Full of Grace (A Same Deep Water As You story)
4 years, 10 months post epilogue: April
Jin pulls the car door shut behind him. The light in the underground garage is harsh and gloomy, and his stomach's been uneasy for the last half hour.
Kame looks almost normal. He pulls his seatbelt on, puts the key back into the ignition. But he's gripping the wheel tight, and his body is all uncomfortable angles.
Jin bites his lip. "Do you want me to drive?"
Kame smiles briefly. "No, I'm good."
He's still wearing makeup. His mom called the agency and they pulled him out of filming. Jin's in a frayed t-shirt and baggy jeans, straight from a brainstorming session, and feeling uncomfortably underdressed. Like it's not respectful. At a time like this.
Kame pulls out of the Jokertown garage and into traffic. At least it's not rush hour. Jin looks at him, but he's got it all locked up tight.
"You know the hospital?"
"Only the name." Kame changes lanes, concentrating. Navigation is on but he doesn't seem to need it yet. "Mizuguchi. Apparently it was closest."
"Are we picking up your mom too?"
"No, she's already taken a taxi."
Jin would have done the same, but Kame said Jokertown Records was pretty much on his way.
It's not rush hour, but it's still Tokyo. Kame weaves in and out of lanes, and doesn't swear, doesn't speed. But Jin can read him staring at the other cars and see how he just wants them to be gone.
"I don't assume you... heard anything more?"
Kame shakes his head. "No. The company called my mom and she called me and now we're all on the move, I don't think we'll hear anything new until we get there."
Anything new. Kame is kind of pale.
Jin's stomach is a mess and full of worry, and he doesn't know what to say. He wants to comfort Kame, take his hand, but Kame is driving and also maybe doesn't want to be comforted because they're working from a no-need-for-comfort premise here.
"Tanaka said to tell you he's... thinking of you," he remembers.
Kame glances over, a touch of guilt crossing his face. "He was in your meeting?"
"Just briefly. But I had to tell him why I was taking off."
"Yeah, sure. Thanks. I'll call him later, tell him thanks."
It's a long twenty-five minutes in the car before they pull up in front of Mizuguchi hospital.
A plump receptionist with a soothing voice shows them where to go, tells Kame that his mother arrived about ten minutes ago. They walk along a brightly lit corridor, past a nurse's station where there is subdued tittering as they pass. Jin's sneakers squeak embarrassingly on the gleaming floor.
At the far end, in a small waiting room with large windows overlooking a tiny garden, Kame's mom is sitting in an armchair. She gets up when she sees them, and Jin's relieved that she isn't crying, so clearly nothing really bad has happened yet.
"Mom..." Kame says as she hugs him. "Have you heard anything?"
"No, the doctors are still in with him." She lets Kame go and then blinks at Jin. "Oh, Jin, honey." She hugs him too. "I'm so sorry, you must have been at work too..."
"It's fine, don't worry about that," Jin says.
She smoothes out a wrinkle she thinks she made on his t-shirt, but her stare is distracted. "There's coffee. Do you want coffee? I'm so glad you two are here."
There's a capsule-type coffee machine, and Kame gets them two. It's not bad. Jin's not used to hospitals, but as they go, this seems to be a pretty nice one. He'd expected plastic seats, strip lighting, and a few bottle machines; not this place that seems almost like a living room.
"So what exactly happened?" Kame says when they sit around a low table, Jin and he on a couch and Kame's mom back in her chair. There's even a large potted palm tree, though when Jin touches it, it's fake.
Kame's mom gives a helpless sort of shrug. "I don't know much more than I told you," she says. "His secretary said he'd seemed a bit tired, a bit nauseous, but he put it down to breakfast. But he got trouble breathing, and he was going to go home but then he just collapsed. And they called 119." Her head turns to the door as if she heard something, then back at Kame. She rolls her eyes at herself and then looks worried again.
"Who said it was his heart?"
For a moment, her face freezes on scared. "The paramedics. Mine-san told them about the diabetes..." She grimaces. "When they first called me, I'd hoped he'd just forgotten to eat. You know what he gets like."
"Yeah," Kame says roughly. Jin squeezes his hand briefly. It seems about the right time.
"And their expansion project has been so much work." She shakes her head.
