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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 44

 

Wednesday 04 March, 01:30 (Ginza)

While they're on the bed, Jin thinks without much interest that Nakamaru is probably the most politically important guy he's ever done it with. US senators don't really count. Then he thinks nothing for a while because Nakamaru is trying to get him off and he needs to focus, lock himself in. When he's ready to look again, Nakamaru's panting harder above him and making a pretty funny sex face, which also helps, lets Jin get his head together before Nakamaru even comes.

Afterwards, Nakamaru organizes a warm wet cloth from the bathroom before Jin can make the offer, and wipes them both down very conscientiously and with a very serious expression. The music is still playing in the background, something cultured and inoffensive. Jin didn't like it but he didn't hate it either, it was mostly easy to tune out.

It's late for a weeknight, but that seems to be normal for them. Maybe Nakamaru didn't manage to make a move any earlier, maybe that's why Jin is here. Now it's late, and they're done, and it was fine. Go figure.

Late is no problem. He can sleep in tomorrow, sleep half the day away if he wants to. His Wednesday banker is out of town and Jin isn't even sad about the money.

There are the usual thank-yous, and Nakamaru returns Jin's bathrobe before wrapping up in his own. Cool.

Nakamaru invites him to sit on the couch, primly apart. Job pretty much over, that says. Jin appreciates that.

Nakamaru is drinking a big glass of water with mineral supplements he brings to the club. Jin's having beer. "It got rather late," Nakamaru observes with a squint at the DVD set. It's past one in the morning. His mouth looks flushed from all that excitement, and his nose is as red as it is big.

"Yes."

"I hope I'm not keeping you from a good night's sleep," Nakamaru adds, slightly worried.

"No, this is pretty normal for me," Jin smiles. "And I know. Sleep is important."

"Very important, especially for young people." Nakamaru nods emphatically. "Just like you said."

"Yes." Jin wonders if Yuu-chan got that lecture too, with all the bounciness that must look like a truly disconcerting drain of energy.

They're a little stuck again. Nothing that would probably happen to Yuuya. But Jin's learned not to make it worse by worrying and tensing up. Nakamaru looks pretty relaxed anyway, by Nakamaru standards.

They dimmed the lights to cozy before they got naked, and the room is a standard, not vast. Jin hides a yawn by drinking from his beer.

"Ah, yes, the end of the school year…" Nakamaru looks deeply into the dying fizz of his health drink and sighs. "I hope we won't see too many tragedies this spring."

Jin needs a moment to find the connection again. Schools. They talked about that back in the lounge, with Tatsuya, who got them away from disapproving parents and suicides to the exciting freedom of university life. Not that Tatsuya, to the best of Jin's knowledge, has ever gone to university. Still, Nakamaru seemed a little intimidated by him.

"Yeah," Jin says vaguely. "That would be good."

"Do you plan to study when you stop working here?"

It's a bit out of the blue; unusual for a client to even mention later, acknowledge that whores are not here for the long-term opportunities. Most of them like their illusions. Even the nice ones.

"I haven't really thought about it," Jin says, gesturing around at the gentle décor and hoping it looks like he totally digs this scene. "For now I'm here!" He tries a smile too.

"But this isn't a job for life," Nakamaru says with unexpected candidness, like he knows at least one reason why Jin is fudging. "It is only sensible to have a plan for later, and a university degree would be a very good investment in your future."

Right, like Jin would pass any sort of entrance exam. He knows what the others would say, he's heard it by now; something about enjoying the time with the clients. But he feels stupid before he even tries.

"I know," he admits. "I'll have to think of something along the way. I don't think university's really my thing."

He wraps himself a little tighter in his bathrobe because he's feeling the chill from sweat and coming down from sex. Nakamaru echoes the motion. Not one for randomly flashing skin, either.

"I do apologize," Nakamaru says, looking stiff again as if Jin just sat down next to him in the lounge and quizzed him on his knowledge of 1960s wines. "If that was an inappropriate question, I certainly meant no offense."

