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The Same Deep Water As You

by Solo & Jo

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Epilogue


Friday 26 June

Kame gets divorced on a Friday in late June. The paperwork comes in the mail between a DIY catalogue and a Hakone postcard from his mother. His seal on it is the last thing that's missing, three years of his life and the biggest lie he ever told.

"What's… oh," Jin says, leaning over Kame's shoulder. He's warm and near and he smells of Jin, of home.

"Yeah," Kame says. "The paperwork always takes a while."

"You okay?"

Kame turns his head, smiles at Jin. He's got nothing to hide. "Absolutely okay." He puts his name and his seal on it, and then it's done.

Saturday 27 June

They got the line-up right for the All Star Games, Kame thinks. Four weeks to go, and Kame wonders if he should try to get them tickets and fly them out there, take advantage this summer while work is still slow.

The window by the bed is wide open and so's the balcony door in the kitchen. Summer has arrived, but the mild draft tickles Kame's ears and his bare toes and makes the heat bearable.

"Hm, I don't know." Jin has his phone stuck between his shoulder and his ear, frowning at his laptop where he was last trying to look for an e-mail. "Have you asked him?"

Kame stretches up from his sprawl on the couch and fishes for the remote to turn down the music.

"Well, yeah, but. You're kind of in a band. He might be, I don't know. Shy about it."

Kame leafs through the magazine and smiles at the little sidebar on the music pages that mentions new releases. No picture, but at least the name's transliterated right. According to Jin, Tanaka wasn't too happy with Young Song when they introduced Akanishi Hitoshi.

"No, god, I meant kind of as in, we're not Mr. Children." Then Jin hums and nods again, the e-mails ignored for the time being.

Kame was allowed to get him the laptop as an early birthday present, to use here and in Jin's own apartment, though half the time Jin forgets it wherever he had it last, and then complains. Kame didn't dare suggest he could simply get him two.

"I don't know… I thought he liked you. Yes. No. Well, just mail him, that can't hurt?" There's a longer silence on Jin's side. Then he makes a face. "Yeah… tonight. Thanks. I'll try. Okay, see you on Monday."

When he's hung up, he doesn't go back to what he was doing; just looks into space with a little pouting frown.

Kame pushes the bowl with the chocolates closer towards him. "Something wrong?"

"No," Jin says, then grins. "Depends. Misa, she's got boy trouble."

"Again?"

"Yeah, some guy from the pamphlet shoot. Lots of meaningful glances." Jin waggles his eyebrows just as meaningfully, and Kame laughs. "Also she wants me to say something about the single tonight."

Kame nods. "You should."

Jin gives him a narrow look but doesn't follow up, just looks around for the stack of t-shirts he threw over the other end of the sofa. They're a colourful mess. "I'm going to fold these up," he says manfully. "Do you have anything?"

"That's from the dryer, isn't it? There's a few of mine in there." Kame is sure he sees the pink one. "But you don't have to do that, it can wait till Wednesday."

He gets up and pulls the pink one out, anyway. It's reminded him that he has something to sort out with his most scarily deferential tenant.

Jin grins when Kame strips off his dark dress shirt and pulls on the wrinkled t-shirt. "Kondou-san's bathroom?"

"Yeah. Almost forgot." Early afternoon on a Saturday is a good time for these visits. "Won't be long."

He spends the next twenty minutes hearing apologetic explanations about the mold that even in June just won't stay out of one particular corner of the bathroom, and promises to send somebody around to treat the wall and have a look at the ventilation. He also learns about the progress of two daughters and five grandchildren and finally comes away with a bag of bean cakes and earnest instructions to share them with Jin.

When he returns, the t-shirts are in two neatly folded piles, and Jin is heating water for tea.

"Brought you something," Kame says, swinging the bag gently before dumping it on the counter. "Rewards of honest labour."

Jin eyes the bean cakes and Kame in turn. He snatches Kame by the pink shirt and plants a kiss on him. "Being cute doesn't count as honest labour." He tastes vaguely of the chocolates.

