The Same Deep Water As You
by Solo & Jo
chapter(s) | Story notes, disclaimers, warnings]
Thursday 22 January
Custom's going slow in the bar, the noise still low enough for easy
talking. It's early, and the only people there are those who were keen
on the sofa seats, like the young schoolteacher and his girlfriend, and
some of the more nervous singers wanting a quick trial run with the
band and hanging around for liquid courage after. Some of them can be
very liquid by the time they get on, but people are usually kind.
Jin helped Goto-san with the sound check again earlier and wiped
down the tables. Now he's kicking back with Tomo and a bottle of
Yebisu, waiting for the rush to start.
"Anyway, I thought I'd really do the slow one this time," Tomo says, and Jin grins because he's been saying it for weeks now.
"I should make up some interesting penalty if you chicken out again."
They turn because heavy footsteps are clomping up the stairs from the cellar.
"All done," Saeki-san says when he appears. He's the younger of the
two delivery guys, with a very short neck and the bulky arms of someone
who lugs crates around for a living. "Sure you don't want to up the
Yebisu order? You were pretty low."
Tomo's grimace is subtle enough that only Jin catches it. "Not my
decision, I'm afraid," he says. Jin knows he'd also like to get some
Asahi Black in. "I'm just the muscle."
"But the place is rocking on your nights," Saeki says encouragingly.
Sometimes he comes by when his rounds are finished, for the music,
though he claims he's never going to sing. "I'd say you're doing it
Jin nods to that, and Saeki checks his boss is still in no hurry,
taking a break in the van outside with his complimentary coke, before
sliding into the barstool next to Jin. Break time for all.
"By the way, I had a talk with my brother," he says to Jin. "He said
he had a bit of a test when he started? But he wants to be an
electrician, so I think he's got to know about not electrocuting
himself and crap like that. Do you know what you're looking at?"
They talked a bit about apprenticeships last week, after Jin
admitted he never learned anything new after his dodgy high school
"I kind of like cars," Jin says. "I was thinking of doing something with that. I'm not so good with numbers."
"There's always business in cars, they keep breaking down," Saeki
says wisely. "Once you're past the apprenticeship, you've got it made.
Trick is getting past that."
"Difficult?" Tomo asks, handing over the sheets he signed and initialled.
"Nah, just… they don't pay well. My brother gets a bit, but it wouldn't be enough without my parents."
"Yeah," Jin says, "I guessed that. But I'm saving up." It won't be a problem, in a year.
"For a guy who doesn't like being a waiter, you spend a lot of time
helping out here," Goto-san says, reaching past Jin behind the bar
where he left his own beer. They're getting good at working together,
but Jin still calls him Slayer guy in his head half the time. Today
it's the Reign in Blood tour t-shirt from 2006 again; Jin always thinks
that's a weird misspelling.
"Shut up, don't discourage him!" Tomo says, and Jin laughs into his drink.
"Better atmosphere here," he says. "I get to eat peanuts. And the compensation's okay, too." He dangles his beer.
Tomo restocks the fridge, and Jin and Saeki have another chat about
Metallica and CDs versus downloads, not that Jin even owns a computer.
He then watches the bar for a bit while Tomo takes a call from Emi-san,
and pours the usual drinks when the nice couple who always sing duets
arrive. Kihara-san is wrapped up tight in gloves and two layers of
scarves, while Kitayama is making due with an orange windbreaker.
"Hey, you're getting better at the draft thing," Kihara teases Jin
when he manages not to fill up half her glass with froth. He is
concentrating too hard to be cheeky in return, but he's quite proud of
the very professional-looking beers he puts on the bar eventually.
Kitayama returns from hanging their jackets over some chairs. He's
actually wearing a t-shirt. In January. Voluntarily. And not even
ordering hot tea.
"Don't mind her," he says. "She's been fighting with the neighbours
all week, it takes a while for the aggression to ease off. But she'll
"We should sing some deathcore," Kihara says with big intense eyes,
and they all laugh. Jin listens to stories about scheming neighbours
and the dangers of living with middle-aged housewives, and he's
grinning at a description of a very flustered postman when he hears his
phone, the soft little melody that is Kame's ringtone.
It's weird how his heart skips a little and he feels a grin spreading over his face.
"Excuse me," he says, and in the few moments it takes to move far
enough aside to answer the phone, he somehow finds time to remember
that Kame is still in Hokkaido, and to wonder why he's calling, and
maybe there were chopped-off arms after all, and he's almost
apprehensive by the time he finally says, "Hello?"
Kame doesn't sound like he's chopped off anybody's arm, and Jin feels the grin coming back. "Hi! How's the frozen north?"
Kame's voice laughs in his ear. "It was pretty frozen when I left."
"You left? I thought you were there until Saturday."
"I didn't fall off the sandals," Kame says, "I got out early.
Listen, Jin, my wife is out and nobody else expects me anyway, I'm in
town tonight with nothing to do, do you fancy meeting up? Anytime that
suits you will be fine."
Jin needs a moment to absorb all that, and another to… to know what
he's thinking. Because meeting Kame… meeting Kame is always great, but
it's Open Mic night which is… which is the other great thing, and he'd
have to wait another week… and he can't leave anyway, he remembers, he
promised Tomo to help him until Emi-chan gets in at ten. But ten is
late, for a trip across the city. And it's his day off.
Kame noticed the silence. "No good?" he asks. The energy has gone
from his voice, but he doesn't sound put off. "If you have… if you are
busy, I understand. I was short notice, I'm sorry. Don't worry about
He could say he's busy. It would be perfectly okay.
"It's just, it's my day off," he says. "And there's stuff… I'm meeting some friends, I've got a thing."
"Oh," Kame says. "That's great. Everybody needs days off. Maybe we
can make it Tuesday? Or Wednesday, I think I've got… sorry. We can find
something next week."
"And it's not just, I mean, we're not just hanging out randomly,
there's a thing with singing." Jin doesn't even know why he's babbling
on like that.
"Karaoke?" Kame sounds like he thoroughly approves of karaoke for Jin. Jin wonders if he's acting.
"An Open Mic night. At a bar. I don't know if you know about them?
People just stand up and sing, sometimes it's their own songs, but
often covers, but there's a band and some people play their own
"I've heard of it," Kame says. "I'm sure it's fun. I hope you have
fun." Silence again. It feels weird after all those words. "So, we talk
again next week?"
"Yeah," Jin says quickly, "or do you want to—" He catches himself,
unsure suddenly how he got to— never mind. "Do you want to come?"
This silence is different. "To the bar?"
"Well, nobody knows what I do here, you could just be some guy I
know. A friend. And after, well, I don't live far from there." He
reminds himself to breathe. Deeply. "Sorry," he says then. "It's
probably a stupid idea. I know it's kind of…"
"No, it's cool, it's great. I'd love to come."
Suddenly Jin's heart is beating in his throat. He's not sure why.
Probably got his choice of reasons. But then he gets with it, says,
"Okay, great," before Kame can even think it's not, and then he tries
to think logically. It's not actually that hard. Jin works at a private
club. Kame likes music. Totally fine.
He gives Kame directions, dashing past Tomo and Goto into the tiny
office to find a post code for the navigation or the taxi driver.
Noises at the other end of the line sound like Kame has managed to
spill the contents of his glove compartment on the floor in the search
"Dress code?" Kame then asks, and Jin is glad somebody is thinking the right thoughts here.
"Basic," he says, "very basic. Jeans if you have any."
He doesn't know why Kame finds that so funny.
"I think I can find a pair," Kame giggles, but then he goes sober
again. "I'll try to make it hard to recognize me, but you'll have to
tell me if I look too deranged."
"Don't worry," Jin says, "we have a few guys who think wearing
sunglasses in a dim bar makes them into cool rockers. You'll fit right
"As long as nobody asks me to sing." Kame goes silent for a moment. "People may recognize me anyway."
Jin chews his lip. "Would that be really bad?"
"No! No, not really, I can be interested in amateur music if I want
to be…" He trails off. "Hey, would it be okay if I asked Tanaka-san if
he wants to come along? To the bar? He goes to these things sometimes,
I think, it would make it easier to explain…"
Tanaka. Another client. Not one of Jin's, thank god, but still. Club
people. Which is different from Kame, who is just… Kame, but maybe it
shouldn't be so different and maybe it will even help to have someone
there to keep him from being stupid. He doesn't know.
"I don't have to," Kame is saying. "I'll come along anyway."
"Sure, go ahead and ask him," Jin says, ignoring how weird it feels
to imagine drinking with Tanaka, here. "It's a free country, the bar's
open to all." He manages a laugh. "Even to rappers."
"Great, okay!" Kame's got the enthusiasm back even if now he has to
dress like a hobo mummy, and Jin says he'll let Ootomo know, because
it's better not to forget that.
"I want to drop my car off at the apartment, I hope to get there before nine, okay?"
"Sounds great," Jin says, and they hang up. He's smiling at the old
black-and-white flyer on Tomo's pinboard where he found the address,
and then sobriety sinks into his guts as he wonders what he's doing
At least he made it into the office, and nobody can see him. That's
good. He stares at Tomo's scribblings on the board, at the bar
rotations and a list of phone numbers that include beer delivery
services, pizza take-out and Yoshi's school.
He's crazy. Except this time he's not really crazy, and he's got no
excuse. He's just invited Kame to the one place he's kept all to
himself, the one thing safe from the club. And that's not even
considering Tanaka, and two clients knowing things they have no business knowing, and he is such an idiot.
He flips the phone open again and glances at his meagre contact
list. Kame's is the second name in the list right after the office.
Just as well he hasn't called Ootomo yet.
They can meet next week. Make it Wednesday, and the wait won't kill
either of them; why should it? Kame will be… disappointed but he won't
hold a grudge; he'll understand. Everybody needs days off.
He closes the phone.
He'll need another moment before he can talk to Ootomo.
Maybe he just won't sing. Kame isn't coming for that.
