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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 52


Monday 16 March

It gets worse.

You wouldn't think it, but it does, and it wears him down. The nervous elation of finally making a move and cutting through the lies lasted for half a day; the public fallout stretches out through days and days, a grey fog of animosity and fear. He goes to sleep with dread curling around his insides, and when he wakes up it doesn't feel any better.

It's okay when he's at work, what there's left of it. He felt the wary curiosity in people's stares for the first two days, but when he didn't start walking with swishy hands or hitting on Morioka, the novelty must have worn off, or maybe they decided that his plea for privacy hid no deep, deviant secrets. Morioka himself is quiet support though they never talk about it, make small talk about the sandwiches instead. So filming's a breeze, and productive, and between lobsters and knives there are whole hours when he doesn't think about scandals and exposure.

But some nights he wakes up, bolt upright and convinced he heard a phone call, fumbles around in the fuzzy light for another lost project, his agency telling him they've had enough of this hassle, they're done.

The light's on for Jin. Kame steals closer to him then, mumbles something about dreaming of earthquakes.

He sleeps better when Jin is around.

Hamaguchi reads him the press coverage when he's at the agency. She must have interns on it, thorough ones who like to make her happy, to catch all this. The papers talk around him, around 'gay', ringing omissions that Hamaguchi vindictively translates for him. He's at the agency a lot. Talking about his future and his image; more often than not they're one and the same. Nobody's sure yet what to do with either.

Nobody's sure how it happened, who or what's behind it. Tokyo Sports is protecting its source, even though in the end the source let them down.

What followed was only more set pictures, Kame talking to men, to the boys in school uniforms. "Nothing, really," Hamaguchi commented, and Kame knows you can make nothing look like anything but it all faded next to what he gave them that day. Stills from his press conference, his own words this time in red ink.

The front page is back to car sales and political scandals, but Kame stays on in the entertainment sections for a week; then in the weeklies, the weekend overviews, the Monday after when AOKI sign thirty-something Kanagawa Yuuto for their suits. Kame worked with him in the law drama.

"Contractual delays," Hamaguchi quotes, her glossy nails sharp on the headlines. "That's you."

Some days he's watching all this as if through a foggy lens, a spectator to his own life, and there's a crazy guy who threw his career and the respect of his colleagues in a blender and pressed a button labelled DESTROY.

On Wednesday he leaves a meeting between the second and the third round of coffee, excuses himself from a discussion of which talk show to pitch him to after Hanamaru withdrew their invitation, and sits down on a toilet lid and just wants out, out and away, somewhere nobody knows him and nobody hates him, where nobody uninvites him from things.

He was such a huge success, and now people don't want him on their show. He's gay, he lied, he slept with whores, and nobody will ever like him again.

Five minutes, he sits and breathes. He remembers Souji finding him in a bathroom and he laughs, but he doesn't feel lighter. He goes back out, orders another coffee, and Hamaguchi says she doesn't have a pleasant history with Fuji's Morning Breakfast but they value scoop over respectability, and maybe there's room to negotiate.

It's the same day Jin sends him an e-mail saying he got the apartment; Jin writes cautiously, as if he doesn't want to get excited, but Kame can tell by tone now that he's really happy. He holds the words in both of his hands and doesn't feel so alone.

When he can't come over, Jin writes him a lot too.

Kame talks to a lawyer. In some ways this is easiest, blessedly structured and blunt: he wants a divorce, he wants it fast, and his wife's not at fault for anything. The man gets paid and doesn't judge him, and as a divorce lawyer he's seen much worse.

It takes a while to see which way the fans jump. The letters start arriving a few days in and Hamaguchi scans them for him. "Poor Kame-chan, evil agency," she counts out. "Evil Kamenashi, how could you dare not tell your fans first." She flicks to the next one. "Poor Kame-chan, evil paparazzi." Flick. "Evil paparazzi. Evil paparazzi. Evil Kamenashi. Poor Kame-chan, evil wife. Evil agency. Congrats on your impending wedding to Morioka-san."

