Lincoln had been working at Happy Go Lucky Cafe for three years, and they got a wide range of customers. The cafe was located near the university Lincoln attended, an arts college, a gym and the waterfront, so they got a lot of foot traffic. For some reason, people found their cafe as cheerful as its name, and their customers were loyal as ever. This was probably due to the fact that there were no Starbucks in the area and their coffee was reasonably priced, but it still made Lincoln proud of how popular the cafe had become.
They got a lot of different customers, so it was no surprise when a group of international students filtered through the doors and claimed the biggest booth they’ve got. The booths were a recent installment, ever since the expansions. Happy Go Lucky used to be pretty small, but since it was always packed full of customers, it was obvious the place needed to be bigger. Which meant Lincoln worked as a waiter and a barista. It was tiring, but he genuinely loved the place and his job. He would always meet interesting people and made a substantial amount. Sure, it was barely enough to keep him afloat, with his school, his apartment and his mother, but it was definitely not shitty. Even though he worked at a bar on Fridays and Saturdays just to make a little extra, he was happy here.
He tightened the strings of his lavender apron and picked up his pad and pen, making his way over to the rowdy booth. He could see that there was a mix of Asian students, an American student, and a possibly Australian student.
“Welcome to Happy Go Lucky Cafe! I’ll be your server for today. Is there anything I can get you?” Lincoln asked the group at large, already standing with his pen on paper, ready to take their orders. Immediately, the students were clamouring over each other to order. It took a relatively long time for Lincoln to get all of their orders down, but he didn’t mind.
“Link?” One Chinese student questioned, cocking his head, presumably at Lincoln’s name tag. Going by Link was easier when he was at work. “Like the game? Ah, what was it… Legend Of Zelda?”
“It’s short for Lincoln,” The waiter explained, while one of the Korean guys yelled “Jackson!” and reprimanded him for being rude. Lincoln laughed and went back to the counter, helping his co-workers with the large order. It was pretty quiet for now, only a few tables and booths filled. About eight minutes later, Lincoln balanced two drink trays and a platter of food, bringing it to the students.
“Gomapseumnida!” The same Korean guy who had yelled at Jackson said, before getting flustered. “Er, I mean, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can get you?” Lincoln asked politely with a light chuckle.
“Your company?” One purple-haired Korean boy asked cheekily before getting smacked. “No, seriously, it’d be cool if you could join us.”
“I’m pretty sure he has better things to do than hang with strangers,” The now-confirmed Australian said, rolling his eyes. “Like uh, I dunno, his job?” Lincoln just shook his head in amusement and smiled before walking back to the counter. He might have sat with them if he didn’t have to work, but unfortunately he couldn’t have a break until about an hour from now. He watched them laugh and bicker while he wiped down the counter and refilled the trays of baked goods in the display cases.
The cafe began to fill as more and more people got off work. Lincoln went to serve the regulars while his co-workers handled the rest. They tended to get more business when Lincoln was on the floor instead of working the counter, and the regulars loved him like family. Plus, Lincoln always made a lot in tips when it was busy, allowing him to eat something other than instant noodles or rice.
“Hello, Ms. Gardina,” Lincoln grinned at an elderly widow who frequented the cafe many times over the last few years. “Would you like your usual?”
“Hello, dear!” Ms. Gardina replied, cheerful as ever. “Yes, please. With a slice of coffee cake! And how is your mother doing? Oh, and you’ve grown taller!”
“It’s only been two weeks, ma’am,” Lincoln said shyly, cheeks colouring. “And my mother is doing well, thank you for asking. I’ll be sure to get your order to you as fast as possible.” He gathered the orders of a few more patrons before returning to the counter.
“You’re quite popular today,” Anne, another barista, grinned as she handed off another drink order. Lincoln smiled back at her as he rushed off to serve another customer. Many people were asking for him. It was exhausting, but it made him happy to see familiar faces. It had only been twenty minutes since the cafe started filling up, yet he was already tired.
“Jeez, Lincoln,” She said when he came back, handing him a glass of water. He looked around quickly before taking a large gulp. It was unprofessional to appear he was taking a break while on the job, but he really did need that drink. “Maybe you should sit down. Those boys were asking about you again.” She nodded towards the large group of students he had served earlier. As if they heard her, they all turned around and gave him big smiles and waves.