Kame's dad should be retired. Jin was there for a number of discussions over family meals. They could afford it, he could have taken his pension, he's sixty-five. And there's Kame. But his dad kept saying he doesn't want to be old yet, and the company asked him to stay on as they expand into Asia, they need his experience and his connections. And for him to work himself into a heart attack.
Jin's getting more restless as they sit here. It feels more real, what this could do to Kame's mom. And Kame.
"I'll have to tell him not to do that anymore," Kame's mom says quietly.
"We'll all tell him," Kame says, reaching for his mom's hand.
Nobody says, "If he's still alive." Jin wishes he wasn't thinking it.
He wants more coffee, figures Kame does too. Just when he's pushed in the first capsule he hears the door open, and he turns round quickly.
But it's not a doctor, it's just a woman, carrying a small child and a ginormous purple bag. Jin takes a breath, turns back to the coffee. But Kame's mom is up in a flurry, her arms reaching for the stranger, and it clicks with a bang of adrenaline before he even hears her say, "Oh, sweetie, there you are. Oh, you brought Yui-chan. How are you?"
That's Kame's wife.
The woman hugs Kame's mom back, child and bag and all. "I came as soon as I could, I'm so sorry. Have you heard anything? Anything at all?"
Kame's wife, hugging Kame's mom, and Kame...
...has stood up, and he's standing still, polite, formal.
Jin takes the cup he made and brings it to him, and their eyes meet, but there isn't time to say anything.
The women let go of each other, and Kame's wife pulls loose hair behind her ear, away from little baby hands that are patting at it.
She's pretty. Tense and upset like the rest of them but she looks nice, she looks perfect.
Jin's got his awful t-shirt on and jeans he never irons.
This doesn't feel so great.
Kame's mom turns around, and makes an apologetic face at them both. "I forgot to say, I called Midori too. I knew she'd want to know..."
"Yes, of course," Kame says. He bows at his wife, not too much, and she does the same. All good here, yeah. "Thank you for coming."
"I..." She takes a deep breath, shifting the baby to the other side. "I wanted to be here." She looks at Jin, fast and flittering, like she doesn't want to look too much.
Kame's still tense, but when he says, "Thank you," there's warmth in it. His fingers brush Jin's arm, just a little. "Midori, please meet my boyfriend, Akanishi Jin." He turns to Jin with a dazed sort of look, and Jin thinks he's in need of a hug. "Jin, please meet Yamaoka Midori, my ex-wife."
So they bow at each other, say, "Pleased to meet you," like proper adults, and Jin adds, "I hope you had a good drive."
"Thank you," she says. "I was… it was fine. It was busy but it could have been worse."
"Do you want a coffee, sweetie?" Kame's mom says into the little silence that follows. "It's quite good here."
"Thanks, but I've already had too much coffee today," Yamaoka says, dumping the diaper bag next to the remaining chair around the coffee table, and sitting down with the baby on her lap. She's a cutie, with big interested eyes and constantly wandering hands. Jin smiles at her tentatively, but then he's not sure if Yamaoka would approve of that, and he stops.
They all settle, with coffee or without coffee.
"How long have you been here?" Yamaoka asks in general.
"I don't know," Kame's mom says. "Since twelve, maybe?"
"We got here at twenty past," Kame says.
Yamaoka nods. Kame nods. Jin drinks his coffee and wishes he didn't look like a barista in a very laid-back alternative coffee shop.
"I didn't know if I should bring Yui-chan," Yamaoka says with a worried face. "She was all crabby with growing pains last week and I didn't want her to get in the way, but I couldn't find anybody this quickly."
"Oh, that's all right," Kame's mom says. "I think we can all do with someone who's not fretting. Isn't that right, Yui-chan?" She waves her fingers at the baby.
Yamaoka smiles. "You want her?"
"Oh, absolutely." Kame's mom holds out her arms, and the baby waves her short fat arms in uncoordinated but happy recognition. "Yes, yes, come to Granny Yuri, you little sweetheart."
She's the cutest thing ever. Kame's mom holds on to her, bouncing her on her knee just enough to keep her busy and smiling.
Jin watches them and can't help his own thoughts. That's the baby Kame could have had, if he wasn't... if he hadn't chosen Jin.
He looks at Kame, wonders if he's thinking that too; if that hurts him. But Kame just gives him a short, awkward smile when he catches Jin's attention.
