care who sees, he can return that greeting and do it properly.

He makes it longer, makes it more; makes it clear that he means it even if he knows it'll look strange for a client, and when he raises his head again, Jin seems to hesitate, and after a moment gives an uncertain nod.

And that's it, Kame should sit down now. Not draw attention to things Jin doesn't want him to draw attention to. Jin ducks his head and reacts to someone saying something and… okay. He can sit down, and Jin can know he'll just stay here and drink his orange juice and try not to be an asshole.

Kame pretends not to notice that everyone at the table, not just Tanaka, is giving him intrigued looks. Jaejoong and Shota will stop soon enough; it's not polite. And if his skin prickles as if it's feeling the surprise of Takuya-san and whoever else may have been paying attention, it'll pass. He takes another sip of orange juice and asks whether anybody in their group would like some snacks, and settles back to witness the ensuing mock fight between Shota and Tanaka about the benefits and drawbacks of vegetarianism.

The escort who spoke to Jin has asked him to a table where two almost identically dressed clients are already sitting with the tall porn star, Junnosuke. Perhaps those men are new and being introduced to a few different types. Jin is easily the most beautiful of them. His hair is perhaps a little shorter than it was, and the way it frames his face is flawless, makes him look soft and a little untouchable all at once.

He starts when Jin looks across, catches him looking. He braces himself for annoyance or disgust or fear, but Jin merely holds his eyes for a brief moment, then turns back to the men he is talking to.

Kame has to stop acting like an obsessed freak.

He wants to apologize to Jin; he has to. But he also has to leave him alone, and for the first time he wonders, a little hysterically, if he should maybe have sent him a letter.

He returns his attention to the conversation; shrugs faintly, an all-purpose apology, when Tanaka gives him a wondering look again. They're talking about fish now, and Kame manages to add something about buying local, manages not to think of where Jin is sitting.

The waiter brings them the food. While Kame asks Jaejoong a possibly stupid question about Korean cooking, he finally manages to slip in that he only came by to have a few drinks with Tanaka, and confirm his meaning with a look. He's irrationally nervous, until Jaejoong makes an easy-going comment about Tanaka's company and adds a phrase about future times; he's taking it well.

Jin is still at that table, and he's smiling; like everyone here. Hard to tell what it means when he can only look furtively and shouldn't look at all.

"Dancing is good for the body, too," Shota is saying, to them all, but he gives Tanaka's body special consideration. "It's good exercise."

"Breakdance is good," Tanaka agrees.

"I like tango," Jaejoong says. "They all think it is weird."

"Just because you use us as your guinea pigs," Shota says with no real protest.

Jaejoong grins. "But you picked it up very quickly." When he turns back to Kame, the grin has mellowed into a smile. "Though I admit that dancing with my colleagues is not my first choice."

"I'm afraid I'm more into baseball," Kame says, with a smile of his own. Future times. He shies away from the thought. Future times, when he'll just let this run its course; some attractive man who likes him well enough, likes his money and thinks he's a good deal. A companionable evening and then a night upstairs. He did that for years. It was good.

He reaches for his orange juice. Jaejoong asks him which team he supports. Kame gives a diplomatic answer, leans more casually, smiles again. His whole body feels numb.

But he can't look again now, he's not going to be some creepy stalker who can't leave Jin alone…

Jin is standing up. Kame's caught the movement, Jin is standing up… making his goodbyes. And when he starts to walk he's looking straight at Kame.

Kame blinks at his orange juice. Caught again. Maybe he should leave. Really leave, now.

"I hope you won't hold the Beijing Olympics against me," Jaejoong says with a charming smile, and Kame says, "Of course not," and then it's Jin's voice, "Good evening," right next to them.

Oh.

The glass rattles when Kame sets it down hurriedly to stand again, maybe Jin wants… he doesn't know what Jin wants but he shouldn't be standing while Kame—

"Sorry if I'm interrupting," Jin says. He looks quite calm, even when he's looking at Kame. "I saw you on TV. I was glad you made it home okay. It's been a while since we've seen you here."

"I keep complaining, too," Tanaka says from the side, sounding pleased and vindicated.

Kame ignores him, ignores… everything but Jin who is standing there saying… what is Jin saying? Surely he wasn't worried that Kame—

"Well, it's been a busy time," Jin says easily to Tanaka, and okay, he wouldn't have been worried, he knew, so what is he saying?