She keeps the bad ones away from him, and he's too scared to even read the supportive ones, for fear they'll call him brave when he feels anything but.

Life goes on; it has that habit, was what his grandmother said when his grandfather died, and she wasn't entirely with it then but the thought sticks to Kame's brain like waterproof make-up and this can't be worse than somebody dying, and so he'd better keep it together.

He tells himself he had it coming, in the moments when he wants to curl up and take it all back. He doesn't get to be a wimp.

He catches his rest when Jin is there. Jin gets in late most nights and Kame gets tired, but he waits up. Like he said, he thinks; but that's an excuse, like he's keeping a promise when what he needs are those few hours in the day when he knows it's worth it, and he almost feels happy.

 

Thursday 19 March

He doesn't go into the agency on Thursday. He requested a postponement and Hamaguchi had nothing urgent. He still has filming, but it's short, and when he turns the key in the door and hears a soft tune of piano and guitars, he's smiling already.

"Hey," Jin says, darting up from the sofa and turning the music lower, even though it wasn't loud. "You're early." He's smiling too.

"I ran away," Kame says, as if Jin will believe it. He had motivation to get all his scenes done in one, though. "I missed you."

Jin is in jeans and a simple black t-shirt. It's ordinary and beautiful, better than Kame ever thought he'd have.

Jin catches his look, and Kame thinks he's blushing. "I made myself some tea," he says, gesturing vaguely at the spotless kitchen. The only evidence of tea is a lone mug on the coffee table.

Jin cleared breakfast away, too. "And I put your bathrobe in the hamper, it had egg on it. I hope you don't mind."

"No, thank you." Kame casts a look around the place while he gets out of his suit and into something comfortable. "I hope you didn't spend all day cleaning up after me, though."

"No fear," Jin says with a laugh. "Can't put poor Watanabe-san out of business."

Kame spoke to her yesterday. Told her that a friend would be using the apartment, too. If she had opinions about it, she kept them safe behind a professional smile and a polite bow.

"Did you have a nap?" The bed's immaculately made, but Jin tends to collapse in the afternoon if he dragged himself out of bed heroically for breakfast together at seven.

"Hm," Jin says shiftily; he gets embarrassed by how much sleep he needs. "Might have?" But he's smiling.

Jin makes him tea, too; it gives Kame time to just watch him moving around comfortably, and to shake off the rattling thoughts from outside. Jin got in early Wednesday afternoon, no work, no worrying, just stayed. These are the best days in Kame's week.

"How was your day?" he asks, for once not uneasy about the answer.

"Quiet," Jin says. "Relaxing. I checked out subway connections for my new place." He looks pleased; Kame just waits for Jin to put the teapot down before he steps in and slides his arms around Jin, shutting his eyes against Jin's neck.

Jin holds him, too. He feels soft and strong. They can do that now, Kame thinks, with that insistent happy flicker. He didn't just lose.

"How was yours?" Jin asks.

"Better," Kame says. "It's much better now."

"Nobody yell at you?"

"They're being strategically silent." He laughs and feels Jin's sigh. Being home is like breathing after a heavy run.

He feels desire, too. A fuzzy hum underneath, memory and want, and he feels better, connected, when they're together like that. But it's Thursday, the one day Jin doesn't have to think about sex, so in the end he just steps away.

Jin has bought a bag of taiyaki, waves it enticingly under Kame's nose. Kame smiles and picks one. If his career ends up shot to hell, at least he can get as fat as Jin wants to feed him.

"I spoke to Tanaka, too," Jin says. "He called me."

Kame tries not to get excited. No pressure, no expectations. "Does that mean—"

"It just means he wants to talk to me," Jin says. He's also not excited; that alone is more telling than anything. "He says we should meet up sometime, let the band… well, they should get to talk to me too."

"Did you set a date?"

"Maybe next Thursday, or the one after that."

"Good," Kame says, and maybe it even is. He didn't think Tanaka would get in touch with Jin before he had anything more substantial on the table, but Kame is the one who asked a favour and now he can't complain.

