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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 53

Wednesday 8 April

"Wow," Yuuya says profoundly. "Which old lady left you these?"

He has Jin's rice bowls, five of them neatly stacked, and is holding them up as if Jin forgot to clean them and left them to grow pets.

"I bought them," Jin says. "Day I moved in. They were there." White, with purple flowers. "And cheap."

Yuuya nods like he totally understands that part of it, and Jin gets back to taping bubble-wrap around his sound system.

"But you kept them," Yuuya says ten seconds later, and when Jin looks up, he's still staring, holding the bowls warily at arm's length. It's actually quite funny.

"I know they're ugly, but they work, okay? They're just for eating."

"Quarter of a blow job, Jin," Yuuya says. "And you could have had something nice."

Jin tosses some balled-up newspaper at him. "I think you're doing it wrong. What does a guy do with a quarter of a blow job?"

Yuuya gives the kitchen cupboards a meaningful look. "You could have spent the rest on some actual wine glasses." He straightens out the newspaper and finally starts to wrap the bowls up, one by one. "I can't believe we'll be carrying these."

"There's an elevator," Jin says with a grin. "So shut up."

It's a Wednesday, and Jin is moving. He's told his bank, he's paid the key money, and on Friday he'll give back the keys to the old place to Ootomo.

Tomo's out working. Jin insisted he shouldn't feel guilty for having no time, and it's not like Jin has enough possessions to need a van anyway. Just his kitchen stuff and the clothes. He told Yuuya he could manage, too, but Yuuya wouldn't hear of it.

"Hey, I never see you in that nice grey suit any more." Yuuya has put down one of the bigger boxes in front of the wardrobe. "You used to wear that a lot when I first knew you."

"Yeah," Jin says. He no longer gets a crawling feeling in his stomach at the sight of it. But he can't really see himself wearing it again, either. "I guess I just stopped liking it."

While folding up clothes, Yuuya tells him how he's decided he has to watch the cocktails because a couple of his favourites are getting a bit tight on him.

"You're probably still growing," Jin says. He stacks the wrapped speakers next to the microwave he bought the other day, still in its box.

"Then they'd be getting too short," Yuuya says. "Either way it's a hassle. They're not even out of fashion." He's very conscientious about folding and stacking the clothes, even the jeans and t-shirts Jin would have just tossed in. Jin hurries on to his underwear and dumps it all in his emptied gym bag.

They're making good time, Jin's modest household investments meaning there is little random crap to pack. Two hours after they started, Jin puts the last of his toiletries in a plastic box while Yuuya is wiping out the empty fridge.

Then they're as done as they can be before the boxes are actually gone. Jin has bought canned coffee for break times, and they sit on the white couch that came with the white apartment, look around the bare white walls and bask in their quick work.

It looked like this when he moved in. He thought it was heaven.

"I could take it from here," he says, surveying the boxes. One for the kitchen, two for clothes, two for all the rest. And the microwave. He makes an easy-going face. "Really. If you wanted…"

"I'm in no hurry to be anywhere," Yuuya says lightly. He sips at his drink. "How clean does this have to be? Did you leave stuff out?"

Jin makes a face in the direction of the bathroom. "Vacuum and mop," he says, which makes Yuuya grin.

Ten minutes later, and exactly on time, the doorbell rings. Jin casts a quick look at Yuuya, who looks perfectly polite. All right then.

"Hey," Kame says, looking adorable in what is probably the Prada version of a hoodie and jeans.

"Hey," Jin says. He thinks he manages not to sound too much like Kame looks adorable. "Did everything… everything okay? With, um, the car. And stuff." He gestures for Kame to step inside.

"Yes, perfectly. I found a spot just across from the front door."

"Good. Great. We just finished packing."

Yuuya has stood up and is bowing, just right for distant acquaintances. "Hello."

Kame returns the greeting. His half-smile looks like he took it prisoner. "Hello, Yuuya-san. It's good to see you. I hope the packing went smoothly?"

"We're all done," Yuuya smiles politely. There's a pause.

"Do you want—"

"That's great—"

"—coffee?" Jin finishes helplessly.

Kame takes a moment to think. "Later?" he says, all light and sunshine. Yeah, right. "I haven't done any work yet."

Yuuya just smiles. Politely.


Jin's glad there's stuff to do. Things to organize, things to carry, no room for failing attempts at small talk. Within ten minutes, they have everything downstairs and loaded into Kame's trunk and the part of the back seat not occupied by Yuuya. Five minutes later, they are at the new apartment, and all the boxes come out again.

"Thank you," Jin says to Kame while Yuuya is getting the last bags from inside the car. "That was a real help. We'd be fine from here, if you've got, you know, work…"

But Kame shakes his head. "It's fine. I took the afternoon off. Lamps, right?"

Yeah, lamps.

Yuuya extracts himself from the back seat with Jin's water heater under one arm, Jin's ugly brown extra blanket under the other. "Okay," he says, "what next?"

"Right," Jin says. He asked for the help. "Let's take it up."

Kame latches on to the nearest box as if he gets paid for it. "Okay," he says, still holding that smile hostage.

They pile the two boxes and Yuuya's load into the elevator. Yuuya is inspecting the elevator button as if deformed cat art is his new burning interest. Under other circumstances Jin would be curious what they make of the house, but they're both so pointedly noncommittal that he wouldn't get real answers anyway.

Kame frowns at the little stack. "Maybe we should—" But he breaks off and shakes his head.

"What?" Jin asks.



Kame blinks. He seems to take a mental run at something. "I was just wondering if we should load the elevator as much as we can and send it up like that. If that would be quicker. But— you don't have that much anyway. It's fine."

Yuuya is watching them patiently, hands in his pockets. He's pressed the right button already.

