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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 49

Friday 13 March

The world looks different on the way back. Clearer and rushed, and Jin feels like a wide-awake stranger. It's sunny, like Kame said. He didn't notice before.

On the subway people are reading the paper and at the stops they're selling it and by the time Jin gets into his street he's almost surprised he can't read Kame's name anywhere.

At least until he gets to the conbini, where the wrinkly grandpa owner is sweeping behind the parking stands for the bikes, and the article jumps out at him again.


He gets into his building, says hi to Fujimoto-san in her pretty suit. Everything is so quiet in the elevator.

His door catches on a stray shoe. The t-shirt he slept in is on the table, and he thinks with a blush that he's still wearing the same boxers. He left his watch beside the bed.

Just three hours ago.

He picks up the shoe, puts it away. Puts away the t-shirt, and considers pulling on his watch, only… he hasn't showered since last night. He leaves the watch. Makes his bed, thinks of making Kame's.

Kame must have felt so alone, waiting, trapped in that ridiculous brain of his.

Jin sighs, his chest tight, and for a moment he doesn't move at all, just stares at his tidy sofa. His boyfriend is an idiot.

And Jin needs to call Ootomo. Not about what they decided, that can wait. But, well. General bookkeeping.

He's lucky and catches the office voice-mail; doesn't have to talk about scandals or answer questions why Kame needed to fuck him on scandal morning, is there a connection, is it Jin in the photos, and why does Jin know what Kame's agency said.

He says his thing and hangs up before he realizes what sort of wham-bam deal this is going to look like, if he's done at ten in the morning. He doesn't really want Ootomo to think that about Kame…

Kame told his mother.

He makes himself some tea, finds himself shuffling from foot to foot, impatient with the water heater. Normally he likes his small apartment, likes knowing where the walls are, but now he wishes he had a second room so he could go there and maybe find something to do.

On a normal day, he'd go back to sleep so he doesn't yawn his way through work later. But not a chance. And he's just made the bed.

At least he doesn't have to be out there dealing with agents and reporters.

For a moment he imagines what it would be like if Kame did move in with him. Where they'd squeeze their clothes together and what they'd do about Kame's big TV.

Then he laughs at himself, and at the image of Kame weighing their options and looking obsessively serious. Of course it's silly. Kame owns an apartment building, Kame's not going to go broke.

His tea's gone cold. He drinks it anyway, sitting down and keeping his fidgety feet in check.

He wishes he could tell somebody. That they're together, that he's in love, that he's worried. He glances at the TV and hesitates. He should know what's going on. But he's afraid to find out.

Kame will be at his agent's. Getting talked at by a scary woman; Jin has to remind himself she's on Kame's side. If she'll stay on his side. He hopes Kame isn't too reckless, and then he hopes Kame won't let her talk him out of everything again, and he really wishes he could talk to somebody.

Some gossip program has the front page he knows by heart now. Lots of questions, no answers. No official comment as yet from Kamenashi-san or his agency. Zoom on the fake pictures, some expert talking about Photoshop. At least that got around. The snapshots of Kame and the boys from the school movie, as if that's a crime. Old footage, Jin recognizes some of it from Youtube. Denials, protestations, the wedding. Kame's wife looks so nice.

He hopes Kame will be all right.

Tomo will be up; will have been up for hours, working. Maybe he's seen the paper. Jin could call him, but he doesn't know what he'd say. Tomo knows things and doesn't like them, and even if Jin only wondered for one treacherous panicked moment, he shouldn't go around telling people more.

But they'll be together now, for real. After knowing for himself for so long, not wanting to know because it seemed pathetic and hopeless and dumb… it feels so weird to know it's really real. Like something inside him can breathe at last.

If he weren't so worried about Kame.

He checks his phone at the end of the program; stupid, because if Kame had called he'd have known. He checks anyway, then flips through his short address book almost randomly, and finally puts the phone away.

Yuuya knows stuff, and what he doesn't know he might have pieced together. But he can just about guess what Yuuya will think about the Kamenashi downfall drama and if he says it Jin will have to kill him and then he still won't have a friend to talk to. So that won't work.

The TV is talking about some actress' magic diet. Jin thinks her smile looked nicer before and this program is stupid. But if he follows the news on which onsens are especially good for the skin and whether cucumbers are better than aloe, maybe he won't worry for fifteen minutes.

Half an hour later on a different channel, it's Kame again. All the pictures they show are really good ones, like it's an offense to be handsome.

Tatsuya would care. Tatsuya likes Kame, he'll be nice about it, isn't one of the people who think Kamenashi had it coming.

But he doesn't have Tatsuya's phone number.

He washes his tea cup instead. Dries it, and puts it away. Still more than five hours before he has to be at the club, and he has no idea how to spend them. He can't make music like this, fretting and restless, excited and anxious as he is.

Just when he's decided he should maybe go for a walk, the announcer says 'Kamenashi' again, and this time it's different pictures, and a written statement, stuff is happening, and he feels his heart beat high.

