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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 29

 

Saturday 06 December

Jin bounces down the stairs from the client floor to their own, showered and styled after his assignment with Yamatani, minty toothpaste fresh in his mouth. The usual easy date and now it's almost ten, and he might just go home early because he's done damn well this week already; the usual appointments with Yamatani and Karube, Sakurai back for a comfort on Friday, and three days ago his second date with Kame, which earned him more than the three comforts this week taken together.

It went as well as can be expected, he thinks. Everything they do still seems like a question with several wrong answers and he's not sure which of them finds it more exhausting. He can't help being tense, and he gets the feeling Kame is worse but despite all that, it was still less fraught than their first date… the first one that counts. They'll get there, and it's no wonder that it'll take time, for both of them. Their next date's on Tuesday.

As soon as he's through the door on the staff floor he can feel something's up, a tension in the air. When he passes the elevator, the doctor who does their tests and who checked him out at the start is coming out of Konoe's office, closing the door firmly behind him. He nods at Jin but doesn't stop.

Jin doesn't linger, walks straight past Ootomo's door and to the break room.

"Something up?" he says before he even looks around; and then he does look around and sees that everybody's on the hard chairs or propped against furniture except for Danny, who's lying stretched out on the couch which normally sits three and waving at him sluggishly. He's got a dreamy smile on his face.

"I'm up, dude, and I'm so down with it, I'm all over it, that's what I am, know what I mean?" Then he giggles.

Jun and Masaki are shaking their heads in amusement. Jaejoong is looking glum.

"Is he okay?" Jin asks Jaejoong.

"I was okay," Danny says, "until I got in Konoe's office. And then I get pawed by that doctor with his filthy rubber gloves which don't feel nice at all, and then I get the fucking inquisition. 'Was there sucking? Was there fucking? Was nonconsensual intercourse engaged in while you were higher than a jumping kangaroo? How many fingers am I showing you, and where did I stick them yesterday?' Seriously, who wants to know?"

"Shut up," Jun says. "You're insufferable on drugs, I have no idea why anybody thought it—"

Danny? Drugs? "What the hell did you—"

Danny giggles and then he leers. Jin turns to the others. "He didn't… did he get caught—"

"Keep your pants on," Koichi says. "He didn't do drugs and he didn't get caught. Client roofied him, is all."

Is all?

"Fuck," Jin says, because god, clients; fucking clients. He finds a place to sit, on the floor against the fridge, something. "And?" What did he do to him, why did he drug him, how many fingers… god.

"And nothing. He noticed in time, locked himself in the bathroom, called it in. Ootomo sent Mikami. Rumour has it the worst of it hit when they were already in the car, and now Mikami is no longer speaking to him."

"I'm horny," Danny says petulantly. "Stuff makes you horny. Anybody got ten minutes to spare?" He turns on his side and flutters his pale eyelashes at Jaejoong. "Would you like to sleep with me?" he says in horrible Korean.

Jaejoong looks like he's regretting ever teaching any of them those lines. The others look relieved to be beyond Danny's current grabbing range.

Jin goes to sit on the couch, where Danny moves back a little to make room for him.

"I see someone's volunteering," Koichi notes crisply.

"I'm sitting down," Jin says. He turns to Danny, takes his hand in a firm grip. "You fondle me, you die."

"Awww," Danny whines, but after a bit of wriggling he settles. "'M feeling sick," he mutters, just loud enough for Jin to hear.

"Did you tell the doc?"

"Yeah, he gave me some shot, said it'll go away."

Jin nods. "Don't puke on me, either."

"'Kay." Danny curls in so Jin blocks the light from his eyes and falls silent.

"Who was it?" Jin asks of nobody in particular.

"That bald lawyer guy. Ogyuu."

Jin's never had him, even though he's been around since before Jin came. Used to order out, mostly. Jin's got a vague impression of a short, thin man with greying temples, drinking Rémy Martin and flirting forcefully with Danny and… Masaki. Taking Masaki to a room. Jin throws him a look. "Could you see this coming?"

"Idiot," Masaki shoots back. "You think I wouldn't have said?" He's got tea on the table in front of him but he's not drinking it. "Worst you could say is that Ogyuu's never showed much respect for his whore of the day, but hey…"

He shrugs. They all know that's not unusual.

"Weird, though," Koichi says, "that someone suddenly… it's not like Danny's not up for some creative fun when he's sober, unlike some others."

Jin knows he's meant by that; he knows it's less about his nonexistent kink repertoire than Koichi's resentment that Jin hasn't backed off to give him a chance with Kame. Jin also doesn't care.