"I want to show you the place first," Jin decides, and Kame nods his immediate cooperation. He looks like that sometimes when he asks Jin about his day at work. Resolutely untroubled.

Up on his floor, Yuuya takes in the bonsai pictures. Kame projects helpful harmlessness and doesn't take in anything much. Jin doesn't know what he'll do with the two of them if he ever needs a toilet break.

Still he's a little bit excited when he unlocks the door and switches on the naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. His own place, with his own money. And his boyfriend carrying his kitchenware.

"Sweet," Yuuya says, eyeing the floor, the windows, the power sockets along the north wall.

Jin can't help grinning. "You like it?"

"It's small, but it looks like what you said you wanted. And clean."

"It looks like someone takes care of this place," Kame says with an approving nod.

Yuuya looks at him, without the escort smile this time, and Jin holds his breath a little, but Kame just faces him very calmly. "I own a small apartment building. From what I know this looks good."

Yuuya nods. "Yeah. I'm glad. Good for Jin."

They make a new pile, out of the way, over where Jin says his sofabed will go once he gets it delivered.

At least, Yuuya points out, Jin doesn't have to agonize over which room to put things in, which makes Jin laugh and Kame produce a respectful smile. Then they admire the double glazing. When Jin starts pondering the size of the tiny kitchen cupboard, Yuuya says he can load the elevator again and Jin can direct proceedings up here. It makes them all pause when they realize it's Kame's car and Yuuya needs Kame's key, but Kame hands it over, saying he thinks it's an excellent idea.

And Yuuya trots off, looking like nothing could ever be wrong in the world. Maybe Jin should go to the toilet now, just in case.

He sticks a shoe in the door for convenience, and straightens up to see Kame standing right where they left him.

"Are you okay?" Jin asks quietly.

"Yes, I'm fine." He's always fine.

"What was that, in the elevator?"

Kame gives him a funny little smile, but it looks genuine at last. "I was trying to organize us," he admits. "But I didn't think he'd appreciate it."

The dodgy light brings out the shadows under his eyes. He really isn't sleeping much, and when he does he's clinging to Jin half the time. Jin thinks he doesn't even notice.

"Do you want to go home?" Jin asks, to a surprised blink. "You helped me a lot already. It was great, with the car and all. If you don't need this…" Kame knows what he means.

"I thought we were still going shopping."

Lampshades. Some other stuff from the DIY store that is more convenient to get with a car. "Yeah, but. That can wait. I don't have to do everything today. You don't need to drive my crap around all day."

"I'm okay," Kame says. "Also, your boyfriend. Driving your crap around all day when you move is what I do." He stuffs his hands into his designer pockets; it looks so far from smooth Jin wants to hug him. Kame tilts his head to the door. "He's your friend, he's helping you too. I'm fine."

"Okay," Jin says, and, "thanks," and he's just thinking of really hugging him when they hear the elevator ping. Kame nods, and they go to help unload.

This load has the sound system, clothes and kitchen stuff. "If you could do the kitchen," Jin says to Kame, because he wants to do the stereo himself, and Yuuya will be better with the suits. "Just organize it like you have yours, then I'll know where to find stuff."

He shows Yuuya the door rail he's going to use to hang the suits until he buys a wardrobe, shows him where and how he wants the other clothes stacked in the meantime, and then he sits down to fiddle with wires. They work in silence, the most noticeable sounds coming from the crockery and cutlery Kame is sorting into a couple of shelves and a drawer.

When the sound stops, Jin looks up. Kame isn't done yet. He's standing holding one of Jin's rice bowls, turning it with slow fascination and a secret little smile.

"Ye-es?" Jin says, and Kame tries to make a straight face, which fails.

Jin raises his eyebrows at Kame.

"I guess they're okay for eating?" Kame offers.

From the other corner of the room Jin hears a snort, but when he sneaks a look, Yuuya has got his most harmless face on, engrossed by Jin's socks.


Thursday 9 April

It's a pretty nondescript office building in a pretty nondescript part of Chiyoda, and when the elevator opens onto the sixth floor, Jin thinks that he didn't expect music production to look so mundane. Once he's past reception there's a small, comfortable lounge, and the only things giving away that this isn't a dentist's waiting room are the framed gold and platinum records on the walls and the music magazines stacked tidily in a rack.

Jin feels like he's in a dentist's waiting room anyway. He's more nervous than somebody who isn't even sure he wants this gig has any call to be. But here he is, in a Kame outfit for luck, sipping the tea the receptionist brought him with apologies that Tanaka-san was held up in an important phone call.

He's sipped about half of it when he hears a few banging doors, and Tanaka appears in frayed black jeans and a washed-out black t-shirt, casts one look at him and breaks into a grin.

"Oh boy. He could have told you I don't stand on ceremony."

Jin can't think of a clever response to that. "I could roll my sleeves up?"

"No, no, it's okay, don't worry." Tanaka is still standing, bouncing on the balls of his – sneakered – feet. "Let's go through to my office, this place here is a bit stuffy."

So Jin finds himself four doors down, right at the end of the corridor, in a much larger, much messier room. The walls are papered with concert posters and random notes. The huge desk in the middle is barely visible under two laptops, mounds of paperwork, boxes of kibble, some small drums and – Jin thinks – a Yamaha MOX.

Tanaka clears another laptop and a set of headphones off a chair for him.

"So," he says, once Jin has sat down and made sure not to kick the dog bowl under the desk. "Kame asked if you could join JUNGLELOW but on the phone you said you weren't really sure if you wanted to. Usually, it works the other way round, so I'm intrigued."

"Yeah, well," Jin says uncomfortably. "He asked you before he asked me. I never thought about it before. I don't know if it's very realistic just to quit my job and join a band."

