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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 54


Sunday 19 April

"Look, it just makes sense," Kame says when Jin is still sitting in the passenger seat like a kid in detention. "I don't mind picking you up."

"Yeah, okay," Jin says, his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.

"It was on the way." Kame makes it sound final. It gives them more time, too. They're early anyway, nine on a Sunday, and Kame spent the afternoon skirting the thought, until he cut the denial nonsense and acknowledged that Jin must have had some comfort planned, to know in advance he could take off that early.

And he took off early for Kame. That's what matters.

He sneaks a hand over from the gear shift, and catches Jin's little smile. He's just a normal guy in those jeans, the comfortable sweater. He's on his own time now and the job doesn't matter; there's no need for Kame to make himself do the math on how much time, how many hours since someone else got to touch him.

Then he checks the rearview mirror; monitoring the traffic, being responsible.

He hasn't been this close to the club since it happened.

"I've tested the cooker," Jin says suddenly. "So you won't starve."

"Excellent," Kame says. "Canned tuna, right?"

"Yeah, but I'll heat it up for you." Jin is playing with Kame's fingers, not even teasing. Just happy.

"You know how to show your boyfriend a good time," Kame says, because it's the least sappy thing of all the sappy things swimming through his head.

He checks the rearview mirror again. The streets are just busy enough to make it hard to tell if anybody is tailing them.

"I don't cook as well as you," Jin says, earnestly now. "I got us some very nice Chinese?"

"Sounds great," Kame says, laughing when Jin's touch gets so soft it tickles again.

They get a whole evening. He's so happy, he thinks he'd enjoy stale rice.

*~*~*

Jin goes in first to take the elevator up, while Kame waits near the letterbox a few meters from the door, probably looking like a troubled youth with expensive shades and a crappy phone.

He goes up when it hasn't rung after a minute.

The secret agent antics are embarrassing, but when Jin suggested them, Kame wasn't brave enough to turn them down. Now it doesn't matter. Jin is smiling, welcoming what he says is his first real guest, and then locking the door safely behind them.

"Wonder what the neighbors think of me being home this early," he says in a low voice, biting away a grin.

"That you're on a well-deserved break." Kame glances around; the couch, rich blue like it looked in the e-mail Jin sent him; some new shelves, a small wardrobe next to a tiny TV which is right next to the bathroom, which is right next to… well, everything else. The only clear space is in front of the couch, and it's not much. "Amazing," he says.

"What?"

"It shrunk."

Jin stares for a moment, and next thing he's tackling Kame and complaining that his apartment feels insulted, and they're laughing first and kissing second, and Kame insists that it's a very common disease that affects apartments in their infancy, wall shrinkage.

Then Jin disentangles himself. "I should, um," he shrugs, looking as if he's wearing stiff clothes, not the soft t-shirt and jeans. "I'll just go shower, okay?"

Kame nods, and then he remembers and says, "Wait."

While Jin gives him a curious look, he reaches for the large Mitsukoshi bag he's been trying to be inconspicuous about ever since he got it out of the trunk with his overnight bag.

"Here," he says. "You said I could. Congratulations on your infant apartment."

Jin grins and isn't at all shy about tearing the giftwrap off. "Cool," he says, holding up one of the bath towels. "That would actually go with the couch." He grins at Kame. "In theory, I mean." Kame wants to wrap him up in it when he rubs the towel against his face and goes, "So soft." But then Jin slings it over his shoulder and gives him a wave as he turns for the bathroom again. "Anyway, back in five."

Kame sits down to wait and has another look around. The shelves were cheap, as was the table. The only quality thing is the sofa. And the guitar, which got its own little corner, place of honour. Kame smiles when he remembers Jin after the last Open Mic, a flush stealing over him.

Jin hasn't mentioned Tanaka again. And when Tanaka sent Kame e-mail with a photo of Sakura chasing a beetle, he didn't mention Jin, either. So that's that.

He's just becoming conscious of how much louder the plumbing sounds here than in his own apartment, when the water is turned off. Jin was really quick.

When Jin comes out again, mint-scented steam follows him into the room, and he's wearing a different, bottle green t-shirt. His hair is dry and only a little messed up, the tips damp where they cling to his throat. He's smiling.

"Did I make it in five?"

Kame hadn't even thought of counting. "You were quick," he says.

Jin throws a quick look at the alarm clock on the table beside the bed, and nods to himself.

"Right," he says, "drink, cook? I should have offered you something first."

"I was desperate for a drink," Kame simpers, "and I simply couldn't find your fridge in this vastness."

Jin throws him a dark look, but then he snorts. "Poor little baby apartment." He drops to his haunches in front of the refrigerator. "Red? White? I have ginger beef and szechuan chicken, and dumplings."

Kame sneaks up on him and bends down to ruffle his hair. "I like your apartment. Thank you for inviting me."

Jin peers up backwards. "You're just scared it'll crush you during the night."

Kame decides on white, and Jin brings out a bottle of the same Blanchot Kame sometimes has at the apartment.

"Just making sure it's something you like," he says a little sheepishly when he notices Kame's look, though Kame was only thinking that for the first time he's finding the wine quite expensive. Perspective, they call it.

They toast the apartment, and then Jin sets his glass down on the working surface.

"Listen," he says. "I'm sorry I was so short on the phone last night."

