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9½ Weeks

by Solo & Jo


Week 9



Jin's floating. He may be taking a swim, or maybe he's dead and dead means floating, clumsy limbs and explaining to his mom he really loves Keiko-chan, even if she's a grade above him, and she made him bento, and the bento was dry but there was sake, and Pi is not saying what he thinks of Keiko-chan and then he hears the ring. Ring ring. What?

Shit. Jin jumps awake, knocks the empty beer bottle down from the table as he scrambles for his phone.

"Hello?" he gets out. "Meisa? Something wrong?"

"Hey. The kids are fine," Meisa says, and that lets the air right out of... whatever. "They just left for school. I'm sorry to wake you."

He drops his head down and tugs the cover up to his neck. He doesn't think he misbehaved in any way to deserve a scolding at middle of a dream o'clock, but maybe this is about breakfast or... something. "'s fine. What time is it?"

"I don't know, eight maybe? Eight." Meisa sounds distracted, and as he processes that through three levels of heavy eyelids and heavy everything, a real awakeness starts to trickle in.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

"I... there's something about you in Yukan Fuji."

"What?" It's a low throb, skip of his heart. Papers was never good but papers... these days... "What, how?"

"It's in the entertainment section," Meisa says. Her voice is very low, almost dragging the floor. Jin jumps up an octave when he's upset; Meisa was always the other way around. "Yukan Fuji, some retrospective piece. My mother called me right after I'd packed the kids off, you know she reads Yukan Fuji and she actually read all of it and it's a whatever happened to Akanishi Jin kind of article and..."

The throbbing feeling gets worse, gets faster. He's awake now, and he's got a hunch, a very bad hunch.

"I went out and bought it first thing," she says. "Jin, it's got a picture of your apartment building. They say you work as a security guard and that you had trouble paying the rent."

Oh god. Oh fuck. His kids.

"I don't know how many people will see this, but I wanted to ask you what... what you want me to tell the kids. If they ask. If somebody asks them."

"Shit," he says. He's not even moving. "Shit."

"I'm sorry."

That jolts him back into here and now, somehow. "No, don't… I mean, you know that. Thanks for calling." What's he going to say? "Tell them... Don't lie to them. Say... things are slow in music and I'm making sure there's a fallback, you'll find a way to…" Sell that. He's making this up on the spot and it's not fair on her, but short of— wait. "I can drop by, tell them myself."

"No," she says, "that's okay." She doesn't sound okay, she sounds worried. About him.

"I'm fine with my rent now, I'll be fine, and all the child support, so that's one where maybe we can just say it's nonsense?" He sounds to himself like he's pleading. "Papers will say anything really." He knows that, from long ago.

"Why is that even there?" Meisa asks. "The media haven't cared about—"

She cuts herself off. But yes. And Jin's got a pretty good idea.

"Sorry," she says again, in a small voice.

"No. You're right. It's weird. Let me— okay, I'll call you back when I've got my head together, all right? Before they get home. I'll think of something."

Someone's going to think of something.

"All right," she says. "Just, keep it together, okay?" She sounds spooked, like Jin's going to find himself a nice little subway track...

"I'll be fine, I promise. I just need a moment." He's not fine, but he needs a moment anyway. "I'll call you back, okay?"

He hangs up on her and calls Kame's number. Calls it three times and lets it ring through, and if Kame is in a meeting, he is going to pick the fuck up.

Kame answers on the fourth try, and what little irritation Jin had just rushes out of him and leaves his hand shaking.

"What?" Kame says. "What do you want?"

"There's an article about me in Yukan Fuji, it's got a picture of where I live and they know I had trouble with rent and that I work in the box. Meisa just called me."

It's quiet at the other end. Or not quiet, Jin was right about the meeting, or whatever, something's in the background. But Kame's quiet.

"It's you, isn't it? I mean, your thing with Julie."

"That is likely," Kame says, slow and careful. "What else does the article say?"

Shit. More shit. "I don't have it, my wife called me. I just woke up."

"I'll ask around," Kame says. "I'll let you know what I find."

There's a pause. Kame hasn't hung up.

"Kame, my kids can't know this." He hears his own voice, and it doesn't sound good.

"I understand," Kame says curtly. "I'll call you back."


So Jin's on hold. He paces for five minutes before he remembers to go online and check for this. Nothing. He runs a search on himself and finds the newest things are still years old and make him feel like shit all over again.

He should have got a paper too. Damn. But he doesn't want to be outside now, when Kame calls back. He can't have this conversation... out there. Fuck, pictures of the apartment.

That's when he checks his curtains are properly drawn.

He should have got a paper. Who knows when Kame will have a moment to call.

It's more than ten minutes, less than fifteen when his phone rings with the Kame ringtone.

"Sorry," Kame snarls right away, "that stupid fuck who's on media review didn't see this because it was just you." He's angry. And Jin feels some weight lift off him because...

Because why? Kame can't make this disappear. Can he? It's printed.

"What's going on?" Jin asks.

"I'm not entirely sure," Kame says. "I'm not in the article. This could just be casual sadism but I doubt it. This is about me but I don't know how yet, I'm waiting for her next move."


"But, my kids..."

"Yeah," Kame says slowly. There's another pause. "Deny the money problems, the rent. You're okay for money now, aren't you? The child support?"

"Sure," Jin says, "but that's not the problem. The problem—" Kame doesn't know the extent of the problem, it suddenly hits him, because why would Jin have told him, ever. "The problem is my kids think I still make music, they don't know about the job. They don't know about the kind of place I live in."

"Oh," Kame says, and then it's quiet. Jin would give a lot to know if it's the quiet of frantic problem-solving or the quiet of speechless disgust.

"Okay," Kame says, "stall them. Admit the security job, that's just a fallback, you're working hard even on your weekends, music's an unsteady business."

Jin almost laughs.

"Stall them on the rest. Tell to your wife to stall them, tell them you've got no idea what's going on and why they're writing this nonsense. And give me a day." There's a long hard breath on the other end.

A day? Kame's going to make this okay in a day? Jin expected this to never go away, now.

"And... draw the curtains, stay indoors. Just to be on the safe side."

"I will," Jin promises. "I've done that."

"I just need a day." Kame sounds almost like he's asking Jin a favor.

"Will you keep me in the loop?" Because a day can be for fucking ever. "Please?"

"Yeah, I'll keep it in mind. I'll try. Just lie low."

Jin's been lying low, really low, in the shambles of his career for so long, it shouldn't be that much of a stretch.

He hangs up and washes his face, sits down in the corner farthest from the door, grabs his phone close and tries to stop shaking.


The last time Jin woke up before eight without an alarm was three years ago and he had the flu.

He feels like that, aching and out of focus as he stumbles through the morning. He thinks he's on his kids' schedule. They'll be on the train now.

