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9˝ Weeks

by Solo & Jo

 

Week 4˝

 

Thursday

The phone rings on Thursday at three in the afternoon. He doesn't start, or flinch. It could be anything, after all.

It's better than anything, it's work. "I am sorry to trouble you at short notice, Akanishi-san, one of our patrolmen has taken ill and is in the hospital. Could you take his shift tonight from six?"

Can Jin ever.

He gets sweaty cycling there, the faintest breeze on his skin, and the shift manager greets him with a breath of relief. They called Jin. Because he's proved himself at sitting in a box, but it feels good anyway, Jin's not going to poke at that.

The manager explains the job, not actually his little box but rounds on the overnight parking lot, and maybe it'll get dark and a bit creepy, but he'll deal.

He gets time to change into his uniform, freshly washed and so stiff, he feels naked inside it. Maybe he is, technically. The ride must have woken him up. He's taking the kids on Saturday and this will fuck up his sleep, but Jin slept for two in the last year, and he's decided he can sleep whenever.

He even gets keys, to let any drivers arriving at night into the break room, though there's also a second guy in a second box for that. Apparently it's important you don't leave night drivers stuck in the parking lot for whatever reason.

The job's not much harder than the little box, really. The walking is nice, especially once it's cooler. No radio, but he's humming to himself.

Things are looking up. Still a crap job, sure, and he'll still be looking for better. But it's a job and he's... he's feeling good.

And why not.

He counts all the trucks on his third round. On his fourth he starts to imagine where they've been. All over Japan, all along pretty coastal roads. Or just in one dull parking lot after the other and lots of traffic jams.

Once it's fully dark he puts his flashlight on. The guy from the second little box waves at him on one round and hands him a cup of coffee. It's nice, having a colleague, Jin thinks as he carries the delicious scent with him around the trucks.

And the night air on his skin feels good, too, the soft breeze blowing through his hair feels like fingers, like...

Oh, whatever. It feels good. And why not.

 

Saturday

"If you had to run away from a volcano, what would you take with you?"

Akira bumps into Jin for emphasis, though earlier he twisted his sweaty hand out of Jin's the moment Jin let him.

Volcanoes. Why can't his son be into cars, or girl bands?

"You mean, pack?" Jin asks.

Akira nods, squinting up at him against the sun. He wanted to wear sunglasses just like Jin, but Jin and Meisa agreed they looked ridiculous on a ten-year-old schoolboy. Sara, on whom Jin secretly finds them adorable, had to relinquish hers too. Meisa got so fed up with the arguing, she told them to go get their ice cream in America and not come back to bother her before university.

Jin tries to think about volcanoes. It's sweltering out here, which makes the thinking even more uncomfortable. "How much time do I have?"

The queue shuffles forward. They have loads of time here.

"Well," Akira says knowledgeably. "You might have days if you interpret the signs right. Earthquakes and noise and smoke, you know."

Earthquakes. Cheery.

"But let's assume you really have to leave in a hurry, you can't just load a whole truck."

"I'd take Mom and Dad and Momo and my Wii," Sara says.

"I didn't ask you."

"Mom can drive the car and Dad carries the Wii and I carry Momo," Sara elaborates.

"What about your brother, huh?" Jin asks her.

Sara considers that as they move another couple of steps. In five minutes, they might get to a shady bit. In half an hour, they may reach the benches set out for queueing customers. "Well, he can walk, right? So I don't have to take him."

"Hey, dad," Akira says. "That was my question!"

"Yes, sorry, I'm thinking."

"You won't have that much time to think when there's a volcano erupting," his smartass son points out. A shame glaring doesn't work well behind sunglasses.

"I'd take all the money," Jin says slowly. What he'd really do is take the phone, to be able to check they're okay, to find them, because they wouldn't be together because he's a loser, right? "So we could keep buying gas so we could keep driving. And our passports. And your favorite snacks, and plenty of Mom's diet drink because you know what she gets like when she's hungry."

And he'd need the phone even if they were together, to find... out what else was going on.

"That's not bad," Akira says magnanimously. "But you're not really well-prepared if anything else goes wrong."

