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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 40


Friday 13 February

"So how about it?"

Half an hour ago he was just some diamond trader. Not tall. Decent hygiene. Strong hands that directed him around. They're quiet now, folded on the back of the chair that has Jin's clothes on it, waiting.

Jin can smell him everywhere, on himself from the fucking and from where he's standing and in the air, which Jin's breathing in too fast. Too fast. He has to be firm.

"The arrangement was one," he says. "I'm sorry."

His phone is in his jacket, which is on that chair, which he can't get to, and even if he could he wouldn't dare take his eyes off them.

They're not moving. That's good.

"Come on," the client cajoles. His client. The one he had a deal with. "We're going to pay you extra. Always meant to. Just a little change from the original plan. Loosen up a bit." He's naked like Jin but he doesn't look it so much. Not part of the show like Jin is for the other two.

Those chuckle. Same age as the diamond guy, but Jin's never seen them before. They've seen him, though, bright and clear through that fucking creepy window that was bad enough when Jin just thought it was a mirror, with the client turning him this way and that for a fucking better view.

He'd wonder who builds his bedroom like that, except maybe he'll wonder later, when the glass isn't cold against his back and the door too far away.

He shakes his head. "No. It's not part of the contract." He feels sick, and he doesn't know why his head feels so weird because he didn't drink anything, or eat anything, they didn't drug him like that guy with Danny.

He can get out of here.

Three. They are three, not five, and Ootomo knows where he is.

Three is enough when it comes to it and Ootomo's not expecting his call for another half hour and that's enough too. Plenty enough.

"Hey," diamond guy says, "the boss doesn't need to know. Means you'll get to keep the commission, right?" Inaba. That's his name. He has a name and the club knows it and Jin just needs to get to his phone.

"Maybe an extra two hundred thousand?" the tall guy in leather says. "Come on, that's not bad for just a few minutes. And one or three, it's all the same for you in the end. You sell it, we'd like it, deal?"

"Win-win," the smaller one says. He's got a hard-on he keeps rubbing through his pants.

They don't sound threatening. Jin keeps reminding himself. They're vulgar and demanding, but they've got names and fat bank accounts and they're not like guys who'll take it if he doesn't want to give it.

He hopes he's right.

"I'd like to leave, please," he says.

"We'd like to fuck you, please," the tall one says, and laughs. The others laugh, too, and maybe Jin was wrong.

The shorter one doesn't stop rubbing his crotch and he takes a step closer. "You're making us feel bad. We're just as pretty as him." A nod at Inaba. "You're turning us down for nothing, boy, treating us like some freaks. I don't like that."

"Also he's horny," tall guy says, laughing again. "Kind of your fault. You're one of the hotter shows we've had."

Inaba's the one who's supposed to know the rules, Jin can't talk to the other two. "I'm supposed to call my boss to tell him everything went well," he says. "This kind of thing will just get you blacklisted. Are you sure you want that?" He'll never see a Johnny's escort again anyway, but he doesn't need to know that, it's good if he doesn't know that yet.

The two guys find that funny. Crotch guy snorts. He's vile, and gross, only Jin can't think about that now. "Tokyo's full of pretty whores. You're not that special, show or not."

"I don't like your tone, boy," Inaba says. He doesn't find it funny.

"I'm sorry," Jin says calmly. Feels the mirror at his back. "But you know the rules."

"Not much of a party boy you got us there," tall guy says to Inaba, like it's some sort of joke and Jin wants him to shut up because Inaba still doesn't find it funny, and he's coming around the chair now.

"I don't know where you get off acting like it's some huge imposition. Are we keeping you from something?" He's checking with his friends; embarrassed. Not good.

"Look," Jin says. Breathes. "I was supposed to call my boss five minutes ago and if I don't call him, he's going to send a guy out here to look for me and I don't think you want that." He's never felt less shaky with a lie but that's all he's got, pretending there's not plenty of time.

"Another guy might be more accommodating," crotch guy leers. "Bring him on."

Jin just keeps his eyes on Inaba, on the jacket behind him.

"Bullshit," Inaba says. No embarrassment now. He's angry, and seems to like that better. "I've got you for two hours and you know it. So don't try messing me around."

Jin shakes his head again, tries to keep them all in sight. Three of them. He knows that's enough.


He's out.

There's cars rushing and the noise of trucks thundering over a bridge, and Jin feels like his ears are going to explode, but he's out.

His hands are shaking, and his phone is full of messy smeared sweat. He clutched it so hard. But nobody changed their minds.

Out of sight now, he thinks, and leans against the slab of concrete and keeps an eye out for the mothers with strollers and the old people pushing their shopping along, no idea where they're going or where the shops are along the busy street but that doesn't matter, strollers and mothers and slow old people are great.

He pushes speed dial one. It takes two rings and forever.

"Jin. You're early. How was it?"

"I told them I had to call you," he says, because that was important; is important.

"Is everything all right?"

"Yes. I'm outside. They let me go."

"Who's they?"

"There was, like, a mirror, and then there were guys. But I told them I had to call you."

"Jin. Where are you?"

"I'm outside," he says. Suddenly he needs the concrete to lean against and he needs to swallow whatever it is that's choking him. "I don't know, I'm… I just left that house and then there were people and I walked around the corner. There's a bridge."

"Can you give me a street name? Anything? I can't send someone if I don't know where you are."

Send someone. Mikami and the car, no talking, no nobody, and somehow the thought of being bundled up and driven home while he's small and invisible in the backseat helps, unfreezes his brain with how much better it makes him feel.

"I think…" He has a look around. "There's a subway station in two hundred meters. I didn't walk very far from the house."

But maybe he doesn't want to wait around. And he's used to the subway, and he came in this way. How hard can it be?

"It's okay," he says, "I'll come in by myself."

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Ootomo says. "What happened? Did you get hurt?"

Jin knows how to sound professional now, and like someone who can ride the subway by himself, he just has to remember the words. "I had to terminate the meeting," he says. "The encounter was over, but time wasn't up yet. The client violated the rules."

"Did he give you anything? Drugs?"

"No. I'm okay." He's okay. "I'm fine. It was just… I had to get out. There were three."

"Three? Three what?"

"It's okay, I'm fine. I'm just… look, the subway isn't far and I don't want to wait here, okay?"

There's a brief pause at the other end, then Ootomo says, "Okay."

So Jin rings off. Tries to remember what he meant to do. Oh yes, subway.

The phone buzzes and he jumps so hard, he almost drops it. When he can breathe again, it's just voice-mail, and he pushes the button.


"Hi Jin. It's Kame. How are you? Okay, I know this is your voice-mail. I called to ask you, I'm having some convoluted scheduling changes that you don't even want to know about, only they mean I have a lot of free time today and I was wondering if you'd like to meet up. Just call me back if you have a moment."

Kame. He sounds so normal.

Jin stands still and just holds on… he flinches when it beeps on to a second message.

"Hi, it's me again. Sorry for harassing your mailbox. I hope you don't mind but I called the club and they told me you'd probably be in later, so… I figured I could spend my unexpected day off at the club. Just thought I'd tell you. I really hope I'll see you there. Bye."

Hope. The way Kame says that is like it's full of things Jin just can't untangle now. Good things.

Then he finally gets it. Kame's waiting at the club.

Right, subway. And he said he could do it.

He still doesn't let go of the phone.


He tries to walk into the station through the exit gate and okay, not so good, not great. Maybe people look, but he doesn't, doesn't want to talk. But maybe he should look, behind him, just to be sure. That there's nobody there.

Three, and they let him go, and he's okay. He just needs to be away from here, and when the direct line isn't due until five minutes later he takes a different one that's coming in, and he'll change at Tokyo Station.

He can think complex thoughts like this. He's okay, it's all good. Why couldn't he think like that earlier? Why couldn't he… say yes, say he needed to call Ootomo for authorization, get his cell no problem, and raise the alarm before they knew what he was doing.

That would have been smart. He wasn't smart, he was just lucky.

He stays squeezed into his corner and doesn't look at anyone, just listens for the station announcements as they come up.

If he thinks about it he'll think about it, and he'll remember he's still got this guy on him and he'll remember he said please and sorry, and he'll hear how they found him funny. The fucking creepy mirror.

So he doesn't think about it.

He thinks of Kame at the club instead. Kame's schedule changes and Kame wanting to see him, and because nobody will fucking know, he puts the voice-mail on again and listens to the messages; first fucks it up and gets a week-old one from Ootomo at the start, but when he's got Kame he hunches lower in the seat and covers the phone with his hand.

