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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 43

 

Wednesday 25 February

They're in the concrete lot of a closed-down laundry in Tomo's neighborhood, using a group of thin trees in front of the building for a goal. Jin has tied a clothesline at the approximate height. He's wearing his most resilient jeans and some old cycling gloves Tomo gave him. Yoshi is slight and more timid than aggressive, and if Jin gets bruised anyway, he can just lie about it.

Yoshi is sweaty by now, his hair sticking to his forehead and his glasses slippery. He comes back panting when Jin sends the ball far down the lot, and he's almost fast, frowning in concentration as he passes back to Jin. It's amazing how much more fun he's having after just an hour.

Tomo suggested the parking lot before going on his final errand, waved them on their way and said he'd have dinner ready at seven.

"You're getting really good," Jin says when he stops the ball after a few more passes. Yoshi pushes his glasses up and squirms.

"I just don't want to look like a total tool again," he says, in that grumpy voice teenage boys use when you praise them.

"I'm pretty sure you won't," Jin says, rolling the ball over to him gently. "You just needed somebody to show you the basics properly." Yoshi's sports classes sound like the kind where they expect you to be good at four different games without teaching you how. At the start Yoshi was breathing all wrong and getting stitches, and then of course he couldn't handle the ball. Never got a chance to get a feel for it.

Yoshi kicks it back; it veers a little off course but not too badly. "Can we practice proper scoring a bit?" he asks hopefully.

Jin checks his watch first; he's not going to make them late for dinner today, no way. But… yes, okay, they've got a few minutes to give Yoshi a chance to score against an actual goalie.

Jin doesn't go too easy on him, but he can't throw himself on the ground either, so that evens it out, and Yoshi is beaming after he gets in two in a row. Behind Jin the ball rattles the metal mesh covering the shop windows. Jin checks the time again when he jogs to get it.

"Let's go back, okay?" he says when he returns. "We don't want to be late for dinner."

Yoshi doesn't look eager to leave but he doesn't complain, just picks up the ball and wedges it proudly under his skinny arm. It's an official league ball with the logo and everything, and Jin called Tomo from the shop because he was suddenly nervous and uncertain if Tomo might take it the wrong way, after the Kame thing… but he didn't and everything's fine, and Yoshi's got a cool new ball and Jin got an hour of really great fun.

Tomo's van is back in front of the house when they get there, which Yoshi notes with a short little nod to himself. Jin checks his watch again when they're in the elevator. Five minutes to seven. Yoshi is making plans for more practice, maybe with the kids from upstairs, if they'll talk to him.

"Yo," Tomo calls out to them once they've maneuvered around the customary pile of stuff in the hallway, topped today by Tomo's red-and-white delivery jacket. "You guys are early. I haven't started, just got in ten minutes ago, and then the phone rang…" He leans out the kitchen door in the familiar Minnie Mouse apron, a hair band holding back his fringe. Jin holds uncomfortably still in his jeans and baggy sweater and borrowed gloves while Tomo checks out their sweaty state and Yoshi's beaming open face.

"But I'm hungry," Yoshi says without much credibility. "I was running for almost an hour!"

Tomo gives Jin a wise look and then tilts his head towards Yoshi. "We'll try to be fast, okay? Go wash up and find a good spot for your present."

Yoshi's starvation was clearly not as desperate as his need to point out his sports achievements and he trudges off quite happily, taking the ball with him.

"Shame on me for not having dinner ready for the hardworking kid," Tomo says to Jin as Jin slips into the tiny kitchen. He passes him an open beer.

They're having American hamburgers. There are tomatoes on the counter, next to pickles in jars and an unpeeled onion and the mayonnaise. The meat is defrosted but untouched next to the cooker.

"Anything urgent?" Jin asks. "I mean, the phone. What you said." He has a quick sip of the beer.

"Oh? No, just delivery planning, arrangements for four different people. Big to-do. How was it?"

Jin's uncertain again, nervous about things he shouldn't be nervous about, not after an hour of soccer and with Tomo setting out tomatoes for them. He belatedly remembers to peel off the gloves. "He's improving," he says. "He's not really as bad at sports as he thinks. And he had fun." He's not sure if he sounds like an idiot now; he doesn't really feel qualified to give out report cards.

"Sounds great," Tomo says. "I would have been completely useless, poor guy. Thank you. And for watching him too."

