In hindsight, it was totally not Lincoln’s fault. Okay, maybe, he shouldn’t have thrown the ball so hard and overcompensated just a tiny bit. How was he supposed to know Jupiter would be crazy enough to chase after it? And it’s not like he was the one to knock the actor into the fountain.
In his defense, the movie people shouldn’t have let them in the park. Or they shouldn’t have removed the little barrier around the fountain, never mind the fact that it was supposed to be a romantic scene.
“I cannot believe you two knocked a guy into a fountain,” Oliver groaned.
Okay, so, maybe it was his fault. Just a little. It was still mostly Jupiter’s fault. “How was I supposed to know Jupiter would run that far? You’re the one who suggested throwing it to him. By the way, you’re a shitty center.”
“Well, excuse me, Mr. Star Quarterback with a fucked up perception of depth,” Oliver retorted, rolling his eyes so hard, Lincoln thought they might fall out of his head. “Now we’re not allowed back in the park until they’re gone.”
“At least no one’s pressing charges?” Tsuyoshi tried, in a tone that was probably meant to be calm and soothing. “Oh, hey, isn’t that the guy?”
Sure enough, the guy Jupiter knocked into the fountain was approaching them, in a new set of clothes, his hair still soaking wet. Behind him was a tall, dark-skinned man, and they were speaking a language Lincoln didn’t understand.
“Hello!” The first guy greeted them in English. “I’m Adalric Becker. Your purple headed friend pushed me into the fountain.”
“I’m very sorry about that,” Jupiter piped up from behind Hajime, bowing shortly. He walked up to the dark skinned man in awe, tilting his head up to look at him. “Wow, you’re so tall!”
“This is my friend, Dexter Amari,” Adalric was quick to introduce them. “He doesn’t speak much English.” He turned back to his friend and said something rapidly in another language. Dexter broke out into a grin and said something that made the former laugh. “He says you are very tiny.”
“I can’t help being little,” Jupiter grumbled, crossing his arms sulkily. He brightened up considerably in three seconds, forgetting that he hadn’t introduced himself. “I’m Jupiter!”
“I’m Lincoln, I’m the one who threw the ball,” Lincoln said, waving sheepishly. “Sorry about that.”
“Ah, Lincoln! Parlez-vous le français? You have a wicked throw,” Adalric complemented, pushing wet, curly locks off his forehead.
“Thanks, I think. And I just know a little from high school,” Lincoln replied. “Oh! And they’re Oliver, Tsuyoshi, Hajime, Xavier, Yong-sun and Jackson.” He pointed at each of them individually before smiling apologetically. “A little bit of a mouthful, I know.”
“Where are you guys from?” Tsuyoshi asked politely.
“I’m from Germany, and Dex is from Egypt.”
“Pleasure to meet you both,” Hajime said with a bright smile, stepping up to stand beside Tsuyoshi.
“This is why they’re our mom and dad,” Jupiter stage-whispered into Lincoln’s ear. Lincoln jumped, not noticing Jupiter sneaking up next to him. He hissed insults under his breath at Jupiter for scaring the shit out of him, only to be interrupted by Dex saying something in what could potentially be Arabic. Adalric gaped slightly before bursting into giggles that are actually kind of adorable. Yong-sun even “awww”s out loud.
“Dex said,” Adalric said, finally calming down. “That you look like a fairy, Lincoln.”
“I would say fight me but he’s kind of intimidating,” Lincoln joked.
“Dex is a black belt in karate!” Adalric beamed.
“I guess you’ll have to accept your fate as a fairy, Link,” Jackson said cheekily. Lincoln mustered up the most evil glare he could manage. Jackson just winked in reply, completely unaffected. Lincoln gave up with a sigh of exasperation.
“You guys wanna come check out the set?” Adalric asked, inclining his head towards the cameras.
“We’re banned from the park for knocking you over,” Oliver deadpanned. “But thanks for the offer.”
“If you guys are with me, you won’t get in any shit,” Adalric insisted. “We’re on break, anyway.”
“Hajime, can we?” Jupiter begged, tugging at Hajime’s sleeve like a little kid. “Can we? Can we?”
