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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Chapter 56

Tuesday 28 April

So this is it.

It's three in the afternoon, and the last he'll ever see of the freezing cold office and Ootomo's green palm tree shirt with the blue sleeves.

It took over an hour, because there were papers, and of course there were rules. Jin was pleased to learn that his medium-faithful service to the company means there are no investments like his first haircut to pay back, and he signed away his liver or at least one kidney all over again, promising not to tell on the clients and the colleagues, and possibly to only ever spell Johnny's backwards.

"Make sure you get a good deal," Ootomo says, with an undertone of good luck, and Jin bows, remembering for a moment that this guy once saved him from the winter.

Outside there's the plush carpets and warm lighting. Safety. He's clung to it for so long he feels a little abandoned. He needs to remember he's got a roof over his head, and savings, and he's not alone.

He could go now, and he'll never see this place again.

But it's Tuesday.

For a moment he feels something almost like regret that the first client he'll be leaving hanging is the only one he gives a damn about. Not enough regret that he'd stay, postpone until… after. He's done. Still…

It's so early that the break room is still empty. Guys will be starting to come in at four. He doesn't want to act like nothing's up, but he doesn't want the gossip and the well-meant warnings all over again either. They can do that when he's gone.

He makes himself some tea and gives Kame a call; gets the answering service and just says, "All done, home by seven." Kame could probably hear his idiot grin if he said it in e-mail.

Then he starts emptying his locker. Wishes he had remembered to bring an extra bag for his brown pair of shoes, then just dumps them on top of towels and clean shirts because the club will be washed out of everything, anyway.

He leaves the stash of instant ramen in the cupboard; somebody else will have a use for it.

Then he hangs around playing Freecell on his phone until he hears the first footsteps.

It's Koichi, which makes it very easy. Jin says a friendly 'hi,' and as soon as Koichi is through the door and inside, Jin goes out.

Three forty-five. He sighs, but just a little. He'll park his bag in the whore bathroom downstairs.

The lounge is almost deserted, the TV not even running. He turns it on and for the first time since the first time he channel surfs until he finds soccer. Not a match, just some interviews about transfers, but so what. It lets him act all absorbed as more of the guys come down and clients filter in. It takes an hour before it gets busy enough that it looks strange for him to still be sitting there.

He's not sure why he cares, but somehow he does. He sips his glass of water – the third – and looks around without making eye contact with anybody. Still scanning the clients; age, weight, teeth, where their eye wanders. It's weird he doesn't have to do that anymore. Weird to be looking at the chairs and the drinks, the plants, and all that glitter, and know it's the last time. It feels distant already, like coming back to an old school.

But they're still looking his way as always, they don't know that yet, and maybe he should find… yes.

Jin gets up. This is as perfect as it can be, short of Yamatani walking through the door right now.

"Good evening, gentlemen," he says once he's crossed the lounge to the far corner. "Do you mind if I join you for a few minutes?"

Nakamaru blinks up at him in surprise, but smiles when he sees who it is. "I think we might have… half an hour or so?" He turns to Koyama who is also giving Jin a benevolent smile. He's probably remembering Egyptians.

Oh god. Maybe that's why… no. Jin's not going to speculate about noses.

"May I buy you a drink?" Nakamaru offers, but Jin declines respectfully.

"I brought my own today," he says. "But thank you."

Nakamaru accepts it without fuss, and Jin is not a burden on their well-mannered, wordy argument about public hygiene standards. As Jin watches, he thinks Koyama is the more nervous one of the two; the one who shifts and blushes when Nakamaru calls him by his first name. Jin likes to think that without knowing it they are part of his conspiracy, the conspiracy of people who no longer do stuff they don't want to do.

Finally he sees Yamatani, having a chat with the concierge. Friendly as ever. Nice to people, whether they're old concierges or dumb clueless whores.

He gets up, smiling a little, and Yamatani sees him at once.

So he bows to Nakamaru and Koyama. "Thank you for letting me join you, it's been nice talking to you. And, um…" He feels awkward again. But it's important, too. "Good luck," he says, and doesn't wait for a reply before he leaves.

Maybe they think he's acting oddly, but it no longer matters, doesn't matter at all. Soon that'll stop feeling new, too.

