Exactly one week later, Lincoln was done with his midterms, and he (hopefully) aced them. They seemed easy enough, he barely struggled due to the fact that he spent most of his free time studying.
Now, he was back in the cafe, another long shift ahead of him. It was almost Halloween, there was a ton of shit to be done. The walls were covered in decorations, they were planning on moving furniture around, the menus still needed to be changed and everyone still had to get their cosplay costumes done.
Lincoln’s costume was pretty basic, but him and Akane made it look awesome with Pegasus boots, a cardboard shield, a quiver, a bow, and arrows. Akane even painted a piece of cardboard to look like a bottle of Lon Lon milk and glued it on the back of his notepad.
“Minish Cap was my favorite as a kid,” She had said with a grin. She was currently sitting at the counter going over a crudely drawn floor plan.
“I think the Colossal Titan should go over there,” Akane suggested, brushing red hair out of her eyes. She had dyed it to look like Shirayuki’s from an anime called “Akagami no Shirayuki”. She had wanted Lincoln to be the prince character, but Lincoln had politely declined, claiming he wasn’t the princely type.
“I thought we were putting it near the door?” Lincoln asked from where he was restocking the display case.
“No, we’re gonna have the Alphonse Elric stand for Anne there,” Akane said. “He’s from Fullmetal Alchemist.”
“Ah, okay,” Lincoln nodded. “Who’s Anne dressing up as?”
“She’s gonna be Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran Highschool Host Club. Damn!” She said suddenly, slamming her fist on the counter.
Lincoln jumped backwards in shock. “Jeez, Akane, what is it?!”
“We should have done a host club theme instead!” Akane cried. “You could have been Tamaki Suoh!”
“Who?” Lincoln demanded, rolling his eyes.
“He’s the princely character,” said a voice from behind Akane. The two turn and see Jupiter, Hajime and Xavier standing there with bright smiles on their faces.
“Hey guys,” Lincoln greeted. “Anyway, I told you already, I’m not the princely type.”
“You do save the princess though,” Xavier said, leaning against the counter. “Can I get a large iced Americano with two pumps of vanilla syrup?”
“Get me a caramel macchiato,” Hajime said. “You owe me one anyway.”
“Ugh, fine. Large caramel macchiato too, please.”
“Baby, baby geudaeneun,” Jupiter sang. “Caramel macchiato. Yeojeonhi nae ipgaen geudae hyanggi dalkomhae.”
“Baby, baby. Tonight,” Akane joined in, voice much higher than Jupiter’s. They sounded pretty together, and Jupiter’s eyes lit up brightly.
“You know Bangtan Sonyeondan?!” Jupiter squealed, and they were off, chattering away like they knew each other for years instead of minutes.
Xavier laughed at Lincoln’s confused expression. “They’re a K-pop group. BTS?”
“Oh, they had the song that was in the showcase,” Lincoln recalled, remembering a short conversation from before. “I liked that song.”
“Me too. No idea what they’re saying though,” Xavier shrugged.
Lincoln laughed. “Yeah, no kidding. So what brings you guys here?”
He moved back to make their drinks, listening to them talk. They were in the area, and Jupiter had wanted to visit so he dragged them four blocks to Happy Go Lucky.
“Here you are, that’ll be $6.75,” Lincoln said, setting the drinks on the counter. Xavier handed over a ten, and Lincoln punched in the sequence to open the register, quickly giving Xavier his change. Xavier promptly dumped it into the Tips jar and sat down with Hajime on the unoccupied bar stools.
“How’d you do on your midterms?” Lincoln asked the group at large.
“Not too bad,” Jupiter said. “Had a few obligatory courses that I didn’t really wanna do.”
“He probably aced them,” Xavier scoffed. “Jupiter’s a low key genius, while the rest of us have to struggle.”
“It’s not your fault,” Jupiter said soothingly, patting Xavier on the head. Xavier bit his hand in retaliation, causing Jupiter to squeal so loudly it made the other patrons turn to stare. The regulars were already used to it though, having been around enough that they knew Lincoln’s friends. Sometimes, they even had conversations with the group while Lincoln worked. Like the guy who came in at five every evening to order a cup of oolong tea. Whenever they were around, Tsuyoshi and Hajime would sit and chat with him.