"No, don't worry," Jin says quickly. "It's a good question. I just… don't have plans yet."

Right now he's got plans till August.

Well, he's got plans. More important plans. Plans that mean he won't be sitting half-naked in rooms with ministers for the environment anymore, not knowing what to say. Won't have to sleep with anyone he doesn't want to sleep with no matter how sophisticated or rich they are.

Nakamaru sighs deeply. "I've been coming to the club longer than you've been working here and things still get so… difficult." He makes a pained face.

Yeah, difficult escorts. "I hadn't noticed."

Nakamaru waves him off with a melancholy smile. "Oh, I'm sure you have, I get very bad at finding the right words, and I thought my perspective would change over time because I have had very good experiences here and of course it's always nice to have conversations about important things but I often feel…"

Oh, so… not about the difficult escorts. Difficult other things. Jin's not even trying to guess why Nakamaru is telling him, of all people, about his conversation worries, but if there's one thing he can empathize with, it's this.

"I don't think you're that bad," Jin says. "I mean… we've managed some nice dates by now too." He bites his lip. Yeah, they make a great team with the communication skills… "How long have you been coming here then?"

"Six or seven years, I believe… I was introduced by a senior colleague when it became clear I might be considered for a position in government." It's kind of amazing how much he can blush over this, when earlier he wiped come off Jin's belly.

"That's a pretty long time," Jin concedes.

"I suppose it was for the best," Nakamaru sighs again. "It was all very sound advice from my colleague and he took good care of me." He nods very conclusively and then he blushes some more. "Sorry for getting so reminiscent."

Jin eyes him curiously. He doesn't really wonder much about clients' motivations; his life is smoother that way and it makes it easier to be friendly, easier not to care. "You don't sound so happy about that," he ventures, watching for any sign that he's overstepping lines.

Nakamaru waves his drink in hurried denial. "It wasn't a criticism!"

"No, I got that." It's funny to think Nakamaru feels as self-conscious about their embarrassing first date as Jin. Even with last time being quite civilized, he didn't really expect for them to get together again. He certainly didn't expect Nakamaru making post-coital confessions about his issues at the club.

"I just meant…" Nakamaru frowns fuzzily, though he didn't drink much. "Well, as I'm sure you're aware, with this sort of arranged companionship… though it is very pleasant, very pleasant indeed. You just never know how much of a genuine… if at all. With this sort of job, which I'm sure isn't what people talk about in job orientation with their teachers. I don't like to think… I was very confused when I first came here and it's gotten somewhat better, and I appreciate everyone being so nice and friendly especially when I'm little more than a stranger but it's not really… ideal." Nakamaru stops with a blink, and then he apologizes again.

Jin thinks. Despite the lack of sentences that was pretty easy to follow. Pretty obvious. And pretty weird that it gives him a little pang. Not like he cares about Nakamaru. He's just never heard it from a client like this. Any client. That they even know.

Maybe that's why Nakamaru likes the bouncy ones so much.

He doesn't even know why Nakamaru is talking to him like this. Maybe it's their mutual pass to the club of awkward, maybe it's the late hour, maybe Nakamaru really misses Yuuya tackling him and rolling them around on the floor.

But he has to say something, and he doesn't want to say something stupid or bland, not to this.

"Have you ever…" He gives Nakamaru a cautious look, and waits, but Nakamaru just shows him a perfectly attentive expression. "Have you ever thought about not coming to the club? Maybe… trying to find a boyfriend instead?"

Still no sign of offense. Nakamaru tilts his head this way and that as if to grasp a very difficult concept. On the carpet his toes are curling in under his bony legs. "It just seemed… impossible."

"But would it really be so bad? I mean… you're not out there making speeches about family and you don't get the paparazzi following you or whatever…" He's really not sounding like an escort anymore, he should stop. It's none of his business. But he feels weirdly sorry for Nakamaru, and the idea that you'd come here and do this when you don't want to and don't even need to…

"I suppose I… there is always discretion. Not to mention retirement. But do you really think someone would want to… with relationships being difficult and I'm not exactly at an age where it's easy, considering, and… don't you think?"