"I was waiting for you," Jin says at the start, and Yamatani looks pleased like he always does, invites him to their usual spot by the wash paintings. Jin hesitates when they order drinks, before he remembers it's Yamatani, and he's never expected things in return just for being courteous.

"How are you, Jin?" he asks, his eyes crinkling up with a smile. Only four days since their Saturday date, but so much has happened.

"I'm fine," Jin says. "I'm great."

"I'm pleased to hear it."

"Are you well, Yamatani-san?"

"Perfectly well, thank you."

Their teas arrive. Yamatani has noticed Jin's choice, and Jin shrugs; smiles. "I wanted to talk to you," he says. "I wanted to tell you something."

Yamatani tilts his head a tiny bit. "Hmm, yes, you do have that look about you."

Jin laughs, feeling high all of a sudden and then suddenly very sober. "I'm quitting. Here, at the club."

Yamatani blinks; Jin can't read his face, only that it stays friendly. "Ah," he says.

"In fact I already did. I just told Ootomo. But I wanted to let you know too. I didn't want to… just not show up." He's feeling warm now, whether from the herbs in the tea or from what's going on, what he's doing, from being happy.

Yamatani's slow curiosity turns into a nod. "I appreciate that," he says. "That is very thoughtful of you."

They sit there, and it's silent for a moment. Saturday was the last time they fucked, and no, Jin doesn't want to think about it now, and then it's strangely easy to push aside.

He'll never know what happened to the Hello Kitty house, or the new budgies. He doesn't need to; maybe he'll even forget. But it's still weird now.

"Do you mind if I ask… it is for good reasons, I hope?"

"Oh. Oh, yes. I mean. I have a boyfriend and—" and he got so depressed over my underwear "—and I'm going to get a different job…" Wherever they'll take him but he trusts Kame, it'll work out, he's not alone. "It was just… too difficult."

"Ah," Yamatani says again. He tilts his head again, and then there is a slow smile. "In that case, I think it's only fair of me to be very happy for you."

"Thank you," Jin says, and means it. "You were really nice to me. When I wasn't even— when I was really… I really appreciate it."

"I always liked your company," Yamatani says simply. "You always made me feel welcome."

More like Jin was desperate, for a client who didn't make him feel like a moron. But Yamatani is being honest, so Jin just thanks him.

He has a sip of his tea and… well. Here they are.

"I must admit," Yamatani says, "to a certain degree of curiosity…" He trails off and stirs his tea delicately.

Jin can't fight the grin, or the warmth in his face either. "Yeah," he says. "It all happened kind of quickly…"

Yamatani chuckles, reading him right and asking. "Am I right to assume that this has something to do with young Kamenashi-san?"

Silly that he wants to squirm like this, but… "Yeah. It… We started here, but… now it's different."

"Good," Yamatani says. "Good for you. And for him." He raises his cup. "To different times." For a moment he gets a faraway look, and Jin drinks his tea, thinks of Kame.

It's going to be different now.

He ignores the clients when he looks around, sees Jun laughing with someone, Takahisa bored in a disregarded corner.

They won't come back here like Takki and Tsubasa, throw parties and buy cake. Kame wouldn't… and neither would Jin. Jin doesn't know why he'd ever come back.

He stays a few more minutes, tells Yamatani and his certain degree of curiosity that he wants to learn a trade. Something with cars. It doesn't make him vulnerable now. Yamatani approves of cars and Jin's sensible thinking.

Then their teas are finished, and Yamatani gives him a mild look. "It was very nice of you to come see me again," he says. "But I assume you have someone waiting now."

Not quite yet, not for a few hours. But he gets what Yamatani means. "Yeah. I guess I should get going."

"I wish you all the best, Jin," Yamatani says. "It's been a privilege getting to know you."

Jin feels suddenly stupid. "Thank you. To you too, sir." He finds a deep bow. "And… you know, all the best with the budgies, and the renovations. And stuff."

Yamatani bows, too, and laughs, and gives him a little goodbye wave, and that makes it easy to turn around and go.

He almost forgets his bag. But he doesn't, and then he walks past the shiny bar for the last time, gives a friendly nod to the bartender on duty, a small bow to the concierge, and then the doors open for him and fall shut on the noise and the pomp.

Mikami at reception gives him a surprised look. He always knows about their outside appointments because if things go wrong, he's the one who gets sent to the rescue.

