This is the last chapter of Coffee and Regrets. I will close the Ji post on Friday and be announcing the Ji winners later on my LJ.
Thank you to all of you. Really, you make doing this worth everything.
Title: Coffee & Regrets ♥
Chapter: Twenty-One [R]
Overall Fic Rating: NC-17
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
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Summary: A pair of lovers, worn and faded by time, hope to recapture what they once had… or walk away after bittersweet goodbyes.
Things were still stiff between the youngest and the eldest. Changmin greeted Jaejoong at the door with a smile but his eyes lit up only when Yunho came in. It left a sorrowful smear on Se7en’s heart but the man knew it would take time before his young lover could put aside the anger he felt. Se7en had personal experience on that front. Still, the lead singer didn’t appear to be shattered by young man’s reserve although his gaze did linger a bit longer than it needed to on Min’s face. Spotting Se7en standing on the balcony, Jaejoong raised his hand and loudly greeted him.
“Aish, there you are!” The pretty-faced man joined Se7en, sniffing at the meat grilling on the gas barbecue. “Hamburgers?”
“Minku wanted them.” Se7en poked at the singer’s ribs and Jae laughed, pulling away from the tickle. “I told him they’re too thick. It’ll take too long to cook them but he insisted.”
“He likes thick burgers,” Jaejoong said, nodding. “He likes something he can bite into.”
“That’s why I like Shichi,” Changmin replied, wrapping one arm around Se7en’s waist and bumping hips.
“Again, stop,” Yunho pleaded. “I don’t want to hear this.”
“I keep hearing that but I hear you whispering my name with Min’s in the middle of the night,” Jae said, winking at Se7en. “He’s got a filthy mind.”
“Look, the doorbell,” Yunho smiled tightly. “Probably the other two.”
“I hope they brought the noodles,” Changmin said, dipping a finger into the kal-bi glaze he’d made to put on the burgers. “Yoochun’s mother makes a salad with mayonnaise and pasta shells.”
“Is it good?” Se7en tentatively licked Min’s fingertip when the younger man offered him a taste of the sauce.
“The salad or the glaze?” He asked, recoating his finger and offering a taste to the eldest of his group. “Taste and see if it’s like yours.”
The peace offering was small but for Se7en, it seemed like a big step between them. For Changmin to ask Jaejoong for his opinion was monumental and when the singer bent forward, eyes closed and mouth opened in an O to suck the glaze from Min’s hand, he fanned himself with the spatula, wishing night would fall suddenly so the air would be cooler.
“They are going to kill me,” Yunho muttered darkly, popping the cap off of his beer. “The hyenas are here. I left them cackling in the kitchen. I should warn you, they spotted your gaming system. We might be losing them to race cars.”
“I think all I have like that might be Gran Turismo.” He said as a burst of noise echoed from the kitchen and Junsu ran outside, carrying a plastic container of something red. “Of course, they could just be tearing down my place.”
“Did you bring the salad?” Min asked the tenor running around him. Yoochun followed close behind, grappling his lover about the waist and lifting him up off the floor.
Junsu thrust the container at Min and shouted, “Quick, take this! I made it! Don’t let him tell you anything…”
Yoochun’s hand muffled the man’s mouth and the baritone smiled sweetly, holding Junsu still. The man kicked and flailed, unable to get his feet on the ground. Giving up, he went limp in Yoochun’s arms, dragging down as dead weight. The baritone yelped and strained to hold his lover up but his knees began to buckle right as Changmin calmly took the sealed container from Junsu’s hands.
“What is this?” He asked as the couple toppled to the ground. Popping it open, he sniffed at the contents. “Pork? Kimchi pork?”
“For the grill,” Junsu said, poking his head out from under Yoochun’s chest. “I made it.”
“He chopped up the kimchi!” Yoochun bared his teeth and bit into his lover’s ribs, plucking out his shirt. Junsu let loose a peal of laughter and kicked out, narrowly missing Jae’s shin. “I made it. He merely assisted.”
“Assisting is making!” Junsu tried to shove the other man off of him then gave up. Batting his eyes at his leader, he crooned. “Yunnie-ah, please…. Can you help me?”
“I’m not getting involved,” Yunho turned his head. “I think it’s best if I stay out of lovers’ arguments.”
“He never stays out of mine,” Min muttered, putting the pork down on the grilling station table next to the hamburgers. “I’ll get a plate for the pork. It smells good. I wonder what it would taste like piled on the hamburgers.”
“Probably good,” Yoochun agreed. “And before you ask, yes we brought the salad. My mother made enough for ten people I think.”