That really wasn't the answer Jin expected. But then this whole conversation wasn't. He shrugs slowly. "You can't be the only guy who's not so happy just being with escorts."

Nakamaru stares at Jin almost uncomfortably long. "I suppose you may have a point," he says with another frown.

Jin leans into the corner of the couch and rests his beer on his knees. Everything's calm and quiet, despite the music Jin didn't want, despite the stuff he's said. "Maybe you'd be happier," he adds.

Nakamaru makes a strange apologetic face and ponders that concept too.

 

05:45 (Uguisudani)

Kame sits beside Abe-san for the first leg of today's road trip, to the studio. It's been a couple of months since he last needed a driver and he wants to know how Abe-san's New Year trip to the hot springs went and whether it really helped his bad back. He could talk through the intercom from the back of the minibus with its comfortable seats and hot drinks dispenser, but that seems stupid when it's just the two of them. He sips at his coffee, for which Abe stopped again just two blocks from his house because it's stronger than the stuff from the minibus machine. It's not even six and he's been up since five.

His whole week's been like this, and it turned out he couldn't make the Monday evening date. It was the first time he wasn't wholeheartedly sorry to have to cancel on Jin.

"Busy day," Abe says, signalling conscientiously as he turns from one empty street into another one.

He should know, since he's going to be ferrying Kame and the team around for all of it.

"At least it's just a VTR at the end, not another game show," Kame says.

Abe chuckles. "Got yourself thoroughly killed in that last one, didn't you."

"I was a disgrace to samurai past present and future," Kame says. He didn't care then, his head still full of Jin, Jin and Yokoyama, and things that happened which he couldn't change. He cares a little more now, when he's calmer and able to hold more than the one pulsing, maddening thought in his brain. Hamaguchi called earlier with a friendly request that he maybe not humiliate himself and his entire agency quite so efficiently today. "I'm lucky the penalty wasn't seppuku."

"Not comfortable holding a sword, huh?"

"I was afraid I might kill somebody," Kame says, making the truth sound like a joke. It works, because Abe laughs.

Takeda-san, the woman managing their promotion of the movie, will meet them at the first studio, the one producing the movie. He'll be doing the breakfast show there with Hayashi, his love interest, and Endo, the antagonist. Then they'll move on with a make-up artist and some more cast members to various other shows on other channels, in other studios, to appear in various configurations. Only Kame is in everything.

But they should be done by eight. He's asked Jin to come to his apartment for nine, because they gave him tomorrow morning to catch up on breathing. And he needs to catch up on other things more, things like Jin's skin and his smile and… all that. Just them.

It’s good that he's had a few more days to get his head in order. Now he can't wait.

 

12:12 (Chidori)

When Jin wakes up around noon, the sun is out bright and warm, another layer of coziness on top of his duvet. Jin buries his face in the pillow for another little snooze and pulls his feet up further into the warmth.

He enjoys letting his mind drift, feeling lazy, thinking of music, thinking of being free all day. No other clients, nothing he doesn't want to do. Maybe he can work on that song for Tomo, they thought about trying it tomorrow. Eat a late breakfast, and leave lunch so he's got room for whatever Kame will come up with. He falls asleep again to thoughts of toast.

The next time he wakes up he's a little sweaty, and he had a strange dream about trying to get to Nakamaru's wedding in a hurry and telling him how disappointed he is, after their talk, that Nakamaru is marrying an Edo princess, and somehow Tomo kept promising shortcuts that never worked out.

He peels himself out of his sheets and shakes off the stress over making coffee. It's not a stress day. It's a rest-with-Kame day, which is always good, and especially awesome when he knows in advance, because then he doesn't sleep with any other guys. Later he'll have to stop by the club for some admin, but that doesn't count.

While the coffee is seeping, he lets his brain wake up and watches some people stroll by down on the street, warm coats and sunshine looking like a wonderful combination.

