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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 39

 

Saturday 7 February

There's sunlight in Kame's head when he wakes in cool morning darkness; sunlight and peace and a warm clingy body.

He's been dreaming, a dream that makes him want to turn over and find what he's missing, wrap himself around it and whisper good mornings.

He doesn't, of course. He's much too careful. Midori is in insistent slumber when he tiptoes out of their bedroom half an hour before his alarm.

He likes the quiet in the bathroom. His head is still full with some hazy sensation, and this way he can keep it in for a bit, keep it close.

In the shower he turns on warm and gentle water, smiles when he thinks of Jin's careful settings. He's still hard from the night, and when he touches there the memories swim into focus, less easily shaken and maybe he doesn't have to, maybe he doesn't want to.

It feels good. Slow, and drowsy, secret enough with the touches in his mind and the warmth he woke up to. Jin's in the middle of it, smiling and squirming. Talking with his hands about whatever makes him happy, so happy, and the urge goes so fast, so deep Kame stops the guilt and goes with it.

He's awake enough to know it's kind of funny that Jin's not even got his clothes off but then he's at the point where he doesn't care and he holds on to it, and it's not long before he comes, braced against the shower wall, panting under the spray. He can still see Jin, a real memory, the smile at something Kame did; the fuzzy glow in him shivery as it gets alone.

*~*~*

He should maybe not do that.

They have time for breakfast together, he and his wife, and he feels fresh and relaxed with his skin still tingling, the images fading but then catching up with him in sudden pulses.

It's rare for him to do this at home at all, two doors and a shout away from her. He's always felt it's more like cheating than his carefully arranged dates with men who don't take anything away from her.

So now Midori is smiling at him, and maybe he'd feel just as guilty if it had been generic thoughts about hard thrusting bodies and sweat and heat.

Maybe.

He pours them both more coffee and eats his toast.

"I may stay in town again next week," he says. "I have TV days on Tuesday and Wednesday, they could run long. And I kind of suspect Hamaguchi has something cooked up for me too."

He doesn't yet know if he'll have time to see Jin, but it would be nice. Also good if it stops him having odd fantasies in the shower. Not that he can complain about the gaps; he sees Jin a lot. Last week he adjusted the limit on that credit card, just in case.

"They're keeping you pretty busy," Midori says. "And you're not even promoting yet."

Kame stops, and stares; belatedly remembers to swallow and be cool because this is Midori, and she's probably just worrying about his workload or his feng shui, those kinds of things. He stayed at the apartment a lot long before he ever knew Jin.

"I could also come home," he says calmly, slowly. "I could come home more at night. The apartment is just convenient, that's all. Would you like that?"

Midori makes a face like he's suggested an evening of Noh theatre. "No, please don't worry. I know how you get. Just order decent food for yourself sometimes, okay?"

"I do," he says, "I promise," and when his next thought is of Jin kissing down his ribs it's even worse.

"Besides, when you were out on Wednesday I took the opportunity to introduce Enoki-chan and Watanabe-san to your home cinema equipment," she confesses. "That they in turn introduced me to a very fine-looking young actor in a pretty boring movie is totally incidental." She wriggles innocently, hiding her grin behind her coffee cup.

Kame smiles back. "So that's what the wine bottles were about?" A better husband might have asked sooner.

Midori gives him a quiet little look. "Yes. Well, we had great fun. And you should thank me for protecting your liquor cabinet with my life."

"Thank you," he says.

Midori laughs at him. Somehow it's never bad when she does that; never has been.

*~*~*

It's that he and Jin have all this catching up to do. That's how Kame explains it, how it makes perfect sense.

He's in his car on the way to the agency, relaxed because he knows Midori meant it. His only nervousness is the low level kind he always gets when he goes into the agency, and he knows how to deal with that. He'll be back home later, maybe take Midori out to dinner.

Just three days ago he had breakfast with Jin and a hamster. An early breakfast, because Kame had appointments. Jin buttered his toast like a sleepwalker and was utterly endearing.

Maybe Jin is still sleeping now. Fridays are… Jin has work.

He still wonders if he's asking things of Jin that make Jin uncomfortable. If later, when he's by himself, Jin thinks with distaste about how Kame behaves with him.