But then it's nothing much. "Kamenashi-san's agency has let us know that Kamenashi-san will address the preposterous rumours about him and his co-actors in person as soon as he can get away from his pressing official business."

Jin doesn't know how it works, normally. Doesn't know whether this'll make people wonder even more, or whether it'll make them think Kame isn't worried because it's all nonsense. Not long, and Kame will be talking to his wife.

More waiting, then. He sits himself down again. No good if he starts pacing the cage like an anxious panda bear.

He feels sorry for Kame's wife, and at the same time he wants her to go easy on him. That's probably unfair.

Then his phone rings, the buzz vibrating it across the table, and all of Jin's blood slumps to his legs. Could mean whatever, so early, if it's— the tune is Tomo's.

He breathes deeply, before he remembers to actually pick the fuck up. "Hi," he says. A simple hi shouldn't sound so guilty.

"Hey, Jin! Um, I didn't wake you, did I?"

Jin laughs weakly. "No, I've been up. A while." He can't talk to Tomo but it's still nice to hear his voice.

"I saw that paper," Tomo says. "The guys at storage… anyway, I read it, about that guy. Kamenashi."

That guy. Jin's not surprised. Not really hurt, either. He can't ask Tomo to like Kame, he knows that. "Ah," he says.

"I just wanted to make sure, that's not you in the picture, is it? I mean, you're not in trouble? At your work, with the discretion and all…"

"No," Jin says quickly. "No trouble, it's not me. I mean, it's not anyone at all." Tomo doesn't have time to watch TV all morning, he won't know this. "That picture's fake, photoshopped."

"Oh," Tomo says, and there's a weird silence. "How do you know? I mean, can you tell?"

Shit. That— shit. "It's on TV," he says, like a liar. He'd tell, in a heartbeat, if it was only his secret.

"That's… why would anybody do that?" Jin's not sure whether he's hearing scepticism or simply puzzlement there. Maybe a bit of both.

"We don't know," he admits.

There's silence. Tomo, thinking. Or maybe doing something with his hands, who knows, Tomo must be working. "So you're still watching the circus, huh?" he asks then.

Jin nods into the quiet. The TV is flickering mutely, some girl idols dancing on a stage, and he still doesn't know anything. "I'm so worried about him," he says. Flushes, because it's Tomo, but everything is so up in the air, and he feels so alone, with Kame out there dealing with whatever. And… it's Tomo. "And I keep watching but nothing's really happening, and I don't know what's going to happen…" He stops. Tomo doesn't even know what Kame said he'd do, how crazy it might still get.

Tomo gives an odd sort of grunt. "Yeah… when do you have to be at work?"

Jin shrugs. "Five hours or so." Work's going to be weird, too.

"Do you want to come on deliveries with me?"


"Just a thought. Would get you out of the house. You can still worry in my car."

Deliveries with Tomo. Not going nuts here all by himself. That's… "Yes," he says belatedly. "I mean, I'd like that. I can… I'll help you carry, too." He doesn't know how he could ever think Tomo would… Jin knew he wouldn't. Knows. He almost apologizes, he feels so guilty.

"Company's help enough," Tomo says. "But cool. I'll be in your area in fifteen minutes, does that work?"

"I'll be ready." He hasn't showered yet, not since Kame… but he'll be fine, he doesn't have to dress up. He casts another glance at the TV, its bright spongy subtitles. The idols are discussing perfect boyfriends. "That'll be great."


They're bringing an old lady in Minamikamata her heavy weekly shopping. Cans and rice and some cabbage. Jin feels less lonely already, and moderately useful. Tomo's smile, the smell of the ancient vanilla car freshener, the whiff of old cigarettes Tomo never got out of the seats; the reassuring rumble underneath him. He likes the van, where he can look ahead over the tops of all the cars. See what's going on, see what's coming. Tomo's playing B'z, muted enough that it's easy to talk. When they talk.

Jin wishes he knew. He won't switch to the radio, that's not the point of being here. But it's a bit like leaving the room during a cup final.

"Did you stay long last night?" he tries after half a song of silence. He already heard all about the accounting class and the songwriting then, which is kind of inconvenient now.

Tomo shoots him a sideways look, like he knows exactly what he's thinking. "Around two, not long after you," he says. "I just had to fill in some order forms after closing."

"Ah, right," Jin says. "Beer."

"Yes," Tomo says seriously. "Beer."


"Yes, I thought so. A lot of people think beer's important."


They fall silent again, for several long minutes.

"Oh, about the apartment," Tomo says. "I got you an appointment tomorrow?"

The apartment. Jin has to force his brain back to these concrete things, away from Kame. Tomo told him about another place. "Tomorrow's okay," he says, without really knowing. But he'll make time. Looking at apartments is just sensible. "Thanks."

He checks the time on the old watch Tomo has glued to the dashboard. It's noon. Kame must have talked to his scary agent by now.

"Do you want the radio on?"

"I… what?"

Tomo sighs. "Would it help?"