"Yet here you are," Tanaka points out.

"Yeah, well," Jin catches himself saying again. Eloquent. "I mean… it's not that I don't like the idea. And I'm really grateful that you're discussing it with me. But I've got a job that pays well, and I made plans and things, for security. With this, I don't even know what I'd earn." He's uncomfortable putting it like that. He doesn't want to sound like he's demanding things. But if he doesn't get good answers, he knows he's not going to do it anyway, so in the end it makes no difference. Might as well ask his questions straight. "Or what happens if people stop liking us."

Tanaka is pursing his lips and nodding. "That's fair. Not many young guys view it realistically like that, there's more of a suck-it-and-see approach." He shakes himself a little. "Sorry, I didn't mean… well."

Jin can't help a small grin escaping. "No problem."

"Here's how it works with the bands I sign," Tanaka says. "I give them a contract – usually two years for starters, for new bands. I pay them a salary – not huge, certainly not what you're earning just now. Enough to get by. At the same time, I produce their records; usually three singles, one album per year. I promote them, organize appearances, provide touring backup and equipment. Any profits, I get ninety per cent, the band ten."

Ninety. Jin blinks. Even Ootomo only takes fifty.

"And if we don't make much?"

"Then you live on your salaries for two years, and I run a loss. After two years, I decide whether it's worth continuing or not."

"So…" Jin says slowly. "If I'm unlucky, I'm out of a job after two years of earning, well, not very much?" It wouldn't give him much of a chance to save up.

"In a nutshell." Tanaka leans back in his executive chair, studying Jin. "But you have a rich boyfriend."

Jin tries not to wince. He doesn't want to sound like he doesn't trust Kame, or wouldn't appreciate his help… but the truth is he wouldn't, and it's complicated, and he doesn't even think he wants to explain it to anybody who isn't Kame.

"Yeah," he says. "I want to be his boyfriend, too. Not his boytoy. I need my own job." It's close enough to the truth.

"Like now?" Tanaka says.

"I make enough that I can stop in two years, support myself while I learn something different." Or in a year. Even a year would help. "A sure thing, not like music." It hurts him to say it like that, but that's just the way it is.

"You really want to make him wait two years?"

"I don't want to. You don't think I like that job, right?"

"So it's just that you're scared."

Jin takes a breath to argue, but what's the point. Tanaka has never been homeless, has never been a whore. Wouldn't understand what it feels like when you've got to depend on charity or on your looks to survive. "Maybe."

Tanaka gives him a long look. Then he puts on a smile. "Well, as it happens, JUNGLELOW are here today for going over some stuff, and I got some lemon tarts from Robuchon's. You guys can have coffee together and chat a bit, purely non-committal. They've got Tsukioka-san until the end of the current promo run, though he's taking a big step back. Nobody's really sure yet if they should continue as five, or find a new sixth, and who it should be. But here you are, and maybe they can answer some of your questions, too."

Right. Jin's not sure why Tanaka is still putting up with him; he knows how he must be coming across. But he's led down the corridor again, to a room nearer the front, where JUNGLELOW are sitting in armchairs around a low table, poring over photographs of themselves amidst a lot of green.

"Hey, Akanishi-kun!" Ochiai, their remaining guitarist, notices Jin first, looking up from a picture that shows him in a creepy forest. "Recovered after all those beers?"

"I managed to stumble into a cab," Jin says with a grin. "You guys got home okay?"

"Saku-chan was terribly hung-over," Misa says with a toss of her hair. It's more orange today than it was last Thursday, or maybe that's just the light. Jin's discovered that he really likes her, now that he's no longer intimidated by her.

"I really should know better," Saku-chan says, screwing up her nose. It looks cutely inconsistent with the elegant clothes she's wearing. "Since I know what all those gin and tonics are doing to my brain and my liver."

"What's this?" Tanaka is raising surprised eyebrows. "You guys went and got drunk together?"

"They came to the bar," Jin says, a little puzzled himself. He'd assumed that Tanaka knew.

"When you told us to meet up with him, we thought we'd check him out," Kurata says without the slightest remorse. The studs of her leather jacket dig into the upholstery as she leans back comfortably. "Call it research, boss."

"Research, right," Tanaka grumbles. "Well… good show of initiative. I'll leave you to it, then."

He swipes a lemon tart off the tray on his way out.

"Um," Jin says, suddenly nervous again. "Hi."

But there's really no time for awkwardness as Misa rushes over to him with a handful of photographs that show her draped with lianas or something, and asks for his confirmation that half of them are 'gross'. Then he hears all about the photoshoot itself, for a magazine for Greenery Day, for which they were taken to some indoor jungle so humid that their make-up needed to be retouched every two minutes.

"We'll be playing at an eco-festival then," Kurata says, and just like that they're talking about whale songs and political messages in music and uplifting alla breve beats. Only Yamato the drummer is quiet, and Jin catches a cool, thoughtful look every so often.

Jin gets to ask some questions, too, once not everybody is focusing on him any more and he can talk to people more privately. Kurata is able to give him lots of information about what it's like to have music as the only job. "Ups and downs," she says, shrugging. "I've only been really worried once, after I got myself an apartment and then some of my regular gigs fell through. Couldn't keep up with the rent. I was almost ready to use my licence and start teaching kids. I hate kids. But my folks helped me out for three months, and then things picked up again."

"But you never worried about…" Jin feels slightly stupid but still. "…like, eating? Or not being able to afford any rent at all?"

"Well," she says. "I guess if the worst really came to the worst, I could move back in with my folks. So I don't worry too much."

Yeah. And she's got a licence to teach.

"What about the pay with this, Tanaka said you get ten per cent?"