"You weren't short," Kame says. "You were just quiet."

"Yeah, sorry. I was kind of exhausted. And I'd just gotten in and I hadn't even showered, and my brain was all fuzzy."

"It's okay," Kame says. "And you're cute when you're fuzzy."

Jin laughs. "Right."

"How was it?" Kame asks as lightly as he can.

"Hm." Jin looks at the fridge thoughtfully. "Not too bad. Nothing weird. Just…" He meets Kame's eyes. "…exhausting. Thirty hours of no privacy. It's a lot."

"I can imagine," Kame says slowly, and good, okay, this is okay.

"And too many drinks." Jin makes a face. "Too many different drinks."

"Were you okay?"

Jin gives him a little look as if he just noticed he's talking about work and Kame might be imagining god knows what. But Kame is very pointedly not imagining god knows what.

"Yeah," Jin sighs. "I didn't drink much. It was more, like, lots of different things getting passed around and you always have a sip, and then it gets kind of…" He makes a wriggly crawly motion with one hand and shrugs.

"That sounds vile." Even without the men in the mix.

"Yeah, I was kind of queasy." Jin frowns darkly into his wine, and Kame finds it suddenly adorable, never mind how they got here. On an impulse, he slides a hand on Jin's poor abused stomach. It goes tight, and Jin breathes in sharply.

"I think you should let me do the cooking," Kame says, petting him. "And rest properly."

Jin seems unsure whether to take this as is or feel offended. Kame puts on a very harmless face, top notch acting right there, and next he feels Jin's giggles under his hand.

"Yeah, definitely," Jin grins. "I might fall over if I operate the microwave."

Kame kisses him. Jin gives a sweet little hum and it's like always, suddenly none of the rest matters.

Jin decides to let him deal with microwaving the Chinese, admitting that Kame has more experience. The food, too, is from a place Kame has used himself. Jin gets busy with the rice cooker while Kame deals with bowls and sauces, still thinking about Jin's weekend, thinking about talking about it. Thinking he did quite well there.

*~*~*

It's a long, wonderful evening, full of lazy driftiness. They eat the good Chinese, tidy up at Kame's insistence, and settle on the couch, Kame with his feet bare because Jin's apartment is warm.

Two hours they sit in a tangle, chatting about this or that while watching some show about a bear on Jin's tiny TV. Later Jin puts on more rock type music and they argue over boys' manga.

It's what normal people must do when they have a night off, when they have time for each other, Kame thinks, and it's weird to remember he never planned for this. He'd have kept paying for smooth, engaging company, and never tried for anything as great as this.

"What?" Jin peers up at him when Kame kisses him on the temple.

"Nothing," he says. Just a slice from that life he wanted with Jin, being normal.

He's never seen his mother with her head resting in his dad's lap while they watch a movie, but they've had years. And his mother never sits still anyway.

Jin is a warm weight, and for once not sleepy. He spends a few minutes grading Kame's hair combing skills and giving him tips for improvement.

"You're very demanding," Kame says.

Jin laughs to himself. "You like it when I am."

He's thinking of Thursday night, too. And it was a relief, to see Jin want so much, asking with his body for more, and deeper, and…

"Tomo says the book-keeping system at the bar really sucks," Jin says randomly. "Now he's had a couple of classes, he can tell."

Thursday; the bar; Tomo. Kame is a little pleased to be able to plot Jin's thoughts for himself. "Can he change it?"

"Hm, probably. I mean, that's kind of the point, but he'll have to ask the manager, who'll have to ask the owner… proper channels and stuff."

"Good, though, if he can make constructive suggestions."

Jin was very constructive on Thursday.

"Hmm. I keep wanting him to make one about the beer," Jin says. "Priorities, you know."

"And they should really get some Château Lafite in," Kame agrees. "No decent place can be without that."

Jin reaches up and tries to poke his nose.

Wrestling lands them on the floor, though they're both being careful wimps, and nobody really wins. At least Jin's tiny table pushes aside easily.

"What time is it?" Kame asks as they're lying next to each other, Jin's foot already fraternizing with the enemy again.

Jin cranes his neck. "Hmm, late," he finds. His foot nudges Kame. "Let me get you into my bed," he says with a very bad villain face.

Kame laughs, and waits for Jin to pull him up. The table has to go into a corner before the bed can come out, and once that's done, Jin looks rather sheepish when there is room for maybe a very skinny person's legs between the bed and the TV shelf.

"I wanted a big bed," Jin says apologetically, "but I guess it makes it hard to move around when it's pulled out…"

Kame lets himself drop on the bed and stretches out in, he's been told, an alluring pose. "You just want me properly trapped," he says.

Jin nods immediately. "Yes. That. Totally. Right here." Jin's still not a good actor, but the bold way he's coming to kneel on the bed gives Kame an unexpected little jolt. He forgets sometimes that Jin is really quite tall, and can look imposing when he tries.

He breathes softly when Jin comes down on top of him, but he can't help fighting back and then they bump noses and Jin says "ow" and Kame laughs helplessly.

They stop rolling around long enough to strip, and then it's just the small lamp on Jin's table and the soft duvet and everything around them in a cozy glow. Jin props himself up on an elbow and traces Kame's lips with a fingertip. "See. Got you right where I want you."