But, no, that's not fair, and Jin's not going to lie to himself.
Kame likes Jin's company, and Jin likes his, and that's why he's doing
this and if he had any sense, he'd have called it off. But who knows,
maybe Kame has called Tanaka already, and now it's too late, and he'll
just live with his stupidity.
Tomo sticks his head through the door. "Everything okay with you?"
"Yeah, sure," Jin says. Well, they'll see. He holds up his phone.
"Just got a phone call." Inviting his client to the Open Mic. Holy fuck.
"Ah, right! No rush on my account, just thought you should know
Lousy Trouser are about to set up their bass," Tomo grins at him. "They
want to start a run in ten."
Jin nods in understanding; good to have notice, and he gets over
himself in time to call the office without electric guitars blaring in
the background, to tell Ootomo he's got a date.
He spends the next ten minutes pouring drinks, checking Tomo's small
change and wondering every time someone looks at him what they'd say if
they knew he's a whore. Kihara with her sparkly self-made jewelry and
her nice smiles, Goto when he asks Jin's opinion on the Lousy Trouser
acoustics, the office guy from last time who crashed and burned on
Hamazaki Ayumi songs but is here to try again.
Then he stops. Reminds himself that nobody is going to find out
because Kame doesn't want that, either. Maybe Kame's worrying just as
much whether he's made a stupid mistake with this. They'll both be
careful, it'll be fine.
He gets a beer from the fridge for himself and chills with some
determination. Twenty minutes later he gets an e-mail from Kame that
says Tanaka is coming, and they are aiming for eight-thirty.
Next to him Tomo is drafting beer. He's much faster at it than Jin.
Somehow Jin wants to tell him he's got a friend coming; warn him,
maybe, about outsiders. Or about the music scene audience. But also
just tell him. It's a strange feeling.
The last two weeks at work were dull with Kame nowhere except on TV. Yamatani brought Yamanashi primeur
wine and Yokoyama had a good week on the markets again, but even that
isn't something he wants to think about at the bar. No rests with
anyone, and he'll notice that on his bank balance at the end of the
month, but he's still happier without them.
Tomo said he's mentioned in a few places that he's got a friend
looking for an apartment. The sooner something happens there, the
And he'll introduce Kame later, and then he wonders why he's even
thinking he can't tell Tomo now. It's just normal, saying what a phone
call was about.
"Hey," he says when all customers are happy with drinks for the
moment. "That call earlier? A friend of mine's going to drop by with
another guy, to hang out for a bit."
"Cool," Tomo says. "Music buffs?"
"Hm, the other guy is pretty into it. Rap. My friend's just…" Jin grins. "He'll listen to pretty much anything, I think."
"He's coming to the right place then," Tomo grins back. He nods at
the couple on the sofa and starts to put together refills for them.
"What time do you want to go on? You'll want to wait till your friends
"They said eight-thirty so… anytime after nine will be good," Jin
says. "Maybe not too late. Between nine and ten." If Kame really hates
it, they can leave when Emi-san comes to take over from him.
"Yeah, no problem," Tomo says, and pushes the drinks across for Jin
to put on a tray. The schoolteacher likes his hot sake; his girlfriend
prefers exotic cocktails.
They seem nice, but Jin's never talked to them. When he puts the
drinks down on their table, they smile at him but the teacher doesn't
interrupt some mournful tale about his school's Koushien chances, his
girlfriend nodding along sympathetically and, Jin thinks, with about as
much general interest in baseball as Jin has himself. He used to wish
quite often that schools weren't so obsessed with it.
Hisato played for a while, but never well; and then he got too lazy. Taro-chan…
Jin called him on his birthday; that was the other thing last week.
It was harder than talking to Hisato, and he didn't get lucky about
Taro picking up the phone.
Still, his mother said nothing when he asked politely to speak to
his brother and she didn't refuse, just passed him on, and they got
three minutes. Jin started off with questions he'd prepared because he
knows how his head gets under stress, and then Taro was telling him
anything and everything about the last school year and thankfully
almost forgot to ask questions of his own.
He found out that the soccer shoes he sent were the right size, and
came at just the right time, too, when the old pair was both too torn and too small.
And Taro misses him. Jin always tries not to wonder what they say
about him, but he didn't expect that. It was hard to hear, but it also
made him happy. Still does.
When he gets back to the bar, Tomo has that harassed look he gets
half an hour before the music starts, where he always worries about the
sky falling down or people tripping over their guitars. Jin takes the
next tray off him, and Tomo says thanks like Jin rescued a kitten from
The first number is a bit of a snooze, a weepy ballad thing that
would work better at midnight when it can make everybody maudlin. But
then the student trio with the cool drummer mix it up a bit, just in
time for the first real rush of customers, and Jin has to figure out
people's orders over the beat before the room erupts into applause.
They keep the queue short between the two of them. Tomo still
manages to chat with people in between; Jin responds to the odd comment
but nobody holds it against him when he has to concentrate on adding
things to tabs and how much the Diet Coke was again. It's fun, and he
starts humming along to the two familiar tracks of the Lousy Trousers.
Kihara and her partner come to the bar to get some gin and tonics,
but mostly to talk to him. Last week Jin helped them figure out the
harmonies for some pop song that's not originally a duet, and they tell
him they'll be singing it tonight for the first time. More reasons he's
glad he didn't cancel. He's just caught a glance of Kihara's
pink-and-white watch – thirty-five past – when he checks the door to
see Kame arrive.
He's cute in a black beanie and huge sunglasses, a jacket with plaid
fringes over his jeans, and he looks weirdly tiny. Jin has no idea if
he's recognizable. But Jin is at the bar, so he's easy to see, and the
smile on Kame's face is real and shy. Jin's stomach flips a bit because
this is it; bar, music, client, right here. Then he waves, and his
stomach flips more. He figures he'll be used to it by the time Kame and
Tanaka have had their first drinks.
Tanaka has forgone any camouflage, his short bleached hair uncovered
and some bling glinting here and there. He's wearing the same black
jeans he wears to the club.
Jin goes over to show them to the table he kept clear for them.
"Hey," Kame says.
"Hey," Jin says, and adds, "Good evening," for Tanaka. He stops the
automatic bow halfway, suddenly afraid people will notice and wonder.
"Thanks for coming. Did you find it all right?"
"The cab driver did," Tanaka says with a grin. "You think I'd miss the chance to have some beer with the music?"
"We've got beer." Jin shows them their seats; good ones with a
pretty decent view, given that they're late. "What would you like?
We've got Kirin on draught, Yebisu in bottles."
"You work here?" Kame asks. He's sitting very still, like the seat
is going to throw him off if he antagonizes it, but he seems okay,
considering. The first half hour at the restaurant, he was tenser.
"Just today," Jin explains. "The waitress had a family emergency, so
I'm filling in till ten." And if he'd known he was going to see Kame,
he'd have picked out a nice shirt today, not the shapeless grey t-shirt
he got in a sale. His hair doesn't even bear thinking about.
But then this isn't the club. That's the point, that's why he likes
it here, and Kame agreed to meeting here so… this is what he gets. He
can't have expected club-Jin.
Jin smiles nervously. "It's kind of busy right now, so I can't sit down, but I'll get you your drinks straight away."
Tanaka chooses the Kirin and Kame just goes along. Jin feels like
he's balancing a whole tray of fancy cocktails on his way back to the
bar, but when he gets there everything's still normal.
Only Kame is here now.
He smiles back in Kame's direction. Kame is still huddling in his
jacket even though it's quite warm; Tanaka has already taken off his
coat and is looking around, curious and not shy at all.
Jin lets Tomo handle the beers.
"Your friends?" Tomo asks with a nod.
Jin nods back, all cool, or so he hopes. "Yeah. I'll introduce you when you're not up to your elbows in work."
Tomo wipes his wet hands on a towel and surveys the empty glasses Jin has already collected back. "Or dishwater."
"Yep. I'll help you in a minute, okay?"
He gets the beers to his guests, which feels pretty weird when
normally he sits right there and has Kame order things for him. But
they take their glasses and it's just normal, like he's just some guy,
in some bar.
"Thanks for the table, too," Kame says before Jin leaves again. "I
hope you didn't have to fight too many people off." Jin blushes a
little, and his hair fluffs annoyingly into his face.
For the first three songs, Jin is nervous that they'll be bad;
boring or out of tune. But there's a decent soloist and then another
three-guy formation comes on, and they're so much fun that Jin can see
Tanaka bobbing along from here, and Kame is smiling too.
He's ditched the jacket at last and is wearing a loose-fitting black
t-shirt with long sleeves. It looks nondescript and still like he
raided his older brother's wardrobe.
Jin keeps an eye on him between distributing drinks and rinsing
glasses for Tomo; because of the sunglasses, he can't really tell if
Kame is doing the same, but it's okay.
He's even got to admit that bringing Tanaka along was a good idea.
He's the attention-getter if anybody; Kame's almost invisible beside
the bling, the bouncing, and the dayglo hair.
Still Jin's pulse jumps to a race when next time he turns back their
way, the guy who sometimes attempts Dabo covers is homing in on Kame's
table. He thinks he can see Kame stiffen, and he doesn't even know what
to do if—
The Dabo guy grins widely at Tanaka and makes a weird hand sign,
which Tanaka knows how to return. The deep bow that follows is pretty
weird in context, Jin thinks, but at least he can breathe again. He
sees Kame take a gulp from his beer, and finally heads back to the bar
with his tray to have one, too.
Steady, he tells himself. Even if somebody recognizes Kame, it's not
like Kame has never dealt with fans before, and Kame is competent, and
he's got Tanaka for cover, and as long as Jin stays out of the way…
They'll be fine.
He does another round distributing drinks, and stops for a few words
with the four Shinoharas who always come to cheer him on. Initially he
couldn't understand what a mid-thirties married couple and their two
early teenage daughters might see in him, but now they just banter
easily. Jin is happy they like his music.