"It's nice of him," Jin says carefully. "But we'll see. So, are we doing the rice thing?"

Kame promised to teach him how to make fried rice. Jin looks like this is far more fascinating than anything Tanaka can currently offer.

It's restful, watching Jin chop bacon and sausages and spring onions, make omelette only to cut it up. Kame tries not to interfere much. Jin laughs at the way his hands are twitching when Jin's a bit late turning the omelette or a piece of sausage ends up twice as long as the others.

In the end it tastes just like always – at least Kame's portion does; Jin added chilli sauce to his. They eat sitting on the couch with their feet up on the coffee table and some American metal band on low, Kame with a glass of good wine, Jin choosing water. He's making plans for what bed he wants to buy, and wants Kame's opinion because Kame is expected to stay over.

"The fold-out ones don't have such good mattresses," Jin says, frowning at a piece of sausage. "But the space…" He's wearing the warm socks that he keeps in the drawer next to Kame's underwear.

Kame wants it to be Thursday forever.

Jin's guitar is leaning against the bookshelf. Maybe he practiced earlier, for the Open Mic tonight. Maybe in a few weeks, Kame will work up the nerve to ask Jin to play his songs for him here.

They finish their rice and load the dishwasher. When they're back on the couch, Jin sticks his feet under Kame's legs.

"It's almost eight," Kame points out helpfully after a happy little while of basking in food glow and fondling Jin's ankle.

"Yeah…" Jin looks around the room. He's biting his lip. "It's kind of sucky for you if I go now."

"It's Thursday. You have commitments." The last thing Kame wants is to be in the way of something that's important to Jin. "I can wait up, if you want to come by after?" He wants to say he can pay for a cab and he wants Jin to say yes, of course he'll come. But he'll deal either way.

"I don't know how you don't drop dead with all this not-sleeping that you do," Jin says, and then he frowns. "Don't drop dead, okay?"

Kame laughs, and promises with a kiss to the tip of Jin's socked toe.

"I'll come by if you nap," Jin smiles.

So they have a deal, and Kame anticipates a quiet evening of going over scripts, napping, and then there'll be Jin again. Peaceful.

"It would be nicer if you could come with me," Jin says at the door, ducking his head into his collar when he's not even outside.

It's not an invitation, Kame can hear that. He couldn't accept anyway; he'd be too nervous, and Jin would worry, when he's there to have fun with his friends. Who knows what Yamashita-san makes of Kame now.

"I'll be here," he says, "warming the bed." And that makes it better, because it's what people do; go out and do things, and then they come home. On Thursdays even the wait feels good.

*~*~*

He wakes up from the key in the door that night, Jin sneaking in smelling of beer and smoke, five hours before they'll have breakfast. He's damp and smells of shampoo when he slips in under the covers, tipsy enough to giggle when their noses bump.

"They were there," he whispers, clinging to Kame and sticking really cold feet between Kame's legs. Kame loves even his cold feet. "The band guys, they came to see me. God I was so nervous."

Kame pats him. No excitement, not in the middle of the night, and Jin mumbles how it's awesome when Kame plays bedwarmer, and then he's quiet, or drifting off.

He still sleeps better with Jin around. He feels it under his skin all day, even when he goes into the agency on Friday morning and Hamaguchi is pacing her tiled office, informing him he's not been nominated for any of the usual awards this spring.

*~*~*

In the second week he buys a washing machine. It feels wasteful and weirdly exposed to take underwear to the cleaner's, and he's an adult with an apartment and a boyfriend and he figures he should have a washing machine. He makes sure it's delivered while he's in; isn't so ready to leave Jin to deal with deliverymen in his home and let them draw their conclusions.

He's nervous; they're polite and normal and have him sign receipts, and the one thing that makes them take notice is his impressive flatscreen TV.

Jin kisses him later and laughs that they're right, it's a cool TV. Jin starts leaving more things, and their t-shirts and sweatpants get mixed in the laundry.