"No date," Jin says. "Just… leaving." It sounds funny and weird and he's not even sure how much he's telling him.

Mikami nods. "See you tomorrow, then."

And somehow he can't let that stand, can't pretend like that. Mikami's been nice to him. "No," he says. "I'm leaving. I'm not coming back."

He didn't expect the shocked look he gets in return.

That's how he finds himself in the back yard again between the dumpsters, smoking a final cigarette with Mikami and reassuring him that Ootomo didn't kick his ass out on the street where he'll be selling it from now.

"I've got a boyfriend now," he says, dragging on his cigarette while he decides that he's not going to name names. "I'm done with this."

"You'll be okay without the money?"

"I've got savings. I'll find another job." He laughs more confidently than he feels, takes another puff. "Got all those nice suits, would be a shame not to go to a few job interviews."

"Good for you," Mikami says thoughtfully. "Wish I could do that too. This job creeps me the fuck out."

Jin blinks. He's always known that Mikami didn't like to… think about things too much. But Jin's never heard even a single disparaging comment from him. You could only tell from the gruff silences.

"Then why are you still…" Surely it's easier to find another bouncer job than try to pick up a trade when all you know is how to be a whore.

"It pays," Mikami says. "Really well. With the confidentiality and all. I've got family, we got debts. My son's coming up to seventeen. Anything I can do to stop him ending up like…" He shrugs.

"It's okay," Jin says, "no offense taken."

"I want him to finish school, get into university. But my wife can't work. So."

So. Jin grimaces.

"I don't know if it helps, but I've always been really glad to know you were here," he says. "Made me feel safer. I think the other guys feel like that, too."

Mikami gives him a screwy half-smile. "I guess that's worth something."

"It's worth a lot to people like us," Jin says. "Trust me on that."

They smoke down the last bits of their cigarettes in companionable silence. Jin's halfway made up his mind to quit smoking. It'll save money. But he decides to hold on to his packet just in case.

"Well," Mikami says, thumbing out the butt and dropping it in the ashtray. "I need to get back in."

And there's that awkward moment again.

"It's been nice knowing you," Jin says, bows. "And thank you for looking after me."

"Nice knowing you too," Mikami says. "Good luck."

When he goes back behind his counter, Jin walks past and out of the door, and doesn't look back. It hisses shut behind him, and then he's outside, in a Ginza back street at six in the evening, without a job.


Thursday 30 April, 10:00

Jin peers through the large tinted window of the coffee shop, hoping nobody will notice and take him for a stalker. He's early. He'd have been early anyway, and then he needed ten minutes less on the train than yesterday. Helps to have tested the journey.

Also helped to see what kind of people went there before he finally decided what clothes to buy. He really doesn't want to make an ass of himself again.

He still woke up at three this morning with his heart pounding, suddenly convinced they must have different days and yesterday was the jeans-chic and funny-hair day, and today is something different and he got it all wrong.

Kame would have laughed at him again, if he'd been awake. Okay, maybe not. Kame is walking around with the sort of grateful glow that doesn't include laughing at Jin. He didn't even say anything when Jin ironed his jeans.

That's got to let up soon, Jin expects.

It's busier than it was yesterday at three. A nice, laid-back sort of place, with comfortable armchairs and couches around low tables. Maybe some other day Jin could do it laid-back justice. Chairs and bistro tables are where people can have real meals or type away at their notebooks. The walls are hung with music posters, strange African-type decorations, and colourful flower prints.

He wonders what the etiquette is. Go in first, secure a table? Or is that disrespectful? It's two hours before the lunch crowd will roll in but if he miscalculates and they end up with nowhere to sit… Okay, he'll grab a table.

He straightens his new black denim jacket, rubs his hands once down the just slightly ripped jeans, and pushes the door open.

They're playing Glay. Nice.

He picks a table in the emptiest corner for a bit more quiet. He wishes he knew what Tanaka's wearing. Last time he was on his home turf, and all Jin's got for comparison is the club, and…

Black jeans and sunglasses and leather wristbands, and a scruffy black shirt… Tanaka lets the door swing shut behind him, with a busy-looking shrug of his shoulders.

Okay. Jin's okay. Maybe without leather, but… okay.

Tanaka— has seen Jin. Jin thinks. The sunglasses are a bit unnerving.