"Some guys do it for the power," Masaki says.

"The power to watch Danny roll around giggling and speaking bad Japanese?"

"And worse Korean," Masaki concedes.

"We all know that guys get off on the strangest things," Jun comments sagely. "Anyway, not our problem any more."

"He will be kicked out," Jaejoong states with great satisfaction.

"And have to go back to the streets or some cheap whorehouse." Masaki looks pleased. They all kind of do. At least it can happen to clients, too.

"Any idea who referred him?" Koichi says.

"Old Handa," says Jun. "He'll get his fingers rapped but he'll be safe. He's been coming to the club forever, they won't kick him out over that."

There's a knock on the door; knocking means it's probably Ootomo.

"Yes," Jun calls out.

It's Ootomo right enough, looking pissy and short-tempered as he gives Jin a look. "How's he doing?"

"Sleepy," Jin says. "Horny, and maybe a bit queasy." He looks down at Danny's curls, which have started bobbing in a sort of affirmative fashion.

"He can't stay here overnight," Ootomo says. "If one of you guys will take him home and stay with him, I'll pay the cab fare."

"I can take him," Jaejoong says. "I don't live far away."

"Good." Ootomo purses his lips, thinking. "Let's assume you miss out on a relaxation by leaving early," he adds grudgingly. "I'll pay for that, too."

Good for Jaejoong. And good for Danny, to be taken home by somebody who doesn't just find this entertaining. Jin doesn't get how the other three can just laugh it off; it could happen to any of them. He hates reminders of how vulnerable they are even with club security, how they have no choice about going to these houses and dealing with whatever they find there.

Though it worked. Security worked, and Danny got out, and he'll be fine. Maybe that's what the others are looking at, because it's more constructive than dwelling on the ways in which this could have been so much worse.

Jin's glad he already decided not to take another client tonight. He doesn't think he'd be good company.

"I'll help you and Danny down," he says to Jaejoong. Ten complicated minutes later, the three of them are in a cab which is going to drop Jin at Shinbashi station before taking Danny and Jaejoong on to Kachidoki. Jaejoong is handling Danny's backpack and the keys, while Danny is slumped between them and humming out-of-tune melodies under his breath.

Sunday 07 December

"You left early last night," Yuuya says when Jin returns to the break room on Sunday evening. He's standing in front of the mirror with curling tongs Jin recognizes as Tatsuya's, twisting his hair into thick ringlets.

"Decided I was done," Jin says. "I made a lot this week. Didn't have to sit around for leftovers."

Yuuya nods slowly, tongs poised for attack on another strand of hair.

"Rest, right?" he says.

"Yeah."

Jin wishes Yuuya wouldn't look so thoughtful. He's got good reasons, but it brings up the questions and Jin's not doing so well with those.

"And three comforts," he adds. "So, well."

"Plenty," Yuuya nods. "I had some new guy last night. It was a comfort, but really late, he picked me up just as I was getting ready to leave. And he took the full three. By the time I finally got home, I think Taka-chan was getting ready to send out a search party – if not for me, then for food."

"Taka-chan?" Jin tries not to look too surprised by the familiarity. "You mean Takahisa-kun? You live together?"

Yuuya almost burns his fingers when he bursts into laughter. "No!" he says when he's recovered. "I mean, not exactly." He breaks into a grin again.

Jin doesn't mind. It keeps them away from more complicated thoughts.

"Taka-chan's my hamster," Yuuya says in the end. "I got her shortly after I started here. She's really cute." The laughing has turned into quiet giggles. "And likes to eat a lot."

Jin gets it. It's cute and kind of cheeky, and Jin tries to picture Yuuya feeding his hamster. He wonders what hamsters eat. "Does that work for you, with the job and all?"

"It's perfect," Yuuya says. "Taka-chan sleeps during the day when I'm away, and she's awake when I get home at night so we can play together."

"Where did you get her?"

"Oh, just a pet shop in the mall. She's not any special kind of hamster."

Jin didn't even know you could get special hamsters. "So she's… brown?" he ventures.

"Yeah, light brown." Yuuya looks at himself critically in the mirror. "I was thinking of having my hair done the same colour. It would be a little lighter than this."

"What's with the curls, anyway?" Jin asks.

"Some of the clients like to play with Danny's curls. I was just wondering if it might be a fun idea. Hey," Yuuya twists around, more focussed, "were you still here when they brought Danny in last night?"

Jin nods. "I left with him and Jaejoong."

"Ah, right," Yuuya says. "Last time I saw you was that time earlier in the lounge, when Nishikido-san and I were watching the match."