"No, not at all, it was great," Jin says quickly; too quickly. He sighs, calms himself down. "Thanks," he says, and doesn't explain further.

Tomo seems to be very absorbed in checking out the use-by dates on the pickles. "Nothing to thank me for," he says. "Wait till you've tasted the food anyway."

When Yoshi comes out of the bathroom, it turns out there's a thing on TV he'd like to watch, and when he asks shyly if Jin is very hungry yet and how soon they will have everything ready, Jin is glad to say he can enjoy the anticipation for a while longer and will be happy to help Tomo with the rest of the chopping.

They do that peaceably. Tomo insists on dealing with the onions and they make lame jokes about crying over their sports shortcomings, with Tomo dejected over soccer and Jin almost saying baseball, before he decides he's failed the Japanese nation with his lack of martial arts. The beer is wonderfully cold. In the background, cheerful TV sounds are tinkling along. Now and then Jin hears clapping.

"What are you watching?" he asks when they start bringing through the little bowls and plates and napkins.

"Um, it's a contest," Yoshi says from his spot on the ancient sofa. "A celebrity vote thing."

"Who'd you vote for?" On the screen there are giggly-looking people sitting behind a round table. Jin doesn't usually watch this kind of stuff, but ever since Kame and cooking shows and foam block tower contests, it feels a little less new to him.

"Um, her." There is a tiny woman with creamy blond hair; Jin's never seen her before, though her voice seems a little familiar.

"Was it 'girl I'd most like to kiss'?" Tomo asks. He's carrying the buns, looking very amused by Yoshi's focus.

Yoshi shoots him a dirty look. "Go on a date with," he corrects his brother, and promptly blushes.

Kame stopped by again yesterday, before Yamatani. Claimed it was a late lunch break, not that he ate anything, the skinny liar.

It's a little curious and also kind of awesome, the way Kame has started dropping in like Jin is some friend he visits on his way home from work, just for talking. It's cool, as long as you ignore the sex club and the wife part, and Jin likes the little skip of hope it gives him for non-Kame days, even if he knows Kame won't be able to come by all the time.

"Is she an actress?" he asks with another glance at the bouncy woman.

"A voice actress," Yoshi says. "She's done lots of anime and some dubs for American films, you know?" No glowering for Jin, just slightly embarrassed information. Taro-chan would have been just like that.

"And she won the vote?"

"Yep." He looks very proud.

Jin looks at Tomo to see if there are things he ought to help with, but Tomo waves him off. He's brought their beers through and gives Jin's back to him before he flops down next to Yoshi. "You're in no rush, right?" he asks, lifting his chin towards Yoshi's program.

No, no rush. The lunchtime date, and then he didn't want to go to the club, not even on the chance that Kame might drop by for happy cow cappuccino, because he had plans with Tomo and his brother and that was important.

He sits down on the arm of the couch, at the other end from Yoshi, and has more beer.

Yoshi is still riveted. Apparently the dating trophy is a glittery heart. There's a little retrospective which includes excerpts from anime and western movies which Jin doesn't recognize but then there's a commercial for mayonnaise that explains why he knows the voice, and next a clip of a horde of school children milling around her, and another actress, and Sakurai Sho and Kame, with his lighter hair and a smile like you have to trust him.

Be strong for your friends. She said that, Yoshi's girl. Kame's line was different. Something about not looking away, and that wasn't here, and he was only in the background, only for a moment.

Tomo is staring at the screen, very silent, very neutral.

But long enough.

"She was in this campaign," Yoshi says, mumbling a little. "Like, about bullies. That teachers should do something."

There's silence, just the TV, that woman's pleasant voice. "I've heard of it," Jin says when it would be weird not to.

There's another brief clip of the campaign. Some event or other, more kids, more slogans, and matching t-shirts. Kame doesn't get mentioned.

Tomo finishes his beer as the show wraps up, a final three silent minutes. Yoshi's eyes are glued to the screen and Jin is trying not to be mad at the television people for bringing Kame into Tomo's living room. Everything had been so normal. He taught Yoshi soccer.

Yoshi sighs contentedly as the credits roll.

"I'll go fry those burgers then," Tomo says at last. He gives Jin a smile and a nod, and neither really sets Jin at ease.

Yoshi bounces off the sofa to examine their cutting and slicing results. "We don't have cheese," he observes.

Tomo sticks his head out of the kitchen again. "Yeah, I kind of forgot. Did you want cheese?"