"Hey, do you want to sit down?" Tanaka seems pleased with the second chance to hook Kame up tonight. "We can move—"

"Thank you," Jin says, and his eyes and smile are on Kame, not Tanaka. "I just came by to say hello. And see how you were." There's a final little nod.

"Can we talk?" Kame blurts out. "I mean, just briefly, somewhere…" He looks around quickly, it's got to be public, very public, but they need to be alone. "Just over there? It won't take long."

Jin… Kame doesn't know if that's surprise on his face. Something subtle and restrained.

"I won't keep you long," he repeats, and when he's finally standing he feels like a bully again because Jin can hardly turn away from a waiting guest— or maybe he can, maybe that would be good. Only it wouldn't be because Kame has to—

"Of course," Jin says, stepping back so Kame can get through the space between Jaejoong and his own armchair.

Kame feels his heart pound with every step he takes after Jin. It's Friday and the place is crowded everywhere, but eventually they end up at the bar, out of earshot of the bartender, and there's a silent moment while a waiter loads his tray, too close for… this.

Kame looks around uncertainly. He doesn't want this to be something he's saying in passing, as if they're chatting while waiting for drinks.

"Is it okay… just for a moment?" He gestures, and when Jin's look sweeps over the high bar chairs, he adds hurriedly, "We can stand, too."

Jin slides into a chair. "Sitting works for me."

The bartender sees them right away and starts to move over, but Jin waves him off. Kame takes a breath.

Jin speaks first. "I didn't want to put you on the spot," he says, again with that calm. "It just seemed like you might be uncertain. About the club." He shrugs faintly, almost slowly. "And there's no need to be. You should come here when you want to. I just wanted you to know that." His shoulders rise again, that awkward little movement Kame knows by now.

Right. What… So. That's good, Jin is— Jin isn't scared, that's very good, that's excellent. Jin wanted to talk to him, Kame didn't corner him, all good.

All good.

Uncertain.

Kame bites his lips on a nervous laugh. It won't do to laugh. "Yeah, you're… Yeah. Thank you." He manages to meet Jin's eyes again. "That's kind of more than… thanks. I was kind of. Well." As one is when one has been what Kame's been. "Look," he says.

Still the calm. It's like nothing here worries him. He's studying Kame and it's unsettling, but he's only waiting for Kame to say what he dragged them here for.

So Kame says it again. "Look. I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry. I've got to apologize for… not just for that."

And suddenly there's a glimmer of surprise, and it's frightening, because now it feels like he can fuck up all over again.

"I know you… offered," he says quickly, and his mouth is dry, but he remembers Jin's insistence. "I still shouldn't— I still did it because… It was really vile of me."

Jin says nothing this time, but he's taking a breath, a slow one. Not looking away.

"And all that stuff before. That I did to you. I was really, really out of line and… I'm so sorry." His voice almost hurts. It's not relief; it's just right. "I think I went kind of crazy."

Jin's mouth— that's a smile now. A reluctant one. "I thought you were kind of crazy, too."

Kame laughs, a weird, painful little sound, but Jin's smile smoothes out. "Yeah. You probably had a better perspective there than I did. God, I am so sorry." He breathes twice more, gets his voice to calm down. "I'd apologize properly," he says then, bluntly. He wants to; he's burning to. "But I didn't tell Ootomo and… I don't want you getting questions you don't want to get. " And he's looking for a clue, for—

"Yeah," Jin says, and now he looks a bit embarrassed. "That's okay. I… get it, it's fine. Thank you."

""Thank you." Kame swallows hard and tries to stop the thoughts from rushing in. "I don't even know…" All the things he did to Jin. He can't get it out of his head and he can't stop wondering why… "I don't know why you did that," he says in a small voice, "why you let me."

And maybe that was bad, because Jin's face is clouding over, those eyes are looking troubled.

"Sorry," Kame says quickly, pulling his hands into his lap even though he did nothing with them. "It's not— I shouldn't— I won't talk about it again, I promise."

Jin's shaking his head. "It's okay." He shrugs, but it looks very considered. "I don't really… well." When he meets Kame's eyes, it's just as considered. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course I thought…" He shrugs again. "I didn't think that would happen. Like that."