It helps. Gives him some calm. By the time he changes trains he's not at risk of getting lost anymore.

The phone stays in his hand the rest of the ride.


Mikami's on the lookout for him when he gets to the back entrance. "You all right, Jin?"

"I'm fine," he says. Cigarette smell hangs in the air back here, and for the first time Jin thinks that might have been an idea for his hurried march club-ward. Might have helped.

"He's waiting for you," Mikami tells him, and Jin nods because that's fine, and Kame is waiting too and he can think about that. This time he doesn't have to keep a story straight in his head. Ootomo's on his side. That was against the rules. Jin just has to tell him.

Mikami walks him. Okay.

He's twice Jin's size, takes up half of the elevator. But that's different.

The elevator air smells familiar, detergent and air freshener, and it's weirdly comforting, and for the few seconds it takes to get a floor up, he closes his eyes.

Waits for the sinking moment when they stop.


Jin almost walks into Mikami when he makes for Ootomo's office because Mikami has turned— that's the manager's office. Jin's heart sinks. He can talk to Ootomo, but Konoe… does it mean they're taking this seriously, or does it mean he's in trouble after all?

He was introduced to Konoe when he started; can't remember much of that. Too many new faces and a bare, clean office. He hasn't seen him since. Even when Kame… when Ootomo was angry with him, he didn't, everything's always gone through Ootomo.

He'd forgotten how tall Konoe is, and how he moves, decisive like a real company boss. Even when he's just getting up to greet Jin, and sitting down again in his wide office chair.

Jin takes a breath. This wasn't his fault. Clients don't get to do that. He's pretty sure.

And somehow the room gets bleaker when Mikami leaves, even though Jin knows for sure that he doesn't want him to hear about mirrors and being cornered by three guys.

"Ootomo-kun told me there was a problem with your client," Konoe starts. "Are you okay, Jin?"

"Yes," Jin says obediently. "I'm okay."

There's a pause and he realizes they're waiting. For him to elaborate, to explain, to… give them the whole story.

"There were three," he says. "Not from the start, Inaba-san… everything seemed normal, mostly, at the start. They came when we were done, they'd been watching. And then they came and they wanted more and they got mad when I said no. But I got out in the end."

It's weird how it's not easy, just to say it how it was. How there's so much in his head, and so much of it he doesn't want to talk about even when they're looking like they believe him, looking like they want to help.

"Three including Inaba, or Inaba plus three?" Konoe is making notes on a sheet.

"Three including."

"What exactly did they want?"

"Not sure, just… sex. Probably to fuck me. They offered two hundred thousand. Said you wouldn't have to know."

Konoe exchanges a glance with Ootomo. "Just to be clear, they didn't threaten you initially, when they offered to pay?"

Oh god.

Jin's brain is doing that weird thing again where it's urgent and foggy at the same time, just won't work right. "No. But. They thought it was no big deal. But it wasn't the arrangement. I said no." They can say no to that. They can. Exactly stuff like that.

Another glance. "And you said the sex with Inaba was still normal."

"Yes." He clears his throat. "Yes."

"What happened?" Ootomo now. Ootomo's field, probably. Only he's gesturing vaguely. "Did you two…" Looking meaningful in that Ootomo-like way that they all mock. On normal days.

"Did he fuck you?" Konoe asks kindly.


"Was there anything weird about that?"

"No, nothing." No, no lie. "Nothing I thought about at the time. But he was interested in that mirror. Like, focused."

"The mirror?"

Jin nods. "He's got a whole set-up, the mirror's really a window. To a second room. I… I think he's done it before, too. Let them watch. I don't know which of the guys has dealt with him…"

"Danny and Jaejoong," Ootomo says quietly, to Konoe, who scribbles more. "But they had no complaints."

"What makes you think they watched before?"

Jin's wishing he hadn't mentioned that. Wishing he could stop thinking about the way Inaba moved him, the little ways he arranged his hair and touched his mouth for an audience, the way he made him come on the mirror.

"They said I gave a better show," he mumbles. "That's why they came in. They were kind of excited."



"And that's when they offered you a different deal?"

Jin's staring at Konoe's desk. Some fine wood that's clean and sparkly. At least he never had to tell anybody about which order they took and how rusty the fence was and who started with the piss.

He wants home. Or out. He's not sure. Not a drink and not a cigarette but he wants something and he'll never get it.

"It's not an accusation, Jin," someone says, in a cultured voice that gets listened to. "This client was out of line. But I need all the details before I talk to him."

Jin blinks. Konoe is handling his pen and Ootomo is still wearing the bright blue beach shirt and sweating and looking understanding. They both do. Maybe he shouldn't have forgotten that.

"Yes. They offered money. I said no. They didn't like that. I said I had to call you but Inaba knew the two hours weren't up, and they didn't like that either."

"Did they threaten you?"

"They were angry. And they crowded me. They didn't threaten with words, just it… it didn't look like they'd back down." When Inaba called his bluff, angry for a reason now, and his buddies were sure Jin had no comeback left… until he found another lie, a better lie…

"But they backed down in the end?"

Jin nods. "I said there were secret phone calls. That we make to you. That Inaba doesn't know about. He believed that."

Konoe and Ootomo are exchanging glances, and Jin wonders what he said wrong.

It's Konoe who talks. "Jin, we're very relieved to hear you managed to talk your way out of such a threatening situation. But it's important for you to know that if you hadn't, you would still not be at fault. If you had no choice but to give in, and if you took money for it afterwards, that would still be their fault, not yours. I want you to know we wouldn't blame you."

That's… nice, Jin thinks. And has already opened his mouth to say 'thank you' or something like that, when it sinks in.

"No," he says quickly. "I mean, yes, I know that, I understand. But nothing happened. I just got very scared."

There's another brief pause, and by now they're freaking him out again. But Konoe smiles.

"That's good; I'm truly relieved. But please believe me, if something like it should ever happen, we would not hold you responsible. We would also not blame you if you found it too difficult to talk about, though we would hope that you'd trust us and help us protect you and your colleagues."

"Yeah," Jin says. "Sure."

"I think that we have enough information then," Konoe says. "Steps will of course be taken with regard to the client. Jin, is there anything you would like to add?"

Jin shakes his head. All he wants is out of here, stop talking about it or thinking about it, wash the guy off himself.

Konoe rises again. "Thank you very much, Jin. I'll take it from here. I've taken the liberty to ask Dr Kunikida to drop in for a quick examination to make sure you're totally okay, but after that, please feel free to take the rest of the night off. Forget about clients for an evening."

The doctor?

He doesn't want it. Not being naked. Not more questions that come with gloves and cotton swabs and maybe fucking needles if the man feels like it, and nothing happened.

"But nothing happened!" he says. Too loud, for the manager, but at least nobody gets angry. "Nothing happened."

"I believe you. We'd just like to make sure. It won't take long, and Mikami will drive you home."

Home. Kame. "I don't want to go home." This is taking forever. Endless circles with nothing he didn't know an hour ago.

"Jin," Ootomo says, frowning. "That's admirable, but you're in no state. Do yourself a favour."

"No, I mean…" What does he mean? How can he say this? "A regular of mine is expecting me. I want to see him. To tell him. I don't want to— have a date. But I don't want to just not show up. When he thinks I'm coming."

Ootomo's eyes narrow. "Right. Kamenashi-sama called me," he says, and then nods at Konoe, who seems to find this fascinating.

"Are you sure you're up for it?" Konoe asks Jin.

"Yeah. Sure. It's just to talk, right? Nothing a shower and a smoke won't fix." He tries a smile. Okay, that was probably dumb. But they know about regulars, and he's even sticking around for the stupid doctor.

In the end they agree. Jin doesn't second-guess it.

Ootomo escorts him to the little examination room, postponing whatever managerial manager discussion they need to have about managing sick fucks with creepy friends. "If you want to stay home tomorrow," he says as he holds the door open, "do."

Jin nods. It's not every day that he finds Ootomo calming and solid, but he'll take what he can get.


There's needles, of course. And gloves, and swabs. Whatever. At least there's no talking.

His shower is quick and undramatic, and he's getting better at fixing himself up in a hurry if he has to, only it would help if his hands stopped shaking.

Okay, not as good as usual but good enough that Ootomo won't kick him out of the lounge, so it'll do, he'll be fine. He'll be fine once he's sitting with Kame and Kame tells him about his work or his house or his cat, he'll be able to forget about being trapped against that mirror, or stuck in the manager's office or in the doctor's tiny cubicle. He'll be fine, and he speeds up, shirt and pants and belt and shoelaces and it takes forever because of his hands, and he wonders if Kame would hold them still for him and that's when he knows he can't go in there like this.