"Jin likes cheese on pasta," Yoshi says, sounding proud of his observation skills. "Didn't you want to make cheeseburgers?"

Jin doesn't care, couldn't care less about cheese right now. "It's totally fine," he says. "I'm looking forward to the burgers." He throws a look at Tomo, who seems a flat sort of cheerful, like he's acting. Or maybe like Jin is paranoid.

"I can go get cheese," Yoshi says happily, and Jin says, "no" at the same time Tomo goes, "sure," and comes out of the kitchen to pat down the denim jacket he hung over a chair. He hands Yoshi some folded money and tells him where the melty cheese is in the conbini around the corner.

Jin feels vaguely embarrassed and out of place, and the only thing that helps is the bright smile on Yoshi's face as he takes off, promising not to be longer than ten minutes.

Tomo ducks back into the kitchen, leaving Jin wondering if he's meant to follow or… well. What's he going to do, watch TV?

He stays close to the door, though, tries not to be in the way. The oil is sizzling already.

"Sorry about the cheese," Tomo says.

"It was really not necessary," Jin says. "I was totally fine without."

"Just let him, okay? He's happy if he can do something for you." Tomo is smiling. There's a hiss of noise as he lowers the meat into the pan, and a delicious smell rising almost instantly.

"It was really no big deal," Jin mumbles. "I had great fun." When two weeks ago he wouldn't even have blamed Tomo if he'd wanted to keep Yoshi away from him.

"It is a bit of a deal," Tomo says with surprising sharpness. "You know, what you taught him, that's going to be more useful than twenty rich guys going on TV to talk soppy about what's going on in the schools."

Twenty, Tomo says, but of course he's thinking of one. The one with the secret escort, the one Tomo has learned way too much about.

They didn't say a thing about the run-in with Kame on the weekend, neither of them. Jin figured that was a good sign, just like tonight was a good sign. He'd thought Tomo just needed a moment, to get over… putting all that together.

And he wants to say he thought the campaign was pretentious, too, but that's not the point, they both know that.

He wishes he had something in his hands, another beer maybe, and he wishes there was a way to explain it all away. But Kame was right, he can't lie to Tomo. He doesn't want to lie to him. He still hates the TV scheduling. "I'm sorry about Saturday," he says, hiding his hands in his pockets and feeling at once too casual and too awkward.

Tomo just raises his eyebrows. "What about Saturday," he shrugs. "Not your fault."

Jin takes a breath; gets that rush of nervousness like when he's about to say something dumb to a client, which he hates, because… because it's not a client and this is just about the truth. "It wasn't his fault either," he says quietly.

Tomo looks like he's got a different opinion on that, but then he stops staring at Jin, returns to flipping burgers. Shrugs again. "Not my business."

Jin swallows hard. It's been so long since anyone felt it was their business, and here he is, shutting it down because Kame came early and Jin didn't have a good cover story. It sucks.

"Sorry," he says again. "Do you… would it be better if I just left?"

Tomo blinks at him. But Yoshi's still out. Tomo could make something up, some urgent thing Jin had to do. Jin pulls his hands out of his pockets and still doesn't know what to do with them.

"Are you stupid now?" Tomo says. "Why should you leave?" He gestures around, and it looks so funny with the meat turner and the apron and the hair band that Jin doesn't know whether to laugh at himself or get choked up. "And who's going to eat all this food?"

"I know, I just thought…" It made sense, what he thought. But this is better, feels better, and the food smells delicious again… mostly anyway. "Actually, is that burning?"

"What?" Tomo turns quickly.

There's smoke among the steam filling the kitchen, and Tomo hurries to flip the burger it's coming from again, turning the gas lower in a hurry. He prods the slightly darkened edges. "I think it's okay…?"

Jin steps closer. Some black among the brown, but nothing he'd throw out. "Yeah, that should be fine."

"Well spotted," Tomo says gratefully.

Jin smiles to himself. "I'm just hungry."

"Anyway," Tomo says. "I don't hold that guy against you." He's blushing a little but sounding mostly cool, except…

That guy. Of course. Tomo doesn't like Kame anymore now, and he knows

"Please don't tell anyone," Jin says before he can finish the thought, it's too awful to finish. "I mean… anyone."

Tomo looks bewildered again. "Who would I tell?"

"I don't know, just, nobody can know," Jin says helplessly. "If it got around… even just as a rumour… it would be horrible for him."