"All right, what would you take?" Jin asks. Clearly Akira has given this more thought, and isn't stuck on his phone and lines being down. "What should we take?"

"We'd take the earthquake kit first of all," Akira says. "That's got the food, blankets, light, gloves, masks, water treatment tabs, and the first aid stuff, all right there. And then we need to consider the lava, right? It's going to be hot, so the tyres of the car will wear down more quickly, so we'll need spare puncture repair kits."

Jin nods. "I see. I hadn't thought of that." The kid with the family in front of them is peering around her mother's neck at Akira.

"We'll have to drive really fast anyway," Akira says, "because lava is fast. So it's important that the tyres are okay."

"Mom doesn't like it if we drive fast," Sara says. "And there are speed limits on the expressway."

"The police is going to be busy, though. And you have to get away before all the roads get clogged up." Akira's cheeks are a little blotched, the way he gets when a story is very exciting. "Though, of course, you can still get hit by flying rocks and stuff. Then you're stuck."

Or dead, Jin thinks, but the little girl in front of them is starting to look intimidated as it is.

"We'll just have to leave early," he says. "And with how much you know, we'll sure get warning long before everybody else."

"Yeah." When he explains quite seriously about the warning message he has composed, which will go out to his friends at the press of a button on his phone, Jin thinks that even the little girl's mother is starting to look spooked. She's probably just not used to people being that thorough. Sara is, and is unimpressed and a little bored.

"How much longer do we have to stand here?"

"Hey, I told you it was going to be a queue to the moon, princess. That's why you wanted to come, right? Because everybody else comes?"

"They say it's really good ice cream! And all different kinds. And they look like fruit and houses." The excitement seems to have distracted her from her annoyance with the queue.

"Which one do you want to try first?" Jin asks, pulling her closer in the futile hope of lowering her voice a little.

"I want the kiwi ice cream that looks like a kiwi!" Sara announces, and Akira says, "I want a volcano," grinning.

*~*~*

They make it to the entrance after an hour of queueing. The place is huge, restaurants within the restaurant. There is a 'fruit stand' and 'Italy', a 'zoo' and a 'sports corner', and the air is cold enough that you can admire an ice-cream pokemon for several minutes before its face melts off.

No volcanoes, though. Jin's almost surprised, because a volcano would seem easier to construct than the plants, animals, pasta dishes and sports emblems that are on offer. Who would want to eat an ice-cream baseball glove?

Okay, one person he can think of.

Sara finds her kiwi but by that time her entire attention has been captivated by a gorgeous, enormous mandarin duck which is the centerpiece in the next window. Jin estimates it could feed a party of twenty. "Daaaaaad," she says.

Jin ruffles her hair. "You're kidding, right?"

"It would eat you," Akira says.

"It's just so pretty. And look at the feathers." Sara is biting her lip staring at the sugary frosting feathers. "I bet it's got fifteen flavors at least."

"Let's find you something your size with lots of different flavors, huh?" Jin says. She'd just about manage the pink beak of that thing. No need to even think about the price tag. "You don't want to have a belly full of monster duck and fall over, right?" He grabs her and pretends to make her fall down, and she squeaks.

She has a strawberry pig with chocolate and black sesame mud stains in the end, giggling about eating piggy butt. Jin has a chocolate banana monkey and Akira a bright green grass monster that Jin recognizes from the Disney movie they saw in winter. He says it tastes of melon, apple and pistachio.

Looking around, Jin finds that everybody seems to come here. Lots of families, but old couples too, and school kids, and groups of young women, and here and there people who are clearly dating. He pushed his sunglasses up when they came in and completely forgot about them; and it's not a problem because nobody pays him any attention anyway. Nobody knows him.

Nobody pesters him. It's what he always wanted.

"Are you coming to my birthday party, dad?" Sara asks, wriggling in her chair, which is a hollow ice cream cone with different-colored fillings. Akira discreetly rolls his eyes. Jin heard from Meisa that the invite list was quite a topic of evaluation and re-evaluation.