He makes tea and by the time it's ready, they'll be in school. Maybe they'll be answering questions. They know about the night job now, he told them last night. Sara's dying to see his cool uniform.

The time just won't pass. He turns the TV on, but low, he doesn't dare make sounds. Nobody's covering this, just like yesterday.

The kids hadn't heard in school, then. But Meisa started getting calls in the afternoon. Concerned moms and colleagues. She sounded shaky. She must hate the everliving fuck out of this.

The apartment heats up as the sun rises higher, dust flakes dancing in the orange light that makes it through the curtains. This place is like some bad action film, the calm before bullets. Jin wishes he felt braver.

By the time his kids are on lunch break, Jin's hungry for the first time in thirty hours. He nibbles on some rice and waits for the phone to ring, always waiting.

It finally rings at two in the afternoon, not Kame, not kids, and Jin feels stupid with sweat when he picks it up… it's Pi.

"Hey, man. I didn't wake you, right? I waited a bit."

"No, I— it's lunch. Hi. Isn't it night for you? How are you?" God, his brain.

"Midnight, not that late," Pi says. "As for the other thing, depends on what the hell is going on. Which is what I'm trying to find out."

Oh god. Pi has heard, it's made it to America.

Then he rallies, it's nonsense, it didn't even make it on Mezamashi. He doesn't matter, is he still not used to this?

"Why," he says, "how do you know something's going on?"

"Had a phone call from Kamenashi at ten this morning. Like, in person."

Kame told Pi?

"About me?"

"No, about— No, not about you. About... wait. Why would he call me about you?"

"Never mind," Jin says, "later. I'll explain." Some of it. "So what… what's going on?" Jin hasn't had a phone call from Kame this morning.

Pi laughs as if he said something funny. "Kamenashi says something big is going down, and to sit tight and not go anywhere if I can help it, and not at all without a minder. He's basically… I swear to you, if he could have put me on formal house arrest, he would have. It was weird."

Right. Okay, that fits, that makes sense, keeping Pi safe. "Just do what he says. That's what I'm doing."

He can hear the gears clicking in Pi's brain. Or maybe it's just the crackle of static. "He called you, too?"


"Not since yesterday," Jin says, and his brain feels stuck in a loop, he can't tell he can't lie oh fuck he can't tell. Fuck. "I... someone put all the old crap about me in the papers again. You know, my glorious life. And there's stuff going on at the company, and it may be connected, but we don't know how. I'm..." He stares ahead at his locked, orange-shaded door, and that's not a secret, really not. "I'm just stuck at home. I know fuck-all right now."

"Shit," Pi says. Yeah, they understand each other.

He makes Pi talk to him for twenty minutes, about any old crap, his latest gig and some bartender chick he likes. Then he remembers he doesn't know what his phone will do if Kame calls and the line is engaged, because when's the last time two people wanted something from him, and he almost cuts Pi off and feels like a dick.

"But… he's on this?" Pi asks then, "he's helping you?" and it sounds like he realizes Kame has no reason to help Jin out, in any way, these days. Jin's not part of Kame's agency.

"He is, actually," Jin says. "I don't know what he can do, but… yeah. And he said he'd keep in touch." He hates how plaintive that sounds to him.

"I'll get out of your line then," Pi says. "I should catch some sleep. I'd like to do your man Kamenashi the favor of staying in tomorrow, but there's a couple hundred Rednecks would break the door down."

"You'll be careful, though," Jin says urgently. "He knows what he's doing, he isn't kidding, this is… stuff can happen to you."

The pause makes him wonder if he just sounded very crazy. But then Pi says, "Yeah. I get you. I'll be careful. And sometime soon I'm gonna ask you what precisely you know and how, but right now I'll love you and leave you."

And that's that.

It passed half an hour, and now it's afternoon, and his kids will come home from school and tell Meisa just what got said to them, if they got hassled, and there's nothing Jin can do.

Nothing he can do about anything, except wait, sitting here in his orange and hot apartment where he's afraid to open a window, in tank-top and boxer shorts, too nervous to even drink the last beer.

Wait and give Meisa time to talk to them, not put her on the spot even more. She'll call him when she's dealt with it as much as she can.

He's such a loser.

Meisa calls around five. Akira is in his room, playing computer games and he's "okay" and school was "okay" and now he wants to build his volcano city, "okay?"

But they both know their son, and it makes Jin crazy that he's stuck here in his box and he can't even… God, what would he even do, except try to lie better?

Sara on the other hand is taking it all in stride and, according to Meisa, still won't shut up about the security job and how cool that must be. "It's a bit scary, but I think she's got a uniform fetish," Meisa says, and that's the first time today Jin laughs, and he really loves her, always will.

And he's alone again.

It doesn't get any less boring, any less suffocating. He picks up the guitar, if he plays quietly nobody will know he's here. But he can't concentrate on that, either. In the end, he watches anime re-runs on his tab with his earbuds in and the phone resting on his leg, shuts everything out, and tries to feel young and hopeful again.

He's at the end of episode two of One Piece when the phone rings and buzzes, cranked up to max. He pulls his earbuds out quickly, and… Kame.

"Anything new?" Jin says.

"Getting there," Kame says. "I am just calling to say I'm still working on things. So far it's going well. I should have more later tonight."

Right. That's… enlightening. "Good to know," Jin says, and if he doesn't sound very enthusiastic, Kame doesn't seem to mind.

"You're still at home, yes?"

"Yes. You said."

"Good," Kame says. "Stay there for now."

Jin rolls his eyes towards the shabby ceiling. "Yes, sir. Understood, sir."

"Very good," Kame says, utterly ignoring the irony. Jerk. "Oh, one more question, your building manager, his name's Yubawara?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Just checking," Kame says. "I'll be in touch again later."

And he rings off.

Jin sighs, puts his earbuds back in, and starts the episode over. Just as well he still has about a thousand episodes to go while the day simmers down into a soupy night.


It's episode nine and Usopp is in the middle of his Giant Goldfish story when Kame next makes him jump. "Yeah?" he says. It's five after nine. Sara will be in bed. Akira will be building his volcano city, or something thereabouts. He's allowed to stay up till eleven on a Friday.

"Okay," Kame says, like this is the end of a conversation, not the start of one. "Okay. I'm wrapping up here. I can be at your place in an hour. I'll bring you up to speed then."

"I'll be in," Jin says, catches up with himself and snorts, in a hysterical sort of way.

"Yeah." There's a pause, and a similar sound at the other end.

Wait. "Hang on. You're coming here? But what about reporters, what about the pictures?" God, he must have been dazed, what the fuck is Kame even talking about?

"I know, but it doesn't matter," Kame says calmly. "She's got other things on her mind now."

That shuts Jin up. An hour.