He's become good at telling when it's working and for whom it's
working, too. When people no longer look at him but through him – look
through tables or through their glasses or through walls at the thing
that means something to them alone, and they can see it when he sings.
He loves it when that happens.
Back at the bar again, he's reaching across for another sip from his
bottle, when there's a smooth voice in his ear. "They keep you pretty
He whips around, and Kame is smiling at him. Up close, the shades aren't really that dark.
"I thought I'd come keep you company. Tanaka-san has found a fan."
"I'll take the next round," says Tomo, who's taken in the situation
with a glance. "You can stay here and pull beers." He gives Kame the
standard 'hello-there-new-customer' bow. "Hi, I'm Yamashita Tomohisa,
I'm in charge of this place."
Names. They never thought about names. Jin doesn't even know what he wants Kame to say.
"Hi." Kame is bowing too. "Kamenashi Kazuya, pleased to meet you."
Right. Right, okay, 'Kame' would have been just as… people know that
name, too, so… maybe it makes sense, but still Jin has no idea how Kame
can be so relaxed about this. Look so relaxed, anyway.
Tomo squints at him with a little smile. "My girlfriend mentions that name sometimes. I believe I should be jealous of you."
Kame laughs. "I'm sorry. It's the camera shots from low angles, they make me look more impressive."
Tomo laughs, too. "I'll tell her that. It take it you're keeping a low profile?"
"The sunglasses gave it away, huh?" Jin manages.
"Yeah, I'm just here to chill," Kame says. "I had a free night, and
Jin told me this is a nice place." He looks around. "He was right."
"Thanks," Tomo says, following his look, which has come to rest
briefly on Tanaka, who's found a second disciple and is signing a
coaster. "He an actor, too?"
"No," Kame says, "he's in the music industry. But also off-duty right now." He smiles. "He just can't ever let go."
"Well, I hope he doesn't find us too painful," Tomo says, and loads
up his tray. "Gotta go, thirsty customers to supply. I hope you enjoy
the evening! Keep pulling those beers, Jin."
Jin returns his smile, and stares after him for a moment.
"He seems like nice guy," Kame says.
"He is." Jin's still taking it all in, how normal Kame is here. With
Tomo gone and just the two of them, Jin can see his shoulders ease just
so, his smile turn shy in that way Jin recognizes. "But… just in
general…" It makes him feel deeply disloyal to Tomo to bring this up
right now, but he also feels he has to. "…is it a good idea to give out
your name just like that?"
Kame shrugs slowly and leans his elbows on the bar. "I don't like
making something up, to be honest. And if I do get recognized, it'll
look pretty shady if I spent the last hour claiming to be my insurance
True enough, but it kind of sucks, and maybe… "It was stupid of me to ask you to come, wasn't it?"
"It wasn't." Kame shakes his head energetically. "This really is a
nice place. And I could have said no if I wanted to. And if anyone
asks, hey. Actors can have cool friends."
Jin grins down at the damp counter. It's true. Not that he's cool;
that Kame can make his own decisions. Jin doesn't need to make himself
crazy on his behalf.
For a moment they are silent, just looking around.
"Beer," Kame says to him then with a smile. "Don't want to get you in trouble."
Jin obediently starts filling glasses. "So how was Hokkaido?" He has
to raise his voice over the guy who has just started an enthusiastic
cover of an X-Japan song.
"Cold," Kame says at the same volume. "Really cold. Some days
we filmed outside for twelve hours. You'd pour yourself some hot tea
and by the time you lifted it to your mouth, it was lukewarm. The best
parts were when we had to do battle in full samurai uniform, because we
could wear thermal underwear underneath that."
Jin shudders in sympathy. Then he asks, "What?" because Kame is smiling in a funny way.
Kame hesitates, then leans in. Not so they touch, they would never
touch. But Kame doesn't have to shout anymore. "I missed you," he says.
"It wouldn't have been so cold snuggling up to you."
When he stands back, he looks a bit embarrassed, but Jin's just
thinking of Kame alone in some cold Hokkaido bed, and he's almost
shivering in sympathy.
He's careful not to lean in too much, but he smiles, and is pretty sure Kame can tell he'd have been happy to warm him up.
He's forgotten the beers again. He fills up the three he's got in progress before Kame asks, "So what have you been up to?"
Suddenly he realizes that this is much nicer, too. He's not stuck
with small talk about the gym or the subway. So he tells Kame he spent
time practicing, and that last week they had a bigger party because the
Open Mic night turned a year old, and they had chocolate cake.
Tomo comes back for another load but doesn't comment, not even on
the cake. Kame hardly tenses up this time, either. Jin asks him about a
refill and Kame glances at the shelves behind the bar, but decides to
stick with beer.
"You can have what you like, it's on me," Jin says.
Kame mulls that over, though he tries to disguise it by checking out the changeover on stage.
"Thanks. They do say knowing the guy behind the bar is a perk," he says then with a little grin. He has the beer anyway.
It feels pretty clever, and is probably really not. But Kame gets a
giggly look sometimes, like he's ever so pleased with the two of them
too, standing here and listening to music. Jin learns that Kame will
really listen to anything, and cares about stuff like where people can
possibly practice percussion and what colour someone's guitar is. Like
it's totally normal, Kame in bug-eye sunglasses and flabby t-shirts,
watching Jin pull beers.
When Tomo comes back the next time, he's got a purposeful look on his face. "Hey, you're on soon. Are you getting ready?"
"Um, yeah," Jin says. He notes that Kame looks interested-but-trying-not-to-show-it. "Will you be okay here?"
"Sure, first rush is done."
"My guitar's in the office," Jin says to Kame, and now he feels weird after all, but Kame's pushing off the bar.
"Great. I'll be with that rapper guy over there." He takes his beer and he and Tomo nod at each other.
Jin lets himself be shooed into the office by Tomo. Ten minutes is
just long enough to grab his stuff, and get out the lyrics of the
English song for a quick run over the line that can still trip him up
Between working and worrying about Kame's cover, he never had time
to get nervous about— he stops his thoughts short of detail. About
this; and he hopes to keep it that way for the next fifteen minutes. He
closes his eyes and huffs out a deep breath before heading out of the
door with his guitar.
That went pretty well.
Kame's not sure what it really compares to, but as he walks around
tables to get back to his seat, he feels like after he's watched his
own performance and didn't find fault, or when he's remembered Mother's
Day in time to get a decent present.
Tanaka's two fans see him approach and make their excuses; not
really necessary, but Kame considers it a good sign, a sign that
they'll be left in peace if they want to be private people on a fun
He slides back in his seat and meets Tanaka's grin.
"He's coming up now," Kame explains.
"Yeah, I thought so," Tanaka nods. "Good for him."
The woman on stage, a tiny fluffy blur of pink and white on stiletto
heels, is starting her second song. When Kame had the mind to listen,
he liked what he heard so far. He likes the enthusiasm in it, even from
the ones who aren't so good.
And Tanaka is still watching him.
He hasn't asked a funny question since Kame called him up, but the
funny and the questions are in the air whenever it goes quiet between
them. "Thanks very much for coming along," Kame says. "It really helps."
Tanaka gestures generously. "Hey, it's no hardship. These guys are
pretty decent. And you've been up there in the cold for two lonely
Kame rolls his eyes a bit. It sounded different in his head when he said something very similar just five minutes ago.
"How are you holding up?" Tanaka says. "This is pretty new."
Kame breathes deeply but, he hopes, undramatically. "I think it's
okay. It's kind of… laid-back here." He's not noticing many curious
stares in any case.
"Shibuya it ain't," Tanaka agrees comfortably as the singer holds
her last high note, and then they clap along with the rest. "Though
she's dressed like she wishes it was."
She walks to the steps at the side of the stage and Jin appears at
the bottom, in faded blue and grey. They high-five each other while
she's still at eye level with him up there, and Kame catches a glimpse
of Jin's grin for her before he leaves the steps to her and turns to
take one large stride straight up onto the stage. Kame can't tell if
the applause is so loud because of who's leaving, or of who's just
come, or whether he just didn't pay attention to it before.
Okay, the squealing of Jin's name from the tables to his right is definitely new, and he doesn't think
he's seen those two little girls push forward to throw torn-up beermat
confetti at anybody else before. But he could be wrong. Jin is laughing
while he tunes up quickly, and then he gives them a little wave.
A guy behind Kame shouts some English words, and a couple of others repeat them, and Jin nods.
He adjusts the height of the mic and leans into it a bit.
"Hi," he says, "I'm Jin. And this is…"
Kame doesn't understand the rest, it's English again. There's more
satisfied cheering, though. Beside him, Tanaka makes an intrigued
sound, but Kame has no time to ask because the music starts, Jin
picking out some low rhythm on his guitar, and the drums and the
keyboard from the band joining in, and then Jin is singing.
It's all English. Kame doesn't understand a word. But he doesn't
have to, it doesn't matter. The song is raw and intense, a rock number
that sometimes comes close to shouting, and Jin sounds perfect whether
he goes loud and rough or makes the foreign words sneak under your
skin; and he looks amazing up there caring about nothing but the music
and ignoring Kame completely, and like he knows every note to the bone.
The audience sings along with the somewhat shouted chorus. Too
foreign for Kame to join in, but he smiles, finds himself tapping along
and his fingers drumming on the beer glass. A glance at the fingers
dancing on the table next to him tells him Tanaka is enjoying it too.
The applause is definitely noisy when Jin's done. Kame is sure of
that. In fact, it's so loud and long that Tanaka has to lean in closely
to say to him, "That was good."
"I thought so too," he shouts back.
"He's being harsh on his voice with all that shouting, it's not made
for that. I'd like to hear what he does with something gentler." As the
sound level goes back to normal, Tanaka can stop the shouting too. "But
I liked it."
"Do you know what it was? I didn't catch anything."
On the stage, Jin is having a quick consultation with the band.
