s o f t   s k i n   b o y s

Kame flies into town on a Thursday night, ready to speak with the producers on the Friday morning. They ply him with champagne even though it is only ten am, feed him rare imported fruits and flatter him, as if there is any chance he will not do this movie when he has already done so much of the preparation; cut and coloured his hair, spoken with the director, started learning about the pathology of various famous serial killers, learned their verbal ticks and strange nervous habits. He's excited about this role, a step away from the soft sweet starry-eyed lovers or smirking playboys he usually plays, a step away from the romantic comedies he has grown to hate.

After the meeting, he has nothing to do until Monday. Nothing to do, of course, doesn't really mean nothing, not in his line of work. It means he has to go to the director's get together tonight and schmooze with the investors, it means he has to go home and read his lines, it means he has to contact his agent and get him to check and double check the contracts, it means he has a couple of meetings disguised as meals. Still, for him, that's a relatively uneventful weekend. Maybe he'll be able to sleep tonight, long slow hours of fuzzy nothingness, the kind of rest he never gets.

At the party, he politely rebuffs several persistent suitors and borrows his agent's car to drive back to his hotel when he feels like he can't stand it anymore. It's been a long time since he drove himself anywhere, he realises, and relishes shifting the gears and sliding his palms along the leather steering wheel. Usually he has people to do this kind of thing for him; draped indolently in the back of a limo or rummaging through a script in the passenger seat of his SUV. A lot of the time, he doesn’t have time to drive.

It doesn’t take him long to get lost. His hotel is a huge skyscraper stretching a million floors into the sky, so it seems like it should be difficult to miss, but he drives block after block until he realises he’s cruised away from the well lit streets of the rich part of the city, that he’s passing more and more tacky neon lights and shady figures huddled on street corners. He starts to get nervous when he passes a bar that says ‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS XXX’ in the window in red lights. Back when he was little more than an extra, he played a character that died in one of those bars, fake blood oozing out onto sticky carpet.

After a few more blocks he pulls to the curb and switches the overhead light on, stares down at the little map his agent drew on a napkin. There’s a smudge of chocolate icing that he thought was an arrow about fifteen turns back; he now has no idea where he is. He stares down at the napkin in disbelief, fucking Taguchi, fucking Taguchi, and then starts trying to find a street directory in the glove box. He’s just shoved aside a thick stack of cds and an old issue of Shonen Jump when a knock on his window scares the shit out of him.

It’s a boy in the window with a pretty face and a scoop neck shirt, hair falling about his face in giant, impossible waves. He watches with a crooked smile as Kame slides the window down, and then leans into the car on his elbows, hands dangling into Kame’s personal space.

“Hey mister,” he says, tongue briefly resting between his teeth, obscene. “I’m looking for a ride.”

He’s so young. The skin on his exposed collarbones is dusted gold and shimmering and his lips are glossed and pouty; he looks cheap and tawdry like the boys that sometimes throw themselves at him at private parties, like the wannabe actresses that try to sleep with him for parts, but beautiful, somehow, in a way they are not, beautiful in a way that makes Kame a little bit sad.

“Perfect,” he says, and unlocks the door. “I’m looking for a navigator.”

“Is that something kinky?” the kid asks as he slides into the passenger seat, black jeans looking faded and grey against the jet black leather. “Kinky is extra.”

Kame sighs. “No, just – look, how well do you know this area? Because if you just got into town, then you’re probably not any use to me.”

“I been here a while,” he says vaguely, hands ghosting over the dashboard, the gleaming leather trim. “This is a nice car.”

“It’s not mine,” Kame says, pulling away from the curb. In the back of his mind he wonders if he is making a horrible mistake; this kid, beautiful as he is, could be some kind of psychopath, could take out a knife and try to stab him, could leave this car and go sell his story to a tabloid somewhere. This kid could be a heartbreaker.

It’s better than being lost out here in the wilderness, though.

“Oh my god!” the kid exclaims. “Did you steal it?”

“What?” Kame glances at him; the kid’s mouth is hanging open in slight disbelief, eyes wide. “No! I borrowed it from a colleague.”

He nearly says, “from my agent”, but the kid doesn’t seem to recognize him and he doesn’t want to trigger his memory, doesn’t really need a rent boy going back to his strip and telling all his friends that Kamenashi Kazuya picked him up in a Ferrari.

He hands the kid the map and says, “Can you get me to the Imperial?”

“The hotel?” He’s looking dubiously at the map. “Are you serious?”

“Is that a problem?”

“Most guys just park behind a convenience store or something.”

Kame laughs. “Can you get me there?”

The kid looks offended and throws the map down. “Of course, I’m not an idiot. I know where the Imperial is. Take a left up here.”