Because Kame forgets. Because the money happens somewhere else and when Jin is happy like that, it's hard to remember he shouldn't pet him in passing, or kiss him goodbye when Kame goes to work.

Though Jin started that one. Kame just didn't give it up again. It makes the whole day different.

So maybe next week, Tuesday or Wednesday. Right now he's worried about Midori feeling neglected but that's just the way the question surprised him, he'll have more perspective tomorrow.

And here he is, at work, which he does a lot and always did, and if he sees Jin more often… it's that they're catching up.

He has to wait for Hamaguchi, who is in a conference. He accepts coffee from the receptionist and asks her about the new pieces of Western art hanging on the light blue walls.

The receptionist is a tiny woman in her forties, and Kame has seen her chew out messengers and cheeky interns, but she's melted into smiling bliss by the time Hamaguchi shows up and he's let into the lair of austerity. Kame isn't sure if it's his flirting or that he noticed the picture of her new grandchild, but it's nicely reassuring either way. It's a cute baby too, as babies go.

"I'm sorry for the wait," Hamaguchi starts. "A Saturday morning shouldn't be this busy." She smiles, though, like the idea that she'd rather be in some mall or at a beautician's is a funny joke.

"I haven't been waiting long, it's not a problem," Kame says as he sits down. "And it's always nice to have a straightforward offer."

"I wasn't sure if you wanted to take a break after all these sword lessons. But I thought this one might interest you."

It's a revenge drama, she tells him. The character he's meant to play is older again, about to turn thirty, and he has been a cook for fourteen years. Now he wants to go after the son of his parents' killer.

"It's not a villain," she concedes with a thoughtful tilt of her head. "But I thought a layered character like that might interest you."

It certainly does. He skims lines and flips through pivotal scenes while she sits and just gives him the time. There's the love interest, of course, and maybe three episodes down the road she'll turn out to be his nemesis's sister. The nemesis has good stuff, too.

Somewhere in the third act there's a scene so potentially gory and unsettling, he just knows Jin would hide behind the couch.

"It looks promising," Hamaguchi remarks, leaning back in her bossy chair in that way that made him feel dismissed when he was younger, until he figured out it was just her version of a fistpump. "You'll like the producer."

Kame flips back for the note on top; Haga Jirou. They've never worked together, but Kame has heard of him, he's got a whole string of successful productions to his name.

"I'm definitely interested," he says, and she actually grins.

"I'm very glad. I had to wrestle KE's Nakano for it."

"Oh, is that how it works?" he asks, though he has no idea whose agent she's talking about.

"Yes, they make us all get in a cage and throw the spring dramas down from the top."

"I was wondering." He doesn't add he wouldn't want to get between her and something she wants. With cage wrestling in the mix it would probably insult her femininity. "Anyone else they have in mind already?"

She shakes her head slowly and tells him the first focus is, naturally, the lead.

He flips through the pages again and gets stuck on a scene involving scallops and white wine. Even in plain writing it sounds appealing.

Poor guy, giving up a happy cook existence. Fourteen years of scallops and he trades it in for things with knives.

"Well, it's not like people just forget something like that," Hamaguchi shrugs when he wonders out loud. She'd probably know. They never do in dramas.

*~*~*

So that was a good start to the weekend. He's got his photocopy of the script and he'll show it to Midori later, he's sure she'll like it too. And on the way home he goes shopping.

He picks the kind of place where he doesn't have to worry about keeping his collar up and his sunglasses on. It's fun like it hasn't been in a while, trying on different shirts and coats he doesn't really need and letting an excited shop assistant with excited fluttery hands fuss over him.

What he buys is always on the safe side, of course, but that doesn't keep him from enjoying nice fabrics and understated designer accents; cuts that make him look taller than he is and colours that contrast with the dark hair.

He likes looking good, and when he's got someone he likes to please he feels a little less vain and a little less silly.

He picks up a novelty designer tie that has little soccer balls on it and smiles when he imagines Jin laughing. He knows he'd wimp out on wearing it in the end even if he bought it, but it's a pleasant thought anyway.

Only now he has to convince the shop assistant he's really not into the golf and sailing versions.