"Some Bon Jovi thing. Ancient American rock, from the eighties," Tanaka explains. "Didn't catch the title, either."
They shut up because Jin's turned back to the audience. He looks hot
up there, and once or twice tries to push his hair out of his face
while he announces the next song. English, again.
"Did he say 'I know'?" Kame asks Tanaka.
Tanaka shrugs. "Think so. I don't know it."
Jin starts to play.
Despite the title it's in Japanese this time. Tanaka is getting his gentler song.
Kame has never heard it before. Nobody else is singing along, but
the audience know this one, Kame can feel it. They aren't chatting,
only a few are drinking, and there's recognition in the smiles and Jin
has the confidence again, all alone up there on stage.
His eyes close on the second verse. It's slow and beautiful, just
Jin's voice and the guitar, and then percussion on the chorus, Jin's
voice picking up with a restrained sort of passion.
It's on the last note that Kame notices just how quiet it got, and that he was holding his breath for the last soft words.
The little girls go wild but there are guys cheering too. It wasn't
like a love song. Or maybe it is, maybe the love was complicated. Jin's
smile is wide and deep, and Kame finds it strange and endearing how the
shyness comes back into his posture. Jin claps for the band, and
there's an entirely unfitting celebratory drum roll that makes everyone
burst into laughter.
Jin jumps off the stage, Yamashita-san thumping his shoulder and
shoving beer at him, to drink not to serve, and some older guy in a
weird t-shirt says something that makes Jin laugh.
Kame wonders who it is, how they know each other; he'd like to go up there too, but it would be different, and he knows better.
It takes a while and some more congratulations, and the next singer
is already on the stage by the time Jin looks his way. Kame can see his
sudden hesitation from here.
He's not sure what to do; raising his glass would be rather corny.
He risks lifting the sunglasses for just a moment and shoots Jin a
smile. It probably looks very strange.
But Jin seems pleased when he ducks his head, and then he waves with
both hands at the bar. Got it. More work, not avoidance. Kame settles
back and has a gulp of his beer.
"He's good," Tanaka says, quietly enough so it's not rude to the
current balladeer. "I can see why he didn't want to cancel on this
thing." He gives the stage another look, and nods.
Kame squashes the moment of guilt, which is irrational even by his
standards. "Yes, I'm glad he didn't. I liked it, too. But you know me
"Well, here's your chance to get yourself some education," Tanaka says. "The kid has taste."
Kame doesn't rise to the bait, and doesn't take issue with Tanaka's
phrasing. Jin is smiling more than before, talking to an old man in a
rumpled suit who has settled on the other side of the bar, dropping the
dishtowel to clap when the song ends.
Kame eyes Tanaka's mostly empty glass and then downs the rest of his
own beer. "Are you sticking with that?" he asks. Tanaka just smirks.
Jin sees him coming this time.
"Can I get two more, please," Kame says, smiling secretly as he's putting his elbows back on the bar.
"Sure," Jin says, all light and happy bartender. "Thanks for saving us a trip."
"Figured you guys are busy enough." Kame nods at the old guy, who doesn't even blink at his camouflage.
Jin is biting his lip as he starts their drafts.
"I really liked your songs," Kame says. "That was really good."
The smile is getting the better of Jin, even though he makes a dorky
effort at keeping a straight face. "Thanks," he says in the end. "I'm
glad you're not bored."
"Bored?" the old guy says, in great disbelief. "You should be
glad they let you off the stage." He turns to Kame with a wise
expression. "He's one of our stars, you know."
Kame nods solemnly.
Jin hands them their beers, and the verdict's out on whether he's more grinning or blushing.
Jin joins them after a girl has taken over waiting the tables. He
pulls up a chair, not quite in a circle. The easy way he flops down
almost takes Kame by surprise. "Hey," he smiles. Then he gives Tanaka a
more self-conscious nod.
"Is the waitress back?" Kame asks.
"No, that's Emi-san, she's Tomo's girlfriend. She helps out
sometimes, too." The girl is looking their way when Kame turns his
head. Jin waves with his glass.
"Nice little place," Tanaka says. "And pretty decent music despite all the singing."
It goes a little quiet, just the song in the background, Jin smiling
at his beer; wondering. Kame expected there'd be a moment like this,
where they figure out how Tanaka fits into all this and acknowledge
what he's doing here.
"I'm glad you're not too horrified," Jin says in the end.
"I'm having fun," Tanaka says. "It's a good atmosphere. Friendly."
"Yeah," Jin grins. "They started out with just one real band but
it's much more fun now that more of them come, they'll play along to
different things. You should wait till Tomo gets up there, he does one
that gets everybody going."
Kame looks at the mostly abandoned instruments; the girl singing now
is just playing her own guitar. "Are you in one of the bands? Or do you
meet up to practice?"
"Not… really," Jin shrugs. "We just know each other from here. We pick stuff up from each other."
Kame blinks and tries to imagine performing live with co-stars who don't know their lines.
"Why?" Jin asks.
"Nothing, just… When they play with you, how do you know if they'll do it right?"
At first Jin seems to think; then he breaks into a grin Kame really didn't expect. "I guess… we figure it out as we go along?"
Kame gives Tanaka a quick glance. "Is it a weird question?"
"No," Jin concedes, but he's still grinning. "I guess it's just kind of relaxed."
"Relaxed is good," Kame agrees, and smiles at Jin, except now Jin is laughing.
"Unless you're competing for the highest foam block tower, right?"
What? The only time he's had anything to do with foam blocks in the
last fifteen years was… a month ago, shooting for some promotional
"Sorry," Jin says. "I saw you on TV last week, with your samurai cast."
"Doing what?" Tanaka wants to know. "Samurai, foam…" His head sways in dramatic confusion.
"I was doing some early promotion for the movie, there was a
dexterity contest against the team from TBS's Friday drama," Kame
summarizes, eyeing Jin carefully. "We won."
"I think you scared that poor kid."
Kame knows whom Jin means right away. Kasai-kun, sixteen or so,
plays the daimyou's page and is prone to wide-eyed standing in the
wrong spot when you're blind handling very light, bulky blocks. "Well,
he was just… I was just… we had to be a bit more organized if we wanted
"Clearly," Jin says. Maybe it's the unfamiliar setting, but his smile looks different from ever before.
Tanaka is watching Jin with a hard-to-read expression, only Jin
doesn't notice, letting Kame off the hook to watch the singer again.
"Those TV games," Tanaka says tragically. "Nobody takes them seriously."
At first Kame wants to protest, but then he just holds up his beer
in defeat. Okay, so he was a little bossy. At least they got the
highest tower and the kid got a laptop out of it; and he could even say
that and Jin would be fine, Jin would just laugh at him, the nice way.
So, whatever. Kame slides deeper into the seat and applauds the singer,
who has just finished. Tanaka can have his smirk.
The next guy who comes on is wearing a hoodie. The guy from before,
with the sign language, and from Tanaka's raised interest Kame's got
some idea what's coming. Turns out to be right.
Kame doesn't know much about rap, despite Tanaka's best efforts. He
doesn't mind it; it just all sounds the same. So he can't tell if the
singer is any good, but going by Tanaka's expression and the way he and
Jin are tapping their feet, he's at least not offending the
Kame just relaxes and watches. Not the singer, but Jin. The shades
come in useful. Jin's pushed his chair back for a better view of the
stage, and Kame gets to see his profile. It feels weird, though not
unpleasant, to be together with Jin and not have Jin completely focused
on him. Nice that that can work.
Nice, too, to see Jin and know that these are the clothes he really
likes to wear, and this is the way he does his hair when he's not
pleasing anybody but himself. It's different, just like the way he
moves is different even from the time they were all boozy and giggly
together. Bigger movements, more joy. Maybe it's the people here, and
how he knows them.
Kame won't feel left out.
He claps obediently when everybody else does and he realizes the
first song is over. No, strike that, there's just one in this set and
the guy is moonwalking his way off the stage to rhythmic clapping that
says the crowd expected no less.
"Be right back," Tanaka says, pushing his chair back. "Gotta say some nice words to a brother."
Jin turns back to Kame. "Brotherhood of rap, huh?" he says.
"Maybe it's a secret underground movement," Kame suggests. "Like those guys in that film, with the Grail."
"Um," Jin says, and shrugs. "Sorry…"
Kame laughs. "Maybe I'll get the DVD for our next pizza and beer evening."
"Beer delivery, beer! Get your fresh beer heeere!" Yamashita-san is
approaching with a tray, followed by the woman called Emi-san. Of
course. "How are you guys doing?" Yamashita asks, while Emi-san takes a
beer off the tray and puts it in front of Kame. "Music acceptable? One
of you run off already?"
"He's gone to communicate with his brother in rap," Jin says, while
Kame says his thanks for the beer and remembers to smile at her. "He'll
be back. Hi Emi-san."
"Hi!" Emi-san sounds nervous. She puts a beer in front of Jin, too.
"This is my girlfriend Arakawa Emi," Yamashita says to Kame. "She only throws her panties at me, so you're quite safe, but she really wanted to say hi to you."
Emi digs her elbow into his ribs and he hops two feet away with a pained face.
"I stopped with the panties, he doesn't look good in them." Then she
gives a short, entirely more nervous bow towards Kame and says, "It's
an honour to meet you. I really like your work."
"Hi, Emi-san," Kame says. "Nice to meet you."
For a moment she gets that deep flustered grin they often get before
they squeal. But she doesn't. "I'm looking forward to your movie," she
says, and bows again, like she's just a nice waitress. "I hope you
enjoy the rest of the evening."
"Thank you. It's been great so far. Thank you for the beers."
"Why do I carry the heavy stuff and she gets all the credit?" Yamashita asks Jin in a fake whisper as Emi retreats.
Jin grabs his new beer. "Cause she's prettier than you."
Yamashita's eyes go even rounder and he clasps a hand over his heart. "She was lying about the panties, man, I so look good."