He showers and shaves, and all the way through he feels weak and weird because they're obviously not going to fuck now. Though maybe they should, Jin figures he needs every opportunity given that he'll need a new apartment, after what he told his kids, and he fumbles his hair into a messy tiny ponytail and puts on a clean t-shirt and doesn't do anything else, because he can't think anymore. He's feeling too stupid for One Piece now.

His door bell rings shortly before ten, and there's a knock too. Jin checks the spyhole, just in case, and pulls the door open, stepping back to let Kame get in quickly. The cooler air washes over him, and it's lighter out there from the building's stair lights than in here, Jin's only put on the little lamp over his stove.

It's as if Kame is here for the first time. Jin feels again how shabby everything is, just what a mess he is.

"Bit stuffy in here," Kame says, but without sting.

"I kept everything closed."

Kame nods, locks the door behind him, and shrugs out of his suit jacket. "You okay?" His shirt's looking less than crisp for a change.

"Mostly," Jin says, and wonders if Kame can smell his panic and pacing, if it's just clinging to the room. "Why are you here?"

Kame smiles, mostly to himself, and it's a strange smile. "I'm done for today."

Yes, Jin thinks, but why is he here? Unless it's the obvious after all. "What about the reporters," he prompts. "You said you'd fill me in."

"Can I have some tea?" Kame says. "Tea would be great."

So Jin starts making tea.

"You told your kids that you live here for now?"

"I said my old apartment was getting renovations, and I had to take the first thing quick," Jin says, clinking the fragile tea cups until his nerves snap and he grabs two of his chipped coffee mugs. "My daughter thinks it's cool I'm a security guard, too." His throat closes.

"Sounds like a sensible girl," Kame says. Jin passes him the white mug with a faded cat on it. He checks the curtains again, and startles when Kame turns on the little lamp he uses at night.

Okay then.

"I think she got tipped off by the cab driver from last time," Kame says. "That's how you and your apartment got into it. I'm sorry about that."

"But… you came here now? Isn't that dangerous for you too?" Kame's not exactly secret-agenting about.

"I'm not worried about reporters," Kame says. "Because nothing says I can't have meetings with you, and because you're..." He hesitates, shrugs a little. "Well. You're not very significant in the scheme of things."

Yeah, Jin got that. Kame gives him a long look, badly hidden over the tea.

"It's okay," Jin says. "Actually, it's good. Cause I can live without a follow-up story."

"Trust me," Kame says. "There's not going to be a follow-up story." He leans against the shelf – he was there naked and sweaty, flushed after... shut up – and fixes Jin with dark eyes. "I had a long meeting with Julie today."

Oh. The filling in. A shudder races down Jin's back, and that's stupid, they've just established Jin's not even a blip in this thing. "And?"

Kame's not smiling, but his face is shining with something anyway. "I told her that I know about the girl, about SMAP and Nakamaru. I told her I've got proof of the entrapment and the drugs, and if she doesn't resign, I'll go public with it."

Jin almost drops his tea. "Wait, but… Nakamaru walked so nobody would hear about the drugs. He could go to jail!" And it'll be Jin's fault, because he trusted Kame, and Kame can't do that.

"I'll get him a good lawyer, if it comes to that," Kame says. "I don't think it will. I think she'll go."

Jin is staring with his mouth dry. Kame's eyes are feverish.

"It was a long meeting," he says. "We were at it for three hours. I talked her through all the possibilities. SMAP are willing to come back if she steps down, I told her that too. Messing with Kimura's marriage could make her more hated than the machinations with the drugs, I think."

SMAP, coming back to the company. Jin can already imagine the Dome show. It's going to be the event of the decade. And Kame behind it, Kame orchestrating it – nobody'll be able to touch him after that.

"When will you know?"

"I gave her until morning. Twelve hours. If she's not calling a press conference by ten, I have people ready to go at lunchtime tomorrow."

All the pieces in place. It's like a military campaign, Jin thinks, swift and merciless.

"Pi called me," he says. It brings Kame's head up, but it's not quite suspicious alarm. "Said you told him to stay home and bake cookies."

"I warned the people I care about," Kame says. At Jin's frown, he adds, "Told the rest to shut the fuck up around reporters until I say otherwise. In company speak."

Jin laughs. Second time today, and it's needed and he's wobbly, but in the mercenary part of his brain he knows whatever's going down will drown out any interest in the old has-been company rebel called Akanishi.

"It's an offer she can't refuse," Kame says, brimming with strength. "I gave her a good deal, she'll be rich, she keeps her reputation, that's more than she deserves and I told her so."

He could scare people. He's that confident, that sure.

"So you're here for your celebration fuck?"

Kame presses his lips together, eyes raking over Jin with a flash of heat.

"Come here," he says quietly; motions with his fingers.

Jin feels stupider, sillier, when he's not naked and they're talking business coups and bargaining, but the pull works almost the same.

Kame slips one hand under Jin's t-shirt, but slow, and light, just a warm presence on his stomach. His other hand rises, Kame's fingers... tender, tracing his mouth. They linger, and Jin kisses them.

Kame sighs. "I have to stay sharp," he whispers, and the touch fades out from under Jin's t-shirt.

"I thought it was all settled," Jin says, fuck. Talk about wobbly.

"It is," Kame says, a last light brush on Jin's lips. "It should be. If she has any sense. But this was faster than I planned and I've got to stay sharp. I'll feel better if I do."

"Okay," Jin says. He can see that, in Kame's logic.

Fast was for him. For Jin and his kids and his pride. "So why are..." No, he won't ask again, it's not for him to make Kame say why, of all the places he could be, he's here where it's stuffy and dark and there's no fucking. "I'll keep until tomorrow," he says instead, and Kame's mouth curves up at the edges.

"Right now I could eat," he says as he picks up his tea again. "What have you got?"

Not much. "Rice," Jin says. "Eggs. Instant ramen." He gestures at the curtains. "You know."

"Sounds fine," Kame says, "just do something." He's looking at Jin's tablet, where he stopped the episode when Kame knocked. "That's the Black Cat Pirates at Syrup Village."

"Yeah. I had a lot of free time today." Jin puts the rice cooker on, and feels Kame move behind him, wonders what he's planning… But Kame just leans against the fridge.

He watches Jin cook. At first Jin thinks it's to supervise and correct, old-school Kame stuff, but Kame is just... there, watching.

"Want beer?" Jin asks, though he can guess the answer.

"No, shouldn't," Kame says. "Don't really want to, actually." There's something languid to his movements, a shimmer in his eyes. Maybe he's right, maybe duking it out with Julie at last is better than any drug.

Jin knows how Kame fucks when he's stressed, wound up too tight. Now he wonders how Kame fucks when he's won.

Kame eats heartily and without complaint when the rice is done. Jin, too, after he's sat down and noticed the stress is gone, and his body hasn't been fed right for two days.

"This is good, thank you," Kame says to egg on rice, and Jin thinks about getting the futon out so they can sit more comfortably.