"That's normal." She purses her lips. "Actually, it's pretty good, for what we get. He invests a lot in us, after all. And at the start, a sixth of ten per cent was pretty much nothing, but I got a nice little scooter out of it when we hit the charts so high."

Jin blinks. "So… the amount gets split by however many band members there are?"

"Yeah." She leans closer. "That's why Jiro is kind of eager to keep us at five. More cash to go round. Only I'm pretty sure we sound better as six, and if people stop liking our sound, then pfffft, cash." She shrugs. "So."

Yeah, so. Jin's head is starting to hurt. He gets himself a cup of the very strong coffee, and next he finds himself talking to Saku, who is staring between the sugar and the sweetener in despair. "One will make me fat and the other will give me cancer," she sighs. "And I hate unsweetened coffee."

"I don't think a couple of spoons of sugar will make you fat," Jin says. "Go with the real stuff."

"Thanks." She smiles at him. "So, what are you thinking of all this?"

"I'm thinking I don't know what I'm thinking," he admits honestly. "Being a waiter sucks, but music seems a pretty chancy business, and I hear that members in a smaller band get a better cut."

She rolls her eyes. "Oh, has Jiro-kun been chewing your ear?"

"No, Kurata-san mentioned it. I asked her about percentages."

"Well, it's about the sound, right? We need a good sound." She swirls her cup around. "But you're right that it's not like a job in public services. My parents were a bit shocked that I'd give up a career in medicine for this. Even my girlfriend had doubts. But I told them, I have my degree, and I can always go back to it later, if this doesn't work out. Or once I've had enough." She looks around at the others, who seem to be fighting over photographs again. "We all have something like that. I think it feels good, just in case."

Jin nods. It probably does.

"You'd always be able to go back to being a waiter, too," she says. "If you were to… you know. I know all this is totally free from commitment, pesticides and carcinogenics, but still, there's a reason the Joker got in lemon tarts for this meeting."

"Yeah," Jin says. "I just don't know."

She looks at him sympathetically, with a slow smile. "Well, let me know if there's anything else I can tell you."

He nods gratefully, even takes her phone number.

But he just doesn't know.


Sunday 12 April

Jin lets him lock the door and adjust the alarm, before he walks Kame against the wall beside the coat rack and kisses him a soft, slightly wet hello.

"Hey." Jin's nose is cold from outside and his sigh warm and minty. "Missed you."

Weekends are busy times. Kame clutches on to Jin's spring coat and closes his eyes so Jin will kiss him again. "I missed you too," he says then, and Jin grins widely, as if this were not entirely predictable information.

He lets Jin hand him the coat, and Jin slips out of his shoes.

"Have you eaten?" Kame asks lightly.

"Onigiri at six," Jin shrugs.

It's half past eleven now. "I have fresh tortellini, just need to boil them for three minutes."

Jin kisses him again. "That sounds wonderful."

Jin showers while Kame heats the pasta. He always showers, changes from jeans and sweaters into t-shirt and sweatpants, getting comfortable, fluffy and warm. Kame made arrabiata sauce because Jin likes it spicy.

"How was work?" Kame asks, as usual, once Jin has made some inroads into his food.

"Pretty normal," Jin says, eyes on the pasta. "Oh, I helped Maeda-san with some English food orders. He's our cook, you know… That was fun. Did you know what a turducken is?"

Kame laughs, shaking his head. "No."

"I didn't either, we had to look it up." Jin reveals the mystery, and Kame is suitably impressed by this education.

He has a sip from his small glass of wine, and Jin feeds him a piece of tortellini. The very late dinners don't work for Kame's schedule, so now he often has a snack around eight, and steals things from Jin later. They both like that.

"How was your weekend?" Jin asks.

"Quiet. I dealt with some paperwork. Went for a run. I did film on Saturday so that was good." Kame makes sure he looks very upbeat.

Weekends are when most couples get together. And they tried Friday and Saturday nights at the start, but Jin gets in so late it's not worth the travel, or the awkwardness of Jin being barely up and going back to work the next day.

"I got my bed on Saturday," Jin says next. "It looks really good in there. Though I'm glad I went with the folding couch, it's pretty big as it is…"

"Great," Kame says, crossing off the worry of Jin sleeping on a pile of blankets. He adds, "I look forward to seeing it for myself," just because it makes Jin smile like that.

Jin tells him the rest of his apartment progress; that he borrowed a ladder and finally put up those lights, and that his blue curtains go well with the bed. They fall quiet for a bit. Jin finishes the tortellini. It's peaceful and unhurried. They can talk more in bed. They always do that.

There's no TV, nothing to organize except put the leftover sauce and the dishes away. They change into boxer shorts for bed, and Jin pulls on the t-shirt he keeps on a hook behind Kame's bedroom door. He smells of sleep and cuddling when he climbs into bed next to Kame, and he lets Kame pull him in at once.

His hair is still damp, and Kame plays with the strands, twirling one around a finger and releasing it to twirl the next, and Jin laughs, low and comfortable, and they don't say much for a while; they always do that, too. Until they're settled and then one or the other of them…

This time it's Kame. "Tanaka called me," he says, and Jin seems to go a little still. "Told me you gave him a proper grilling," Kame continues.

He can't help smiling because Tanaka sounded so perplexed. 'I didn't know your boyfriend was that mulish,' is what he said to Kame.

Jin props himself up on an elbow. He's blushing a little. "I just needed to know…" His hand is fidgety on Kame's chest. "You know, stuff."

Kame nods. "Yeah." He puts his own hand over Jin's, strokes gently with his thumb.

"Was he very annoyed?"

"Hmm." Kame's smile is more for Jin's benefit this time. "I think more intrigued." Or amused. And at least, Kame thinks, Tanaka seems to have stopped worrying that Jin is only after Kame's money.

Jin hides his face with a resigned little laugh.