Tomo is grabbing the burgers off the stove, warding off more burning incidents. He's frowning at Jin. "Yeah. I got that with the dead secret club. Relax, okay? I won't. I'm not stupid, either."

Jin takes a deep breath. Relax, sure. Tomo's not stupid; Jin's not even sure what he was thinking.

Then the door goes, with Yoshi's bright voice announcing cheese. "It smells burnt in here," he says when he sticks his head into the kitchen. Jin doesn't laugh at Tomo, not quite yet, but when Tomo shoos them all to the table like a hurried housewife, he thinks he can maybe just kick back and enjoy burgers now.

*~*~*

Eating takes a good leisurely while, with pickles and sauces and cheese being passed around and experimented with in various quantities. It's not late for Jin, and probably not late for Tomo either, though Jin's not sure how much he ever sleeps anyway, with all those jobs. But it gets late enough that Yoshi has to go to bed to get up early for school.

"Ha," he says, nearly knocking his water glass over as he empties it. "Gets me out of clean-up." But he's too sleepy to sound properly triumphant.

When he says a squinty good night in his too-short Wing Zero pyjamas, Jin has an almost painful moment of missing his brothers. But he just waves and wishes Yoshi luck with his next sports class.

Tomo reluctantly allows him to help clear the table, and once they have everything arranged in the kitchen, he decides washing up can wait until tomorrow.

"I could help," Jin points out.

Tomo eyes him; eyes the pile of dishes. "You could also have a beer."

Beer it is.

They settle in opposite corners of the lumpy couch, and Tomo thinks nothing of putting his feet up towards Jin. Like with Kame that one night, with the soccer.

He shouldn't think of Kame here. Who knows what Tomo can read on his face.

He drops his gaze to the coffee table, where a slightly grubby-looking remote is sitting on top of a large green book on basic accounting. Just peeking out underneath is a guide on some law thing or other.

"What's that?" he asks.

"What's what?"

"That book. Accountancy?"

"Oh." Tomo smiles reluctantly while he has a sip from his bottle. "It's for that night class. For doing the books at the bar."

"You're taking it?" Tomo gives a long-suffering sigh, but the smile's still there. "Yeah. I'm sure I'll be the dumbest guy around but… yeah. I'm taking it. It sounded really useful."

"But that's great! Congratulations!" Jin raises his bottle in a silly salute, and Tomo swirls his own bottle back at him and looks just as ridiculous. "So you could negotiate something with the parking job?"

"Not really… actually I quit that."

Jin can't quite stop himself from looking around. He remembers rent considerations.

"Well," Tomo says, reading his mind or something. "It was Emi's idea. She's going to pitch in with some money to make up for the parking thing. Just to get me through the class." He says that pretty fast and gives Jin a hesitant look, as if Jin might find it objectionable he's taking money from a girl.

"Your girlfriend is cool," Jin says.

Tomo shrugs awkwardly, but underneath he looks pleased. "So cool I actually…" The way he squirms, he reminds Jin a lot of Yoshi.

"You actually…?"

Tomo holds his breath. "We kind of got engaged." Then he shakes his head like a wet dog.

Oh wow. "Congratulations," Jin says. That is… that is so great for Tomo, so great for them. Figuring out how to get Tomo out of the dead-end job and… getting married. "You should have told me, though. I'd have brought you guys a present."

"We haven't told anyone yet. Not even the kid. We're going to wait at least until after the class. See what happens at the bar."

Yes, that's smart. Jin nods seriously, and they're quiet for a moment, until they look at each other and grin.

"How did you ask her?"

Tomo bites his lip. "I think my exact words were, 'Okay, cool. So let's.'"

Jin snorts into his beer. "Did she hurt you badly?"

"Hey, man, it was the most romantic proposal ever. Sitting around my kitchen table talking about accounting classes."

"I think that's a pretty good way to get engaged." Jin's not even kidding.

"I will get her a ring," Tomo says. "Later, when I can afford a decent one."

They sit and drink their beers, and now and then Tomo looks sheepish and Jin grins at him again. Tomo with his three shitty jobs and a kid brother and Emi the receptionist, and they're working out their future together, because they love each other.

He feels happy for him. Happy and only a little jealous, in a faint wistful way that even his stupid face won't show.

Tomo deserves it.

"Hey, also. I'm sorry about before," Tomo says into the quiet. "I didn't mean to get short with you about that guy."

