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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 31

 

Tuesday 16 December

Kame hands over his coat and his camouflage and tries not to seem in a hurry, takes his time stepping up into the club proper, and only briefly fusses with his hair.

It's a slow day, just busy enough that you don't feel on display coming in. He looks around, noting the handful of clusters.

When Kame came in for a date with Takuya or Tatsuya, they would at once excuse themselves from the group they were with and come to meet him with a welcoming smile.

Jin isn't with a group.

He's waiting, alone, by the bar. His hair is falling forward into his face as he leans over a drink of water, tapping a beat on the glass with his fingers. There's no mistaking him. Kame feels a surge of client shyness but then he quashes that determinedly, just smiles.

Then Jin sees him. He all but jumps off his chair, before remembering decorum.

Kame nods and keeps his hands from doing any brushing or tweaking on his clothes. He came from work, but he took care this morning when he picked it all out. And he should probably stay here. That's what he's always done and it's not strange. Right.

Jin starts smiling halfway there.

"Hi," he says then, and bows. The distance feels weird, even though it's quite normal. "It's good to see you."

"Thanks," Kame says. "Um. For waiting." At the apartment they have slippers and coats and the weather.

"I hope you had a good drive."

Kame notes how elegant he looks and how he's not quite comfortable, shifting his weight under the stylish suit. "It was fine," he replies, and nods for emphasis. He wants to say he had something to look forward to; he's pretty sure he said that to Tatsuya and it was flattering.

"Good," Jin says, and then like he's just remembered, "And I wasn't waiting long. You're really on time."

"I'm glad," Kame says. "I had interviews today… sometimes there's retakes and things."

"I would have, though," Jin says quickly. "Waited, I mean." He casts a look around the club, not at all flirtatious.

Kame feels just as sheepish. "Thanks. But. I mean, I don't like being late," he says when he pulls it together, and it sounds like an apology even though he doesn't need one. They smile uncertainly at each other. Then Kame remembers how this goes. "May I buy you a drink?"

Jin remembers too. "I'd like that. Where would you…"

"Would the bar be okay?" Kame says on impulse. He knows Tanaka has noticed his presence, and Kame has identified the old enka singer and Ryuuhei with him, and Shota cozy by his side. But he wants just a few more minutes to find his balance with Jin before plunging them into conversation there.

By the time they've ordered and tried out their wine and beer respectively, they've established that Kame has had a good week in which he met some of his new co-stars and managed not to kill the villain of the piece prematurely during kendo practice, and that Jin had sore muscles from too much work-out on Friday. Kame is starting to relax, and Jin has stopped tripping over his words. It's almost like at home, roundabout dinner time.

"Tanaka-san is over there, by the way," Jin says with a very light nod in the general direction. "You wanted to meet up with him, didn't you?"

"Yes," Kame concedes. He turns his head, but Tanaka's playing it discreet. He's got a lively crowd there, as usual. Somehow he always manages to be a moodmaker; or maybe it's his choice of company, too. "If you don't mind? Just for a while…"

Before they go upstairs. But he doesn't want to say that now.

Jin fondles his glass and gives him a crooked smile. "Of course I don't mind."

They each take another sip of their drinks before carrying their glasses across half the lounge to the couch arrangement currently home to a passionate discussion on… vegetables, Kame realizes.

Tanaka has been watching them approach. "Hey!" he says with a bright smile. "I was starting to wonder if you were scared of Shota's rap rhymes. Sit down, sit down. Hello, Jin!"

The enka singer greets them politely, while Junnosuke vacates the remaining two-seater for an armchair with no comment.

So they sit down. Each neatly on his side of their couch.

"Have you joined the gangsters then?" Kame picks up on the cue because he feels he should, and Shota laughs.

"Not yet," he says. "I don't think I'd pass the initiation rites."

"Rites," Kame says while he feels Jin settling a bit more comfortably. He gives Tanaka a mock-stern look. "Is that what the broccoli was about?"

"Hey!" Tanaka looks scandalized. "Don't go giving me a reputation, Shota's not going to talk to me anymore if he thinks he has to eat broccoli."

"Oh, you meant eat!" Shota says, then grins. "You know I'm flexible."

"Sure, as long as it's got nothing to do with leek," Tanaka says, and of course they missed that part of the conversation; Kame doesn't get it and neither does Jin, and they briefly smile at each other. Junnosuke says something about knowledge leaking out.

Then Tanaka sits up a little straighter and makes a face. "Oh, I'm sorry, you have all met, right?"

Kame nods along when the enka-singer mentions that the two of them drank together a while ago, though he can't for the life of him remember the man's name. He's saved by Ryuuhei, who notices the singer's dainty swirl of his almost empty port glass and asks if Hashimoto-san would like a refill.

Everyone knows Jin, and Jin seems fine with where they've landed.

"Are you filming yet?" Tanaka asks him, unsurprisingly, so Kame gives him a quick summary on the state of his sword practice.

"I'm going to start working on a samurai film in a few weeks," he adds for Hashimoto, who seems moderately impressed.

"I may have read something about that," he says. "I'm very fond of historical films, I have to say. But I always think it must be difficult to prepare, if you're going back in time in such a way."

"Oh, he prepares," Tanaka says before Kame can take up the unspoken question. "He studies for this stuff. Sometimes, you know, I feel like a bit of a slacker." That last bit is addressed to Jin.

Kame laughs nervously.

"I'm sure it's a lot of work to be in the music industry, too," Jin says, which has Tanaka and the enka guy shaking their heads and waving it off and sharing a glance of complete agreement on how busy they really are.

"Tanaka-san has to dance, too," Hashimoto says. "Whereas my audiences are usually more on the settled side."

"I don't know," Tanaka grins. "I suspect your fans can be pretty hardcore too."

Jin is smiling at the suggestion of raging middle-aged housewives. Kame thinks Tanaka is probably right on the money.

Hashimoto starts on a story of his last tour. He has a pleasant speaking voice to go with his soft gestures, and it's not a hardship to listen to him being self-effacing about stage mishaps.

Jin is listening too, until Kame feels his focus shift, and he's looking at somebody, he's recognized… the laundry guy. Yamatani.