“Or maybe just one Min,” Junsu piped up, moving his hands quickly as the tall young man pretended he was going to stomp on Junsu’s fingers. “Joking! I was joking.”
“Your jokes suck,” Jae said. “I’ll go get a plate. I want to taste this salad.”
Se7en watched his lover follow the older singer then smiled when the other couple pulled themselves off the ground and bounced in after them. He heard Yunho chuckling next to him and lifted his beer bottle in a silent acknowledgement of the silliness that seemed to follow his group. Closing the grill’s lid, he checked the flame before slinging down into a lounger. Yunho straddled the nearby chaise, watching his lover and friends through the French doors.
“It’s nice to see them all together,” Se7en said, his eyes following Min’s lean form as the young man puttered around the kitchen.
“You have no idea,” Yunho replied, leaning back into the lounger. Fatigue clung to his features but his mouth was relaxed. “It’s been hard. Harder than I thought it would be.”
“You and Jaejoong are okay, though…right?”
“Yeah,” The other man said. “And Min is trying to work things out with Boo. It’s hard. They’re both stubborn and Min…”
“Min’s hot-headed,” Se7en suggested. “One thing Jaejoong is not.”
“No, Jae doesn’t have a short fuse.” He sipped his beer and sighed. “But he has a temper. Especially in this, he goes from angry for himself and the others to broken apart because the dongsaeng is angry at him. It tears at him. I thought I’d be the one who could hurt Jaejoong the most but I was wrong… it’s Min.”
From his vantage point, Se7en could see his lover washing the vegetables they’d bought to grill. Behind him, Jaejoong was pulling out a chopping board and a knife, his face animated as he spoke. Min’s face appeared more closed off but the older singer acted as if nothing were wrong, continuing to laugh and smile at the younger man until he teased a grin from Min’s somber face.
“I think your wife doesn’t want to disappoint the son,” Se7en said. “It’s hard when someone looks up to you and you feel like you let them down.”
“You’re going to be gutted by that knife if he hears you call him that. I swear, you never learn.”
“Oh I don’t call him that to his face, just you.” The man laughed. “I know better. He’s scarier than Min when he’s angry.”
Yunho nodded. A thin worrying crease appeared on his forehead and he glanced at the two men behind the glass. “Do you think they’ll ever be… back to where they were?”
“No,” Se7en said, shaking his head. “They can’t ever go back. That’s one thing I’ve learned from this past year; none of us can go back. We can only move on.”
“Does moving on mean eating burnt hamburgers?” Yunho asked, reaching for the spatula. He flipped open the grill cover, turning the burgers over. Digging through the pork, he placed some strips on the far side where the flame was lower then closed the barbeque. “I just want them to be happy. Both of them. Jaejoong’s my lover but Min is my brother.”
“You have some very strange ideas about what a brother is,” The other man laughed and jerked his legs to the side but Yunho was too quick and the spatula left a mark on his skin. “Hey, I’m not the one with the ménage fetish.”
“Yeah, like you were unaffected by Jaejoong sucking off of Min’s fingers,” He grumbled, using a mouthful of beer to cool himself off. Nodding with his chin towards the kitchen, he said, “It is good to see them like that. Talking is good. There hasn’t been a lot of that. Right now, I’ll take any step I see between them as a good one.”
“Are we ever going to talk about what happened?” Jaejoong asked, sharpening a paring knife. With the exception of one of the chopping blades, the rest of the set were in sad condition and he wondered if Se7en cooked anything other than instant food.
“What happened between me and Shichi?” Min asked, peeling an onion. “Or between you and me?”
“Yeah, you and me.” He set the knife down and lifted himself up to sit on the counter. “I hate this thing between us. I hate the words that were said.”
“I meant them,” Changmin replied. “I hate that I said them to you and how I said them but not how I felt at the time. I can’t tell you I wouldn’t say them that way again. Only that I’d still regret it.”
“I never meant to hurt you,” Jae offered.
“I understand that,” The younger man said. “You went ahead with what you wanted because you can’t imagine anyone not feeling the way you do. You sometimes have a hard time remembering that we might disagree. The only one you think about saying no to you is Yunho and that’s because he’s our leader. But really, hyung, just because you’re older, doesn’t mean I will blindly follow. Not any more. I haven’t for a long time.”
“I know,” Jae said, hiding his face. Min’s words stung although he knew the younger man didn’t mean them to. It was hard when a hero falls from his pedestal, even harder when the hero was him. “You hurt me too.”
“I’m sorry.” Min puffed out his cheeks and let the onion sit on the chopping board. “I am really sorry.”
“I’d never had anyone… look up to me before,” Jaejoong explained. “You’ve been the only person who has ever though I was worth something… was worth being like. I just felt like …I let you down when you didn’t expect it.”