"How long have you got?" he asks. "When do you have to leave? Do you want to stay the night?"

It feels so strangely normal just to ask. Kame doesn't seem to think it's weird, either.

"I don't know," he says, and it sounds genuine. "I'm thinking, I should be fresh tomorrow, but I'm too awake from this to sleep, and… I don't know. Is that okay?"

These days, what's a bit of missed sleep. And Jin's used to the night shift now. "Sure," he says. "We can watch more One Piece, if you want."

Kame laughs a little breathlessly. "Maybe, yeah."

In the end, they don't watch anything. Jin makes more tea and he does get the futon out, and they sit. Open windows, the faintest of breezes, and Kame tells Jin everything about the details, the conversation, it's just spilling out of him. Going back years, the first time he knew Julie was a danger. Kame's kept the suit on, staying sharp, but his legs are sprawling wide and his hair gets mussed from the way he leans into the bookcase. For the first time in forever the room doesn't feel like a box, it feels like shelter.

He asks about the article, and Jin tells him about the housewives calling Meisa in concern, asking if her husband's homeless. That's a moment when Kame's eyes go dark and narrow. But it passes, smoothed out when Jin brings up Sara and the uniform, muses about introducing her to Nakamaru when they have all made up, and Kame gets a glow of nostalgia about him. Then he brings Jin up to his present with a recap of ten years of tours and development, and the song politics that have grown stale on him.

It's around midnight when Jin checks the time again. "Long day," he says, sort of to commemorate the moment.

"Yes. Very long." Who knew sharks could look happy. Maybe Kame will be able to sleep at some point after all.

The phone rings a few minutes later. Kame's phone. A shot of energy goes through him and makes him shine before he's even standing.

"Surrender call, maybe?" he says, smiling as he goes to pick up the phone. "Would be about time." Swipe, buzz buzz. "Hello?" Then he blinks. "Koki?"

Jin has a moment to wonder, more cat torture, different rumors about Koki, Koki's just worried about Kame...

Kame freezes, stiff as stone. Color draining until he's just as grey. "Are you sure?"

Jin's heart speeds up, oh fuck, and suddenly Kame's head is whipping around, for... Jin doesn't know.

"I'll call you back, stay by the phone," Kame says, rock and stone and gravel. Then he hangs up.

Fuck. Fuck.

"That was Koki," Kame says, tight control, so tight. "Turn on the TV. Julie's jumped from the twentieth floor of the agency building. She's dead."


The first thing Jin sees of the scene is a red swipe of light, hitting Kame's face.

There's ambulances. Police. Light next to light before a dark drizzly sky. There's cameras.

Jin's wearing his suit, his best suit, like Kame told him.

"Are you sure I shouldn't get out now?" Jin asks. Kame seems sure of everything. But he might just be sleepwalking, the car slow in approaching, a last reprieve.

"Yes," Kame says, his knuckles white. More red and blue on his face, and maybe it's too late anyway, maybe someone saw already. He looks like a ghost. "Stay silent. Hold your head up."

Even closer, and now there's white light too, camera flashes piercing the tinted glass as they pull up to the yellow police tape and stop.

"Now you can get out," Kame says, pulling up the hand brake. "Stay close to me."

He opens his door so Jin does the same. Then Jin's stuck too far away from him as the reporters descend on Kame, a fusillade of flashlights and a sea of microphones and recorders. Jin had forgotten what it could be like.

Kame waits them out, just looks for Jin to come around the car. It takes a moment until maybe someone remembers, but somehow there's room for him through the throng, murmurs of Akanishi, and flashes again, so many flashes.

"This is a tragic night for all of us," Kame says. He sounds quiet and yet his voice carries perfectly. "We will release more information shortly but I am sure you understand that we need to speak to family and friends first." He nods here and there, and then at Jin. When he turns they actually let him walk, Jin following in his path.

Kame drops the car keys with the door guard, who looks at Kame like Kame rode in on a white horse. Between the cars with swirling lights Jin gets a glimpse of a white sheet on the ground, flat, and he doesn't want to look there, who knows what's still on the pavement, if... shit. Breathe.

The door opens and lets them through. Then everything's silent. Silent and grey, office at night.

"Are you okay?" Kame asks, voice deep like the shadows in the corners are dark.

"Yeah," Jin replies. Still in keeping-his-mouth-shut mode.

They walk through a tall echoing lobby and down the corridor, the shadows closing around them the further away they walk from the glass entrance.

"The elevator for staff is at the back," Kame says. Jin's never been here. He didn't know the company had twenty floors now.

Another door on the way opens, Jin catches stairs. Parking garage. Ohno and another... that's Aiba. Jin hardly recognizes him.

Ohno and Aiba stop dead. Nobody speaks, not them, not Kame, and then Kame takes the elevator with Jin. Fifteenth floor. The lights slip by.

Kame uses the gleaming mirror on the walls to check that his hair is unmussed, his suit is spotless, and then he watches the floor count with a dead expression.

When they step out there's light, but it seems no less grey to Jin, the way it's washing them out. Another corridor, short to one side and long to the other, and Kame heads down the long way. There are offices here, and more people. It's one in the morning, but maybe this drives everyone in.

They're standing in doorways, a couple girls near the bathroom. Jin sees suits and jeans, red eyes and day-old hair. Conversations that are hushed and quiet, and when Kame walks past everything goes silent. Jin guesses they were waiting for him.

Kame is bringing order and authority. But he's also bringing change, and nobody speaks to them. Jin wouldn't speak to him either, as forbidding as he looks. Not if he was just some middle management flunky with a job to lose.

Though they're not all admin, he realizes when he sees Ueda; with a sober hair cut and in a sober suit, dark hair and a darker stare. None of the badass glamor of his latest advertisement. He doesn't try to talk to Kame.

Jin keeps hearing his own name, in whispers, after they pass.

Kame's office is right at the end. It's the only one that has a reception, with desk and big couch and carefully arranged flowers. There's no receptionist now, but there's Koki, saying, "Kame," and stopping to stare at Jin like he's seen a ghost. Jin gives him a smile but says nothing. This is Kame's show, every single part of it.

"Koki," Kame says, then nods to the other three present. "Yuuya, Yuuta, Yuuto. Thank you all for coming here."

Jin only recognizes Tamamori because he's seen him on billboards advertising after shave recently. He's filled out a lot, but in a good, powerful way. By contrast, Nakajima doesn't seem to have changed at all.

"Kame, are you okay?" Koki moves towards Kame as if he wants to hug him, ends up clutching Kame's arms instead.

Kame nods, frees himself gently. "I'm fine," he says, and pats him on the shoulder. There's something sad about it all and Jin doesn't even know why. "Let's get to work, okay?"

"They're waiting for you," Koki says. Jin thinks his eyes may be wet. "The small meeting room. We gave them coffee."