He's got no control over himself. He'll be all over Kame, looking for… stuff that's stupid, stuff he'll never get, and no client should have to put up with that.

Cigarette. It'll only take five minutes, and he'll apologize for the smell but it's not like they'll be kissing, and if he says he needed one Kame will understand. Better than making a spectacle of himself and embarrassing them both.

It's just after six when he gets out back, and Mikami is there stubbing out his cigarette. He stops when he sees Jin, though, and pulls out his pack, holds it out to him.

Jin shakes his head and lifts the cigarette he brought down. "Thanks, though." He takes the light Mikami offers, and Mikami lights another one for himself.

The nicotine hits like heaven. Jin almost wants to cry.

"You okay now?" Mikami asks. "You kind of look like shit."

Jin's second drag turns into a little laugh. "That's not what you say to an escort before he hits the lounge."

"You're going in the lounge?" Mikami stares at him as if he's taking in Jin's outfit for the first time. "They make you go back?"

"I wanted to. I'm just meeting somebody, no more. Not—" Mikami doesn't like to think about the details of their job. "Not a real date."

Mikami nods, and gives him silence to fill if he wants to. When Jin does nothing with it, he says, "So who do you think will win the match?"

Of course, the Verdy friendly. If the day had gone to plan, he'd have been watching that at the bar tonight, maybe, because Tomo was just like normal yesterday and they seem to be okay.

"I kind of forgot about that," Jin admits. "With all the… stuff." Though the cigarette is starting to clear his brain a little.

"The commentators said the team was looking good," Mikami says. "They interviewed a couple of the players, sounded pretty bouncy. Seems like there's a new line-up."

"Cool," Jin says. "Would be cool if they scored a win."

"It'll be on the big screen inside, I'm pretty sure. Maybe you can watch it together."

"He's not really into soccer," Jin says with a smile. He tries to envisage Kame watching sportscasters talk about line-ups and injuries while he waits for Jin. Not likely, and…

Kame has been waiting for a long time. Maybe he no longer even thinks Jin is coming. Maybe he left, is leaving, or maybe he found somebody…

"Sorry," he says to Mikami, stubbing out his cigarette and sticking it in the trash bin. "I really… I have to get in there now. Sorry."

He walks as fast as he can without running.


He can't spot Kame from the door, and the place is busy. And maybe he's rude, but he tries not to be while moving as quickly has he can past clients and colleagues, trying not to make eye contact with anybody. And finally he spots Kame by the screen, in the last place he'd have looked for him, and with him—

It's Tatsuya.

They're smiling. Their wine glasses – red for Kame, white for Tatsuya – are almost empty, and Kame is saying something, turning more towards Tatsuya with his arm over the back of the couch, leaning in for some joke, some familiar… thing.

They're definitely not watching the soccer.

Jin stands and doesn't know what to do. What to do that he can do, because what he can't do is go there and listen to Kame explain that he's really sorry, but Jin took so long and now unfortunately—

Kame has seen him, and is standing up. Jin can't do this. Kame is smiling. He doesn't look sorry.

It's no big deal for a client to switch between escorts, and it's normal, for Kame, to go with Tatsuya, who is elegant and refined and whose hair isn't a half-baked mess like Jin's is. How could he ever have thought it was good enough?

Kame frowns, and waves. So Jin has to go there. He manages not to knock into anybody.

"Hi," he says.

"Hi," Kame says, bright like everything has turned out just wonderfully. "So you got my message?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry I kept you waiting." Kame has no idea how sorry.

"I didn't mind waiting," Kame says. Tatsuya smiles at Jin. "And it's a really lazy day for me. Come join us? We were just talking, Tatsuya-san was keeping me company for a little while."

A little while. A little while. Jin thinks it through but this is what he said, and it sounds like… he waited, he really waited. For Jin.

Jin's starting to feel a bit light-headed.

The couch. Kame sits so there's room next to him, and Jin finally remembers to bow a little because Tatsuya is… Tatsuya. So that's important. He can actually see soccer commentary on the screen from here but he ignores it, because that's not important and what's most important is Kame, who waited.

"I'm glad you had time at all," Kame says, and it's great how happy he looks, it's like some warm fuzzy thing, high out of reach of the bad stuff, and oh, shit.

He'll have to explain. It felt easier in theory.

"I'm glad you waited," he says instead. "Really glad. And I was really happy when I got your message."

Kame's eyes linger on him briefly, but then he's looking around for a waiter. "Can I get you a drink? Whatever you like, don't be impressed by the wine party."

Tatsuya swirls his glass a little. "I'm not sure I would recommend this one anyway," he says, friendly to Jin but with a teasing look at Kame.

"You didn't like it after all?" Kame pouts, like he knows what the joke was. Jin doesn't. "You could have ordered something else."

"Oh, it's perfectly drinkable. Only not really worth your money, or the label."

"I'm sorry I insisted on trying something new," Kame says, half solemn and half laughing, before he turns to Jin. "What would you like?"

Beer. Mostly for familiarity. Maybe half a bottle of sake if he could, if he did that to wipe things out, but he doesn't and he can't. He's not sure, and then he looks at their glasses. The crazy expensive wine that Tatsuya knows isn't up to standard. Kame's red which is probably the one he drinks every single time when he comes here.

"I'll try what you're having," he says to Kame. "I'm sure that's good."

Kame doesn't take it as anything, just smiles. He deals with the waiter, and then he nods at Jin. "I was telling Tatsuya-san about the location shoot in Hokkaido."

This is friendlier territory. "About the shirtless actor icicles, or about the sandals?"

"The sandals, of course," Kame says. "I am so proud of myself."

Tatsuya giggles elegantly. "I tried those myself once," he confesses. "In a slightly different context. I'm glad in retrospect I didn't have to wave a sword at the same time."

Kame hides his face. "I'm afraid to ask…"

Tatsuya's grin deepens. Like he's confiding something he wouldn't tell just anybody. It could be an act; everyone's better at that than Jin. "Just a bit of harmless geisha cosplay," he admits. "Long, long ago. I thought the hair didn't suit me."

Jin's never heard of that. Kame is laughing.

Tatsuya sips at his wine, and then there's a pause.

Maybe this is where Jin should say something, where it's his turn. Maybe he should find something to say.

Maybe right about now.

"How's filming?" he asks, and there comes the waiter, and Jin feels even stupider with his interrupted stupid question.

Turns out filming's over. Great. But Kame seems happy. Jin tries the wine too and finds it weird, like there's too much taste going on; but as long as he's drinking it sip by tiny sip they can sit here talking. He might even think of a smart thing to say at some point.

Tatsuya is fondling his glass in a way Jin knows. Build-up for leaving, and Jin's jittery with relief that he's no longer feeling on probation… and then he remembers.

Tatsuya is having a look around the room, mapping out his course, and Kame lets the distance between them grow and smiles at Jin like that's fine with him, and he doesn't know yet.

It's not fair on Kame. Jin knows what Kame likes and regardless of what Jin wants he can't, he couldn't. There's no way he'll get it up and then Kame will be sad and that's not the kind of sex Kame likes to pay for. And it wouldn't be fair.

He clears his throat and then he has a sharp mouthful of the wine, which burns on the way down in a way wine never does. "Hey," he says under his breath. "Before… You should know." He lowers his head and his voice, and Kame gets him and leans in a bit, and Jin catches a tiny trace of how Kame smells under his clothes. It doesn't make saying it easier. "I'm not really up for…" He doesn't even know how to say it. Until from somewhere, he remembers.

"I think I won't be much good." He knows Kame's looking at him but if Jin looks back, he'll just trip over his tongue. "For how you like it. With both of us together. I can't, tonight, I thought you should know. Before…"

"Oh," Kame says, and then, "that's fine." All light and perfectly-polite-client. Jin risks a look, and there's a smile which is also polite, and a little careful.

Jin turns his wine this way and that; nods; watches Tatsuya drink up and put his empty glass down.

Tatsuya smiles. He's really very good-looking, even if he wouldn't be Jin's type. "I think I'll leave you two alone now," he says. "Watch out for those special selection wines."

"I've learned my lesson," Kame replies. "I hope you have good evening."

Jin doesn't believe it… not until it's really only him and Kame on the wide leather couch. And Kame knows now.

"I'm sorry," Jin blurts out. "Just, I thought at least I should say…"

"No, don't worry." Kame looks unfazed. "It's cool. We could just hang out. And talk. If that's okay with you."

Talk. Hang out. Jin nods, probably too quickly. "I'd like that very much."

