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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 37

 

Saturday 24 January

Kame smiles into the strobing flashlights. Midori is close beside him, striking in her new pearl green dress, and he knows she'll be smiling, too. The red-carpet shots of the entire cast are over, and here's where the paparazzi not invited to the afterparty get to take their human interest pictures, before the screening starts. Out here, you can't stop them, you just keep them in mind.

Toyoda and her husband are a few steps away. They said a warm hello earlier, and Kame was amused how she makes him feel like a midget these days, with her height and the heels and her eight-month-big belly. But Midori would kill him if he said that to a pregnant woman.

The reporters are interested now and not hostile, asking her polite questions about the baby and her pretty blue dress, while her husband lets the cameras and questions dance around them with the puzzled amusement of a civilian. Iijima and the producers like to pretend that they supported her all along.

Somewhere beyond them Morioka is standing with a pretty young girl. They haven't spoken. Yet.

Kame smiles around and says a few words about the movie, about teachers and responsibility, about inspiration. He tacks on a sentence about bullying for good measure, and then he's done.

Jin will probably see the photos in the papers tomorrow.

When there's an early chance to introduce Midori to the production team, Kame takes it. He finds his friendliest smile for Matsura, who is wearing a tiny, low-cut pink dress, more jewelry than fabric hanging off her. He's not going too near her, though, and with Midori here he has the perfect excuse. Then he says hi to the boys. Kobi has found a girlfriend to bring along after all, and she blushes when introduced to Kame. He doesn't hang around long.

"You looked splendid," Kame's mother says to Midori when they rejoin Kame's parents on the sidelines. Then she pats Kame on the back. "You weren't so bad, either."

As usual when he's starring, he got four tickets for the premiere and as usual, he's passed the spare ones on to his parents. They like the atmosphere, the excitement, and the chance to see one or two of the actors he worked with. They don't get to go to the afterparty, that's partners only, but they're more interested in being among the first to see his new work, anyway.

"I think I detected a dig at old Watanabe-sensei from your junior high Math class in there," his dad says slyly.

Kame grins where the photographers can't see. "Would I do such a thing?"

*~*~*

Kame's not very fond of premiere screenings. It's unreasonable and he knows it; but it makes a difference whether he thinks of people theoretically watching his work anytime, anywhere, without him around, or whether he's sitting right there in the room with them, knowing exactly what they see because he's seeing it too. Sometimes he just wants to hide.

Less than five minutes in, he realizes he should have known that this one would be worse.

It's amazing, how much he's allowed himself to forget over the last weeks. So much that the shock of watching himself, of having it all come back turns his stomach. On screen he catches the boys skipping school and he remembers sitting in his car during a break from filming, calling Ootomo to inform him that Jin had been more accommodating this time.

Kame knows now how little choice Jin had; or thought he had, so new to Johnny's, glad to be there, desperate to keep that job. If only they'd talked then. If only Kame hadn't been… all that.

Then the talk about gangs with Morioka where he couldn't even remember his lines, on the most shameful day and night of his life. With editing and clever cuts, it's barely noticeable.

And of course they didn't shoot chronologically, so it's all mixed up. Here's the office scene that needed six retakes because he'd just remembered about Souji, was mortified about Yuuya, thought he was figuring himself out. He can still see how distracted he is, right there on screen, a lackluster performance a beginner would cringe at. Next there's the fight with Toyoda in Fukushima's office, after which he went home and picked a striking face out of Johnny's online catalogue for reasons he didn't even understand.

It's not a film; it's a jumbled record of him losing his mind.

He should show this to Jin. He's not sure what for, except so Jin knows that he wasn't just an asshole, he was a fucked-up incompetent one who didn't have a clue what he was doing anymore. Though Jin probably got that message, got it plenty.

Still, maybe one day.

For now, he's just looking forward to Wednesday, when they can be normal together again. He's missed the sex; three weeks now since that stolen Sunday before Hokkaido, and what he missed even more lying in the dark in Jin's bed was the warmth, the touching, Jin feeling good under his hands. But of course that's part of sex, and it was good they didn't go there. Jin probably needed the distance, too.