“Alright, alright!” Hajime sighed, shoving Jupiter away gently. “I’m not your dad, do whatever you want.”
“You’re kind of his dad,” Tsuyoshi commented.
“You do seem very dad-like,” Adalric said, nodding in agreement. Hajime just shook his head and muttered something vicious under his breath. Lincoln secretly prayed for Jupiter’s life, because it looked like the Japanese man was ready to commit murder.
In the end, the whole group squeezed into cars and drove to McDonald’s on Montgomery, filling up the large dining table. The employees only looked amused, but Lincoln still felt bad. They waited until everyone else had ordered before ordering their own food in four separate orders, none of them caring how long it would take.
Finally, everyone was settled in their seats before mountainous piles of food. Adalric and Dex seemed at ease, perfectly comfortable surrounded by near-strangers. They talked about the movies Adalric had been in, as well as commercials, magazines and television shows. It turned out, Adalric actually went to Lincoln’s school.
“Wait, is that why there were so many crowds on campus the past two weeks?” Lincoln asked, eyebrows furrowed.
Adalric grinned sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders. “Yeah, they found out. Apparently I have a lot of fans here?”
“Everyone likes the pretentious shit you do,” Jupiter stated, smiling his box-shaped grin. “I liked the diner one, that one was pretty cool.”
Lincoln, having never seen any of Adalric’s work, just sat silently and ate. He felt out of place as they all chattered about this one movie that everyone but him had seen and loved. Instead of joining in on the conversation, he just messed around on his phone, replying to the few texts he had gotten and mostly just scrolling down his Instagram feed.
Jupiter stood up, clearing his throat. “Voila! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished.” He recited in perfect English.
“However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.”
At this point, most of the people in the restaurant were watching, some even had their phones out to record as Jupiter recited the speech from a movie. Jackson stood up as well, and together they said the last lines simultaneously.
“Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”
There’s a scatter of applause as the two of them bowed and sat down, smiling like maniacs. Tsuyoshi reached over to flick Jupiter in the forehead with a fond expression on his face. “You guys are actually idiots. And will probably be on the Internet.”
“What movie is that from?” Lincoln asked, feeling stupid as all heads at the table turn to look at him in similar states of shock.
“You don’t know V for Vendetta?! Remember, remember, the fifth of November?” Jupiter very nearly shrieked, clutching his chest like he was in pain.
“No?” Lincoln replied awkwardly, shrinking in his seat and cursing his six-foot frame. “I don’t really have the time for movies.”
“Your life must be pretty sad if you’ve never seen V for Vendetta,” Oliver said, shaking his head in sympathy. Lincoln winced internally, forcing a smile on his face before quickly changing the subject.
Throughout the conversation, he repeatedly got lost, having no idea what the majority of the topics were. It seemed like they all had so much in common, but Lincoln had no clue what they were talking about. He felt like such an outsider, not new enough to hold everyone’s attention like Adalric and Dex, but not part of the group for long enough to be able to contribute to any of the stories they shared. Frustrated, Lincoln stayed silent for the most part, allowing the conversation to wash over him without actually listening. He hated himself for feeling left out when it wasn’t anyone’s fault but his own, and he hated himself for hating himself.
Sadness is not attractive, Lincoln, is what his uncle had said when they first moved here, after agreeing to take care of his mother, on account of Lincoln paying her medical bills. People won’t like you if you’re always sad.
So he sighed, straightened up and pasted a smile on his face, listening to every single word spoken and nodding. He said a couple things, ignored the looks Xavier gave him and pretended he was enjoying himself. Xavier wasn’t having that though, and during the whole time they were seated in McDonald’s, he kept staring at Lincoln like he knew something.
Fucking Psychology majors.
By the end of the day, Lincoln had dug himself into a self-deprecating hole he couldn’t get out of. He had gone home a little early, having exchanged numbers with Adalric and Dex. Adalric was friendly to the point where it was kind of creepy, but Dex was quiet and seemed nice. Lincoln tried talking to him, with Adalric translating. Apparently, