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9˝ Weeks

by Solo & Jo

 

Week 4

 

Sunday

Jin wriggles his foot, grimaces, and slips off the high computer chair to stand behind the little square window in his little square box. His feet get cold when he sits down too long because the little square box has no heating. At three in the morning, it makes a difference even in May. He wonders what they'll do come November.

A double-dot of headlights a few bends away tells him he'll have company again in a minute. Last night, his first night, he was grateful for the warning it gave him. Find the buzzer, make sure the book's open on the right page, check his cap's on straight and his gloves still white. It's not too difficult.

When the truck pulls up, he checks the number on the computer, notes details in the book, salutes the driver with his white gloves, and buzzes him through. Same routine as always. Unless it's a number that's not in the book, but that hasn't happened yet. If the number's not in the book, he can get out of his little box and get in an argument with a truck driver who won't be happy.

Cold feet are probably better.

He just walked into this job, saw the ad hanging in one of the chain's stores, Security Wanted. Jin hasn't had much luck with security, not being the bouncer type, but he can sit in a little square box.

Probably helped that truck drivers are less likely to be former KAT-TUN fans. Or maybe he just got lucky.

The huge iron gate rolls shut slowly; Jin has to keep an eye on it until it's fully closed. Exciting.

It's good though. Hourly rate higher than minimum wage, two weekend nights at twelve hours. Almost thirty thousand a week, and he can hope for extra shifts if the weekday guys get sick.

Still less than...

Less than Kame gives him for five – ten, fifteen – minutes. Of whatever. Whatever, is how he's decided to think about it. Decided long before he knew, really, or so it seems.

He's got a little radio. Or he could read his e-mails, if he got any worth speaking of. He twists his foot and fidgets on the chair, heat rising in his face despite the chill.

He looked through his old mails yesterday. When he came home at nine in the morning and was too wired to sleep and too tired not to think of hands in his hair, Kame slick and bitter and filling his mouth. Kame adrift and random after and how he tried to keep it under control and then ran the fuck away.

He wondered if the magical Kamenashi ascendancy had been painted in the sky back then, if the signs were there to see and he'd just missed what they meant.

Pi mentioned him once, in one of his last e-mails. But that was over eight years ago, and just about the gay thing.

He hates dwelling. He hates missing people. People who won't even be the same, not after all these years. What does Jin even know? Jin's in a square little box with white gloves on, and can't just call... Ueda, and chat with him about the good old times oh and by the way when did Kamenashi start running for company president?

He blinks when there's another twin light on the horizon. Work, approaching. Kame's always working. Moving, shaking, barely enough time to unzip his pants.

And lights coming around that corner, again. Cap, gloves. Book.

Smile, you're on.

   

Monday

The plastic bag clinks against Jin's legs as he stops at the curb.

It's Monday night, he's had a good day's sleep after his shifts, and he's shaved and decently dressed. There's no reason he should feel like a burglar scoping out the residential area.

Maybe it'll help if he stops looking over his shoulder.

He's still not sure how to tackle this, only that trying costs nothing, nothing except the train fare. It would help if he had a better idea what to say. Once upon a time, whining would have worked. But he was cuter then, with a lot less wear and tear. Now he doubts it'll get him past the front door.

Right, pretend to be an adult then. He takes a breath and steps up to the polished row of doorbells, with the security camera glaring down on him. Presses one, and feels his stomach do a little flip.

Which is just ridiculous.

"Yes, hello?" the voice comes, and then, as the video must have registered, "Akanishi?"

*~*~*

The noiseless elevator closes behind him. It's so noiseless it's almost creepy. His beer bottles clink again when he steps out, and now where to... Three doors on the floor, far apart, but one's just a crack open. Hey, Jin was already on camera! And is really not a burglar!

The door opens wider as Jin comes closer. "This is a surprise," Nakamaru says.

"Hey," Jin says, tries to shrug and smile. "You know me..." Like an old language he used to be more fluent in.

Nakamaru looks him over; Jin knows what's happening, because he's doing it too. How much older, did he get fat, how different...

"Well, come in," Nakamaru says, perfectly polite. "Good to see you."

He doesn't look much different. But he was always the one would could pull off the middle-aged respectable look, even when they were twenty. He didn't get fat. He's wearing a long-sleeved shirt now, and there's no aircon on in his apartment. It's immaculately tidy. Jin glimpses a home office past a half-open door, and then they're in the lounge.

Years and years ago, they had a party in Nakamaru's old apartment, and Kame was sick in an aquarium that stood in the far corner, and they spent two hours trying to rescue the fish, and they weren't invited back. There's no aquarium here.

It's all sustainable fair trade furniture and Jin gets to sit on a wicker couch that hurts his ass.

"Can I offer you some tea, perhaps?" Nakamaru says.