Jin snorts in surprise, and Yamashita flashes him a grin. He's
certainly attractive, of a more solid build than either of them, with
smooth features and those noticeable eyes.
But Kame is not going to have opinions on the relative attractiveness of Jin's friends. That's not why he's here.
"Mind if I join you guys for my break?" Yamashita asks, and Kame pretends not to see the way Jin tries to check with him, just keeps his eyes firmly on Yamashita.
"You're very welcome," he says, and Jin moves his chair towards Kame
to make room for the stool Yamashita is pulling up from another table.
"Your girlfriend is very nice," Kame says, knowing full well it will get back to her.
"Thanks," Yamashita replies, with a more serious sort of smile, and
checks out the bar where Emi is managing to do three things at once. "I
can really depend on her too."
"Are you the manager of this place?"
Yamashita laughs. "I wish."
"Might as well be, though," Jin throws in. "Except they'd have to pay you properly."
Yamashita pouts, which looks funny and makes his eyes even bigger,
but then puts the work woes aside and slumps back in his chair. "So how
did you like his stuff?" he asks Kame, grinning when Jin hides his face
in his hands.
Kame repeats his assessment from earlier, but Jin quickly starts
teasing Yamashita about the lyrics of a song and making couples hold
hands in the dark. "You'll have to tell him what you think of it when
he's done," he says mischievously to Kame. "If it's romantic enough."
Kame promises to do so, while Yamashita kicks Jin's chair leg and says, "I hate you."
Jin shoots Kame a smile, very warm and without flirtation. Kame is
still fascinated by the way he's sitting there, easy, taking up space
in his everyday clothes and carelessly tapping along with the enka-type
thing a middle-aged man is singing.
Kame is in a public bar, having drinks with his escort's friends.
He keeps on his polite listening smile and waits for the teetering
moment to pass. Nothing different from five minutes ago. All is going
well. Yamashita is nice. There is music.
Yamashita laughs about Jin's pronunciation of some weird English word and says he'll pass that on to his brother.
His escort and his escort's friends and their little brothers. Kame
has a deep drink, and when Yamashita smiles his way, Kame asks him if
he's from the neighbourhood or if he only comes here to work.
"Sorry," Jin says a moment later. "I gotta… you know."
"Five minutes or we'll send a search party," Yamashita promises.
"Search party?" Kame asks as Jin heads for the bathroom.
Yamashita grins. "The men's toilets. Jin says they're creepy. And possibly haunted."
"They're fine, I swear!" Yamashita laughs. "I bet you don't come to dives like this a lot, though."
"I doesn't seem like a dive to me," Kame says. The people are much
too nice for that. It looks like the sort of place Kame would like to
go more if he could. "I don't know what Jin told you but I'm not
"He hasn't told me much, actually. Just, friend called, will be
coming by with other guy, the end. How did you guys meet, anyway?"
Oh. Well, that… that is something Kame could have anticipated. He
has no idea why he didn't, when he spent all that time last time… only
he didn't anticipate meeting anybody from the industry here, or the
press. He hadn't thought he'd talk to anyone who mattered.
And the TV set story won't work, he realizes with horror, and he
doesn't know if he'll fit into whatever Jin's told them about his work
as a waiter. Too risky.
"We met through a mutual friend. At a party, nothing special." He
remembers Tanaka's teasing, grabs it like lifeline. "We got talking
about music, he knows more than I do. Thought he could perform a public
service by educating me. He was nice."
"Yeah, he is." Yamashita sneaks a slow glance over his shoulder,
where Jin is still not reappearing. Then he contemplates his beer with
a strange, fond little smile. "Once he stops being so shy."
Shy. Yes. That's what Jin was, that time before the catastrophic blow job. He knows that now. "I… yeah."
"Not that I mean he's not nice then," Yamashita says quickly. "Just,
when a guy appears in your bar and looks like that and just sits there and doesn't say a word… you think he's maybe too cool for mortals. Because you don't know."
"Is that how you met?"
"Yeah. He came here, just to hang out at first. I'm behind the bar,
so… you chat, right? But Jin…" Yamashita shakes his head a tiny bit.
"It was easier after he'd seen me on stage. He was interested in that.
Still sounded like he was asking a girl on a date for the first time,
but he really likes this stuff." He's smiling again, like people do at
Kame imagines Jin sitting alone at the bar, too nervous to talk to anybody, his whole life secret. Still secret.
He ought to leave Jin alone. Here, at any rate. He's only interfering, complicating things that shouldn't be complicated.
"What sort of music do you like to play?" he asks Yamashita, because
there's a break in the music and he can't just clam up, he's grown-up
enough that he knows how to keep a conversation going with normal
"Rock or pop, mostly," Yamashita says. He lifts his hand in a little
wave, and when Kame turns his head, he sees Jin approaching their table
again. "Southern All Stars, B'z, things like that. – Hey, you survived."
"Frankie was doing his warm-up in there," Jin says. "Ghosts all ran away."
Yamashita grins knowingly.
Uncomplicated. Kame wishes he didn't have to say anything, almost wishes he weren't here.
"I just told Yamashita-san about the party where we met," he says,
and he does manage to sound light-hearted, "and he told me about you
when you started coming here."
The smallest pause; then they each get a share of Jin's amused and
slightly horrified look. "Baby pictures next, huh? Can we talk about
music instead? Or beer? Or… Tanaka-san? What's happened to him?"
That's a good question, but thankfully Tanaka isn't easy to lose.
With minimal effort they spot him talking to two elderly ladies in a
corner at the back, with his new rapper friend still in attendance.
Yamashita laughs. "Oh, rapper mama-san will be chewing his ear off about the violent lyrics and the strange words."
Tanaka seems to be holding his own, though, and his rhinestones seem
to have convinced the ladies that he is a man of sensitivity.
Yamashita stands, excusing himself. "If I don't get back to the bar,
Emi-chan is going to do unspeakable things to me." He smiles at Kame
and Jin. "Have fun." And to Jin specifically, "And no heckling."
Jin looks unimpressed. "We'll see, won't we?"
They watch him go, and he's gotten smacked by a dishtowel and taken
the bar back over before Jin says, "Sorry for leaving you. Did
everything go okay?"
Kame nods obligingly. The stuff that Jin means went okay. "I told
him we met at the house of some unspecified mutual friend," he says,
for completeness' sake. "Your friend is very nice. Everything went
fine." He almost asks if he should leave.
Jin stretches out his legs in front of him and smiles happily. "Good. I'm glad."
There is no heckling at all when Yamashita hops onto the stage with
his own guitar, just very loud cheering, which Kame attributes to a
combination of how popular he is and rising booze level. A full band
supports him for a rockish number that is an excellent bar song and
gets people on their feet.
Tanaka makes his way back through the bouncy crowd, and Kame thinks
he's singing the chorus under the cover of the collective backing
vocals. At least it's not a wasted night for Tanaka.
They don't say anything when he sits back down because Jin doesn't
talk over Yamashita's song. But Tanaka gives him an unsubtle wink.
Two chords into the next song, Jin whoops. It turns out to be a
slower, more romantic one, and there are some giggles as Emi-san dims
the lights and the first lighters come out. Kame feels silly with his
sunglasses in the dark, but they help. He doesn't want to look at Jin
and think thoughts he's better off without while people are swaying to
a love song and Jin is listening to his friend.
The applause at the end is deafening, and when it won't stop, Yamashita threatens them all with cutting off their drinks.
"I told him they'd like it," Jin says when it's possible to hear
each other again. "But would he believe me?" He's beaming, waving
widely over the heads of some other people.
They have another round that goes down rather faster than the
previous one. Every so often, somebody stops by to exchange a few words
and a laugh with Jin, and leaves again. Jin and Tanaka both have
opinions on the night's singers and their songs, and they're talking
like they never knew each other as anything but two guys in a bar.
It's an even drunker set of songs later, after midnight, that Tanaka
starts checking his watch, makes a show of rolling tired shoulders.
"So, you guys…"
"You want to go?" Kame asks. It's not a problem, there are always more cabs. The sinking feeling he has is unwarranted.
"Yeah," Tanaka shrugs. "You guys will be all right?" He sounds pointedly light, and Kame leaves the reply to Jin.
"I think we're good," Jin says easily. "Kame?"
"Sure," Kame nods. It's weird when everyone else is more competent than he.
Tanaka's gaze rests on Jin for a moment, but Jin just smiles and
shoots Kame a look. "I'll make sure he doesn't get lost in the
wilderness," he promises in a stage-whisper.
"I'll hold you to that," Tanaka says, with one of his weird smiles at Kame.
"Actually, how about we get a move on, too?" Jin is leaning towards
Kame and instantly has his attention. "It's just going to get louder
from here, not much chance to talk."
"If you don't mind," Kame says. He doesn't want to cut Jin's night
here short. But it'll look better, he's aware of that, if the three of
them leave together. Look less… something.
"I don't mind at all," Jin says, so readily Kame has no choice but
believe him. "And I'm sure it's better for our stealth thingie too." He
does a funny thing with his eyebrows.
So they all get up and wind their way through the crowd, Jin in the
lead, waving at people here and there, stopping at the bar with his
hands in his back pockets to say goodbye to Yamashita and his
girlfriend. Yamashita gets Jin's guitar and coat from the office and
they are sent off with advice to not get too drunk in Roppongi, where
they are apparently going. Like friends who meet in bars to drink
Then they're outside. The sudden quiet when the door falls closed
feels thick and cushioning. Kame's ears are ringing a little bit.
Tanaka takes a deep breath. His bright hair looks funny over a rather respectable coat. "So, I'll call myself a cab?"
"There's a stand down there," Jin indicates with a jerky arm. "It's
not far, but we're going the other direction. If you go to the main
street, you'll flag one down easy, too."
"I'll do that then," Tanaka says, with a wink that looks devilish
when he puts his collar up like that. "You guys have a good night.
Don't take candy from strangers."