He has to think. "No," he says. "There's really nothing I can do…"

"True. But, well. Let me know."

They deliver Whatever-san's cabbage and canned goods. Jin insists on doing some of the heavy lifting, and has to bite back a grin when the lady seems very worried that Jin might be Tomo's replacement. When they've carried the stuff into her tiny spotless kitchen and sorted it into shelves, she gives them both a piece of plum candy.

"I think you're the highlight of her day," Jin says when they're back in the car.

Tomo waves the candy at him and says, "Shut up, and don't be jealous."

"Hey, I got one too," Jin points out.

"New kid bonus," Tomo finds, and next it'll be a stressed housewife with three kids over in Haginaka, whom they're bringing a microwave.

It goes quiet again, B'z doing their thing. Jin fondles his plum candy. The rice at Kame's seems ages ago, but he doesn't really have an appetite.

"Hey. I'm sure it'll be fine," Tomo says. "He'll make a statement and deny everything and apologize for the fuss, and it'll all be forgotten in a few days. He's got a wife, right?" He doesn't even sound nasty about it. He's trying to be helpful, to make Jin worry less.

"I'm not sure," Jin says, because it's all he can say. "That that's how it'll go."

"Come on," Tomo says, with a quick friendly smile. "That's how these things usually go, right?"

Jin looks out the window and makes a vague aimless noise.

Then his phone rings. It feels less like a bungee jump this time, but he still scrambles for it before his brain helpfully informs him it's the e-mail tone, not Kame calling.

"Sorry," he mumbles automatically.

It's Kame, e-mailing. It's not hard to open an e-mail but Jin feels tense and sweaty anyway.

Then he laughs.

"What?" Tomo asks.

"Nothing," he says. "Just…" And ends up laughing again, because this is funny, and Kame probably has no idea how much it helps. "He says his agent is stabbing voodoo dolls that look like him."


"Yeah." So the scary agent didn't change his mind. "So I think it went okay," he explains. "He doesn't really have a sense of humour when he's, you know. Stressed."

"Ah," Tomo says with a dubious look at him. "Okay. I guess that's good. Not… well, not the challenged sense of humour, obviously. The other thing. You know."

Jin knows.

"So… does he usually send you mail?"

"Uh. I… we." Damn. "We talked, this morning. He said he'd try to keep me informed, only, well. He didn't know how the day would go, either."

He'll be on his way to his wife now. Jin wonders if there's been a statement or whether it's going to wait till after.

"You like him, don't you," Tomo says after a long moment. "I mean… you really like him."

Jin nods. He's turning red and he's nervous, but it's also like before, that sense of something warm and solid. He doesn't have to pretend anymore.

"Guess it can't be helped," Tomo says. "Whom we like." He shows Jin a quirky little smile, a smile like he's definitely not criticizing Jin and making damn sure Jin knows it. "Just… don't let him use you, okay? Any more than… you know."

Jin blinks, sorts through that. The client thing, of course, Tomo doesn't know… but how else would Kame…

"I don't think I'm much use to him in this." He's a reason Kame's not wriggling out of it all even though he could. If it wasn't for him, this might never have started.

"If you weren't, I don't think he'd be e-mailing you," Tomo says. "Just be careful, okay?"

"Okay," Jin says, because it's all he can say and Tomo means well, even if he's starting to unnerve Jin. "I'll be careful." And once he's talked to Kame, once this day is over and settled, he can tell Tomo the rest of it too. Just not yet.

He fingers his phone. "Do you, um. Is it okay if I write him back, just briefly?"

"No, dude, I now have to stop and make you get out so you don't defile the airwaves in my car with emo messages to your film star drama guy."

Jin looks at him.

"I'd wait for you, though," Tomo adds generously. Then he rolls his eyes. "Geez, go ahead. Tell him I said hi."

Jin looks at him some more.

"That last part was a joke."


The club is buzzing with it. The clients are whispering, pretending not to watch the screen that shows pictures of Kame's agency, clips from earlier when Kame arrived and smiled his way past the press.

Everything is muted and focused, voices everywhere but never anything clear. Jin sees Takahisa approach a table with standard cheer, and he thinks he sees Tsukada jump.

It's like an underwater bee hive. Only the bees would drown. So maybe not.

He gets himself a drink, to keep busy, and Jiro behind the bar says, "Hey, you heard about Kamenashi?" and he just wants to get drunk, or go home.

So he says something vague to the bartender, of course he's heard, all over the news, right. Then he pulls back. No peace in waiting by the bar either.

The escorts are worse. Jin keeps running away from the speculation. Jun is playing at waiting at the other end of the bar, pretending not to read the paper Jiro left there, while Tatsuya and his client make such serious hushed faces that Jin is sure they're discussing either Kame or the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Koichi's in the group over by the wash paintings, and from the way he gave Jin the evil eye earlier, Jin's not planning to spend any time near him. Takahisa and Junno are with two austere businessmen, but talking more to each other than with their frightened-looking game, and Nino has apparently swapped for a lounge shift and is hanging out with Satoshi and Masaki in front of the big screen, none of them doing any work at all. Ootomo would not approve.