He thinks he understands what happened last week, and he's glad his instinct was right for a change. Jin was himself when singing, was nobody's… until he remembered. It could have been Kame or anybody, and Kame is glad it was him and they got out of that night intact.

They shot the romantic finale between him and Toyoda the day after he took Jin home… after. He had himself in hand then, everything blank and unimportant. Did an excellent job, first-class work, the scene is solid. He can't remember if it was a single take; he didn't care enough to notice. He isn't there, just the role is, he's nowhere around.

So many people here in the dark with him, watching him right there, knowing nothing about this. Knowing nothing about him.

And of course he's glad about that.

Jin knows almost everything. Kame should be afraid, and he doesn't know why he's not.

*~*~*

"A very nice man, that Kawamura-sensei," is Kame's father's verdict when they have shuffled out of the theatre, while his mom gives him a knowing smile.

"Bet you'd have preferred her part."

'Her' being Toyoda's Shoda-sensei, of course, and Kame would never deny that. "She did it very well, though," he says. It doesn't leave the sour taste of missed opportunity in that respect; Toyoda did the part justice.

"You worked well together with that young man, too," his mother says, sorting out her coat and shawl ready to brave the January night. "I haven't seen him in anything before."

"He's not yet established," Kame says. "I hope he gets more chances, he's very good."

They still haven't spoken.

*~*~*

There's more posing at the afterparty, and the paparazzi will mingle, too, looking for the less formal shots. Only respectable magazines, though, and they know the rules for being asked back the next time. The tabloids were left at the door. It never makes Kame feel much safer.

The starting shoot, with all the food, Champagne and congratulatory bouquets still mounted up intact around them, is of Kame, Morioka and Toyoda again, and now Kame makes sure that they end up talking together over their Champagne once the formal photographing is over.

The woman with Morioka is his younger sister. "My twentieth birthday present," she says to Kame, and the smile she gives him has no shadows. Whatever Morioka thinks of Kame now, he's clearly kept it to himself.

Kame says his congratulations, and Midori asks her if she's also interested in show business. Then they all crowd around Toyoda so she can have a tiny sip from her Champagne without any paparazzi seeing.

"I'm doing small stuff right now," Morioka says when Kame asks. "I tried for the lead in that TBS racing drama, didn't get it. My agent showed me a script for a romantic comedy involving a bicycle company heir, but I felt… it was a direction in which I didn't wish to develop."

Kame laughs. "I'm so glad. I saw that script. You'd be wasted."

Then he catches himself. He can no longer make such comments. Morioka eyes him a bit suspiciously.

"Kazuya said you were great to work with," Midori says, filling the awkward pause with more complication. Now Morioka is looking positively puzzled.

"I am very glad to hear that," he manages politely.

"You should have seen their scenes together," Toyoda says. "It just… flowed. In the can in a single take. Remember the day we swapped out Nogushi-san's scene…"

Morioka isn't looking at Kame, is barely agreeing with them. Kame looks for a moment when neither of them is being directly addressed, and leans towards him. "Might I have a word?"

At least Morioka follows him the two steps away from the others.

"I want to apologize for my strange behaviour back then," Kame says, because nothing but the direct approach will do. "I was having a few really bad months, I was stressed and paranoid and I was taking it out on anybody who got close enough. You got close enough. I'm sorry."

For a moment, Morioka looks like he's about to respond with some standard politeness. Then he says, "Paranoid, yeah. I thought so." The directness is what Kame liked about him from the start. He holds still for Morioka's critical once-over; smiles into it. "Are you saying you got over that?"

"Well," he says sheepishly, "here I am…"

"And it's not just that I'm safe enough to talk to while I have a girl hanging off my arm and you're here with your gorgeous wife?"

"No!" Kame laughs uncomfortably. It's not, but it doesn't change what he was afraid of then, and maybe he'd still not want to go to restaurants alone with Morioka. Or maybe he would. The spotlights are off them. He went with Tanaka and didn't think twice about it.