Jin lifts the bag. "Sorry, I forgot. I brought beer." Kame's beer, beer Kame brought him and they drank after. After Jin had him in his mouth. "Should still be cold. Ish."

For a moment Nakamaru just stares at the bottles, and Jin half expects him to say that he's gone off booze along with energy waste and upholstery, but then takes one of the bottles and twists off the cap.

"Thank you," he says.

"You're welcome." They clink the bottles' butts vaguely.

The first sip is odd, like deja-vu, when he's had plenty of beer in his life. Next time will be more beer. He runs his tongue over his lips, and it's a curious memory.

He starts a bit when Nakamaru says, "So if I may ask, how is your family?"

So they do that for a while. Fortunately Jin's mother is fine, and Meisa is fine, and Nakamaru's parents are in excellent health, and his youngest sister is pregnant but in good health, and his middle sister had to move to Kanazawa, and Jin's daughter is a lovely girl and Jin's son is shy and responsible and top of his class in English. Saying that actually makes Jin smile.

"That is good to hear," Nakamaru says, nodding along. "Very good indeed. I'm glad things are well."

"And what about you," Jin says. "Are you serious with anyone?" He hasn't seen any signs, but then whatever girl Nakamaru would date would probably not leave her bra hanging over the back of the wicker couch. There's nothing else either, no pictures, the place is blank of any... as blank as Nakamaru's face.

"No."

Whoops. That was a bit... Jin drinks his beer and wonders when that became such a loaded question.

But not like he can't sympathize. He makes an apologetic face. "Yeah. Me neither, actually. You know, after... it's been years now."

Nakamaru watches him with that same blank face. "Yes, it must be hard after a divorce, I can imagine," he says after a moment. Drinks some beer too, politely.

This isn't going too well.

"Sorry," Jin says. "I didn't mean anything by it. I was just asking, it made sense at the time." Or did Nakamaru become gay at some point, too?

Suddenly Nakamaru sighs, takes a deeper swig of beer, and leans back in the horrible healthy armchair. He looks older and more relaxed at the same time. Studying Jin, he snorts.

"What?"

"My apologies. I just realized you'd probably be the world's least likely undercover reporter."

The back of Jin's neck prickles uncomfortably. He's not undercover, exactly, but his life's definitely taken a turn for unlikely. "Sounds like an epiphany," he mumbles.

"I couldn't help wondering if you might be sniffing around for belated scandal tidbits," Nakamaru says. "But, well. Sorry."

It makes Jin grin despite himself, despite the fact that he is sniffing around, even if it's not quite the same. "Piss off."

Nakamaru shrugs. "You have to admit that a visit from you after all this time is surprising enough to make one look for an explanation." And that, despite the conciliatory smile, is a question.

Jin fiddles with his bottle. "Yeah, I know. I kind of... I've been thinking about the old days more, recently." Completely true, too. "And I was thinking, it's kind of sad we all lost track of each other like that. And, well. I've got more time on my hands than I used to." All of it is true.

Nakamaru purses his considerable lips. "You weren't exactly one for keeping in touch, I would say."

Jin shrugs. "There was a time that was best for everyone, I figured."

Nakamaru knows that's true, too. He also knows that Jin's just shit at it, because he knows Jin, because they go back years, and suddenly Jin feels so glad to see him, him and his stupid ergo-eco couch and his big nose.

"I have to admit you have a point there, " Nakamaru says.

Jin watches him take another deep swig. That bottle's finished. He fishes the next one out of the bottle. "I don't even know what you're doing these days," he says.

Nakamaru takes his beer, and gives him a small smile. Age has made him smoother, too.

"Well, I'm actually using my degree. I'm consulting on environmental issues. Liaising between companies and action groups, that kind of thing. I also," and he bows his head a little, "think I got out with more of a parachute than you did. The last few albums set me up all right."

Yeah. It was a good time for KAT-TUN, they were really ramping it up, one member or the other constantly on TV. Even Jin heard about the ticket prices in 2017. A good time to make tons of money; a weird time to leave.

"You sounded like you were glad to get out, anyway," Jin says. Not prodding or anything. Just fact, right?

But Nakamaru goes silent. Stares at his bottle. It takes a while before he says, "I sure did."

Jin has another drink, trying to shrug off the uncomfortable prickle of embarrassment. He's not good at this. Nakamaru looks closed off, like any moment he'll be asking Jin to leave.

"How long you've been living here?" Jin asks, the first small talk, harmless question that pops into his head, and even that makes suspicion flicker over Nakamaru's face. Damn.

But he says, "I bought it three years ago."

Jin sits still; waits. Looks very innocent, or so he hopes.

Nakamaru's eyes narrow thoughtfully. "You know, I have a nice Cognac, kindly given to me by a valuable Hokkaido client whom I helped contact somebody in the Pyrenees. I haven't yet had an occasion to bring it out. Do you think you might be persuaded to sample some of it?"