But Tanaka's zeroing in on him, making his way past a student group with his usual swagger. "'Sup," he says, dropping himself in a chair.

"Hello," Jin manages.

Tanaka pushes the shades up into spiky blond hair, looking Jin up and down. "Have you ordered yet?"

"No," Jin said. He hasn't even thought yet about what to order. Can you fuck up your choice of coffee?

"How'd you like the place?" Tanaka asks. "I sometimes come here for business talk, not as stuck up as some other places." He waves at the waitress, a tall willowy girl with brown skin and huge silver earrings.

For business sounds okay. For business sounds better than 'for letting people down gently'. "It's nice," Jin says. "Um. Really… laid back."

"Laid back, huh," Tanaka says, with another one of those up-and-down glances. "Yeah. I like that."

Jin clears his throat, and sounds relatively steady when the waitress gets there with her tappy computer thing and he orders a simple black coffee, just in case. Tanaka is going for a whisky-flavoured latte with double espresso.

"I was surprised to get your phone call," Tanaka says when she's gone again.

"Um, yeah," Jin says. "I'm really sorry."

"I mean, I wouldn't have been surprised getting a call a month ago."

Jin squirms. Wonders about another apology, if that would help, but maybe rappers don't sign people who are pathetic…

"Sorry," Tanaka says with a grin. "Just winding you up. But you seem to have done all the winding yourself already."

"I guess," Jin admits.

"And how's our mutual friend?"

Oh god, small talk too. "He's… good," Jin says. "Business still isn't so great but he's…" Happy. "We're doing fine. I quit my job."

"About time," Tanaka observes.

Easy for him to say. But Jin just sketches a little bow. He's not here to contradict anything.

"So now you need a new one."

"I'm… well." This is so awkward. "Yes."

"Have you considered washing dishes somewhere?"

"Yeah." Kame told him not to be an idiot, to at least call Tanaka before getting on the phone to Tomo to see if the parking garage job he quit might still be open. But it looks like Jin was right. He feels a little sick, and here's the waitress with the coffee and he's not sure he wants to touch it. Just as well he ordered the cheapest one.

"There's stuff I can try," he says to Tanaka. At least he's got an apartment this time, an address, so he can get a job.

Tanaka takes a gulp from his latte, and his menacing look is spoiled a little by a milk moustache. "So if anything will do, why come to me? Last time we talked, a two-year contract didn't seem to be safe enough. You're right that it's a chancy business. Dishes aren't going out of business any time soon." He snips his finger against his glass.

"I…" Jin takes a deep breath. "You're right, it didn't seem secure enough. Not while I had a really well-paid job where I could save up. I really would have liked to be in the band but I was afraid of giving that up. Now it's just no longer in the equation. And I'd take a two-year contract with you over most other jobs, definitely over anything I could get right now. I like music. It would be great to be in the music industry."

Tanaka is giving him a rapper scowl. "Can't have been that afraid, if it only took you a month to get over it."

Jin's got nothing to say to that. That's between him and Kame. He tries that little bow again.

"Well," Tanaka says. "I might actually have an opening for a junior administrative assistant in the studio. Pay's better than you'd get washing plates in a restaurant." He makes a thoughtful face. "Mind, you get the occasional old coffee mug to clean up and there's no hazard pay for that… But hey, since I don't intend to go out of business anytime soon, it's pretty secure. What do you think?"

"Uh," Jin says. It's not what he'd hoped for, but he was just silly. Of course he couldn't expect people to wait around for him for a month. He doesn't know why he's so disappointed. He nods. "That would be… I'd be really grateful."

Tanaka rubs his hands over his face. Stares at him. "Really?"


"Well," Jin says, "after… you know. I realize that…" He shrugs. "I'm grateful for any job, and particularly one in this industry, and I'd do my very best."

"Yeah, no doubt," Tanaka huffs. "Fucking stupid waste, it would be." Another gulp of that coffee, and he puts it down and leans back. "I talked to the guys. They'll have you, and I'll have you provided—" He pokes his beringed finger at Jin. "—provided you promise not to run around searching for a real job during the two contract years when I need you focused. This isn't a job you can just coast on. There'll be five other people depending on you, and I'll go medieval on your ass if you fuck up one of my most promising units. Capisce?"

Kawhat? What just happened?