He turns on the TV to check if there's coverage of the soccer season starting next weekend. What he finds is all Division 1, all the time, so that's no good. He leaves it on international news while he makes some toast and boils an egg.

While eating, he catches Kame on NTV, not intimidating Japan's youths for a change but trying to de-bone a fish with Western-style cutlery while balancing a book on his head. Sometimes he wonders if Kame really knew what he signed up for with that job. He laughs to himself and watches Kame finish the task with the expected precision and perseverance. He looks good, cute with all that concentration. Jin really likes the dark hair. He wonders what they'll have for dinner.

He's missed Kame. It shouldn't be possible to miss a guy he's seen just on Friday this much, but then that went from happy cows and Yokoyama chatter to just awkward and unhappy, and Jin… well, he's missed Kame. That's all.

Later he takes some of his suits to the dry-cleaner, wondering as usual what they make of all the fussy expensive clothes he brings when he always shows up in worn jeans and sweatshirts. This time he's offered tea and a small piece of mochi by the middle-aged woman minding the shop, and then he has a weird moment of disconnect making small talk about jobs and the state of the neighbourhood with someone who is not a client. She asks him about singing at the bar, and after his initial surprise it's awesome to think that that's what some people know him for.

At home he packs his usual bag for Kame. Toiletries, t-shirt and boxers, and a second nice shirt for the next morning. He diligently does his hair and hopes the good weather will hold, and then he's off to the club to get checked for diseases and sleep with nobody else at all.

 

13:30

"Where's Kasai-kun?"

Takeda taps red fingernails impatiently on the clipboard pinning down their next location and details for what to do when they get there.

It's half past one, and they got the food game over with. It was Kame's sixth appearance today, on a team with Hayashi and the grizzled retainer, against a team comprising his rival Endo, Kasai the page and the tall retainer.

"If we don't leave in five minutes, we'll be late for the history commentary," Takeda frets.

That's one for just Kame, but Endo and Hayashi are with him in the one after, at the same place, and they need Kasai and the retainers there because that's from where they'll be leaving for Odawara castle afterwards. It's like a military operation.

"If he doesn't come, he'll have time to make it to the studio while we're on air," Hayashi observes practically, and that helps, calms Takeda down.

Kame's not really for leaving a seventeen-year-old behind to find his own way to a studio he may not even know, but the boy knows the time pressure they're under just like anybody else.

"I'll just… I need a toilet break, sorry," he says. "I promise I'll be back in five minutes, we have that, don't we?"

Takeda isn't such a hardass, she just likes to do her job efficiently. Kame respects that, just like she respects it in him.

"Four minutes now," she says, but there's a little smile.

Kame makes a V-sign and dashes off.

He doesn't really expect to find Kasai in the bathroom; he went there with the rest of them straight after the show ten minutes ago. But he doesn't know where else to start looking and when he opens the door, the boy emerges and gives a panicked little jump.

"Oh," Kame says intelligently. His next thought is that Jin had better not learn that he scared the boy again.

"Sorry," Kasai flails, "did you…" He steps aside as though to let Kame in before leaving himself.

"No," Kame says. "Just, we're about to leave."

"I'm really sorry," Kasai mumbles.

"It's okay," Kame says with a quick smile. "Let's get going." He looks at the boy's face, flushed and slightly damp. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I…" Kasai's blushing, and like a flash Kame wonders… wonders who, wants to say it's really okay, even that, but he can't… "The sushi," Kasai says. "It… when I eat so much. It…" He shrugs. "You know."

Kame nods quickly. Just as well he didn't say anything. It was a lot of sushi, and Kasai won his team the solar powered toaster.

"I hate those games myself," he says as they march quickly back to the minibus. "They're so pointless."

"And so unfair," Kasai says. "I mean, when you… when you don't want to eat that much," he ends in a mumble.

Now Kame gets it.

"It's not good for you," he says, matter-of-factly, with a shrug back at where they've come from.

"I know. I'm sorry. But losing my job's bad for me, too."