“Do I know them?” Lincoln wondered. He thought some of them looked slightly familiar, but he wasn’t really sure. “I feel like I do.”
“One of them said he was in your Chemistry class in high school,” Anne replied. “Now go take a break, seriously. And take up their offer! They clearly want you to join them, and you need new friends anyway.”
Lincoln sighed and finished off the glass of water, thanking Anne before putting the glass down and walking over to the boys in the booth, all watching him. He felt nervous as he walked towards them, but they immediately shuffled around and squished in to make room for him.
“Glad you could join us!” Purple-haired guy beamed as he sat down. “I’m Jupiter, I was in your Chem class in high school.”
“Wait,” Lincoln paused, suddenly remembering something. “Were you the guy who spilled the beaker onto his lab partner? The one who lit the table on fire?”
“That’s me! Kim Jupiter at your service,” The guy grinned, struggling to stand and bow in the tiny space between the table and his friends. “Just call me Jupiter, everyone does.”
“’Cause you’re so fucking fat,” Jackson groaned when Jupiter tumbled onto his lap since the space was so small.
“No, ’cause my ass is out of this world,” Jupiter sniffed haughtily. He picked up a coffee cup from the table and drank out of it.
“Bro, that was mine!” The Australian guy protested.
“Shush, Oliver,” Jupiter said, pursing his lips and shoving his hand in Oliver’s face, kneeing Jackson in the balls in the process.
“My dick!” Jackson squeaked, pushing Jupiter off. Lincoln laughed along with the other guys. They were really welcoming, Lincoln already felt comfortable with them. He always found himself chatting with students who came to the cafe, since most of them had seen him around before. But conversation came easy with these boys, and they asked him a lot of questions about the cafe, his interests, and what he studied at school.
“Is your name really Jupiter?” Lincoln asked curiously, once there was a break in the conversation.
Jupiter snorted. “No, not exactly. My name is Mokseong. It’s Korean, it translates literally to star of wood. Which is what we call Jupiter. People tend to get my name wrong here, so I go by the English name. Hence, Kim Jupiter.”
“Basically your parents are space nerds,” The American student said. He turned to Lincoln. “Hi, I’m Xavier. This is Jupiter, as you know, and they’re Jackson, Oliver, Tsuyoshi, Hajime and Yong-sun.”
“Tsuyoshi’s our mom, Hajime’s our dad and Oliver is our Eli Kim,” Jupiter stated jovially.
“Eli Kim? You mean the guy from U-KISS?” Lincoln asked. The group looked at him in surprise like they hadn’t expected him to know of them. Lincoln felt a little triumphant.
“Yeah, exactly. Did you see them on After School Club or something?”
“I’m not familiar,” Lincoln confessed, feeling his face heat up a little. “I only discovered U-KISS because of Kevin Woo.”
“He’s hot,” Jupiter declared, jumping up again and pointing a finger at Lincoln, while somehow managing to elbow Jackson in the face.
“Oh my god, abuse,” Jackson groaned, shifting away from Jupiter. “This booth is way too small.”
“You guys just have a lot of people,” Lincoln protested in defense of his beloved cafe, glancing at his watch. “Speaking of, I think my break is over. It was nice talking to you guys.”
“Don’t think we won’t come back for you, Link!” Jupiter warned. “I’m your Zelda now!”
“Can we please stop harassing the nice waiter?” Yong-sun begged.
“Yeah,” Tsuyoshi echoed, reaching across the table to slap Jupiter and pull him down onto the seat. “He was nice enough to join us, leave him alone.”
“Yes, Eomma Tsu,” Jupiter said solemnly, saluting. He winked at Lincoln who turned red again.
“It was no trouble at all, thanks for having me,” Lincoln said hurriedly, adjusting his apron. He gave them one last smile and went back to the counter.
“Oh, good. You’re back,” Sierra, another co-worker said, thrusting two plates at him. “This is for the table in the back. Oh, and could you quickly mop the floor of the men’s bathroom? Someone spilled their coffee.”