And then Jin notices Kame's noticed, and Kame doesn't even know what he feels… but he's freezing up and if he didn't freak Jin out so far then this might just do it. Whatever he's supposed to do, he'd better do it quickly, and he says, "I was just going to order another glass of wine. I think it's a vintage Yamatani-san would like. Should we ask him to join us a bit?"

Jin blinks, once. And Kame can see him thinking, and now he's glad he said something. Because he's not sure Jin would have.

"I think he'd like that," Jin says eventually, like it's very long words.

He'd like that, because he didn't notice what was going on between them back then. He'd like it because he doesn't know what Kame said about him later, and Jin knows that, too.

Jin's expecting him to be sane this time.

He's so wide awake suddenly he doesn't know how he can do this without being awkward, but then Yamatani looks up from exchanging greetings with someone and meets his eyes, and so that's… that's pretty easy, just wave, no need for a big production because they're not that familiar and being rude would just…

Yamatani smiles and takes a step in their direction.

Okay then.

He turns to Jin, because he will be normal, and he won't pretend last time was normal. And Jin's still thinking; Kame's stomach takes a little dip. But he smiles, and then he smiles for Yamatani too when he's there.

"Good evening, everyone," Yamatani says, as the others take a brief break to greet him back. "Good to see you again, Kamenashi-san. Hello, Jin. Are you having a nice evening?"

"Very nice, thank you," Jin says. "I hope your board meeting went well?"

"Oh, it was perfectly dreary, just as expected."

"I don't want to interfere with any plans, but we were wondering if you'd like to join us for a bit," Kame says, all nice and fluent. He gestures at the remaining seat with a clammy hand.

Yamatani agrees gratefully and Jin smiles and nods when Kame tilts his head at the empty beer bottle. All good. Kame is doing well.

"How are you doing, Yamatani-san?" he asks when the waiter is gone and nobody has taken the initiative.

"I can't complain. I had a busier week than usual, but then it keeps you fresh, doesn't it?"

Kame says the things one says to agree, and Jin leans back on the sofa and asks about the house.

Jin seems okay.

Yamatani is smiling, saying, "I haven't had a water outage in three days, so perhaps the crisis is over. The house does look rather interesting from the outside. Like a very large cardboard shack with foam taped around it."

It feels strange to look at his old friendly face and know he goes to bed with Jin, and not exactly comfortable… but the moment Kame thinks it it takes him back to last time, with Yamatani, and that's so much worse.

Jin turns to him, and he holds his breath and tries to look innocent. Like a guy who would never have a fit because Jin has other clients, like a guy who's definitely not crazy like that.

"Yamatani-san is having his house renovated," Jin says, calm. Cautious, maybe. Kame can't tell. "For energy conservation."

"It was a bit troublesome when they dug up all my plumbing," Yamatani says. "But the glaciers will thank me, I'm told. And I only have to live another twenty years to see a financial offset."

Jin smiles a little. "Kamenashi-san has some experience with plumbing incidents, too."

Being so focussed on being fast and sane and adult must clog up Kame's brain, because it takes him a moment to process… that that is a really good, low key invitation. And Jin's eyes are on him and clouding over uncertainly, and he finally remembers that conversation.

"Oh," he says. "Yes." Then he gets his brain to assist his mouth. "I had an old warehouse converted into an apartment building. And when they planned the pipes, well… it was all a big mess." Jin has heard this and Kame feels a twinge of embarrassment for that, too. But Yamatani nods sympathetically at the story of the valve burst, and offers a recommendation of the company he is using should Kame ever need any more work done, and then they spend a little while exchanging their best nightmare contractor stories.

Sometimes Kame checks, but Jin seems relaxed. Smiling quietly, drinking his beer. Kame winces in sympathy at what once happened to Yamatani's sculpted shrubs, but doesn't mention the azaleas and his tenants' moving van two weeks after the house was finally finished. He's wondering already if he sounds too much like he's in a contest.

"Didn't the people in your house run over your azaleas with a truck?" Tanaka butts in, and Kame feels caught, which is silly.

"The quiet ones?" Jin asks on his side.

"Um, yeah," Kame says. Jin grins.

Then Tanaka asks him something else about the plumbers, and Kame has to tell the entire story again for a new audience.

Beside him, Jin is laughing at something Yamatani said, and that's good; Kame won't supervise their conversation and he's not laying claim to Jin, really not. Jin can talk to other people he likes. That's important. Jin should have fun.

Junnosuke says something about paying the piper for piping hot water. Kame laughs, which helps the stress. Tanaka is finding it hilarious too, while Shota manages to simultaneously feign an escape attempt from the bad jokes and squirm closer. Tanaka's proprietary hand on his leg is welcome.

They're not doing that, he and Jin. Kame isn't doing that.

There's something about Yamatani's granddaughter now and her views on the colour palette of houses, but Kame has decided to leave them to it, so he says to Tanaka, "Speaking of pipers, weren't you going to put out a new single?"

Tanaka's eyebrows shoot up. "Pipers?"

Kame shrugs and doesn't blush. "You're always going on about how rap's not tuneless."

Tanaka lets him off this time, and it turns out that he's spent the last week in a recording studio, with the new single due in about a month.

"Oh no," Hashimoto says in fake concern. "I have one due in three weeks. We'll be rivals on the Oricon charts."

Tanaka nods sombrely. "That is worrying."

Everybody else is giggling.

"You should collaborate," Kame says randomly, half-distracted by the fact that next to him, Hello Kitty has just entered the conversation.

"You think there'd be a market for it?" Tanaka says, and Kame can tell he's half serious. Tanaka likes to experiment. "We could call it rapka."

"Enp," Shota says and wriggles against him.

"My jazz-hip-hop fusion girls are starting to take off, I think," Tanaka says, looking pleased. "Not as much as my JUNGLELOW guys, but they were on Music Planet last week, and the songs we put up for download are going really well. Some people are even paying for them."

Ryuuhei asks Hashimoto if his fanbase has joined the age of downloads, and Hashimoto warns them all not to underestimate the modern middle-aged housewife. They're not as openly cuddly as Tanaka and Shota, but Kame catches Hashimoto's small, slender hand brushing at Ryuuhei's hair when the focus is on Tanaka. Unless either one of them is going to be rude, this one is settled, too.