“What’s your name?” Kame asks. The kid takes out a cigarette and puts it between his lips; Kame plucks it from his mouth and stuffs it in the ashtray, unlit. “No smoking.”

The kid smirks, reaches out and runs his finger over the shell of Kame’s ear, and Kame knows he is going to lie. “Robert,” he says, only it comes out, Ro-bet-to.

“Interesting name,” Kame comments. The road is stretching out in front of them, silver sedans and family wagons dotted along the street, beneath the traffic lights. Kame wonders how many of these drivers are accompanied by whores; how many of them are going home alone.

“Thanks,” he says happily. He starts fiddling with the buttons on the radio, finds a hip hop station and turns it up a little, shifts in his seat in time to the bass. “What do I call you?”

Kame stills; wonders if he even has to give a name, he doesn’t even plan to take him home, plans to leave him around the corner with money for a cab and a tip for not killing him. He’s not going to do anything intimate.

He can’t say, “I’m Kamenashi,” because the name isn’t that common. He can’t say, “I’m Kame,” because it is one of the most famous nicknames in Japan.

“Call me Kazuya,” he says at length. He cannot remember the last time he said those words.

“Ka-zu-ya,” Robert repeats. His hand finds his way back to Kame’s ear, fingers softly skimming the skin at the back of his neck, tangling in his hair. “I wonder if you can afford me, Ka-zu-ya.”

“I can afford you,” Kame says grimly, “Financially at least.”

“So what are we looking at?” Robert asks. “You want me for the hour, or you want me for the whole night?”

“I want you until you get me back to my hotel,” Kame replies, “And then I want you to go home.”

“What?” The hand that had been petting at his hair is suddenly retracted and Robert stares at him in outrage, mouth an indignant O in the middle of his face. “No way!”

“Sorry.” Kame eases up at a stop light, tries not to look at the line of the kid’s body as he slouches sullenly in his seat, arms crossed and lower lip protruding defiantly. He has slinky, elegant wrists and smooth forearms.

“But you’re so hot!” Robert whines. “This is bullshit!”

Kame shrugs. The kid tells him to take a right, so he does; then he tells him to drive straight ahead for two blocks and take a left. Kame gets the feeling he is trying to prolong the trip, trying to give himself time to negotiate. It’s okay, he’s not really in any hurry to send the kid back out into the cold, to take the long elevator ride up to the Imperial suite alone.

Robert lays his cheek on the corner of his chair and stares at Kame with dark eyes. “I’m not underage or anything,” he says. “Unless you want me to be, Kazuya.”

Kame resolutely gazes away from the little teasing smile and the slide of his low-necked t-shirt over fine collarbones.

“It’s ¥15000 an hour,” Robert says. His lashes rest against pink cheeks; this part obviously embarrasses him, even if he tries to look tough. He looks young and fragile and Kame tries to imagine putting him in a taxi and sending him back to the street corner, to be picked up by some old fat salary man who will haggle him down to ¥7500 and then go home to his warm house and spoiled kids.

“What about for the night?” he asks before he can stop himself. It’s like suicide to take this boy back to his hotel, to let him sleep in the king sized bed in his suite, between fresh white Egyptian sheets, foolish to think about ordering room service and sleeping curled up against his back, but those are the thoughts that linger in Kame’s head; just a chance to not be alone for once, to not be alone with someone whose life is as strange and solitary as his own.

“I usually charge ¥70,000 for the whole night,” Robert says. He’s staring right into Kame’s eyes but Kame still wonders if he’s lying. He looks like his heart is racing, eyes all wide and too innocent. “You’re hot so I’ll give you a discount.”

Kame’s heart twists. He’s the last person in the world who needs a discount. “No,” he says. “¥70,000 is fine.”

“Really?” His voice squeaks a little in surprise. “I mean, cool. Of course. I’m totally worth it.”

Kame thinks about paparazzi and STDs and being stabbed in his sleep. “I bet you are,” he says.

-

They take the lift to the top floor with a young couple; the woman, quiet and restrained in a pink cashmere cardigan, keeps peering at Kame out of the corner of her eyes. He knows the second they step out of the elevator she will turn to her husband and hiss, did you see who that was? Her husband, though, keeps looking at Robert, at the glimpses of knees through torn jeans, at his big boots and the graceful arch of his body into the wall. Kame would be worried about what this would look like except he’s a movie star and Robert looks like a rock star. What this looks like is a tabloid spread about them having some kind of cocaine orgy with beautiful girls in his hotel room, and not Kamenashi Kazuya rents barely legal escort for illicit homosexual rendezvous. The first kind would barely even impact on his career. The second kind could change everything for good.

When the couple step out of the lift, Robert watches them go and then smiles slightly at Kame, slides his hands into the pockets of his jeans, shoulders drawn up around his neck. “That guy wanted to fuck me,” he confides. “His wife wanted to fuck you.”