Lincoln smiled, sighing inwardly. He liked working here, yes, but he was enjoying his break. Ah, well, he thought. It was fun while it lasted.
After that day, Lincoln kind of forgot about the rowdy group of students. Well, not really, because that’d be quite rude. But they did escape his mind. He was busy with work and school, this project his professor wanted him to do had been biting him in the ass. Plus, he had been looking for a roommate, but he had no luck finding one. Right now, he was too busy preparing for Halloween.
Happy Go Lucky always got busy in October, since they put on a Halloween event every year. This year they were doing a cosplay theme, which Lincoln isn’t really happy about. But it made sense, with the influx of foreigners living in their tourist town, especially in the area. Cosplay was a pretty popular trend, and many Japanese art students came to help out. One female student named Akane made him an awesome Link costume to match his nametag, which Anne had stolen to draw the triforce symbol beside his name.
“Did you bleach your hair?” A familiar voice asked. Lincoln looked up from where he was wiping down the counter to see Hajime and Tsuyoshi sitting on bar stools in front of him. He didn’t even notice them come in.
“Uh, yeah,” Lincoln blinked, reaching up to tug on his newly-bleached fringe. It was almost white-blonde now, thanks to the suggestion and help from Akane. Lincoln told her he had been considering it, and she thought it would make his complexion look good, so he bleached it. It felt strange looking in the mirror in the morning and not seeing his usual dirty blonde hair. He looked even paler with the light blonde.
“It looks good,” Hajime said approvingly. Tsuyoshi nodded in agreement. “Kind of brings out your eyes. Makes you look like a ghost, though.”
“You should totally dye it purple.” Lincoln startled and turned around to see Jupiter standing in front of the counter, probably waiting to order. He apologized profusely, quickly took his order and rang him up.
“I think purple is more your style,” Lincoln laughed, gesturing to Jupiter’s purple hair. It had been almost a week since the last time Lincoln saw him, but his hair had already faded considerably from its original shade. It was more lavender now. “Nice to see you guys again.”
“I told you we would be back for you,” Jupiter said as he watched Lincoln prepare his drink. “Anyway, I noticed all the Halloween stuff out front. Are you guys doing some sort of event?”
“We do one every year,” Lincoln explained, handing Jupiter his sugary drink. He had a feeling Jupiter was the kind to drink coffee with syrup and whipped cream. “This year is a cosplay cafe.”
“That sounds cool,” Hajime said as Jupiter joined them at the counter. “Oh, is that what the posters around campus are for? I never really looked at them but I major in graphic design so I thought they were cool.”
“Yeah, I made them and put them up myself. I thought it’d be cool to get a bunch of students in. Actually, if we get a lot of business in the next few months, we might open up the second floor for studying and stuff.”
“You could have a textbook drive where students can donate their old textbooks,” Tsuyoshi said absentmindedly while tapping on his phone. Lincoln froze in his tracks after considering it.
“That’s… actually a really good idea,” Lincoln said slowly. It would bring them a lot more resources for less expenses. They might be able to compensate somehow, like with a rewards card or something. “Maybe I’ll bring it up next time I talk to Pat. She’s the owner of the shop, so she makes all final decisions. You’re really creative.”
“Well, it was just a thought,” Tsuyoshi replied, turning red. “But it would be cool if you actually used it. I could brag to all my friends.”
“What friends?” Hajime snorted, earning himself a harsh poke from both Tsuyoshi and Jupiter. “I’m kidding, you dicks.” He rubbed at his sides with a scowl on his face while the others laughed. Lincoln moved away to help another customer before coming back. It was really slow today, because it was Sunday morning and most people were at home. Sometimes, Lincoln couldn’t help but hate Sunday mornings, but he thought he’d like them more if his newly acquainted “friends” showed up.
“Just out of curiosity, how many days a week do you work?” Jupiter asked, slurping obnoxiously at the last half-inch of his drink until Tsuyoshi pinched his arm. “I saw you in here everyday before we actually came in.”
“I work here on weekdays,” Lincoln answered, taking away Jupiter’s empty cup and throwing it in the trash out of habit. “Mostly from four until closing. Sometimes I come in before classes start to help bake the pastries and stuff.”