Ootomo is upstairs, of course, drooling for more gossip himself.

Jin told him nothing. Just that Kamenashi-sama didn't seem to be blaming the club and didn't mention lawyers. He shrugged a lot.

At the end of all this, he'll also have to talk to Ootomo. It makes him want to get drunk more.

Yuuya is in the one group that seems to be having a good old sports conversation, but that's not what Jin's here for tonight. He scans the other end of the room, sees a lonely guy who has either repelled advances or fallen victim to all the secret TV watching going on.

He actually meets Jin's eyes, and Jin forces himself to try a tentative smile. The guy gives him a tentative smile back, then ducks his head and scans the food menu, as if he can't be seen flirting with whores.

Tonight's not going to go well for him.

He has his drink a little faster. The stupid standing around reminds him of months ago, when he was clueless and awkward all the time. But he can fake it a little better now, walking around, pretending to focus on people.

Some new arrival waves him over; just him, that's promising, and the next fifteen minutes of not craning his head for the same old shots of Kame and just letting the guy stare at his mouth and legs are pretty promising too.

Maybe he'll score tonight after all. He nods and smiles his way along, tries to ignore Yuuya's laughter, or the mentions of 'Kamenashi' and 'club' and 'future' drifting over.

Until the guy asks Jin what wine he'd like, and there's a special way they have of asking that, the invitation to make some money with your order because you'll be making some money anyway, and Jin knows he's not ready. To go upstairs now, two pricey drinks from now, have this guy's hands on him while his head is full of Kame, make noises and movements he doesn't want to make.

He fakes his way through another fifteen minutes of politics talk, mainly by asking really stupid, obvious questions, and either the guy isn't into stupid or Jin's just lucky, but somehow Tadayoshi sees the signs and joins them, and Jin makes his excuses a few minutes later.

He's not sure what he was thinking, coming here. Only that he can't tell Kame he won't quit his job, and then stay home and watch TV all day.

For a moment he considers sneaking back upstairs for an hour, to get his head sorted. He's not going to pick up a client like this, anyway.

"Hey, Jin." Jaejoong joins him in the no-man's-land at the side of the bar. "You have no luck with the parliament man?"

Jin waves a greeting with his water glass. "That what he was?" He really needs to get it together. "Yeah. No chemistry. You know."

Jaejoong gets some water for himself, too, but waits till the bartender is gone again. "Business is slow for everyone tonight, I think," he commiserates.

Jin hums vague agreement.

"You have heard about Kamenashi?"

Right. "It's on the news," he shrugs. "Sure." Someone even put on the little TV above the bar, which is usually only for when the Emperor dies or really important baseball is on, just so nobody escapes the Kame fretting for sure.

"Do you think he might be too scared to come to the club now?"

If Koichi asked him that, Jin would tell him to get the fuck out of his face. But Jaejoong looks merely concerned. Jin didn't know Jaejoong liked Kame, he doesn't think they ever… god.

He shrugs again. "I guess it depends." Kame's not going to come to the club anymore because he has a boyfriend and boyfriends kind of preclude whores, so there.

"Are you worried then? I thought it would mean a big loss of income for you."

Oh. That. Yeah. Boyfriends kind of precludes money, too.

No money was the point. It's a good thing.

"Well, I'll deal," he says, and gestures around. "All those great opportunities…" A room full of fidgety whispering old men.

Jaejoong gives him another compassionate look, but Jin keeps his face blank and postpones the niggling thoughts until he can think them unwatched.

It is a fact. Saving up will be harder without all the rest money from Kame. He'd gotten used to it, watching the nice fat numbers in his bank account grow. Not many others who'll throw out a fortune just to spend time with him.

He'll just have to work hard. Hang on in there a little longer.

Kame won't like it. Jin doesn't like it, and Kame will like it less. But there's really no alternative. That is also a fact and they'll deal.

He straightens his shoulders and looks around. Clients. He'll get good at getting them; just not tonight.

Kame's face is on the little screen again – same sequence over and over, the newspaper page, the early statement, his arrival at the agency, smiles and waves; Don't believe everything you hear. Promises to tell all later. My agent will shoot me if I don't talk to her first. He's charming them, he's good at it. Jin can't charm clients with Kame's face watching.

"That is a lot of press pressing in on him."

Jin jumps at Junno's voice behind him. "Don't sneak up on people like that."

"I didn't sneak. Ootomo doesn't allow sneakers."

Jin shrugs.

"How do you think he'll take it?" Junno slides onto a bar stool, looks settled there and as if he's expecting Jin to stay with him. "You know him pretty well by now, don't you?"

"Seems he's mad about the thing with the co-stars," Jin says. The agent released another statement shortly after Kame vanished inside the agency, hinting direly at joint lawsuits with representatives of the other actors.