Not like that. Not with Jin so scared he couldn't move. Kame blinks away, stares at the polished metal base of Jin's barstool. "I'm really sorry."

"That's not… yeah. I get it," Jin says. Kame doesn't, not really; and it's no excuse, even if Jin thought he could handle it. But maybe he can leave Jin alone now.

"I saw you on TV," Jin says again. "So I knew you were okay. I just thought, you seemed kind of shaky too. Afterwards." He looks a bit sheepish, his chair turning just so. Now he's the one looking at the floor.

"It was okay," Kame says quickly, his face still burning. And then he wonders why he's trying to evade; why isn't he telling Jin the truth? Jin shouldn't think he got it wrong then. "I had to stop for… you know," he amends. "To get my head together. On the way back. But then I was…" He shrugs, breathes out. It feels better with that honesty between them. "Okay."

Jin nods, not much, but like he understands. "That's good." He seems to think, and then his head comes up and he's looking at Kame again. "Good," he repeats, and it sounds conclusive, like something got settled and he can get up now; and Kame's not going to stop him, Kame's just going to sit here and feel grateful he got this chance at all.

And there is another waiter, almost predictably, but this one's faster, thank god, because there's one last thing he has to make clear before Jin goes away. "I also wanted you to know…" He has to square his shoulders and Jin has gone calm again, calm and attentive. "That's not going to happen again. I pressured you into all those… I won't try to get dates with you again. I promise."

Jin nods slowly. "Yes," he says. "I got that. It's okay."

"Okay."

Hard to tell if Jin really believes him, when he looks reserved and guarded now. But maybe it's better if Jin's still wary, maybe better if two of them are keeping an eye on him.

"So what are you going to do now?" Jin asks, taking Kame by surprise. "I mean, I saw your film wrapped up, and the other thing. And…" Jin's chair shifts again. "Tatsuya isn't in, by the way. I thought… well. He's out, though."

Kame's not sure he followed that, but his brain feels slow and a little numb. He's sitting here with Jin and Jin is talking to him and listening to him, and he got to apologize. No wonder he's missing turns, with all that relief. He tries a smile, hopes it doesn't look wrong. "I only came for a drink tonight," he says. It's really useful, too; he's not sure he's up to thinking proper thoughts about sleeping with escorts right now.

"Orange juice," Jin says, with a slow nod.

"Yeah," Kame says. "Wild night out." He smiles when Jin does, and suddenly it seems like maybe it wouldn't be so wrong; maybe Jin won't misunderstand.

"Jin," he starts, and then somehow he's uncertain again, a disorienting rush and he's nervous. And Jin's talking to him like one talks to a client and… "Jin-san," he starts over, and that feels better, even when Jin blinks in surprise. "I was just wondering if… if you'd like to join us over there. For orange juice. Or something else." Something really, really expensive, if Jin wants. "Something you'd like. Just to talk."

And now Jin looks cautious – so cautious it hurts. But that's normal, logical, only to be expected, and what was Kame thinking, anyway?

The pause stretches, so long that Kame is just about to apologize again and do what he should have done, leave Jin alone at last… when Jin smiles.

"I'd like to," he says. "And… you don't need to get more formal now."

Kame even gets that, but it's not about formal. "I just…"

But Jin's taken a step, because Kame invited him to sit and he said yes and that's great, and maybe now's not the time to have an endless conversation about names.

"Jin's fine," Jin says, and that's that.

He waits for Kame to take the lead this time. That's even good, because Kame can try to look a bit more competent, and it also means he gets a chance to realize he doesn't want Jin to feel crowded if he's coming to sit with them.

It doesn't mean he's actually clever enough to think of an introduction until they're there, and Tanaka is giving them both an intrigued look.

"I've asked Jin to join us," he says – mumbles, because there's the obvious implication and it sounds presumptuous even if he doesn't mean it like that.

But Tanaka welcomes Jin, and the escorts are smiling, and that's all good.

"Please," Kame says and gestures at the empty armchair. "Please have a seat." He snatches up his orange juice.

Jin regards him for a still moment. Then he nods, sitting down slowly, still watching Kame… who feels thoroughly relieved, and only then realizes that he's standing in the middle of a seating group with nowhere to sit.

"What do you say," Tanaka says to Shota in a stage whisper, "got room for me there?"