He went with Tanaka to Jin's local bar.

That was stupid, though, and he got lucky. He'll be playing it safer again. But Morioka…

Morioka sighs. "For what it's worth, I was never into you. I like girls. But even if I didn't and even if I had been, a simple 'no' would have been the adult response."

"I didn't think you were… into me," Kame says hastily. He didn't start this conversation for that. "I thought things might be misinterpreted, that's all. You know what the press is like. And you need to be careful, too."

Morioka gives him a long look. Then a little bow. "Thank you for your advice," he says politely. "I think I prefer to have friends."

Kame can't blame him. "I'm sorry," he says. "I hope you find good ones."

Morioka looks like he's sorry too. Then his gaze sharpens, right as Kame notices the clacking of high heels and the jangle of jewelry approaching.

"I'll leave you to your fan," Morioka says with a smile somewhere between real and resigned. He wouldn't have thrown Kame to the wolves before, but that was before, and they're not friends now. Kame made sure of that. So he gets Matsura instead.

Midori is chatting with Toyoda while the husband is gone someplace, and Kame won't inflict Matsura on them. So he sticks it out. He's an actor, he can act; surely he can manage the part of somebody who doesn't find her shallow and annoying for ten minutes. Give Morioka time to get far away.

Matsura is doing her usual – flirting with a plan, girly and predatory by turns, too much in his space. Kame wonders if that's what it takes to get a part these days when you're her age; hopes it's not. Midori never acted like that, but then she never made it in the business, in the end.

He asks after her news, which she is very happy to share along with her dissatisfaction of the roles she gets, the ones she doesn't get, and several producers. When she asks him for career tips, he says, "Be yourself," and feels like an idiot.

At least she's not interested enough to ask him personal questions.

By the time he breaks free in a way that won't make her feel bad, Midori and Toyoda have sat down and Toyoda is stretching out her legs in front of her. Kame swipes some orange juice and Champagne off a passing waiter's tray and rejoins them. Toyoda gets the juice, Midori the Champagne, and Toyoda's husband arrives with snacks from the buffet just in time for Kame to grin at him empty-handed. "Sorry," he says.

"Understandable priorities," the man grins back.

After two rounds of politeness Kame is the one who goes get more for them.

Toyoda turns a bright smile on him when he finally sits with a drink of his own. "So how are you doing? You look better somehow."

"So do you," he returns the compliment. "I think we were all stressed during that production."

"I was sitting there watching myself and getting flashbacks to hurting feet and horrible coffee," she says. Flashbacks. Yeah.

"But it was worth it," he offers, because she did do an excellent job. "I'm glad you stuck it out. It's really your movie."

"Oh, I'm glad too. And who knows, maybe it'll help someone after me, and some other producer isn't going to be quite so much of a jerk to a pregnant woman on his film." She stops with a grin. "Whoops."

Midori giggles secretly. He'd always thought they'd get on well.

"I take it you aren't going to be working for a little while?"

"Hmm," she says thoughtfully. "I won't be taking acting parts for a year or so, that's for sure. But I was thinking of hawking myself out for talk shows. Talk about parenting, talk about being a pregnant actress…"

"That's a great idea," Midori says. "Pregnant women or mothers shouldn't just become invisible."

"I can keep my eyes open for possible opportunities," Kame adds.

"You've done so much for us already," Toyoda's husband says, his hand resting lightly on Toyoda's shoulder. "I haven't had a chance to thank you before. If you hadn't called the press—"

She's leaning into the touch as she nods affirmation but it's too much, there's no need.

"I only told them the truth," Kame says quickly. "I was very happy to work with Toyoda-san."

"Sometimes I'm envious her colleagues see more of her than I do," her husband says, but it's teasing and the two smile at each other as she leans closer. Kame remembers she said that he works as a deputy department head somewhere in a medium-sized company.

Kame wonders whether he should be touching Midori more, too. He's sure she would like it; the press would like it too. He used to do it more, glad for the right kind of paparazzi shots. These days he likes to keep it private, and of course he'll return her touches there.