"I'm sure he's mad about more than that," Junno says. "I just guess that one's really easy to deny. Inside sources…" He makes a face like he's thinking hard about a pun, but nothing occurs.

Jin shrugs again. He's doing that a lot tonight. But he's not interested in confirming people's gossip for them, not even Junno's.

"Do you want to team up for the politics faction?" Junno suggests cheerfully, nodding towards Tsukada and his companion, who are amazingly still unoccupied. "We can be a coalition!"

"Uh," Jin says. "I've already scared off a Diet guy. I think I'll wait, for… someone I know." He smiles and hopes it looks confident.

Junno makes a regretful sound, but decides to tackle Tsukada in a solo effort. He wishes Jin luck with the turtle-pace news and bounces away. Jin still sees Tsukada hunching in on himself before Junno gets invited to sit.

On the TV, sombre people are berating the declining moral standards of journalism and the declining moral standards of public figures, keeping their options open on whether they'll throw their final fit over the gay sex or people talking about the gay sex.

He needs a break.

It's been months since he's done avoidance in the lounge bathroom.

Turns out he's not the first one in there. Shota is sitting fully dressed on a toilet lid in an open stall, playing with his cell phone.

"Hey," he says when Jin walks past. When Jin doesn't move to use the facilities, he adds, "You catching a breather, too? Pretty claustrophobic in there, isn't it."

"Yeah." Jin runs cold water over a face towel, wrings it out and carefully holds his face into it.

"Any luck yet?"

Jin shakes his head, then lifts his face out of the towel. "It's only six, though."

"Six on a Friday."

"Well," Jin says. "You've seen them."

"Oh, yes," Shota says with a wry smile. "Seen them up close, I practically crawled into their laps. Nothing moving there. Just wondered if you'd been luckier."

"Me? Luckier than you?" Jin laughs. "You might want to ask Yuuya."

"I talked to him earlier. I think he's ready to cut the cables on all the TVs. Not so happy with Kamenashi cramping his style."

No. Yuuya wouldn't be.

Jin dumps the towel into the rose-patterned laundry bin and grabs some of the mineral powder they stash here for emergencies. Last thing he needs is a shiny face.

If Yuuya can't get the clients upstairs…

"I'm sure Kamenashi could have done without it, too," he says. He's not trying to defend Kame, it's just a fact.

"Yeah," Shota says thoughtfully. "You know, I never really got the thing about Kamenashi. I don't actually think he's that hot."

Jin says nothing, just bobs his head vaguely. He can't talk to anyone. He's avoiding Yuuya and fudging with Tomo, and Kame is off talking to his wife…

"He's so skinny… and kind of uptight..."

"Sorry," Jin says. "Gotta pee." Then he locks himself in a stall and sits there until the soft bzz-bzz of Shota's touch screen has stopped and the door has opened and closed.


What finally makes him go back into the lounge isn't the feeling that he's ready, but the thought that he might be missing the update he's been waiting for all day. He doesn't want to get it surrounded by strangers, but it's better than nothing at all.

Nothing much has changed. The atmosphere is the same hushed excitement, Shota is still clientless, and Junno is by now talking animatedly at rather than with Tsukada and his colleague. Yamatani has arrived, later than usual but reading a paper that doesn't have Kame on it, and when he sees Jin, Jin gives him a wave and a bow.

He should get a client. It would be smart. Profitable. Setting a good standard.

And then with his luck he'll be in the middle of fucking when some announcement finally comes and miss it, or worse, have to watch Kame face reporters while he's being felt up by some other guy.

He looks around. If they're quick… But nobody's even buying.

No. It's not a client night, he should face it. Ootomo won't hold it against him if he can't score tonight, if even Yuuya and Junno can't.

So he wanders over to Yamatani, with his newspaper and his ginseng blend tea, and when he's there he gives another bow.

"Good evening," he says. "Am I interrupting?"

Yamatani puts the paper down immediately. "Most certainly not. How are you, Jin?"

"I'm all right. Would it be okay if I joined you?"

"Of course." He folds the paper up properly and picks up his tea. "You're always welcome to join me." He's used to it, too, from all those months ago, Jin sitting down and just not leaving.

Jin can do that again, just this once.

"Is something wrong with tomorrow?" Yamatani asks lightly, and Jin shakes his head.

"No, tomorrow is great. I'll be here."

Yamatani smiles a wrinkly smile. "I'm glad to hear it."

Jin blushes a bit. Saturday is when they fuck; it's good he gets to keep that comfort. And it's good to slump into the seat and know where they stand. He doesn't have to watch shirt wrinkles so much or whether the lip gloss stays on, with Yamatani. He can get his brain to shut the fuck up for a few minutes until it's needed again.

"Is everything all right with you, Jin? You look a little tired, if you'll forgive me for saying so."

Tired. God, he should be. He ought to be feeling it, barely five hours of sleep. But he's just feeling weird. "I'm okay," he says again. "It's been… a weird sort of day here." He nods at Yamatani's fellow dignitaries.