The elevator attendant coughs and tries to pretend he doesn’t exist, which is more or less his job in the first place.

-

When they walk into his suite Robert tries to act nonchalant but Kame can see his awe in the slight tilt of his head as he looks slowly around the room, in the gentleness of his touch as he reaches out to smooth his hand over the head of a small marble statuette. Kame realises, with some horror, that this suite costs more per night than Robert does.

He takes off his coat throws it over the back of the couch, feels immensely awkward as Robert’s eyes move around the room, out the window to the lights of the city below. “Are you hungry?” Kame asks, moving to the phone.

“I guess,” Robert shrugs. “You don’t have to do this you know.” From Kame’s questioning look, he elaborates. “You know, show me a good time. I’m not your date.”

“You’re my guest,” Kame replies brusquely, embarrassed. His mother always taught him that it was polite to offer food to guests, that he should make everybody feel comfortable no matter who they are. He doesn’t see why this should be any different.

Robert stares at him inscrutably and then says, “Do they have Italian food?”

“Um.” Kame doesn’t know yet, he hasn’t really checked the menu. If he wants Italian food they’ll get Italian food, that is just the way things are for him these days. “Sure.”

“I’m starving,” Robert says. “Get a lot.”

Kame orders four different kinds of pasta and a family sized pizza, and Robert eats three quarters of it on his own.

-

After dinner he sends Robert off to have a bath so he can take care of some business, replying to emails and transferring money and making a short call to his lawyer. It feels strangely comfortable to sit here shuffling through his papers with Robert’s voice floating in from the bathroom; he is singing in the bath, some old American love song. He has a high, strong voice that makes Kame sigh when he plunges to the low notes, another unexpected beauty.

Robert stumbles out of the bathroom an hour later, wrapped in one of the hotel’s huge fluffy robes and toweling dry his hair. The gold dust and lip gloss have washed away but he looks, somehow, impossibly more beautiful, all full, dusky lips and wet hair curling wildly around his ears.

“I’m almost done here,” Kame says. “Do you want to go watch TV or something?”

Instead, Robert leans against the desk by Kame’s chair and picks up the script on the top of the pile. “Are you doing a new movie? Your last one was really weird.”

Kame’s heart pounds, a panicked staccato. “You know who I am?”

Robert looks at him like he’s retarded. “Of course I know who you are. There’s a billboard of you forty foot high outside my bedroom window.”

“Oh god,” Kame says, and drops his head into his hands.

“Don’t worry,” Robert says, and reaches out with his long fingers to tilt Kame’s chin upwards, to look into his eyes. “I won’t tell anybody. I mean, you fed me and everything.” They stare at each other for a minute and then Robert turns his eyes back to the script. “What’s this about?”

“I play a serial killer who gets amnesia,” Kame says, “and spends the rest of the movie slowly solving the mystery of all these murders he committed. He keeps finding weird things in his apartment, like, there’s a scene where I’m going through my cupboards and I find all these bloody fingernails in a jar –“

He stops because Robert has shrieked and covered Kame’s mouth with his hand, skin hot and moist from the shower. He’s staring at him with wide eyes and has dropped the script back onto the desk like it burns. “STOP,” he shouts. “I, um.”

Kame grins. “You don’t like scary movies?”

Robert nods miserably. “Can’t you make another romantic comedy or something? I loved Love in the Stars.”

“God,” Kame says. “I hated that movie. Sawajiri Erika is such a bitch. I have never hated a costar more.”

“Really??” Robert stares at him with exaggerated disbelief. “All the tabloids kept saying the two of you were dating!”

“Oh my god. She hated me even more than I hated her. If I’d asked her on a date she probably would have punched me in the face.”

“How could anyone hate you?” Robert blurted, then bit his lip in awkward embarrassment. “I mean. Uh, you seem really nice to me.”

Kame smiles at him genuinely and touches Robert’s hair; it has been a long time since someone gave him such a simple, honest compliment. “Thanks.”

Robert turns his head into the fingers lazily scratching through his hair, almost seems to purr in pleasure. He reaches up and threads his fingers through Kame’s, climbing into his lap. He slides his hand down Kame’s forearm and up over his biceps, over his shoulders, around his neck.

“I don’t kiss on the lips,” he murmurs, his face close to Kame’s. Kame stares at his lips, wants, suddenly, very much to kiss them, longs to see what they taste like. He barely has time to think about it before Robert is kissing him everywhere else, lips warm and firm against his temple, against his cheekbone, the corner of his mouth, his jaw, his neck. Warm and moist on his ear, teeth tugging sharply on the lobe. Kame gasps.