Tanaka is glowering. "Cars, was it?" He makes it sound more disgusting than dishwashing.

"Yeah… but, I wouldn't! I promise!" He's still catching up here, and Tanaka talks about cars.

"I'll write a special line into your contract, saying the only car you're allowed near is the JUNGLELOW minivan."

"And Kame's."

It slips out. He blushes instantly.

"Already being difficult about the working conditions, I see," Tanaka says, but this time Jin can tell he's just being teased.

"I'm, uh, just trying to protect you. From, uh, wrath. Of the… of a scary guy."

Tanaka's nod concedes that he's got a point. "I'll enter a Kamenashi clause. And you're at my office tomorrow at two, to sign yourself over."

It's just a second, a moment where the sound of that…

Jin shakes himself out of it. "Thank you. Thank you so much. I'll be there."


*~*~* 16:00

He's missing half the chords.

He bought JUNGLELOW's last two singles on the way home, five songs in total, and there's one which is pretty straightforward but either his concentration's shot to hell or it's not as simple as all that.

It's a great beginning to his first afternoon in his new career that he is a moron with his guitar, but he can't stop grinning.

Kame should be home by four. Jin couldn't call him, phones are off on set. He could have sent mail, but half an hour won't kill Kame, and Jin wants to see his face when he tells him.

There's the bridge again, folding in on itself weirdly after two bars. How the hell did Ochiai do that? Jin starts the song over because at least he's slowly starting to get a handle on the normal verses.

He assumes the guys will have this written down somewhere. Maybe he'll get a bundle of music sheets with his contract tomorrow. This is just playing around, celebrating.

He really can't stop grinning.

And there's the key in the door, and Kame, and he quickly wipes the grin off his face, because that would give too much away too quickly.

A clatter in the genkan, and Jin's barely got up from the couch when Kame storms across the living space with a glow to him that could power the Yamanote, and folds him into a hug.


"Bloody Tanaka," Jin says.

Then Kame wants to hear absolutely everything; Jin has a feeling he'd even want to hear it twice, he's that absorbed in Jin's tale from the coffee place with the terrible teasing Tanaka who can't even keep a secret to himself for half a day.

They sit on the sofa, the four o'clock sun flooding the apartment, and Jin doesn't know why they end up giggling over the idea of Jin as an administrative assistant for minutes on end. Maybe they're high on something, or drunk on harmless afternoon tea.

This is early even for a Thursday but Kame swears it's just lucky scheduling, not worrying developments on the cook set.

"So tomorrow I'll go sign the contract," Jin finishes. "At noon, at Tanaka's office." It's kind of mind-boggling still. "I can't believe I'll get paid to play music."

Kame says nothing. Maybe he doesn't want to comment on the money, maybe he's afraid Jin will remember how much less it's going to be.

But he looks happy; so happy for Jin. And just now Jin doesn't care about the money.

"I'm going to buy a second guitar for when I'm here," he decides. "With my first salary."

Kame smiles like that's the best idea Jin's had all week. Okay, maybe second-best. "I'll watch over it carefully when you're not here," he promises, which makes them giggle again.

He'll make money, and not from having sex with strangers.

"What else do you want to do with your salary?" Kame sounds like this is an adventure for him too.

"Hmmmm." On impulse, Jin leans against the armrest and pulls Kame's feet into his lap. He starts thinking. Of this normal life, now. "You know, I could probably get a hamster."

Kame blinks like Jin just grew a second head and it's green. "You want a hamster?"

"No, it's just... I could, I just realized. In theory."

After a moment of careful consideration, Kame nods. "The hamster possibility."

Jin considers pinching his toes, but thinks better of it because, yeah. "Kind of," he says. Stuff you can't have when your life's not really your life, no matter how much you're earning. "I think I want to get some stuff... I had an up-to-date run of One Piece once, did I ever tell you that? But I couldn't... I want to get that again."

There's a few things like this, things he left behind and wouldn't let himself think about for so long. Things he doesn't have in his life now. Not even this new life.

Kame's feet are twisting in his lap like he's trying to touch Jin more. "They're going to see you in the band," he says quietly. "Tanaka's promo department are good at their job. Are you ready for that? Do you think they might get in touch?"

Jin thought about that already. "I don't think they'll get in touch." If they thought he was rich, if he made it huge... but mostly he's just a disgraced son in a rock band. He's not even very upset about it.