It's intimate, Kame thinks, in a way he's no longer used to. Just them and the four walls so close, and Jin's life all around. "You totally tricked me."

Jin swoops down for a possessive kiss, and Kame feels the heat rising.

"You know where everything is, right?" Jin asks then, with a quick glance at the lamp and, presumably, the bathroom.

Kame kisses him back. "I know where you are."

"The important stuff covered, huh?"

"Yes."

Jin wraps around him, all warm skin and flimsy boxers, not just tall but strong, and Kame gasps as the shivers chase over him. Thursday was just three days ago, abandoned and startling and hot, but maybe they don't have to keep the counter running, maybe they can have it again…

In Jin's bed. It's just swirling round his head, being here, feeling at home here. Jin's new apartment, where they'll be when all the hard stuff is over and there's just this.

"A-ha," Jin says, palming him messily through his boxers, and Kame hisses in a breath.

"Yeah? It's okay?"

Jin is grinning against his neck. "Didn't trap you for nothing, did I." And there's a lick and then a kiss, and Kame feels the rush of pushing closer, god yes, and Jin's meeting him, faster and… now, only… only Jin… Jin's not hard at all.

Kame slows, gently as he can; he should have known it was unreasonable, so soon after, when Jin had work.

"Hey," Jin protests.

"You're not really up for this, are you?" Kame says, petting Jin's hair. It's a job; Jin's tired from his job, it's normal. He won't be disappointed, or anything else.

"But I am! Up for it. Just… not like you mean." He frowns a bit. "Not, like, up, up. But it's great anyway, I want to. Do we really have to stop just because…"

"I just…" It feels like such an old discussion. The worry, things being… off somehow, off balance.

"My house," Jin says, his eyes suddenly darker. "My bed, my rules. Rules say you're not allowed to worry." He's watching Kame from above, not budging, and even with half a grin chasing him he looks determined. When he bends to leave the softest of kisses on Kame's cheek, it's electric. "So let me do what I want."

"Okay," Kame says, horribly squeaky.

Jin's smile is like sunrise, and what he wants…

What he wants is to make Kame shudder with his mouth on Kame's neck and the pressure on his cock until all Kame can do is give up, give in… He bucks up hard and Jin whispers, "yes," hot behind Kame's ear.

Kame holds his breath when Jin's fingers slide inside his boxers; Jin's laughing, victoriously or just pleased with himself, and so hot, and then Jin is kissing him and jerking him and slipping his tongue inside Kame's mouth, and every time Kame pushes up there's Jin's weight, saying he's not going anywhere.

It's so good; Jin's so good, knowing just how Kame works by now, humming along and looking so fucking pleased over him, and Kame could get drunk on this. Letting Jin have his way with him, that sure hand and the strength, Jin demanding again.

Until Jin shifts and starts to move, down.

Scooting along his body and Kame is breathless and still before Jin even gets there, barely lifting his hips when Jin pushes his boxers down and takes hold of his cock again.

"What I want, right?" he says, just hovering, peering up with a look that's just daring Kame to contradict him.

Kame nods. Oh god.

They don't even— not often, because— Jin… Kame is careful, still. But Jin's hands are encouraging, and Jin knows what he's doing and Kame loves it and the thoughts finally shut up.

He closes his eyes, doesn't hush up the sharp breaths Jin is drawing from him; lets Jin tease him purposefully until he's helpless and writhing, his fingers clenched in Jin's hair, every wet sound another jolt up his spine, and then Jin speeds them up mercilessly when it's already too much, and Kame is straining like Jin is wired to every cell in his skin, gasping out a small urgent warning.

Ridiculous, he thinks, he's ridiculous and panting and all over the place, and Jin is perfect, and with him, his touch staying then fading, his thumbs rubbing little circles into Kame's hips as his breathing finally evens out.

Jin moves up to lie along his side, settling with a smile. His leg is a welcome weight, his damp hand playing on Kame's sweaty belly, now and then brushing his shrinking cock.

"Now, was that so bad?" he asks after a while with very lazy concern.

Kame snorts, closing his eyes for a moment. "You are mean. And wonderful." He catches Jin's roving hand— okay, arm, to hold on awkwardly.

Jin grins. How can smug look this good on somebody? "Aren't my rules awesome? I think my rules are awesome."

"Your rules are very…" Something. "…altruistic," Kame admits, once he's got the words together.

"Oh my god!" Jin props himself up and makes big eyes. "You've discovered my disgusting little secret."

What? Kame blinks. He can't think properly with this sex-addled brain.

Jin makes the worst fake-guilty face Kame has seen since he graduated high school dramas. "I like it when my boyfriend has a good time," he whispers. "I'm such a perv."

Kame pokes him in the side that is more easily available, wishing his muscles were less useless so he could tackle Jin like Jin deserves. "You're unbearable."

"What?" Jin pouts. "I was opening up to you here. About my dark perversions."

"See, that's why we never do it like this, because I can't handle your brain when it's like this and mine's like… this."

Jin leans over to kiss Kame's pitiful head. He traces Kame's eyebrows, his smile a lot less giggly, a lot more aware as Kame catches up with himself. Yeah. That's not why they never do it like this.

"I really like it, though," Jin says, his fingertips on Kame's nose now. "I'm glad you let me."