“Kazuya,” Robert mumbles against his ear, tugging at Kame’s tie to loosen the knot. He pulls it free and clutches it in his fist, for a moment, hands clasped either side of Kame’s face, as he presses hot kisses to the apple of his cheek. Kame realises, with a dark flush of pleasure, that Robert wants to kiss him on the lips, despite his own rule, that he is just barely stopping himself. He sighs when Robert pulls back and looks at his face, eyes tracing over the fine arch of his brows and the slant of his slightly crooked nose. “You’re really weird looking,” he says. “You’re really beautiful.” He pushes his forehead against Kame’s, eyes open and crossed. “I wish I could kiss you.”

“Why can’t you?” Kame asks, hands traveling up Robert’s back, over the toweling robe to the soft skin of his neck. He twists his fingers in thick, wet hair.

“You can’t give away too much of yourself,” Robert says. “Especially when you want to.” He smiles at Kame, a small, sad smile, and it makes Kame’s heart tug. “Are you going to fuck me?” The kid murmurs. “Or am I going to fuck you?”

“Let’s just sit here for a minute,” Kame says, and presses his nose against Robert’s cheek, breathes in the clean soap smell that’s replaced the scent of the city that followed him around before.

Robert laughs a bit. “You’re a pretty sappy guy, huh.”

“Shut up!” Kame says indignantly. “I am not!”

Robert slips to his knees in front of Kame’s chair, runs his hands up his thighs. “I can make this sentimental for you,” he says, presses a kiss to the inside of Kame’s knee through the soft trousers. “I can sing you love songs. Some guys like that.”

“What do you like?” Kame asks, breath hitching as Robert’s fingers fumble inelegantly with the buckle on his belt, as he slides down the zipper. Robert just looks at him for a minute, smirks and bends his head.

It is the first blowjob Kame has had in a couple of months at least, and certainly the most skilled he has had in recent memory; he has hazy memories of a waiter sucking him off in the bathrooms at an awards ceremony a few months back when he’d had too much champagne and too little sleep, but it had been quick and clumsy and certainly nothing like this, Robert’s plump lower lip nuzzling against the underside of his cock, the slight danger of teeth, the firm, rough tug of his fist and the shattering heat of his mouth. Some part of Kame wonders how many times Robert has done this to be so good at it, whether he enjoys it, but some other part is just falling apart with his hands in this kid’s hair.

“Robert,” he sighs as he comes, as the colours refract behind his eyes. When he comes back to himself Robert is still kneeling between his legs, is resting his chin on Kame’s knee and fingering Kame’s ankle beneath the elastic of his socks.

He looks curious and innocent, delighted as he scratches his fingernails around Kame’s heel, as he turns his cheek to Kame’s knee and smiles. “My name is Jin,” he says. “My real name.”

“Jin,” Kame repeats. It feels a bit as if he has been given a precious gift.

-

That night, he gives Jin a handjob in bed, messy and clumsy like giddy kids. At first it seems hilarious to soil this hotel’s stupidly expensive sheets, but then there’s a huge wet spot on the left side of the bed that they have to live with until morning. They end up pressed together on the right side, more closely than is probably necessary in a bed this large. Kame means to take things further, maybe, but he finds it hard to stay awake, pressed against the steady tide of Jin’s breathing, their legs tangled together.

“Fuck me tomorrow,” Jin mumbles in his ear, and then Kame falls asleep.

-

They are woken the next morning at 9:30 by the jangle of a mobile phone. It screams into their warm, hazy stillness; MY MILKSHAKE BRINGS ALL THE BOYS TO THE YARD. It is the latest Kame has slept in months but it feels hopelessly, cruelly early. His eyes crack open enough to watch as Jin pulls away from the tangle of their bodies to reach over the edge of the bed and root through the pockets of his discarded pants for his phone. As Jin answers it he stumbles out of bed and huddles in the corner against the wall, his voice low and quiet like he doesn’t want to wake Kame. Kame yawns and smiles at him tiredly, rests his head on his arm to watch, grins at the insane confusion of Jin’s bed hair, at the large red mark on his neck. Such a beautiful, messy boy.

“Sorry, Pi,” Jin says. “I picked up this guy… he wanted the whole night.” Kame tries not to bristle defensively… it seems like he should be something more than ‘some guy’, seems like he wants to be, desperately. “I’m in this huge suite at the Imperial.” He listens while his friend says something, a shrill, tinny hollering on the other end of the line. “I know. I should have called last night. It was, um.” Now Jin blushes a little, whispers furiously, “I was kind of distracted. No. No. Yes. No! NO, FUCK YOU, PI, HE’S REALLY HOT.”

Kame laughs at the sudden outburst, Jin’s outraged face. He doesn’t like the tension that moves over his features after that, the way he bites his lip and drops his eyes to the floor. The way he is suddenly unhappy.