"I must say, I did notice," Yamatani replies over his steaming glass cup. "I said hello to Miwa-san and he nearly poured his Champagne on poor Yuuya-kun."

Jin laughs for the first time since he had Kame's e-mail. He tilts his head and shrugs, in the what can you do way.

"So would you care for a beer?" Yamatani offers. Just like the good old times.

Only Jin doesn't want booze, not when he's finally starting to feel a bit like he can settle, stop flipping from one agitated thought to the next.

"I think… I'd have some of what you're having?"

Yamatani finds this delightful. "I'm sure your cholesterol levels will thank you," he says, and they end up laughing again.

It's quite a nice tea, turns out, with a hint of orange. They sip it companionably, get a refill while Yamatani tells him of his granddaughter's new school, and occasionally they glance at the screen above the bar where the same footage still plays every half hour or so and commentators wonder more and more insistently why Kamenashi-san is taking so long to say his piece.

"They can be terrible," Yamatani says with a little wince. "Like bloodhounds. I hope he has a good answer for them."

"He seemed confident earlier on," Jin says, and he hates the pleading sound in his own voice. He doesn't know why it's taking so long, either, what's going on, what they're saying to Kame or trying to make him do in there.

Things start moving on his left; Yuuya has pulled Miwa at last and they are heading for the concierge. Jin casts a look around and notices that Jun is also gone. Yuuya is glancing up at the bar TV and turning away with a wry face, and then his eyes come to rest on Jin.

Jin manages a nod and a friendly smile, or so he thinks; thinks again when Yuuya frowns and looks for a moment as if he wants to wander across. But then Miwa's arm is around Yuuya's waist, and Yuuya mouths 'later' at Jin before pasting on a flattered smile and turning back to his quarry.

"I'm glad to see I didn't upset the course of events there too much," Yamatani says.

"You probably helped," Jin says honestly. "Nothing like spilling stuff on a guy to make you feel like you should take him to a room and help him out of his clothes."

Yamatani laughs. "So that's how it works? I'll bear that in mind."

Jin fondles the elegant tea cup and smiles to himself. "Thank you," he says suddenly. "For the tea. And for letting me sit with you."

Yamatani raises thinning eyebrows. "There's no need to thank me, Jin. It's always good to talk to you."

They don't even talk that much. The time passes between comfortable silences. Now and then Yamatani makes a gentle comment on the hushed proceedings at a neighbouring table, asks Jin about Italian food, tells him something he read in the paper.

Yamatani was his first, here at the club. A blow job, he was done in five minutes, fast because on the street they were always in a hurry, and he always wanted it over. Yamatani never said a thing about it, just got him a drink and asked him friendly questions about the club and about what food he liked for the rest of the hour.

Jin never told him how nice that was, how much it helped.

He drinks his tea and thinks about Kame. If Kame ever misses variety, if he'll want to come to Jin's new place, if he's okay. Why there's no news.

Yamatani gets him to try a different tea next, yellow and "good for your joints," and they're just experimenting with how much sugar is right for masking the slightly bitter taste when the noise goes up at the big screen TV, and Jiro at the bar reaches up for the volume on the small one, and suddenly everybody is sitting straighter, all talk stops.

"…Kamenashi speaks to us at last…" comes the announcer's voice. Jin looks at Yamatani and Yamatani nods, and he gets up, gets closer, it won't look strange because others do it too and nobody is even pretending to ignore the TV any more.

Jin's first thought is that Kame is wearing a different suit. Grey, wide shoulders. Crisp white shirt, and the morning's pale blue tie replaced by a charcoal one. Somebody's been at his hair, too. He looks strong and amazing and Jin wonders how nervous he is.

Nothing shows. He doesn't even do that tongue thing. He smiles at the microphones that get pushed into his face, and waves aside the paper the woman next to him is holding out.

The reporters are a noisy lot, but they fall completely silent as soon as he starts to speak.

There's the usual. Apologies for causing concern. Apologies for making them wait.

"Blah blah," somebody next to Jin says, and half a dozen others go, "Shhh!"

Kame explains that the delay was caused by the need to consult lawyers about what he could and could not say, in case he and his co-stars decided to sue over allegations of improper dealings. Jin wonders if it's true.

"So you deny those allegations?" a reporter shouts out, and Kame raises his chin.

"I deny them completely. They are lies and they do a great injustice to many excellent actors with whom I have had the pleasure to work. I'd like to apologize to them for the embarrassment and distress caused."

There's an impeccable bow, and then Kame is standing straight again.

"So what about the rest?" somebody else calls, and the microphones hover closer again.

"You all know by now that those pictures were manufactured. I don't know who is trying to discredit me. I'm upset to think that I might have made somebody so unhappy that they felt they had to resort to such measures."

"He's delaying," Tsukada is muttering under his voice to his fat companion. "But they know that trick."

And right enough, "But is it true?" is the next question, asked by an eager young man with dark-rimmed glasses.

Jin holds his breath.