Making the fans happy is a different exercise. He cares about dressing well, of course, likes it when the pictures turn out satisfactory. But that's work, and part of what he's good at. Nothing at all like a slow look from Jin, that sharp little moment when Jin realizes that Kame looks good for him.

Jin wouldn't have to find him attractive. Not with all the chances for comparison, and when Jin is so good-looking himself, and certainly not after what happened between them.

It's there, while he's facing a mirror blazing red with a ridiculously priced shirt, that it comes back from somewhere deep down, under the smiles and the dreams, under stolen moments that couldn't get any better or closer, and he sees Jin going blank and dead beneath his anger, Jin's shoulders pressed low into the bed, Jin wet—

No. That part is over. It's over.

Jin wouldn't be with him like this if it weren't.

Kame takes two shirts he liked and a black jacket with… pockets he thinks. Says he is done, smiles for the shop assistant and thanks him, as he always would. Buy, smile, go home. Don't think of it.

How can Jin be like that with him? Let Kame indulge himself and act like they are boyfriends?

He never managed to reach an answer, but then he never liked the questions, either.

So he pays. The jacket is expensive. Could maybe pay a normal person's rent, if Kame knew anything about normal people anymore.

Jin is… what Kame pays, it could pay for a lot.

A lot.

Kame grabs his bags and fumbles his sunglasses on, pulling in his head.

There's nothing dangerous about being flattered. Nothing underhanded about an escort perfecting his service with ego stroking and guessing that a client will like personal truths and teasing rib counts. It doesn't even have to be some sort of joke.

Nothing one needs to worry about. At worst it's a job. A job well done, maybe weirdly so, with so much history there and plenty of room for a grudge.

Kame would carry a grudge. Most people would. Why Jin doesn't, why Jin would let him—

Why would he even like him?

It takes him all the way back to his car to remember that Jin's a crappy liar. That Jin turned down all the money from a golden shower. That Jin brought him a hamster.

And even if he doesn't know and can't ask and can't demand an answer, there's no reason to be hiding in a parking garage with his chest tight and his heart thumping like he's jumped out of the way of a subway car.

 

Monday 9 February

Jin lights a cigarette as he leaves the hotel. There's something about Ishida's come… he doesn't want to speculate. At any rate, the sharp nicotine burn down his throat deals with it quickly.

And at least Ishida picked a hotel closer to home this time. On his last trip, he was inspecting shops all the way out in Akabane and that's where his hotel was, but this one is only a dozen bus stops from Jin's part of town, no changes, and somewhere during the afterglow chit-chat Jin realized that if he rushed a little, he'd still manage to catch the nine-fifty-five.

Two blocks down, and he can see the queue, and he made it. The bus pulls up just as he gets there, and he stubs out the cigarette, smiles to himself.

Easy money, easy night, and he'll have time for a nice bath before he tries to write some music.

*~*~*

It's not his normal bus stop; different line, different street, but still less than ten minutes from his apartment and the streets are well lit. It's not too cold a night. He walks fast but there's no reason to rush.

It's been a light day and still profitable, just the way he likes it. He had a relaxation at the club earlier, the usual Monday husbands showing up right on time. Then he got Shota to help him with the make-up because he's still not great at that. Ishida himself is quick and to the point and Jin's used to the way he likes to watch him, just switches off.

Tomorrow he's seeing Kame again, where he doesn't even want to switch off; where it gives him a funny buzz to know Kame likes what he sees. Where he gets paid to have a nice evening.

Taka-chan is back with Yuuya, and Jin's not going to ever tell him where she hung out.

And then it's going to be Wednesday and the banker, and an early knock-off if he wants, and then his day off. Until Friday, he knows exactly what's waiting for him.

He doesn't care about where he is in the ranking, but having things all under control like the top guys is kind of cool.

"Hey! Jin!"

Is that Tomo? He stops and looks left down the intersection, the bar's that way, and yeah, it's Tomo all right, waving a bit, and Jin stops and waves back. "Hey there."

It's okay, he tells himself, he's wearing the suit but he's coming from work, waiters have to be well-dressed, too, and he did say it was a classy place.