She feels soft and warm and still nothing like Jin.

And those are thoughts he should be ashamed of, and is, and it doesn't help to look at Toyoda and her salaryman husband, who fills out paper forms for a living and brings home less than she does, and know she got the better deal.

 

Wednesday 28 January

Junno is looking at him weirdly. It's a quick glance through his study glasses and then back at his laptop. Jin checks his buttons and his fly, but all's well there.

A good shirt and a freshly dry-cleaned suit, because he'll be in the lounge tonight looking for custom. He came straight from lunch break sex with Karube, figuring he might as well. He didn't expect to spend the evening at home anyway.

He's showered and changed, but it's still early. Pretty busy in the break room for a Wednesday, though, the air full of damp and deodorant. Jin has had tea and double-checked his hair, and he could go down to the lounge if he was at all keen to be first there.

He told Kame not to feel guilty about the cancellation, and he really shouldn't mope. They'll meet later in the week and it'll be just as nice. He likes looking forward to things, and he's not some wife entitled to sulking. Kame called him, personally. How many escorts get that?

Junno's looking at him again.

"Is something wrong?" Jin asks.

"Oh. No, not at all. I'm just doing the December ranking," Junno explains, and before he gets any further Masaki is lunging across his laptop.

"About time!"

"Hoping you'll finally make it to the big leagues?" Tadayoshi asks him. The big leagues is only Kimura-senpai, and Hina with the hardcore SM. Nobody else will ever make that much.

"No, just want to be better than you," Masaki grins. "I ended up with this guy who's into fisting, I want to know if it made a dent. I was fucking terrified I'd kill him or something…" But he trails off, and when he blinks up from the screen, he gives Jin a funny look, too.

"Whatever it says I did, it's probably some mistake," Jin says. He no longer comes last all the time, but he's not interested in the ranking anyway. He's got rent to pay and money to save, and beyond that he doesn't care whether he was a better or worse escort than Ryuuhei in any given week.

"Nice going, Jin," Masaki says, at long last.

"What did he do?" Jun asks before Jin can, and Junno obligingly turns the screen towards him. Jun's eyebrows go up. "Well, well."

"Is he better than you?" Tadayoshi asks.

Jun snorts. "Right." But when he winks at Jin, it's almost affectionate. "Nice," he says.

Jin isn't sure how to feel about everybody being so surprised that he's not trawling the bottom for once, but then he reminds himself he doesn't care about the ranking. "Thanks." When Yuuya peeks at Junno's screen and blinks up at him, too, he relents. "Okay, so where am I?"

"You're really high up," Yuuya informs him with a wide smile. Then he bites his lip.

"You did better than Yuuya," Junno says, and, okay, that is unexpected. "And almost as good as me!" Junno doesn't tend to get rests, but the porn fame makes him luxury and he can go six times a night, never gets exhausted. He's beaming at Jin.

Yuu-chan looks like he would beam too if he didn't remember he's Jin's junior.

Right. That… maybe he should have a look, that's probably polite. He knew it was a lot last month, he checked his account. Still.

"…better than Yuuya," Tadayoshi is repeating in an impressed voice. Yuu-chan is still blushing.

It's all Kame. Jin's doing better overall, and he can stay out of Eda's way without worrying about his income or his quota. But that he's doing so well is all down to Kame, who always pays for rests even when they don't fuck at all.

Junno's list is big. With lots of complicated brackets and lines. Jin's name is… pretty high up. He can tell as much because the order above him seems right.

"If I eliminate the luxury factor, results get even more interesting," Junno says, "see, if you look at the list like—"

"But it's idiotic to take out the luxury factor, it's not like it's some random variable," Jun protests.

"It's called an independent variable," Junno corrects him cheerfully.

"Guys." Tadayoshi is rolling his eyes. "Can we manage one month without this discussion? It makes no fucking difference."