"That's pretty funny," Kame says, only it's not really.

Jin shakes his head. "No, I mean… I can't always… well, you know I can't always. But it feels good with you like this too, I want to have that."

Kame licks his lips, feeling the complexities tying their knots around him again. "Sorry," he says, because he feels he should. "I'm sorry I get…"

Jin kisses him. "I get it, okay? I know it's tricky. Just, I want you to know."

Kame nods. All those tricky things, things Kame doesn't want to think about now, doesn't want to have in here, in their bed in Jin's apartment.

And then he doesn't, because Jin scoops him up and pulls him into a hug, holding him safe in the mood.

"I love you," Jin says against the top of his head, and Kame breathes out slowly.

"Your rules are okay," he mumbles against Jin's chest, feeling him laugh, and he doesn't think about all the things he can't change, that Jin can't change, that Jin won't change. In here, the way Jin calls the shots feels good.

 

Monday 20 April

"I had to leave. I couldn't stand being near you, when you were so out of reach… " Kame feels the hurt everywhere, knows it's cracking through the facade, settling in his shoulders. Braced for the slap, the sting. "And I can't give you what Daisuke-kun can give you."

The girl looks at him with wide fearful eyes and folds her hands in her lap. The plastic chair gives a tiny plastic squeak in the utter silence. The light behind her is uncomfortably bright, distracting Kame for a moment. He feels sweaty and watched, and he should have asked for water.

The girl is no actress, but she doesn't have any lines either except one awkward, "But what about your brother… " From her stiff blushing glances they ordered her here. A secretary, most likely.

Kame takes a deep, shuddering breath. "If you tell me to go, I'll never touch you again."

There's a snort.

"Thank you," comes a deep male voice. Normally it would bring Kame back out of the scene with a jolt, but he had to fight to even get into it, here where he's been aware of their eyes ever since he walked in. It's not one of his usual stations. People in the halls aren't tired yet of gawking at scandal Kamenashi.

Kame gives the girl a friendly nod and turns to face the table up front, trying to look confident on a wobbly plastic chair in the middle of the room. It's five people, all guys. Kame didn't know they needed the composer for this.

He hated auditioning when he was younger. It's like tests back in school, only more crushing. They look you right in the face and tell you they don't like you. They say things like—

"A very interesting interpretation," says the same man who stopped him, his pen making little scratchy sounds.

"Well, that… yes, very interesting," the most senior of them says, looking Kame up and down with a smile. Next to him is a middle-aged man who's a co-producer, and a younger guy with idol hair and trendy glasses. The young one hasn't looked Kame in the eye since he got in.

This is a pilot episode. It includes a visit to a mother's grave, a funny little exchange with a dentist, and a long raving monologue at the end about lost chances.

The secretary tiptoes to the back of the room without any more fuss. Kame shifts his legs and feels like a girl, sitting so tidily.

There's murmuring going on at the table, subtle laughter.

"Thank you," Kame says at last. "For the opportunity."

The middle-aged guy nods graciously. "Yes. Thank you for coming out. We really thought this might be an interesting role for you." He's the only one looking at Kame.

"Thank you," Kame says again. "I would be happy to try out one of the other scenes? As I mentioned on the phone, it's a very intriguing script." It's in fact a pretty dull romance except for that raving monologue, but Kame hasn't gotten a new gig since the cook drama, and he needs one. He needs this.

"Ah… " The guy makes an understanding face. "You know, this was really such a key scene. I don't think we should infringe upon your time any longer."

Thank you, and don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

Kame doesn't flush, doesn't cringe. He's got years of practice, when they hated him for his eyebrows or his ambition or because they were assholes, and there's a role he plays, the guy who doesn't care what anyone thinks, and it helps. It even keeps his heart from speeding up, all through goodbyes and bows, the young hip guy keeping enough distance to suggest gay is the new SARS.

Then he's outside the door. It closes, to voices and laughter, and then he's just Kazuya, and his face is burning and there's nowhere to hide.

What fucking assholes.

They look at him in the corridors, too. Make-up people, secretaries, some guys in construction overalls who nudge each other, eyes travelling up all along his body. Two guys drinking coffee, and out of the corner of his eye he catches them laughing, a hand swishing around in an affected flourish.

He walks to his car.

Suck it up. He asked for it.

There's his car, shiny and big, and he's got this classy remote smart key, he's rich and he doesn't need this stupid project and he never needs to work again if that's what it's going to be like. It could have been so much worse.

It's worth it.

Fucking assholes.

He slams the car door shut behind him, furious that he actually spent time thinking about this loser of a character and his whiny eternal love.

He drives four blocks because he is not having this conversation in sight of the studio, they won't get to see the faggot have a meltdown. Then he pulls over and yanks out his phone.

"I'm not getting it," he says as soon as Hamaguchi picks up. Better get it over with.

"I told you so," she says. "Yamada is a jackass."

"It was a fucking set-up! I don't know what they were trying to show…" Only he does. Though she didn't predict quite how badly they would jerk him around. "They let me read for that silly romance scene and were sniggering the whole time."

There's quiet, before she says, "I see." It's the sound of someone landing on Hamaguchi's shit list. Kame finds it oddly satisfying.