"Early night?" he asks Tomo, and Tomo nods with a little frown. He's hunched up in his much-loved denim jacket, hands stuffed into the pockets.

"The volleyball team didn't show up, and Monday's so dead otherwise, there was no point staying open. You?"

"Yeah," Jin says, "Got out early, too. Light night."

And he falls silent because Tomo's looked at him properly for the first time and hasn't stopped looking and he's not looking at the suit.

Oh fuck.

"Wow," Tomo says. "You… uh." He raises a hand and Jin's not sure where it's going but he can't move; but after a helpless little twirl of his finger, Tomo drops it again. "It's pretty—"

Jin bites his lip.

"It's pretty," Tomo says, almost like he doesn't want to. It could be the streetlights, but Jin thinks he's blushing. Jin isn't, he knows that, too, can feel it in the way he can't breathe. Can't talk, either, and Tomo's giving him a look like he's just noticed that, stops staring at him and takes a step back. "It's none of my business," he says, with that quick smile Jin knows. "Chill."

Jin can just about stop himself from grabbing his arm so he doesn't move further away.

"Can we talk?" he manages.

"It's no big deal," Tomo says, "really. It's… some host club, right? Don't worry, I'm not freaking."

Host club. He could say that. Tomo would probably like him to, and he'd trust him, and wouldn't freak.

Jin's so sick of this.

"Not a host club," he says. "Can we talk somewhere not here?"

"Okay," Tomo says quickly, "sure, okay. Your place?"

Jin nods. "If that's okay. I have beer."

"Beer," Tomo says, "sounds good."

*~*~*

They talk about the weather on the endless five-minute walk to Jin's apartment, and it's one of the most bizarre things Jin's ever done. Somehow chaos theory and butterflies in the tropics have been mentioned by the time Jin unlocks his door, and then he is grateful to Tomo for holding up both sides of their weird conversation while Jin manages not to run into the bathroom and scrub it all off, and instead gets the beers and opens them and hands over a bottle, and they sit.

Jin makes himself unthreatening in his corner of the couch. "Not a host club," he says. "A sex club." And then, because he really doesn't want to leave room for misunderstandings and he doesn't want to say it more than once, he adds, "I have sex with guys. For money."

Tomo is chewing on his bottom lip, mulling that over. No doubt he knows the word for people like Jin.

"So that's… your job?" he says in the end.

"Yeah. Not a waiter. I'm sorry."

He can move out of this area. He wanted to move anyway. It can't be that hard to find a place.

"So the…" Tomo moves his bottle in a vague circle to indicate Jin's outfit, Jin's appearance. "You were working earlier?"

"Yeah." So many things he could say, like how he doesn't always wear make-up, or washes it off, and this was just bad luck, but he knows none of that's important. What's important is how Tomo is sitting there with his untouched beer, looking at him with this little frown, and thinking. Jin wonders what he's seeing when he looks at him now; if he's picturing him with a cock in his mouth, or with his ass up for some guy, or if he's running through all the possibilities one by one because this seems to take forever, and Jin's beer starts to feel sweaty and warm in his hands.

"Right, okay," Tomo says. And he finally drinks from his bottle.

Jin doesn't quite dare yet.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't mean to lie, just… well, okay, I meant to lie about it. Sorry."

"No, that's… that's okay, I get that," Tomo says. "I guess I'd lie, too."

"Yeah…" Who wouldn't, after all.

"I won't tell anyone," Tomo offers. "If you're worried about that."

"Yeah, thank you," Jin says stupidly. He didn't think Tomo would do that, anyway. But it's polite to say thank you. "But—"

Are we cool? He doesn't know how to ask that or whether, if he asks, the answer will mean much.

Tomo is looking at him again. Looking at his mouth with the lip gloss Jin had forgotten about, and who knows where it takes him in his head. And everything else still seems so normal, Tomo in one of his faded bar t-shirts on Jin's couch, with beer.

Tomo starts. "Oh god, I'm sorry."

"It's okay. It's probably normal."

"It's fucking rude."

Jin shrugs. He's used to it. Part of the job, and the job caught up with him tonight.

"Drink your beer," Tomo says.

"What?"