This time Kame's smile isn't careful, it's like this is the best thing ever.

Kame's right. He doesn't know how right. Jin wants to giggle, and the world feels tipsy and like it will be okay.

He's here, he's safe, doesn't have to let anyone else inside his body. And he gets to be with Kame. Now and then he might sneak a look at Tokyo Verdy defending their honour once more.

He focuses on his wine, breathing deeply like it's the first clear air in hours. Then he makes up his mind. "I don't really want wine," he admits. "Could I have some beer?" He doesn't even care about the waste.

He gets his beer, and a funny little tingle when Kame commandeers the rest of his wine and doesn't even pour it into his own glass.

For two guys hanging out and talking, they're a bit slow to get going, but it's the nice kind of slow, the warm kind. Jin feels the alcohol nipping at the edges of his mind, smoothing it over in a way that's good now. The beer is the right taste, and the couch is just for them, and Jin isn't really following the story about the cook and the scallops but still he could listen to it all night, he wouldn't trade this for anything.

He's staying right here.



Something's up.

Jin's happy to see him, and he indulges Kame's silly stories with little comments whenever Kame wonders if he's really listening. He smiles and he asks for beer. So that's all good.

Something's still up. Jin's still hunched in, and Kame has no clue what was so urgent about telling him Jin doesn't want a date.

"Fourteen years, huh?" Jin says, when it's gone quiet and Kame is wondering again.

"Yes. He started young."

Jin smiles again. His eyes are kind of glassy, after half a beer and two sips of wine, wine Jin didn't even want.

"Jin, are you okay?"

"What?" Jin's smile goes apologetic. "No, I'm fine. I'm…" He frowns as though he finds it difficult to figure out. "I'm fine."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, fine. It's nothing." He's clutching his bottle with both hands. Kame's not even sure he knows he's doing it.

"Long day?" Kame tries.

"Yes," Jin says at once. "Long day, yeah."

"Would you prefer if I left? I can do—"


This time it's Kame who blinks. And Jin's staring at him, biting his lip. "I'm sorry, I didn't… just, no, I don't want you to leave."

"Then I won't," Kame says slowly. "What's wrong?"

Two tight breaths, and then Jin simply gives in. "Bad date," he says, blinking down towards the table, staring at whatever. "Earlier. It was… it wasn't good." But then he faces Kame again. "But I'm fine, and I just need to forget about it, and I'm glad you're here."

Bad date.

Kame sits with his skin draining cold, and stares.

Jin is glad he's here?

"Uh, Kame?" Jin says uncertainly. "I'm okay, really."

"Are you sure?" It just rushes out, and it's fucking stupid. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather be at home, or somewhere?" Somewhere not with Kame.

"No," Jin says, frowning. "I'm sure, okay?"

Bad date.

Kame knows. People who tie Jin up. Grab his hair and push him around, and like it. People who like other things. Only he doesn't know.

"What happened?" he asks, as quietly as he can.

Jin's mouth goes tight, and he's pale.

People who like Jin's mouth.


"I just spent an hour in the office," Jin mumbles. "They had more questions than… than you can believe, and… I just want to hang out and talk. About other stuff. Is that okay?"

"Of course," Kame says immediately. "As long as you like."

Jin nods. "Don't want to go home yet. No distractions. Also, I'll be better on the subway in a few hours, it was a bit weird coming here."

All right. It sounds like Jin has a plan. Kame takes a deep breath and pushes back the images of Jin on a bad date, Jin with men who try to hurt him, because this isn't about the chill under his skin and the guilt in his head. He leans back more to give Jin space.

And he'll get Jin a cab when he's ready.

"Anyway, now you know all about my new series," he says. Distraction.

He feels Jin nodding right away. "Except the part where you're taking your shirt off."

"I'm afraid I don't. I just dress really badly." He doesn't think it would be good to mention the knives.

"I'm sure you'll make a thingie. Fashion statement. Set a trend." At last Jin's voice is calming down.

Pretty much right in front of them is the big screen. Kame only glanced at it occasionally, usually catching commercials, sometimes glimpses of a sports discussion. Turns out it's soccer. "Hey," he wonders, "is that an important game?"

Jin's smile twists up slowly, but it's real. "Depends. If we win it'll be totally important."


The soccer helps.

Apparently this is the club Jin has been supporting for years, and they don't suck nearly as much as people think, not that Kame's ever thought about it at all. They had a tricky season and now they're having a match that doesn't count, but it will help them anyway, and no, the keeper cannot pick the ball up like that even though Kame has always believed that's what keepers are for, using their hands.

He gets all this in stop-and-go gushes of varying coherence, and he understands about half of it, but he understands Jin is talking himself down.

He's easing up, knees stretching out, and he's illustrating his explanations with his hands while Kame keeps the drinks coming; more beer for Jin and shots of thirty-year-old Lagavulin Kame occasionally dumps into his leftover wine. It makes him feel useful somehow and like he can make this normal for them. Some kind of normal.

He drinks water. Now and then Jin moves on to a fresh bottle, and the waiter clears the three-quarters full ones away.

Now Jin is muttering insults at the referee, who didn't see some thing where a guy stood where he shouldn't have and scored a goal. People are shouting at each other on the screen, and two guys at the next table are exchanging expert opinions and boring their escorts.

Jin sighs. "They're totally going to break down now."

"I'm sorry," Kame says.

Jin sighs some more. "Not your fault. They lost a lot early in the season, and now they kind of stop fighting once they're behind."

"That's not good."

"No." Jin sounds tragic.

Somehow they're not really taking up two seats. Kame leans forward to at least sip at his whisky, and tries not to crowd Jin when he moves back. Jin smiles at him sideways and leans his head against the sofa, looking sleepy and dishevelled.

Distraction, Kame thinks, but he doesn't know what to say. He should have looked up some stuff on soccer.

"I'm not really drinking all those," Jin says suddenly, very quietly. "Sorry."

"I know." Kame smiles quickly. "Don't worry about it."

But Jin frowns. "I mean, they just go back," he confesses as if Kame's never figured out how the game works.

"I know," he repeats, and when Jin is still uncertain he adds, "I'm not drinking half of mine either."

"That doesn't make— oh." Now he seems undecided whether he wants to grin or cringe. "You're nuts. You don't have to do that."

"I'd rather blend in," Kame says. "Makes life easier all round."

"But it's—"

"So why is that guy wearing a headband? Is that part of the uniform, too?"

That does the trick; Jin almost rolls his eyes at him. "It's cause he's got long hair. And I guess it's another place to put a sponsorship logo."

Apparently there have been sponsorship issues, too, with a jinx that involved a horrible 2006 season from which the team is still recovering. Someone one table over catches Jin's assessment and rumbles agreement, and even though he's old and a client Jin smiles a little and nods, and then settles back next to Kame.

Under different circumstances, this would be a great way to spend an afternoon; like hanging out at a bar again, only this one is safe and Kame doesn't have to wear sunglasses.

"Jin-kun! I thought I might find you here," someone says; a large guy in his forties with a strident voice. He makes an apologetic face when Kame looks up too. "Oh, how terrible of me, I don't mean to interrupt you."

Jin looks startled and suddenly stiff, and Kame quickly shakes his head. "No, not at all," he says. "You're not interrupting anything. We're just watching the soccer." He gives Jin a smile. "Just hanging out." It takes a moment but eventually Jin smiles back.

"Ah, Jin-kun's in his element then," the man says approvingly.

Kame nods. "I'm getting a bit of an education."

The man laughs and points at the remaining chair. "Eda. Pleased to meet you. Mind if I join you then?"

"Of course not," Kame says. He'll be upping the soccer knowledge by a full hundred percent, which can't be wrong. "Kamenashi. May I buy you a drink?"

The man accepts and chooses bourbon. Kame is glad to have someone in his round who won't just be faking it.

"It's been a while, Jin-kun, hasn't it?"

Jin bows a little but says nothing.

"Ah, Verdy," the man sighs with a look at the screen. "They could do with a little motivation boost."

"I gather the referee isn't helpful in that respect," Kame says, hoping he picked that up right.

"Blaming the ref, huh?" Eda chuckles.

Jin seems to be absorbed in the match, keeping his eyes on the screen and not reacting, so Kame asks, "You are not a Verdy supporter, then?" He's moved away from Jin a bit; it's more respectful and Jin won't worry again because of mixed signals.

"Me? No, F.C. Tokyo man since it was founded."

"So these are your rivals?"

Eda swirls the ice cubes around in his bourbon. "They would be, if they could play decent soccer." He leans forward a bit to catch Jin's attention. "But I don't hold it against anybody, right, Jin-kun?"