"I don't know yet, sweetie, I may have to work," Jin says. He should be okay, Meisa's always let him come, even to Akira's last year when he owed Meisa enough to buy a small car. He still wants to ask her first. "But I'll try, okay?"

"It'll be great," Sara says. "We thought up lots of games. Akira helped, and I invited two of his friends too, even though they're older. And one of them's a boy."

"We tried to make it so the games aren't lame," Akira says, looking pleased despite himself. If Jin can't make it to the party because he's really got work, he promises himself they'll do something even more awesome on the Thursday that's Sara's actual birthday.

They finish their first round, and Sara successfully argues that after standing in line for one hour they should at least have two. After a bit of walking and staring, they end up with pizza napoli ice cream for Akira and a princess with a frosted tutu for Sara, who turns her a few times admiringly, then leans forward and bites her head off.

Jin has a coffee and, eventually, two princess legs that taste of marzipan when Sara has reached her capacity. She is adorable, grinning at him with the frosting on her nose. Akira is spearing his last olive-imitating grape, and Jin feels warm and cozy even with the chilly aircon.

Sara insists that they walk past the duck on their way out. "I'm going to put a photo up for my class to see," she says, and brings out her cell phone. They take a second picture of the duck with Sara and Akira beside it and send it to Meisa, and then they have to go because Jin needs to be at work by six.

"Are you working with someone famous tonight?" Akira asks, helping Sara struggling out of her ice-cream restaurant extra sweater.

"No, just the usual, helping out with someone's recording," Jin says, his standard line. It's been a lovely day and they had princess ice cream and admired ducks together, so not even that can get him down.

*~*~*

It's five when he deposits them back at Meisa's door. She looks a little worried, checking her watch. "Will you be all right?" she says. "I didn't want you to get in trouble..."

"I'm fine, I've got an hour to get there." He's learned to be on time; late, but he learned it, how not to be dead weight Meisa or his mother or... other people had to shoo around.

Sara is bubbling over with princess talk and kiwis and the duck, but Meisa shushes her, saying, "Tell me over dinner, honey, it's almost ready, okay?"

The kids know this part, too. Jin's half in, half out the door, and this is Mom and Dad time, so they hug Jin goodbye and disappear into the kitchen.

"How was it?" Meisa asks, though her grin says she's drawing the right conclusions from the chatter.

"Well, I've always wanted to eat a Porsche," he says, and she laughs. "They were great."

"I'm sure you were great too," she says. "Have you seen them beaming?" It makes him flush – he knows how great he isn't. But he smiles anyway. She's beautiful, leaning against the door frame in her jeans and with flour dust on her t-shirt. He always sees it more when they're relaxed with each other, and he wants to hug her that moment, just for what they made together; all the parts he didn't turn into a mess.

"You're looking happier," she says, thoughtful, maybe a bit relieved. Like in spite of everything, she worried about him.

"Blame them," he says, nodding inside. "Oh, and... about her birthday..."

She nods right away. "The party's in two weeks, starts at two. That means you can come, right?"

He didn't think he had to be concerned, but the ease of it makes him feel much lighter. "Yes. The shifts are night, I'll be there."

*~*~*

That night he's back in his little box, surfing the web on his phone with the radio on low. His eyes itch from three night shifts in a row; he never quite caught up on his sleep, especially today, with the kids. But this was a good week. Kame and his sharks, never mind the dumb argument. And then two extra shifts here, and then ice cream. He can deal with that.

He flips through to his pictures, to the one of Sara with her piggy. There's nobody here to see his silly smile.

He checks the road ahead, checks his book and all that, just in case. Nothing much moving tonight. When the radio turns to news, he shuts it off, and ends up tapping a lazy rhythm with his feet.

Summer blue, fading deep, let's keep this all, before the fall...

He hums it a little, too. Nobody to hear either.

The next picture is of Sara and her duck and she looks so proud and perfect, Jin wants to give her that duck and anything else she wants.

He has extra money, from the extra shifts. It's a stupid thought. Frivolous. But for once he could afford it. Probably. Assuming they even deliver. Just imagining her face if the duck rolled up for her birthday party makes him laugh.