Jin remembers putting some space between them quickly. "You looked like you were having fun," he says.

"You should have come over when I waved. We weren't actually doing anything, and I know you kind of like him, too…"

"I don't really like watching soccer with clients." Jin feels weird saying it, but it's better than turning Yuuya down on lots of well-meaning invitations for future matches.

Yuuya looks bemused. "I find it pretty useful. They don't need so much attention because they're keeping track of the match. Makes the time pass more quickly, too."

"Hey," Jin says, and he manages a smile. "If it works for you, it works, that's great."

He wonders whether what they do works for Kame, who's always so careful now, when he never seemed the careful type even when he wasn't crazy.

The crazy is gone, like it was never there. Only sometimes Jin catches a way Kame has of looking at him, like he's searching for something and puzzled that he can't find it. When he sees Jin noticing, he just shakes his head and there's usually an apology, one that sounds like it's for more than just looking.

"—Junnosuke in the end," Yuuya is saying. "They both seem to get turned on by tax returns." He shrugs like he would about foot fetishists or cosplayers. "But he was only up for a relaxation anyway, and I got a comfort with Kei-chan instead, so that was all good."

"Kei-chan?" There's a theme here, but this is a client to boot.

"Uh…" Yuuya looks sheepish. "Koyama-sensei. Only he's so…" He shrugs. "Anyway, I don't call him that to his face. And I'm getting him trained up nicely, he doesn't need three invitations any more before he actually does stuff with you. And he's stopped blushing when he takes his clothes off."

Kame doesn't blush. Getting naked seems to be the one thing he's confident about when they go to bed. As for the rest… Jin knows he's got the brakes on, always; he notices the starts and stops of somebody who's used to doing stuff spontaneously trying not to. Three invitations could be where they're at, right now, if Kame didn't so carefully follow the roadmap they established for their sex that first time. He still asks once, and Jin's glad he does, even though his brain says this is stupid.

He remembers to nod for Yuuya, and then they both make for the door, ready for the lounge. Jin's got nothing booked, he'll just try his luck. It feels good not to have to be too worried by that. Things are easier.

With Kame, too, lots of things were lots easier; they actually managed to talk during dinner. But Kame was still careful to insist from the start that he didn't expect Jin to stay overnight, and careful at the end to let him get out well before the last train, cutting short their rest after less than four hours.

One round only. From what Jin's heard, clients usually get more out of rests.

"Want to check out Nakamaru and his buddies?" Yuuya says. Jin takes his first conscious look around the place, and he's got to admit that Yuuya has zeroed in on the best set of opportunities around. Only, Nakamaru…

"Really, he's not that bad." Yuuya has read his face correctly.

"I don't think we're compatible," Jin says.

"Maybe not for sex," Yuuya says, "but that's what his buddies are for. I'll take Nakamaru, we get on okay. Just come sit with us, he won't bite you."

That's easier, too. Jin produces a polite bow, Nakamaru and his friend acknowledge him with Yuuya and promptly invite them to sit, and when Nakamaru buys Yuuya a drink, Jin gets included in the invitation.

He makes sure to look amused by some of the man's jokes, and slowly, the atmosphere warms up in productive ways. Before he's noticed it, they're on a second round of drinks and Jin has some excited old businessman's thigh pressing against his side; when Nakamaru tells of life lessons learned when his conditioner was run over by a car, some of the businessman's drink ends up on Jin's suit and they decide they might as well freshen up in a room upstairs. Yuuya gives Jin a friendly little wave while Nakamaru hopes they will enjoy their conversation.

They both shower first, separately. After that, it gets pretty touchy-feely for a relaxation, but that's okay, the client knows what he wants, none of it is exceptionally unpleasant, and Jin's used to it. What's more unusual is that the guy wants the full hour, so after he's done they hang out a bit more, talk about the dangers of reckless driving, and Jin has a whisky to get the taste of come out of his mouth. He leaves the room after an hour, on the dot. All very correct.

It didn't feel like cutting it short, with Kame. They were done, too; they'd showered and sat all nice and warm on fresh sheets; they had time for another drink, to chat. About Tanaka, about Kame's delivery service, about tomatoes. Jin's drink was something Kame recommended when he noticed that Jin liked the dessert sweets; something like whisky except thicker and, yes, sweet indeed. And delicious. He licked the bottom of his glass when Kame turned around to send a call to voicemail.

The alcohol helps them both, Jin thinks. But he can see Kame is careful with it, and Jin never drinks more than the client.

They're both careful.

Funny to think sex is easier with some guy he's never talked to before tonight.