Jin nods, once. "Right."

Eda leans a little closer to Kame. "He gets stressed when his team loses." The man seems to know a lot about Jin. "It's difficult to cheer him up afterwards."

There's a lot of noise suddenly, and someone knocks hard into the next table.

"Yes," Jin whispers beside Kame, smiling at the screen where the equalizer is announced, and clutching his beer. "Now go get them."

The goal gets replayed five times from three different angles, and Jin watches each recap as if it holds a deep unmissable secret.

"Nice comeback," Eda acknowledges. "Good if the boys at least put up some fight."

Jin doesn't agree or disagree, so Kame nods vaguely. Something's up again. The club got busier but it's far from rowdy, and Jin even smiled at some of the comments from other tables earlier.

Bad date. No wonder it lingers.

Eda is checking his watch. "So," he says. "You two don't have any plans?"

"No plans," Kame affirms, upbeat enough that Jin knows it's definitely all right.

"Watch the game," Jin adds with a grateful little smile; but then he turns straight back to watch the players wander aimlessly around the field while a couple of the whites are substituted for a couple of other ones. He's holding on to his beer this time, ignoring the fresh one on the table. He was more relaxed before the goals and the substitutions, was finally loosening up.

"Might I propose plans, then?" Eda says in a stage whisper, leaning in.

Jin swallows and when he looks at the man, his face is blank. What is going on?

"I'm sorry," Jin says, in a dead sort of voice. "I'm not up for… the usual. It's been a busy day."

Kame flushes and hopes nobody sees. It was bad enough when Jin had to say it to Kame, and the man should have seen that Jin isn't trying to attract custom. But at least it's cleared up now. He leans back with his drink and pretends he didn't witness this, to save Jin the additional embarrassment.

Eda laughs. "Okay, understandable. But we can be flexible. Leave that part out. Or you could relax me this time."

It's normal, Kame reminds himself; negotiations with others present are commonplace here and Eda could hardly ask Kame to step out for a moment. But does he really think he needs to spell it out like that, and moreover, hasn't he ever heard of reading the atmosphere?

Kame sips at his drink and waits for Jin to say no, this isn't a good day…

"But we're watching the match." Jin's voice, and not quite steady and why doesn't he just say no

"Oh, after the match is fine by me," Eda says generously. "Wouldn't want to make you abandon your friend." Kame catches the last bit of Jin blinking at Eda before he shrinks, or nods, and stares at the screen, while Eda looks around for the waiter and asks if he can buy Kame's drink this time.

The bar noise is still there. Twenty-two guys are running around the screen without sound. Twenty-three. And a ball.

"I told Jin-kun they shouldn't have bought him," Eda chuckles. "But he insisted they were smart to do it and now look at him scoring goals. I guess a fan does know some things better, right?"

"Right," Kame says. What the fuck just happened?

Jin has forgotten he's a fan. Twenty-three guys and a ball and Jin looks completely blank, and small with the sofa stretching around him.

"I complained to Ootomo they're not showing enough of the league matches, but with all these baseball nuts around nobody will back me up."

Kame's not listening. He's watching Jin, who's pressing his lips into a smile.

"What do you think, Jin-kun? Wouldn't that be nice?"

"Nice," Jin says.

Eda laughs, like there's no worry in the world, and there's a look that Kame knows; a look that crawls over Jin and thinks about relaxations, and how can this guy not see that Jin can't deal with any of this.

It's not going to happen.

Kame shifts forward in his seat. "Jin."

Jin turns to him instantly.

"I think I'm ready. Will you come to a room with me?"

Jin's eyes widen in puzzlement, but when Kame rises and says, "Come," Jin simply stands, and Kame takes his hand.

"Wait," Eda says, "didn't you say—"

"Sorry," Kame says with a short nod. "I hope you enjoy the rest of the match."

Then he smiles at Jin and tugs a little, and despite Jin's bewilderment they head for the concierge's desk. Kame's already breathing easier. In a few minutes they'll be out of here.

"But, Kame," Jin says urgently. "I told you, right? That I can't…"

"Yes, I got that. Don't worry about it." He hears himself sound sure and has no idea what he means, only that they need to be gone.

The concierge is helpful as always and Kame nods that suite two will be fine. When the man turns to program the key Jin gets really close.

"But, it's not going to be like you like it," he says, "that's what I meant." He looks stressed, and god, how could that guy ever think

Kame presses his hand, before finally letting it go. "I know what you meant."

"But a suite…"

"Let's just go, okay? You know I always take suites. I like them."

Jin can't argue with that, and finally stops protesting.

Kame turns back to the concierge, who gives no sign of having followed their exchange with interest. "Rest, please," he says, and though he feels Jin twitching beside him, he ignores it. It seems right, to get them as much space and as much time as possible. Worrying about what to do with it can wait until they're alone.

Jin's quiet in the elevator. He looks exhausted, and though the vacant look disappears once the doors are closed, there's still an uneasy line between his eyes.

Kame unlocks the suite and lets him step in first. It's fine while they kick their shoes off and turn the lights on soft the way they like it, and Kame gets them drinks from the bar. Then Jin stands there, with his bottle in his hands, turning it round and round.

"Where would you like us to be?" he says uncertainly, and that's when Kame notices he's stopped halfway between the couch and the bedroom.

And just like that, at least part of it becomes clear.

"Couch," he says, and lets himself fall on it hard enough to bounce, by way of physical punctuation. "I thought we'd watch the match?"

He pats the seat beside him a couple of times, until Jin believes him that he's seriously up for more soccer. Then he remembers belatedly that it would help to turn on the TV.

There, the guys in green and the guys in white, and the ball. That should help.

"Did we miss much?" he asks. The little counter in the corner says not, but who knows, with this game.

It gets Jin focusing, that worry line deepening. "I don't think so," he says. "I think… no."

"Are you okay?"

"Yes," Jin nods immediately. "I'm okay. This— this is good. Really."

Okay then. Kame can leave him in peace for a bit.

So they watch soccer. Kame still hopes that sometime during the endless squabbles back and forth across the same fifteen meters, he'll have some bright idea for what to do after.

Jin has stopped elaborating for him. Jin's staring, but maybe that's what he needs now. Maybe focusing on nothing but the soccer will bring back some of the mellow mood they had, before Kame asked that guy to sit.

For the first time he actually empties his glass, and the little buzz calms his nerves. Nobody's scoring on the screen and with Jin silent like that, Kame doesn't know if anyone is playing well or badly either. But maybe a steady game is good.

At some point he hears Jin hold his breath, but then it's nothing.

"Would you like some water too?" Kame asks, quietly, and Jin doesn't start.

He shakes his head slowly. "No. Thank you." Smiles a bit. He's got the beer in both hands again.

Kame leans back and decides to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Then suddenly everyone stops playing. Okay, that… is a break? They've got the volume on low and maybe that was a mistake, maybe then he wouldn't have to ask. He's not sure how cute Jin finds his stupid questions anymore.

Jin gives him a look, but doesn't say anything. Kame gives it half a minute but then he ventures, "They're on a break, right?"

Jin doesn't laugh at him. Jin looks like he weighs that question carefully. "Yes, this is half-time," he says then. "They'll be back in fifteen minutes."

"Cool," Kame nods.

"But we don't have to finish it."

"I thought you were enjoying it," Kame says, and thinks these smiles are weird, like Jin can see something he doesn't, something far away.

"It's not so important."

Kame thinks, and changes track. Enough people have been pushy with Jin today, and maybe he doesn't know what's best here. "Whatever you like, really," he says. "We can turn it off, if you'd prefer that."

Jin nods earnestly. "Maybe that would be better," he says, sitting still. Kame deals with the TV, hoping they'll find something else that works for Jin, and sits back, and then Jin's hand lands on his thigh.

"Hey!" Kame says, and then he brings his voice down from the stratosphere and repeats, "Hey. That's not what I meant."

But by then Jin's shuffled closer, too, leaning into his space and it's like a live wire, Kame can't help it.

"It's okay, though," Jin says.

"No, really." Kame's thoughts are racing back to where he said— how he said— but he didn't. Jin's fondling his tie, so utterly focused on it and strange, and still there's the soft scent of Jin's skin. "I didn't mean that," Kame repeats anyway. "I just… I wanted to have some time alone, okay? Be out of the lounge."

"Yes," Jin says. "And it's really fine." He smiles, in that way again, and Kame's never felt crowded by Jin but he doesn't know how to handle this, with Jin so close and his eyes so empty.