He hunts down their website on his phone, just to check, just in case. And of course they do, they probably deliver to the emperor's banquets.

He's not sitting in this box earning extra money so he can blow it on ice cream. It's irresponsible. Meisa would say so too. Akira's got that school trip coming up.

The duck stares back regally when he looks down at the picture again. He hasn't been able to give Sara really awesome presents for a while now. Always something, and always nice; but nothing fantastic. Nothing like an oversized ice cream Mandarin duck his girl fell in love with at first sight.

 

Sunday

He sleeps when he gets off shift, because six a.m. is no time for phone calls, to anybody. He's also a little delirious and maybe hallucinating orange feathers. Pushing forty and still a baby about sleeping, he thinks, and then five hours are black and gone, just like that.

It's the first thought in his head when he wakes up again, bleary-eyed but reasonably awake. Awake enough for coffee, and staring at his hands around a mug for ten minutes while he drinks it and thinks. Then he picks up the phone.

Kame answers on the third ring. "Hello?" he says, cautiously. So he checked his screen before picking up. And answered anyway.

"Hi, hope I'm not interrupting a Sunday morning full of work," Jin says.

"It's noon," Kame points out. "I'm just taking a break."

"Great, perfect timing then!"

There's a pause.

"What do you want?"

That doesn't sound patient. Jin comes to the point.

"I was wondering if you have time to come by. I've got a new song."

"Today?"

"Yeah," Jin says, no sweat. "Sunday special, for loyal customers. Treat yourself to something nice."

The pause this time is longer, feels heavy.

"Why?" Kame says at last.

"I need some extra cash," Jin says. Why beat around the bush. "And you like my… songs." He's pretty sure. He never actually stopped to wonder how lame he'd feel if Kame turned him down.

He's getting a lot of time to wonder now. Let's keep this all, before the fall in his head, irony he does not appreciate.

"Two forty-five or thereabouts," Kame says at last. "I have one more thing to take care of."

Jin's heart gives an inappropriate thump. Not exactly dropping everything but not a hard sell, either.

"All right," he says, cool as cream. "See you then." He's the one hanging up this time.

He doesn't go back to sleep. The lack of sleep is adding up and he should grab what he can get, but his body seems to find itself done with that for now.

So he clears away the futon, and has a proper breakfast with toast and honey and three cups of coffee while he checks his favorite news sites and blogs. He clears up his apartment afterwards, and then he showers, wastes a bit more hot water than normal because he can treat himself to something nice too, and by the time he's done it's half past two. His timing today, impeccable.

He picks comfy jeans, doesn't bother with socks, the black shirt a repeat. He looks okay, should pass inspection; his mouth tastes of minty toothpaste and he's surprised how little he's thinking about what he's doing.

He thinks about everything. Everyone's opinions and every way he fucked up, all the time; it's a constant babble in his head. So why he's not thinking about sucking cock once a week and offering seconds, he doesn't know.

It's not that he likes it. He burns inside every time he has to play nice for some jerk or someone who just doesn't care, and he should at least mind this, when Kame is rough, and smug, and they insult each other over beer. But he's thought more about Kame's sharks and his schedule than the next round of…

And he doesn't get to think much now, because the doorbell rings.

Never more than five minutes off, Kame. So respectful. "Hello," Jin says as he opens the door. "So nice to see you again. Happy you found the time."

Kame looks just the same, suit and shiny shiny shoes; a briefcase, too. He gives Jin a sceptical look and says, "I have to be at the office in an hour."

"Your sharks swim on Sundays, too?" Jin asks, he's not even sure why.

Kame's look turns careful, and the pause is longer. "I'm kind of hoping they're taking today off," he says in the end. And he waits, until it sinks in.

Jin can't help laughing. "You're stealing a march and you're stopping for a booty call?"

"I was made an offer I couldn't refuse," Kame says, lips twitching. He puts the briefcase down and carefully slips out of his jacket. "So," he says when he turns from hanging it up. "Let's hear this new song of yours."

Jin blinks. "My... what?"