"So what do you think?"

This time it's a sigh.

"I don't know," Jin says after a moment, muffled against Kame's shoulder. His arms snake tight around Kame, only relax when Kame picks up the strokes through Jin's hair. "It's not what I planned."

He whispers the rest of it; the details that didn't fit into their few quick phone calls. The contract and the money, the worry. For the first time Jin says homeless out loud.

Kame could make all that worry go away. It would be so easy, he has to bite his tongue.

But Jin has reasons. Jin would say it's not easy at all.

"Two years isn't long," Jin says. "And I need to save up."

Kame nods and plays with the hair behind Jin's ears, kisses his temple.

"They might not even want me," Jin says in a firmer voice. "If they keep looking. I think they'd like someone who's actually good with the guitar. And some of them want to stay as five, get a bigger cut, so."

Kame feels his shrug.

"I guess we'll just see how it turns out," he says, and presses Jin against him. "Either way we'll be fine."

Either way he'll deal.

"I got a fan letter today," he says quietly. "I've been too scared to read them, but Hamaguchi… well. It was from a girl, she was in love with her best friend. She said she didn't know if I'm… but that it helped. What I did."

Jin squeezes against him. "Good," he says. "And see? They like you. A lot."

Kame laughs. "Have you been looking on the internet?"

"Just a bit," Jin confesses. "Then I stopped. I felt like I was snooping. A lot of them think you're awesome, though."

Jin wouldn't tell him about the other ones, either.

Kame breathes in deeply, closes his eyes, lets it rest a little while. Jin's fingers on Kame's shoulder are moving just enough to say Jin's not falling asleep.

Kame is glad. It was a long, lonely weekend, and he isn't ready for the day to end yet. "We should make a date for me to come visit," he says, trailing his fingers down Jin's back, so lightly that Jin squirms. "Your apartment."

Jin's still hiding his face. "Yep. Totally."

"What would you like as a housewarming present?"

That makes Jin lift his head and squint at him. "I don't have room for some huge-ass TV. Just in case you're thinking thoughts."

"You found me out," Kame says, and sighs, not that he was thinking of a TV in the slightest. "I guess it'll have to be a toaster after all."

Jin digs his impressively cold feet into the back of Kame's legs.

"Okay, okay!" Kame tries to squirm out of the way, but Jin's wrapped solidly around him, so he pokes at his sides instead. "I thought about towels. You'll need some." Thick ones that match his curtains, but Kame suspects that saying that will just provoke thrift-focused statements again. He remembers the bowls. "Or of course I could try and find you a set of tea cups to match those striking rice bowls of yours. There's got to be a car boot sale somewhere in this country where— okay!" He squeaks pathetically when Jin gets him good in the thighs, and is still giggling when he surrenders into Jin's monster clutch and they calm down again.

Jin looks very pleased with himself, and Kame can only shake his head. He's not always this ticklish.

"Okay," he repeats eventually, quieter. "Towels? Let me get you something nice."

"Hmm," Jin says. "I guess that would be useful…"

"I'll use them too," Kame adds.

"Hmmmm." Jin frowns in a show of very bad acting. Then he grins. "Okay!" He sneaks forward for a kiss. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Kame says, and kisses him back. His mouth tingles with the familiar softness, and he loves Jin's little smile.

It's good, to be so close to Jin. He can feel the wait in how his skin takes every touch and wants more.

He leans in again, makes the next kiss longer. Leaves a question with the slip of his tongue.

Eleven days. It shouldn't feel this long. He promised he'd ask.

When he pulls back, Jin looks at him with half-closed eyes, like there's a thought or two there but they're not worth getting in a hurry about.

Jin also promised.

Jin's hands curl around Kame's hips, pull him a little closer. There's still a smile when Jin presses their mouths together, catching Kame's sigh, or any other sound that might have made him embarrassed.

Next Jin's hands slide around, warm through thin boxers, and yes, that's a yes, and Kame gasps even before Jin rolls on his back and pulls him along because it's such a relief, he didn't even know.

It's fast for him; embarrassing if Jin didn't hum encouragement and grab him back and let him shake and strain and thrust, closer, just ever closer. He gets Jin's t-shirt off, and Jin gets them back together with those strong arms that know what they want too, Jin always wants to touch him. Kame loves that Jin gets hard from their fumbling and from Kame's shallow breaths, panted into Jin's neck with Jin's hand around him, Jin knowing just what he needs, making all the strain and empty tension finally shudder away.

It takes longer for Jin. But Kame knows how to do it for him too, his breath still fast, his hand shaky between them. He whispers things; silly things about how happy he is, because Jin likes that, and he knows how to touch Jin even when Jin is tired and not urgent, and god it's been so long since he felt familiar with someone, and Jin wants him, just like this.

Jin comes with a muffled little sound, clutching on to Kame's arms.

They're so sweaty. And hot. Even Jin's feet got finally warm. Kame smiles against his skin as he slows them down. Everything's slowed down, at last, the days and weeks, and he's breathing so much easier. Jin is petting his hair, and it's all good. He doesn't have to think.

Jin yawns; first discreetly, but when Kame laughs, the second yawn is unashamed. "I'm exhausted," Jin says with a smug smile Kame can hear in his voice. "You wore me out."

They're sticky too. Kame gets them a warm wet cloth, wipes down Jin's stomach while Jin stretches his arms up happily and enjoys the soft touch.

"Good thing you'll buy me some of these," he says, wriggling until Kame drops the cloth and draws the blanket over them. "I only have some dish towels…"

"Do they have purple flowers on them?" Kame asks. "Cause then I'd be tempted to keep those."

Jin giggles drowsily and snuggles closer.