"I don't know," Masaki considers. "I only spend randomly variabled money on clothes so it's kind of important to know about the independent divisions in my bank account—" He stops when Jun gets him around the chest with a damp towel. "Hey, that hurts. I hope it's water and not your mansweat."

Jin has tried to figure out the various entries and numbers for a second too long, and Junno takes his puzzlement for interest.

"It's really handy," he says. He clicks on something and the lines reshuffle. "If I factor out the kink…"

"…I am broke and you all have to buy me onigiri." Hina is grinning at them from his chair. For him this is always boring and predictable.

"Why do you factor out the kink?" Jin asks reluctantly.

"Oh, just because it's fun. It's fascinating, see?"

Jin doesn't, but nods anyway. "I guess that's useful, huh."

"It takes some fiddling at the start with some of the guys, but then you're all set. And you're pretty easy to calculate, actually," Junno says, still with that wide smile and to nobody's great surprise. Jin's easy. He sucks cock and gets fucked.

Someone else congratulates Jin. Yuuya has pulled back from the screen and is thinking thoughts to himself.

"I guess that's Kamenashi," Jun muses, but matter-of-factly; not like there's anything wrong with getting half your money from sex, and sometimes non-sex, with Kame.

Jin nods vaguely. "Yeah, I guess. December… yeah. He had lots of time. I guess."

"Good for you if he likes you," Tadayoshi says. "He doesn't do anything under a rest. Not even with me, and we don't really know each other."

Jun is intrigued. "Ooh, romance guy, is he?"

Tadayoshi shrugs and drinks up the rest of his tea. "I think he doesn't want it to feel too much like… whores, you know."

"Ah," Jun says wisely. "I've had some of those too."

Jin makes a general sound that disagrees with nothing and prompts Junno to reshuffle the names again with another click. He doesn't want to know who they were, Jun's clients who wanted to forget they were with a whore, and he doesn't want to think about the fact that Jun probably never invited them to his favourite bar to an Open Mic night.

Yuuya has lost the junior shyness and is following the whole thing with uncomfortable interest; Jin tries not to meet his eyes, either. If he knew about the bar…

"I can also give you your hourly rate with the different types of engagements averaged out," Junno suggests. "If you're interested."

"Not really," Jin admits, hesitant because he doesn't want to spoil Junno's fun, either. "It's just a fluke, really… I'll just be disappointed for January if I know too much." He tries a grin, and Junno cheer remains undampened. "Thanks for doing all this."

"Hey, it's fun! You're very welcome!"

Jin grabs his jacket. Now he's got the stats on how much he depends on Kame these days, he should maybe go to work.

*~*~*

Wednesdays start slow. Jin spends some time at a table overpopulated with underemployed escorts, until some more of the older clientele trickle in, as well as a few businessmen showing other businessmen a good time.

He'd be at home now, in jeans and playing guitar, if he had a rest with Kame. Looking forward to things.

It's a little unnerving. Kame pays him so much he's nudging at the bottom of the luxury league, and that's not even why he's sad their date fell through.

He needs to be more careful.

He gets invited to join a table with a very good-looking chief executive of some place in food production and his shorter, fatter friend. Jin orders a Grand Cru and tries to look cultured drinking it.

The tall one is enthralled by Tatsuya, who wears an enigmatic smile and knows an awful lot about mountaineering. Jin knows that Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, and he knows the biggest mammal is a whale, because he had a quiz game that asked those kinds of questions when he was a kid.

"It's really a shame about the situation in Tibet," Tatsuya says, prompting nods from the well-manicured mountaineering fan and his perspiring friend. Yeah, Tibet.

Jin knows he could read up on stuff like that; it's not as if Tatsuya has ever climbed an international mountain even if he says very convincingly that the snow must be pretty. But clients can be so random, and where would you start? Once he talked to a guy who was really into taxidermy. But that's hardly something you can guess, and who wants to spend an afternoon looking at pictures of skinned or glassily staring animals for nothing?