“Pi… I know. I know. Okay. I said okay!” His face is gloomy now, like an anime character with clouds overhead and fungus growing on his back. “I hate you. I’ll talk to you later.” He hangs up and smiles apologetically at Kame as he staggers back to the bed. “Sorry,” he says. “My friend was kind of worried about me when I didn’t come home.”

“Your boyfriend?” Kame asks stiffly.

“No!” Jin cries. “Well. Not unless that’s what the customer is paying for.”

Kame winces at that, tries not to imagine Jin pressed into a mattress in some shitty hotel, performing for a creepy old pervert in the corner.

Jin slides back into the bed, twists his legs around Kame’s and smiles, goofily. He has a weird disjointed smile, one side of his jaw slightly askew. Whenever he smiles it makes Kame want to smile back, automatically.

He pushes a thick curl of hair behind Jin’s ear, and says, “He said something that upset you.”

The smile fades and Jin’s eyes drop; his hands fidget nervously at Kame’s sides, fingers tracing the hard ridge of his ribs. “Yeah, he um.” He sighs and turns his face to bury it in the pillow, embarrassed. “He said that if… that if you want to fuck me this morning, I have to charge extra.”

Kame’s stomach flutters nervously and he presses his face into Jin’s hair, hides it so Jin won’t see the blush rising on his cheeks. “I want to fuck you this morning,” he says, then sighs. “But I can’t. I’m supposed to have a brunch meeting, to meet the rest of the cast.”

Jin laughs. “A brunch meeting,” he says. “Your life is so different to mine.”

“It’s not so different,” Kame says awkwardly. “We’re both selling ourselves to fat businessmen and bored housewives.”

There’s Jin’s crooked smile again. “Thanks.” He seems genuinely touched.

“Jin,” Kame croaks. “How much for… I mean, what are you doing for the rest of the weekend?”

Jin stares at him. “I’m not doing anything,” he says. “I’ll cut you a good deal.”

-

Kame sits through the brunch with barely veiled boredom. His costars are pleasant and friendly and it’ll be a great job, but his mind is elsewhere. He’d told Jin to make himself at home while he was gone, and he wonders what that entails. He imagines coming home and finding Jin asleep in the big bed, his face still and peaceful in sleep.

He comes up with an excuse to leave early. Has so much to do, he says. His schedule is insane. The producers stare at him as he leaves; it’s completely out of character for him to skip out on work.

When he walks back into the suite he can hear the blaring of the tv already; the psychotic jangle of an anime character’s laughter. He walks into the other room and finds Jin sitting cross-legged on the floor watching One Piece. He is wearing one of Kame’s t-shirts and a pair of sweat pants, but they are both too small for him, stretched in strange places, across his hips and thighs, across the arms and stomach.

“Hey,” Kame says. Jin leans back on his hands and tilts his head back to see Kame walk through the door. He smiles his funny, lopsided puppy grin.

“Had a hard day at the office?” he drawls, clearly skeptical. On screen, Luffy is trying to save his hat, rubber arms stretching far out over the sea. Kame has seen this episode.

I left early,” Kame says, and drops gracefully to the floor at Jin’s side, leans back on his arms. They are parallel lines. “I had better things to do.”

“Oh yeah?” Jin says, and kicks at Kame’s shin with his bare foot. “Like what?”

“This and that,” he grins.

-

He takes Jin shopping in Ame-mura. Jin looks at him strangely when he suggests it as the One Piece credits roll, but shrugs and changes back into his street clothes, the strange street smell of smoke and greasy fast food settling back over his skin. Kame thinks he should get him some new clothes, some clean clothes. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he wants to make sure Jin has warm clothes.

Kame likes to shop, likes to sort through big racks of clothes to find his size, likes to try and find the perfect accessory, likes to walk through the city with his huge boutique bags slung over his shoulder and go home with a bunch of things he will never wear or see again.

As much as he likes it, though, shopping has never been fun the way it is with Jin. Jin is huge and reckless, tugs t-shirts from their hangers, chats happily to the store clerks, squawks and almost squeals with callous enthusiasm. He doesn’t argue when Kame says to pick out anything he wants, doesn’t pretend he is anything but delighted. He picks tight jeans and silk t-shirts and thick leather coats, woolen sweaters and scarves and a pair of gloves for his friend Pi.

In front of the salespeople, who coo over Kame and ask him for his autograph, he calls Kame ‘Kamenashi-senpai’ with a kind of eager worship. He tells them all about how he’s working on a film with Kame, about how he’s going to be famous one day. Kame wonders if the store clerks with their admiring eyes will ever think back and wonder what happened to that handsome, happy kid, if they’ll wonder if he made it big.