Monday 13 April

"Not alone," Junno is saying with a wide grin as Jin gets into the break room at seven, one blow job down, another booked for eight. "Just not with one of us."

Tatsuya is smiling an indulgent little smile, sipping at his tea and giving the impression that he's got all the time in the world until Junno comes to his point.

Jun, on the other hand, is rolling his eyes and fiddling with the leather buckles on his pants. "Well, spit it out then."

"What's not alone?" Jin takes some evil pleasure in asking. Predictably, Jun sighs deeply as the story starts over.

"Koyama-sensei," Junno says excitedly. "Had a room. Didn't have a whore."

Oh, about clients. "Couldn't get it up?" Jin shrugs. It happens, if they don't take their little chemical helpers.

Junno shakes his head sadly at Jin. "I said not alone. Just not a whore."

Jun looks at his watch. "Well, entertaining as this is, I'm afraid…"

"Though you could say he had a hoary guy," Junno says quickly.

Oh. "Nakamaru."

Everybody's staring at Jin. Junno's blinking rapidly. "You knew?"

"Um," Jin says. "Not really. You mean, I'm right?"

Junno gives him an odd look, but then he flips back to chirpy. "Yeah. You're right."

"What the fuck," Jun is muttering under his breath.

"And you know this how?" Tatsuya asks.

"Shota got held up by Kaneda until six this morning," Junno says, and has everyone wincing in sympathy. "Caught Nakamaru coming out of Koyama's room in his bathrobe. Lots of polite bows, friendly smiles, and the minister had a very red face. Tadayoshi gave Misako-chan from housekeeping a kiss and learned that Nakamaru's bed wasn't slept in."

"Nonsense," Jun says derisively. "They're old."

"They might just have been drinking together," Tatsuya says.

"They might need more lubrication," Junno says with a hopeful expression.

Jin says nothing. Not about Nakamaru's uncertainty, and not the talk they had that day. It would fill in some gaps in Junno's theory, kind of.

It's a weird thought; Nakamaru with some other client. But maybe he was serious. Decided escorts aren't for him.

Jin wishes he could stop just like that. He thinks clients aren't for him either.

The one he'll have later likes to cuddle with him. And taste his come on Jin's mouth when Jin's least in the mood for kissing.

He grabs a can of coffee from the fridge and drops himself on the empty couch. Tatsuya gives him a quirky little smile, and Jin tries to smile in return. Tatsuya knows Kame best out of the people here who were… with him. That is also a weird thought.

Jun is wriggling his butt unselfconsciously, trying to smooth out some pinchy-looking wrinkles in the leather. "I saw your DoCoMo guy is back," he says to Jin. "Is he your DoCoMo guy?"

"Yeah," Jin says. "Just relaxations. But, well. Monday."

"Hey, at least he's coming back for more, good for you," Jun says. "Now that Kamenashi's getting it for free."

Jin stares at the coffee and shrugs. It's his default reaction whenever someone brings up Kame, because most of those times it's better if he doesn't say what he's thinking. "Gotta pay the rent somehow, right?" he says instead.

"True," Jun says. "Hey, speaking of. Do you know Sato-san? From Mizuho bank?"

"Not really?" Jin says cautiously. He has vague impressions of a lanky, skinny guy who stares at Jun rather adoringly.

"He's throwing a party for his main account holders. Friday to Saturday. A few of us, a few of the girls from LOTUS. He asked me to recommend some people. It's going to be good money. Interested?"

Jun, recommend him for things? Something somewhere strange, two whole days of clients… "…a party?"

"Yeah, you know. You hang out, you flirt, there's private rooms. Not much different from here, only the money's guaranteed." Jun shrugs. "I think he'd like you. Well?"

Pre-paid whoring. Jin wants to squirm away from it, but… Jun doesn't throw these deals at everybody, and Jin didn't get Yuuya to teach him how to suck strawberries sexily so he could turn down deals worth more than two rests.

"Yes," he says, before Jun can think he's too much trouble. "Thank you. That would be… that would be good. Thank you. I'll… I'm free that time."

Friday night's good. Saturday, too. He rarely spends that at Kame's, anyway. But he'll need to tell him he won't be able to call. And why. And Kame will smile and say it's fine, and Jin almost tells Jun to forget it after all, but that makes no sense, he can't be stupid.

"Thanks," he says again.

"Don't worry," Jun says in an upbeat tone, flinging his leather jacket over his shoulder. "They're mostly old guys, not much staying power. You'll probably get some sleep."

"How is he?" Tatsuya asks suddenly, when the door has closed behind Jun. "It must have been very stressful, all that press attention. Is he sleeping at all?"

Jin blinks. "He's— Okay? Yeah. Stressful. With the press." And he doesn't sleep enough, he's up all the time waiting for Jin, and Jin feels like he's full of shrivelling knots when he thinks of saying that. To Tatsuya. Here at the club.

He always kept the important stuff away from here. But Kame… started here. This is such a mess.

"He's okay, though," he mumbles. "He's been really strong."

"I suppose this is a difficult situation for you both."

Jin looks up quickly, but there's nothing accusing in Tatsuya's tone. "Yeah, well," he says. "I guess."

A month ago he'd have given anything to have someone worry along with him, about Kame. But this is too complicated. Here.

"For what it's worth," Tatsuya says, looking elegant as ever with his teacup and the copper hair framing his face just so, "I wish you luck. Both of you." His head tilts towards the closed door, his mouth quirking up. "And he means well, too."

"Yeah, I think I got that," Jin says, and he nods. "Thanks. I appreciate it. I'll— I'll tell him you asked?" He has no idea how he's going to wrap good wishes from the club in something harmless, but good wishes are important, and Kame and Tatsuya like each other. He'll find a way.