Kame looks pointedly around Jin's apartment. At the guitar in its corner. At the empty chair. At Jin. "You said you had a new song."

"Uh," Jin says. Talk about unexpected. But Kame's chin is coming up, slowly, and boy Jin knows those signs, and he adds quickly, "Yeah."

Kame studies him like he is a naughty schoolboy, or possibly a criminal. "Well?"

"Well," Jin says, because where Kame gets off assuming that he is the one being logical here, Jin doesn't know, "I didn't think you were coming for music." He thought they were well and truly done with that particular use for Jin's mouth.

Kame leans against the bookcase. "I'm versatile." He glances towards the guitar again, and assumes a pointedly patient air.

"You really..." Jin shakes his head, to clear the cobwebs out. "You want me to play you that song."

"The new one," Kame says peacefully. "I'd like that."

Right. Okay then. Jin gets the guitar, settles down, tunes up quickly.

Clears his throat, and fuck it's a shock, like the room stretches out into air and he's alone on a stage, in the dark, everyone watching.

Stupid. His room is a shoebox. This is just Kame. So he starts. Thank god he's not going near anything that means much with his songwriting these days.

Summer blue... He hasn't practiced and his chords aren't clean, but the melody is right there, the way it chased around his head. Softer than anything he'd pick for this, but who cares, he's fine, he sounds okay.

He plays it louder than ever before, now that there's an audience. Filling out his shoebox well, and Jin likes the sound of this, he wrote this.

The text is harmless, the chorus strong and simple, a nice guy singing about a nice summer and there's no kids and divorced wives or ghosts of lives past.

Eventually there's no text, either, because the rhymes on the last stanza are unfinished and dumb, so his friends, the la la las, are invited back.

He's smiling a little when he finishes, the last high note vibrating out.

"That was quite nice." Kame is uncrossing his arms, letting them sink. It's not a chill, but it wakes Jin up.

"Glad you approve," he says. There, that was lame.

Kame takes the few steps across to him, all the folds on his suit looking like they were meant for moving like this. Jin pulls back his hands as Kame takes the guitar. He puts it to the side, slowly.

"So, a summer sky?" he says.

What? Jin blinks up at him. Then he opts for the equally obvious. "Yeah. A blue one."

Kame nods, thoughtfully as if Jin hadn't sung the chorus four times.

"Keeping it G-rated these days, I see," he remarks eventually.

"Times change." Jin's not so fascinated by his Love Juice anymore, and his main audience has a collective age of seventeen. "Were you hoping to get off on my music?"

It gets him an amused laugh. "No, I think I can do better than that." Then it gets him the fingers, back in his hair. Always those. "It was just an observation. I'm wondering what you want to write in the long run."

Jin's turn to laugh. Well, snort. "No idea. Whatever comes into my head." Kame's thumb strokes over his cheekbone; it feels weird talking like that. "Whatever I feel like. I can do that now."

"Inspiration on the night shift." Kame's thumb teases Jin's bottom lip. Jin bites it because that was mean.

Kame stills, and gives him a stern look. Jin lets go; stares back and waits to see what next. His mouth opens a little when Kame strokes down on his chin. He can smell the nicotine again, and under it that new perfume, warm leather and dark earth, and even a little of the freshness of Kame's shirt.

His hands cup Jin's face; they feel smooth and girly like they haven't held a bat in years. Tilting his head softly, and Jin goes with it.

"I want to see more from you," Kame says, in that deep voice he has, and Jin flushes all over, so hot Kame must feel it where he holds him.

"Don't tell me you came for a whole concert," Jin says, because, but his voice is shit. Kame steps closer, and Jin doesn't get why he's still waiting, turned on as he is, why doesn't he just go for it?

Why's he standing there, looking Jin up and down, and down, making Jin shift uncomfortably.

"I want to see you too," he says, and it's the same drop, the room falls back again, goes dark, and Jin's pinned by one hot light in the middle. He leaves Jin's face sweaty, his hand trailing down Jin's front, as far as it can reach. A soft brush over fabric. A softer murmur. "Take it out."