Kame sort of wishes it wasn’t a lie. He thinks, if things were different, then Jin could change everything.

-

“It’s been almost fifteen hours now,” Jin says. They are strolling through the streets, past young girls with brightly coloured hair and kids with obscene piercings. Jin has a gemstone in his bellybutton, a tiny sparkling star in his flat, soft tummy. “And you still haven’t tried to fuck me. Are you straight or something?”

“I need time to woo you,” Kame says.

“That’s retarded,” Jin laughs, “I’m a sure thing,” but his smile is wide and happy and he walks a few steps closer to Kame’s side.

-

They take a bath together before dinner, Jin’s soft, floppy body cradled against Kame’s chest. Jin likes the water boiling hot and it took Kame and his pale, fragile skin a while to adjust; even now there are dark red blotches lining his cheeks and arms, his thin chest. Kame washes Jin’s thick hair with his expensive shampoo. When he’s done Jin reaches up and clutches Kame’s wrist, drags it down over his shoulder, over his chest, so they’re hugging.

“You’re really nice,” Jin says. “You shouldn’t be so nice to me.”

-

“Are you sure you don’t just want to get room service?” Jin asks uncertainly as they change for dinner, pulling the ends of his black silk knit sleeves over his fists.

Kame glances at him in the mirror, fingers busy with his favourite red tie. “Why?”

Jin shrugs. He sits on the bed and kicks his feet a little, brand new dress socks scuffing the carpet. “I don’t know,” he says. “People don’t usually take their whores to dinner in fancy restaurants. Especially, you know, celebrities. What if the paparazzi see you?”

The thought makes Kame a little sick, the idea of his name splashed across the tabloids, of the photographers hounding Jin, the violent intrusion. He should be more careful, he knows. Fame is precarious and fans are often angry and belligerent. He needs to act with caution.

When he looks at Jin’s wide brown eyes, though, he can’t.

“I’ll just introduce them to my beautiful new friend,” Kame says, then walks over to Jin and clasps his face between small outstretched fingers. “When you’re with me, you can be whoever you want to be.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Jin says. “This isn’t some movie.”

“Jin,” Kame sighs. “You’re the first thing I’ve done just for myself in longer than I can remember. Don’t ruin it by talking about getting caught, because then I’ll freak out and I don’t generally need any help in that department.”

“So I’m like your Christmas present?” Jin seems to like this idea, half smile blooming on his face. He shrugs dubiously. “If I were you I’d have bought myself a Nintendo.”

“I think I already have one,” Kame laughs. “I never have time to play it.”

“But you’ve got plenty of time to play with me, huh?” His hands slide around Kame’s hips, through the belt loops at the small of his back. Kame starts to feel awkward with his hands here on this kid’s face; he’s treating Jin as if he’s something other than a kid he picked up on the street, something other than a stranger. If he were Jin he wouldn’t want some old pervert pawing all over him, stroking his face and saying sentimental things, even a hot one. “Hey Kazuya,” Jin says, and presses his face against Kame’s stomach. “I’m hungry. If you were a good owner, you’d feed me.”

They eat dinner in a traditional Japanese restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel. Kame wears a thick, nerdy pair of glasses and his hair pulled back tightly from his face. Jin laughs and laughs and says he looks like a total dork. “If we were in high school, I probably would have beat you up for your lunch money,” he says. “If I ever bothered to turn up.”

Jin’s always been an idiot, he says, always been the dumbest kid in the class, but Kame doesn’t think so. He has a way of telling long, elaborate stories that speaks of an imagination that could not be contained by stupidity, could not be contained by the dull grey tedium of a Japanese classroom. When Kame speaks of classic literature Jin stares at him blankly but he tells Kame stories about the dinosaurs, about South American myths, about the lives of the samurai and sounds so excited, makes happy sound effects with his mouth and animated hands.

When he was a kid, he says, he wanted to be an Astronaut because the moon seemed like the furthest place in the world from his uncle, and that tells Kame all he needs to know about how Jin ended up where he is today.

-

Jin has a little too much champagne at dinner and he’s giggly and floppy like a thirteen year old girl. “I can’t believe you haven’t fucked me yet,” Jin says as the walk home. It is a topic he returns to again and again, as if he can’t quite figure out what is wrong with Kame, as if this is somehow more perverse than all his other tricks put together. “Don’t you want me?”

Kame thinks of moist lips and Jin’s calf that slipped over his thigh while they were sleeping, the slinky, lilting line of his body when he moves. “No,” he says. “You’re repulsive.”

“Oh my god!” Jin squeaks. “Kazu-chan, you’re so mean!”

It’s weird, Kame thinks, that Jin is the only date he’s ever paid for, but the only one that doesn’t feel like a business deal.