The DoCoMo guy is on time, drinking Jin in from the moment Jin steps into the lounge; Jin arrives two minutes past eight.

The man's got big, slightly watery eyes, which are fixed on Jin as if he's the most precious thing he's ever seen. They get warmer when Jin tilts his head low with a pout, plays with his hair a little. Apparently it makes him adorable.

So it's one drink, and upstairs they go, for clinginess and kissing, Jin throws in bits of conversation because it makes the guy all twitchy and horny. He's discovered it's much easier when he imagines a wall of white noise between himself and the words.

Then Jin holds him through his afterglow; it used to make Jin feel dirtier than any cock he's ever put in his mouth, but it's the details that make this sort come back for more, and Jin can do details. And there's more big eyes, and they'll meet again the coming Monday.

That's one down for next week.

Jin showers with his hair under a shower cap and is back in the lounge by nine. Typical Monday field, coming and going and coming and going. With some luck maybe he'll pick up a third relaxation and still make it to Kame's for midnight.

Satoshi and Shota have linked arms with old Handa and one of his contemporaries and are heading for the concierge desk. In the quieter corner by the wash paintings, Nakamaru is staring at a chess board while Koyama is leaning back with a satisfied smile. Jin's going to leave those two alone.

There's a table where Tsukada and his cronies are hanging out, discussing politics with important faces when they aren't groping the nearest escort, or sometimes combining both activities. They're still a couple escorts short, and Tadayoshi doesn't look like he minds being fondled from two sides at once, but when the fat guy on his left gives Jin an interested glance, Jin produces one of the smooth come-on phrases he's been noting down from Tatsuya recently and takes the man's hand as soon as he has sat down next to him.

"I wouldn't like you to feel that you have to start all over again," he says, placing it on his thigh and pretending to get comfortable underneath.

There's a light, approving squeeze. Okay then.

This one is more work; smarter, and with that edge to his eyes that says he wants something for his money. Jin gives him his best smile over the ridiculous Champagne, pretends that he's worth it.

It takes a while, though, and Jin feels his face slipping sometimes in his old way when the drinks feel too long and Tsukada's jokes are too lame. But the hand stays on him, possessively; Jin thinks this might be worth it indeed.

So he pulls himself together, toasts the man again and leans in closer, close so the hand slips higher on his leg and close enough to smell sweat under the expensive aftershave, and whispers, "I bet you have better anecdotes to tell than this…"

The man gives him a shrewd look, and Jin almost cringes, maybe he got it wrong, it's all so unnatural. But the man seems to like what he sees, just inclines his head carefully and glances at Tsukada. "Once my friend retires, I'm sure I can find something interesting to tell you."

His plump fingers dig into Jin's thigh as if to seal a promise, and okay, fine, that's this one hooked.

It's another ten minutes before Tsukada's horniness trumps his desire to entertain a captive audience; Jin thinks somebody should have a word with Tadayoshi to move the guy on faster next time. But at last they rise, and that means everybody else and their whores get a chance to do the same.

The guy gets the key himself. He's inconveniently quiet in the elevator, but smiling his interest when Jin starts to play with the seam of his pants.

"I like you," he says, pushing Jin against the closed door as soon as they're in a room. "You don't mess around." The thick fingers start tracing his mouth.

"I like you too," Jin says, drops his hands to the guy's belt. He's fine doing him here or on the couch or anywhere. He flicks his tongue out, making the point, but then he leans so it shows off his neck, breathes, "You know what I'd like even more?" There's the noise, just noise. "I'd like to feel you, just taking me…"

He strains a bit, imagines a beat somewhere. The guy gasps.

So they do that. Much better money.


He wraps up quickly for the subway. At least it's warmer now. Satoshi is in the break room, coordinating a shopping list on the phone with Nino, who must have snuck out on a break. Jin waves at him.

So that was a good day. Even better when he catches the last train, doesn't get the twinge of paying a cab fare. Kame likes to pay for that, and mostly Jin lets him, but that's just not the point.

Jin's making money. Making lots of money, fast. That's the point.

He sinks low into an empty seat and peers out over his collar. It's twenty minutes, just long enough he could fall asleep while tunnels and houses snap past outside.

He's exhausted. His hips feel bruised from the last guy. He liked Jin a lot, might be back for more too. The second round took forever. Blow job last is always a hassle, and Jin's mouth is still sore.

He checked that you can't see, though. He thinks he looks normal.

But he still feels the sex in how tired he is, in how much he wants to curl up and not be around anyone, not even four distant strangers on a subway car. He smells the shampoo, and it's just not normal, to be this scrubbed and squeaky-clean at midnight.

Kame won't say anything. Kame will sneak close and not push for anything, and on the one hand that's just another reminder, and on the other it's what makes him smile against the cool zipper of his jacket and feel all warm inside.

Kame is waiting. And they're doing okay, considering.

He hates this fucking job. But the more he does now, the more he lies and gets their dicks hot for him, the faster he can stop.

By the time the train pulls out of Shinbashi, he's stopped thinking about it all. White noise.


Tuesday 14 April

"Always best to do this early in the morning, I say." Kame's lawyer has half a smile on his face as they file into the conference room. There's tea ready for them; pens and paper. For a moment Kame thinks of a casting.

As they take their places around the table, Kame finds it oddly quiet, when he doesn't really mind quiet. He doesn't know what he even expected. Not like he's done this before.

Midori is staring out the window. It's a bright day, a breeze chasing all clouds away. Her mouth curls up in a small smile.

She looks very pretty, the same subtle make-up and careful hair she wears for premieres and parties. An elegant, cream-coloured suit; she's standing tall in solid heels.

Kame spent twenty minutes pondering the colour of his tie, and he feels a sad burst of empathy.