"Damn," Kame says. "Must stick with the acting then, they always let me get away with it."

Jin smiles; stands back and ruffles his hair. "You going to shower?"

"I showered this morning. Do you think I smell?"

"No." He smoothes the t-shirt down Kame's front in a pretty futile gesture. "But I know you'll wash your hair again anyway."

That's true, he will. But he can worry about hair later. "Thought you were making tea," he says.

"Yeah." A little frown passes over Jin's face, and he turns to get cups, measures out the leaves carefully. He watches the steam rise after he's poured.

They have four hours yet before they need to get going. They'll have a light dinner in two and get ready after that, and not even Kame needs longer in the bathroom, not even for this. Until then they will relax.

When the tea is ready, Kame settles back where he was with his cup and grabs the sports section of Asahi Shinbun, while Jin flips open the magazine at the music pages and looks adorable reading a review he seems to be disagreeing with.

The regional Summer Koushien tournaments are well underway, but there aren't any big surprises yet, no underdogs to get excited about. Still, that may come. Some promising players in third year, and as always Kame gets that little tug inside, wondering what if he hadn't been in his seventh drama by then, if he hadn't been too busy to even train by the time he was eighteen…

"Are you sure you're sure about this?"

Kame looks up. He hadn't noticed how Jin went quiet until now, but he must have been brooding over his tea cup silently for minutes.

He doesn't have to ask what it's about, of course. "Don't do this to me. I thought we settled it last week."

"Yeah," Jin says. "Just… you don't think it's too early?"

Kame knows all the arguments, knows them well. They touch a nerve deep down and give him the jitters. But it's also time, and it's other things too.

"It's time," he says. "So stop being me."

Jin grins suddenly and looks Kame up and down in a way that can only spell trouble. Kame balls up a flyer for last-minute July vacations and pitches it at him.

"Ow," Jin says obediently when it hits him on the head.

It's been almost two months since Jin quit his job, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.

*~*~*

Kame got married on a sweltering June day, three years, three weeks and three days ago. Midori joked with him that her traditional brideswear was like carrying around a personal sauna. He let his parents throw them a party, not too flashy but big enough that people got to see him and his beautiful wife, and the picture they made together.

There were photographers, official ones invited by the agency and some less official ones, invited less officially, and the way the news trickled into all corners of the business was just right. The biggest lie he ever told, and then some.

He didn't have the house yet, so they went to his apartment that night, the one where he'd fought with Souji, and lived with him, and missed him. Midori was tipsy and happy, and Kame sat on the bed waiting for her to finish in the bathroom, tired from a long, flawless day but ready for all the others to come. His mind was clear, and quite, quite calm. He did it all quite well.

*~*~*

The car slows down on the last curve of the driveway, giving Jin just a glimpse of the roped-off entrance, a moment to get ready.

Kame's face is set in square blankness. If he pulled out a sword to march off to a duel, it wouldn't come as a surprise. Well, the samurai would find the tux interesting.

Jin bites his lip hard enough to hurt, trying not to giggle. It's not funny. It's just his nerves.

Then the limousine before them takes off, and they slow to a halt. "Think I'll get my own door," Jin says without moving.

Kame nods quickly before pushing the door on his side open. "Come on," he simply says.

There's noise. Bright lights; cameras. Lots of people talking, someone a few steps ahead giving quick interviews. A lady nearer the hotel door is showing off her shoes for a photographer.

Kame has stepped around the car and is giving Jin a confident smile. "You should get used to this," he says in a conversational voice. "Good practice for after your first album."

The album is so far from Jin's mind, Kame might be talking about their future dog. First they need to survive this. The reporters stay behind the ropes, trying to catch their eyes, and Jin thinks he can feel the glare of attention focusing on Kame.

"Kamenashi-san," says a bright cheerful voice; a young woman… the cook's love interest. Jin's liked her ever since she threw chicken guts at Kame.