Oh yes, Jin might indeed. He's having more booze this week than he did last year, or so it feels. But he fancies some anyway. He's not getting kicked out just yet.

"Thanks," he says when Nakamaru hands him shiny brown liquid in a matte recycled glass.

*~*~*

"I could have a dog now," Nakamaru says, gesturing around. He leans his head back, his legs sprawling. "But, I don't know." He upends his glass with the delicious congnac and sighs. "Opinions on the appropriateness of pets are very divided in the ecological community, you know. It's hard…"

"I couldn't," Jin says. "My place is a rathole."

Nakamaru laughs quietly. "Rats make very good pets, despite their reputation. They're clean, intelligent..." Then he blinks. "I'm very sorry, that was insensitive."

"No problem," Jin says, having a tiny sip. He holds up the bottle questioningly.

"Oh, all right," Nakamaru says, watching the gold drop into his glass. It's his fourth. He squints. "Of course, rats would go in a cage. Which is even more of a concern, when you think about it."

"Well, pets are nice," Jin says. He's at least got more of an opinion on this than on the organic spirits from organic grapes in organic fields they discussed over glasses one through three. He counted. "My daughter also tells me rats are cute."

"They're also actively prosocial," Nakamaru says, taking another sip. "In experiments, they have demonstrated altruistic behavior to other rats."

"Some humans could learn from that," Jin says, lightly, just to get them back on the track of actual, you know, life.

"That is unfortunately very true." A bigger sip, and then he's looking into his glass again. Jin's glass is almost empty, too; he tried to stay sober but it didn't work, was too slow. So he goes for a refill and tops Nakamaru up again too.

"But then again," Nakamaru says, "on the other side of the scale you get ducks. Very unpleasant flosses. I mean, fellows."

Jin giggles. The booze. Okay, ducks. It's inconvenient but it's funny.

He tries to stay focused through ducks and their perversions. They can't be doing too bad if Nakamaru's landed at the pervy stuff.

"That swan," Nakamaru sighs. "I think... it was after my ribbons."

"Your ribbons?" Jin pictures ponies. No, that can't be right.

"Uniform jacket," Nakamaru says. His eyes are a little glassy. "You know. It was... wow..." He makes an astonished face. "I don't remember why I was wearing it."

"Do you still collect that stuff?" Jin asks.

"Not really," Nakamaru says. "Well, sometimes. But for a while, I had too many other things on my mind. And I was no longer wearing them at concerts. I mean, I had no concerts. Because of... and didn't want to be noticed in public… it was all sad. And I got prara— paranoid too, so, sure you understand..." He trails off.

It's a heavy silence, full of old... stuff. And cognac vapour. "I didn't think I'd miss it," Jin says. Concerts. Lights. Maybe the cognac was a bad idea. "Just, the noise. The life."

Nakamaru meets his eyes, and through the soft focus nostalgia comes a more awake stare. Curiosity. "I read about your divorce," he says. "I'm very sorry."

"Yeah, well." Jin shrugs and refills Nakamaru's glass.

"What happened? Did you have an affair?"

"No!" Why on earth would he? But his outrage dies down quickly when it seems Nakamaru isn't even embarrassed.

"Did she?"

"No." He's still got all the knee-jerk sulking, shutting down, not your business reflexes. But then he takes a breath. You don't get something for nothing, and memory lane isn't a one way street. "No, it was… it just didn't work. It was complicated."

"Because you got fired?"

Jin shrugs again. "That didn't help." It wasn't the reason. But all the reasons started there. "I guess we were great when it was all going okay. We just weren't strong enough for the really shitty parts."

Shitty parts like Jin out of work for months, Jin and Akira and the baby at home, Meisa working when she could, struggling in a business not mindful of mothers with a family.

He has a sip of the booze and it burns, burns deep. God, he can't get drunk. Not more drunk. But it burns.

"I'm sorry," Nakamaru says again.

"She married… I think she married a guy she could share stuff with." He's never told this to anyone, and he's not sure he's putting it right, but Nakamaru looks like something makes sense. "When we both worked, and we both looked after the kids… that was great, she was happy I wanted to change diapers. I just don't think she was ready to feel like the guy in the household quite so much."

He's thought about it a lot. And there was more to it, things like the kids always coming to him when they wanted stuff, Jin taking their side too much, I don't want to be bad evil mom all the time. She was crying and angry when she flung that at him. It still hurts him now, because she's a great mom.

"And the shittier it got, the more I spent time with the kids, that was something I was good at and I loved it. But she had to deal with me being down and angry and useless while the kids were all, Daddy is the greatest…"

He tried to make up for it, but in the end the more he tried to please her, the worse it got. Nobody wants to fuck the pathetic guy, and nobody needs him hanging around the house either.

"That sounds very hard," Nakamaru says in a quiet voice, still and attentive, thinking through half a bottle of golden booze. Jin takes a deep, deep breath. "We all knew you would make a great father, so it's very sad when that… gets complicated."