Midori sits down off center, on their side, leaves her lawyer the middle seat. She's calm. Frozen, Kame thinks, but only because he knows her well. She chose to come, and so he's here now too. Just in case, just if there are unexpected things to sort. He thought it wouldn't be respectful to stay away.

"Yamaoka-san," her lawyer says to her when they're all seated. "I think we should start with the main items, if that is all right with you?" He's a senior lawyer here, the same age as Kame's father, and he sounds kind with her. It makes Kame want to curl up and hide, not look them all in the face and talk about money. Between the worrying when he's in public, and the brief peace he finds with Jin, it faded at times just how badly he did her wrong.

So they negotiate. Kame watches the steam rise from the untouched teapot; notes the pens are firm giveaways. Midori's lawyer is the one doing most of the talking, while Midori keeps her hands in her lap and her eyes absent on blue skies and the notes in front of her.

Their proposal is fair, an easy settlement. If he weren't rich, they could even do this informally. Some part of Kame wants her to demand something unreasonable, something outrageous, just so he can give it to her. But they split it all evenly. She gets the house, he gets the city property. He keeps the car, she keeps their art. They split the savings. No alimony, she works herself and doesn't want the remaining ties.

She makes a brittle joke about how she wants a custody arrangement for Kame's parents, but he's fast and stupid, says, "anything, whatever you want," and the moment crumbles.

There are some DVDs she'd like him to take; his own dramas and films, she packed him a box. He doesn't need any of the music CDs but he'd like the ancient lamp that belonged to his grandfather, if she doesn't mind. The family birthday pictures are on his computer, and she asks for a copy. She has a short, hand-written list in front of her that makes him ache whenever he looks at it. The rest is contracts and legal talk, their lawyers earning their fees.

Then they all stand. Kame doesn't know what next, how this works. There's mumbled agreements and timetables, and somehow the lawyers leave, somehow Midori stays and so Kame stays too, and then the door is closed again. It's quiet. Midori stands behind her chair, her hands curled around the white leather back rest. She has that same distant face, pale with the sunlight falling in.

Her nails are done in a light friendly pink. It's a lovely day to be outside. Somewhere in the corridor, a secretary's shoes are clicking loudly as things get printed and organized.

"You've lost weight," Midori says.

She knows he does that when things are in turmoil. Kame nods cautiously. "Yes."

She nods at the table; the lawyers didn't take the papers away. "So this seems all settled then."

"Yes. Unless there was anything…"

"No. No, this all sounds good to me." Her fingers are drumming along where she's holding the chair, and she snorts. "Good."

He doesn't know what to say. The things he wants to know he can't ask, he doesn't have the right.

"Was it very bad with work?" she asks then. Her shoulders rise under her slim jacket, her mouth relaxing a little. "I try to avoid the news at the moment."

"Smart choice," Kame says. "I mean— I didn't mean…"

"Yes, I know what you mean. You can just talk, Kazuya. Nothing you say now will make me throw a pineapple at your head."

The image— Not good, Kame thinks, biting his lip, but Midori rolls her eyes, and finally her mouth is relaxing. "So," she says. "How bad was it?"

She would have liked Jin. If things were different, if they were still friends. They both like to tease Kame, have the same take on his stuck-up silences.

"Pretty bad," he admits. "But I still have the drama. It will help that that's on air, once things calm down. And the agency didn't drop me."

"Good for them," she says. "And good for you. Hamaguchi-san is tough. If she hasn't killed you, she'll fight for you."

He'll miss her.

He hasn't missed a moment of the marriage, the pretence, but suddenly the thought that he won't see her, won't know her anymore hits him hard and cold. It's as if the last three years are wiped clean, and he's losing her all over again.

"I think the jury was out for a while on the killing," he says, and her mouth gives that little twitch that says she would find it funny, if they were okay.

"You are a very good actor." There's a sting in it, her hurt.

"I really… I'm so sorry, Midori."

She looks at him for a moment, before rolling her eyes again. "How sad is it that I believe you." She shakes her head. "Getting married… that was pathetic."

"I know."

"I'd feel sorry for you, but I have to admit I've been busy feeling sorry for myself. I should stop that."

"What are you going to do?"

She shrugs, like the question isn't out of line. "Work. Get a new haircut. Get drunk with my still single girl friends. I don't know. Travel, maybe. Spend your money on some onsen time."

"I really—" I really want you to be happy.

But her eyes are sharp. Pineapples. He gives a laugh, involuntary and inappropriate, and her confusion twists the guilt inside him. "I'm sorry," he says. "I really am."

"Well," she says. "We established that."

"I hope it works out for you," he mumbles. "The onsen. Or the other stuff."

"Yes, fine," she says stiffly. The way she steps back from the chair seems to say this is as much conversation as she wanted.

But by the door, they stop again, with him a few polite steps behind. It's a weird, heavy moment, and he thinks she can feel it too. Most times you don't know when goodbye is so final.

"I haven't told your mother," she says, in that same stiff tone. "If you were still wondering. About your callboy."

Kame nods; he asked her at least to let him know. He knows it's an undeserved favour. "Thank you."

"And I do hope your career recovers," she says. "You are right, it is nobody's business, and it's got nothing to do with your job."

Kame nods again, because he doesn't have words.

There's the door. This is it.

"I don't know what to say now," he says, feeling as awkward and stupid as he ever has in his life, but she threatened him with pineapples if he didn't talk, and she's shaking her head, and he's unsteady and tired, and still so stupid.

She hugs him, quick and bruising; she doesn't say anything either. Then she lets go with a shaky breath and a flat punch against his chest, standing back, looking as wobbly as he feels.

"You were such a jerk," she says, opening the door. She doesn't look at him again as she gets her coat and purse from the helpful high-heeled secretary, just turns and walks away.


Chapter 54


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