He stands up to Shota's happy invitation, and then there's some of shuffling of legs and rescuing of glasses, giving Kame time to feel less stupid, and when everything has settled down again, Tanaka is half beside, half underneath Shota on the couch, with Shota's hand on his thigh making sure there's really no space wasted between them, Jaejoong is looking amused in his shrinking corner, and Jin is examining everybody's glasses with a small smile.

"Funny how that works out," Tanaka says, winking at Kame in his former seat and wriggling his arm behind Shota's back.

"Um," Kame says, and to Jin, "would you like something to drink?"

"Beer, please," Jin says. "If that's all right."

"Of course." Beer's cool. Beer's totally cool.

"So you two know each other?" Tanaka asks just as Kame is signalling the waiter.

Kame lets his arm sink with sudden awkwardness. Maybe something else he should have thought about. Asked Jin about. "We've, uh—"

"Kamenashi-san and I have had a few dates," Jin says. That calm is back, and he's nodding subtly at Tanaka.

Okay. Good that one of them has a working brain and sticks with what's bound to be common knowledge anyway. Keep it simple.

"I see," Tanaka says, sounding like he's also seeing fun in Kame's immediate future; but he doesn't prod any further when Kame just shakes his head.

The waiter comes and Kame orders beer for Jin and another rum and coke for Shota; Jaejoong declines, pointing to his half-filled wineglass.

"So, Jin," Tanaka says. There's a hint of hesitation that says he's testing if he remembered the name right, and it hits Kame for the first time that he never wondered if Tanaka and Jin ever…

But clearly not; and it makes sense, he's not Tanaka's type, but oh, that could have been uncomfortable. For everybody.

"Nice to get to know you a little better," Tanaka is saying. "We haven't had much chance to talk."

"It hasn't worked out that way, no," Jin agrees. "I think I was introduced to you by Danny in my second week. I think your work is very interesting."

"You like rap?"

"I like all kinds of music," Jin says, to Tanaka this time.

Just like he likes all kinds of food, Kame thinks. The beer's a definite, though. And the waiter's here, and Kame is glad he's got something he can handle, directing the right glasses to the right people while Shota says he sometimes makes up his own lyrics listening to rap because he can only understand half of it. It sends Tanaka off on a mock-lecture, and Jin takes his beer and nods at Kame, and Kame tries not to clutch his orange juice too helplessly when he smiles back. Jin takes a sip and tunes in to rap rules for beginners. Good. All good.

Forgetting the lyrics. Tanaka is telling a story, and Kame almost finds it charming, which is perplexing because people forgetting their lines is never funny. Jin looks relaxed. And then Tanaka has proudly brought out a colourful card proclaiming him to be the 'Kappa rappa', and is disconcerted at having to explain to Jaejoong what a Kappa even is.

"You have to be very lucky to see one," he finishes his short description, and there's protest from Shota.

"Unlucky, more like. They try to drown you." He makes a face. "Or worse."

"Only if you don't know how to treat them. You just need a cucumber---"

"I always have one of those on me," Jin says with a straight face.

"Well, you should," Tanaka insists, and writhes when Shota attempts to 'look for his cucumber'. "Not here, children, not here. Kame is afraid of Kappa."

"I'm not," Kame protests, not sure if he's blushing.

"You refused to go on my Kappa hunt with me!"

"I was busy." He feels very lame all of a sudden. He'd forgotten he was supposed to be part of the conversation.

"Hmm, you were afraid of something." Koki is grinning widely, and Kame feels close to thumping him. "Was it dragons?"

"Heights," he says. At least he knows about the blushing now. "I used to be afraid of heights."

"Oh, that's right, you got all cured in the circus!"

"Circus?" Jin asks quietly.

"I— got that drama part about the hospital owner's son who wants to be a famous trapeze artist." He grimaces as he shrugs; it did take some getting used to and he doesn't want it to sound like the thinks people should just get over themselves.

"I used to be afraid of flying," Koki says, sounding understanding. "Now I'm more afraid of airport security. Jin, what about you, you afraid of anything?"

"I, uh." Jin fiddles with his glass and seems just as unprepared for the question as Kame was. "I don't know," he says vaguely, takes a little too long. "I don't like bugs much."

"Cockroaches," Jaejoong shudders. "They're the worst. You step on them in the night and they crunch."