He gives her a few more details and she asks him not to take it personally. "I'll call you when I have the official word. Don't get drunk in bars, don't pick fights, just remember they're assholes and leave it at that." The instructions sound weird, but in the weeks since the scandal they've been talking more, and she's told him some choice stories about former clients of hers, so by now he knows where it comes from.

"I'm driving," he says, and she laughs.

He rings off, fishes around in his bag for a bottle of water. That helps. He's just checking the mirror for how deflated he looks when his phone rings again.

"That was fucking fast," he snarls over his stomach dropping.

"Hello, Kazuya," his mother says. "I did wait until the weekend was over…"

"Oh," Kame says. "Hi." It's like a jump between dimensions, normal words won't really come. "Hi mom. How's— things?"

"Better here than there, sounds like. Were you trying to swear at anybody interesting?"

His stomach clenches. He's never told them what sort of shit he's getting. "No, just my agent." Then he realizes how that sounds. "Not at her, I mean. We're just… we're just waiting for some assholes to call."

"Assholes," she repeats, sounding like somebody trying out words like 'sock' or 'elephant' in a foreign language.

But she's not fooling him, she's not interested in his language, she's just waiting until he's good and ready to tell her what it's about.

Maybe they've been getting the same shit from the neighbours. "It's nothing serious," he says. He won't whine; he's done enough already. "Just a part I'm not getting. It's not even a good part."

There's a thoughtful pause at the other end, and he pictures her pinching a leaf off a begonia. She likes to wander about while talking on the phone.

"Well," she says practically, "maybe you could wait a while, save your energy for dealing with unpleasant people who have good parts to offer."

It's so sensible, and suddenly he misses her, and god, he should not sit here and feel sorry for himself in his car. But he wishes he didn't think of Midori and the lies every time they speak.

"Yes, maybe," he says. It's just that he wants to work, even if he doesn't need to. He's always wanted to work.

"It'll be easier in a few months," she says, as though she's reading his mind.

"Yeah."

"And maybe in the meantime, you'll find a few hours to visit?"

Shit. He ran into that. Time and again she's let him off on the phone because he's in a rush or sounding stressed or, well, just out of an audition where he got treated like a circus attraction. But if he goes out there…

"It's been months since we've seen you," his mother says mildly. "I can't even tell whether you're eating right."

He laughs. "Oh, don't worry… " But he can't mention Jin. "I'm being made to eat lots of pasta."

"Pasta is nice," his mother says helpfully.

"Yes," Kame says. "And Chinese. That's nice too." God how dumb. Could evading your mother make you stupid?

"I have a new recipe for a yakiniku marinade," she says, and he could almost swear that she's biting her lip and trying not to laugh at him.

He should really get it over with. He could make it a Saturday, which has nothing to commend it anyway. At least it means he won't be missing out on time with Jin.

"I suppose," he says, "maybe I could… I just need to check whether… "

"And why don't you bring your young man along?"

There's a pause. Kame can hear the cars rushing outside, and his brain being useless on the inside.

"I'm sorry," she says, and for a moment he thinks she's nervous. "I think I forgot his name… "

He's never told her. "Jin."

"Yes. Jin. Well, why don't you talk to him, about a date that would suit you, and then the two of you come around together?"

Kame is staring out the windscreen, his heart still hammering, which is silly because his mother is… what is she doing? She's— trying to be progressive?

This day couldn't get any weirder.

"I'll ask him," he says, realizing that will at least give him time to think.

"A weekend would be good, of course." She sounds much firmer now. "Your father would really like to see you too."

"Yeah," he says in a croaky voice, but she doesn't call him on it. "He— Jin works weekends but—" Oh god. "I'll ask him."

"Great, I'm glad to hear it. You take care and get home safely now, dear."

A weekend, so his father can be there too. His father and his mother and Jin. In their house.

"Thanks, mom," he says, before they hang up.

So that… okay. So he's sitting in a car again, staring stupidly ahead. At least this time he's not smoking.

Finally, he hides the phone in his pocket, and puts the car into motion. Time to get home. Ask Jin if Jin wants to eat yakiniku on a Sunday with Kame's parents.

 

Tuesday 21 April

"So how was work?" Kame asks casually. He sips at his wine, relaxed in his slacks and shirt.

"Fine," Jin says automatically. Relaxation with Yamatani, which is always fine, and a comfort with KitaKen, there's a first. Maybe it's that by now he can actually hold his own in a conversation about force plays and fastballs. "One of the cleaning ladies had brought her dog to work on the sly, and Satoshi couldn't stop sneezing." Kame won't want to hear about KitaKen. But Jin's running out of these anecdotes.

Kame nods attentively. "I hope she didn't get in trouble."

Jin reassures him they kept it all from Ootomo and blamed it on some evil pollen, then asks, "How was yours?" in return.

"Fine," Kame says. "Just the usual. Not a big episode for the cook at the moment."

Jin is instantly alarmed, but Kame shakes his head. "Just the script, sister backstory. It's all good there."

They're at the kitchen table, Jin picking at his dinner, Kame watching him.

There's music. It feels quiet anyway.

"How's the apartment coming along?" Kame asks after a moment. "Do you have internet yet?"

Jin shakes his head. "No, I'm still looking… well, I don't have a computer yet either. It's really not urgent."