Kame gets some more items from the house: the rest of his wardrobe, his important papers. Midori said she'd rather he did it while she's at work, so he's alone in the house, which is almost the same as ever, except their wedding picture is gone. He feels his heart go tight whenever he thinks of her when they were friends, because he liked her so much, because he cared for her opinion. But he can't feel anything when he walks around the house, looks at the nice furniture Midori picked, their dining table. Maybe he's defective somehow.

He gets back to work. Dieting season soon, yoghurt to be eaten, and he's doing more ads for his money this year, "as a gesture". He smiles brightly as ever and eats the strawberry flavour, the vanilla, whatever they put in front of him. He's losing weight by the week and thinks he must be setting a pretty good example.

His parents call him, time and again. He says there is work, keeps it short. They love him but they also love his wife, and out of all the opinions the world has on him, their sadness feels worst. Out of all the things he has coming, this is one he's a coward about.

*~*~*

In the third week, he gets a call while he's on set, from someone he doesn't recognise. His cell has a closely guarded number and he's wondering if his mother bought a new phone as he picks up.

"Kamenashi speaking."

"Um, hi," says a voice; a young voice. "This is, sorry. This is Kobi. Your agent said I could call you here."

Kobi, teacher film nerd. The only reason Kame gets it this quickly is because of how the film got dragged into the scandal. They haven't seen each other since the premiere, almost two months ago. "Hello, Kobi-kun," he says, and waits cautiously.

"Hi," the boy says again. Then there's silence.

"Is everything all right?" Kame asks eventually. He's apologized to everyone who had their name even mentioned in the wake of his mess, but this is making him uneasy.

"Sorry," the kid says. "I mean. I wanted to say sorry about the pictures. Like, I didn't know, when she asked for them. It was just, you know, we were all sharing pictures and I didn't think… it's not like they're bad pictures or anything."

Pictures. His heart thumps into a sudden nervous pace. "Which pictures?"

"The pictures from the set. Of you and. Well. All of us. They were just really harmless but—"

"Who asked for them?"

"Um. Matsura-san."

Matsura. Sharp smile and big plans.

Calling the boys, Kamenashi and his boys. Female co-stars have no chance.

"I mean, I don't know what she did with them. I don't want to make stuff up," the boy mumbles. "But when I saw some of them in the papers, I felt kind of bad. But I didn't know what to say, and then it took me ages to figure out how to reach you without, um. Talking to some other people."

"Thanks," Kame says numbly. "Thank you. Was there—" Anything else, but no, there's nothing, because nothing happened, no gifts no pulling strings nothing. Nothing real.

"I appreciate you calling me, that's very considerate," he says instead, and finally his brain starts to unfreeze. Yes, this explains why nothing followed from the whore accusations, why nothing about that went anywhere near the club, anywhere near the truth.

"We're all really sorry," Kobi says. "The other guys, too. We didn't know, like she was chatting up a lot of us but we didn't know."

"It's fine," Kame says. "And you're right, those were perfectly appropriate pictures. Please don't worry about it."

He hears the boy exhale, loudly. "Yeah. That's what I thought. We didn't want you to be mad."

"I'm not mad," Kame says. He doesn't even knows what he is, just yet, what he will be when the stunned feeling fades, but Kobi needs to know he did the right thing. "I'm grateful, really grateful." The appropriate words come on autopilot. "Please give my regards to the others, tell them I look forward to working with you again sometime."

*~*~*

"I'm sorry." Kame's hands are jittery, the coffee vile as ever. "I probably shouldn't be telling you all that..." Maybe any minute now someone will call them out on hiding in a corner, looking gay together. "Sorry."

"What?"

"It's… just gossip," Kame says tightly. "Speculation." It just seemed to pour out of his mouth.

Morioka frowns. "No, really, that's cool… what are friends for, right?" He has a sip of the horrible coffee and doesn't even make a face, he's thinking that hard. "I hate to say it… It's a pretty awful thing to do, so thinking someone you know…. But, man. It would make a sad sort of sense."

"That's what I thought," Kame admits.