When he gets back to the lounge, Yuuya is still gone, and so's Nakamaru. Comfort, Jin thinks. Good for them.

Monday 08 December

Kame loses focus sometimes.

Day one of samurai boot camp is taking place in an austere little dojo out in Kokubunji, run by a team that specialises in training up TV people for flashy sword fights. Kame was on time despite needing fifteen minutes to find a parking space. He came dressed in plain jeans and a black sweater, barely a designer logo in sight, and his sports stuff is black and not too washed out. He listened faithfully to the introduction of the dojo and the assistants and a little bit of the history of swords, feeling reassured whenever Kurosawa-sensei mentioned something Kame knew already from films or had memorized from his books, nodding along to the sensei's personal philosophy.

Somewhere while staring at the various wooden training swords, he lost the thread.

"Have you done any other kind of martial arts, Kamenashi-san?" the sensei's assistant asks, and he snaps back in easily.

"No," he says, making a regretful face. "It is difficult to find time for a hobby like that, with my job." He is a little embarrassed, convinced they only need to take one look at him to see nine-year-old Kazuya swinging sticks around pretending to be serious and scary. On the other hand, most of the people who come here for the regular kendo classes probably didn't get the idea while baking cookies. Best if he gets over himself.

"Ah, so this isn't your first film?" Kurosawa-sensei asks with a pointedly kind look, and Kame smiles his best student smile and says no, only his first one involving swords.

This is the kind of guy who looks like mountains will move before he'll be impressed by twentysomething film stars. He's in his fifties, lean and wiry with an oddly old-looking face.

He hands Kame one of the wooden practice sword, making a point of watching just how Kame holds it. "The balance is important," he says. "Balance is everything; your sword, your body, your breath, your mind."

"Yes, I see," Kame says, not really having a clue, but the sword feels nice. He tracks the way it circles when he flexes his wrist.

He's thinking of Jin again.

It doesn't interfere with work, or with his other responsibilities. But it's there, little glimmers of their second date, the one that worked well again, a hazy shine of something finally going right threading through his days.

Kurosawa-sensei calls on the assistant, and together they show Kame a basic routine that looks impressive enough, and then they show him again with the intensity dialled up, so it can look impressive on film. The principle is familiar to Kame; the camera eats things, thinning them out. He stays attentive, mentally gearing up for the kind of work that can make you feel ridiculous if you watch yourself from the wrong perspective.

But before they teach him anything else, Kurosawa-sensei hands him a sword – a real one, with a blade so sharp "you'd hardly feel the cut," as he puts it, smiling a deep leathery smile. It rather focuses the mind.

"Go on, get a feel for it," he prods, and Kame obediently raises and lowers the thing a cautious few centimetres; wiggles it around a little. He thinks this is to frighten him. It's kind of working.

The guy nods generously, his eyes clear like the steel of the blade.

Kame squares his shoulders. He's not squeamish, but the thought of slicing up his instructors because he had to act cool really doesn't appeal.

"It feels very impressive," he says when he thinks a comment is expected, and lets the sword sink slowly towards the ground.

The instructor seems pleased with that, or with Kame's reluctant tone maybe, but it works either way. The assistant looks on in quiet encouragement, and Kame wonders how often he's watched the intimidation routine and where Kame is falling on the wimp spectrum. It's vaguely uncomfortable not to know what he's doing, and do it in front of an expert audience , but this is just the way it is. They're all here for work, instructed by the studio to teach or to learn, Kame's getting lessons with an accomplished professional, and at the end of the film that will be that.

He's glad when the sword in all its antique deadly glory is out of his hands. He nods, ready for the next step.

Midori surprised him this Saturday by dragging him to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and an exhibition on household cooking in the Edo period. It could only help to get a fuller picture, she'd said, and insisted he should get out of the house, where he'd spent two days holed up with books and the internet, researching his character's background.

"Do you prefer a bokken to a shinai for beginners, or is this just because of the movie?" Kame hazards, trying to put the weight of every book he's read so far into a sincere look. Then for the flash of a second he's convinced that he mixed up the terms after all, until the instructor's watchful Buddha impression cracks with a quirk of his mouth.

"You know something about kendo practice?"

"I have done a little reading," Kame says modestly. "This is completely new to me, and I think it's important to prepare."

The man nods sagely. The assistant, a man with black-rimmed glasses and hair dyed a cautious brown, gives Kame a shy smile that seems designed to slip past Kurosawa's notice. Kame notes it for later.

They insist he learn some real moves before they show him what will look good and authentic on camera. It sounds vaguely plausible, and he knows they're the experts and he's not. He can follow directions.

Tomorrow night he's seeing Jin again.