"Ah, of course." Kame's face says he's thinking about computers. Thinking about offering, thinking that Jin will turn him down. His smile is a little vague, and Jin shrugs, equally vague.

He doesn't like that this is so complicated. Complicated and layered, and Jin doesn't like half of the layers.

"Thanks for coming by tonight," Kame says next. "I mean, I know it's inconvenient tomorrow…" He even manages not to look like he cares Jin has a standing appointment Wednesday lunchtime.

That's why Tuesday nights have gone from their nights to weird nights, and Jin usually avoids them, but he couldn't make it yesterday and… "Well, I wanted to," he says. Kame doesn't have to be so grateful.

He puts his fork down, wants to thank Kame for dinner, and suddenly Kame has reached for his hand in a nice, secure grip. It makes everything easier, just like that.

Jin smiles. "Do you think you're still up for a movie?" He doesn't know which one, but just something fun to cuddle to will be great.

"Yeah, in a bit," Kame says. "I'd love that."

"Cool."

Kame nods. "So, um. I want to ask you something."

It sounds ominous, but Jin tries not to jump to conclusions. Such as more career tips, or computer presents after all, or… "That's allowed," he says generously, and Kame pinches his fingers.

"I'm serious," he says. "Do you think there's a chance you could take one Saturday or Sunday off in the next few weeks?"

Oh. Those are the days the money rolls, and Ootomo… but it depends. Surely it's not unheard of, if you have a boyfriend… "I can try," he says carefully. "Why?"

"My parents would like to meet you."

"You… what— they. Me?"

Kame laughs, but it sounds nervous. "You're the only new boyfriend I've got." He gives a little shrug and he doesn't let go of Jin's hand. "Mom talked to me on the phone yesterday. And asked."

"Isn't that… I thought they liked, you know. Your wife." Jin can't really imagine being welcome.

"They did. They do. But I'm sure they'll like you too, when they get to meet you."

Jin doesn't know whether to laugh or shudder.

Kame makes a face. "Okay, that does sound lame."

"Yeah," Jin laughs. He'll save the shuddering. For later. "It does."

"I think they're trying. You know they've been really good about… all this. And I haven't shown my face around there for a while, I really should go. But it has to be a weekend because my dad still works."

That… right. Kame's dad.

But Kame's dad let Kame be an actor, when Kame could have been a baseball player, and he called Kame on the day it happened. Jin shouldn't think in clichés either.

Moms aren't always nicer anyway.

And Kame is kind of not breathing. Jin also shouldn't kill their son before that weekend. "Okay. Sure. Just pick a day, I'll square it with Ootomo."

He watches Kame take a slow breath, and Kame looks pleased, no doubt about it. Not worried. So that's good, too.

Jin will maybe pay attention to the news a bit more so he's got normal stuff to talk about. Just so they don't think he's boring, or too stupid for their son, or something like— wait.

"Um, they… they don't know, right?" he says. "About me, what I do? They didn't say anything…?"

"No," Kame says quickly. "No, that's the only thing they… I thought it's easier, for you and for them?" He looks worried again, as if he's afraid Jin will be hurt that Kame isn't proud of his whorey job.

"That's great!" Jin says. "You're totally right. I was just… we'll need to think… will the waiter thing work?"

"I'm sure it will." Kame's smile for Jin is reassuring, though he's twirling his glass weirdly and Jin almost wants to take it off him. "I suppose we could try not to dwell on it? Maybe you can tell them more about your plans for the future."

Yeah, better, Jin thinks. And imagines himself telling Kame's parents that his ambition in life is to become a car mechanic and he didn't even manage to do that much before turning twenty-one, but— okay. It's not whoring. "I can totally do that," he says, confidently enough that Kame stops fiddling with his glass and finds another smile.

"Are you tired yet?" Kame asks after it's been quiet for a bit.

Jin's not tired. Just thinking about parents. "No," he says. "Movie, right?"

But once they've moved to the couch, they flip through Kame's Blu-rays haphazardly and it's like neither of them is really keen. Almost in unison, they sigh.

"Maybe sometime we can drive somewhere," Kame says, sounding random and a little guilty as he brings his feet up on the couch.

"It's too early for that," Jin says. "What if you ran into press?"

"I know," Kame says. "Still…" It's the thing with his ex again, Jin thinks. The ex whom Kame never introduced to his parents, they didn't even know he was there…

He wonders what they're like together, Kame and his parents. Thinks of a nice family Sunday and thinks he should get over his desire to have a drink when he merely imagines it.

Oh. Shit. Sunday.

"It would be nice," he says, smiling so Kame knows he appreciates the thought. And to warm up. It still takes a bit of a run-up to tell Kame about appointments. "But, uh, I just remembered. Next Sunday… I won't have time, I can't get out of that. For a drive, or for… you know, visiting. Your folks. But any other time!"

Kame makes his serene, understanding face. "Of course," he says. "Work?"

"Yeah." Jin shrugs, tries to put an apology in it even though he wouldn't make one out loud, that would be stupid.

"No problem."

"It's just, it's not even long, just… I already said yes," Jin adds. "But I should be back— at the club, I mean, I'll be there around seven, I can take calls there. In breaks. And maybe get away early." This is more detail than Kame needs, but Kame's got his blank face on and is nodding away.