"How is Akihito-san, sweetie?" Kame's mom asks. "Is his work going well?"
"We can't complain," Yamaoka says. "But I haven't told you yet about our meeting to save the tigers, have I?"
"No, you haven't," Kame's mom says, distractedly curious.
"Is this the one with Enoki-san involved?" Kame asks, and there's a look passing between him and Midori, and Jin isn't entirely following.
"Enoki-san and half her drama society," Midori says with a small smile. "She's planning her next production around the topic." To Kame's mom she says, "I'll make sure you and Makoto-san get tickets, I think you'll like it."
Kame's mom's smile falters for a moment, but then she rallies. "That'll be wonderful, dear. I'm sure he'll love it." She nods with determination, like her husband better not dare miss any play Yamaoka-san wants to send him to.
Yamaoka and Kame look at each other, and they both seem a little helpless.
"Has Jin told you about the album yet, mom?" Kame asks next, and this is when the penny finally drops and Jin realises they are now making conversation to distract Kame's mom.
"Oh, actually, he has!" Kame's mom says in a bright voice. "A few weeks ago at dinner, remember? When you were out with Ran-chan. Jin, honey, I hope this isn't interfering with your progress? Were you recording your album today?"
"No, please don't worry," he says, and, okay, the penny didn't drop for nothing. "We were discussing songs, what we want to be the singles and what to keep for the album alone. There's a couple we might want to rewrite before we record. But Misa's got me covered there, we've got the same tastes and she knows what works well with my voice."
"You have such wonderful colleagues." Kame's mom smiles. "And you and Misa sound great together."
His own mother wants nothing to do with him, and here is Kame's mom, with a grandchild that could have been hers, and the way she looks at him only tells him that he belongs.
She's so generous.
"Thanks," he says, and smiles because that works better for the distracting, and it's the least he can do. "We're trying to get that vocal coach again who worked with us last year. But she's really busy."
"The strict one?" Kame asks. His smile isn't even for his mom, just amused.
"Don't start," Jin says. Just because they're doing it voluntarily doesn't mean he enjoys getting hit over the head five times before lunch.
Kame nudges his knee, and the baby makes a babbling sound that makes them both turn back to Kame's mom. The baby is grinning up at her and wriggling her legs, and god, she's cute.
"I meant to tell you," Yamaoka says, "she's completely fallen in love with the big lion you gave her. His name is Lala and he must go in the crib or there's no sleeping."
"Lala," says the baby.
Kame's mom is beaming, giving the baby her finger to clutch and tugging gently at her arms. "Is that right, my little beauty? No sleeping without Lala?"
"You should see them," Yamaoka says. "He's so big, they make quite a picture." She digs in her purse. "Actually, I might have one on my–—"
Everything stops when the door opens and a woman in a white coat walks up to them. Jin's stomach does a dip, and Kame's mom draws herself up, her hands tight on the baby.
"Kamenashi-sama? I'm Doctor Kurogawa and I have been looking after your husband. I am pleased to say that he is stable now."
The deep breath goes through the entire room. "Oh thank god," Kame's mom says. Jin puts his hand on Kame's arm and squeezes.
Kame's mom stands up, thanks the doctor with a deep bow. By then they're all standing, and Yamaoka takes the baby back. She's blinking fast and kisses the baby on the top of its head.
The doctor has a cool, soothing voice. "He had a minor heart attack, and he should stay for a while for observation, but at this point we don't think he will need surgery."
"Minor," Kame's mom echoes. "That's... good, right?" Kame's white as a sheet under his make-up, but Jin can feel the relief coming off him. He sticks close.
"It's still a serious condition," the doctor cautions. "But there's been no major damage to his heart, and he should be able to make a full recovery."
"Yes... that's good." Kame's mom nods.
"However, given this event and your husband's age and medical history, I think he should consider some lifestyle changes. In particular, he should avoid stress as much as he can. I understand your husband is still working?"
"My dad's section chief for Keigai Plastics," Kame says. "He considered retirement last year but..."
The doctor nods slowly, like this is pretty much what she expected.
"Oh that stupid, silly man," Kame's mom says suddenly. Then she bursts into tears.