It was such a horrible time. He'd never thought it could get any worse. He didn't think he'd get this much into his sad sorry life tonight either, but turns out he doesn't really mind.

"She said I cared so much more about the kids than the marriage," he says. "And she was right, and it wasn't fair, and I wish I'd paid more attention. I wish I'd done a lot of things differently."

Nakamaru takes a breath almost as deep as Jin's. "Don't we all."

Indeed.

"But you are in touch with your family now, are you not? It would be…" He looks genuinely worried for Jin and Jin feels touched.

"I see them," Jin says. When he can, when he has work. "Meisa's good. We're not at war or anything."

Nakamaru looks relieved.

"Are you in touch with the others?" Jin asks, perfectly easy, and it's clear enough who he means.

Nakamaru's face looks pinched. "No. Given the manner of my departure…"

Jin holds his breath and hopes Nakamaru doesn't see. "I admit I'm curious what really happened," he says. "I mean, what really happened."

Nakamaru blinks at him. Then he breaks into the widest, dorkiest grin. "I bet you are." But he's not just drunk. It's their history, and Jin's got a place in it; a right to it.

"It seemed pretty out of the blue. And I caught some of it, but, you know. That was when things were so bad with Meisa, right before she kicked me out, and I was a mess. I didn't know the details."

Nakamaru looks at him owlishly. "No," he says, slowly. "I guess that's... You wouldn't know the details, nobody knew the details."

That sounds more worrying than Jin had even thought. But surely Kame didn't... "It's just..." He's looking for words. "You know Kamenashi and me, we had our issues. But for him to be the reason that you quit at a time like that..." His tongue's a little thick but the fact that he's getting places, making progress, helps like a cup of strong coffee.

"What, you didn't buy the 'strained working atmosphere' and the 'stifling ambition'?" Nakamaru's eyebrows rise high, waggle tipsily. "And what else was it, oh, 'lack of integrity', yes."

"But he's always been a bossy little bitch, not like that was news," Jin says, the memory bright and sharp. "He was always... burning."

Nakamaru laughs quietly into his glass. "Hmmmm," he says. And then he empties it. "Yeah. I know. We know." He sighs and the impossible chair creaks as he sprawls more comfortably. "No, all that was just the official show. I got myself into a slightly unfat— unfortunate situation, and it was..." He takes a breath, focusing. "It was suggested to me that it would be better for me on a general level if I withdrew from KAT-TUN and the agency." He smirks proudly at having gotten that out in one go. But Jin's blinking, and maybe he's understanding wrong.

"Kame forced you out?"

"No. Not him."

"Then who? Management? Johnny?"

"Not Johnny," Nakamaru says. There's something glazed to his stare. "But something like that, yes."

"I didn't remember anything in the papers..." Though they've established Jin was busy getting kicked out by his wife and being unemployed, so who knows.

"Because I went along with the suggestion." His hands, elegant as always, are unsteady as he pours them both another drink. "I guess I shouldn't even be telling you this."

Jin sips carefully, wishing he had actual coffee. This is starting to freak him out. "What did you actually do?"

Nakamaru gulps his down, Jin's not even prodding anymore. "I met a girl."

Jin just stares. It can't be. It can't be that fucking same story, not six years after Jin, with the fans old enough to deal and KAT-TUN giving Arashi a run for their money. That is just fucking stupid.

Nakamaru stares right back, like he didn't even notice the parallel. "She was great. And exciting. And we did exciting things. Some of them, I shouldn't have been doing."

Shit. Not even Jin— this feels bad. "I guess... that wasn't bungee jumping," he says; tries a smile.

"Cocaine," Nakamaru says. He doesn't look that drunk now. "Not often. But somehow someone at the agency heard about it."

And made him resign. And made him— wait a minute. "So what was all that stuff about Kame? What did he do?"

It's the first time Nakamaru looks as awkwardly embarrassed as Jin remembers him. "He did nothing."

"Nothing," Jin echoes.

"I mean, nothing wrong," Nakamaru says quickly. He's flushed red.

"Okay," Jin says, but he still doesn't get it, this isn't getting any less creepy.

"Well. I suppose..." Nakamaru takes a deep breath, focusing; blinking. "Do you know how Johnny's been doing, Akanishi?"

"No," Jin says, and what does that have to do with what Kame did or didn't do? "He's old, I guess."

"Old," Nakamaru says. "And not well. He started to need... help. And Kamenashi stepped right up, and some people didn't like that."

And down goes the cognac.

"He... you... you were told to say it was his fault?"

"It was suggested, too." He breathes out heavily, full of bitterness, but when he looks at Jin there's a blurry sort of relief. "I hated doing it. It was the worst lie, it was... It was just a lie." He shrugs. "I'm sorry, Jin."