"Beer. Meant for drinking," Tomo says patiently. "Yours is getting warm and flat."

Jin has to laugh, but it doesn't last. He takes a sip to appease the guy who knows about beer. "Better?"

Tomo's smiling. "Watch me." He tilts the bottle over his mouth and takes three… five… six deep gulps. Then he points at Jin. "Now you."

Okay. If that's what Tomo wants right now… okay. Jin empties his bottle and raises his eyebrows pointedly.

Tomo grins. "Be like that." He drains the last of his bottle, too. "I just think sometimes… beer helps," he says more seriously. "Like… me, I'm not really sure what to say right now. It's all kind of unexpected. And you – you're not saying much of anything at all. So that's not helpful. Therefore, beer."

"I don't know what I can say, really. There's not much to say, and I don't want to make it worse." It feels good to admit at least that much.

Tomo gives him a long look. "I bet there's a lot to say." But then he frowns. "I feel like I need an etiquette book, though. I mean, I… want to ask stuff, but do you just not want to talk about it? And I don't know how to ask anything without sounding like a jerk."

"You're still here," Jin says. His voice is off pitch suddenly and embarrassing. "So you're not a jerk. Ask what you like."

He's slowly starting to feel things again, in a blurry sort of way. And he's grateful, and nervous, and ashamed, and maybe nuts because he kind of wants the questions.

"Okay, right," Tomo says, and Jin gets them more beer. "So it's… what kind of place is it, where you work? Is it okay?"

"It's pretty exclusive. Not everybody can get in, and it's expensive, and people come for a good night out, not just sex. So the wh— workers get treated pretty well, and we have to be okay just talking and making the clients feel relaxed. For the first couple of months I was afraid I'd get sacked because I wasn't good enough." Weird, how that's just a memory now, how it seems so long ago since he last worried about that.

Tomo's smiling, like the universe has become familiar again. "Yeah," he says, as he seems to remember the many ways Jin sucks at small talk, "I didn't think that would be your kind of thing." He picks at a frayed end at the toe of his sock. "So it's a bit like a host club after all?"

"Yeah, only eventually the guys want sex, anyway." Jin only thinks for a moment before he decides to add, "That can be the easy part."

"You don't mind it?" The sock is forgotten, Tomo's looking straight at Jin, looking like he wants to know. "I mean, you don't have to say you do, it's okay if you don't. It's better if you don't. Just, you know."

"I mind." That's important, no matter what Tomo thinks. "Just, it becomes kind of normal after a while, and then it just kind of… is. I've learned not to let it get to me much."

Tomo seems not exactly reassured. Maybe Jin said it wrong; maybe Tomo's wondering now how many guys you can do it with in a day, one after the other until it is normal, and Jin holds his breath so he doesn't panic and babble and say things Tomo wouldn't want to know.

"How did you end up there, anyway?"

"The manager picked me up in Shinjuku." He catches Tomo's puzzled look and adds, "I was sleeping rough, doing street. My folks kicked me out and my boyfriend left and I didn't have a job or a place to stay. Long story."

There's a pause. Tomo's picking at his sock again, but he's looking at Jin. "That sounds horrible," he says.

Jin shrugs again. It's neither here nor there now.

"And this… it pays well, at least?"

"Depends a bit on how much people like you, and what you do. If you're up for anything or if you have limits. But yeah, it pays well."

"Probably better than my three jobs taken together."

"I'm afraid so." Jin feels a bit guilty about that.

"Hey, but that's only fair," Tomo says instantly. "Not a lot of guys would even do that, so it makes sense it's expensive." He stops with a blink. "Sorry. That sounded weird. I didn't mean it like—"

"It's okay," Jin says quickly. "I know, okay? I think you're right." He doesn't mention the street, and how little it took. In general Tomo's right. Because Tomo's thinking and he's trying to understand.

"Shitty jobs, all shitty in different ways," Tomo concludes, and that… that sounds almost cool to Jin. "And I guess those rich guys wouldn't want just any plain old guy."

"They're pretty plain old guys themselves, mostly." Jin doesn't know why that suddenly seems funny. Maybe it's the beer.

Tomo scrunches up his face. "I don't think I needed that picture," he says. "Is it pretty disgusting?"