The cold air is wonderful and fresh. Kame can smell the bar smoke
when he moves, from his clothes and his hair, and he pictures them
walking around like anime characters in their own clouds of pollution.
He waves it off when Jin asks why he's laughing.
Jin sticks his hands in his coat pockets and slings his guitar on
his back. "It's not far," he promises once they're off the bar's
parking lot. "Ten minutes, if you walk like it's cold."
"Good thing it's January."
"Man, it was freezing this afternoon when I got here," Jin moans into his scarf, and then goes, "Um."
"Um. Speaking as someone who hasn't had swordfights in Hokkaido recently."
Kame laughs again. "Yeah, okay, this is balmy."
The streets aren't entirely quiet, but nobody gives them a second
glance. Public transport has stopped running, of course. The occasional
cab passes by. Few cars.
"This is still the busy part, it gets quieter on the backstreets,"
Jin explains. "It's nicer to walk with somebody." Kame catches his
sneaky look under a streetlight.
He's glad he went. Glad he got to see Jin like this. Okay, maybe
minus the huddling. Jin's nose is red from the cold, and there is a
hoodie peeking out between the dark coat and the cashmere scarf. Nice
to know they can warm up soon. Together.
He's still prickling with the thought when it occurs to him that he
never thought to bring clothes. Uncertainty? Stupidity? He doesn't know
why he wouldn't at least bring— "Oh."
Kame sighs. "I'm an idiot. I didn't bring a toothbrush."
"Whoops," Jin grins. "There's a nice conbini near where I live, we
can buy one. I stop there anyway when I'm hungry after the Open Mic."
"Now that you mention it, something to eat might be good, too," Kame considers.
"They have… the normal stuff, you know. But at least they keep it
nice and hot, and I never got food poisoning yet." Jin seems bouncy at
the prospect. "I usually have their nikuman."
Kame envisages delicious hot meat steam rising from a bun. Suddenly he is very hungry.
Jin slows, thinks for a moment, and makes them cross to the darker
side of the street, where they continue walking in the same direction.
"It's on this side?"
"No, it's a bit away yet. Just…" Jin throws a look to the opposite
sidewalk and about ten meters ahead Kame notices a house set back a
little, with blackened, boarded-up windows, dark even at night.
"Squatters?" he guesses. "Don't they just want to be left in peace?"
"Not… real squatters." Jin is pulling his head lower into the scarf.
"There was a fire a year ago, killed a family. They keep trying to
renovate, but the ghosts frighten the workers away."
"Oh," Kame says. "I see." He's sad for the family, and it's no
surprise this would become a story keeping kids up at night. Kids and…
"Have they bothered you?"
"No," Jin says. "Not yet. But… you know. Though normally I even walk
there sometimes, it's the side with the lights so… it's complicated.
But with two of us I thought this is okay."
Kame nods before he's even fully disentangled that. Whatever Jin
wants is fine. Even if it's a bit funny how he keeps throwing furtive
glances across the street, the closer they come to the charred dark
Kame halts just opposite. "Did you feel that?"
Jin stops dead. His look darts between Kame and the house. "What?"
"Cooooold," Kame intones in deep ghostly mourning.
The next moment Jin has grabbed him by his coat sleeve and is
dragging him along the street; they nearly trip over themselves when he
tries to get between Kame and the house. "Can you run? We'll be fine at
the end of the street."
"Whoo-ooo-oooh," Kame barely manages between running and laughing. "Jin!"
"What?" Jin isn't slowing down.
"Whoo-ooo-oooh," Kame repeats more pointedly, and this time it registers. "Whoo-ooo-ow!"
Jin's punched his arm as he let go. "You're an asshole." But he's laughing, too. "That was mean."
"I know. I'm sorry." Kame can't quite manage contrite while he's still cracking up. "I couldn't resist."
Thankfully Jin seems to concede that. "Just don't expect me to rescue you next time," he grins. "That ship has sailed."
Jin purses his lips at him, looks him up and down critically. "Probably. You might get rescue credits back for good behaviour."
Kame is surprised how determined he suddenly is to do just that. "May I buy your nikuman for you?"
Jin snorts indulgently. "Rich guys. Always think they can buy
themselves out of stuff. Rescue credits can't be bought," he lectures.
"You just have to be nice to me, I guess."
"Okay," Kame says, feeling motivated. He can do that. He can be very
nice to Jin, and he's got some ideas for how, too, ideas that get him a
little excited when he imagines how Jin will respond. He's looking
forward to it.
They walk companionably for a while, and then Jin crosses over the street again. "That's the place."
He's pointing to a little corner of warm brightness and colour, just
a block away. A minute later they are there. Kame glances inside, and
it's still small, intimate, with narrow-spaced shelves.
"Would you mind if I wait outside?" he says. He's taken quite a few
risks tonight, and all of a sudden, he feels like buying toothbrushes
with Jin in a tiny conbini might be pushing his luck.
Jin seems to get it; looks almost like he's pitying Kame and the
weird limits he comes up against. "No problem. Any particular kind of
toothbrush? Do you have a favourite colour?"
Kame laughs. "Medium, no preference. Knock yourself out."
"And nikuman, yes?"
"And nikuman. Let me give you—"
Jin is gone, the door of the shop opening and closing with a soft electronic chime.
Kame pulls his head in low and watches through the window as Jin
disappears in an aisle for half a minute. He comes back out with a
toothbrush – Kame can't make out the colour. He puts it down by the
checkout and exchanges some words with the middle-aged woman behind it.
They both laugh, and then Jin points at the hot racks, gestures 'two'.
Her eyebrows go up and she gestures at his stomach, and there's more
Jin's in such a good mood. The music, the people… it's like he's a
different person around them. Maybe this is who he could have been if
he'd been luckier with his parents. Or maybe it's simply who he is
underneath, when he doesn't have to be polite and professional.
Jin comes out, holding a plastic box with nikuman and some
chopsticks out to Kame. "They had a special offer on Hello Kitty
toothbrushes, so I saved you some money," he says. "It's in my bag."
"Thanks," Kame says, taking the food. Jin is such a bad liar. "I'll
have to teach you how to say stuff like that with a straight face some
"Damn," Jin says peacefully. He lifts up the bun with his hands and
bites a bit off. "What do you think?" he says as soon as he's swallowed
Kame is still separating his first piece from the bun with his
chopsticks. Jin's way is better, he decides, and gives it a try. Even
the heat feels good in his hands.
"Delicious," he announces, and for a moment he feels like he's on some food variety show.
But Jin takes it at face value, which is good because that's how he
meant it. They walk, and eat, and Kame has just finished his bun and
wrapped up the trash in the paper bag when he realizes that the place
He knows that bus stop.
He gets past the hitch in his walk, disguises it as making sure his trash is wrapped tightly.
He came from the other side, that time, but the pruned tree right
next to it looks familiar, and the two yellow-painted houses behind,
the way his headlights swept over them when he stopped to let Jin out.
He says nothing; hopes fervently that Jin won't notice, won't think about it. He wishes he hadn't eaten.
It hasn't been long. Less than three months ago. Jin was so scared
he could barely move. How come Kame is here? He just spent a night with
Jin's friends, is on his way to Jin's apartment, and Jin is walking
next to him licking nikuman off his fingers and saying something about
the autumn special they had with pumpkin in it and calories and
He's glad the only way he scares Jin now is by making ghost noises at him, but he wishes he hadn't done that, either.
He barely noticed they turned off, that bus stop where Kame stopped
the car looming behind them now. They're walking down a short street;
there's another conbini and an apartment complex, and some single
houses and then an archway and Jin turns into it.
"You live here?"
Kame hasn't managed to keep the shock out of his voice. Jin gives him a puzzled look. "Yeah. Why?"
"Uh," Kame says cleverly. "No, I just…" I can't believe you let me take you within sight of where you live. "Sorry, I didn't realize we had already walked so long."
Jin laughs. "I told you it's not far!" He is digging through his
coat pockets for the key, and then holds the door open for Kame. "After
you," he whispers.
Kame steps into a different sort of gloom, until Jin remembers Kame
doesn't know where the light switch is. They both blink when the hall
It's a nice building, clean and new, and only six floors. Kame
guesses it's mostly for couples or single people; at least you'd have a
hard time fitting any kids in the elevator with them and the guitar.
"I'm all the way up," Jin says when the doors are closed and he
pushes the button. He's bouncing on his feet, like he enjoys being
secret in an elevator together.
With his fluffed up hair and frozen nose it's hard not to kiss him
right here. Maybe Kame can think about the bus stop tomorrow, maybe
it's fairer not to make Jin wonder about Kame's mood.
"Do you like your neighbours?" he asks in the lowered voice of a well-mannered nightly guest.
"Hmm, I don't see much of them," Jin muses. "They're nice when I do, though. Polite. Always really smartly dressed."
There is a weird shadow on the floor when they get off, but it turns
out to be a large plant and mostly harmless. "My fingers are cold," Jin
whispers while he's fumbling with the door, and Kame gets that strange
sneaky feeling of going home with someone, which he doesn't even really
know, only it feels nice.
He tries to have no guesses or expectations when Jin opens the door
for him; something about Jin says he might be doing the same.
Then it's basically a room. Very neat and tidy, with perfectly
fitting furniture, and very white. No clutter. It takes Kame a moment
to find the stack of CDs in the shelf, a used plate on the white coffee
table, a small row of books with library stickers on the back. A small
shoe rack holds Jin's club shoes and a pair of sneakers so worn there's
stuff peeling off at the sides.
"It's really small," Jin says; he only starts unwrapping now. "But it's just me, so it's enough."
"It's nice. It's really neat."
Jin takes Kame's coat. The smell of smoke is unmistakable in Jin's
tiny hallway, in the warmer apartment. The much warmer apartment.
"Not really, I just…" Jin breaks off when his eyes fall on the coffee table. "Oh, crap. Um."