-

Jin corners him in the lift, cups Kame’s chin in his hand and kisses him gently, almost chastely on the lips.

“Thanks for dinner,” he says. “It was the best meal I ever had.”

-

Jin takes his hand as the lift opens out into his suite, tugging him impatiently towards the bedroom. He charges clumsily through the foyer, Kame tripping helplessly behind him, bumping into the sofa, the side table.

“Sexy,” Kame says as they stumble through the bedroom door. “The subtlety of your seduction is –“

He cuts off when Jin shoves him forcefully to the bed, fingers digging into his shoulders.

“Shut up,” Jin says, but then just stands there scratching the back of his head; he looks like Kame is some kind of complicated algebraic equation, and he doesn’t even know the formula, or how to add or subtract or multiply. “What now…”

Kame shrugs.

“Some guys like it when I dance,” Jin says helpfully. He moves his hips slightly, as if to some kind of dirty strip club beat. Kame stares; without music, without strobe lighting, that dancing just looks kind of jaded and lonely, like performing a love scene on set.

“Stop,” Kame says, and reaches out to put his hands on Jin’s hips and hold him still. Jin looks kind of relieved, tilts his head and waits for further instructions. “What… if I was just a guy, if I was your boyfriend, if we were away for a relaxing weekend, what would happen right now?”

Jin is usually pretty easy to read, his emotions written out in simple happy sad angry language in crayon on his face, but right now he is inscrutable, eyes dark and thoughtful, bottom lip between his teeth. He reaches out and sifts his fingers through Kame’s hair. “You can’t buy my love, Kamenashi-san,” Jin says. “I don’t even know why you’d want to.”

The embarrassment swells his cheeks with blood and he tears his head away from Jin’s hand, his eyes away from Jin’s face. Right now he is pathetic, he knows, like the lecherous old men that send him bouquets of roses with their phone numbers and notes of their love, like the ex lover he once had who sat outside his door and cried for three days straight, who swore he would kill himself if Kame didn’t let him in. He is pathetic like every lonely, unrequited love in the world.

“Sorry,” Kame murmurs, and is horrified to feel the prick of tears behind his eyes. He cannot remember the last time that Kamenashi Kazuya cried in front of somebody; his characters cry beautiful lone tears that swell over the graceful rise of his cheeks, sometimes they sob ugly and deranged in empty cemeteries and hospital waiting rooms; they brim and weep and bawl, but Kamenashi Kazuya has not cried in front of another human being since he was seven years old and his father told him that tears were for the weak.

“Hey,” Jin says, “Hey, no,” and climbs onto the bed beside Kame, pushes his hands into his hair and rests his forehead against the side of Kame’s head. “Don’t, I’m sorry, please,” but that just makes Kame cry harder. “If you were my boyfriend I’d be like the luckiest guy in the world,” he says.

“DON’T,” Kame cries in embarrassed horror.

“I would be, though,” Jin says, and then leans his head on Kame’s shoulder, his words muffled in Kame’s woolen blazer. “If I could I’d give you my love for free.”

Kame can’t breathe as he reaches out and twists his fingers in Jin’s sweater, as he tugs it over Jin’s head and presses hot, desperate kisses over his heart.

“It’s just you and me,” Kame says as he rolls Jin’s body beneath him, as Jin’s hands battle with his belt, as they break Jin’s rule over and over to kiss on the mouth, lips wet and slanting together. “We can be anything we want to be.”

After, they lie together and Jin tells Kame about how his mother died in childbirth, how he was raised by his cold, terrifying uncle who never wanted kids and didn’t seem to understand their purpose; how he’d lived unhappily in that house until his uncle found out he’d been sleeping with one of his teachers and threw him out, said he was a whore just like his mother. Kame murmurs against Jin’s skin that he is beautiful, that it’s not just his skin and his lips and his cock that is beautiful, that it’s him, and then they fall asleep.

The next day, when Kame wakes up, Jin is gone. He didn’t even stick around to get paid.

-

Kame’s heart breaks. It seems strange to him that he can be so affected by such a short affair when he has had lovers of months or even years leave him in a sudden fury and not felt more than a vague, unsettling sadness like a thought at the back of his mind.

He’d spent so little time with Jin, but that only makes it worse.

-

Sometimes Kame goes out and drives around that block where Jin first found him. Maybe if he gets lost enough, he thinks, Jin might come and save him, step out of the shadows and into his car and smile that stupid grin.

One night he drives around until his car is almost out of gas and ends up sleeping in the front seat in the parking lot of a 7-11, but he never finds Jin.

-

Junno says, it is probably for the best. Junno says that it would be a pretty big risk, bringing someone like Jin into his life. Kame doesn’t know how to tell Junno that he doesn’t care. Junno asks if he having some kind of crisis.