"That was well done," Kame says, but his eyes are faraway. He's standing tall like he's bracing himself for something. "Send someone down to give the press some coffee too." He turns to Jin. "I hope this won't take more than an hour. Koki will show you where things are, in case you want anything." Don't go away, Jin hears and he nods.

"Shouldn't I come with you?" Koki says, but Kame shakes his head.

"If they want to talk to you they can ask for you."

"I don't think you should be alone with them. Yuuta got the lawyers out of bed, they'll be here any minute."

"I'll be fine," Kame says, and it sounds kind and final. "You'll help me by looking after Jin."

"Right," Koki says. "Yes." Jin should have asked Kame what his story's supposed to be, why he's here. Kame doesn't need fuck-ups tonight.

He finds himself scrutinized openly as soon as Kame has left the room. "Cops?" he asks, easy as he can. Harmless.

"Yeah." Koki spares a wistful look at the door Kame just walked through, and then he's focused on Jin again. "Guess that's to be expected. What are you doing here?"

"I was there when he got the call. He asked me along." At least Kame doesn't have to worry about an alibi.

"He never mentioned he's hanging out with you again."

"Guess he plays things close to the chest," Jin shrugs, feeling fake again but everyone's so wound that even his dodgy acting will do. "Besides, who'd advertise they're hanging out with me?"

Koki rolls his eyes away like he can't quite admit the point. He's got a trimmed goatee and a piercing in his eyebrow. His hair is dark brown, and he looks different the way Koki looked different every six months, and so somehow entirely the same. Eventually he gestures Jin through the wide door. "You can wait in here. I'll have someone bring you coffee too."

"Thanks," Jin says. "Coffee would be great."

Kame's office is elegant, spare, and grey. Jin's shocked.

He wants to go to the window but stops in front of Kame's huge empty desk. The dark leather chair behind it could seat them both and still have room for a little lapdog. Kame's not even sitting in it and Jin's preemptively intimidated.

There's nothing personal anywhere. No photograph. No baseball mementoes. Nothing. One corner of the desk holds a small, olive and grey ikebana arrangement which Jin is just sure Kame had absolutely nothing to do with. The secretary probably has it changed once a week, always making sure to avoid actual colors.

The door closes on him. Tamamori and Nakajima, Tegoshi and Koki in Kame's anteroom. They must be close. Or just less distant than the rest. Jin's in here, still not good for meetings, and he's never cared less.

Kame's view of Tokyo is not as great as Jin once pictured. Just more office buildings opposite, a slash of night sky where one of them is lower. Jin's tempted to look into desk drawers and see if there's half-used aspirin packs and chewed pencils, but he knows that if Koki walked in on him he'd die.

He hopes Kame is okay talking to the cops.

He drops himself on the ikebana-colored couch, low and clearly less splendid than Kame's boss chair. Outside there are voices. Being here, like this, is unsettling. He brings out his phone and picks a game, but after a minute he just puts it away. There's blood and brains on the pavement outside, and Kame is talking to cops and Jin's so glad they were together, but he's not glad for what he knows.

Kame knows it too. Who did this, why it happened now. Jin could see it in his eyes, in the way he gripped the steering wheel.

He starts when the door opens, even though it's just a gentle click. Tegoshi, with coffee.

"Hey," Jin says. He doesn't really know what he should say to Tegoshi. "You got a promotion?"

"I volunteered," Tegoshi says with a perfect, happy-to-serve smile. "It's a long night for everyone, nobody should be without coffee." He puts a small tray down on the equally small coffee table.

"Thanks," Jin says.

"I read you were getting evicted," Tego says. "Is that true?"

"I heard you raped some actress on camera," Jin says. He's getting used to being fake. Maybe the ikebana's giving him vibes, or something. "Was that true?"

Tegoshi inclines his head as if he's flirting with Jin, and has a sip of his own coffee. "Fair point."

"Are you supposed to be talking to me? Koki'll think my cooties are going to infect you."

Tegoshi gives him the same smile, edging on creepy. "Julie's gone. No more cooties." Right. "Did you see..." The body, the cops. "...anything?"

"No. I got here late. I don't think anybody but the porter actually saw the body. He says there was a falling black shape and a crunch."

Jin winces despite himself.

"Why are you here?" Tegoshi's always been blunt.

"I'm not sure. Kame brought me along."

"Why are you with him?"

The door's ajar, but all Jin sees is a strip of brighter carpet and the legs of someone leaning against the secretary's desk. "That's what worries Koki, right?"

"We all have an interest in what's going on with Kame-chan."

It says something about Kame that the nickname doesn't sound the least bit mocking.

Tegoshi's still waiting. Right.

"We were catching up," Jin says. Safe enough. No mention of fucking or how this time, they didn't. "We've been in touch."

Tegoshi's perfect round eyes go narrow for a second, but then his face smooths over. He's not a beginner here either. "Great," he says encouragingly. "It's good to see you involved again and maybe come out of retirement." Bouncy and glib, and Jin's not going to hazard a single word on what Kame-chan's plans might be.

"Thanks for the coffee," Jin says. "I'll try not to spill it on anything."

Tegoshi laughs. It sounds sharp in the grey silence, the click of the door as he leaves even sharper.

The voices get busier outside when Jin's cup is half empty. He tenses at once, but before he has time to get really antsy, Kame opens the door and sticks his head in. "I'm back," he says, and leaves the door open. Jin doesn't need more of an invitation.

Koki is staring at Jin, Tegoshi looking openly curious and Nakajima like he still doesn't know what to think about Jin. Jin couldn't care less. "You okay?"

Kame nods curtly. "Sure. I just explained that the police are looking over the security tapes. That should clear things up fast." He glances toward the water heater and Koki turns on his heel, measures coffee into a mug. "They won't let anyone in her office and I don't know if she left a letter. If there's a letter I hope it's not too embarrassing, or that the police won't leak it." He takes the mug from Koki and sips. "Thanks."

There's a knock on the door, and Nakajima takes two quick steps towards it.

"Ah, Hayashi-sensei," Kame says to the round-faced, balding man who is sticking his head around the door. "Come in, we've been waiting."

The next five minutes are hilarious as Kame is told off by his lawyer for speaking to anybody, especially police, without proper representation. Koki and the guys look like they expect a bomb to go off, but Kame takes his scolding with a bowed head, like getting chewed out by lawyers is just one more of his duties.

"You haven't told your boss yet?" Hayashi asks at the end. For a moment everything goes quiet.

"Not yet." Kame swirls the dregs of coffee in his mug, slowly. Jin wishes they could be alone. "She'll still be as dead in the morning. Fujiwara is on night shift, he'll call me when Johnny wakes up. I'll talk to him then."


It goes like this, for hours. Kame comes and goes, between press statements, the cops and fretting employees, jobs for Koki and jobs for Tegoshi, and orders for people at the other end of Kame's phone. Kame is stiff and grey, cutting through tired air wherever he walks, and Jin drifts between the two rooms and tries to just be there. It seems like his job.