He took out a book on baseball from the library the other day, thinking he could surprise Kame by not being so totally clueless at their next meeting. The thought felt good at the time, a happy little thing in the middle of lots of waiting. But he hasn't looked at it again; isn't sure after all if it's any different from buying pretty shirts or getting his eyebrows done.

The sweaty guy isn't into taxidermy. He's not really into mountaineering, either, as becomes clear once Tatsuya has let tall Mr Tibet whisk him away for more private conversations about llamas and the beauty of snow.

Turns out he likes car-racing and big adventure movies, which isn't as special as climbing the Himalayas but at least gives them something to talk about. He also likes Jin's mouth, and up in the standard room Jin gets him off with no fuss and no particular sweaty grossness.

They have another drink together, half-dressed on the couch, and Jin wriggles his cold feet on the carpet and takes the chill as a price worth paying when the guy says they should do that again some time.

A little different is that this one heads back down into the lounge when their hour is up; most of the early ones come and go. Jin has to explain that he'll first freshen up upstairs, and he worries that he was clumsy about it, like he can't wait to wash the guy out of his mouth. But when they see each other again half an hour later, the guy waves shyly across the lounge, and Jin waves back, and that's okay.

Not bad. Jin picks a spot at the bar to stand and look like he belongs. Jun is entertaining a grey businessman who's working his way up to the hand-on-thigh stage, but keeps getting thrown off track by Jun's very mobile flirty slouch. Jaejoong is holding the interest of two familiar-looking clients, and Yuuya and Takahisa are tag-teaming the table with the old professor, all giggles and smiles and the occasional racy look.

He doesn't wonder what Kame talks about with Tatsuya, not much. Kame liked Will Smith, and he liked Jin's bar, and when Jin uses his brain and not the fuzzy mess of feelings that make him stupid when he thinks of Kame in bed hair and cheap borrowed underwear, he knows Kame would never hoot spooky noises or eat greasy midnight food if he wasn't having real fun.

So he's doing something right, too.

Yuu-chan waves at him. Looking out for Jin being lonely and unattached. Jin doesn't want to ignore it, not after the ranking thing. Even if he's no good with Koyama's brand of shyness and the other very important person at the table is the minister for the environment.

*~*~*

"Did it really do so much damage?" Yuuya asks in awe, his frothy pink cocktail halfway to his lips and his hand somewhere between Koyama-sensei and the back of the couch.

Nakamaru and Koyama are reminiscing woefully about the lost decade and not seeing the signs. To Yuuya it is like the dinosaur age.

Elsewhere there's not much going around Jin could join, not even Yamatani for saying hi. So he's sticking around, and it's okay; there are Yuuya's secret glances and some financial advice Koyama-sensei passed on to Takahisa that's probably not bad. Somehow even Nakamaru's randomly confused glances aren't so unsettling anymore. If Jin ignores Koyama's constant blushing at Yuuya's nudges and giggles, it's even fun, kind of. It's easy.

Nakamaru is probably not here to fuck. Or have sex. Or whatever you can have dressed like that and with a tie that must cut off your circulation. Engage in intercourse.

But when Takahisa confuses recession, depression and deflation, he explains it very nicely. Twice and with a lot of words, but nicely. Jin is starting to wonder if their first conversation really had to be such a disaster; if maybe they just made it worse for each other.

He also learns the club uses environmentally friendly soap and shampoo in the little dispensers in the bathrooms. Nakamaru blushes as if it's embarrassing to admit he ever went upstairs and possibly engaged in intercourse.

"It's not only in accordance with the water protection regulations, which of course they have to be, or you could not buy them anymore, but also a particular kind that is very easily biodegradable, which puts less of a strain on the city's water processing facilities. That's very good, I thought. Very good. Isn't it?" He says that to Jin, and blinks nervously.

"Yes," Jin nods. "Very good."

"I thought so. I told Ootomo-san, too. Very good. Admirable."

"Yes."

Nakamaru nods again, and examines his drink in the awkward silence, and okay. This really isn't like back when he couldn't string two sentences together with the worldly club clients and the stuff that goes beyond getting them off.