"Maybe I should have known that day in the coffee shop, when she didn't get the part," Morioka says with another frown.

"Oh?"

"Yeah. She was pretty pissed off. Thought you'd helped me but not her. I didn't really engage with her, but I didn't think she'd go and do something this calculated. I mean, why?"

Souji did it for the money. And to hurt him.

"Who knows," Kame says.

"Or why she'd make up that. Just because you didn't pretend the junior actors didn't exist?"

Yes, the prostitution angle. What a crazy hit. Maybe she sat at home wondering why he never denied it.

"Maybe if she looked into previous… allegations." He's spent so much time pretending that's not out there, it gives him a tiny shiver to be speculating about it with Morioka. "Maybe she assumed that someone who she thought… favoured men…" He thinks of the club, glitz and glamour he hasn't seen in weeks. Of Tanaka and discretion and Kitagawa Financial Services. "Maybe she thought that's just the way someone like that would do it."

Today seems to be the day where stuff just comes out of his mouth.

"Yeah, but I haven't seen you buy anyone gold watches or a fancy car yet," Morioka says. "Honestly…"

Kame laughs on half a breath. "I'm glad it wasn't someone more important."

Morioka is watching him. He's not an idiot, he'll have put pieces together by now, and maybe he just got a few more pieces, and maybe there should be a shiver there, too. But there isn't.

Suddenly Morioka flushes. "Sorry. I got a bit blunt, I shouldn't have done that."

Kame just shakes his head. "Don't worry. To be honest, it's refreshing."

"Right," Morioka grins, toasting him with the awful coffee. "Like pieces of fish in your face."

*~*~*

That night he curls into Jin, clinging and silent, wired from the hours of waiting for him, and he can't get enough of Jin's soft scent under the scrubbing and soap, he can't get close enough, he wishes Jin would take him.

Jin strokes through his hair, his chest rising with anger when Kame tells him what he learned, what Morioka thought, and the ways this ugly theory adds up.

It's brought it all back; hurting Jin, losing everything.

But eventually they go to sleep, and when they have a drowsy breakfast together, Kame is merely relieved that now he knows. Knows why he's going cheap for yoghurt, and why the people at the agency look at him funny, every day, even now.

He wonders if that's what Souji wanted for him.

At work he tells Hamaguchi about it, because she stuck it out with him and deserves to know where the lies came from, and there's a moment where she looks like she is going through a mental list of ways to make Matsura sorry she crossed someone under Hamaguchi's management.

"But the divorce came from me," he says, and she'll know what he means. The stuff that stuck was all him, as she is fond of reminding him.

"True," she says with a raised eyebrow. "Does that mean you don't want measures taken?"

He has moments when he wonders why he's not more angry. But the first lies, the biggest lies were his, and Kame is done making others pay.

"I think it's best if we all moved on."

They talk about dramas for the fall, and whether he should go for supporting roles, if that would make his life easier. NHK has hinted they want to shake things up, try new things. "Not have a Kamenashi drama this year," Kame translates himself this time.

Hamaguchi looks steely, her coffee untouched. "I have had it," she says, "with these little hypocrite shits," which makes her assistant nearly drop her PDA. It's the first time Kame's heard her use language like that.

He doesn't reply; doesn't agree.

"You," she says, pointing, "won them four Best Actor awards, and every other fan award that is out there." She grabs her pen, and for a moment Kame worries what she'll do with it. But then she twirls it, the most deliberate girly twirl Kame has ever seen. "And they're going to be pretty sorry when I'll have you winning them for somebody else. So you better not think about fucking quitting."

They still discuss the move to supporting roles. But that's the nicest thing she's ever said to him.

On his way out his phone pings, e-mail from Jin. With a picture, something large and poorly-lit and purple. I can't make up my mind, do you think these are okay for curtains? it says. Or too dark? Should I go with boring and white?

He laughs. Curtains. Maybe it doesn't only get worse.

Maybe you should buy your sofa first? he writes back. Just in case it's orange.

~

Chapter 53

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