At three, Kame tells the guys to go home, sleep and shower, and to tell everybody else to do the same. Jin watches them go. Then he watches Kame let his jacket slide off and drop it carelessly on the secretary's desk. They go inside and Jin closes the door behind them.

It's cool in the office. Jin doesn't know if that makes him sleepier or more awake. Kame sits on the couch, staring off into what's left of the night. It's a small couch, but there's still room in the second corner, so that's where Jin sits. Only one lamp is on, a tiny one. In anybody else's office it would be for softness, coziness. There's nothing soft in here.

"I don't think she left a letter," Kame says. Then they say nothing for a while.

Jin takes his shoes off and pulls his feet up, wrapping his arms around his knees. He's got an eye on Kame, both eyes, really; grey-in-grey Kame in his grey office. He doesn't start when Kame leans forward and drops his face in his hands, heels pressing into his eyes.

"Still okay?" he asks.

Kame nods without raising his face. "It went better than it might have."

That's something. Kame's exhausted but he also seems together, parked here in his office as they wait for the morning.

Kame tilts his head once. There's a crack in his neck. "You're not telling me I should get some sleep."

"No." Kame needs to be awake.

But he can't keep drinking the dark brew they've been plying him with, and Jin makes himself move. He knocks on two offices and finds some low-level minions who have no clue who he is, pulls some unexpected authority out of his ass and gets a stressed-out accountant type to run down to one of the all night coffee places to get a mild soy latte with lots of sugar, the kind that's marketed to seniors and their sensitive stomachs.

"Thank you," Kame says when Jin comes back with it, wrapping his hands around the cup.

Jin pulls his legs in again, curling up in his corner, but Kame's eyes are out towards the night, his body all angles and concentration.

"I want you to come work for me," he says.

Jin's mind was still on coffee and food. "What?" he says when he catches up and his breath stops and he thinks, Make music? before he can be rational.

"You need a job. You need to move to a new apartment. You can have an office here, I'll pay you well enough."

Work for Kame. Work… in Johnny's. An office, here. Jin gets with it as the jolt of music dies.

It sounds decided. A pity job, one Kame can make up for lowlife losers who saw him sleep and felt him kiss like it's the last kiss in the world.

"Why?" he asks. "You're getting my ass cheap anyway."

Kame blinks at some faraway light, his mouth pressing together. "Don't be an idiot. You always had talent. It shouldn't go to waste." He gives Jin a blunt stare, much more awake than the rest of him. "But you always had too much pride too."

It hangs there meaningfully. The last nine weeks established all they needed to know about Jin's pride.

"Sometimes I hate you," Jin says.

Kame's shoulders move as if he's too tired to shrug. "Lots of people hate me. They work for me anyway."

Kame always wanted to be loved.

"I mostly don't hate you," Jin admits.

Kame's mouth quirks up, also tired, just a bit. "Is that a yes? The company could do with you."

"The company doesn't want to know me," Jin points out. "I have no reputation left here. All the things…" The things he did, the things they did and said… "People have memories."

Kame gives him a sideways look. "You remember how they could always just define what really happened?"

Like Jin would forget. The story's what they make it, always. "Yeah."

Kame nods. "That'll be me now." Before the chill of that can really sink in, he adds, "And I could do with you here, too."

That's true. Jin knows it like morning cracking through the night. The other thing they established in the last nine weeks. "Well, when's the last time you didn't get what you want…"

Kame's eyes tighten at the corners as if he remembers all too well, has the score card in his head. But eventually he pulls his feet up too, cradling his coffee like it's more precious than just a half-empty paper cup.

Dawn is stirring outside, more grey and more shadows. When all of this is over, Jin's going to put up some bright red art in here, or a fucking Giants poster.

Jin's tea has gone cold. It can't be that much longer now until the wheels start grinding again. This mad, mad job of Kame's, his now entirely, and what does Jin even know about the enemies. He thinks of Julie, in some grey creepy office of her own, playing the same stakes, and the chill of it crawls under his skin where no hot tea can reach.

"Would you do it?" he asks into the quiet. "If you'd lost... Would you do it?"

Kame played that game too, and he won, and in all those weeks… what does Kame have beside this, the work and the game? Nothing. Jin, stashed away somewhere on the way home. Nothing.

Kame blinks up, with a dozen emotions on his face that seem slowed down from exhaustion. "I hadn't entertained the possibility," he says in a thin voice. Jin's not sure if he means jumping from a building, or losing.

How much did Julie think about it, beforehand?

Kame turns tired eyes on him. They're puffy and scrunched even in this gloom, but quite calm. "I wouldn't give up like that," he says.

Jin runs a hand over his face. There's cold sweat on it. This night is getting to him. "Kame…" This is a whole new life, a whole new… he needs to know.

"Don't worry," Kame says, soft and firm at the same time. He looks like this night mugged him and tossed him around and threw him in a ditch. "It's all right now."


Jin's wide awake the next two hours, while Kame first sits, then starts to pace. He thinks about Julie dying and he thinks about his kids, and now and then he gets Kame more coffee or some water. When the sun is up, he tells Kame his shirt is too worn, and helps him pick out a dark tie for the new one.

The office comes with a tiny private bathroom, and Kame washes his face and his armpits; shaves. The caffeine's made his hands unsteady, and Jin helps him get in the eyedrops so he can look fresh and ready for anything.

It's seven when Kame's phone rings. Jin's not even surprised, and Kame certainly doesn't seem to be.

"Yes," he says, and, "Yes, keep it off for now. Will half an hour be all right?" He listens for a while, and finally says, "An hour then. I'll call."

He puts the phone down and for a moment he only looks tired.

"That was Fujiwara, he was with Johnny during the night," he says to Jin. "Johnny's awake. I'll call him when he's dressed and had some time to get with the world."

Of course that would be Kame's job too. It would be awful even without the added dose of guilt, Jin thinks.

Half an hour later the first staff members start to arrive. Kame's giving orders about security at the entrances and how to stop journalists pouncing on everybody who comes in. Now and then there's a phone call, and the constant mantra no comment.

Then suddenly everyone's gone. Kame sits back and lights an unsteady cigarette. "I have to call Johnny now," he says. "You could go take a shower, Naomi can tell you where they are."

"Guess I could," Jin says hesitantly. "Unless... I could shower later."

Kame takes a deep drag, holds the smoke and the thought. "No," he says in the end. "I'll do this on my own."

Jin gets it, and nods. It was his game. Now it's his call to make. When Jin turns at the door, Kame's got his phone in his hand, for the first time looking like he's waiting for courage.

Jin shakes off the shiver, closes the door quietly.

The shower room is a hell of a lot classier than they ever had in the old building. He stands under the stream for a good long time, tries to let the warm water wash some awakeness into him. His eyes sting as if he got soap into them. Damn all-nighters.