Kame is smiling at her, ignoring the cameras for now. "Kumasaka-san, good evening. Congratulations on your award," he says, making her blush. Then Kame introduces Akanishi Jin, friend, and the girl introduces her mother.

"Morioka had his sister at the movie premiere," Kame had said at home, convincing himself more than Jin. "A guy I once knew brought his eighty-six year old granny when he won Best Newcomer."

Kame and Kumasaka chat for a bit, with Jin and the girl's mother hanging in the background, and it keeps them occupied away from the reporters. Still they're both smiling in a totally camera-ready fashion. Jin thinks he'll probably never learn that, not that he has to, no matter what Kame's fantasizing about the album.

Oh god they're out here, being photographed.

And his stomach should stop doing that.

Kame gives him a smile over his shoulder, another confident one that says he's not trying to pretend Jin's not here. The girl and her mother are at the door, where the rope lines get narrower and suddenly Kame is talking to a reporter.

Jin nearly stops, right there on the red carpet. He feels like he's lurking, stuck behind Kame's back like that. If you can lurk in plain sight.

"Nice to see you again, Maemi-san," Kame is saying. "Did you get to cover the World Series again this year?"

"I did, it was extremely interesting," the woman says. She's just a little older than they, her tone friendly, her eyes hungry anyway. "Will you be accepting the Best Drama award on behalf of Served Cold?"

"Yes. Unfortunately our director couldn't make it, so I feel very honoured."

The director was busy. Kame is not busy these days, he doesn't have a summer drama. But at least the auditions are serious again, they think. Kame's agent thinks.

Kame takes half a step back, and the reporter stops pretending she's not staring at Jin. "Let me introduce you to Akanishi Jin. He's a friend of mine, and he's releasing his first single next week."

"Oh, how interesting!" the reporter says in the same busy voice. Kame nods subtly.

"Good evening," Jin says with a little bow. His ears are rushing with blood like they haven't since he stopped chatting up guys in dark street corners, but he can still keep it together. "I have joined JUNGLELOW, and we have a single next week. Tiger's Tale."

"Oh, congratulations!" She whips around and turns bright eyes back on Kame. "Kamenashi-san, did you choose to come with a friend because bringing another woman this soon would hurt your wife?"

Kame stays totally still. Jin is confused; this is such a generous interpretation, what does she want… "I hope you'll forgive me, Maemi-san," Kame says, polite but not even trying to flirt. "I still don't comment on my private life, or on that of my wife."

She blushes, and looks almost like she means it when she lets them go saying, "Enjoy the ceremony, please!"

It's easy to follow Kame. Then they're inside.

"You learn to pick the friendlier ones," Kame says quietly. "It's easier than trying to avoid them."

Jin nods and makes a mental note he hopes he'll never need.

It's a glitzy lobby, polished marble and dark wood counters. Silently moving waiters that offer Champagne, tiny little snacks. In another life he might take the glass elevator to the top floor now and somebody there would pay for two hours…

"Relax," Kame says with a smile, but he doesn't know what it's about.

Jin is glad he has a new tux.

No reporters in here. Just more people in really fancy clothes, more colour than Jin would have seen at the club. More women, of course. Kame swipes Champagne for them off a tray, says thanks to the bland waiter, and next thing their glasses are both half empty and they're smiling at each other.

"It starts in ten minutes," Kame says. Jin can tell he's trying to be productive and organized. They agreed not to come too early, and that they could leave as soon as they wanted to afterwards.

They take a sharp left – away from those elevators, guided by courteous staff along a red-carpeted corridor to a second room that is not quite as tall and grand as the lobby, but tries to make up for it with red and white garlands draped along the walls and the podium, the lights just the right kind of low to give everything a shine. The plush red chairs have little notes on them with people's names. Jin is 'Kamenashi-sama, Companion-sama'.