Kame figures out he means the plate with crumbs and an outrageous
used coffee mug. He can't help a grin even as Jin is bustling over to
the kitchen unit, saying, "I didn't really expect to have anyone over,
or I would have…"
At least Jin doesn't start to clean, just puts the stuff tidily in the sink.
"Thank you," Kame says profoundly. "I just can't stand crumbs. People eating lunch. How dreadful."
"Oh, shut up," Jin says with a smile. "Do you want a drink?"
They both have some water and sit down on the couch, which isn't as
catalogue-new as it seemed at first. The pale blue fabric shows faintly
where someone's sat a lot, and one of the cushions is in unmatching
Between Kame's furtive looking around and Jin furtively tracking the
looking around, it feels funny enough that the quiet doesn't get
awkward. Jin's switched off the bright ceiling light and put on a desk
lamp on a low table. It feels cozy. Cozy and special and normal, in a
strange mix. Maybe it's just that he's here at all.
He notices the stereo, and Jin has put the guitar on a stand next to
it. That's when he remembers. "Hey, that song you sang. The second one.
What was that? Tanaka didn't know it either."
Jin gives him a quick look, then ponders his guitar. "Yeah, he
wouldn't," he says. "It's mine, I wrote it." He turns red, and rolls
his eyes at the same time.
"You did? That's pretty amazing." If he'd known, he'd have listened
more to the lyrics… but not all lyrics are about real things any more
than all acting is, maybe it doesn't matter so much. "I really liked
"Yeah?" Jin looks happy. "Thank you. I like it too. I mean,
sometimes I write stuff, and it's okay, but I like this one." He shrugs
sheepishly. "It's just something I do when I'm at home."
Kame gives the guitar another glance. "Did you teach yourself?"
"Yeah, mostly. Do you play?"
Kame doesn't, and somehow Jin takes that as incentive to get him to
try. He laughs when Kame is actually not sure he's holding it right –
"Don't you watch TV?" – but concedes that it's nice Kame doesn't want
to do bad things to Jin's precious guitar and be embarrassed for all
Jin moves his fingers, and Kame feels a little tingle at the
careless touch, the first tonight. He feels Jin's breath when he laughs
at the horrible sounds Kame is producing, and how close they are
sitting on the couch, and he can still smell the bar in Jin's hair.
A few more wrong chords and a long explanation about unlocking
later, Jin pulls back and raises his elbow. He sniffs his shirt. "You
know… we kind of stink."
Kame nods. "We do stink a little." After a fun night at a bar, it's just what you'd expect. At least they stink together.
Jin pushes himself off the couch with lazy movements and a cute grin. "You want to shower? I can get you a towel and stuff."
"Might be a good idea." Kame tries not to look like he takes it as
suggestive. Right now they're playing guitar, and maybe de-smellifying
"Wait," Jin says. He tugs a zipped-up plastic rectangle, which seems
to hold spare sheets and towels from the top of his wardrobe. A bit
more rummaging in a drawer, and then Jin hands him a huge towel with a
Coca-Cola print and a pair of boxers and t-shirt. "Don't make any
sudden moves in there," he says, but breaks into an inopportune grin
mid-joke. "You'll break the walls and I don't know how to fix them."
Kame gets it when he closes the bathroom door behind him. It's tiny.
As neat as the rest of the apartment. No clutter at all, just the
necessary stuff for shower and shave. He dumps his clothes on the floor
as tidily as he can so he won't step on them wet.
The shower is basic and uncomplicated. He sets the water to hot and
stands there for a bit, just the warmth around him, the joy of the
evening, Jin waiting outside happy and honest and bossing Kame around
with guitar lessons. He laughs to himself.
It's funny to mooch Jin's shampoo and shower gel. Usually it's the
other way around. But he's sure he's allowed, Jin wouldn't mind. Funny,
and weirdly ordinary, like he imagines a sleepover with a boyfriend
when you don't quite know where he keeps his spare toilet paper and his
tea cups yet.
He rinses himself off quickly; it's kind of lonely in here, and who
knows how much hot water Jin's got. Towelled off, he pulls on the
shorts and t-shirt that thankfully don't make him look too silly.
Back in the main room, Jin has folded out the couch and hunted up
two pillows in definitely not matching designs, but currently he's
dealing with his incredible pile of dishes.
"I kept it brief," Kame says, his old clothes under his arm. "Didn't want to leave you with cold water."
Jin wipes his hands unceremoniously on his jeans. "No worries, it's
a pretty decent shower." Then he smiles. "But good of you to keep your
rescue credits in mind."
Kame feels his face warm under his dampness, but he hides it, while
Jin grabs some more stuff, invites Kame to sit down and do whatever,
and disappears himself.
So he sits back down with the guitar and tries that last thing Jin showed him. It can't be that hard.
Okay, so he knows some things are harder than they look. Still, it's not like he's trying to play a whole song, so for his fingers to be so clumsy is a bit… hm.
Only he's not really annoyed; he can't be, sitting on Jin's fold-out
bed with a blue pretty duvet and the guest pillow that Kame is pretty
sure no one ever uses. It's a smaller bed, too. Could get crowded. Warm
He keeps trying with the guitar anyway.
There's some rattling of the shower cubicle not long before Jin
comes back out. He's smiling, a cloud of steam coming out after him. "I
heard that! Your problem is the pinky, you need to stretch that more on
the third string!"
Kame plucks a string, maybe the fourth, he doesn't know, and it
gives a guilty quiver. "Well, you know. I thought it can't be that
hard. Only it is."
"I'm sure you could learn it fast if you had more time," Jin says,
now completely without teasing. His hair's still a mess only wet now,
and Kame hasn't seen those blue and white checked boxers on him before.
They're cutely domestic.
Kame didn't smell the freshness on himself but he gets it from Jin
when he sits down and takes the guitar, skin and warmth and the shampoo
that reminds him of wet morning grass.
Jin shows him the chords again; Kame enjoys it mostly for the proximity. Eventually he pleads aching fingers.
It's when Jin puts the guitar back on its stand that Kame sees
something silver flash under his t-shirt. Like… okay, he noticed the
piercing before. Long before; he prefers not to think about that now.
"Hey," he says when Jin is back, because it doesn't seem intrusive
when they're close like this and he's wearing Jin's underwear. "You got
your bellybutton pierced?"
"Huh?" Jin frowns a bit. "Oh. Yeah. Um, a few years ago. I don't wear it often, just…"
"When you're rocking up the bar?"
"Yeah." Jin sits to face him, cross-legged, and Kame can't help
staring for a moment at his stomach, covered again by the plain black
When Jin rolls his eyes this time, he only turns a little red. He lifts the bottom of the shirt a bit. "Want to see?"
It's a plain silver stud; on Jin's flat stomach it looks hot, and
strangely intimate. "I like it," Kame says, though he doesn't want to
say how much, not when Jin is part amused, part awkward. "It suits you."
"I like it too," Jin confesses, and it takes him a moment to lower
the shirt again. It's a weird enough moment that they both end up
"Did it hurt?"
Jin makes a face. "I… not really, I thought it would be worse. The guy who did it, he had some seriously scary looking tools." If his still-freaked-out look is anything to go by, it must have been bad. "But then it healed okay."
Kame imagines a younger Jin trying to play it cool through scary
piercing procedures. He smiles, feeling warm again, from the shower and
from the warm air in here but also from Jin, sitting there in just
boxers and a t-shirt. Kame wonders what that bellybutton stud feels
like to the touch, if he can touch if he's careful. It's like he can
feel Jin's body heat from here. He's looking forward to… it. Everything.
Jin's eyes are soft… right until now when they skitter away,
skimming Kame, his naked legs and the bed that stretches out behind
Not good. Whatever it is. It's not good.
What there is is the bed. And that it's time. He can see Jin swallow before everything goes flat and blank.
"So…" Jin says, his smile coming on bright and eager, the worst sell Kame has seen all night.
It freezes him cold, that sinking feeling of loss, of stupidity. He
got it all wrong and there's no way to make it work, there's nothing.
Then it passes. This time he got it and he got it in time. This time there is something he can do.
He smiles back; a better sell than Jin, because he does this
for a living. He just needs a moment, to decide the best way, and he
doesn't even look around in the apartment. Jin's apartment; Jin's bed
and Jin's sheets, his home. They were both stupid.
Then he lets his smile go sheepish. "Actually…"
Jin nods, still eager on the surface. As he has to be.
Kame sighs and turns it into a badly suppressed yawn. "I'm sorry.
This is really lame but… I'm actually kind of tired, it's been a pretty
tough week.. I think I'd be… you know." He can't blush on the spot but
he thinks he's getting the message across. "Maybe not much good."
Jin just blinks. "Really?"
Kame looks chagrined. "Sorry. I know it's…" He squirms a bit.
"Hey, no, don't be embarrassed!" Jin is shifting closer on the bed
and for a moment Kame thinks he'll touch him. But he doesn't, just
awkwardly crosses his hands in his lap. "If you're sure… it's totally
cool, I mean, and yeah, it's late, just…"
Jin is thinking about the money.
"I had a great evening. A really great evening. Thank you for that. And, well, it's not your problem that I, um. You know."
"Are you sure I couldn't…" A little frown before Jin tries the blankness again. "And I have coffee too…"
Kame thinks he can watch his sense for fairness and the hope Kame
won't change his mind battle it out in his eyes. He needs to end this.
He grimaces again. "I think that'll just wake up my brain, and then
I can lie in the dark feeling embarrassed." He tries another smile.
"And, you know, I'd appreciate it if this didn't go any further?" It isn't
Jin's problem when a client is no longer in the mood after hours on a
date, but maybe it's better addressed before Jin gets any chivalrous
"Yes," Jin says, "sure, okay. My lips are sealed." At last he looks
less like he wants to give him a refund, and more like he's planning to
die protecting Kame's shameful secret.
"Thank you," Kame says. "And, really. For the invitation, too. This
is so much nicer than celebrating my early return from filming at home,
alone with my cat."