By the time he gets back to Kame's office, the smoke is thicker in the air. Kame is standing behind his desk giving instructions about Kanjani's comedy program to a couple of producers, and when they scurry out, he pushes a few newspaper editions towards Jin. "Here's what we have so far, if you want to read. I'll go talk to KITTY-KISS-ME now, they're on a program later. Will you be all right here?"

"I need to call my manager at the supermarket," Jin says. "Tell him I'm not coming in tonight. I…" He doesn't even know if he was supposed to give notice. "Tell him I quit." So much for Sara and his uniform. His brain is white knots and swirls, and Kame's getting what he wants.

"Do that," Kame nods, before moving on to the next thing.

So the morning picks up where the night ended. Kame's in and out of the office, sometimes followed by a herd, sometimes alone. The police are back to reviewing the security tapes, and Kame asks Jin to step out when he has a long talk with the lead detective. Koki is letting coffee go cold in the anteroom and he looks like he hasn't slept either.

"When did you get in?" Jin asks.

"Eight," Koki says, and then nothing, then he just looks confused.

Kame asks Jin to stay when he phones up Kimura-senpai, and when he hangs up and the deal still stands, SMAP is still coming back, he seems to fall together in that big, arrogant chair. For a moment he closes his eyes, his mouth twitching like it doesn't know what it wants to do.

"Okay," he says softly, sitting up straight again. "Okay, we are in business."

Jin takes a break around eleven. He tries to keep himself from drifting, to pay attention for anything he can do. But he can't take the bustle and the thickening smoke, the grey drone in his head anymore. He slips out when Kame is called to talk to the cops again, and he'd like to be outside. But outside means reporters, or the roof, which… no.

He ends up in a grey stairwell, and it echoes back when he laughs at himself.

It's cooler in here; not the cool of the aircon but of thick concrete. Just five minutes, and he won't fall asleep. Meisa's sent him e-mails.

"Hey," he says when he calls her.

"Jin! Have you heard about Julie Fujishima? It's all over the news!"

Jin laughs again, but stops himself quickly. "Yeah. I heard. Sorry I didn't call you earlier, I was kind of... I was busy."

"That's fine," Meisa says, but there's a question in her voice.

"We don't have to worry about that story now. I mean, you and me. Me. You know what I mean."

"Jin, what's going on?"

"Nothing," he says. "Nothing now. That article..." He's too tired to sort through what he can say and what not, but this is Meisa. It'll be okay. "I've been back in touch with Kame, that's how I got on people's radar. But we've… he's… it's safe now. I'll explain later. Tell me about the kids, what have they been up to yesterday? What are you guys doing today?"

He must have sounded a bit desperate, and after a moment, she just tells him. About his kids being clever and whiny and stubborn and funny and great, until there's color back in his head and nothing about people dying.

Then he's ready to go back. Kame's secretary barely nods at him anymore. That happened fast, Jin as part of the inventory. A young guy, a bit too beefy for his suit, steps out of Kame's office and gives Jin a curious look, but Jin nods at him and strolls inside.

Kame's not in. Someone's sitting in his chair anyway. Small, smaller than Kame. The lines on his face so deep they cast their own shadows.

"Johnny-san," Jin says.

Johnny notices him slowly. God, he's ancient. Entirely bald now, got more of those spots. His eyes narrow on Jin. "What do you want?"

"I was looking for..." What is he, in the scheme of things? What does Kame want here? "Kamenashi-kun."

"Well, he's working." Johnny takes a labored breath. The chair turns slowly towards the window but Jin can't see if Johnny is pushing it. "He's busy."

"Yes," Jin says. "I know. I'll wait." Then he gets it together. "My sincere condolences for your loss, sir." He feels like such a fucking hypocrite.

Johnny says nothing to that, just presses his thin lips together. Stares at Jin steadily, so piercing Jin feels it prickle. "Akanishi," he says. Nods to himself. "What are you doing here?"

Didn't they just clear that up?

"Waiting for Kamenashi."

Johnny chuckles. "Of course. Akakame." Stares at Jin again. "You were cuter then."

Doesn't Jin know it. "Can I get you anything, sir?" It's a stupid platitude. But what's Jin going to say? "Is there anything you need?"

Johnny breathes slowly again. "Do you work here?" he asks. "Can you bring KITTY-KISS-ME's Miyamoto to my office? I want to talk to him."

"I... I don't know, sir. I'll have to wait for Kame."

"Kamenashi," Johnny says. "He's cute, too. He'll go places. I know those things, you know. I've got an eye for it."

It makes Jin's hairs stand up.

His head whips around when the door opens. He'll take anybody but... it's Kame. Oh, thank you.

"Ah, Kazuya." Johnny's eyes have lit up. "I've been waiting for you. Akanishi's here."

"I know," Kame says smoothly. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting." He gives Jin a passing glance but says nothing.

"Oh, that's all right," Johnny says as Kame moves towards him. "I'm not in such a hurry."

"Did Fujiwara drive you over?" Kame asks, in a light voice so at odds with the crawling uneasiness Jin is feeling.

"Yes," Johnny nods. "One of them drove me, anyway."

"And he brought you to my office?" Kame drops to his haunches in front of Johnny and smiles, fixes Johnny's tie.

"Yes. I was waiting for you." Johnny reaches out and his thin fingers skim Kame's cheek, push back his hair. "And here you are."

"Yes," Kame says, smile unwavering. "That's good, that's perfect."

Johnny nods, seems pleased with that.

"Have you had breakfast?"

"A little bit," Johnny says. His hand sinks down, wrapping around the arm of the chair. Jin's thinking of claws. "I'm not very hungry."

"I understand that," Kame says. "It's a difficult time."

Johnny nods again. "When is the funeral?" His voice is much quieter; broken.

"Wednesday, maybe Thursday," Kame says. He stands, and says, more for Jin, "The police are ready to declare it a suicide."


"You deal with the press, Kazuya. I don't want to see them."

Kame nods. "I'll do that. And afterwards, we need to think about protecting the company from the confusion caused by this sad loss. Julie was a very strong manager."

"Yes," Johnny says vaguely. "Yes, we'll have to... structure things."

Kame nods. "We will," he says. "Let me worry about that."

Johnny looks around as if he doesn't remember how he got here. It's a sinking feeling when Jin realizes that that may just be the case.

"I have some… work." Johnny waves a hand. "I wish to go to my office for a while."

"Of course," Kame says. "I'll have some tea brought for you there."

"And KITTY-KISS-ME's Miyamoto," Johnny says. "I like him. I want to talk to him. In my office."

Something shadowed and closed flickers over Kame's face. "Of course," he says, smile coming back. "I'll have him sent up as soon as he comes back from filming."