They don't try to involve themselves in conversations, though Kame says a friendly hello to one or two men going past. There's a gaggle of people looking even more organized and productive than Kame, and— oh god there's Sakurai Sho, and Jin knew he was hosting this thing but his stomach flips anyway, and he wouldn't mind finding a table to hide under or… something.

But he remains cool and Kame doesn't notice, and they sit down. There are more cameras. Kame's wearing that smile again. Jin makes sure he looks interested and not at all misplaced, then nearly jumps out of his skin when someone leans in from behind them and says, "Hi Kamenashi-san, I didn't see you earlier."

They both turn round. Kame's smile gets deeper and more real. "We just got here."

It's Morioka, Kame's antagonist from the cook drama and winner of Best Supporting Actor, but someone better behaved shushes them as the lights dim further. "Later," Morioka whispers.

Kame is on pretty early, and Jin is too nervous to think much about how good he looks and how smoothly he handles everything. He accepts the award for the drama with much gratitude and gets in a lot of flattering comments to everybody on the team, and it's flawless to the end. There's polite applause and then that's that, and Jin breathes a sigh of relief. Kame doesn't do even that, he's that good. To anyone else, he probably didn't look nervous at all.

Jin has never heard of the guy who gets Best Actor but Kame whispers he's incredibly talented and played an excellent dying salaryman in some NTV drama. Morioka gets his shiny golden plaque, and the love interest woman gets Best Supporting Actress.

The whole thing takes half an hour, tops, and most of that is people posing with awards and flowers for the cameras. Then they break up and it's back to the grandiose lobby, where a buffet has been set up and more Champagne produced.

Jin lets Kame get them the drinks again, and then Kame spots Morioka and his date by one of the giant floral displays. Morioka is smiling in their direction but not moving.

"Come on," Kame says. "I want to introduce you properly."

This is the friendly guy who got photographed going to a restaurant with Kame. Who behaved decently to Kame when stuff was going on. There's no reason to feel nervous.

"I see you both still got some Champagne despite our misbehaviour in there," Morioka says, holding up his own glass and grinning. He looks nice, not at all fierce and haunted like in the drama.

Kame is smiling easily, and Jin has to look very hard to see the determination underneath. "This is my friend Akanishi Jin. Jin, this is Morioka Akihito, former student then employer."

Morioka laughs, and there are the appropriate bows. "It's nice to meet you, Akanishi-san."

"Now don't tell me you have another beautiful sister," Kame adds, and the girl blushes and tries to cover her smile.

"I'm Yamada Yumie," she says, to which Kame makes a noise of recognition.

"Of course," he says. "Uemura, right?"

"Last year," the girl says, still blushing. "Though this year I would like to work more in fashion."

Jin keeps smiling and hopes nobody expects him to know the difference between Uemura and the suits Kame was supposed to model.

The girl bows at him politely before her eyes flicker back to Kame, and there's a weird little pause. Who knows what she's heard, what she's thinking.

"I thought the spring lines were very interesting this year," Kame says to her, and it turns out Yamada-san doesn't just model dresses but has opinions about them too, and they both agree that surgical masks were a bold aesthetic choice on some week of fashion.

"Somehow I can follow more when he talks about baseball," Morioka says to Jin.

"Hm, yeah," Jin says cautiously.

"Though there was that one time he tried to explain to me how to pitch a good 12-6 curve…" Yamada-san is saying something about sexualized clowns, and Morioka shares a look with Jin that says the throwing lesson was still better.

"I wouldn't know a 12-6 curve if it hit me on the head, either," Jin admits. "But I'm learning."

"You're not a fan?"

Jin makes a face to show he has to be tactful about baseball. "Soccer's really my thing."

"And music, right? Kamenashi-san said you're in a band now?"

"Yeah," Jin says quickly, before his brain has even caught up. "JUNGLELOW. He told you about— it?"

"It came up. Congratulations, too. When's the release?"

Jin can't help throwing a glance at Kame, who is still in friendly discussion, and who mentions Jin's band at work. Mentions Jin. "Next week," he answers at last. "I'm a bit nervous, to be honest."

Morioka surprises him by grinning. "Yeah. That gets easier, but it doesn't really go away."

"Thanks," Jin grins. "That's cheerful."

Morioka laughs guiltily. "You'll get first-class lessons at handling it, though." He nods at Kame, with a respect that lets Jin knows it's about more than dealing with awards shows.

Yes, Jin thinks, to a wild burst of pride. He will.

"I heard that they want to turn our teacher movie into a series," Morioka adds thoughtfully. "Is he going to take it?"

He just assumes Jin will know, and… Jin needs a moment for his mind to stop reeling from that, and when it does he's still not sure what Kame would want him to say.

But this guy knows about them, and he seems to care about Kame, and so Jin says, "He's not sure, it depends. He auditioned for a movie with a boxer in it, too, and he'd rather take that. He seems pretty optimistic."

Morioka looks pleased. "Well, knowing him, he could probably do both."

But then he'd never be home, Jin thinks, and he almost says it, but catches himself in time. There's candid and there's stupid.

"Yeah, I guess," he says when he finds nothing else instead, but Morioka just smiles and wonders aloud how much actual boxing training there will be.

"You do boxing?" the model says, with a very funny look at Kame's face.

"Not yet," Kame says. "I managed the nose all by myself."

And she's off blushing again, while Jin and Morioka chuckle quietly, and suddenly there's a voice Jin knows behind him and he sees Kame's eyes widen and his face fall into the polite film-star persona, and it's Sakurai Sho, who says, "I see half our winners are congregating right by the Champagne."

Jin had started to hope they'd get out of here without this. But surely Sakurai can't want to talk about club things, either.

It's Morioka who replies first, even if it's merely a greeting and more thanks for the award. Jin says nothing while Kame says hello, while Morioka's date is introduced and Sakurai compliments her. When Kame says, "And this is my friend Akanishi," in that firmly pleasant voice Jin knows, Sakurai finally looks at him, and Jin thinks maybe he's been putting this off as long as he could, too.

"I'm Akanishi," he says, "pleased to meet you."

"Yes," Sakurai says, "very pleased." But the look that flickers back to Kame has uncertainty behind the professional face.

"Akanishi is part of JUNGLELOW," Kame says. "You might have heard of them, they play rock music which is quite popular in some circles."

Sakurai nods agreeably. "I see. That's very good."

What he sees is that Kame is making up a good story for his escort. Four months ago he'd have been right.

Four months ago Kame wouldn't have done this.

What does Sakurai think Kame is doing?

Jin finds a smile, one of those old ones he doesn't have to mean. He'll never like this, it feels like bragging all the time, but just for now it's… necessary. "We are releasing a new single next week," he says. "I was fortunate enough to be taken on by Jokertown Records and join the band earlier this year."

Sakurai nods with an attractive little smile, thinking whatever thoughts, possibly about Tanaka too, now. "So this is your first single?"

"The first since I joined the band," Jin says smoothly. "If we do well, maybe you'll catch us on TV sometime."

"I'll definitely look out for that," Sakurai says. He shoots Kame a wry glance which makes Kame give a little bow.

"Me too!" Morioka's date chimes in, and Jin thanks them both, a belated flush taking over his face.

Sakurai moves on shortly after that, to be a good host and catch up with everybody else. Yamada-san confesses how much she likes his programs, and Morioka says he is terribly wounded and will have to learn about curve balls after all.

The conversation happens without Jin for a while, as he lets it all settle and watches Kame with his friendly smile and his untouched Champagne.

So now they've done that too. Kame's colleagues, people from before. It'll get easier.

Kame is holding on to his glass a little tightly, but his eyes are clear and he's not afraid to look at Jin.

Soon they can go home.