He's not listening in on Jin, and not moving closer. But he's just caught up with Tanaka again when he hears Yamatani's voice, "… about time I left you young men to have some fun, I think," and he turns quickly.

He doesn't want Yamatani to think he was inhibiting their fun, and he hopes it's not due to their lack of open fondling, when Yamatani has no reason to know Kame better than that, not after last time.

"I hope you have a nice evening, too," Jin says before Kame can find the right reassurances, with a smile and absolutely no innuendo.

They all say friendly polite goodbyes and Yamatani leaves in as easygoing a mood as he arrived. Kame has no idea what he's thinking but Jin gives him a slow smile, so whatever Jin is thinking must involve that Kame behaved acceptably.

Junnosuke has used the chance to take his leave and try his luck elsewhere, too, and then it's just the six of them, tidy in clear pairs. Kame feels sheepish and young with everyone else being close and affectionate.

Only he knows he'd feel even more stupid if he was pawing Jin. That only works for him when he's crazy.

He takes a deep breath. At least nothing went wrong with Yamatani, and Jin… Jin is smiling again, just as sheepish, and like he's aware of their fondling abstinence, and Kame feels something in him unwind. They've overcome more awkward breaks and pauses.

"Have you eaten?" he asks, quietly and just to Jin.

"A while ago," Jin says. "I'm not starving, but some snacks could be nice."

Kame nods, and opens the invitation to the rest, Tanaka being vocal about the club's perfect mochi, before he turns to find a waiter and then there's Yuuya, coming straight towards them.

Oh no. Just when he'd thought… just when they'd started to relax together.

He didn't see Yuuya around earlier, thought he might be out with a client. That he wouldn't have to deal with that, too.

Yuuya gives him the usual escort greeting, minus flirtation, and then he asks Hashimoto very politely if it's okay to pull up an armchair between him and Shota. Once he's settled, he smiles across at Jin, who's the furthest away from him – a bright, sharp smile – and then he turns to Hashimoto and Ryuuhei and says something that makes them laugh.

Kame will deal.

"So," he says to Jin, trying to hit the right tone, the pre-Yuuya tone. "Snacks." He doesn't quite dare look at him.

He gets a waiter over quickly now, and orders some fruit and sweets to share and the sesame mochi Tanaka wanted. Tanaka orders pretzel sticks and wasabi peas for Shota, and Kame can already tell they'll be fighting over the check.

"Would it be okay to get some pickles, too?" Jin asks. "The stronger ones, I like them."

"Of course," Kame says. "Anything else?"

"Some of the rice crackers in seaweed would be nice."

Kame looks around briefly, to find there are no further suggestions. He meets Yuuya's eyes for all of half a second, because that's a normal thing to do, and Yuuya gives him a very normal stare right back.

Great.

The waiter leaves, and Kame wonders if anybody else finds the gap of silence that follows awkward.

But probably not; after a moment Tanaka finishes something he'd started saying about digital rights management, and instantly Shota and Ryuuhei start telling him about the times they lost all their music from their ipods and couldn't get it back.

"Has that happened to you, too?" Kame asks Jin, but Jin shakes his head.

"I don't have an ipod. I get their point, though."

"I still use CDs," Kame says, which is stupid, and his face turns warm, but Jin laughs in a nice way and says at least he won't accidentally delete his entire collection.

"Not sure that's a good thing," Tanaka raises his voice, though he then proceeds to praise Kame for his diligent support of hard-working artists. When Hashimoto enquires into Kame's musical tastes, Kame gives the sort of generic answer Jin would appreciate. He's really not a fan of any particular thing.

The food arrives, and there is distributing of dishes and thank-yous and Jin maneuvering the pickles in his direction while Ryuuhei and Yuuya get their musician guests to talk about concert experiences.

Jin is focussing, first wiping his hands carefully on one of the hot towels and then prying some layered pickles apart with careful flicks of his chopsticks. There's a small smile on his face when he thanks Kame.

Shota thanks him too, blowing him a playful kiss, which sets off jealous complaints by Tanaka and an ensuing tussle that takes the spotlight off Kame's awkward non-response.

"Now I'm wondering if I'm getting the gratitude thing right," Jin says. He's paused in operation pickle and is regarding Kame thoughtfully. "If you'd like me to blow a kiss at someone so you can get some wrestling exercise in for your money, just say."

Kame's not even sure he heard right. But he did, and Jin is trying not to grin. "I'm just afraid I'd lose," he manages, and Jin laughs.

His voice goes higher when he does that. It's different and unexpected, and Kame likes it.

"Maybe you need more nourishment?" Jin suggests, still keeping it quiet, just between them. He lifts the pickle he's put on a napkin.

"Um, no thanks," Kame says.

"You don't like pickles?"

"Not really. I don't like sour stuff."

"You put lemon in your water, though," Jin says with a detective face.

Kame doesn't know what to say. He's not sure of the ground they're walking on, when they're not alone, and Jin is making him feel slow, and this is good and he doesn't want to fuck up again.

"That's for building up tolerance," he says, a touch delayed, but then that's normal for them, they live with not being smooth, and Jin gives him a warm look sideways before he finally gets to demolish his pickle. Kame picks something at random, and it turns out to be sticky and very sweet.

Jin's noticed, is biting his lip; and then he reaches for his beer with that smile on his mouth and his hands all sure and elegant, and his wide shoulders right next to Kame, and that's a different kind of heat under his skin, a sudden hot shock because…—

Kame blinks, glad when Jin just has an oblivious sip. He's not sure why it's a surprise, why it feels dirty. They're not under any impression that Jin isn't attractive to him; neither of them. Only with Jin clothed and relaxed and talking to people, not even aware…

But he's not dragging Jin off for anything. He's sitting here keeping his hands to himself, and Jin doesn't want to get away from him at all. So it can't be that bad.

When he reaches for his drink, he finds Yuuya's eyes on him, watchful behind easy escort blandness.

Well, that helps.

Tanaka and Hashimoto seem to have moved on to entertaining their companions with backstage anecdotes – random accidents leading to changes in program, crazy fans sneaking past security. Tanaka is telling everybody about the magic man incident. Kame has heard this one before; it's well worth repeating. A quick sideways look tells him Jin has tuned into the conversation.

"And was he really a Druid?" Shota seems fascinated by the possibility.