Kame takes hold of her arm and she slumps against him for just a moment, lets him pat her back. Then she sniffs and pulls herself up, but she keeps clutching Kame's arm.
The doctor gives them a moment, before she says, "We're moving him to a regular room in a short while where he can have visitors. But if you and your son would like to see him now, you could come with me."
"Yes, I want to see him," Kame's mom says. "I'll go tell him off right now." She fumbles for her purse but she won't let go of Kame, until Kame winds his arm out of her grip and puts it around her instead.
"Yeah, let's go," he says. "We'll both tell him off together."
Jin watches them march towards the door, Kame never letting go of his mom, and it takes him a moment to realize that this leaves him...
He takes a breath, to call, but lets it out again. Kame needs to see his dad, and Jin is an adult who can handle half an hour in a waiting room with Kame's ex-wife.
At the door Kame casts back a look at the three of them, but it's fleeting and preoccupied and Jin just smiles and nods in an easy sort of way, and they're gone.
So he stands there. A few steps over, Yamaoka-san shuffles the baby around, and sits down again. Jin should maybe do the same. Or should he... maybe he should sit elsewhere? But maybe that would be weird, and maybe rude, even if he's just wanting to give her space.
It would be weird, he decides. He sits in his previous chair, across from her, and tries not to fidget. She's got a baby to play with. He has nothing, because bringing out his cell seems rude, too.
"Nga," the baby says. "Nga nga."
Jin only looks at her furtively; he doesn't know if Yamaoka would mind.
Her eyes meet his, and they both blink, caught.
"This is awkward," he says, because it seems like somebody should say something.
She concedes it with a polite smile. "I'm glad they got to see Makoto-san so soon." When she says the name, her eyes are a little haunted.
"Nga," the baby says. One of her arms is flailing in Jin's direction.
"Yes, me too," Jin says, and then there is silence.
He hopes Kame's dad will see sense and retire. He hopes they're stern with him, in a gentle kind of way. Nobody needs this sort of scare, not Kame, not anybody.
"Ngaaaa!" The baby is wiggling on Yamaoka's lap, looking at him, trying to reach him with drool-shiny fingers.
"Yui-chan, leave Akanishi-san alone," Yamaoka says soothingly.
"Aga-ii," the baby says.
Just what Jin needed. He feels himself flush with embarrassment.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I guess they just... feel it when you like them?" He shrugs helplessly.
Yamaoka looks at him, but there's a pause as she tugs at the baby's clothes and straightens the wriggling out of her socks. "You like kids?"
He feels a bit squirmy. "I don't have much to do with them," he admits. "But yes, they're... sweet. I think kids are fun."
She laughs a bit, like maybe they aren't always, but she doesn't seem offended. "Fun, yeah." She turns the baby around and bounces her a bit, which at least stops the wriggling. "Though I have to give credit where it's due," she says, puffing her cheeks, which makes Yui gurgle with delight. "She's been a pretty easy baby so far." With a normal face again, she gives Jin a brief smile.
Jin really hopes she's happy. That the good things are more important now than the mess and hurt they came out of.
"I meant to say." It sort of comes out of his mouth, and then he wishes he could take it back, only...
She meets his eyes; she's wary. Crap.
"I'm sorry, I don't want to overstep any lines. I just wanted... to thank you."
He has a feeling this is going wrong, and his face is hot. "For... for not telling Kazuya's parents about what I was. You could have and you didn't. I don't really have a family anymore, and his parents are really good to me, and I really like them a lot."
He can't tell what she thinks. She's thinking something, though. "I like them a lot, too," she says. "I'd never want to do anything to hurt them."
Jin thinks at that point back then it would have hurt Kame more, but he won't say that. He just nods.
"I'm glad I still have them in my life," she adds, with a smile that breaks up the politeness. "And glad for Yui-chan, too."
The baby pipes up at the sound of her name and kicks her legs, and Jin can't help laughing. "I think that is mutual."
For a moment it's wobbly, but the ground doesn't crack. "Yes," Yamaoka says. "My parents adore Yui but they're in Kyushu, and my husband's parents are great but they're a little fragile already. And Yuriko-san and Makoto-san are just great people." She tickles the restless baby, but then her gaze wanders to the door, chilly reminder what really brought them here.
"Yes, they are," Jin says.
"Nga!" says the baby, and flops her head against her mother's chest.