Then there was the high school girl who would study every Tuesday and Thursday from lunch until closing at one of the back tables. She liked sitting with Yong-sun, who was apparently a whiz when it came to physics and trigonometry. She always bought drinks and tipped well, so no one cared about how much time she spent there.
And lastly, the boys had managed to charm Ms. Gardina completely with their bright smiles and silly antics. Her favorite was Oliver, because he was polite and passionate about playing the piano. Every time she came to visit and one of them were there, they’d sit at her table and tell her stories until she had tears of laughter streaming down her face.
It had been only a few weeks since the group had come in through the doors for the first time, but it was like they were a part of the cafe, just as much as Lincoln was.
A small piece of him is terrified by the idea. If they became part of the cafe, just like the walls and windows and foundation, then surely once they inevitably leave, the cafe would fall to pieces. And Lincoln would lose the last home he had left.
“Jackson motherfucking Liang!”
Jupiter let out an inhumane, pterodactyl screech that startled everyone. He dove off his stool to attack someone—presumably Jackson—that had just stepped into the cafe. Lincoln is relieved when they both stand up and it really is Jackson and not some random customer.
“What’s going on?” Theresa said, poking her head out of the office.
“Jupiter.” Both Lincoln and Hajime replied simultaneously. Theresa nodded, rolling her eyes and shutting her door. The two exchanged a look before bursting into laughter. Xavier only stared at them, lips twitching in amusement. Jackson—having recovered from the attack—and Jupiter make their way over to the table.
“Hey, Jackson, long time no see,” Lincoln greeted.
“Should have been longer,” Xavier commented mildly, cracking a grin.
“Haha, you’re so funny,” Jackson said dryly. “I forgot to laugh. Link, you’re not working right now?”
“I’m on short shifts, so we relocated to the table,” Lincoln replied. “Where have you been?”
“Eh, mostly studying at my house,” Jackson shrugged. “I feel like I didn’t do good enough on my midterms, though.”
“Are you sure you weren’t hiding from a certain Korean boy?” Xavier teased. Jackson went red and fell quiet while the rest of them cracked up until they had tears in their eyes. “Seriously, man, why don’t you just talk to him?”
“It’s not for lack of trying,” Jackson explained, leaning back in his seat. Jupiter proceeded to dig his phone out from his pocket and play with it while complaining about the lack of games. “I’ve been busy, he’s been busy.”
“You guys haven’t texted in like two weeks,” Jupiter said, holding up Jackson’s phone. “Also, how many girls have texted you in the past month? This is getting ridiculous.”
“I don’t know where they get my number,” Jackson moaned. “I ignore all the texts, yet they still keep sending them.”
“Maybe you should try being ugly like the rest of us,” Xavier remarked.
“Link and I aren’t ugly,” Hajime replied. “It’s just you.”
“You’re right about Link not being ugly, but you I beg to differ,” Jupiter snorted unattractively without looking up from Jackson’s phone.
“I’m the only ugly one here,” Xavier complained. Lincoln examined his face before shrugging. Xavier had pale skin, a sharp jawline and defined cheekbones, with gray, calculating eyes. In contrast, he had a short, straight nose and soft, wavy brown hair.
“You’re not ugly,” Lincoln said. “If anything, I’m the ugly one here.”
“Says the one who looks like a fucking fairy prince,” Jupiter said.
“I think we can all agree that Jupiter is the ugliest one here,” Jackson proclaimed. Lincoln found himself vehemently denying that statement in his head.
Jupiter was probably the best-looking out of all of them, even with his strange yet endearing fashion sense. He was petite and delicate, all bright smiles and soft curves, hair a pretty shade of purple. His skin was golden, like he had spent all day under the summer sun even though it was almost November.
“Bitch, I’m gorgeous as fuck,” Jupiter snapped haughtily, raising his chin and holding himself like a goddamn diva.
“Keep telling yourself that,” Jackson snickered, yanking his phone out of Jupiter’s hands.
Jupiter pouted, but suddenly his puppy dog look is replaced with an expression of awe. “Holy shit, that guy is one sexy motherfucker.”
All heads at the table turned to look at whomever Jupiter was talking about. When Lincoln saw him though, he felt his heart stutter like a broken record in his chest.
It was his ex-best friend.