"He definitely thought he was one," Tanaka says. "The security guys didn't. I don't know if the curses he called down on their, uh, equipment worked or not. I can't think of a way to ask."

"Does that happen often, that fans get so crazy?" Jin's question is directed at all three of them equally; maybe he's aware that Kame hasn't said much recently.

Tanaka shakes his head. "Mostly they just throw their panties."

"Or somebody's panties," Hashimoto amends. "Some of the things that land on my stage would no longer fit anyone in the audience."

There's a pause. His turn. "I just see some of the letters," Kame admits. "My agent vets stuff for me." He shrugs weirdly. "Sorry, no panties." That's what they're talking about, panties on a stage. Not the bad stuff.

"Don't be jealous," Tanaka grins.

"We could collect some panties here," Shota suggests, and Kame swallows wrong and ends up coughing while the subject dissolves in giggles and some strong opinions on Calvin Klein.

"You okay?" Jin asks.

Kame gulps and nods, and then he coughs some more.

"I know the idea of Shota's underpants is kind of scary," Jin says, but when their eyes meet he's looking rather serious for an underwear discussion. Kame doesn't ask. "I promise I won't let them near you."

Kame can finally breathe again, and he smiles. "I appreciate it."

Not that Shota is making any signs of trying to detach himself from Tanaka, the way they're leaving half the sofa empty. Ryuuhei and Hashimoto are almost certainly holding hands behind Ryuuhei's back, and Kame is starting to feel a little weird about the distance between him and Jin. He's never very demonstrative in the lounge, but Jin doesn't know that, Jin's only seen him acting crazy and making sure Jin knew who he belonged to.

He's just wondering if he should tell Jin, if Jin thinks they're being weird too or if an explanation would be even weirder, when Jin shifts forward on the couch to snatch up a strawberry; and when he sits back he's closer, when he's wiped his hands he lets them sink, and there's a quiet fleeting touch in the small gap between their legs.

Jin's eyes are dark, and this is private; every other client in the room would be looking somewhere else. It makes his skin break out in goosebumps. Or maybe that's Jin's tiny smile.

"Is that okay?"

"Yeah, sure," Kame says, and gulps again when Jin's hand slides up onto his thigh, as subtle as Tatsuya would do it, as Takuya-san would, knowing Kame's not the type for showy come-ons. Only it's different. "I think I'm nervous."

Jin's thumb moves a little. His smile is the same. "Good." Then his hand drops off again but Jin stays close, and the warmth stays in Kame's face, all the way through the Louis Vuitton versus Dolce & Gabbana showdown.

When he catches Yuuya looking at them, he just sits it out; but during the lull in the conversation after Hashimoto has finished pining for the 1982 Versace line, Yuuya stands up, making his apologies and winking at Tanaka. His goodbye to Kame is as professional as ever.

Kame breathes easier, though the relief isn't overwhelming. It wasn't so bad, and he can never complain.

He can still feel Jin at his side, a tiny stroke of his thumb now and then on the outer seam of his pants. He can't help smiling, and then he has to smile more when he notices Jin watching him.

"I don't really have a favourite," Jin says when Ryuuhei addresses him directly. He shrugs. "There are lots of nice brands."

"Can you even tell them apart?"

"Well, it usually says what it is on the label."

"Yeah, but all those foreign letters…" Ryuuhei makes a dramatically pained face, and Jin laughs at him.

Kame knows his brands, but he's not eager to join in too loudly. The group's still going strong, looking settled for the duration, and though he likes it here on the couch with Jin, sitting quietly, maybe he'd like it even better if…

Jin is leaning in a bit, catching his focus. "No rush," Jin says. "But if you wanted to go upstairs, I'd be glad to."

"Are you sure?"

Jin nods. "It'll be nice to have some time to ourselves, too. I'm looking forward to it."

"Okay," Kame says. He feels weirdly like a beginner, but he can handle it. "Me too."

They are still polite, though, waiting for a break in the conversation or a topic shift. In the end it's Tanaka who notices that shutting up for a second would help Kame out greatly.

They're not touching hands when they get up, but after they've said their goodbyes and Tanaka has mocked him for his early bedtime, he knows where Jin is all the time, feels his presence every moment while they go to get the key.

It's going to be easier from here, he thinks when he takes the familiar card, says he'd like to be billed for the shared food at their table, and confirms he expects to stay for the night. Jin's right behind him, waiting.

*~*~*

Jin knew it was going to be a suite from the moment Kame took a right out of the elevator, but that's not making it any less amazing when the door opens onto an area four times the size of his apartment stretching out to the left and right, the view only interrupted by the bathroom which serves to separate living and sleeping space. He's been in a suite before, on his first day when Danny showed him around. Just never with a client. He tries to recall all the facilities they have in here.

He also tries not to let the elegance intimidate him all over again. It's just a room. A room for fucking, most of the time.

Kame has taken off his jacket and hung it over the back of one of the chairs by the large wood and glass table with autumn ikebana on it. Now he's tugging at his tie and looking at Jin with a smile. "Get comfortable." He nods at the suit. "You said you didn't like it much."

Jin nods and slips out of his suit jacket, looking for a hanger. He's pretty sure Kame meant it just like he said it, but he flashes him a smile anyway. "If that was supposed to be code for 'get naked', you need to—"

"No!" Kame is blushing, and his horrified look makes Jin feel guilty. "I didn't mean that."

"Okay," Jin says quickly. "I didn't think you did, just… it would be okay. Okay?"

"Yeah, sure," Kame says, but he looks uncertain.

"So let's just slum it up," Jin says, pulling off his own tie, "in nothing but our Boss pants."

"Prada," Kame says, and lets himself fall heavily on the wide, peach-coloured couch.

Jin sits down next to him. "How lowbrow."

"Actually it's…" Kame stops himself, shaking his head. "Never mind."

"It looks nice," Jin says, making a show of appreciating Kame's designer choices. "A solid investment."

Now Kame laughs. "Sorry. I'll leave you alone with the fashion talk."

Jin grins and pulls at the thick carpet pile with his socked toes. "It's okay." He leans his head back against the expansive leather and ignores Kame's determination to not check him out. "I'm sorry about the fan comment, earlier," he says. "I know you've had to deal with stuff, I didn't want to bring that on."