“You must really like working here,” Hajime said. Lincoln grinned and nodded eagerly. He’d been working at Happy Go Lucky since his senior year. It was fortunate that Patricia and his mother were friends, which meant he had a shot at getting hired.
“This place wasn’t always so popular. In fact, it only got popular less than a year ago. And Patricia doesn’t really like hiring new people, so we always tried hard to keep our little corner of the world open,” Lincoln rambled. “I like to think of it as a safe place. We get a lot of kids here who just don’t want to be at home. That’s why I’m hoping for that study room, where those kids can work in peace.”
“That’s such an awesome initiative,” Jupiter gushed. “I think it’d be great to have a study room and textbook drive. A lot of students would really appreciate it. I’m telling everyone I know to come here now.”
“You’ll start a riot,” Tsuyoshi laughed before turning to Lincoln. “This boy is the very definition of…uh…how do you say?”
“Hooligan,” Hajime supplied. “Jupiter’s the definition of hooligan. There’s a picture of his face next to it in the dictionary.”
Jupiter scowled, retaliating by shoving Hajime into Tsuyoshi, sending them both sprawling across the floor. They both yelled in surprise and flushed with embarrassment, quickly scrambling back on their stools and glaring at Jupiter, who cheerfully ignored them.
“Do you want to go clubbing with us tomorrow night?” Jupiter offered excitedly. “Don’t worry, none of us overdo it or anything like that, we just like to let loose, have a little fun.”
“Oh sorry, I can’t,” Lincoln replied absentmindedly. He was already thinking of what his next pay was going towards. Maybe if I cut back on groceries I can still pay the rent, and still have money for mom. If I can just make enough in tips…
“Right, gotta go,” Jupiter said abruptly. His outgoing and bubbly personality seemed to have dissipated, leaving Lincoln shocked and as he startled out of his daze. “Tsuyoshi, Hajime, we’re going now.”
“What? But you just got he-” Hajime stopped mid-sentence. Lincoln would too, Jupiter’s steely demeanor more than a little intimidating. It was as if someone flicked a switch inside of him and he was no longer cheerful. Then again, Lincoln didn’t actually know him very well, Jupiter may have always been like this. It just didn’t fit him, and his friends seemed surprised at the sudden change in attitude as well.
“Uh, alright,” Tsuyoshi said awkwardly, breaking the short silence. There was a lot of tension in the air, and Lincoln wasn’t sure why. Jupiter grabbed his friends by the wrist and practically dragged them out.
“Bye Lincoln!” Hajime called over his shoulder.
“Later, Link!” Tsuyoshi said as well, just before he was yanked out the door. Jupiter didn’t say anything at all. Lincoln wasn’t sure why that bothered him.
The next day, Lincoln was dead on his feet by the time he reached the club he works at. In all honesty, he’d rather be at home studying or sleeping. There was no way he could afford to miss any of his shifts, though.
The club was loud and crowded, even though it was only half past ten. It was popular enough that Lincoln’s always busy mixing one drink or another. He hated the atmosphere, a little sleazy and loud. His boss, unlike at the cafe, was a total asshole most of the time.
“Sex on the beach, hold the sex,” Some guy said, winking. He probably thought he was being clever, when in reality it’s the third time Lincoln’s heard that line. He held in his shudder and refrained from rolling his eyes. He always got hit on at this club, though he never got why. It wasn’t as if he thought he was unattractive, but mostly he thought he was average at best. Maybe a six out of ten, a seven on his good days.
“The boss doesn’t like your shirt,” His co-worker for the night, Fred, hissed at him. “Says he warned you about wearing shirts to make statements.”
“It’s a Pink Floyd shirt?” Lincoln replied, more than a little confused.
“He thinks it has to do with gay rights,” Fred explained, rolling his eyes. He handed Lincoln a soft cloth and told him to start polishing the glasses while he served drinks. After Lincoln finished that and straightened up the bottles on the shelves, he headed into the break room to take a breather. His legs were hurting and the shoes he was wearing were giving him blisters. The shitty pop music blaring from the speakers was making his head pound. He felt like shit all over.
When he returned to the bar, his head was spinning. That’s probably why he didn’t notice the purple-haired head until said head was in front of him ordering another drink.