"You really like your job," he tries, and doesn't take Nakamaru's startled blink as an indication that he's done anything wrong. "Don't you?"

The man actually has to think. "Well, it has its ups and its downs," he says then, which doesn't strike Jin as all that think-worthy, but then he adds, "there are more drawbacks to public service than I thought when I was younger," and they actually manage to get a kind of conversation going among all the words.

Takahisa helps. Amazingly his more random comments really put Nakamaru at ease, and he even gets the minister to laugh and tug his tie loose a little. Maybe there'll be intercourse, or even sex, after all, but it won't be with Jin.

But, hey. If they're going from not causing refunds together to actually being able to talk, Jin's not complaining.

It's Yuu-chan and Koyama-sensei who rise first, though, Koyama still looks like he's afraid of being rude. Nakamaru says something about a VIP box at some event on Saturday to him, and then there's Yuu-chan with a key, literally taking Koyama-sensei's sleeve and tugging him away.

Now there are just three of them and Jin's starting to feel very much surplus; so he makes his excuses and wishes them a good night, and looks around for someplace else to sit. He doesn't need another relaxation, but since he's here…

He starts when he sees Tanaka; wonders if that means Kame… but no, he's a moron, Kame called specially to say he couldn't make it.

Tanaka is just returning from the men's room, in his usual black outfit and still with the bright hair, the chains and the swagger. And Tanaka was at the bar, and for a moment Jin wants to pinch himself and wake up, it feels so weird here under the glittering club lights.

Then Tanaka notices him, and changes course, winding his way around seating groups towards Jin and Jin gets moving to meet him because it's polite to say hello. Tanaka grins widely when they meet near an empty table. "Hi, Jin! Nice to see you. How's it going?"

"Hello," Jin says very respectfully. "It's good to see you here too. I hope you had a pleasant journey home last week."

"Just fine. Caught a taxi right away." He's wearing sunglasses on his head, probably for decoration. "I'm sure you guys were all right too," he adds, and does that wink thing again that makes Jin want to squirm.

"We managed," Jin replies, not thinking about exactly what they didn't manage.

"I'd hoped I might run into Kame here, but he seemed busy."

"Yes, he is. We thought we'd… have a date, but he had to cancel for work."

Tanaka sighs dramatically. "Shame for both of us, right?" Then he gives Jin a thoughtful look Jin can't quite place. "If you're not doing anything, can I buy you a drink?"

Nothing wrong with a drink. Nothing at all. Jin came to say hi. So why is he suddenly thinking… Tanaka shows him a smile full of invitation and— god it would be so awful if that turned into… into anything, and Jin doesn't know what's worse, that he's Kame's friend or that Jin let him into the goddamn bar.

Tanaka's eyes narrow.

"Sure," Jin says, finally, because he can't offend him either.

"Hey," Tanaka says. "It's a drink." For a rapper, sternness looks oddly unscary on him. "I don't fish in Kame's pond."

It should sound crass, and Tanaka grimaces like he just realized that, but for Jin there's just the relief, sharp and dizzying. He's got no problem being located in Kame's pond.

"Yes. Sorry. Thanks," he tries; tries a smile. "It's just, that would be weird."

"Yeah, I agree," Tanaka says, and after a still moment, he shakes out his arms and legs and looks much more relaxed, too. "So, drink?"

"A drink would be great," Jin says.

Turns out Tanaka had a table already, with Shota and Danny on their second drinks, so Jin joins them for the usual whore topics and club gambits. It continues to be great until Tanaka says something about what Jin said about rap last week and Shota is curious how he managed not to even see Tanaka visit, and Jin's heart stops.

Tanaka gives him a look so probing that he'd cringe if he had any dread left to spare. "Or maybe it was the week before," he says lightly, drawing an arm around Shota. "Sometimes I forget when I've been here last." He looks at Jin, pointedly apologetic. "Sorry about that."

"It's no problem," Jin says, and if his voice feels like sandpaper, nobody else seems to notice.

Kame picks his friends well.

~

Chapter 38

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