Kame again; maybe Tomo really can see into Jin's head. Damn. He'd hoped they were finished there, he could just take it as settled.

But he nods slowly, taking in Tomo's apologetic face. "It's okay," he says. "And, really. I know how it looks. But he's nice. I would never have asked him to the bar otherwise." At Tomo's sudden frown he adds hastily, "I promise I won't bring him there again, don't worry."

"Yeah, okay," Tomo says, and Jin feels stupidly disappointed even though he knows Kame would never go back there anyway, not now. "Just, I know he can be nice. He was nice that time. I just don't like the guys who do that."

Jin looks away, looks at the accountancy brochure again.

"I mean, you're in a shitty job you hate, and he's taking advantage. I don't have to like someone like that, right?"

Tomo has thought about this. "No," Jin says, because that's the truth too. "I don't like most of them either."

Tomo nods quickly. "Yeah, I know. I'm not… I don't think it's your fault. I didn't mean to offend you."

"I wasn't offended." Somehow that should be funny too; the whore offended because Tomo criticized a client.

"And I'm glad," Tomo continues, "if some of them aren't as bad as the rest, that's a good thing." He looks a bit uncomfortable, thinking his way through whore logistics, just so he can explain to Jin what he means, when Jin already knows. "Just, still doesn't make it nice. It's still taking advantage."

Tomo cares what happens to him. About who does things with him. He's wrong about Kame but not wrong in general, and it's a weird thought, too, that someone looks at famous charming Kame and thinks his escort is the one to care about. Tomo doesn't judge him or say he's not fit to be around his little brother, and suddenly Jin wonders what would happen if he told Tomo everything – if he could just tell him what it is about this guy who isn't so bad, and how stupid he gets taking Kame to the bar and why he gets jealous of accounting classes.

But that's another thing he can't do. Tomo already knows more about Kame than Kame would ever want him to. So Jin can't tell him about Kame cooking for him or playing ghost or flirting with hamsters.

And Tomo might think he's crazy anyway.

He'd let him stay, though. Even if Jin confessed that he's a walking talking cliché. Tomo still thinks it's his business.

"What are you singing tomorrow?" Tomo wants to know, like there's no question Jin will show up.

"I don't know yet," Jin says slowly, fingering his beer. "But actually, I was wondering… I wrote some stuff and… would you like to try doing something together?"

 

Friday 27 February

Kame rifles through the pages, checking if he's just missed the sports section or if it's not there. He's early. The young men at the bar keep throwing looks in his direction, to see if he's changed his mind or maybe just to check how long it takes him to get through the politics pages. He feels strange, pleased with himself and a little stealthy, like he's in some benign conspiracy.

A traditional purpose, Koyama-sensei called it last week when Kame was waiting for Jin too, telling Kame about clubs in England where like-minded people just dropped in to chat and meet informally or read the papers over a cup of tea, like Yamatani does on his almost-daily visits. Though they probably didn't have escorts there.

Still, Kame is happy to run with the traditional angle. He has an hour until he has to report to make-up for tonight's game show, and so here he is again, reading the paper too, hoping to catch Jin for a cup of coffee. It's almost like they're setting up their own little tradition here.

He turns the page to read something about nuclear weapons in North Korea when he senses movement behind him.

"Sorry, um, do you mind if I borrow that?"

Kame twists his neck; the self-doubt didn't sound like— no, not an escort. A slightly portly man who's fiddling with his tie and suddenly going—

"Oh, wow, I knew you came here. I totally know your movies!"

"Thank you," Kame says for lack of anything smarter. He can't exactly introduce himself now.

"Sorry, really, don't mean to disturb you. I just wanted to check what they said about Toyota."

Kame blinks. Oh, right, the paper. He fishes out the relevant section and somewhat haplessly tries to fold it up. "Of course, it's not a problem."

The guy takes the paper, gives him another startled look and then tries to find whatever it is about Toyota.

Kame thinks of English clubs. Thinks that Jin won't be long, but he can still be nice, be social. Traditional.

He turns slightly. "Do you work in the car industry?" he asks.

"Cars? Oh, no, I never even know how to open the hood. I'm Yokoyama. I work in investment."

So that's how they end up sitting together. Kame finds it weirdly enjoyable, even though he has to admit to Yokoyama that he knows as much about finances as Yokoyama knows about cars. The man is more interested in talking about Kame's movies anyway.