Yamaoka-san laughs. "I think she thinks we shouldn't wallow," she says.
"She's a smart one," Jin says. "It's totally obvious."
Yamaoka gives him an amused I-know-what-you're-doing-there-mister look. "I think she might be a hungry one soon," she says, hoisting the diaper bag onto the coffee table. She shakes her head. "Babies. Three times their body weight in equipment."
She sorts through the bag and finds a jar and a sippy cup, and a yellow plastic spoon with a duck face at the end that is very popular, and turns out Yui is just as adorable when she's munching on mango and banana puree.
"So you are... in that band? Jungle something?" Yamaoka asks him between spoonfuls.
"Yeah. Junglelow," Jin says.
"Yes, right. I admit I don't really know it," she says. "I, well. I was very determined to ignore it at the start, and then lately I've been too busy, with the baby and everything."
Yeah, Jin gets that. At least they're not the kind of band that's in your face, everywhere, whether their lead singer ran off with your husband or not.
He feels daring for a moment, and says, "Kazuya told me that you don't work anymore?" Maybe too daring. "I mean. That you don't have to work. On top of the baby. And everything."
She takes in his stammering with a sort of bemused stillness, but then Yui says something like, "ba!" with a splutter of mango, and Yamaoka says, "No, I don't. I haven't had to work since the day I married Kazuya, to be honest, but I liked to."
Yeah. Jin nods. Not too daring after all.
"But we had some changes at my company the year before I got pregnant, and I got a boss who somehow couldn't get over the fact that I was the ex-wife of someone famous, and at some point I just thought, wow, I don't need this crap. So. I quit."
"Yeah, that makes sense," Jin says. At least Kame's money was useful there, too. "But it's a shame when a stupid boss ruins your job for you."
"Well," she says philosophically. "Yes. But I'd have had to quit now anyway. I don't miss it." She laughs. "I don't have time to miss anything, with that one."
"And tigers," Jin smiles.
"Yes, better not forget the tigers," she agrees. "They are very demanding." She wipes around Yui's mouth with the bib, complicated by the fact that Yui thinks it's food.
It sounds like she is pretty happy.
The feeding slows down a bit, Yui interfering when she keeps grabbing for the duck spoon. Yamaoka sighs.
"She's full?" Jin asks.
"No, this is the latest in independent living and self-maiming," she explains. She cleans the spoon on a napkin and puts a tiny bit of the purée on it, and then carefully lets Yui grip the handle. The spoon sways and jerks, but with a bit of guidance, slowly moves towards Yui's mouth.
"Oh, I see." He can't help smiling because Yui's concentration is adorable.
"We have already learned that banana is not so nice in the eye," Yamaoka says to her daughter. "Haven't we?"
Yui gurgles something, and manages to get the spoon in her mouth. Jin wants to cheer.
"Well done," Yamaoka says, which Yui takes as a sign to spit it out again along with the food. "Ngaaa!" She waves her arm enthusiastically and there's a clatter, somewhere behind Jin.
"A little shaky on the dismount there," Yamaoka says.
Jin laughs, and goes to retrieve the spoon. He pretends he doesn't see the mango-banana spot at the bottom of the wall. "But full points for effort," he says as he hands Yamaoka the spoon, avoiding grabby babyhands.
The door opens, making Jin turn, and Kame takes two hesitant steps inside, a nervous pinch to his mouth, and then he kind of... stops.
Jin feels weirdly caught. Kame looks at the three of them; looks again. It's a long moment, until the alarm in his face melts away, and he gives them a small smile.
"Hey," he says, and Jin says, "Hi."
"Hey yourself," Yamaoka says.
"Maaa!" That's the baby.
"They're moving Dad now. Mom's still with him, but in a few minutes we can all go see him."
Good. Greatness. And Kame looks relieved now, so his dad must be doing okay.
"It won't be too much, with all five of us?" Yamaoka says, but she's started to throw things back into the nappy bag.
"As long as we don't 'excite' him," Kame says. "But since neither of you will be talking about bottle safety standards and recycling in Taiwan, I think we'll be good."
Yamaoka smiles. "Maybe it's just a ruse so your mom won't yell at him too much." She gets up and picks up the baby. "But Yui's just eaten, so she'll be sleepy in a short while, so that'll be all right."