His blood, it's everywhere, his heart racing trying to keep up. "Why?" It's barely a rasp. His hands are pulling up on his thighs and he stops them.

Kame has stopped touching him there. But nothing else has moved, he's still as close, still as hard. "Because I say so," he says; makes it sound like something plausible, something that makes sense. His hands stroke circles into Jin's shoulders, small, slow. "I want to watch you."

Watch... it goes into everything, all directions at once and now he's sweating worse, he swallows and balls his fists and damn.

"Sunday special," Kame says, his palm burning at the back of Jin's neck. "You told me."

"I didn't mean that," Jin points out and sounds weak to himself, and Kame says, "Oh, come on," like he's silly, and why this is more than letting Kame have his mouth, he doesn't know, maybe it's not, maybe Kame's right.

"Come on." A command now. Entitled asshole Kame, Sunday special, and Jin should get up, stop right there, and his fingers are clumsy on his jeans button and then the zipper is small, and slippery.

Above him Kame gives a little gasp. It makes the air around Jin prickle. He feels naked, slipping his hand inside his briefs and it's heavy already, and for a moment that surprises him.

What is he doing?

"Show me," Kame says, dry as dust.

That. He's doing that.

He frees it, pulls at it once, twice and it fills more, stands up a bit. He feels like the floor's vibrating under him. Everything else is still, and sharp. The air of his apartment is cold where he isn't holding on. Leaning above him, Kame has stopped breathing.

What now? He knows what now. But... really?

"Come on." Kame, sounding like he's whispering, very far away. But he's close, heat from his body in Jin's face, heat from his hands on Jin's shoulders. Fingers tight around his bones.

So, really.

Jin closes his eyes and starts.

Can't pretend to be alone, not for a second. Thinks he doesn't want to, even if that would be easier. He's on stage, might as well remember it. Kame's breathing helps, tight, high. Reminds him. It's so quiet he hears them both. The slide of his hand. Kame. Over and over.

He doesn't guess what Kame sees. Just tries to feel, tries to find the pleasure, draw it into a rhythm, find what's normal even with Kame there. It's not steady. His hand is steady but the feeling's up and down, up and jagged and full of rough spikes.

Kame makes a small, hidden noise, like he's the one Jin's touching. It's a jolt. He opens his eyes, nothing much there but the blue shirt and the bulge in Kame's pants but he stares anyway because this isn't a stage and Kame is touching his head. His fingers feel clumsy.

Jin speeds up. Longer, slicker slide. Curl in his stomach, holy fuck, and he feels Kame's body go stiff, his fingers clenching, his arm locked rigid. Jin leans there, it's easy. Shuts his eyes after all for the end and just listens, to the sounds Kame's trying not to let him hear and the movements he's trying to stifle and it's enough, it's plenty, and he jerks in his own grip and for a short while he thinks nothing.

A twitch in Kame's hand brings the thoughts back. He can still feel Kame's stare, even now his dick's spent and shrinking. It would help if somebody said something. Somebody, about how he's seen enough now.

Jin sits up straighter; Kame's hand slips off his shoulder and down his front again, but not far, not touching. Jin got it all on his shirt, and he's sweaty and slippery and fucking exposed, and his fingers in his crotch are twitching towards his zipper, for covering himself.

There's a pause when he watches Kame's chest rise and fall, and he wonders if he's ready to look at Kame's face.

"Okay," Kame says, on a breath, maybe remembering that this was his idea and he should be the one dealing with it. "Okay." There's a tug when he brushes Jin's hair back, but like nerves and clammy fingers, not malice.

Jin gets his briefs back in place and zips up. Looks up, finally. And Kame looks more blotched and flushed than Jin feels, and halfway disoriented with the way he's not doing anything at all, and Jin almost asks him if he's okay.

"I assume you want to get your cock sucked now," he says.

Kame looks at him for a moment. Blinks at him once and says, "Yeah." Then he clears his throat and straightens invisibly. "Yes, I do." He undoes his belt, his fly, no movement wasted. He's very hard. "There. Suck it."

Right. Jin gets his lips wet and leans forward.

God, Kame's horny, more than the other times, he can smell it, taste it. But steady, no rush coming at him.