He should be more used to it; it happens that even older people get excited around him. Just rarely this bluntly, with Yokoyama wobbling around between being discrete, a sophisticated fellow-patron who enjoys the social opportunities of the club, and pressing him for details about swords and how long Kame takes in make-up.

"Like, spots? Really?" Yokoyama tries hard not to search too bluntly for blemishes on Kame's skin.

"It used to be more of an issue when I was younger," Kame says. "So anyway, about half an hour, depending on the role."

And then there's Jin. Kame sees him right away and he doesn't even have to stand or wave before Jin's noticed him. Jin's smile is bright before he even starts walking.

He looks on between them curiously. "Good afternoon," he says, stopping close enough that it doesn't really look like hesitation.

Kame smiles up at him. "Hey."

"Oh, you guys know each other?" Yokoyama says, eyeing them both with something like approval. "You know, that makes total sense."

Kame isn't sure if this conversation makes total sense, but Jin's looking happy and pleased to see him, so he just nods. "So are you sitting down or what?" he says, and Jin laughs.

"Have you been waiting long?"

"Not too long," Kame says. "I informed myself of what's going on in the world."

"We were talking about Toyota," Yokoyama claims quite shamelessly.

"Tell me you're not shopping around for a new car," Jin says while Kame waves at the waiter for Jin's usual espresso and the rubber tree's brandy. "I like your car."

Kame looks at him, the hair and the warm smile, remembering how cozy it feels to drive with Jin.

"No. No worries, I like my car, too. And I'm afraid my contribution to the great Toyota stock debate was slightly confused nodding."

"Ah, I know that feeling," Jin says. "Yokoyama-san gives advice to a lot of us here." To the man himself he adds, "I try, okay?"

Yokoyama waves it off with a little blush. "Oh, as long as it's a little hobby, I don't expect you to get too hung up on it. I'm just trying to be useful, please don't stress on my account." Then he blinks. "Oh, gosh, I'm really sorry, I should probably leave you two alone!"

Jin gives Kame a quick look. Kame's not stupid, he remembers the last time he invited some guy and left Jin without the protection of a date… But this is different. He'd be stupid not to notice that too.

"I'm just stopping by for coffee," he says, and Jin's earnest nod makes him feel warm and welcome. "You know, a short break from work." When he puts it like that it feels like their little secret, his favourite secret.

"Breaks are important," Yokoyama confirms. "Only you need to watch out you don't get too delayed, that happens to me sometimes, when I go to the cafeteria and I get sidetracked and my secretary has to come get me. She's very strict."

Jin seems amused by that thought, and then he gives Kame a slightly long look. "So… how've your last three days been?" he asks with a quiet smile. "I keep seeing you on those programs just before seven in the morning and I get sleep-deprived just thinking what time you have to get up for those."

"Five is usually early enough," Kame says.

Jin shakes himself. "That's awful." Yokoyama makes a pained face, too, but like he's familiar with the experience.

Kame laughs. "It's medium awful." He's still got the luxury of seeing Jin for coffee, so he's not complaining. "The real fun starts now." Tonight's game show, a quick trip to Osaka over a contest he lost on Draw or Die, two TV shows the day after and promotions with all major networks throughout the day on Monday, followed by a photo shoot for the main cast. One morning of rest and after that, non-stop appearances until premiere day, when he'll attend the first screenings in three different cities and won't even be able to nap during the movie because he'll be high-strung and nervous about everybody's reactions.

Jin nods sympathetically. He's heard this.

"Is it also exciting, or do you just want it to be over?" Yokoyama asks, sounding concerned.

"Probably a bit of both," Kame admits. It's going to be hectic, and it's going to be lonely. He's booked Jin for the one night in all of this when he doesn't have to be up at five the next day. But that's not until Monday. "It's like a week-long high, but it's also really exhausting. After it's over, I usually just sleep for a couple of days. Speaking of sleep," he says to Jin when he remembers, "I didn't realize you get up before seven in the morning."

"Hm, sometimes," Jin says vaguely into his coffee. "Sometimes I go back to bed, too."

They're not sitting all that close; neither of them is into displays in the lounge, and they're not alone. "I see," Kame says instead, trying to get Jin's attention by the tone of his voice, but Jin shrugs and refuses to look at him.

"I'm looking forward to that movie of yours," Yokoyama says eagerly. "Love samurai movies. Always wanted to be one, you know, when I was a kid."