Jin's kissing him. On the side of his face. Live wires all over. He puts his hands on Jin's shoulders and they sink like they can't hold the weight, but Jin just kisses him again. "It doesn't matter," he says. "It's okay now."

"Jin," Kame tries while Jin's hand wanders up his thigh, clumsy and hot and god, this is such a mess. "You don't need to do this."

"But I don't mind. It can work this way too, it'll be fine."

"I mind." He manages to stop Jin's hand, tilt Jin's head up, and Jin just goes along with every touch. "I just wanted to watch the game with you, remember?"

"But you paid for me!" The horrible words stretch out longer and deader, and Jin never even blinks. "You sent Tatsuya away."

"Yes." Kame's no longer even aroused, just helpless with Jin staring at him like a puppy who wants to be taken home. "I wanted to be with you." He swallows queasily, tries again. "You know. Hang out and talk?"

"Yes, and I'm here," Jin says as if fucking him is just the next step, the most obvious thing in the world, and fuck this.

"Jin, you're in no state to have sex with anybody."

"But it's different with you, you're not like them," Jin says, from somewhere naked and deep down. "It's different. You feel different."

It's too much. He can't even think. About them, about himself, what they all did. He just holds still and holds Jin there and waits for the nausea to pass, because he's the one who needs to be on top of this and he needs to get there right now.

"I don't want to do that," he says. Only now he's aware he's holding on to Jin's hand, and he strokes it with his thumb, just a little. Jin's so frozen up, it seems safe to touch him, brush the wild hair out of his face. Then Jin draws in a shaky breath.

"What would you like then?" His voice is all wrong, still like he's running after something.

"I would like," Kame says slowly, "to watch the match with you. And I'd like you to tell me when I'm not understanding things again. And I'd like you to relax and forget about sex."

"But you… it's my job to…" Jin bites his lip. "It's a lot of money…"

"Well, it's my money," Kame interrupts, for once not even embarrassed. "And I'm the client, so what I say goes, right?" He barely waits for Jin's tentative nod. "Right. And I want us to watch the match and I want us to not have sex. Understood?"

Jin takes that in. Piece after piece. "If you're sure…" It sounds more lucid already.

"I'm very sure," Kame says, gently letting go of Jin's hand, letting Jin sit back. "Let's find the remote, okay?"

Jin helps him look, not that Jin could find the couch they're sitting on. Kame takes the remote and finds the match again, putting the audio on just the right sort of murmur.

The break's just over.

He picks up the beer and puts it in Jin's hands. Jin thanks him and holds on to it. After a while he takes a few deep gulps. He's not talking, and Kame tries not to watch him too obviously, but he seems to be following what's on the screen.

"Hey, weren't they defending that goal?" Kame says when his stomach has finally settled.

"They change sides," Jin explains. "Didn't you know that?"

"Must have forgotten," Kame lies. "I don't think I ever watched an entire match." So much is true.

He feels the leather give under his back where Jin slumps more heavily. They're almost touching.

Jin takes another gulp from his bottle. Kame doesn't quite dare any more. Doesn't want to be less than clear-headed if Jin surprises him again.

The minutes pass and it's good, nothing happening is good, no new incidents between them and no dramatic developments on the field. Jin tenses a little whenever a team gets close to the opposing goal, and relaxes again when it leads to nothing.

Kame sits still. Every time Jin shifts his weight he sinks more against Kame's side, and Kame doesn't want to comment. Doesn't know what it even means.

Some guy had sex with Jin and treated him so he's like this. Quiet and shaky, and thinking Kame has no use for him but to fuck him too.

He wonders what Jin was like after all those times with him, before. If someone was nice to him, or if they just…

Kame tries not to shiver, not to move. Jin's fully against him now, his weight shifting just barely whenever he takes a drink. Jin doesn't need his guilt now.

"What's going on now? Why's that guy in trouble?" He wants to know how Jin's voice sounds.

"Diving," Jin says. "You know, faking a foul."

Ah, okay, there's the replay.

"See. He didn't even touch him." Jin sounds regretful.

They're touching plenty. At some point Kame has to shift his weight to balance out against it. He wishes he'd taken off his jacket.

"Does that happen a lot?"


"The faking. Diving."

"Hmmm." Jin heaves a sigh. "I guess? I think… they think they have to? It's not really, you know. Like sports should be."

"Sounds more like acting."

"Hmmm," Jin says again, and it sounds kind of drowsy. "Maybe they should make up their minds what they want to be."

They fall silent again, and the minutes pass, and Kame wonders if this is what baseball is like for people who don't care about it. He's finished his drink and would like some more. He could also do with a bathroom break. But he's reluctant to move.

Jin laughs under his breath when the camera shows the referee engaging in very expansive sign language. Laughing is good.

Kame doesn't know what comes after, and the clock is ticking on the screen.

But even before, it can't be helped anymore.

"Sorry," he says quietly over Jin's head. There's a first cautious shifting and Kame makes sure not to push. "I kind of need the bathroom."

Jin's quiet as he props himself up from where he's been lying against Kame. "Yeah," he admits. "Not a bad idea, actually." He looks rumpled and a little guilty, but okay.

"Watch carefully, you need to tell me about interesting developments," he instructs, and Jin grins like he's not quite taking him seriously.

They take turns, and while Jin is in the bathroom Kame refills their glasses and just catches the last bit of a big to-do on screen. That doesn't look good.


"Um, your guys…" he gestures when Jin comes out of the bathroom. "I'm afraid the guys in white just scored."

Jin makes a face like someone took away all the spaghetti in Japan. "Oh, man. That always happens when I take my eyes off the screen for a minute."

"They've still got twenty minutes. Maybe they'll catch up again," Kame tries to comfort him.

Jin sighs. "Yeah. Maybe."

He hesitates at the couch, then sits down, with a punctilious gap between Kame and himself. Sitting very upright as he follows the replays, and with the way he's keeping his elbows close and his hands in his lap, he looks like someone abandoned him there.

Kame reaches out and pulls him in; it hardly takes much, it's barely a hug before Jin slumps sideways and topples into Kame's lap, a thick muffled laugh coming from somewhere under the mop of hair.

Laughing is good. Jin's weight is good, feeling he's all right. Getting to all right.

Kame brushes back Jin's hair so he can see, and Jin sighs. Settles.

"They better hurry," he mumbles. Kame leaves his hands to touch, agrees with a slow stroke of his fingers. Not long until Jin gets his feet up on the couch and just stays; rests, watching ninety-degree-distorted soccer with his head on Kame's thighs.

It's like the day finally slowed down, like they stopped stumbling over themselves. It's peaceful. Kame can feel the way Jin breathes. He likes the feel of Jin's hair running through his fingers. Likes the way this seems private and secret, even from their normal time together. The way it isn't normal and he doesn't know quite what it is, and he doesn't mind. He likes the way Jin suddenly giggles.

"You don't even like soccer." He sounds a bit like he has a cold.

Kame laughs too, a little breathlessly. At soccer, at himself. "How often do you watch this?" he asks, making Jin giggle again with the puzzlement in his voice. "It's interminable."

"Is not."

"Ninety minutes," Kame says in soft outrage. "For three goals."

"Pretty decent average." Jin's voice is getting dreamier. "Divided by eleven."

"Oh god. No math, please."

"Wait till you get one with overtime," Jin says gleefully, and Kame cards his fingers through Jin's hair in slow response, slips his other hand down to Jin's chest.

Math. What's the math on what he's doing here? A normal person's monthly salary to sit and watch a boring game in a luxurious room, and be able to keep an eye on Jin. How does that add up?

Maybe it's not surprising that Jin thinks this can't be all he wants. Maybe it is kind of weird.

Jin sighs under his touch, stays still.

So, soccer. And Jin's weight on his legs, calm and comforting. Kame feels a tension flow out of his muscles he didn't know was there. It goes so quiet, Jin might as well be asleep.

He laughs again when his guys score three minutes to closing, but he's too drowsy to move much, just says he always knew it, they can so come back from stuff.

Kame's so glad he's here. And that Jin will be okay. Whatever… whatever happened there. He thinks Jin will be okay. He can stay like this for however long it takes. All the time and space in the world.

The clock's still ticking down.

They even watch the interviews. It's sports guys talking about a sport they love, and as such it's not even boring. Jin says, "Yay," sleepily when the guys in suits admit the guys on Jin's team weren't half bad this time.

Then the program changes to general news. It takes Kame a while to admit it, but the mood's not the same with politics and finance and international crises in the mix. Eventually Jin gives a different kind of sigh, and Kame pulls back his hands.

Kame's legs feel damp and cold when Jin sits up, slow and burdened like he hasn't slept in days.