"Do you want to get in touch with them? Now that... you know."

He shakes his head, then stops and says, "Maybe." He's thought about that, too. Wondered, in fact, how to bring it up, or when. It didn't have much to do with the job. "I'd like to see my brothers. So I think I'd like to get in touch, for that."

He wants to see Taro. Wants him to know that he's out there, if anything ever happens. He wants to look at Hisato's sulky face and talk to him and see if maybe they can be some sort of brothers again.

Some sort. "But they can't know about us," he says. "None of them, I don't trust them with this." With what's left of Kame's career.

Kame looks more troubled than any ex-paranoiac has a right to. "They're your family," he says. "I don't want to be... you should be able to be honest with them..."

Jin's just not told him enough yet. He doesn't dwell on those days, he doesn't like to mope.

"Maybe Taro, one day," he says. "I'd like that. But he's a kid and he lives at home, with them. He shouldn't have to keep a secret like this." He finds himself nudging Kame's feet, like he's holding on. "And you're my family now."

Then he feels himself blushing horribly. The only thing that makes it better is that Kame looks like somebody who just got the last piece of strawberry cake.

Eventually, Kame clears his throat. Jin swallows. Dignity, right.

"Speaking of families," Kame says, biting his lip. "I need you to come see my lawyer with me tomorrow."

"Your lawyer?" Jin frowns, wondering about... Midori.

"Nothing bad. Just some stuff he can explain to you better." Kame makes a guilty face. "And it's at eight."

Eight... Kame probably means in the morning. Okay. Families. Gotta be brave.

"Sorry," Kame says. "I know you'll get in late. But it's important."

"I'll live," Jin smiles. "I can also try not to let it get that late." Though, fat chance. Tomo will so want to buy him beers, plural.

"Are you going to tell people there about the band?" Kame asks, as if he's read Jin's mind.

"Just Tomo, for now. I want to wait until everything's signed... what?"

Kame is grinning ear to ear. "You're cute. You're just... you're so cute."

This time Jin hits his feet. "I just like to have all my turtles in a row."

"Oh, and, Sunday," Kame says suddenly. "My mom asked. Will that be okay?"

Oh holy hell. Jin's stomach is saying thanks from somewhere near the floor. "Yeah, Sunday will be fine," he says, because he's Kamenashi Kazuya's boyfriend and he can handle 7 a.m. starts and scary family visits. No problem.

They keep sitting there for a while longer, Jin tweaking Kame's toes and Kame occasionally breaking into grins. It's nice to have the time, the long afternoon before he goes out to the Open Mic.

"Can I ask you for something?" Kame says into the quiet.

Jin nods. "Sure."

"Your songs tonight. Will you play them for me?"

"Sure!" What kind of question is that. Well, a sweet one, just like the turtle over there. But... "Um, one of them is kind of loud."

Now Kame looks at him like he is being cute again. "I'm the landlord," he says gently.

Jin rolls his eyes, and lifts Kame's feet off himself, lets them drop with a thump on the soft couch, and goes to get his guitar back.

"Okay, so this is the latest one I've written," he says, and it feels a bit strange, an audience of one, and Kame so intent on what he's doing.

So the first chords are clumsy again, like it's a new bar and a new gig, and his skin is prickly-nervous.

But then he gets with it, catching Kame's smile when he starts to sing.

He didn't write it for Kame, it's not even a love song, but singing it into Kame's living room it's the first time he hears the new joy in the lines, and that's all about Kame anyway, all shining and everywhere.

"That's beautiful," Kame says when he's done. He heard it too, Jin thinks. "That's really... I don't know how you do that." He looks dreamy, until a grin takes over his face. "Also I recognize bits of that from when you sing in the shower."

Jin laughs, hugging his guitar. "Yeah, there was that time last week when I was trying to get the lead into the chorus to work. Over and over, with shampoo."


*~*~* Saturday 02 May

"Let me get that," Jin says, holding his cone out to Yuuya while fishing for his wallet with the other hand.

"No, I'll pay," Yuuya says. "Since I'm the only one with a job here and you're unemployed and everything." He squints at Jin in a critical fashion, and Jin knows which 'everything' is meant here.