Kame shrugs easily. His fingers are playing piano on the leather between them. "It's fine, I didn't think it was awkward," he says. "That was a very enjoyable round. I'm glad we did that."

Yeah, with Yuuya there checking out if Jin's a victim of Kamenashi mind control. Kame is so totally lying.

"Tanaka-san's a fun kind of guy," Jin says, though, and Kame gratefully agrees with that.

They both lean back, not touching, and Jin gets a moment to take in the room.

The design is modern and airy, but with enough softness and colour to look comfortable at the same time. They never do music, and so Jin can hear the gurgling noise of a fountain. It turns out to be part of the tastefully simulated garden in a raised corner.

The windows are the usual clever one-way glass, but there's a faint reflection on the inside from the deep blue glow of the aquarium set into the wall opposite the TV set.

Jin wonders who feeds the fish.

"We can turn that light off, if it bothers you. There's a switch," Kame says, and then, "Sorry. I mean, you probably know that."

"I don't," Jin says, twisting his neck so he can look at Kame without sitting up. "I haven't been in one of these before, actually."

"Oh. Right." Kame is nodding hastily and looking like he's not at all getting with the slumming and relaxing programme.

Jin waits a moment, but it takes less time to find his courage now. He slides his hand on Kame's thigh, because that worked well and because it feels good, and it makes Kame flustered in a much better way than the constant lurking guilt.

"I like it," he says easily. "It's nice here." Then he frowns and gives the fish another look, leaving his hand right where it is. "You think they get, like, weirded out when you turn off their light?"

"Hm," Kame says. "I've never thought about it. Are guppies afraid of the dark?"

"I'm sure these ones are," Jin says after some thought. "They're probably all wussy and overbred and get indigestion if you feed them at the wrong time."

Kame laughs, and Jin can feel him easing back. "Now I wonder what a tank full of confused fish is going to do for our sleeping."

"Well, we can leave their light on," Jin says, feeling generous. "Just to be good neighbours."

"They were here before us," Kame considers.

"Exactly." Jin nods. "Fish-senpai."

Kame makes a snorting sound that sounds like an aborted giggle. "Okay, now you're scaring me. Now I feel watched."

Only he doesn't, because he's looking more sprawly and loose by the minute, and it's a good look on him, it's cute, and it makes Jin want to touch him.

Touch him more.

He leans in slowly, and there's a little huff on Kame's lips, that thing he does when he gets nervous, until Jin kisses it away.

It's soft, because Kame's good with any kind of kissing and this is what Jin wants, just for now. "Kame," he says, for the first time tonight, and Kame says, "what," and when Jin kisses him again it's all good. Kame's chest rises with a deep breath, like Kame's been waiting for this, for days. Jin likes how much Kame loves the touching.

It goes quiet when they stop. Jin's not staging a seduction, he just wanted this. Kame with a dreamy face, letting his head slump against the soft backrest only when Jin does the same. It feels sneaky, in this grandiose room with its blunt purpose.

"I hope you don't mind," Jin says, tracing the vee of Kame's shirt, right where his skin is turning warm. "It seemed kind of…"

"I don't mind," Kame says.

They still don't move, and nobody's taking further steps. Jin's feeling lazy. Lazy and pleased. He's been looking forward to seeing Kame, too.

But it changes, the longer they wait. He can read it in Kame and in the shy sweep of his eyes, the flush that doesn't ask for anything, the control shading Kame's breath, and yeah, okay, this is fair, too, and it's fine.

When he moves in again it's with a bit more purpose, and Kame still breathes in surprise but then his tongue is there and his lips slide open, and there's more depth and more heat, and Kame gasping in a sweet little breath when they break apart.

"I don't mind that either," Kame says, shy like always when he's daring to be funny.

"Thought so," Jin says, and the next time Kame's hands find their way into his hair, and maybe Kame will finally stop holding back so much.

He likes it, with Kame, it helps. He has clients where it's distracting, kissing some stranger while he's supposed to get turned on, and it takes such a fucking lot of concentration, but this is easy, totally cool.

Then Kame breaks off again. "I should shower," he mumbles. "I came from work today."

"Hm," Jin says randomly. And then he remembers. "They have pretty cool showers here, too, don't they? A bit like yours at home?"

"Same brand," Kame says, slowly getting up, but holding on to Jin's fingers right to the end. "Only without the lower back ducts."

Jin grins. "Less dangerous, you mean."

"I made you a setting," Kame says, stripping off his pants and dropping them over an armchair. "You'll be safe next time." His socks follow, and then he grabs two bathrobes from the wardrobe. "I won't be long," he says, putting one down for Jin and taking the second one with him. "Help yourself to…" He shrugs, makes a sweeping gesture. "…whatever you like."

The bathroom door doesn't quite close after him, and after half a minute, Jin hears the shower come on.

He gets out of his own clothes; hangs them up carefully because he put the suit on fresh today. When he's shrugged into the bathrobe he wanders around more, to get familiar with what the luxury suites have to offer. A little more of everything the other rooms have, everything a little bigger, the carpet a little softer. But mostly it just feels more like an apartment, less like a hotel room. Even the careful decoration here and there makes it look more personal, less transitory. Someone from staff has brought Kame's bag up and put it next to the gleaming dresser.

When he hears the shower stop, he wraps the bathrobe around himself properly and ties the belt. He gets a beer from the drinks cabinet and wonders what Kame might like.

Kame emerges from the bathroom flushed and a little damp, and looking so hot that Jin thinks he can see steam rising off him.

"Water?" he asks.

Kame nods. "With ice, please," he adds. "I think I overdid it a bit."

His hair is dry, but a few damp strands are clinging to his face. When Jin comes close to give him the glass, he can feel the heat that surrounds him and he inhales furtively, catching warmth and the scent of soap and skin.

"I'll just quickly shower, too," he says. "Try out the fancy dials."

He doesn't know how fast or slow Kame wants to take it. They have so much time, and Kame isn't usually in a hurry. But it's better if he's prepared.

The shower's nice, and he's intrigued by the radio, but he doesn't linger. It feels weird, with Kame waiting outside; he wants to be out there too and not in here, no matter how soothing the water or how interesting the marble bench looks. So he's wrapped up in his bathrobe again less than five minutes later, without washing his hair, and Kame meets him with a smile across the room from the aquarium, where he seems to have been teasing the fish.