"Sure. That would be nice. Thanks for the heads-up." His fingers are flipping through the Blu-rays again.

Jin wants to stop them but doesn't know if he should.

He hates how it can get like this. They did nothing except some organizing. If only he could let Kame know these things without having to say them, without Kame thinking about… stuff.

Kame is handling the puppy film, a harmless little line between his eyebrows. His foot is getting cozy with Jin's on the upholstery between them.

On the coffee table is his copy of Shounen Jump; he started reading that here last Sunday, because you can't always talk, and they're becoming so comfortable with each other. Kame was reading a newspaper.

"Are you okay?" Jin asks.

"Of course," Kame says. And looks up at Jin and smiles.

 

Sunday 26 April

Kame is hesitating still in the parking garage. He doesn't know what's more pathetic, that he's here or that he's sitting in his car for half a minute, debating with himself the reasons why he shouldn't be.

But he gets out of the car, goes up the familiar stairs, and stops the lines from running in his head. One thing he doesn't want to be anymore is rehearsed.

The lobby is empty, the restaurant still quiet. Through smoky-dark glass doors he can see waiters congregating in a corner, with someone who looks managerial.

The bouncer merely looks welcoming. It's the huge one, and he says, "Have a pleasant evening, Kamenashi-sama," waving him through to the second door.

His stomach is rolling, and for the first moment or two the pomp and glitter is overwhelming. It's almost like he's new.

He scans the crowd with the same trepidation. It's quiet, too. Sunday, but early. Most people with sudden impulses have them later in the day. There are young escorts in front of the big TV screen, waiting for things to get busier. Jin would wait there too.

But Jin isn't here. Jin is out, in bed with some guy.

Nobody's making eye contact. Tsukada's glance slides over him and away, and he can see other clients cautiously drop their gaze, like they might catch scandal off him. The escorts bow nervously, and don't seem to know what to do about him.

Takuya-san is by the bar, looking at some photos with the tall Korean. He's not nervous when he sees Kame, and his smile is a warm, reassuring greeting.

Takuya-san likes him. He'll understand, not make him feel weird.

But Kame has to swallow his unease. It's harder with someone else there.

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt your conversation," he says with a bow.

They bow back and Jaejoong slowly starts to pocket the photos, regarding him with badly concealed interest. For a moment Kame wonders what will happen if Takuya says he's busy here with a colleague, and Kame and his bad day will have to wait.

"How nice to see you again," Takuya says. "No need to apologize." He gives Jaejoong a gentle look and the man bows at them both before he retreats.

"I'm sorry," Kame says again, not even sure why. "Ootomo-san said… you were still in."

Takuya gives him a quirky little half-smile. "Ootomo hinted I might want to wait. Before I take up any appointment."

"I appreciate it." Kame looks at the gleaming bottles behind the bar, glances around the half-empty lounge, all the people pretending not to see him here. "Would you… would you be able to spare me an hour?"

*~*~*

They're in a standard room, just like the first time they went upstairs together. Takuya has taken off his jacket and made himself comfortable on the couch. He's telling a story about kaidan tansu and seventeenth-century tax evasion while Kame makes them tea in the delicate porcelain set.

It's soothing, and he thinks maybe this isn't going to be so bad; but as soon as he has put two full cups on the table and sits down as well, he's nervous again.

Takuya thanks him and takes a careful sip. Waits, and takes another one. Kame is trying to find a start.

When the silence stretches, he looks up to find Takuya regarding him over the rim of his cup. "Is this about Jin?"

Kame feels the blood shoot into his face; he doesn't even know why. He nods. "I hope you don't mind. I just need some…" I need Jin to stop, I need to stop thinking about it, I need him, I need help. "I don't know what else to do."

Takuya purses his lips thoughtfully. "It can't be easy," he says. "Dating someone in my line of work."

"Yeah." Kame clears his throat. "Yes, that's pretty much…" He shrugs again. "It." Thinking of Jin with those men. Always pretending to be so fine with it.

Takuya nods.

"I'm sorry, and I know it's not easy on him either…"

Takuya tilts his head in quiet reproach. "There's no need to apologize," he says, and this time it's more than a phrase.

Kame takes hold of his own tea cup; he even knows it's a prop. "I could really use some advice," he says. "From someone who maybe understands both our perspectives."

"I'll be glad to help if I can," Takuya says.

Kame hesitates for all of ten seconds before he blurts out, "I just don't understand it. I understand he wants to be independent, and I know he doesn't have an education and all that, I know about all those issues. But I have money, he'd be okay. And he doesn't even like it." It's a relief just to say it like that, for once not have to dance around it. He gives Takuya a guilty look, but Takuya is merely pondering Kame's little summary.

"I understand you're not giving him money at the moment, yes?"

"No. We don't want that anymore."

There's a little smile playing around Takuya's mouth, and Kame feels like a blushing boy again. "Yes, that's what I thought."

"Yeah. But still. As a… a safety net…" The fact that he could buy Jin three apartments in central Tokyo should make a goddamn difference.

"It can work, you know. There are people here who've made it work for a long time," Takuya says, but when Kame looks at him, he gives a little sigh. "Have you asked him to stop?"

"No," Kame says. "Yes. Sort of. Not really." He shrugs. "I don't want to pressure him. And he's told me— he says he doesn't want pressure about it."