"I hope to fulfill your expectations," Kame says.

"I've seen the trailers," Yokoyama goes on. "Like the one with the battle in the snow." This snow thing is quickly becoming a classic; Kame wonders if they'll be running clips of that ten years down the road. "That must have been freezing, with the torn shirt in that wind. Even your nipples were all tiny and shrivelled up."

Jin's shoulders are shaking suspiciously, and his mouth looks kind of pinched.

"I was glad we didn't have to do that take more than once," Kame says, looking solely at Yokoyama. "As soon as I was done, the assistants came running with thick down coats and hot tea to unshrivel me."

There's an undignified snort next to him, and Kame is pleased with himself. Jin has flushed, is waving his hand in apology. "Sorry, sorry."

Yokoyama is smiling into his drink. Kame holds Jin's eyes; doesn't even know what he wants to say, except he likes it when he can get Jin to crack up. It's almost like they're a normal couple, hanging out somewhere, dealing with waiters and talking to people.

"Kamenashi-san's going to be a cook next," Jin says eventually, including Yokoyama again, being polite for both of them.

"Oh, another movie?"

"A drama," Kame says. "We'll be starting as soon as my promotion commitments die down, all the casting is done." He gives Yokoyama a little run-down of the plot, and likes the way Jin looks so comfortable hearing things he already knows.

Morioka called him two days ago, on his cell, and Kame was glad to feel excited again when the name flashed up. Morioka's stiff tone when he thanked him for his support in getting the role was sobering, but somehow he managed to keep the conversation going past that point, and to insist quite truthfully that Morioka won the part for himself. All Kame did was give the director some moral support.

"I remember your way of 'moral support' from the fistfight in the movie," Morioka had said, with a smile in his voice. "It can be pretty menacing."

"It wasn't like that at all!" Kame had protested. "For one, I didn't throw anybody in a pond. I swear!"

He thinks Morioka believed him, about more than just the pond. He's still feeling happy when he thinks of that conversation. Yokoyama is in full support of dramas involving food, and Jin warns him to watch out for all those people trying to interfere with his handling of pans. Kame wishes he could take longer breaks.

"I'm afraid I must be going," he says eventually. Both of them make equally understanding faces while Kame finishes his cappuccino. "I have to warm up for the foam sword fight."

Jin is smiling quietly, like he'll miss Kame between now and Monday.

"Sword fight? Can you win anything exciting?" Yokoyama asks.

Kame hasn't really paid much attention. "I think some trip to somewhere. I don't usually have time to take those, anyway."

"Oh, that's sad." Yokoyama seems genuinely sorry for him.

Kame slowly gets to his feet, and just for a moment it's weird, leaving Jin like this, the two of them, and then Yokoyama asks in his nice enthusiastic voice, "Do you want some more beer, Jin?" and waves his empty wine glass around, and for the first time Kame realizes where this will go. These two like each other. And they're here. It's not about investment tips.

It's about the way Jin stays in that seat, the way he reads Kame's face, and sinks back a little. And stays.

Kame's not sure what he's feeling; mostly it's weird, like watching himself think. He wonders what he'll think next.

"Later?" Jin says, in a quiet voice that Kame hears like scraping glass. "I've still got my brandy."

"Oh, right!" Yokoyama says, like he's been caught at something stupid. "Of course. I'll… is it rude if I order myself more?"

"No, of course not." Jin's smiling; it's just that little bit different.

"You don't drink that stuff," Kame says.

Jin gives a little laugh. "Yeah." He has a sip. "I know." His smile is insistent, daring Kame's own to slip off his face. Yokoyama is dealing with the waiter.

Time. It's time. They will have an hour, or three, but Kame needs to be on time for a game show.

He makes sure that there's nothing in his smile Jin would have to worry about. "So, we're still okay for Monday?"

"Definitely," Jin says at once. And he's fine. Jin's not helpless, Jin is fine. He's not getting up either, not walking Kame to the door, not getting out of this. It makes sense and it's fair, and they both shouldn't even be blushing.

"Until Monday, then," Kame nods. "You know what to do." He's not sure quite when he'll get home. But Jin has a key.

"Drink all your Drambuie," Jin says. "And good luck tonight. But don't win the trip. You're away too much anyway."

Kame nods, clears his throat and says, "Yeah. Thanks."

Yokoyama bows, too, and nods in a friendly, awkward way, so excited to have met him, and Kame wishes him luck with the cars.