Kame in charge again. That hand on Jin's head again. No clutching now, just moving him a little, holding him there. In place for Kame's cock. Kame's hips are doing all the moving and his breathing's harsh but regular, and soon Jin loses track among the in and out, in and out, Kame taking it just as he wants it.

"More," Kame says. "Suck harder."

Jin sucks harder, the noises growing louder. He's getting sweatier, shakier by the second and Kame says, "Use your tongue," and he doesn't know how but he tries, loses the rhythm, the tightness, until Kame loses patience.

"Stop it. Just suck." A demanding hand on the back of his head.

Then it's fast, much faster, the shift in Kame's hips and the quickening pace, the hardening grip. Time to hold his breath for when it goes deep.

And then it's over.

"You want to make it complicated, maybe you could give me a fucking minute," Jin says when he can breathe steady again. "Asshole."

"I don't have your kind of time," Kame returns, finishing with his buttons. Yeah, right. He could do with a few new lines too.

Jin bites back the comment, because maybe discussing the quality of lines and blowjobs can take a backseat to getting a fucking drink. When he gets up, his damp shirt moves on his skin and reminds him it's damp. Fuck that, too.

He wipes his hands on his jeans and opens his wardrobe a crack, yanks out a t-shirt. He lets the bathroom door rattle shut behind him. Yeah, his apartment. The doors don't even slam.

The shirt lands in a corner. Then he rinses his mouth, wipes his face with water, and when he turns the tap off he listens. It's still quiet. Very quiet.

Okay. He pulls the t-shirt over his head and then he's back out there. Kame doesn't have his jacket on yet, but he's near the door. Also very quiet.

"You didn't even bring beer," Jin states and heads straight for the fridge. Kame actually looks caught, serves him right. Good thing Jin's still got four from last time. "Here."

Kame takes the bottle with an unreadable frown. Jin notices he's not wearing any of his chunky rings, or any jewelry at all. "I was... you know." He's squirming, trying to look blasé. Jin wants to laugh. "It was short notice," he finally says."I know, my bad," Jin says. "I'll schedule with your secretary next time."

"How come you still have them all?"

Jin shrugs. "Night shifts. I had more work. I don't drink at six in the morning."

Kame nods. Drinks some beer. Frowns at Jin. "So you're making more money now?"

Jin shrugs again. "Yeah. A little. For now."

"That's good," Kame says, looking strangely unconvinced.

"Yeah, I think so too," Jin says, because duh.

"Not enough though, huh?"

Studiedly casual. Shit acting. And from Kame, that's... weird.

"If you're worried that your source of blow jobs is going to dry up..."

"No, you retard."

Whoops. Jin purses his lips and looks him up and down. Kame shrugs, and sighs a little, like Jin is just one more burden added to his burdensome life.

"So what are these extra expenses?" he asks at last. He gestures around vaguely, at sessions past.

Nosey, is he. Jin's tempted to tell him it's none of his business, but telling the truth is even more irresistible. "A duck," he states.

Yes, that was worth it. Kame's murderous look cracks him up.

He grabs his phone off the table and flips through the pictures, to one without his kids. "This duck." He holds it under Kame's nose.

"I... see," Kame says after a moment, though he doesn't look like he's seeing anything. Jin doesn't laugh, holds the picture steady so he can check it out a bit longer. "Why?"

"Because it's got sugar frosting feathers and at least fifteen flavors." He probably shouldn't enjoy this so much.

"Okay," Kame says, shaking his head like he walked into something, and drinks more beer.

Jin pockets his phone. He and the duck, they're tight. Buddies.

Kame gives him a final shifty look, but his face has closed now. "As long as you're not owing some loan shark or something."

"No," Jin says, when it sinks in. "No, I'm not in trouble. I just wanted... I don't spend my normal money on a duck."

That gets him a nod, approval of his responsible cash flow management. A couple of peaceful sips of beer.

"Are you working tonight, too?" Kame says then.

"Starting at six," Jin says. "How about you, when do you have to be... wherever?"