"Hmm. That does sound very complicated," Takuya says. "And hard on both of you."

"I just don't understand it," he whispers, more deflated than the first time. "He hates it. And I hate it. It feels awful."

There's a longer, heavy quiet. Kame stares down into his cooling tea, lets Takuya think whatever he's thinking, knows he's got nothing to show for himself except that he's whining about Jin, and feeling miserable.

"From what I understand," Takuya says slowly, "Jin has found his way here on one of the more typical career paths. Someone like that has a rather different appreciation of the stakes when you let go of something as secure as this." He gestures around, looking elegant and beautiful still. "Even I have my reasons for still working here instead of freelancing, and it isn't my burning desire to finance Ootomo's pension."

"But I'd be there," Kame protests. "I'd never let that happen to him again."

"But does he know if you'll work out, long term? What happens if – forgive me – you tire of him? Or he of you? Not all relationships last. What if he ends up depending on you, and then he wants to leave, and he can't?"

"But we—" Kame falls silent.

Takuya has never looked on him so kindly, and it's worse than any criticism. "It's hard with a place like this, when you want out but can't afford to leave. It's much harder still when you can't leave someone you used to love when it's no longer good."

That's an awful thought, Jin wanting to leave, not being able to… Jin being trapped again. "I guess we never know," Kame says; it comes out pathetic and toneless.

Maybe it's like the contract. Tanaka's contract, the contract they haven't mentioned again. Maybe Jin fears that Kame's interest in him could also have a termination date. Or his in Kame.

"It would be easier if the two of you weren't so idealistic about his present day finances," Takuya says with a little smile. "If he was willing to use your resources now to get himself some other career, something that would last… well, that would be easier for the future."

"He's saving up to become a car mechanic. But I don't think he wants me to pay for that."

"If you asked him to let you pay for half of it?" Takuya muses, then makes a face. "My apologies. I'm sure you weren't looking for bartering tips."

"No, that's…" Kame shakes his head. That's miserably constructive. Not what he wanted, what they wanted. But sometimes another week seems too long.

"It may be worth bearing in mind," Takuya adds, "that Jin and I are in very different positions. I like my clients. I have other options now but I still choose this job. I choose my clients, I don't see anybody I don't want to see, and what we do together is not merely some task." His soft look makes Kame miss, just a little bit, times when things were easier. "I don't think Jin is quite so fortunate."

Jin hates the job, has to go with anybody.

"Yeah," Kame says. "Okay."

"So I would perhaps say that you shouldn't worry he's doing this lightly, or because he doesn't care for your feelings on this matter."

"I'm not," Kame protests. Jin and his traditional career path. Kame gets that, he does. It just doesn't help sometimes. "He tries really hard to make it sound like he's just been to the office," he admits, and finds a shaky laugh somewhere. "Tells me about gym accidents and allergies."

Takuya smiles, and Kame has to look away for a moment because this still sucks. For all the allergies and accidents and Jin's consideration of his feelings. It still sucks.

"Takuya-san," he says, and he's never asked such a personal question before, but he doesn't care anymore. "If it were you… I mean, if you had— a boyfriend." For all he knows Takuya might have one; his face is giving nothing away. But not bidding Kame to stop either. "Would it affect how you— if you're always… with other people, would it not… with him, wouldn't it change the feeling? Make it… like that? Just more of that?" He can't even put together what he really means, what it is like to have these other people touching their life together, and how close things get to Jin.

Takuya considers that, some hesitation in his frown. "I can only speculate," he says in the end. "But I would imagine that your relationship is a welcome break from what he has to do at work, not an extension of it. All aspects of your relationship. It does make a difference whether you really want to be with someone or not. I think you know that much yourself."

Kame isn't sure what he's referring to, Kame's dealings with escorts or Kame's relationship with his wife. It doesn't matter anyway, because it's true, and he nods.

Takuya smiles. "So just remember that. You're the one he can choose, the one he has chosen." He tilts his head and gives a small nod. "I think he has chosen very well, Kazuya-san."

"It doesn't really feel like it," Kame says, though the praise touches him against his will. "I'm not sure I'm handling this well."

"As long as you only complain to me," Takuya says, with a conspiratorial face. "And we specialize in discretion."

That makes Kame laugh too, even though he didn't think anything about this was funny.

"I think you're doing the right thing," Takuya says finally. "Not pressuring him, and taking him seriously. The rest will come."

Kame nods. He's been holding on to that for weeks. But he takes a breath, lets it go deep down, and just for a moment feels less alone, less cooped up in his own head with this. It helps to have said it, just once, out loud, without having to dance around it all the time. "Thank you," he says.

"If you don't mind telling me, how did it come about?" Takuya is looking genuinely interested. "I know you were concerned about how, shall we say, non-contractual relationships might impact your career."

Kame bites back a smile. Takuya has a way with words.

But he sobers quickly when he thinks of what to answer. "It's a long story," he says eventually. And one he's ashamed of.

Takuya doesn't push. Takuya never pushes. He just inclines his head. "One day you should tell it to me."

It's weird how he even wants to, and knows he could trust Takuya-san with it. But it's too fresh, too early. A long story that doesn't have an ending yet.

"Give us some time," he says, and Takuya gets that too. It has to stop feeling like this first.

~

Chapter 55

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