He bites back a smile. "Shut up. I'm your senpai, I'm paying." He fumbles out a thousand yen note and passes it to the guy at the ice cream stall, who gives Jin a pitying look but doesn't turn down even unemployed money.

Yuuya says thank you, and they stroll on, down towards the food stalls lining the way to Shinobazu pond. "You're bossier," Yuuya comments, and sucks on his ice cream to keep the top from dripping. It's a lovely day, warm enough Jin carries his jacket over his shoulder.

"You're just as short," he says.

Yuuya looks at him with raised eyebrows, but then focuses on his ice cream again. "You're happier."

Jin thinks skipping would probably be overdoing it. But, yes. He is.

"Yeah," he says, that smile taking over his face again. "Also I'm employed."

Yuuya gives him a slow look. "You're shitting me."


Yuuya makes a hmpf sound. After another twenty seconds he says, "Okay, so either you got lucky and some burger bar needed a new flippy guy, or Kamenashi is paying you to look after his house plants, or… or I don't know. So?"

"I'm going to be in a band."

This time Yuuya stops. "You're shitting me. A band?"

"Yes. There's this band, JUNGLELOW, and they lost one of their singers, and, well, I know them through Tanaka-san, and they like me. And I like music. And I need a job."

Yuuya seems undecided if this is legit, but he doesn't look quite as dismissive as with the burger joint. "Tanaka, huh?"

Jin shrugs. He can't pretend Kame had nothing to do with it. But it's a job, and his contract, his name on it. He's never been so happy to sign anything in his life, except maybe his lease. "It's for real," he says, and when Yuuya doesn't roll his eyes outright Jin tells him about everything.

Cute ducks with tufty heads are swimming peacefully in front of last year's dry lotus stalks. It's pretty, the faded yellow against the blue pond and sky.

"I haven't heard of JUNGLELOW," Yuuya says.

"Yeah, they're not that big," Jin admits.

"Hm," Yuuya says again. "Well. But it's something."

The park is busy, families with toddlers and groups of women with strollers, couples sharing ice cream and troupes of girls squealing over cell phone pictures. The sun's shining, and it's like everyone who doesn't have to work is out and enjoying it. Yuuya won't have to go in for another two hours.

Jin has no idea when band singers work. But he's looking forward to finding out. Maybe his schedule will be just as random as Kame's.

He hasn't had sex since Monday. Since that last guy. He has moments when his body seems to find that weird. But it's good. Kame has been very cuddly and affectionate and now there's no other guys, it's great.

Yuuya kicks at a little stone with his blue sneaker, tries to roll it along. He doesn't remind Jin of a schoolboy anymore, but he'd fit in with the students who are hanging around smoking outside the University of the Arts.

"What do you want to do afterwards?" Jin asks without really hesitating. "I mean, I know you can do this for a while. But you must have thought about it."

"Yeah, sure I have," Yuuya smiles. "But I don't know yet. When I get fed up… well, I don't know. I don't really fancy school." He wrinkles his nose, which makes Jin laugh.

"That's what they say when they're in school, so you'd fit right in."

"God, I'd be ancient," Yuuya says. "I'd be, like, thirty or something."

"Yeah, with your teeth falling out." Appropriately, they overtake a stooped granny, and grin guiltily at each other.

"You never said anything about a music career before," Yuuya muses after a while.

Jin shrugs, feels the last of his cone crackle between his teeth. "I never thought something like this would happen. And, well. It was a private thing. The music stuff. Didn't want to get it all mixed up with… work."

"Yeah, I guess." Yuuya gives a little bounce on his next step. "So I'm going to be very happy for you. It's good you get away from all that."

"My thoughts exactly," Jin grins, and only then does he notice something almost shy in Yuuya's glance, the way he's watching Jin… ah. "Hey, I didn't mean you."

"Well, I'd understand. If you want a clean break." Yuuya manages to make his shrug look entirely supportive.

"Don't be stupid. I want out of the job, not the friends. And I'm your best hamster sitter, so I don't know why you'd want to get rid of me."

Yuuya eyes him sneakily. "You'll watch her when I have to go on assignment?"

"Well, I don't think innocent little hamster girls should be taken on assignment, so, yeah."

Yuuya laughs.

"Just," Jin says then, because he doesn't want to be so sneaky it's basically lying, and now's as good a time as any, "I'm at Kame's a lot. A lot. So I hope it's okay if I take her along if I have to…"

Yuuya gives him a resigned look.