Jin nods. He's not here to judge. His brain's still catching up anyway.

"If I'd gone down, with what she knew, KAT-TUN would have taken a hit anyway. I saw no other way."

"Does Kame know about this?"

Nakamaru gives a sloppy shrug. "I don't know what he's guessed at by now. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know if it matters. It was just one step of many in a long game."

"A game?" This is getting bizarre, it's getting... "Wait, who's 'she'?"

Nakamaru squints at him. "Pardon me for saying so, but you really have lost the plot, haven't you?"

"Dude, I haven't talked to anyone about this shit in years!"

Nakamaru leans back with the glass held to his chest, his breaths deepening. "Neither have I."

Yeah, Jin can see that. Why you'd keep that quiet, why it's dangerous. Drugs. Long ago. It probably helps that Jin matters so absolutely not at all.

"So Julie tried to take over the company?" Jin wants to get that straight, really straight.

"Tried," Nakamaru says airily, "is trying. She'd have got it, except she mismanaged KAT-TUN, NEWS… the old Johnny side. I think that's… Kame was pissed. He was pissed all the time." He laughs, fading out quickly. "But I stopped keeping track. I'm out of the loop too nowadays, you see."

"So now Kame's in her way." Boy, he didn't even mean that president thing.

"Precisely."

"What happened to the girl?"

It goes quiet. Nakamaru blinks, and for a moment he's looking through Jin.

"She dumped me. I assume she was more interested in dating an idol than in a part-time consultant who's scared to be seen with a drink in public."

One of those. "I'm sorry," Jin says. At least he got a family out of the ruin of his career, no matter how complicated even that is, these days. "That's all… that sucks."

"Long time ago now," Nakamaru says. But he's not smiling. And there's no-one now, Jin thinks. But then he's got no time to think more because the bottle is there again, filling his glass. Jin will have such a hangover tomorrow. And will be lucky if he finds the train.

They toast each other anyway. How often can you get plastered together and compare notes on how to get kicked out of a band?

 

Wednesday

Oh, shut up.

The noise is insistent, annoying, shut up Jin's nice and warm—

He jumps wide awake. Middle of the night, the kids— he fumbles around, finds his jeans, finds the pocket, shit the other pocket.

It's light outside. Okay. "'lo?"

"Are you at home today?"

Kamenashi. Not kids in the hospital, or Meisa in a car accident. "What?"

"Are you at home today?"

Jin squeezes his eyes shut, then blinks. He rolls on his back. "What? Why?"

There's a pause. Jin's brain cells are assembling.

"I am in your area later today," Kamenashi says, in a very clipped voice. "I want to know if you are, in general, at home this afternoon."

"Uh, yeah," Jin says. "I didn't get any shifts, I'm home..."

"Shifts? What— Never mind. I'll call after my business is done. Later." And he's gone.

Jin checks the time on his phone. Nine thirty. Okay, can't really complain about that. Normal people, blah blah blah.

Jin being what he is, he could roll back over and no one's going to be the wiser.

Then he lies there and stares at the ceiling, and thinks that later today, Kame is coming over.

Well. Well, well.

*~*~*

Half an hour later he's sitting at his table, showered and dressed, with his tab on and a steaming cup of coffee. His brain couldn't be convinced of more sleep.

No, his brain wanted to know what song to prepare, and when his brain tried to suggest one, his brain insisted that it was a waste of time anyway, since Kamenashi isn't coming for Jin's song.

His brain should make up its mind.

Coffee might help with that. And also, he feels more with it when he's on his feet and dressed. More like somebody who makes decisions. Decisions like, what if his brain is right?

He notices he's licking his lips again. Sighs impatiently at himself.

Not the end of the world. Short, too. But he's sure he should object to a repeat. Kamenashi caught him by surprise, then, but now he's got plenty of time to decide just how many ways he's not that low.

The tablet's finally sorted itself out. Updating the synth software last night took forever. He starts it up, lets the couple of phrases he saved play back to him. No words yet, just a little tune. But he likes it. It's been a long time since the music came for him.

He hums those two lines again and gets his guitar, gets settled. Spends ten minutes bugged by a sequence he kind of likes but wonders if he's heard before in other people's songs. Then nearly drops the guitar when there's a knock on the door.

Fuck. Afternoon, that jerk said afternoon. Jin whips his head around and feels ridiculous, like a kid caught leaving a mess.

There's another knock, a more hesitant one. Jin goes and flings the door open, won't do to have the neighbors—

Oh, neighbor, singular. From upstairs.

Of course, Kame is in a meeting, Kame said he'd call.

Her polite smile is wavering by the time Jin's finally got his face under control. He bows deep. "Sorry for the wait, I was..." He can't quite say composing yet. "Good morning."

"Hello, Akanishi-san, it's so good to catch you."

Yeah, like Jin's not around most days. He bows a little again.

"I hope I'm not interrupting your morning too much?" she asks, for extra politeness that concerns him more than anything.

"No, no, not at all." Okay, what does she want? An egg?

"You'll have to forgive me, I'd been hoping to catch you and Yubawara-san just mentioned this might be a good time to see you to ask if you have possibly, maybe remembered about our neighborhood association?"

Her smile gets even wider, maybe to make up for the frozen rictus that Jin feels has settled on his own face. Fucking Yubawara. Most of last week's money went to rent, no wonder he spread the news, it must have broken his sad boring brain that Jin managed more than a one-off windfall.

"I, uh." He bows. It buys him time. "I see." It's not that much. But it was the first thing he stopped paying, and he doesn't know what she wants, arrears or just for him to start paying again from now. "It is true that I just managed to find weekend employment."

"My sincere congratulations," she says heartily. "It's so difficult in these times."

"Thank you," Jin says, because that's what one says when people come round one's door to ask for money and one has to explain about one's employment status and they pretend to care. "So I would be happy to start paying my dues again. Thank you so much for your forbearance in the last year." And he bows again.

He gets his wallet, fast is good; hopes she doesn't peer in with his futon still lying there. He shakes out some coins and hopes he still knows the correct amount. He's got his best smile on for her, and another apology, and, "I am sorry, I will not be so forgetful next month." His own little carrot, if she's not pushy enough to point out the arrears.

She's not. Her carefully made-up face smiles appropriately, and she takes his money and his weaseling ways, probably thinking she'd never expected to get anything out of Jin anyway. He sends her off with another bow and she seems happy to assume he'll be a better neighborhood citizen in the future, even if she didn't get all the cash she came for.

He hates this fucking balancing act. More ways this shit creeps up on him and chatters in the corners of his brain, disturbing his calm morning of coffee, composing and cock contemplation.

He stashes his wallet in the drawer. It's still got two of Kame's notes in it, small ones. He wasn't even embarrassed, paying his rent with it. Maybe he should be, the way he should tell Kame to fuck off. But then who's to care where he puts his mouth these days.

Kame cared, he liked it. And that part was easy, served straight-up, Kame wanted him and took him and it's been a long time since he's been wanted.

He stares out of the window, at bright and fuzzy sky. Wonders if Kame is used to it now, just taking what he wants. Or if that only works on guys like Jin. Guys at the end of a short, slippery rope.

Then he imagines all those slippery rope guys, dangling there and calling Kame a fucktard for his trouble, and he laughs.

*~*~*

Kame's meeting is over by four. "I'll be there in twenty," he says, and he's there in twenty-five.

Jin has his shirt on and the futon tucked away, and ants crawling under his skin. "Hi," he says. "Good meeting?"

Kame considers that, his eyes dark and on nothing. "As good as could be expected," he judges, in a tone Jin knows, a tone that says someone or something wasn't quite up to scratch.

"Anyone interesting?"

Now Kame looks at him, but only briefly, before taking another inventory of Jin's four walls and the roof over his head. "Interesting to me," he says. "Not interesting to you." He holds out the expected shopping bag. It's a different suit again, Jin thinks, but somehow they all blur into one, along with the face that's blank as a page.

"Wow, you've really put me in my place there," Jin says. His hands are the worst, with the ants. But he takes the beer and stashes it away. Six again.

"So," Kame says. Not wasting time. "What did you pick?"

But Jin's thought a thing or two about wasting time, too. "Nothing. I thought we'd skip to the point?" And he drops himself in the chair, because the chair is important, and spreads out his hands, and for a moment he wants to laugh because what is he doing, trying to sell Kame a fish?

Kame has gone still.

And Jin knows his body language, has known it for ever, and he can tell Kame's on the point of turning right around and walking out and what the fuck, did he need the singing for foreplay, can't he do it without?

"Don't mess with me," Kame says, slowly. "You'd lose."

What, what the fuck, Jin thinks. It gives him a shiver anyway. "You've got a problem?" he says.

Kame looks him over again. Jin is the fish. It's not a good feeling.

"No," Kame decides at last. "You have a point." And he steps up fast and his hands are in Jin's hair, urgent strokes. "I like your voice. I have always liked your voice. But this..."

He's cupped Jin's face between his hands now. They're gentle, tipping his chin up until he's got to meet Kame's eyes, but if Jin tried to move, he thinks they could crush him.

"...this is better."

Kame lets go. Undoes his belt, undoes his fly.

Brings it out. Half hard, not like last time, but growing, and what's a blur from last time takes forever. Ants all over when this time it's Jin who has to move, bend his neck, until he has a cock in his mouth.

No force this time and no speed. Space, and he's... supposed to do stuff with it. Lean forward, take it deeper, suck...

The skin's smooth, and dry. He pulls back, pulls off to lick his lips. Tries again; sucks because that was the plan, and it thickens in his mouth and he hears Kame exhale.

Jin can't see him. You can't look up when you're sucking a guy and thinking about your tongue, thinking what next, thinking about lips and no teeth, he's got too many thoughts and for the first time thinks what the hell is he doing, what does he look like.

He goes down again, far, coarse hair right in front of him and pressure at the back of his throat. Hot. Is Kamenashi watching him? He hears a wet sucking sound from his own mouth, and it's cold on his neck and then Kame's hands are back in his hair. "Yes," he says.

Jin breathes out harshly, hoarse. And Kame steps in, just enough, and the next slide is all Kame's hips, deep and hard, and the end of complicated.

Kame whispers something, makes a fist in Jin's hair and it's stable, steady, and Jin can close his eyes when the air is hot around his face. Don't bite, don't gag, let him take, that's all he's got to do.

Won't last long, though he forgets it between fast and too much and Kame everywhere, and he's got to remember not to struggle. Just hold still and not mind, and it's rough jerks at the end and sweat in his nose, and then come in his mouth.

Same as then, warm and too thick, too much, but he takes it all anyway, tastes it more when he takes a stuttering breath. Kame is still holding on.

Finally he sighs, and the grip in Jin's hair loosens. He covers his cock as he pulls it out, a casual brush over Jin's bottom lip with the tip of his thumb, 'see you next week' or something.

"Yes," Kame says. "Good."

Takes Jin a moment to place that. Trust Kame to pick arguments up right where they left them, after coming his brains out.

He needs more air, but he tries not to look it. He can still taste the whole thing, all around his mouth. He wants a drink, and what's he waiting for and watching Kame, he should just get up.

Kame has tucked in the tuckable and straightened the straightable, and apart from the color of his face, you wouldn't know what he's been up to. What, his stare seems to say, which is a joke, maybe.

Eventually Jin pushes himself out the chair. His muscles feel stiff like he's been sitting there forever, like he grew old giving blow jobs to Kamenashi. "The usual, too?" he asks, heading for the fridge.

"Please," Kame says, and, "thank you," when Jin hands him the bottle.

Jin decides he doesn't give a fuck, wipes his face with his sleeve, and has a long, long swallow of beer.

He doesn't sit down in that chair again. They stand, a little awkwardly, Kame against his usual shelf and Jin against the kitchen sink.

"Sorry if I woke you up earlier," Kame says. "I didn't know it was still morning. I'll be more careful."

Jin shrugs. "I don't keep such regular hours. No problem."

"You said something about shifts?"

Jin drinks more, doesn't care. "Security job, weekends. Night shift. I let trucks in and out of the supermarket depot, very exciting. Keeper of the Gates." He twirls his bottle and catches the tail end of Kame's fading frown.

"God, Jin."

"Shut up. Don't you dare." He doesn't care. Doesn't give a shit. "What are you doing in my neighborhood? What sort of meeting are you having here?"

"Believe it or not," Kame says, and at least he drop-kicked the pity act as fast as he put it on. "Some companies actually have offices not too far from here. Standard negotiations, though. Wouldn't mean anything to you." Only half as condescending as it could be, how cute.

Kame puts the half-drunk beer on the shelf behind him, and goes for his jacket, and for a second Jin thinks this is it, done for the week, running away again. But Kame just reaches into one pocket. Pulls out a pack of cigarettes.

"You can't smoke in here." No way. That'd be the day.

Kame looks around with a doubtful face. "This is a non-smoking building?"

"My apartment is non-smoking." No way is he letting some entitled idol stink up his stuff. The rules are for everybody.

Kame looks at him like somebody just informed him the earth is flat and Johnny fallible after all. "You're kidding me."

"I'm serious. You want to smoke, you do it outside. I can give you a hat."

"This is a joke, right? Since when are you on the anti-smoking train?" He actually still taps out a cigarette.

"I have kids," Jin says. "And you can't smoke in here." For a messy moment, he thinks Kame will push it. But then he sorts the cigarette back neatly and lets his hands sink.

"You can smoke on the landing if it's urgent," Jin concedes.

"No, thanks." Kame shrugs easily and leans back against his shelf. "I don't really need to look like I reside here."

He's just a jerk, and Jin rolls his eyes. "Fine. Don't blame me when you get the jitters."

"It's under control, thank you," Kame says, and yeah, of course it is. It's Kame. And strangely quiet, and he thinks Kame is smiling under a whole lot of blasé and look-how-I-don't-care and coolest-guy-to-ever-lean-on-your-shelf-really.

"You'd have looked cute in a hat," Jin says, and finishes his beer. This is better.

Kame nods, like that is understood.

"How are your kids?" he asks, and call Jin weird but he can still faintly taste the guy through the Asahi, he doesn't want to talk kids right now.

"Fine," he says. "Thanks. How are the dogs?"