“I have a broken heart,” Kame says, and pulls the blankets over his head.

-

Kame has, for years, harboured a secret crush on Takizawa Hideaki, one of the first actors he ever worked with, probably the actor that changed his life and his work forever. Whenever he was younger, he’d sigh and blush and turn bright red whenever Tackey walked into the room. He’d had stupid fantasies about Tackey noticing how much he’d improved, how handsome he was getting. About Tackey falling in love with him.

Tackey is in town for the taping of a new drama. He leaves Kame four messages about meeting to go for drinks and dinner, for karaoke.

Kame doesn’t return the calls.

-

Kame has been in mourning for a month and a half when his cell phone rings. He is on set, sitting in his trailer and trying to learn the newly revised lines for the film’s climax, when he kills himself by throwing himself off a bridge, leaving his sobbing girlfriend clutching the rail and staring down at his falling body.

It’s a pretty difficult scene.

“Kamenashi,” he says gruffly, distracted. His phone is sandwiched between his ear and his shoulder and he fumbles with his script.

It is a voice he does not know, a young and reluctant voice. “I got your number from Robert’s cell phone,” it says, and Kame’s heart stops.

“What?” he says eloquently. He didn’t even know Jin had his number, has no idea how he got it.

“I’m calling about Robert,” the voice says again.

“Jin?” Kame asks, and then his flat heart beat slams back into life, pounding on fear alone. “Did something happen?”

He imagines Jin in an alley somewhere, Jin being beaten to death, Jin dying alone with HIV.

“He’s driving me fucking crazy,” the voice says. “I’m his friend Pi.”

Pi tells Kame that Jin has been moping around his apartment for a month and a half now, that he has bought a bunch of Kame’s movies on dvd and has been watching them over and over alone in the dark, getting angry when Pi comes in and makes stupid comments about the script or the sets or the stupid, hokey dialogue. “A lot of your movies are really bad,” Pi says. “I’m sick of your face.”

“If…” Kame’s breath hitches a little, angrily, sadly. “If he’s so upset, why’d he leave without a word?”

“Are you retarded?” Pi asks. “You’re a movie star. He’s a whore. He thinks he’s going to ruin your life.”

-

Jin lives with Yamapi in a building that looks like it should be condemned, a little apartment over an okonomiyaki store. He takes the dark, wobbly stairs to their door and knocks with his knuckles; Pi says that he will be gone for the rest of the afternoon but that Jin will be there, still in his pyjamas and sprawled out on the couch until at least 10pm.

Jin opens the door in a pair of sweats and a faded grey t-shirt; there are thick rings beneath his eyes and his hair is too long and too messy. He looks sad and beautiful and shocked to see Kame’s face.

“I’m going to kill Pi,” he says after a minute, and stands aside reluctantly to let Kame through.

They sit together awkwardly on Jin’s grubby couch, almost a metre between their knees; they do not, after all, know each other very well.

“What if you’re the love of my life?” Kame asks at length.

Jin is trembling a little, his fingers restless and twisting in the fabric at his knees. “Do you think I am?”

Kame turns his head a little towards Jin, tries to be nonchalant. “I think it’s possible,” he says.

“But I’m an idiot,” Jin says. “I ruin everything. I break everything. Right before you got here I broke Pi’s favourite mug and I was trying to glue it back together so he wouldn’t notice, but I just ended up gluing the mug to the table and now he’s going to be really mad.” He looks at Kame miserably. “I don’t want to mess up your life.”

“I want you to,” Kame says, and reaches out to twist his fingers through Jin’s. “My life could stand to be messier.”

“My life is a big enough mess already,” Jin says glumly.

Kame smiles gently, cups Jin’s chin in his cleanly manicured hand. “I’ll help you clean it up.”

-

They start by dating; Kame picks Jin up at his door and takes him out for ramen and to the zoo, then Jin takes Kame to a gig one of his friends is holding in a little bar downtown. It’s almost like they’re normal, except Kame has to hide his face behind huge sunglasses and a hat all the time. Jin takes to doing it too, because it makes him feel like a superstar. It works; one day a bunch of schoolgirls recognize Kame despite the camouflage and come up screaming for his autograph. He signs his name over and over in pink pen, heart at the end, and then the girls force their pads into Jin’s hands and make him sign them too. He does, with much bemusement.

“Who do you think they thought I was?” Jin asks as they walk away. It’s hard for Kame, sometimes, not to reach out and take Jin’s hand when they’re strolling along, and it’s weird, because that’s not an urge he’s ever really had with anybody else, apart from maybe Kurosawa Chihiro when he was thirteen years old.

“The next big thing,” Kame says, and pulls Jin into a purikura booth so they can kiss.

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