"I can take that bag," Jin says when she lifts up the shoulder strap. "If you like."
She gives him a considering glance. "Thanks. Here you are."
It's as heavy as a concert-grade woofer.
Kame leads the way, though Jin can tell he's still a bit frazzled by how uncertain he gets when the corridors cross.
Then it's just the four of them in the large elevator. Kame pushes the button for the seventh floor and Jin moves to the back with the diaper bag, and catches a whiff of mango-banana, and then Kame's perfume when Kame joins him. Yamaoka keeps the baby away from the shiny buttons and the baby looks back over her shoulder, grinning stickily at Jin and Kame.
Jin dares to wave at her.
Kame looks him up and down; looks his ex-wife up and down. Knowing Kame, he's probably worrying about something. But he doesn't say anything, and Jin decides it's allowed to briefly touch his hand.
"He'll be fine, yeah?" he says, because he'd like to know for sure, and maybe Kame could do with hearing it again too.
"Yeah, he'll be fine," Kame says. Breathes. "My mother's intervention notwithstanding."
But when they get to the room, Yuriko-san doesn't look at all like an angry dragon. She just looks relieved, and a little small, sitting at her husband's bedside and brushing folds out of his sheets.
Makoto-san looks... okay.
Yamaoka walks up the other side of the bed and gives him a cautious, baby-balancing hug. "I'm so glad you're fine. Don't ever scare us like that again."
"Don't worry," Kame's dad says. His voice sounds faint but steady. He doesn't really look the same as the well-dressed guy who plays with a giant dog; he looks more like a kind of old guy in a hospital bed. But, well. Four hours after a heart attack, maybe he's allowed. "I have already been sufficiently chastised. I wouldn't dare."
"Just you wait until you're fully recovered," Kame's mom says. "That's when the real chastising will start."
"I think I'm supposed to avoid stressful situations," Kame's dad says with a smile. "I might just have to flee to the local pub."
"I'm pretty sure running's out, too," Jin says. "Only slow fleeing."
"Oh yes," Kame's dad says. "Ninja-like." He holds out his hand, and Jin leans a bit awkwardly over Kame's mom to shake it, a sudden lump in his throat. It's weird and left-handed, with the IV drip in the right, but it's also strong and warm. Kame's dad.
"It was nice of you to come," Kame's dad says. "All of you." And he looks much more like his regular self when he smiles at the baby.
"I am telling you," Kame says. "Just this once. You do this again, you're on your own."
Makoto-san holds up his hands, IV drip and all, in defeat.
"Come, come, sit," Kame's mom says in their general direction, patting the chair next to hers. It's the only other seat in the room. Jin's betting next time they come visit the organisation will be much more thorough.
"Babies first," he says, though he really means mothers, but whatever. Babies and the persons bearing them, particularly if they're about to go to sleep.
Not that Yui looks very sleepy. She seems quite awake and fascinated by the strange room. Yamaoka looks like she might protest but Kame says, "Go on, make the little one comfortable. We can sit over there." He nods across the bed towards the window sill.
Yamaoka gives in and settles, while Jin and Kame move around the bed to the window. Kame pulls the curtains to one corner so they can sit.
"Oh, Midori, tell dad about the lion," Kame's mom says.
Yamaoka smiles. "That's right," she says. "I still wanted to show you a picture of Lala's new home." She fishes for her phone, holding the baby fast with one arm.
Kame sits closer to him than they've been all day. Jin can still see the stress in his profile, the relief in his eyes. The rest of the family is crowded around the bed; Yui participating energetically in the Lala discussion, Makoto-san laughing his deep, husky laugh.
Kame turns his face to Jin. "I'm sorry I just left you," he says in a very quiet voice. "I wasn't really thinking. I just realised later..."
Jin nudges him; it's easy, their sides touching all the way. "It was okay," he says, and gives Kame a smile. "It was fine, actually. Both of us, I think." They both look at Midori and Kame's parents, and that's all they can say here, now. But it'll do.
Jin sneaks his arm along the window behind Kame's back, and cautiously around. Just a bit, just enough for a squeeze and some stability. Kame breathes more deeply and lets him, and there's a little thanks in the slump of his shoulders. Nobody's looking at them.
Jin thinks nobody would really mind if they did.