But he's smiling. "Thanks," he says. "For putting up with the soccer."

"One day I'll have my revenge, take you out to baseball," Kame says, with a sudden, keen image of Jin eating hot dogs beside him in the stalls.

Jin nods earnestly. "They don't kick stuff there, right?"

"No, they—" Kame stops when he sees Jin's mischievous grin. "I'll kick you," he says.

Jin's grin fades, slowly, until it's no more than a smile. "You won't."

"Okay," Kame concedes. "But I'll educate you in the rules of a beautiful game."

Jin bows a little. "I look forward to your guidance."

"Yeah," Kame mutters. "You better."

Jin smiles through his hand as he covers a yawn.

"Are you tired?"

"No!" Jin quickly shakes his head. "Just, with stuff, you know."

Kame doesn't know, still doesn't really know, and prefers not to imagine.

"Would you like another drink?" he asks.

They have a whisky each. No Drambuie orders, no intruding waiters. It's comfortable. Unhurried. They don't say much and they make the shots last a while.

"I'm actually okay," Jin says in the end. "Just still a bit wired, or something." He gives Kame a slow look, a look that's warm and faraway at once, and then he nods. "I think if… if you'd like us to—" A vague hand wave towards the bed.

Kame swallows his last sip quickly, a burning lump down his throat. Not that again.

"I'm not tired and I'm okay and it's been hours and you… you know, the suite and all," Jin continues, while Kame shakes his head steadily.


"It would be fine. I think…" Jin is blushing, Kame is sure, and this is nonsense, it would not be— "I think I'd like it, too," Jin says.

And now he's no longer even looking at Kame, and what?

So many things Kame could say, and he comes up with the most selfish one. "Don't lie to me." He sets his glass down on the table, final. "I don't need that."

He reaches out to take Jin's glass, too, even though it's not empty, though he doesn't know why, and that's when Jin meets his eyes.

"I'm not lying."

He doesn't let go of the glass, and for a moment, they're frozen like that.

"I'm not lying," Jin repeats, "I think it would be… nice. Close."

Oh god.

Maybe they should. Maybe that would be less weird.

He sees it, as he's seen it all week where he hides it between the slices of his life; lying down with Jin, wrapping himself in nothing but that feeling, in a moment that holds for fragile eternity. Jin's right there with his reasoning and his determined face, if only Kame will reach for him, because there's the suite and all, and the pull in Kame's body which makes nothing better. Only clearer.

"Okay," he says, "I believe you, you're not lying. But it's kind of late…" It is, isn't it? Okay, after ten. It'll have to do. Jin let Kame take him away to be safe, and it's Kame's job to keep him safe. "I got in the mood for hanging out and I like just being here. With you. I like talking to you."

"Pretty expensive chat," Jin says quietly.

"Hey, you know me," Kame says, ignoring the shaky ground this is. "I'm frivolous and irresponsible, and I thought you were going to forgive me for that, yes?"

Jin laughs. It's the best thing Kame's heard all night. "Right," Jin says.

"I can use my rest to rest," Kame tries.

Jin makes a pained face. "You are so lame."

"So…" Kame takes a deep breath, and puts sex out of his mind; puts that guy, the guys, who made Jin like this out of his mind. "You staying a little while?"

Jin eyes the drinks and the dead TV, but it's just thoughtful, no longer lost. "Sure," he nods then. "As long as you like."

Kame is relieved. He wasn't ready to let Jin out of his sight yet.

"Thank you," he says, and Jin's smile is tired and a little sheepish.

They talk about soccer, then baseball, then junior high sports classes. Kame tries not to think about earlier, tries not to imagine, and most of the time it's working.

"Have you eaten anything?" he asks when he realizes how long he's been here and the day… what Jin's day has been like.

But Jin just shrugs. "Not really. Well, lunch. But I don't… I'm not hungry."

Kame isn't sure his experience would back that up. "Are you sure?" he insists. "I can just order us something, it's no big deal."

Jin makes a face, sighs. "I don't really… they just have…" He shrugs again. "I don't really want anything."

Kame swallows his initial protest. And thinks. "They do Italian," he tries, taking a guess at what Jin means.

"Yeah, but. Your veal stuff," Jin smiles. "They don't do pizza."

Kame reaches for the phone.

"No, really," Jin says, "they don't."

He's still shaking his head while Kame rings through and it turns out Jin was right, they don't do pizza.

"I'd really appreciate it," Kame says to the apologetic concierge. "I'd like a seafood pizza, one with pepperoni and extra cheese, and one Hawaii. I realize it'll take a while to put together, but we're really quite hungry up here…" He lets it trail off.

Jin is staring at him.

"Thank you," Kame says when the reply at the other end is slow in coming, "I appreciate it," and hangs up.

"You're nuts," Jin says. "You know, you'll get a reputation." He's grinning, though.

Kame's not nuts, just rich, and for once it's good for something. He makes a thoughtful face. "You think I'd look more hardcore if I'd gone for rucola?"

Jin laughs, a little drunkenly, and the pizza was worth it just for that.


It takes twenty minutes, which is better than Kame had expected. Three pizzas, arriving under terribly elegant stainless steel serving dishes, which Kame intercepts at the door from an impassive waiter. He's still not keen on having anyone in the room with them.

Jin laughs again at Kame serving the pizza with great flourish, but eats one half of each. Kame has some slices of the Hawaii and the seafood one, and as they sit on the couch licking their greasy fingers and with oodles of warm cheese in their stomachs, Kame thinks he gets the point. It's settling, somehow. Weirdly satisfying.

Afterwards Jin doesn't chide him for ordering too much, just sinks completely into his corner and lets Kame cover the leftovers to push them outside.


Everything's quieter now, or feels that way. They both sip at tumblers of Cognac, and Kame is starting to feel slow and sleepy. His formal pants are definitely feeling like the wrong time of day. Jin has sunk completely back into his corner and is watching Kame fidget.

"Time?" he asks.

From the sluggishness of his thoughts, Kame thinks it might be. "I think I could go to bed," he admits. He knows he might well crash as soon as Jin is safe somewhere.

"Yeah." Jin's nodding, and checking the time on the DVD player.

Kame doesn't know why now of all times he gets a lump in his throat. But he shakes his head, and hopes Jin won't notice. "Listen, Jin. You're not really going to go on the subway, are you?"

Jin shrugs lightly. "It's early enough."

"I'd be much happier if you let me pay for a cab. As a favour to me."

Jin ponders that. "More frivolousness and irresponsibility, huh?"

"Absolutely," Kame says. Imagining Jin out there, walking to the subway… no.

But that was a yes. Kame hides his relief while Jin smiles vaguely and nods, gearing up for making the call, fighting the clutches of the sofa.

And then he sees what's right in front of him; not what his caution or his guilty conscience might say, but what is right there, in the slow way Jin moves, the weight on him.

"Or would you prefer to stay?"

Jin is standing, but he stills. Kame stays silent while the question hangs between them.

It shouldn't feel so significant. They've spent the night together a dozen times and more.

Finally Jin looks at him, and Kame can't tell if it's grateful or defeated or just tired. "Yes. I'd like to stay."

It feels weird to smile. "It's nicer for me, too," Kame says, "if you stay."

Jin's smile is equally cautious. "That's good. I wouldn't like to…" He waves vaguely. If he weren't standing upright, Kame would think he fell asleep mid-sentence.

"You're not," Kame says, and that seems to be final enough. Jin nods, and slowly unbuttons his cuffs.

Then he stops and looks into space.

It reminds Kame there is stuff to be done. Stuff someone should do who's still up to it. "What about your bag?"

"I don't really need it," Jin says. "But if you get yours…"

"Let's have them brought up," Kame decides, because suddenly it's important that Jin should have his normal sleepwear.

He sends Jin ahead to the bathroom, out of the way of room service who bring up Kame's bag from the car and Jin's from wherever he keeps it.

They still end up wandering around the suite together while brushing their teeth. That's even weirder than that time at Jin's place.

Kame is done first, and he pulls the throw off the bed, and then he remembers about his alarm.

"I have to get up at eight," he says to Jin. "Hope that's okay."

"Hmmm hmmm," Jin says, with a nod, before he disappears for the bathroom again.

Okay, good. Kame gets in the bed, and all is good, all settled, and Jin's coming to join him, wearing boxers and his faded green t-shirt. Kame lifts the cover and makes more room. It's a big bed anyway. All good.

They turn off the lights.

Jin shifts a little. Kame turns on his side towards him, tries to tell whether his eyes are open. But he can't. Jin shifts again, and Kame rolls on his back.