Jin bursts out laughing. Free like before, before this awful little interlude. "Yeah, okay. That would be kind of tragic."
"So…" Kame says, and the echo makes Jin grin. "Bed?"
That works for Jin.
Kame is moderately tired, and sleep is better than sitting here and
letting the way Jin is smiling and comfortable and barely dressed talk
to his libido. So he's glad when after three more minutes they are
lying under the cover with the light out, and there's no more chance
for Jin to come across hard evidence to disprove Kame's protestations.
A faint glow from streetlights is painting a wall orange. It's a small bed; smaller when you're determined not to touch.
"Are you okay?" Jin asks. "Do you have enough of the duvet?"
"I'm fine," Kame says. "I didn't steal too much?"
There's a smile in Jin's voice. "You didn't. Just stop me if I do during the night. Feel free to kick me."
"Okay, I'll do that," Kame says. "Good night."
Kame lies very still. Jin is stretched out on his stomach and
doesn't move, either. It takes about ten minutes, Kame thinks, before
he's pretty sure Jin is asleep.
He thinks it would be really bad manners to beat off in Jin's bed
with Jin right next to him. He wants to giggle, but then he doesn't do
Friday 23 January
Jin's sitting bolt upright in bed before he knows why; then he hears
the plastic lid of his tea container clatter to a halt against the wood
of the cupboard.
"Fuck," says Kame. "Sorry."
Jin laughs. Partly adrenaline. "Good morning." It's light outside,
so it can't be too early, but the sunlight falling through the windows
"Can I offer you some tea? The water's almost there. I hope you don't mind that I went through your cupboards."
Kame sounds amazingly awake. His hair's still unkempt, though, and
he is running around barefoot in Jin's t-shirt and boxers. Jin pulls
the pillow under his head and curls up under the duvet. "Tea's great.
When did you get up?"
"Hm, an hour ago maybe?"
Jin peers up at the alarm clock. It's only nine. "Do you have to go somewhere?"
"Eventually." Kame moves efficiently around Jin's little kitchen,
tidying things away as he goes. It gives Jin time to wake up for real,
and to get used to the idea of someone else being in his kitchen,
making him tea. "I just woke up early."
Finally there are two steaming mugs. Jin sits up when Kame brings
them over. He brushes the duvet flat so Kame can sit. "When I wake up
early, I turn over and go back to sleep."
Kame grins at him. "I did try not to wake you yet."
Jin finds this getting up early and cheerful pretty perverse. If
Kame's anything like him, he can't have slept that well in unfamiliar
surroundings, on Jin's bed that's technically too small for two people.
Because Kame spent the night here. Just sleeping.
It feels a little stumbly to remember that. He shouldn't forget
again, or whatever the hell he was doing with some basic facts, so
basic only an idiot would be caught off guard.
He has a sip from the nice hot tea. Then he tries a smile, tries to gauge. There's stuff he could do. For free.
"Hey," he says, slowly, not sure how directly he wants to ask. But Kame's been away for two weeks. It wouldn't have
to be weird. Maybe he's just thinking the wrong thoughts, and it's like
rollercoasters or piercings. More unsettling before the fact.
Kame isn't fazed, just gives him an assessing look over his own tea.
"Yeah," he says. "I'd have stayed in bed if I'd wanted you to get any
funny ideas. You don't have to make up for my little… failings."
Jin bites his lip and hopes Kame isn't still embarrassed. He feels a
little guilty in any case. If they'd been elsewhere, he might have
tried harder to get things to work after all. There can be ways.
But Kame seems to know what he wants, and to be fine with it. And that's great, that's wonderful.
"Okay," he says. "You're the boss." If Kame wanted, he could simply
ask if Jin is available for another comfort. But maybe being here feels
strange for him after all. Maybe he's discovered he doesn't want sex in
Jin's apartment any more than Jin does.
Kame gives him a very critical look, but doesn't say anything. Jin
sips his tea and enjoys the warmth, and the impressive show that is
Kame's bed hair. He'll try to make it especially nice for Kame next
time. They can do all the things Kame likes best.
"How do you feel about breakfast?" Kame asks after a while. "I think I even found where you keep the rice." He gets a busy look.
"Wait, no!" Jin puts his tea down and hurries to get up. "You don't
do that. You're the guest now. You're not getting to make rice, I'll… um, put on the rice maker. And put rice in it."
Kame follows him to the kitchen, head tilting. "Not in that order, I hope."
They reach an accommodation. Jin measures out rice while Kame
measures out water, and Kame is granted the right to ceremonially press
the on-button. They finish their tea while they wait, and make more,
and Jin learns that Kame wants to go see his agency about something or
"I'll have to go back and change first, though," he says after Jin
showed him how to fold down the table. "I kind of dread getting back
into my clothes."
"When I move, I want to get a balcony," Jin says. "Even if it's a tiny one. Just for airing stuff and drying things."
"You're planning to move?"
"Well, yeah. Somewhere cheaper." Kame probably finds that hilarious,
given the size of this place. "And this is club-owned property, so. I'd
like something different."
Kame subtly checks the place out again with this new information,
maybe trying to find Jin's style among the white. "Yes, I get that."
Jin smiles. "And at least I won't have much to pack."
They set the table together, mats and chopsticks and soy sauce. Kame
takes the eggs across and Jin finds two leftover natto packs. He's glad
he didn't finish the pickles at lunchtime yesterday.
"Will that be okay?" he asks. It's not like breakfasts at Kame's,
with the selection of rice and fish and Western foods like bread and
French cheese, or that first time Kame was less prepared and made him
scrambled egg. Come to think of it… "I can make scrambled egg, too,
only I don't have all the stuff you put in it."
"This is great," Kame says. "I like traditional. This is perfect."
When Jin turns around, Kame has got the rice bowls out of the
cupboard by the mugs and is staring the rice maker into submission. A
few seconds later it pings.
"Ladle is in the second drawer," Jin says, and checks over the table
again to see if there's anything else they need. You'd think they'd get
in each other's way in this small place. They don't. "More tea?"
Eventually they're sitting at the little table with their steaming
bowls. Kame has cracked his egg over the rice, and Jin has gone for
natto, for starters anyway. Kame is making weird faces at his pickles.
It's good. A different sort of normal.
Kame still doesn't flirt in the morning, or hint. He likes it nice
and quiet too, and he even likes it around Jin's tiny table with the
limited offerings of Jin's kitchen, and somehow that makes Jin warm and
light inside, like Kame drinking beer in ridiculous sunglasses or
walking next to him and making the dark less creepy.
Well, except when he's being a mean little menace.
Kame looks up. He wipes a quick hand over his chin. "Did I spill something?"
"What? No. You're fine." Then he gets it; he was looking. "I only
wondered… aren't you cold in just that t-shirt?" Okay, so it's lame.
But true enough. Jin put on his sweatpants first thing.
"I'm not cold." Kame gives him a slow smile. "You live in a very cozy environment."
"It's civilized," Jin defends himself and snaps with his chopsticks.
They finish their rice in an easy silence. Jin's in no rush, and whatever Kame wants to do at his agency must be flexible too.
"Do you think Wednesday would work for you?" Kame asks then. He
sounds shy again and seems really intent on the last bits of rice.
"I have time," Jin says immediately. There'll be time. He'll arrange that.
"I still think that's when I can get away easiest."
Wednesday seems far away now. Almost a week. But of course Kame has
stuff to do when he's been away for weeks; and Kame has a wife.
"Wednesday is great."
"I'll be in touch again when I can be certain, but I'll really try."
"Good." Jin smiles.
Then it's time. For clothes, for calling cabs. Jin puts the dishes
away while Kame is in the bathroom with his new toothbrush, and he
tries to feel more relieved.
It was rash to invite a client home, even Kame. He used to know
better; he does know better, and normally he wouldn't be so stupid. So
it worked out and he caught an undeserved break; he should still be
more eager to have Kame out of his home.
Still he likes the way Kame pads around barefoot on his floor until
he can't delay putting on socks any longer, enjoys watching Kame
wrinkle his nose at his sweater, find his stuff together, empty the
last of his tea.
"Thanks for the food," Kame says. "And the bed. And the music."
"You're very welcome."
"And the beer."
Jin laughs, just because.
Then Kame puts his coat on. The cab will pick him up at the bus stop down the road in five minutes."So, I'll be in touch?"
"Yes," Jin says, "that'll be good."
Kame is running his fingers through his hair to flatten it, then
fishes his sunglasses out of his coat pocket with one hand while
reaching for the door with the other.
"Wait," Jin says. Suddenly it seems important. He steps forward,
reaches past Kame to keep the door closed, and presses Kame up against
it, smoky clothes and all.
It's a smushed sort of kiss, just one for the road, to tide them over. Kame tastes minty and soft.
"Just, until Wednesday," Jin mumbles when he's done. "So you don't forget me in the meantime."
Kame is drawing a shaky breath from somewhere deep down. "You have a very interesting idea of your… memorability."
Jin giggles a bit, and then he lets Kame go and straightens out his
coat to remove all evidence of smushing. "There, now you're all set
"Thank you very much." Kame is shaking his head faintly, his cheeks
still flushed. He thinks for a moment, before he slips his hand around
Jin's neck and pulls him down for a return kiss, this one very brief
"Thank you," he says again. "See you next week."
The door closes behind him, and it's quiet. Jin turns around. Quiet and empty. His own space again, just for him. Safe.
Thick clouds have eaten the sun and there's a drizzle when he
finally opens the curtains completely. He hopes Kame won't get wet.
Jin's got hours yet before he starts work. Comfort with Yokoyama,
all pre-arranged, and he won't have to hang out in the lounge unless he
wants more, after. Not likely.
He starts moving things back in place, stuff that was pushed to the
edges to make a bit more room for them. Though they were fine, they
fitted well in here. Cozy. And Kame didn't seem to mind how small it
The dishes don't take long, and then it's like he was never here.
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