“Oh, hey Jupiter!” Lincoln greeted, momentarily forgetting where he was. Thank god the boss wasn’t around. Jupiter looked from his drink and squinted behind the large frames of his glasses. He looked pretty drunk. Lincoln wondered how long he had been drinking.
“You know me?” The boy slurred, frowning at Lincoln. His glasses started slipping down his nose but he didn’t seem to notice.
“It’s Lincoln,” Lincoln replied, a little confused. “Y’know, from Chemistry class. And Happy Go Lucky.”
“Lincoln,” Jupiter mumbled. “Lincoln… Linkin Park!” He suddenly exclaimed, jolting up and almost falling off his seat.
“Okay, you’ve had way too much to drink,” Lincoln told him, watching as Jupiter struggled to regain his balance and gave up, flopping down onto the counter. “Did you come alone?”
“I know a guy named Lincoln,” Jupiter muttered, surprisingly steady for someone so intoxicated.
“Yes, I’m right here,” The bartender reminded him patiently, but Jupiter ignored him and continued.
“He made me sad today,” Jupiter confessed, hiccuping. “Because… ’cause he doesn’t want to be my friend, I don’t think.”
“Of course I want to be your friend!” Lincoln blurted out. He was shocked how true that statement was. Jupiter had an eccentric personality though, especially from what Lincoln could remember from high school. Even if they had never spoken before, Lincoln was a little intrigued by Jupiter’s crazy lifestyle.
“He didn’t even want to hang out today,” Jupiter said sadly. “Didn’t even consider it.”
Lincoln thought back to the day before. He’d been preoccupied with figuring out his budget, and maybe he had come off as a little rude without meaning to. He automatically responded based on his shift, but didn’t really consider what he was saying. So that’s why Jupiter was acting strange. Isn’t he overreacting a little though?
Jupiter stopped talking, draining his glass and pushing it away from him. He got up and shoved through the crowd. Lincoln tried to stop him but out of the corner of his eye, he saw his boss watching him. Instead of going after Jupiter out of concern, he turned around and got back to work.
A few hours later, when Lincoln was dizzy with exhaustion, he finally clocked out. Shrugging on his jacket, his eyes quickly scanned the crowd just in case Jupiter was still there. He found him outside, leaning against the wall.
“Hey, dude,” Lincoln said. Jupiter didn’t look like he had sobered up much. “You didn’t go home?”
“I did but then I came back!” Jupiter exclaimed, standing upright and wobbling on his feet. “Because I wanted to have fun.” He stumbled a little and gave up, dropping to the ground. Lincoln winced a little and crouched down to his level.
“Do you want me to take you home?” Lincoln asked softly.
“At least buy me dinner first!” Jupiter squawked. Lincoln turned bright red and hauled the boy to his feet, reaching into his jacket pocket and finding his wallet. “I’m a broke ass bitch, you’re not gonna find anything in there.”
Lincoln ignored him as he started mumbling in Korean, checking his other pocket for his phone. Luckily, he found it and turned it on. For some reason, Jupiter didn’t have a password on his phone. Lincoln scrolled rapidly through his contacts until he found a familiar name and pressed ‘Call’ hoping Oliver would pick up.
“Jupiter, I swear to god I will murder your ass and I promise you, they will never find the body,” Oliver fumed as soon as he picked up.
Lincoln cleared his throat. “Um, hi Oliver. It’s me, Link. From the cafe.”
“Shit,” Oliver cursed, sounding embarrassed. “Sorry, Link. Wait, why do you have Jupiter’s phone?”
“Ah, he got drunk at the club I was working at, there’s no way he can get home by himself,” Lincoln answered, cringing when Jupiter threw up all over the pavement.
“Fuck, okay. I just gotta get dressed and I’ll come get him,” Oliver said, his voice muffled. Lincoln heard some rustling coming from the speaker and rushed to stop him.
“No, no! It’s okay, I’ll get him home. I just called to find out where to go,” Lincoln said.
“Oh, okay. Well, even though he seems to know you pretty well, I don’t really feel comfortable with giving out his personal information,” Oliver said reasonably. And well, Lincoln couldn’t argue with that. “I’ll come get him. What’s the name of the club?”