"So," he says into the dark. "Has that team of yours ever won anything yet?"

"Hey!" Jin sounds fuzzily affronted. "They sure did. In 1986 they—"

Kame chuckles. "You remember it well?"

"Hey!" This time the complaint is accompanied by a weak punch against his arm, and Kame grabs Jin's wrist and holds it, not hard, Jin could pull away if he wanted.

"Hi," Jin says, more quietly.

When Kame lets go, Jin's hand stays.


So Kame moves a bit closer, and stretches out his arm until he touches Jin's shoulder, and he taps a couple of times and then he tugs at the t-shirt, until Jin rolls on his side and it's easy to pull him in.

They fit well, the way they always do. Jin is slow to settle and not heavy, and there's a cut-off breath; Jin's hand sneaking timidly around his chest. Kame waits, breathing away the shock of Jin's body so close after a day like this, and how new it feels when it's nothing but this.

He closes his eyes in the dark, stroking Jin's back where his hand falls. Then gasps when Jin's arm goes tight around him and Jin pulls crushingly close, demanding like never before, with his leg over Kame and his face pressing into Kame's neck. Holding on like he's drowning.

Kame breathes carefully, blinks at the ceiling. Jin— he's never done this, he'd never do this, and it's spooky except… except it's not, because it's something Kame can do.

He gets the message to his arms and holds Jin just this close, as close as Jin needs.

It seems to be the right thing.

He doesn't know how long it is; not long, just quiet, and close, but then Jin stirs a little.

"Thanks," he mumbles, and Kame's starting to shake his head, when he continues, "for being so nice about this."

Somehow it makes his chest tight, and Kame is glad for the darkness. "It's okay," he says, at least that can't be wrong.

"...'m sorry I went all freaky on you. Earlier."

God, Jin and his vacant wide eyes, blank like some doll's. Kame pulls him tighter; there's a huff like Jin doesn't mind at all. "It's okay," he repeats. It's worth repeating. "Only no more funny stuff now, okay?"

Jin shakes his head. That's all that moves, the rest is hot clingy weight. "No," he says, just as muffled. "I'm glad we watched the match."

Kame almost laughs. He strokes Jin's skin where he's holding him. "I had fun too. Learned a lot. And I like it when you explain things to me."

Which is weird, he thinks, he used to hate that, but that's not a thought for here, where he can feel Jin's sleepy sigh all along his body, ending in something between a sniffle and a laugh.

"Most people don't really get me for conversation." He sounds drifty, going even slacker while Kame—

Kame's heart is pounding through the roof.

Beginner. Fumbling, no use. The mute difficult one, finally knows what he's good for. On your knees.

Jin's breath evens out as he sinks deeper into sleep, right where he is. Plastered to Kame with his limbs heavy, letting Kame keep him there.

Kame's wide awake.


Jin follows him around the bed all through the night. When Kame finally sleeps it's in fits and starts, and whenever he wakes up Jin is somewhere around, Jin's foot tangled with his legs or his arm hidden along Kame's back. It makes him stiff and his brain even antsier because he never wants to withdraw or lean on Jin the wrong way. Once, he drifts up from a dream of the cat biting Jin and giving him food poisoning to feel Jin's hand nudged between his arm and the mattress, and it's just enough to keep him from crawling closer.

He resorts to imagining that he's an actor acting the part of someone who is asleep, and it seems to do some good, because there are a couple of hours he doesn't remember when he becomes aware of Jin breathing against his shoulder and checks his alarm and it's half past seven. Almost time to get up.

He puts it off for as long as he can, but in the end he extricates himself slowly from Jin and substitutes a pillow. Jin huffs a sleepy breath into it, his hair fanned out on the white linen in fine dark strands.

Kame cancels the alarm and heads for the bathroom. If he showers now, it'll give them more time for a peaceful breakfast.


When Kame comes out of the bathroom, clean and dressed in his boxers, he finds Jin spread out across the entire bed. The pillow has been rejected. Kame picks it up from the floor and holds on to it for a moment.

He wakes Jin with a cautious hand on his shoulder. "Jin."

Jin's eyes snap open under his tousled hair, and for a second they're perfectly still. Then Jin rolls on his back, a lazy turn against Kame's wrist. "Hey. 's time yet?"

Kame sits at the edge of the bed; when they have the time he does that. "We don't have to rush," he says, quiet as if neighbours could hear. "I woke up early."

Jin laughs scratchily, then sighs. The bed dips when he struggles up, brushing against Kame on his way off the mattress. "You have a hard life," he finds, stiffness in his shoulders and a giggle underneath.

"I have a radio interview," Kame says. "And not enough coffee in my system." He picks up his watch from the nightstand and snaps it on.

Jin seems to have a hard time deciding between the four white bathrobes. Kame wakes him up with a passing hand on the small of his back and moves out into the living room, where he continues to gather his possessions.

He hears the wardrobe door slide shut, Jin's footsteps muffled on the thick carpet, and finally a dull thud on the sofa behind him. Jin's sitting upright on it with his knees pulled up to his chin, aimlessly trying to cover his toes with the hem of his bathrobe.

"I'll shower later," he decides.

"I'll order us breakfast," Kame says, and hands him the menu, and then he stands there.

He wants to ask about last night; if Jin is all right. If there's anything, anything at all, that needs saying or doing. Somehow he feels there must be.

Jin is examining the breakfast menu they both know by heart without moving his eyes. "I want the croissants," he declares. "With honey."

And Kame waits, and thinks, and then… "No eggs?"

Jin sighs profoundly. "Too early for eggs."

They both ask for extra shots of espresso in their cappuccino. While they wait, Kame inspects his jacket for creases, and starts to fix his hair in front of the big mirror.

By the time he puts down the hairdryer, Jin is eyeing him with tentative focus. "Why," he says, "are you styling your hair?"

Kame reaches for the fixing spray. "Why wouldn't I?" He deals with the annoying strands by his ears and makes sure it doesn't lie too flat over the middle of his head.

"I thought you said radio." Jin frowns. "That's just voices."

"Yes, but. There will be people there."

Now Jin is grinning. "The people in the radio?"

"Yes," Kame insists, grinning back. "Them." If he tells Jin that he'll be putting headphones over his hair within ten minutes of getting there, he'll never hear the end of it, so he doesn't.

He's saved from having to say anything by the soft room-service knock on the door. Jin starts to stir on the couch but Kame is closer, and more awake, so it's no contest who opens the door.

"Good morning, Kido-san," he says to the middle-aged waiter who is a constant of smooth professionalism no matter the time of day.

"Morning, Kido-san," Jin echoes from behind. When Kame looks, he's given up on the getting up, but he's sitting on the edge of the couch and looking more attentive as Kido lays the table for them as efficiently as ever.

Kido remarks on their early start and gives them a quick breakdown of the weather report and the main areas of traffic congestion. Kame is lucky, but Jin grimaces. "The subway will be hell no matter what."

"You could just go back to bed for a couple of hours," Kame says, and Kido nods.

"The cleaners don't come in until nine, and I can ask the assistant housekeeper to send them here last."

Jin's perking up. "I might do that. Thanks, Kido-san, I'd be really grateful if you could ask him."

The waiter nods, and wishes them a good day, and takes his cart away.

"That was a great idea," Jin announces when they sit down with their food. Kame goes for the coffee first while Jin flips open the napkin protecting the warm croissants. It's like yesterday didn't happen.

It can't be that simple, nothing is. But as he watches Jin dribble honey from a spoon and inspect the jam varieties, he's glad for now. So glad. He likes these mornings, whether they're rushed or slow, because somehow they just are, and nothing's a service.

Jin's conversation as he wakes up over coffee and sugar is as relaxed and honest as ever. Today he's mostly curious about the cooking class Kame wants to take for his drama and when he'll get to reap the benefits.

Kame is doubtful of his skills with scallops. "And I'd like to aim for something next weekend," he adds quietly. "With cooking or without." But with time for a proper date.

"Next weekend would be nice," Jin says. "With the cooking, we can see how busy your week gets. Or… I make excellent instant ramen."

Kame laughs. "I'll keep that in mind for a fallback."

And it's time to get going. He gulps down the last of his coffee as he rises, and makes sure once again that he has everything and that, yes, his hair looks okay.

Jin sees him to the door. "Have fun on the radio," he says.

"Better not too much fun," Kame says. "I'll call you about next weekend?"

Jin nods, straightening out Kame's jacket collar, and they kiss, and then he leaves, with his bag and his appointments and a warm tingle on his lips while Jin will go curl up again under the covers.


Chapter 41


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