"Not as bad as street," Jin says quickly. "I mean, they're usually clean and stuff. And some are even fairly young. Just depends, really."

And then there's Kame who seems as young as Jin sometimes, and other times so much more older, until the next crazy idea chases the mood away or Jin manages to make him stop thinking.

"Is that how you know those two guys at the bar?" Tomo says, and Jin sprays his mouthful of beer over the couch between them.

He's coughing, and waving 'No' with his hand, and he can't talk and maybe that's a good thing because that gives him time to think. Tomo has dashed to the kitchen for some paper towels. Jin stands licking beer off his hands and tries not to touch his suit and tries to think, damn it. And then he laughs.

"Look at me," he says, and he stands still for Tomo to take it all in again, the suit and the hair and the eyeshadow and lip gloss. "This is how I dress for clients. Grubby jeans don't really cut it. And no sane whore lets a client in his private space."

He waits. Half a lie, for Kame's sake, and he hopes it'll work and he won't have to tell a whole one.

Tomo nods, wet paper towels bunched up in his hand until Jin takes them off him. "Yeah, that makes sense. I guess you don't really want to make friends with those sorts of people."

They wash their hands one after the other at the sink, and Tomo says he knows some miracle stuff to spray on the stains on the couch.

"It's not like that," Jin finally says. He needed to think about it, about what to say, whether to say anything. "Not always, anyway. These guys, they have their reasons too. And some are really okay. Even nice. It's just dangerous, letting them get too close."

And knowing that it's dangerous doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

Tomo nods like he gets it, frowns like he finds it all kind of sad.

"It's all about the money," Jin says. "That's the whole point, getting the money and getting out. The rest isn't important."

"You've got a plan?"

"I didn't when I got into it, I just worked enough to get by, but I've got one now. I'm saving up, and at the club I can make enough in a year or two that I'll be able to get out, pay my way through an apprenticeship, keep a cheap apartment, and still have fallback money if a real job doesn't work out right away. I'm not going on the street again."

Tomo's looking around; eyes travelling over the shiny furniture, the soft clean carpet, the tone-in-tone concept. "That why you want out of here and into something cheaper? To save money?"

"That, and also, this belongs to the club. When I quit, I can't stay here."

"Right." Tomo looks around with this new knowledge just like Kame did. Then he nods solemnly. "I'll remind those people I asked. I didn't realize it was that urgent, with this being a nice place and all."

Jin has to smile. He's glad he can. "Soon would be great," he confesses.

Tomo tells him he delivered groceries for a family who had moved and the wife tried to talk him into taking back the produce because somehow they'd managed to forget their fridge. Just a story from his job, like always. "But their apartment would be too big for you, even if it was too small for them."

He's got deliveries early tomorrow too, not that he shows any sign of moving. "Lots of little loads," he says, "and then I'm hitting the METRO for the bar, we're running low on paper towels and stuff again." He gives Jin a speculating sideways look. "You know, I should take you there next time. You can get your instant ramen even cheaper, and some other stuff, too." He grins. "Save up money faster."

Jin grins back. "That would be extra cool."

Tomo seems very pleased with that plan.

Jin's body feels like a bag of rice when he slumps back in the corner and thinks giddily how he called this a light day. "You know what?" he says. Tomo waggles his eyebrows at him, only he kind of sucks at that, which is also funny. "Nobody knows this," Jin says. "Like, nobody."

"Knows… what your work is?"

"That I'm a whore." He giggles when Tomo frowns. Maybe he should stop drinking.

"You should stop calling yourself that. It's not a nice word," Tomo says.

"Not a nice job," Jin shrugs. "But anyway, not my point. Nobody knows except you. Well, and the clients, but they don't know me, my real life. Most of them only know the… me when I work. And nobody who knew me first knows about the work. Just you."

"Really?" Tomo thinks for a moment, and laughs a little. "And I think I even would have bought the host thing, until you went all big secret on me."

"But I'm glad," Jin says. "I'm glad somebody knows, and I'm glad it's you."

Tomo smiles. "I'm glad, too. And I won't be weird about it. Can I have more beer?"

~

Chapter 40

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