Kame gives a wry smile. "As soon as I can. Nobody is expecting me, that's kind of the point."

"Do you ever get time off?"

It just slips out. He never meant to ask. And Kame gives him an odd look.

"I am taking time off right now."

Right, okay. "Sorry, I forgot," Jin says, and toasts him. Sunday special. "So how is world domination coming along?"

Kame seems to be thinking about how much to tell him. In the end he smiles a little. "I don't know what you mean. I'm just a company employee like everyone else."

"I heard you're in a long game with Julie. I'm wondering what the score is."

The smile widens, while Kame carefully sets his bottle down. "Who told you that?"

"I hear stuff," Jin says. He also gets to get drunk on some really classy cognac. "Some people talk to me."

Kame's look is so incredulous, it's almost insulting. "Nobody talks to you. You don't talk to anybody. I would know."

Somehow Jin knows better than to suggest Kame's maybe not plugged into the Nobodies Information Network. "Fine, then I made it up. What's the score?"

Kame's eyebrows twitch, that's all. Not about to tell Jin any score. But he studies him thoughtfully. "You know, if it weren't for that bitch, we might even still have you on the payroll."

It gets him low, deep in the gut, where he thought it didn't matter anymore, nothing about this could touch him anymore. "Is that so," he says, and keeps his voice steady.

"It is," Kame says lightly. "She thought Johnny's American plans were nonsense from the start, and then you had to go make it easy for her. And for everybody else who thought you were more trouble than you're worth."

Oh, yeah, of course. Jin and his rebellion. "Well, weren't you smart you kept a safe distance."

That stare from Kame would make Juniors flinch. But Jin isn't one, he's not even in his fucking agency. And in the end it's Kame who says, "Whatever, Jin. You had all the chances. Some people would have killed to have Johnny love them the way he loved you."

"Yeah, that worked out really well for me. I'm so grateful."

"Well, you let him down," Kame shrugs. "You can only let so many people down before nobody gives a fuck anymore. But you know that."

Yeah, he remembers. Vividly. One flip and you're on the outside looking in, your goods sell for nothing and your singles not at all, people put condoms in your stuff and snigger as you walk past, and nobody's holding his hand over you.

"You know I tried," Jin says, his voice tight but it needs saying, because it's true. "I worked hard. I tried—" To make up for it.

"Maybe you should have tried harder," Kame snaps. "Too little, too late. If you'd been half as well-behaved as now before it all went to shit, things would have been easier for you."

"Yes," Jin says, his voice burning. "Great. I could have an awesome life. I could be working for you, I suppose." For some dick in a suit who's trying to take over the world because that's all he's got. "The joy I'm missing out on."

Kame scans him, head to toe, and when he puts his beer down, Jin is ready to get him his jacket. "You've never known what's good for you," he says, strangely calm.

No, Jin doesn't think blow jobs for money make his life worth living and being dragged along some muddy memory lane helps his blood pressure. Clearly he lacks the proper appreciation.

But whatever. What the hell does Kame even know.

"Should I leave now?"

It's the first time Kame's asked him a politeness question like that. It throws him a bit. A minute ago he wanted to kick him out.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" he says, because that's probably expected. "Plans to hatch, producers to butter up, people to fire?"

For a moment Kame looks irritated. "Why do people always think I would have fired you?"

What? That's not what Jin was saying; though sure, that would just— wait, he wouldn't? Yeah, right. "Maybe something went wrong with your image too," he suggests helpfully.

Kame takes a sharp breath like there's things he has to say about this, heated things; but then he lets it go. He turns for his jacket instead, gets out his wallet, counts out the cash. "I won't be in the area again until Friday. Will this hold you or are there likely to be extra ducks?"

Jin takes the money. "I'll be fine."

After a moment, Kame seems to decide he's telling the truth. He steps into his shoes, straightens, his hand on the doorknob.

"On Friday, I'll fuck you," he says, and opens the door.

It takes a moment. Then it takes another moment before Jin finds any words at all, and Kame is halfway out the door when Jin says, "You think?" Kame raises his hand in goodbye and disappears down the stairs.

~

Week 5˝

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