Kame ignores Shota's cockroach-related squeals, watches Jin stare into his lap as shy as ever. He wonders if the bug thing is true and Jin was reluctant to give it away with Kame here, or if he needed time to make it up.

In the end Jaejoong claims they're going to give him nightmares with their bug theories, and says a friendly goodbye. Tanaka and Shota are in a discussion about whether ushi-oni is really a spider in the first place, and Kame is almost surprised when Jin mentions something that sounds like a manga in cautious support of the spider side. He cites something else that doesn't sound familiar at all, but Kame's okay not getting it; he's distracted anyway, and a little fascinated to watch Jin relax and just be part of a conversation.

Shota and Jin disagree about whether ushi-oni would be beaten by Spiderman, and Tanaka speculates about whether what Spiderman does can really be called flying.

"Probably not if you asked Superman," Jin hazards. "Well, Batman…" Then he thinks, or waits for some signal from Tanaka, or both. He looks different when he concentrates. "He'd probably say it makes no difference."

Kame wonders if Jin really likes American superheroes, and how much, when he has an opinion like that. Wonders what he knows about Jin at all, when he never bothered to pay attention to what Jin might like and not like besides—

Jin squeezing his eyes shut, straining away from Kame between his legs, Jin falling apart at Kame's touch, tight tight heat and the thrill of watching and pushing on and knowing he's got him now—

Kame puts his glass down, tries to pull back quietly, sink into the leather. He feels jittery, nauseous, and Jin is smiling at a comment about butlers and insisting— insisting, because he isn't afraid, and he's beautiful when he's intent like that and when he's smiling, and there's a smile even for Kame, and Kame all but snatches his glass back and concentrates hard on the colour orange because he doesn't know what else to do with how that makes him feel.

He works on getting it under control again. By the time he's stopped feeling weak, they've somehow ended up talking about the problems of staying incognito as a rap star. Shota's just commenting that bat suits are so last year.

"What do you really do when you don't want to be recognized, Tanaka-san?" Jin asks, and Tanaka grins.

"I sew my own cape and mask. There's a phone booth in Shibuya with my name on it."

"Where do you carry it, under your clothes?" Shota enquires, and gives a gap in Tanaka's black button-down shirt just the tiniest lift.

"That's top secret," Tanaka says, but his voice has dropped, and he's not stopping Shota's fingers dipping past the fabric.

"Glad I get to find out later," Shota says, and Tanaka says something more general about sunglasses that invites Kame and Jin back into the conversation.

Jin says sunglasses must be annoying indoors, and then he turns to Kame. "How do you deal with it, Kamenashi-san? It must be pretty difficult when everybody knows who you are."

Kame has another moment of staring, even though it's not a difficult question. Even though Jin is looking at him with nothing but friendly interest. "I… do the sunglasses thing, too. Scarves, hats. The whole mummy look." For some reason he's flushing again. "And I avoid places where I think it'll be a problem," he adds. "If I can."

Jin nods. "It must be nicer when you're abroad," he says. "Or is it the same?"

"I don't think anyone's ever recognized me abroad," Kame manages. "I'm not really that internationally famous."

Jin smiles again; it seems almost encouraging. "At least you know you can still get a break from it all somewhere."

"Yeah. Yeah, that's good. If I want."

"Speaking of… breaks." When Kame blinks over to Tanaka, Tanaka is scratching his ear. "Or, um, resting in general." Next to him, Shota gives a little wriggle of anticipation. "If I can leave you to your fate, Kame…"

Kame is slow again, unease spreading low in his gut, but he should have seen it coming, shouldn't be all helpless and surprised. He nods, "Sure," takes care he does sound sure of himself, and tells himself Jin can leave, can get some… do some work. Jin knows that.

"And hey," Tanaka says when he rolls to his feet, Shota following suit and immediately clinging to his side. "Maybe your fate's a fun one tonight after all." He winks, at Kame, gives Jin a meaningful—

Oh god. "No," Kame says fast, with his skin going cold. He looks at Jin and shakes his head. "We're just— Jin just agreed to a drink. Just for a chat. I'll be going home soon."

"I hope you enjoy your evening," Jin says, focussing on Tanaka, and Kame hopes Jin really knows this wasn't Kame's idea, Tanaka's just joking, just being himself, it's not serious.