 

*~*~*

Kame fell in love over peanut bars and hamsters and boring soccer, when he didn't even know. He falls in love again over a hundred little things, over e-mails about dinner and weird sauces in his fridge and Jin coming home high and happy from lives, the heartbreak of Jin missing his brothers, his key to Jin's apartment, sixty volumes of One Piece Jin buys with his second salary, and Jin's hideous thick socks when he concedes the time has come to put the aircon on.

It trips him every time it happens, that little plunge when he knows here's a thing it would kill him to lose. So many of them, all the right things now, and that makes it worse and more frightening than before but also better. So much better, he can't even say.

Though sometimes he tries. It makes Jin blush, or poke him, or kiss him into silence. That's one of those things too.

*~*~*

The ceiling is a friendly orange. Kame is glad for his comfortable sofa, the safely locked door, the sounds Jin is making in the kitchen.

Jin has put the lights on low with the remote, a soft foreign tune playing that Kame doesn't understand the words to.

There's music so much more often now. He even likes a lot of it.

He's not ashamed of still quivering on the inside. Jin gets it. Kame can see in the wry smiles and in the full glasses of Montrachet Jin pours that he gets it.

He puts the glass in Kame's hands, then sits down, making Kame pull his feet in.

The wine goes down well. This is one part where Jin still lets him splurge, though Kame has stopped buying the imported Italian water and they rent the BluRays from an online video store now.

"That was interesting," Jin observes, staring into space while the first gulps of the wine do their thing. "You know, when people… actually care what you do. Want to write about it."

"You'll get used to it," Kame says. Easing Jin's mind about his new career is still a reflex.

Jin looks him over, eyebrows rising ever so slowly.

"I'll get used to it too."

They don't know what's going to be in the papers tomorrow. Not everybody is like Maemi-san.

But Tanaka gave his okay, and Kumasaka-san had her mother there, and all evening they didn't come close enough to touch.

Kame shifts towards Jin. Time to make up for that.

Jin pulls him against himself, cautious because of the wine, and for a while they sit quietly and sip their drink, and wait for the evening to fall off them. Cozy.

Jin's still wearing the formal shirt, half undone, but he's pulled on thin drawstring pants underneath. It's still warm outside, and the blinds are now holding off the breeze.

He has a view of Jin's guitar from here, next to the bookshelf. Jin's mangas, which are dog-eared already like Kame's would never be. Kame's tiny unloved CD collection and the demos Jin brings home from work.

"I like this place much better with your stuff here," Kame says. "Don't take too much back to yours, okay?"

"You like it messy?" Jin says, a smile in his voice. "I never knew."

Kame has more of the wine and closes his eyes. He feels drifty, like he's up somewhere high, but always anchored. "Just… living here, you know? When I bought this… I wasn't here much." It was just a place he ran away to. "It's more real, like this, with your things."

Jin laughs softly. "Boy, can I make it real for you."

"Do your worst," Kame smiles. "I like keeping it real." Now. Finally.

Jin squints at him like he's puzzling something out. "You know not everything has to be a statement, right? Sometimes my crap is just crap. I mean, you can tell me if it gets in your way."

"I know," Kame says. "But you know what I mean. I like… the way this feels." Real over fake. Truth over lies.

Jin leans in and kisses him briefly. "Yeah, I know." Then he sits back and pulls Kame into a steely hug. "So, about today. Are you feeling okay about it?"

"Yes," Kame says instantly. He lets himself slide down until his shoulders are in Jin's lap.

Jin snorts. "I mean, not how you mean to feel about it or how you think you should feel about it."

"No," Kame says. "For real." He draws a little circle on Jin's cotton-clad knee. "You were there. The sky didn't fall on us. We drank Champagne together and talked to my colleagues together and you were there. And now you are here. I think today is perfect."

He closes his eyes again and feels Jin's fingers starting to move in his hair.

"And tomorrow?" Jin asks.

Tomorrow will have songwriting and laundry and dishes, band practice and drama auditions, hard work and coming home and reading manga and folding shirts, and Jin will be there.

The truth has never been so easy.

END

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