"He likes hamsters."

"Hmm," Yuuya muses, "with tonkatsu sauce or with ketchup?"

"I know you've got reason to distrust him…"

Yuuya snorts. "Not half as many as you."

Yeah. "Look," Jin starts, and doesn't really know how to continue. "About that one time." He hopes to god Yuuya won't make him specify.

God hears him; Yuuya nods and doesn't meet his eyes.

"He knows, okay? And he knows I know too, and I'm not sticking around for any more shit."

"Hm." Yuuya puts his hands in his pockets and keeps walking next to him.

"I know you haven't really seen him…" There's not much he can tell Yuuya but… he's never tried even with the stuff that he can. "He was in a really bad shape for a while," he says quietly.

This time Yuuya stops dead; the kind of stop that says you stop right there too. When he looks at Jin there's nothing soft about him.

"Listen, Jin. I know you're older and stuff. But I also know a thing or two about sadistic jerks, and one of them is that they don't ever stop being sadistic jerks. You know, under the nice meals and the birthday cakes? It's just there."

Jin rolls his shoulders, trying not to squirm. They never really had it out like this. "He's not…" It's a hard argument to make, with Yuuya, because Kame kind of was.

"He's not now. Fine. But what if he gets in a bad shape again? Is he going to treat you like that again? That was really shitty of him, you know, with me there. And it was all about making you feel bad. He got off on it."

"I know," Jin mumbles. But at least he's got an answer to the worry. A good one. "But he won't," he says, and doesn't mind that Yuuya keeps staring at him darkly because this one is going to go his way. "I told you. Cause then I'd be gone."

"Could you? Leave? With that job of yours, you'd make enough?" It's not a challenge, not exactly. It's a reasonable question, put in an uncompromising manner.

"I could leave," he says firmly. There's not even a risk, not after Kame signed those papers… crazy rich guy, and kind of sweet, even if Yuuya won't see it like this, and for a moment he's not even sure he wants to tell him because it's Kame and it's private. But Yuuya is his friend. "I won't even need the job for it," he adds. "Kame drew up a thing with his lawyer, so if we ever break up, I'll get lots of money. I wouldn't have to work for years. I could even buy a place."

Yuuya frowns. "That makes no sense."

"It does when you don't want to worry that your boyfriend is just staying with you because of the money. He's as bad as you, fretting that I'll feel stuck with him and it'll be just like whoring—"

"Yeah, because the whoring worked so badly for him." But he's thinking it through, that's something. "Okay," he concludes. "That's… surprisingly decent."

"Gee, thanks," Jin says, and gets a little smile back.

"And this is official? He can't take it back?"

Jin all but rolls his eyes. "No. He put his seal on it and the lawyer did his thing and… no."

"Hm," Yuuya says again. Slowly, they resume walking, and Jin notices that somehow they've ended up by the Toshogu Shrine, being stared at by its dragons. "So… basically if you dump him, you get to be rich?"

"More or less," Jin admits.

Yuuya is clearly thinking that that is the best two-for-the-price-of-one deal he's ever heard of.

Jin elbows him in the side. "Don't even."

"I wasn't," Yuuya says, but he's grinning now. "Man. A lawyer thing, huh. About break-ups…"

Jin shrugs again. "I thought it was weird, too. But he says if we could get married I'd be rich too, after a divorce." He thought Kame was nuts at first. Now he's blushing a bit, hearing words like 'married' coming out of his own mouth.

"Hm, I guess that is fair. Now that you gave up your job at the office and all…"

Jin laughs. Totally fits Kame's logic. He wonders how well they'd have got on, if not for that one time.

He tells Yuuya he said yes to an office assistant job with Tanaka, which Yuuya finds hilarious. Jin can see he's just about stopping himself from making skirt and coffee jokes.

"Music's better," he says instead.

"Will you come to the gigs?" Jin asks on impulse. "Once I know when we have them, I mean. If you have time."

Yuuya gives him a look like earlier, calculating and kind of shy, as if he's not sure. There is that image, flirty Yuuya mixing with Tomo and the band and others…

Jin nods, it's fine.

"That would be cool," Yuuya says, and Jin has to laugh, he sounds that awed and that eighteen.


Chapter 57


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