Lincoln told him and Oliver soon hung up after promising to be there in ten. He turned to Jupiter who was drunkenly dancing while belting out lyrics. Lincoln wasn’t sure if the song was Korean or English. Suddenly, Jupiter came to a stop in front of him and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Link,” Jupiter said, sounding convincingly sober, then promptly threw up on Lincoln’s shoes.
“Shit,” Lincoln mumbled, holding Jupiter up while attempting to wipe the puke onto the pavement. He gave up and decided he would throw them in the trash when he got home. He needed new shoes anyway.
“Link doesn’t like me,” Jupiter rambled, crossing his arms and pouting. “At least I don’t think. Most people don’t ’cause I’m loud and hyper.” He swayed on his feet, Lincoln struggling to him upright when he felt like a deadweight.
“I’m sure he likes you,” Lincoln assured him, giving up on making Jupiter recognize him. It was clearly not going to work. “You’re his Zelda, right?”
“But I don’t even know how to play Pokémon,” Jupiter complained, leaning against him. Thankfully, Oliver pulled up in a car before Lincoln had to attempt to understand.
“Stupid Jupiter. Thank you for taking care of him,” Oliver sighed, coming around to help Lincoln shove the half-asleep boy in the backseat. “What happened to your shoes?”
“Jupiter threw up on them,” Lincoln admitted, staring woefully at his soiled Converse.
Oliver snorted. “I am never letting him forget about that. Thanks again for watching him. Need a ride?”
“Please,” Lincoln nodded, removing his shoes and sliding onto the seat next to Jupiter. He told Oliver where his building was located while he tried to get Jupiter buckled in. The boy was out cold, completely dead to the world. Lincoln hoped not literally. It was kind of hard to tell.
“Sorry about this,” Oliver apologized again, sounding exhausted. It was well past 4 in the morning. “He was a little upset today. Hajime brought him home but I guess he went out again.”
“I know, he told me,” Lincoln said. “I feel bad though because it’s kinda my fault. I should have explained why I couldn’t go instead of blatantly rejecting him like that.”
“Yeah, you should have,” Oliver agreed, honest and blunt. Lincoln liked that about him. “But then again, there was no way you could have known how it would have affected Jupiter. He’s just…”
Oliver trailed off, taking a deep breath. He pulled into the parking lot of Lincoln’s apartment building and turned to look at Lincoln.
“He gets insecure, ’cause people don’t like him. Think he has ADHD or some shit, when he’s perfectly healthy. We try to keep him from changing who he is.”
“Of course,” Lincoln said, looking at the sleeping boy. “To change who he is would be like denying a part of him exists.”
“A good part. The best part,” Oliver said quietly. “My favorite part.”
“And you want to protect that,” Lincoln realized aloud. It made him really happy, that someone from his high school had amazing friends and seemed to be doing okay. So far, the people he’d managed to find that were former classmates had been doing terribly. Especially now, since Jupiter was sort of his friend too.
“I don’t want to change him,” Lincoln assured Oliver quickly. “Or hurt him, either. This is what you were getting at, right?”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Oliver replied. “But it hurt his feelings anyway. I know you’re not responsible for him—”
“I’ll reschedule,” Lincoln said, cutting him off. He smiled at the other boy brightly, unbuckling his seatbelt and reaching for the door handle. “We can all do something together.”
He looked pointedly down at Jupiter, slumped against the window, then back at Oliver, gaze unrelenting. And Oliver, despite the uncaring attitude he put on, turned red and nodded.
“Y-yeah,” Oliver stuttered, flushed with embarrassment. “I’d like that. Goodnight, Lincoln.”
“Night, Oliver,” Lincoln grinned, pushing the door open and stepping outside. “Oh, and stop by the cafe sometime soon.”
He shut the door behind him and headed up the walk towards the front door of his apartment. Turning around, he watched Oliver drive away before going inside. He hurried up the stairs before someone caught him walking around in just his socks like a weirdo. His apartment is as empty as ever, but it looks so welcoming after such a long day. Lincoln walked straight into his bedroom and collapsed onto his bed without even changing, exhausted but elated. For the first time in a while, he goes to bed feeling pleased with himself.