It seems fast when he looks at a calendar, because he knows there were longer gaps with Tatsuya and Takuya-san. But it feels right not to leave it too long. Everything's still new and tentative now that things work differently; now that they work. It's almost like they have catching up to do, and Kame is glad he doesn't have another week to worry or second-guess himself. Jin likes it better when Kame can string five words together without blushing, too.

They had more time on Wednesday than on their first date. Their first… their first real date. He's not forgetting the others, couldn't forget if he wanted to, not when the horrible details still ambush his mind at random. Two nights ago at ten, he had to stop in the middle of rinsing his coffee pot and almost called the club to apologize to Jin for that time with the wall and being pleased he made Jin come without caring for yes or no.

It helps him breathe easier to remember Jin knows it's different now, too.

The assistant gets him to swing the sword around in a routine that really does make Kame feel like he's seven and on a playground, and this can't possibly be the real thing because he doesn't feel in control of his moves at all. But his mentor seems confident.

His shoulders are feeling the strain by now, and his thin black t-shirt starts to cling under his arms. Kame likes that, though; it feels like progress, evidence of a serious effort. His feet tap smoothly on the mats. He gets an approving nod for holding his sword upside down dramatically.

It all still worked, all the things that worked the first time. He made sure Jin got home early too. Jin wouldn't ask for that, but Kame didn't want a rest so he could start a sex marathon; he just wanted more time. Time to talk and to feel relaxed, and to do it all properly.

Even now, he doesn't dwell on the sex much. He doesn't want it to feel like some jerk-off fantasy – and it isn't, not with how easily he gets worried and how much he still has to ask.

But Jin didn't hate it; Jin was fine with Kame doing the things Jin likes again, and Jin looked really beautiful.

It was so nice to have that. It'll get nicer still when they know each other better and Jin will know that Kame doesn't expect a seductive show or wants Jin to feel cold just for the pretty display.

"How long have you been working with Kurosawa-sensei?" Kame asks while they're taking a break, sprawled on the floor with a water bottle each. Kurosawa himself is outside talking on the phone. His ringtone is the portentous sound of a temple drum.

The assistant seems hesitant, as if he's surprised Kame's not sitting in a corner being unapproachable. "I think it's been five years," he says. "I like the teaching. I'm Nishibashi, by the way."

"The people who come for sports, or the clueless actors?" Kame asks, smiling.

Nishibashi grins, though he tries to hide it. "Actually, the actors make for a nice change," he admits. "It's usually not as high-profile as you and your movie, with the people who come here. But I kind of like seeing it on TV later, you know? And go 'ah, I taught him that!'"

"Yes, 'and this is the one where he always fell on his face'?" Kame suggests, and they laugh.

"I don't know if that works for girls," Nishibashi says.

"I'm sure it works, it makes you sound really cool," Kame says. Then he frowns with deliberate thoughtfulness. "Of course, it'll make me sound really uncool, so I'd better try not to do that."

Nishibashi is shaking his head like the idea of uncool Kame is the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard, but he's not starstruck. It's a good atmosphere.

They talk about the schedule this week; Kame is alone today but on Thursday he'll start training with his co-star, a quiet guy in his thirties who's playing his first villain role as Kame's antagonist and who is a good deal taller than Kame.

Midori teased him about that as they were looking over the exhibits on Saturday, and they almost attracted attention when he poked her in the ribs after one particular comment about platform shoes.

That had turned out a very nice afternoon. They strolled through the exhibitions in refreshing peace, Kame's hat and sunglasses doing their job, and afterwards he took Midori out for an early dinner. He'd missed talking to her; just talking, without worrying. The museums were good for that, and when she wasn't teasing him, Midori had fun speculating about the lives of samurai wives.

Nishibashi has a girlfriend who's into martial arts herself. He sounds shy when he says it, as if Kame will find that objectionable. Kame finds her admirable, though, and they chat for a bit, very companionably and easily, and Kame never gets lost enough not to know where they are in conversation.

But he's got Jin on his mind. Jin's weight on his arm after, almost sleepy. Jin under a sheet, finally relaxed and choosing warm feet over some dutiful exhibition. The next date, and what they'll pick for dinner.

Then Kurosawa comes back inside, and it's time to get back to practice. It's work, but fun, and a good kind of strain. He'll sleep well tonight.

He still feels careful when he imitates their moves, because if he has to be a beginner, he hopes he can be at least a not-too-stupid one. But these guys really are nice, and even when flashy turn sends him stumbling into accidental seppuku and they can't help laughing, it's not really so bad.

~

Chapter 30

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