He leaves without looking back. Doesn't turn when he gets his coat, doesn't think in the elevator or the parking garage, doesn't have to think while there are doors to unlock and seatbelts to fasten and other cars to navigate around on the way out of the place, and then of course there's traffic, Minato traffic at six, and at first that's useful, too.

But soon he's stuck in gridlock at an intersection and—

His first thought is that Shikama is better at sports than he. Hagiwara isn't bad, either, looks athletic. If he doesn't appear, they can carry the game, and they might like having the spotlight on them for a change. He could call his agent who would call TBS and everybody would be very sorry that Kamenashi-san caught that gastrointestinal virus, and say how considerate he is not to want to pass it on to anybody else.

Only it's nonsense, of course.

It's too late already anyway, Jin is having another drink, and maybe he's getting a key just now, to go upstairs with Yokoyama, to get undressed. Kame wonders if Yokoyama knows to turn the heating up. Wonders how Yokoyama likes—

Stops wondering, completely, right now.

This is crazy.

Jin's got a job to do. Just like Kame's got a job, one he might even get to in time if he's lucky because there are sirens in the distance, maybe something is about to move. And Kame's got no right to have issues with Jin's job and it's not like it's news to him what the job entails, with Yokoyama and Nishikido and Kato and Yamatani and that Eda guy and… this is no good, no good thinking these things or imagining how Jin undresses for Yokoyama and how Yokoyama touches him and fuck. He needs to stop, he needs to chill. What did he expect Jin to do, go home after a brandy and a coffee? The thought is laughable. He didn't, so what is this?

He can't drive like this.

Just as well they're all standing still, then. He laughs, and it sounds a little demented in his ears.

It's Jin's job. He knows how it works. He's always been realistic about it, with Takuya and Tatsuya, and if they already had company or a booking, he simply looked the other way, looked forward to their next meeting. Because there always was one, and there's going to be one with Jin, too, and soon, so why does he feel like he just lost something?

Jin needs a better kind of job.

And something's moving, slowly. A gap on his left and… he starts cutting across before he even indicates, ignores the crescendo of horns, and pulls up halfway on the pavement in front of a conbini. He won't be long.

Two minutes, then he's back out, with a pack of cigarettes. And a lighter because it's not like he still had one after all those years, and the car has a cell phone charger there instead. He gets in and tears the pack open, lights one and coughs a few times before he settles and feels the nicotine hit, and waits for a traffic cop to come and give him a ticket.

Because he can't drive like this. Not with his skin prickling all over, not when he wants to put the pedal down and smash into the nearest car.

He smokes the cigarette down in eight deep draughts, and when he lights the second one his hand is steadier. He can be rational now. He couldn't have stopped it, anyway; he couldn't have stopped anything. So he can at least be glad that Jin is with someone he likes, who'll treat him with respect. Yokoyama won't make Jin feel bad even if he makes Kame's stomach crawl, so that's fine. It's fine.

And if it's a comfort, it means good money for Jin, and that's fine too.

Except it's not fine because he's sitting in his car in a no parking zone smoking his third cigarette, waiting for the traffic cops, acting like he's crazy. Belatedly, he fumbles his sunglasses out of the glove compartment. Won't help him much if he gets arrested, but he… can't drive, he's stuck here, because he is crazy.

He should have realized before. It's not sane to hang out at his escort's local bar, show up early at his home and not even wait in the car, make out with him in a basement like he's got no self-control. Go on spontaneous shopping trips with him. Meet his escort's friends, carry his groceries and rearrange his freezer.

He just never thought; he was too busy enjoying it, all of it. Jin enjoyed it too. He thinks. Who knows what Yamashita thought, that time. He probably knows Jin better than Kame. He gets Jin for free, for real, and suddenly Kame hates him, only a little less than he hates Jin's job.

He doesn't like how this fits together. He doesn't like that he doesn't know what to do about it, except get his ass off this pavement and get himself to work, and give Jin no hassle on Monday, and stay the hell away from the club and the guys who can buy Jin just like he can.

He feels tired now.

He hits the button to roll all four windows down and the sunroof open, puts the ventilation on high. Needs to get some air in this car. Then he sits and indicates tamely for five minutes until somebody lets him into the slow lane again. At least the traffic is moving now.

Make-up always take longer than they have to, anyway. He doesn't have to look perfect. Why pretend.

~

Chapter 44

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