"Some of it is," Kame says, and then he has to stop, or maybe he stops for effect, but the noise in the crowd fills the pause for him. "Some of it is true. My marriage has been childless, and I have to admit that I failed as a husband. My wife has been patient and kind, but we have had to face the fact that we don't belong together. We are getting divorced."

"What the fuck," the fat guy says, and other people say other things and the reporters on screen say things and Jin's staring at Kame and Kame… is staring straight at him, he's sure, and Kame did it, he really did it, and wow.

Jin's feeling shaky all of a sudden.

Kame doesn't look shaky at all. So different from… twelve hours ago, it was, just twelve hours.

It's not the end of it, it's nowhere near the end, and there are questions about details, and questions about callboys which don't go away, and Kame listens with a sincere face until everybody's got it out of their system, and then he explains that he thinks whoever it was used the failed marriage as a basis for all sort sorts of random, irresponsible speculation, and tried to spice it up with fake photos.

"As for the ways in which I did fail in our marriage—" Jin can see he's addressing the female reporters specifically "—I would prefer to respect my wife's privacy and not hurt her more than I already have."

"Are you gay, then?" The pushy young man in the trenchcoat isn't giving up.

Kame blinks. Once. Smiles with an air of benign puzzlement. "Why does that matter to you… are you interested?"

You can almost hear the silent gasp, from everywhere, and Kame is just holding still. Like he was never a frightened mess. This is the clip they'll be running again forever, for years.

"I am sorry," Kame says with a hint of a smile, "for asking such a personal question, of course. I do not actually believe it is anyone's business, about you, about me, about anyone. Please respect my privacy, too."

Finally, he apologizes again – to his agent for causing trouble, to his co-stars for having their names dragged into this, to the reporters for making them wait so long. "I would like to thank my wife for her support and her friendship, and I'm deeply sorry things did not work out differently," he says, and maybe that's the clip they'll be running forever because for a moment Kame looks small and naked, you want to wrap him up and take him away. Then it's gone, and it's bows all round, and then all questions are ignored and he leaves.

"Holy shit," Satoshi says somewhere, and nobody shushes or apologizes. Then the buzzing picks back up, whispers, chairs being moved, someone lowering the volume on the bar TV.

"I don't think they accept such blatant members here," one of the older guys mutters, settling back into whichever group to a lot of anxious nodding.

"There'll be no fucking any of these guys tonight," Tadayoshi says next to him, and Jin stares at the mute screen without listening.

"I don't know about blatant, exactly," a lowered voice says, and someone else is going, "…such famous movies back then…" and careers and press and morals and children, for some fucking reason.

Holy shit is right.

Suddenly there's Tatsuya by his side; finding his eyes, ignoring the bustle. "Do you think he'll be okay?"

Jin's not sure. He doesn't know about showbiz, about how any of this works, but maybe… "I don't know," he says. "About his career. I don't know. He'll try?"

Tatsuya nods slowly, with a long probing look that Jin doesn't know how to read.

"I think he's okay apart from that," he says, surprising himself. "He seemed pretty okay."

Tatsuya seems to be finishing a thought. "I'm glad," he says then. "Very glad to hear that. Thank you."

Jin bows, just a little, and then the group is dispersing and Tatsuya is back with his client, and, right. At least he knows where to go.

He smiles fleetingly at Yamatani before taking hold of his tea. Cold again, it's his day for cold tea. But it doesn't matter.

Kame meant it. He's leaving his wife. He told everybody.

There's a beer, being set down in front of him. Jin's not sure how that happened. He squints at it for a long moment before he remembers it's beer, and what to do with it.

Yamatani is smiling at him. "I would never presume," he says. "But you looked like you might be finished with tea."

"Thank you," Jin says automatically. But, yeah. He takes three big long gulps, and it's cold, and good, and just right.

Holy shit.

"Quite the excitement," Yamatani says kindly, into the room at large.

"I guess," Jin says. "At least now we know? Everybody's been waiting…" He's still jittery, even with the beer emptying fast and the nice prickly glow in his stomach.

"It was a very risky statement." Yamatani is contemplating his tea, too. Replaying scenes, maybe. They're playing for Jin. Please respect my privacy. "I hope it will work out for him the way he wanted it."

Jin finishes his beer. "I hope so too," he mumbles. He feels his phone, in his pocket where they're not even supposed to keep it, but— no. He's in the lounge.

With a client.

Then he pulls it out and gives Yamatani a quick look, and says, "I know this is rude, but is it okay if I write someone a quick e-mail? I wouldn't ask if… you know." Somehow he's always asking people if he's allowed to e-mail today.

"Please," Yamatani says. "I don't mind at all."

I watched you. You were amazing. He's quick about it, and when he slides the phone shut and apologizes again, he feels even better.

It gets quiet like before. Yamatani muses about the press nowadays, so much more thirsty and ruthless than he remembers, and the internet that lets nothing go away and die. Then he talks about his son taking over the business, and his granddaughter, when she'll be old enough.

It's comfortable. Now and then Jin laughs, playing with his second beer, and Yamatani pretends he's not being silly.