“No one expects to be let down,” The young man said. “But I know that you were trying to protect us. Even if I disagree with you, I know you meant to do your best. It might destroy who we are to the world but that was something you’re willing to risk because you think we’re being sacrificed for money. I’m not ready to say that. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to say that. I wish you three were stronger. I wish you could stand the pace and work harder to be healthy… to get sleep and not feel worn down but I can’t.”
“No, we can’t,” Jae admitted, nodding. “It’s killing me, Min. This life that SM made for me was killing me. I couldn’t even think because I was so tired and the other things… it was just too much.”
“No one was touching you,” He said. “Why now? Why do this now when you’re not as stressed as you were in the past?”
“Because now I have a way out,” The older man replied. “Because I still want to sing. I want to please the fans. I want us to be together. I love all of you. I never want to look across the stage and not see you making faces while you sing with me. But I can’t… breathe any more because I am so tired. I’m tired inside, Minnie-ah. I feel like I’m dead inside and my body just hasn’t caught up with my soul. If I don’t change things soon, I’m going to die. I know it.”
“I don’t want that,” Min said. Reaching out, he touched Jae’s wrist, lightly brushing his fingers against the man’s arm before dropping his hand away. “We’ll work something out. Even if it’s not what is all five us right now, we’ll work it out. I’m not willing to toss us aside, even as angry as I am. I don’t want to do that.”
“Okay,” Jae murmured. “Promise me that you’ll…”
“I promise you, hyung,” Changmin said, clasping Jae’s shoulder. “No matter how long it takes, I’ll stand on stage with you again. You’re as much of my forever as Se7en is. I can promise you that.”
Se7en lay on the couch, his eyes hooded and his belly full. He debated getting another beer but he was too comfortable against the cushions, nestled in and warm. He could hear Changmin moving around in the kitchen but he was loathe to help. When the younger man joined him on the couch, he pulled Min down on top of him rather than move out of the way.
“This can’t be comfortable for you,” Min grumbled, adjusting himself so his knees lay between Se7en’s legs. “And you’re a bony pillow.”
“You should talk,” The older man snorted. “You have sharp elbows. Sleeping with you is like going through ninja training. I’m ducking shiruken sharp bones.”
“Oh, nice,” Min bit his lover’s chin, playfully tugging back and forth at the skin like he’d seen his Maltese do to a toy. “Remind me why I sleep with you again?”
“Because of this,” Se7en said, pressing Min’s back down so he could feel the hard length of Se7en’s sex under his pants. “And I’ve got a great ass.”
“True,” The younger man sighed and laid his head on the man’s chest. “You do have a great ass.”
“Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah, one of the best,” Min said. “Did you?”
“Yeah, I did,” He murmured, kissing Changmin’s cheek. “Can I tell you something?”
“I never thought it could be like this,” Se7en said softly, rubbing his nose against Min’s.
“Like what?” He propped himself up so he could look straight into his lover’s face. Their lips almost touched and the air between them was warm, circulated between them as they spoke.
“I never thought I could love like this,” He replied. Moving his hands down Min’s back, he cupped the man’s hips, nuzzling into him. “Or be loved like this. I never thought… this would be mine. That someone like you could be mine.”
“Tsk,” Min snorted. “What about me? Do you remember how uncertain I was? I think I spent more time worrying about what was going to happen than I was thinking about what was really happening. I should have gone to bed with you a lot sooner than I did.”
“If you slept with me any sooner, you’d have been too young,” Se7en laughed. “And no matter how much Yunho likes me, I’d be dead.”
“He does like you,” Min mused, “That’s nice too.”
“I like you,” Se7en whispered, placing his mouth on Min’s to steal a long kiss. “I like you a lot. I’d even say I love you. You know, if you wanted to hear that.”
“I do,” Changmin said. “Want to hear that because it would make my loving you easier. It’s hard to love someone if they don’t love you back. Very uncomfortable.”
“Ah, well I don’t want you uncomfortable,” Se7en said, leaning his head back. “In fact, you don’t really look comfortable now. Those clothes look… tight.”
“Really?” Min peered around his hips, looking down at the loose sweat pants he wore. “You’re right. They are much too constricting but what should I do? Isn’t it rude to be naked in the living room?”
“Ah, Minku,” Se7en said, cupping his lover’s face. “I intend to spend the rest of my life being rude with you. I’m going to love you for that long…and maybe even beyond that.”
“Good, Shichi,” Changmin sighed and held Se7en close, his arms tight on the man’s neck. “Because having you…being loved by you… loving you is a forever worth having.”
— fin —