"That didn't take long," he says.

Jin picks his beer back up and has a nice cooling swallow. "It's boring alone."

Kame's still so flushed everywhere it's hard to tell if he gets embarrassed.

"More interesting out here."

"I see." Kame doesn't move, lets Jin come towards him. "You mean like the room, and the fish, and the special features."

Jin gets into Kame's space just enough that Kame has to notice, leaning against the wall. "Definitely the special features." Kame makes a show of looking around very seriously and Jin follows his gaze. He thinks. "What are they, anyway?"

"Hmmm. I think the fountain counts. And the bed does some stuff."

Jin makes a face before he manages to suppress his reaction. Right.

"Um, don't worry," Kame says quickly. "It's nothing… weird or anything."

Yeah. Jin's not even sure what he was expecting. The club generally doesn't go for gaudy, and he's pretty sure Kame wouldn't either.

"It has a night sky. I think it's supposed to be romantic." Kame is standing up straight now and even his water glass looks kind of stiff.

Jin's not keen on weird romance things, but he's also not keen on Kame standing there like that. By now he's even curious, too. "Show me?"

They have to sit on the bed to see. For a guy who's booked Jin for a rest, Kame has a rather impressive repertoire of 'look how I'm not going to jump you' poses, and Jin makes sure to lean in a bit more to make his own point about jumping and how okay it is.

"See," Kame says, raising his chin towards the bed's ceiling while he's fumbling for some switch. Another remote.

There is what looks like a pitch-black screen, and suddenly there are little lights on them. It doesn't even look too fake. "That's kind of cool," Jin says.

Kame turns it up a little, and when Jin switches off the room lights it's as if they've left the city behind and are watching from a lonely hilltop where the stars are brighter.

"Does it do other stuff?" Jin asks.

"I think so," Kame says. He's craning his neck in concentration, almost painfully focussed, and Jin decides to lie back, his feet still on the floor. He raises his eyebrows when Kame gives him a look.

"I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to look at that sitting up," he says. "It's not good for your neck. Besides, like this you get the ocean effect, too." He waves a foot towards the aquarium.

"True," Kame says, and lies down carefully beside him. They aren't touching, at least not until Jin asks for the remote and his fingers brush Kame's.

"So what else does it have?" He presses a button. Pale pink cherry-blossom laden branches light up slowly at the edges of the display.

"Um," Kame says, "it's mostly not really—"

Another button, and everything is gone, blank, and he's staring at himself and Kame in a shiny surface.

"—my taste," Kame says, subdued.

"Um," Jin echoes. He doesn't know where to look. "Yeah… can you get the stars back?"

Kame knows how it works, and he does.

"Thanks."

The room is much darker now, but Jin can still see Kame; can see him watching Jin's face, and the distance between them, and every cautious move of his own. Always watching himself.

And although his eyes soften when Jin leans over to kiss him again, Jin can feel his tension and arousal before they even touch. Watching, and waiting.

Jin shifts first, rolling on his side to make the invitation. Kame takes care not to make him wait, Kame's hands staying carefully on the clothed parts of Jin's body, until Jin will move closer, just like always.

Jin breaks the kiss, carefully, and smiles when Kame looks at him. He'd hoped that their third proper date wouldn't still leave him wondering. "Listen," he says.

Kame gives a little nod, but his tongue darts out over his lips and Jin wonders what he's expecting. If he's got any idea.

"What we're doing is great," Jin says. He's thought this through. It's not going to be easy to say right, no matter how he starts it. Just one of those things between them. "I really like it, we could do that all the time."

"Well, that's good," Kame says, looking somewhere between confused and relieved. "So we—"

"But is there anything else you'd like? Because we can totally do that. Whatever else you'd like."

"I don't," Kame says, and now he's moving away, propping himself up on his elbow. "I don't like anything else, I like this, this is good."

"You used to like other stuff, too. Totally okay stuff, stuff I can do for you." Jin doesn't like getting this serious but he was kind of ready for it. He sits up, but he makes sure he stays turned towards Kame. He's a little afraid what might happen if he doesn't, not that he has any idea what it might be.

"I'm not missing that stuff," Kame says stiffly. "There's too much…" He shrugs, a little impatiently, and starts to play with the bit of sheet in front of him. "Stuff. You know."

"I know you're being careful," Jin says at once. "And I appreciate it," he adds, because it's true. But there are degrees, and Kame is entitled, and with some of it he'd really be okay, by now; he's sure. "But… okay, you like my mouth on you, right?" He's not sure who's blushing more, Kame or he, but thank god it's dark. "I like doing that, too, there's no reason not to do that. Or if you wanted different foreplay, if you wanted me to do things with my hands… I barely get a chance to touch you. I like touching you. And we can, you know, move around? Do stuff upside down or whatever? I mean, I don't know. But I'd be happier if you said if you want something."

Kame is sitting now too, and Jin's not sure he wouldn't run away if he didn't think that would be rude. "I'm really okay," he says with a frown. "I don't need…"

Need.

"You're paying an awful lot of money." Kame flinches. Jin knew he would, was hoping to avoid it, but he doesn't want to have this conversation a second time, and he wants to be sure. "You should get what you want, and there's lots of ways that would be very okay with me. This is important to you. I want you to enjoy it. I don't want you to get bored doing one thing when your favourite thing is really something else because you think you're not allowed what you like anymore."

"I won't get bored." Suddenly, Kame sounds very sure of himself again, as if Jin's given him the key to something. "Don't worry about that."

"But you liked—"

"I liked lots of really weird stuff for a while." Kame grimaces in the dark, and Jin wouldn't know what to make of it if Kame wasn't closing the distance, reaching out for him at the same time. "Now, I like doing the things we're doing. I'm not bored. I won't get bored with you. Okay?"

Okay. That sounds pretty good. And it feels good too, the way Kame kisses him, soft but with desire. "Okay," Jin mumbles in between. "But you know…"

"I know," Kame says, shuffling closer; it's awkward now with the way they're sitting, but also fine. Just fine.

They make out for a bit just sitting like that, and then their bathrobes are getting unwieldy and in the way and they both laugh when they break apart again, to get rid of them, so Jin doesn't have to lie on a pile of bunched-up terrycloth.