Kame gets it together long enough to wish them good night, and maybe Tanaka's too tipsy, or he's watched Kame being strange for too long, to do more than raise an eyebrow before letting Shota lead them away. They look pleased, pleased and companionable, as they go get themselves a key.

They are smiling at each other and Shota is saying something about finding Tanaka's cape, as they go get themselves a key.

"I meant it," Kame says quickly, as soon as they're out of earshot, and now he feels guilty that Jin ended up in a situation where it's just the two of them, again. He didn't want that, it's got to be creepy. "I won't try to make you…" So many things. He can't finish that sentence. "You don't have to stay, either," he finishes helplessly.

Jin's remains sitting, with a third of his beer still in front of him, and he's making no move to drink up.

"I know that," he says. He looks at Kame thoughtfully, like he's sorting through something in his head. "I'm not worried," he says slowly, as if testing out the words for himself. "Do I look worried?"

Kame shakes his head faintly. "But you should be. I— after I— you know. All that."

There's silence. For a moment, Jin looks like he's about to laugh. Then he doesn't. Two of his fingers tap against the bottle. He looks at them as they tap again. "I'm not worried. If someone thinks I'm on a date with you," he says, and then, in a rush, "or if you really wanted one. I wouldn't be worried." When he looks at Kame again, there is a little red in his cheeks.

Kame's not sure he follows. Jin— what? Why? How would Jin… really?

"What?" is the bit that comes out.

Jin shrugs. "I believe you. I think it would be different." He's frowning at the bottle.

"It would… you have no idea," Kame says, his voice wobbling oddly. He's sitting so straight and so wired it's a miracle he's not spraining anything. "It would be so totally different." And he has to stop himself from picturing it, running off with the thoughts that he could make Jin feel good and they'd be good and it could feel right, and he can't do this now. He's already sounding like— like he's already decided and that's not what he meant, he was clear and he wasn't lying to Jin. "I mean, I still. I wasn't. I meant it. Just drinks."

"I know," Jin says, shifting awkwardly. "I'm just saying. So you know."

"Oh." Kame swallows. He doesn't ask why. He doesn't get to ask why. He gets to figure out how maybe to be decent about this. "Oh," he says again. He needs a bit longer for the figuring out.

"I think I'd like that," he says first, because Jin should know that, and when Jin looks at him, a little dazed but not scared, he thinks his head is going to explode. "Sorry, just. A moment." He laughs breathlessly and Jin smiles too, and he goes for the first thing that comes into his head, which turns out to be, "This— this is really nice orange juice."

Jin eyes his glass, almost empty and smeared with fingerprints. "I don't think they're special oranges," he says, very seriously, as if this is a matter worth investigating. "Maybe it's a really good squeezy machine."

"One of those… is it a… some chop chop, whirl whirl kind of thing?"

Jin is gracious enough not to laugh at him. He's biting his lip, thinking. Whatever fragile thoughts they are. Then looking up. "Whirl whirl, slurp slurp." And he grins, and tries to hide it, and he's just— stunning. All of this. Stunning.

"The cook will be pleased to hear it, though," Jin takes it up when Kame doesn't. "Approved by Kamenashi-san. He might want to put a little picture of you next to it on the menu."

"Or a turtle. I could work myself through the juice menu and give turtle ratings. Like Michelin, only not." It's helping. Not the fruit juice, but the talking. He's feeling more in control of his head.

"They make tires, too, did you know that? For cars," Jin says. "Apart from the restaurant star things."

Kame had heard of it vaguely. "For motor racing?"

"Yes," Jin says, "and also normal ones. They're supposed to be good." He's radiating enthusiasm, shining with it, and Kame feels scruffy just looking at him; creased and crumpled – he feels like that all over, it must show in his clothes. His hair wasn't even right when he left the house. He smiles anyway.

"I don't know much about cars," he says. "Just, you know, how to find one I like to drive." It's all kinds of lame… god, it's worse than lame because cars, Jin knows his car, Jin's been— "I mean…"

"You have a nice car," Jin says earnestly. He doesn't look worried. Not worried. "It's so quiet, and it's got really good suspension."

Okay. Okay, this… okay. "Look, I…" Kame falters. "Are you sure? You were serious?"

Jin's slow blink tells him Jin knows at once that this isn't about liking Kame's car.