Kame helps Johnny stand. It takes him a moment to find his balance. Then he walks, slowly but without wavering.

"It's you," Johnny says when he's in front of Jin.

"Yes," Jin says. God, his voice. "Akanishi."

"You've changed your hair. I don't think I like it that way, it's not cool. I'll have a word with your manager."

"Sorry," Jin says, and looks down.

"Jin, will you get the door, please?" Kame says, friendly as cupcakes, and Jin starts, shit, of course.

"Sorry," he says again. "Sure." He opens the door and makes room for Johnny and feels shakier than the old man on his old skinny legs.

Johnny stops at the door and puts a wrinkled hand on Jin's arm. "You're a good boy," he says with a smile, and he almost looks like he always did, eternally old, eternally strong. "I like you." Then he shuffles through the door, leaving Jin standing there with a shudder crawling down his back.

"That's what it's like," Kame says evenly. "Go sit down. I'll have someone bring you tea too."

"Are you…" Jin swallows dry. "You're not really going to send…"

The look Kame shoots him makes him flinch. But then Kame's face softens. "The one advantage to the state he's in." He walks up to Jin and turns him, away from staring at the door. "He won't remember he asked."


The day goes on forever. Kame meets with Arashi at some point and Jin finds himself eyed with suspicion again. He sees Junno, too, which is weird, and Ueda, who says he wants to speak to Kame alone. There are long meetings with lawyers. Jin sticks around because Kame wants him there, but he's got nothing to do. He's starting to feel like the office mascot. An increasingly tired one.

By six, he's starting to go cross-eyed. Kame is wearing his third fresh shirt of the day, after having somebody stop at Matsuya with instructions. Jin got a new one too, and it actually made him feel half-alive again for half an hour. That was around three.

The grey of the office is merging with the grey in Jin's brain and the white noise in his ears. He's so used to the phone ringing that it doesn't even give him an adrenaline jolt any more. Kame's voice is deep and quiet and the couch is a familiar smell now...


"Hm?" He blinks up.

"I said that's it. We're finished for today. We're going home."

"Okay," Jin says, sitting up. His neck hurts. His eyes hurt. "Where are we going?"

"Car park." Kame has his suit jacket back on and is carrying a briefcase. Jin thinks he looks old, but then the thought of going home overpowers everything.


He follows Kame, close. He could get lost in here, this new building. Lost and then he'd starve. Or drown in coffee. But Kame will know where he's going.

"Your seatbelt," Kame says when Jin's sitting in the car, and yeah. Seatbelts. Important. Like brushing your teeth.

It's easy when he can just do as Kame says. The car comes on smoothly, like a warm hug.

"You okay?" Kame asks as they pull up the ramp, and it reminds Jin that Kame's been awake for two days straight, too, and he hasn't been napping on any sofas, and now he's driving.

"Fine," he says. "Just sleepy." They drive past the camped-out paparazzi and all he can think is that they probably got to take it in shifts.

"So sleep," Kame says.

"I think I should keep you entertained while I'm here," Jin says. "You're tired too."

"And I say you should sleep," Kame says. "I'm fine. I drive all the time."

Not after this, Jin thinks. But Kame says he should sleep. It's enough, pulling at him like the smooth flow of the car, the weight on his eyelids.

Just a little. Just until he's home.

"Jin. Wake up, we're here."

It's dark. Really dark. Except for a bright light on the concrete wall a few meters away. Another car park.

"Did you drive back?" Jin shakes his head and tries to clear the fog. "Where are we?"

"My apartment building." Kame opens the door and there's a draft of air. "Come on."

Jin doesn't argue. Doesn't even ask. There'll be an apartment and a bed and no idols or press or endlessly ringing phones, and that's all he needs.

Kame inputs some long number into a keypad and the first door slides open. There's a lobby with shiny marble and two elevators at the end. They are swept to the seventh floor, noiseless and fast, and then it's a short corridor and another door with another keypad, and then a smell of cold smoke and cool air, and a carpet so soft that Jin wants to lie down on it and sleep. Kame's apartment.

A subtle light comes on. "Here we are," Kame says. "You can have the couch. I've got blankets."

The couch is roughly as big as Jin's apartment. "Okay." He sits down on it and it gives cozily and he doesn't know if he'll ever get up again.

"Are you hungry? Do you need anything else?"

"I don't know," Jin says. Kame's apartment is large, with daunting furniture, expanding chrome and white and black. There's a few modern paintings and some dark artsy sculptures, and not much else. If Kame possesses books or CDs they are behind cupboard doors. The only indication that somebody lives here is a notebook on the dining table, and an ashtray with two stubbed-out cigarettes next to it. Oh, and a pen. Let's not forget the pen, Jin thinks. "Do you even have food in here?" he can't help asking.

"I have a housekeeper," Kame says. Of course he would.

It's an open, American-style kitchen. Nice if you have the space. Black tiles and steel panels. Kame's rattling around, and Jin makes a half-assed effort to stand up. "Should I do anything?"

"No," Kame says. No. Fits.

Jin takes a deep breath, waits. Tries to see Kame in this apartment. Slick and cold, is that what Kame is trying to be? One of the sculptures is a man's outline. Half a body pushing out of black granite, a katana in his hand. It's dark and sensual and proud.

Kame's in front of him so suddenly that Jin jerks. There's a plate with a fork and steaming little pancake. It smells of butter and maple syrup. "You just made a pancake?"

"It was frozen," Kame says. "I stuck it in the toaster. Don't get it on the couch."

Kame knows just what is perfect. Jin doesn't ask any more questions, just gobbles up this piece of sugary heaven while Kame lights a cigarette and pulls up a chair.

"I'll drive you home tomorrow," he says. "You'd be bored at the company and I have to do a few things. It'll take a few days to sort out your contract. But I'll call you."

Back in the box, waiting. Stuck in pause.

"Don't argue with me."

He doesn't. Kame's known what's needed all this time. He licks up the maple syrup from the fork. Mops up the last drops of butter with the last crumbs of pancake. The sugar didn't wake him up, just made him content and even sleepier.

Kame brings him a pillow and duvet, spreads a sheet on the couch. It feels silky and cool and entirely perfect. He gets a toothbrush, fresh boxers, and a washed-out Giants t-shirt which is reassuring in a way he never expected it to be.

Kame is still dressed, with the start of stubble on his face and his eyes so small they're disappearing.

"Thank you," Jin says, not sure for what, but it feels right to say.

He slips the phone back in his pocket and grips Jin's wrist and pins it against the door; sticks his tongue in Jin's mouth and tells Jin with his hand in Jin's sweatpants just how desperate Jin must be, and when he really has to go, he's right about that.

"Go to sleep," Kame says, the duvet coming up to Jin's chin, cool fingers in his hair, and Jin figures he's been doing as told for the last two days, he's not going to stop now.


Week 9 - 9½ (Drabbles½)


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