Kame drops the robes over a chair. Jin smiles to himself, watching Kame move, and he stretches out quite comfortably.

His eyes catch the fake stars again.

"Would you prefer to have that off?" Kame says. "I mean, I'm not actually that keen myself."

"Yeah," Jin admits. "It's nice, but…"

"Kind of weird."

"Yeah." Jin watches Kame pick up the remote from where they kicked it off the bed, and then the stars are gone. That's better. More real.

"How about this, want it on?" Kame asks, motioning towards the light on the nightstand.

"I'd like that, yeah." Jin likes seeing who he's with. He shouldn't even be surprised that Kame remembered.

The light is soft and gentle and usually intended to make the old guys look less gross. With Kame, it's different. Kame looks like you'd pay to see him like this.

It's good like this; always good, Kame finding his balance and the things they do, the things that work for Kame and make Jin feel glowy and relaxed. Kame still does everything, the touching and the kissing and making Jin shiver before they're even doing anything serious, and Kame whispers, "This is my favourite thing," right there against his mouth.

They're always looking at each other. Kame's hands stay on him when they're not even trying to arouse. That's one of Jin's favourite things.

The serious stuff, too. The stuff Jin doesn't need, just likes, doesn't want clients to do to him. And Kame comes close right away now, doesn't leave him alone to feel watched, and he can enjoy it just here, just a bit; the trust and the slow slick rhythm of fingers moving inside him, how close and open it feels. It turns him on, always has; even now.

And it gets Kame ready, too, ready and burning, and that's totally fine. The fucking is easy, and they work well together. Kame is good and smooth and he looks so intent when he strokes Jin hard that it's worth the effort it takes not to shut him out at the end, like he does all the others.

There's still that moment; when the pleasure rises and it's time, when he lets go and falls into sensation. That moment when he's not sure where he'll land when he opens his eyes. But it's getting easier, a gentler drop and again there's just Kame, smiling and pleased, and holding him steady in his shivering skin.

And it's better to come before the client, anyway, when they're still going for stuff and their minds are fuzzy with want.

He's ready now, and he gets to watch Kame lose himself, and Jin loves that, it's what he'd love if they were just two normal guys, and he feels strong and hot and he's waiting for that sound, and the way Kame collapses, the way he looks so totally happy.

He can still smell the soap underneath the salt on Kame's skin as they lie close, just breathing, coming to rest. With Kame, he always gets time to stop feeling like he's turned inside-out for everybody to see. He loves that, too.

It's a shame that escort-etiquette forbids falling asleep straight away. But at least he can stay lying here under the guise of giving the client time to recover and decide what he wants next.

He's no sooner thought it than Kame stirs, and props himself up a little. There's a strand of hair in his face and he looks funny as he tries to blow it up and sideways, twice, until Jin reaches out and tucks it away for him.

"That's what I like," Kame says, with a long glance along Jin's exhausted body, fingers trailing up his side as if they have things to say too. "When we do things both of us enjoy. Okay?"

Jin makes a patient sort of face which he hopes won't make Kame feel that the subject of ever doing other things again is now closed. "Okay."

"Okay." Kame nods, and gets up. "Don't run away."

After a minute in the bathroom he's back, and this time he pulls the cover up before he lies down again on his back. Jin moves in without waiting to be asked.

It goes quiet again, for a while, Kame's fingers light along Jin's back, resting in his hair. Like always. Kame's not even getting tense from the silence. Maybe that talk was good for something else, too.

Jin breathes in the warm scent, doesn't move. He knows he has to watch himself but he's got it under control. It's just nice when someone's there like this and it's not sex.

But at some point Kame wants to get the shower over with. Jin likes the rinse too, and they both do it quickly, separately, and then Jin sits on the edge of the bed while Kame checks out the wine rack and the mini bar.

"What do you want?"

"Hmm," Jin muses. "I don't think they have my thing."

"Your thing?"

"My thing. The thing you give me."

"Oh, Drambuie," Kame says, and squats down in front of the mini bar, bathrobe trailing on the floor, to rummage with intent. Little bottles get lined up on either side of him as he clears it out, and then he turns around. "They don't. But I can order some."

Jin doesn't even try to say no. He listens to Kame calling down for a 'large Drambuie, no ice', and then they establish between them that Kame is in the mood for a whisky but not the first one he finds when he looks around himself and not the second one, either.

A little green bottle that had ended up behind him is the winner, and once he's got ice in his drink too and has taken a sip, Kame ponders the bottle forest on the floor. "I guess I should put that back."

There's absolutely no need for it. Jin's pretty sure Kame knows that too. Housekeeping would deal. "Let's," he says because there's not much else they can do while waiting, anyway.

Service is quicker than they expected, though, and they have just removed all the little bottles for the second time – "How can they not fit in, they were all in there when I started?" – and are trying not to trip over them or each other, when there's a knock on the door.

"Uh," Kame says under his breath, and then he shrugs and raises his voice. "Come in, please."

Jin imagines they are looking like two desperate alcoholics in search of a tipple. When they stand up order to be polite, their movements are accompanied by soft clinking.

Not that Kido-san would ever raise an eyebrow. Not that this is by any measure the worst or weirdest thing any of these guys have seen.

Jin's ready to take the tray off him, but Kame is quicker. "If you could just put it on the table, please, we'll be fine."

So that's what happens, and there are bows all round, and Kido leaves and Jin and Kame look down at their feet.

"This has to work," Kame says.

*~*~*

It's an hour later, and the alcohol has turned into a soft glow inside Jin. Kame got methodical about the bottles and they've been back in the bed with cups of the club's complimentary ginseng tea, the lights still low and the gurgly water in the background. Kame says he likes the club's European breakfast.

They've established that Jin is staying the night. Jin guesses it's good that he didn't feel the need to establish that more sex would be okay, or that Kame didn't have to establish he wasn't going to require more anyway. They're starting to know what to expect. It's cozy.

Even nicer, Jin thinks, if they weren't sitting there with the careful space back between them. Jin's pretty sure by now it's not because Kame doesn't like being close.

