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[one shot] over coffee
The silence is anything but. Around them, the tiny coffeehouse hums with noise; the hiss of the espresso machines, the lilting tones that accompany office gossip, the clink of cutlery against porcelain, the scraping of chairs against hard concrete and the redundant, run-of-the-mill saxophone music that does nothing for the ambience. Jaejoong feels as if someone has thrown a shroud of quiescence around them, forbidding them to talk and feels immediately claustrophobic. Biting down the rising hysteria that is streaked through with an inexplicable sadness, he curves his lips into a tentative smile.

What are the odds?

“How have you been?” Yunho ventures cautiously over from the other side of the counter. His voice is hushed and sandpapery; ironically setting Jaejoong on edge by smoothing his frayed nerves.

A morning kind of voice, a longing kind of voice.

Jaejoong can’t look him in the eye and instead takes to staring at Yunho’s hair that has been for the ten thousandth time, dyed back to auburn. In the late afternoon sun that filters in through the café’s skylight, his head looks ablaze.

“Fine, I guess.”

For two people who had lived and breathed the same air for years; words are scarce. It isn’t supposed to be like this.

They move towards the nearest rickety table and sit in an oddly uncomfortable silence for a while. Yunho clears his throat, shifts in his seat a little and stares into his mug of coffee, before setting it down firmly. Jaejoong doesn’t take his eyes off him.

Since when did he start taking it black?

“Look, I…” Trailing off, a veil of dejection falls over his face momentarily. Jaejoong has never seen him look so weary; he wants to reach across the small table and take Yunho’s sweaty palms into his own to stop them from trembling. “You left.”

“You know that isn’t true.”

“Yes, it is.” Yunho’s voice is thick with frustration and unwept tears, borne not of their departure but of their absence. “Look me in the eye, goddammit.”

Jaejoong reluctantly shifts his gaze from Yunho’s lips and sees the look of a caged animal in his eyes; an odd mix of flinty bewilderment, wilfulness and sorrow. And immediately, the dammed up emotions threaten to overflow. “I never left you, Yunho-ah. I just… I just can’t get back.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“I don’t have an answer.”

“Can’t or won’t!”

“That isn’t fucking fair.”

Silence blankets the two men as they continue to stare at each other, both a challenge and a plea. Around them the coffeehouse carries on, impervious to the sound of aching hearts. Eventually, Yunho gets up and brusquely brushes away the tears that prickle, just on the verge of falling. “I love you, you know.”

The words tumble out hard and tender, soothing and prickly, angry and desperate; Jaejoong feels his heart clench. He looks up just in time to see the door of the café close with a tinkle and fights the urge to give chase, to embrace him, to never let him go. Instead, Jaejoong’s welds himself to his seat, lets out a dry laugh before dissolving into shaky breaths.

I know, Yunho-ah.

I love you too.


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