Nothing Kame can say to that, so he just nods. "Well, better make up some story for when we get to the bus. Before I tell everybody about your horrible diarrhea."

It works; Kasai laughs.

Jin would approve.

 

15:30 (Ginza)

The break room is full when Jin arrives, sneaking in late with Takahisa, who's nearly as likely to be called in early as he is.

Kimura-senpai is sitting at the table, holding his arm bent with a bit of cotton wool on the prick mark and making Yuu-chan blush with a tale of evil nurses. Jun is still waiting, reading something on the computer, and all the other seats are taken, though Danny indicates tiredly Jin can have the arm of the couch. Jin gestures at the coffee machine first.

"Hey, you got the day off?" Satoshi asks him from the end of the couch where he's picking at some low calorie rice crackers, taking in the khaki slacks and casual shirt.

Jin helps himself to coffee and shrugs easily. "Just a regular. Doesn't need the suit."

"Jin-senpai!" Yuuya waves him over energetically, shuffling sideways until he's only half on the chair. Jin feels a little silly sharing one seat like they're twelve and tiny. He feels even sillier with Kimura on the other side of the table, smiling quirkily and wearing a dishevelled shirt and tie that look like dishevelled was how they were always meant to be.

"We were just talking about dentists," Yuuya informs him.

"Hi Jin," Kimura says. "I was just trying to impress Yuuya-kun with my bravery with needles, but then he told me about having a tooth extracted and I felt like such a baby."

Jin instinctively covers his teeth with his lips. "That… must hurt," he says.

"It hurt a bit while healing," Yuu-chan says. "But the guy I was with took good care of me and I got to eat lots of ice cream." He's smiling at them both, but Jin feels like he missed the start of the joke. It's kind of uncomfortable to keep his balance on half the chair, and he wonders if he's started putting on weight.

"What was wrong with the tooth?" he asks.

"Oh, half my teeth were all crooked and awful," Yuu-chan laughs lightly. "It's much better now." A perfect line of white is what it is now. Solid investment, probably. At least nobody's saying it. Jin doesn't want to think about the guy who paid for it.

They all look when the door opens; it's Tatsuya, in jeans and a tight silvery top, with the expected piece of cotton pressed into his elbow. "Next, please," he says. Next is Jun, who leaves with a long-suffering sigh while Tatsuya examines his locker for the next elegant outfit.

"Were you flirting with the doctor again, Takuya-san?" he chides with a smile. "The poor man was all aflutter."

The doctor is a fifty-something straight guy who's never been anything but terse and efficient with Jin.

Kimura pouts. It doesn't even look ridiculous. "I like to talk to all my colleagues, even the peripheral kind. I was merely interested in his take on my Meiji apothecary cabinet. Didn't you know he's a man of taste?"

"And what did he say?"

"He completely agreed with my theory for dating it before the last century."

Jin feels out of place even with Yuu-chan beside him. If Tatsuya is in a different league from Jin, then Kimura-senpai…

For a moment Jin wonders what Kame was like with him. If they could do all the relaxed sophisticated things Kame likes and then talked about foreign relations and the latest fashion in Italy and wherever. Kimura probably never asked for pasta and tomato sauce, either.

He wishes the doctor, aflutter or not, would get a move on. This isn't stuff he wanted to think about anymore. He wants to get the tests done and then get to Kame's place. Maybe they'll cook again.

"I don't know," Tatsuya is saying, "I would assume managing women isn't without its complications either. I haven't decided yet."

Jin missed how the women got into the conversation, or whom Tatsuya wants to manage. But then Jun is back and they talk about host clubs and not needing so many STD tests and the interesting advice Tatsuya got from Konoe-san on creative taxation one rainy day.

"That's a bit into the future, isn't it," Yuuya says just to him, smiling again, his perfect white smile, and Jin thinks of hamsters and car mechanics and Kame taking him to parties now, as long as it's safe to bring his paid escort.