The TV is mute now, and there's other stuff too, Americans and something about whales, and then Kame again.

Yamatani is watching him. They do like that clip, the one about Kame's wife. Yamatani tilts his head, is thinking, Jin watching the lines on his forehead.

He twirls his beer. "Did you ever think about it?"

It just happens. He knows he shouldn't have, and Ootomo would have a fit.

Yamatani knows what he means, and he tilts his head again. "I don't think so," he says, thoughtful like the question is entirely reasonable. "I was born in such a different time…" Then he smiles. "It's complicated. It was always complicated."

"Sorry," Jin says. "I'm sorry, that was rude."

Yamatani shrugs amiably. "I think it would be a little ridiculous if I got upset by you wondering about it. Don't you?"

"I don't know," Jin says, and he laughs a little awkwardly. "Most people don't seem to care if it's ridiculous or not."

"I suppose," Yamatani concedes with another smile. He drinks his tea, bitter with just enough sugar, and when he leans back again he's still lost in some train of thought.

"My wife's been dead fifteen years," he says, to something beyond Jin. "I really did love her. And so did our children. She never knew." He lifts his old shoulders. "I don't know what exactly that means."

It's not a real answer. Not even a whole story. But it's a weirdly private moment, and Jin smiles when he thinks it's okay, and they drink together.

They pass one more round talking about less loaded things. Jin thinks giddily that it's funny this is a bit like Tomo's van, cheering him up and distracting him, only in a sex club with a nice old client.

"Excuse me for barging in like this," comes from beside him. "I noticed you both are about to be out of drinks… might I join you?"

It's Eda.

Of course. Somehow that just fits.

Jin looks at Yamatani, who takes in the scene with a fleeting little smile and says… "I think that will be up to Jin. As I won't be staying much longer…" He's made no move to leave, but he knows what Eda is fishing for, and of course that's polite, and of course Jin will say yes, thanks, feel free, because that's what he does in the lounge even when Kame is sitting right next to him and he's got only himself to blame—

"We were so rudely interrupted last time," Eda says regretfully as he drops himself into the empty armchair. But then he smiles at Jin. "Not likely to happen today, eh?" His eyes flick meaningfully towards the TV screen.

Jin feels himself turn hot; but that's just his heart, his pulse, his body. His mind is cold, and right now it's very careful.

Yamatani is politely studying his drink.

"The cheek of some people," Eda adds, like he's being confidential with Jin, and he winks. "Guess we'll see where that'll land them now, right?"

It could have been Eda, Jin thinks, everything still slow. He sure dislikes Kame enough. But there are the confidentiality agreements, and Eda doesn't know where Kame lives.

Jin should hold on to the regulars he still has. That would be the clever thing. Put up with it. It won't kill him.

Kame didn't do the clever thing an hour ago.

"Excuse me for one brief moment, please," he says to Yamatani, and then he gets up and steps away, inviting Eda to follow. Just a couple of steps, enough for politeness. Politeness is important.

"I'm afraid," he says, still polite, "tonight's not a good night."

"But this gentleman there just—"

"Or any night," Jin says, with a weird shiver of fear down his spine and the rest of him just right. "I think you might find one of my colleagues much more pleasing than me in the future."

He notices that Yamatani is stirring his tea, trying hard not to be an audience.

Eda is staring at him. "More— but I'm very happy with… but you—" It's sinking in in disbelieving little spurts.

Jin thinks of Eda's fingers, of soccer, of his deep intrusive laugh when he pats Jin and is encouraging.

"I'll be happy to recommend someone," he says. If Eda's fool enough to accept, he'll end up with Jun.

"You don't… how ungrateful…" And he's finally got it. His eyes are cold.

Jin bows, because it's the club, and he says, "Thank you very much for all the kindness you have shown me so far," because it doesn't hurt.

It doesn't hurt at all. They're done.

Eda turns on his heel and leaves.


Kame may have to re-build half his life. Jin can find a couple new clients.

Jin stands for a few more blinks, clears his throat. When he sits again his legs feel wobbly.

"Sorry about that," he says to Yamatani. "It's… I just…"

He shrugs. There's really not much more to say, and he doesn't comment on clients, not even the not valued ones.

"I'm sure it's not my business," Yamatani says, with a little twitch to his mouth. "Quite an evening we are having, isn't it?"

"Yeah." Jin feels weirdly out of breath. Quite an evening. Quite a day.

He wonders if they've let Kame go home by now. Where home is now. The apartment, most likely. Jin's glad he tidied up the bed for him.

"More exhausting day for some than for others." Yamatani gives him a gentle look, before his expression switches to casual. "Would you like another drink?"

Jin would, but he's wondering if he's starting to be an imposition.

"I think I'd go for wine myself," Yamatani muses. "A moderate and appropriate little glass can't hurt?"

Jin is laughing, and he's not even sure why. He sticks with beer, though. Yamatani finds that totally appropriate too.


Chapter 50


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