They've both stuck their feet under the cover. Jin says he likes the croissants from the kitchen, and doesn't say anything to remind Kame that he fucks other clients on other dates which don't end in sleepovers. The size of the room feels funny now, just dark and ridiculous when they're fine here in their warm corner, with the sleepy lighting, when that's all they need.

Except for that distance. Like there aren't steps between this and second rounds, or like Kame hasn't figured out where they stand. Where Jin stands.

Maybe he can do something about that.

He wiggles his toes, carefully under the blanket, until they are touching Kame's shin.

"Hi," he says, and waits.

Kame looks puzzled, then like he wants to choke on his tea, and just when Jin's about to get worried, he puts his cup down and very carefully lifts the cover up to peek under it.

"Hello there," he says. "What can I do for you?"

Jin gives another very tiny wiggle, totally innocent. "Warm here," he says, in the sort of semi-falsetto he imagines a toe might have. "Fluffy."

Kame puts the cover back down and considers that over a slow, thoughtful sip.

"Jin," he says in the end. "I think your toe likes my leg hair."

Jin ponders it with the seriousness it deserves. "I think toes like a fluffy sort of environment," he manages, pleased with himself for his straight face.

"Do you think it might be planning to… nest?"

And that's the end of it; Jin snorts into his cup, and his toe and Kame's leg lose contact. But he hunts for it, and finds it again, and this time it's closer, no wriggles, just touch, and they grin at each other.

"It's just nice," Jin says, normal voice and all. "You feel nice, that's all. Is it okay?"

"Of course," Kame says automatically. He has that look he hasn't had all night, like he's thinking through several answers again, but at least it's calm, not panicked, and in the end he settles on pleased. "You feel nice, too." Then there's a slow grin, like he's noticed how much they're echoing each other. "I mean… really." His leg gives a nudge back against Jin's foot, and Jin slides it over in response because that means he can. "It's very okay."

They nudge each other back and forth a few times, smiling, before they go quiet again. Jin has another sip of tea, and when he shifts his weight his leg brushes Kame's. Yes, this is good.

"How's your schedule next week?" Kame asks then. "Very busy?"

Jin can't think of anything out of the ordinary. "Not busier than usual."

"I… I don't really know yet when I'll be free, but I'd like to see you," Kame says. Jin says nothing, just enjoys the settled feeling. "I guess I'll call Ootomo when I know."

"Sure," Jin says. "Really, it should be fine." Ootomo knows about priorities, too, and rests get bumped up the management meter even without Jin's urging.

Kame swirls his tea and nods. "Good," he says.

"What? Something wrong?"

"No," Kame says. "Just…"

He sounds diffident, and Jin wonders if it's going to be about more sex after all, or… "You know how my schedule sometimes goes weird. This is actually a pretty quiet time, I'm going to be much busier than this."

Jin nods, with a treacherous sinking feeling; can't help wondering if this is the start to Kame saying they have to take a step back, that this will have to end.

"Sometimes I'm late," Kame says. "And sometimes I have to cancel altogether at the last minute. Just… well, just so you know."

"What…" Jin blinks into his tea, then at Kame. "That is it? That's… you were worried about that?" He doesn't point out that Kame cancelling things was how they met.

"I don't like being unreliable," Kame says. "I'll of course let Ootomo know when things like that happen, but I imagine that can feel strange so I thought I'd tell you in advance."

Jin can't help it, he's laughing. And when he's finished laughing, he puts down his tea and bounces off the bed. His cell phone is in his suit somewhere – they all keep them there no matter what management says about bulgy pockets.

When he turns, Kame is watching him anxiously.

"You can tell me yourself," Jin says. "Just as soon as I remember how to find out what my actual number is."

He gets back on the bed and starts to press buttons – rather randomly, he admits to himself, but eventually he's bound to come across what he's looking for. Kame is looking over his shoulder.

"Are you sure?" he says.

Jin nods and continues to interrogate his address book, which claims he doesn't exist.

"Can we do that? You won't get in trouble with Ootomo?"

"No, this is okay. As long as I tell him what we arrange or… disarrange. Unarrange. You know."

Kame's snort tickles his ear. "Derange," he suggests.

Jin finds the buttons annoying, and he looks up. "I mean, if it's okay with you. I promise I won't… trace your number. Or do anything evil with it. Or whatever."

Kame laughs out loud now, and after a quick check, takes Jin's phone off him. "No offense, but you don't look like much of a threat there."

"Hey, it's a phone!" Jin says. "I know how to dial."

"Good, so do I." Kame presses a button, and two meters away Kame's cell buzzes quietly in his pocket. He makes it stop and gives Jin the phone back. "That should do it."

"Yeah," Jin says, and somehow they've stopped laughing. "I mean, I can work with that. I took a class."

*~*~*

Kame still takes the left side of the bed. He's in boxers again; Jin has a t-shirt from his club bag, and the toothbrushes come with the room. There's enough space in the bed, and it hardly bounces when Kame drops himself on his side, returning from switching off the water fountain.

"Sorry," he says. "It makes me… well. I might be waking you up a lot."

Jin giggles, too tired and relaxed for etiquette. "That's very considerate." He's not sure he'll even sleep. Last time he ended up composing long songs in his head that made no sense in the morning, just to fight the boredom of tossing and turning.

Well, he was careful with the tossing. Which never helps. It's just that he's not used to sleeping with people around.

He feels quite settled, though, and heavy, like there might be more than incoherent naps waiting for him when Kame climbs in next to him and the mattress dips in a way Jin likes, which is a silly thing to think, and he thinks it anyway.

"Ready?" Kame asks.

"You arranged the alarm?"

"Yeah."

Jin nods. "Ready."

They don't kiss good night or anything like that. But Kame reaches over once, without looking like he's unsure of his welcome, and Jin catches his hand, and that's that. It's good. Jin feels proud of his toe. Good team work there.

Then the light goes out. More shifts in the mattress, Kame settling, too.

Jin blinks up at the dark ceiling, nestled in warmer and tighter than he usually is in these sheets, and waits. After a moment, Kame turns again; just like last time.

He listens for the change in breathing, just because he's curious. But it's harder to focus, and the heaviness is pulling at him. A long day. Exciting lounge adventures. He can still see the outlines of the unfamiliar room when he blinks his eyes open again; that always helps.

He turns on his side, very quietly. It's easy to close his eyes.

~

Chapter 32

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