While he's in with the doctor, having his blood drawn, his throat checked and a pee cup handed to him with hardly a word passing between them, he briefly thinks of Nakamaru with his odd awareness, Nakamaru who doesn't want the fake affection either. He wonders what the man would be like trying it with a boyfriend. Then the doctor sends him off and Jin remembers it's not his habit to wonder stuff about clients.

The sun has been swallowed by moody clouds when he gets back outside, his overnight bag over his shoulder. He waves goodbye at Hina, who's heading out on a house call. There's a sharp wind making him shiver in his coat, the clouds moving fast. No point going home again, though; he'll stop for a coffee somewhere, answer a few of Tomo's funny mails. He hopes they'll both make it in before the rain.

 

18:00 (Odawara Castle)

Rain is drumming onto the roof of their minibus. The camera team is parked next to them in the lot outside Odawara Castle, peering miserably out into the gloom. They alternate between keeping the doors closed for heat, and opening them to unsteam the windows.

Kame snaps his cell phone shut and tries to stop the happiness spreading all over his face. It's still embargoed, he can't tell anybody, not even his colleagues. But that was Hamaguchi, and the assassin role is his. They liked his quietly intense portrayal, the hints at the detailed psychology Kame had constructed while studying for the part. All that hard work paid off. And there'll be more now, and it'll be tricky and challenging and god, so much fun, he can hardly wait.

It makes it even more difficult to stay quiet in his seat, sit around with nothing to do.

They're supposed to be on their way back by now. Shooting was meant to take less than half an hour.

"The forecast was excellent," Takeda repeats for the seventh time since they spotted the black clouds on the road here. She sounds like she's planning to take it up with someone in a position of authority.

It's frustrating right enough. Costumed outdoor interviews in front of a dramatic dusk backdrop sounded like a good idea all round, until Abe had to flip the wipers on with a rueful, "Sorry," to Takeda, and Hayashi had to hand over her wager of a wrapped rice cracker to Endo.

When Takeda isn't remonstrating with the gods, she's on the phone. To the promotion agency, who decided that a floodlit castle will do, now that dusk is over; to the studio in which Kame is due for a VTR shoot at seven-thirty.

Kame snuck out into the rain earlier, to protests from the make-up artist and with an umbrella borrowed from Hayashi, to let Jin know he might be a little late; to tell him just to let himself in and wait and he'd be home eventually.

He's not missing out on seeing Jin this week if he can help it.

And he can tell Jin about the assassin. It gives him an extra little kick, just to think he'll get to do that later.

"Let's just go out there now," Endo is saying. "Samurai got wet all the time, right? It'll lend an air of authenticity."

Kame's up for that.

"Running eyeliner isn't an authentic part of samurai appearance," the make-up artist mentions, and she has a point, too.

"I think rich merchant's daughters were protected from the elements," Hayashi says with a smile. "They wouldn't be cavorting with strange men in the rain in front of night-time castles."

"Oh, come on," Endo says. "We're not that strange."

"But it would be okay if it's dry?" Kame asks.

"At least her parents wouldn't notice that she was out."

"I'll shelter you under my cloak!" Endo's grandiose gesture manages to hit Kasai's headrest in front of him, and the boy startles out of his snooze. It's been a long day for all of them.

"You're the bad guy," Hayashi says mercilessly. "You can't shelter me. Kamenashi-san's going to chop your head off."

It's a shame those two never got much screen time together, Kame thinks, because they clicked in a very nice way.

"I would shelter you," he says regretfully, "only they never gave me a proper cloak."

Takeda ends another phone call and looks up briefly. "The cloak is an accessory for evil. Good guys don't get one."

Kame laughs. "Also it makes me look shorter."

Endo wipes steam off the window again and gazes out longingly. "Sabotaged by the lead's lack of height. What a sad story."

"I liked it better when the gods were being blamed." Kame says.

Endo grins. "But this is more fun. Let's see whom we can blame next."

With the tinny tapping of rain persisting overhead, they start to make a case against the driver.

~

Chapter 45

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