And god, wow. Kame's face just softens. "Okay, right now. Jelly was sick with some immune thing for a while, but the latest pills are working. We have to keep the puppy away from her, though, he's just too bouncy for an old lady."

"Poor Jelly." She must be so old now. "And Ran-chan?"

Kame blinks. "She... It's been a few years..."

Oh. "Shit, sorry." Shit. "I just... yeah. Maru too, you know?" He hasn't thought of it in years.

"Yes, actually I know," Kame says, but it doesn't sound sharp. "I spoke with your mother, remember? I'm sorry."

Yeah.

They drink more beer, until Kame checks his bottle, about one third full, and puts it down with an air of finality.

"I should get going," he says.

"You didn't finish it again," Jin protests. "I'm not so poor you have to leave me leftovers."

"I'm driving," Kame says. "Even this is... risky."

"Oh, true, I almost forgot," Jin says. "The minute you're out of here I've got to call the agency and tell them you're ripe for a scandal."

And he'd swear, Kame goes grey. And still, but it only lasts a moment, and then he has another long gulp.

"You'd make some people's day," he says.

"Sharks, huh?" Jin suspects he's trespassing, but what the hell. His apartment. His mouth.

"Big sharks." Kame seems to find his peeling wallpaper interesting. "Big teeth."

"Always swimming," Jin says. Akira was big into sharks at some point, and Jin got an education along with the teeth trauma. "Explains your hours."

Kame snorts, but leaves it at that.

"How are the guys?" The ones that are left. He's not going to mention Nakamaru. "How's Koki?"

Kame's smile turns to a frown. "Koki? Why?"

"Hey, I'm interested. Your dogs, your sharks, your other pets..." Koki threw himself at Kame over a decade ago and somehow he stuck. Like cuddly fungus, playing tough unless he's draped all over Kame. Given the way things went, it's a wonder they never fucked, a nice little bonus for Kame-chan.

Okay, there's a weird, distracting image, and the weirder thought that he doesn't even know.

"Koki's fine," Kame says, very neutrally.

O...kay.

For a moment, Jin's brain spins on possibilities. They did, broke up, this was a bad question. They didn't, Kame's pining, oh hell no way. They did, they are, Kame is... fucking Jin on the side, this isn't just about sharks, and Jin should kick him out right the fuck now and— fuck no, not Koki, surely.

"You're not fucking Koki, right?"

"What?" Kame stares at him like he dropped in through the roof, which Jin guesses is an answer. All righty.

He shrugs casually. "I'm sure he'd let you."

But Kame's face is smoothing over, his whole body drawing back into the Kamenashi Kazuya, Master of the Universe thing. "I'm sure he has other sources of income."

Fuck him. Jin doesn't even care. But it pools like acid in his mouth, the jobs and Kame in his suit and his fucked up hole of an apartment. "Yeah, you all sucked your dicks years ago, Johnny and the senpai, day and night and smile and say thank you and was it good for you sir..."

Kame's eyes are flaring, hot ice, Jin stops and he can't look away. "You shut your big mouth or I'll shut it for you."

His mouth, which is dry and wordless suddenly. His head is so blank, he needs a moment. "Sore spot?" he tries, though it sounds weak. "Don't worry, they all got value for money."

"If you think you can be proud of yourself..." Kame takes a step closer, but Jin just stands rooted. "If you're proud of your integrity, you're even dumber than I thought."

"Great," Jin says, giddy with coming to his senses. "Why are you talking to me then, if I'm so dumb?"

Kame shrugs tersely. "I figured someone's got to pay your rent. I heard your wife was out of cash this week."

"Leave her out of this, you asshole!"

"You got her into this. Some prize you were."

Jin wants to kick him. Pound the smug superiority right out of him. But you can do that when you're sixteen and not a loser, not when you're pushing forty and in trouble with everyone in the whole fucking wide world. "Well, aren't you glad I was out of your hair then."

Kame seems undecided whether to laugh or cry or toss him cash for better lines. "Oh, Jin."

"Shut up," Jin says hoarsely. "Drink your beer." He empties his own, and he kind of wants another, because his face is hot. But he doesn't want to be some lonely guy with a beer bottle in about three minutes.

"So, Koki," he says, and watches Kame. "He's fine?"

Kame gets the sharp look about him again, but all he says is, "Like I said. He's fine."

"He'd be sad to hear you speak so coldly of him."

"Well, I guess it's his luck he'll never know because nobody gives a shit about you anymore."

Swearing, Jin notes. It kind of makes him feel better.

"So what's your next meeting?" he asks. "If it's not national security, alien invasion secret."

Kame drinks at his beer, what little is left of it. Bastard actually thinks about it. "Concert budgets," he says. "Tour plans."

"You toured in March." Even Jin remembers the promotion, impossible to miss.

"Not our tour," Kame says, and then his beer is gone and the time is up.

~

Week 4˝

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