"Yes, I'm sure," Jin says, and he's not looking away.

Kame is glad he's sitting down, because everything is kind of flickering. "Then, I… if you're really sure… I don't know my schedule yet, I didn't bring… anything. But if you don't mind, I'd like to call Ootomo, maybe tomorrow, and we could find a time? That is good for you and for me and… maybe here? Would the club be better?"

They're talking details, making a date. Kame has to consider what's best, what Jin would want. Jin won't want to be alone with him where that happened. That, and other stuff.

Jin, tied down and scared, and Kame didn't even let him see. And he'd felt so good. And Jin knew he was crazy even then and it makes no difference Kame didn't hurt him, none of his excuses make a difference, Jin was right to be terrified.

And Jin looks thoughtful now; a little less sure.

"The club would be fine," Kame says, his voice dying off at the end. "Or nothing. You really don't have to."

He can't read Jin, what he's thinking. All he can do is wait.

"I think we can go to your apartment," Jin decides. "You prefer it, right? I mean, normally. For dates."

"I like it. But—"

"Then it's fine." Jin looks almost stubborn, and then he softens, shrugs. "Private is nice."

Nice.

"Okay," Kame says. Breathes. Resists the urge to mention cars or orange juice. "Okay."

Jin nods and has more beer. The bottle is almost empty now.

And they're really… really. A proper date. A nice date. He can get to know Jin, they can take their time…

Except. He should ask Jin about that, too.

"I normally… would you prefer a comfort?" It sounds cheap, cheap and crude, and he wants to wince.

But Jin's not taking it badly. Jin is thinking again.

He tilts his head in a way that looks almost like he relents. "I think… yes. A comfort would be good. We can take it easy."

"Yeah. Yes. Fine. That's great."

Jin stays thoughtful for a moment longer before he nods. "I look forward to it."

Kame doesn't question it. Once he starts questioning this it might all… he can't start. He watches Jin drain his bottle and takes his cue, finishes the last of the three-turtle orange juice.

Jin looks at his hands, then casts a light glance out over the club. "I'm afraid I should…"

It's very busy now; Kame doesn't know how he managed to miss how noisy and packed it got. "Of course," he says quickly. "I'm sorry I kept you back." And only bought him a cheap beer, when Jin could have had champagne or spent the time earning actual money.

Jin's shaking his head as they both rise. "I wasn't in any rush. And I'm glad we got to talk."

"Me too," Kame says hurriedly. "I'm really glad. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Thank you for the drink." Jin stops a moment longer; like a question—

"I'll call then?" Kame says. He's still feeling weird just thinking about it, Jin here now, and sometime next week… "Tomorrow?"

"Yes. I have Thursdays off, and a regular Saturday appointment. The rest… well, it depends, but it can be flexible."

Kame can be flexible too. Do his best to be. He'll work something out for sure. "Great. That's great."

There's a still moment where they just look at each other, as if they both don't quite know how they got here.

"Are you going home now?"

"Yes. Well, to the apartment. I don't— yes. Home. I'm going."

Jin gives a small nod. "Have a safe drive."

"Thanks. You—" He takes a deep breath and tries to stop sounding like he's drunk or on experimental drugs of some kind. "I hope you have a good evening," he says, and they say goodbye, and Kame doesn't look where Jin is going.

It's tempting when the attendant takes a moment to get his coat; just to sneak another look, make sure this really happened and he didn't fuck up tonight.

But he's not a creepy stalker and he doesn't want to know where Jin's sitting now anyway. He smiles at the man bringing him his coat and wishes him a good evening, too.

He didn't fuck up and he didn't scare Jin. He's getting a chance to do it better; maybe get to know Jin better, too.

He doesn't understand it, at all; but he's grateful.

He gets in his car and it swallows all sound, and for a moment he just sits. He's nervous about tomorrow already. Nervous and maybe a bit ridiculous, with the way his heart is beating. But nervous and giddy is better than what that other thing was. What he was.

Jin is up there, somewhere, and he's not scared or angry. He believes it can be different.

Kame blinks out into the gloomy grey parking garage and wants to smile.

He puts the key into the ignition, and the motor hums into action. Gently, because his car is nice and quiet. And has really good suspension.

His face feels warm when he pulls out of his spot.

~

Chapter 28

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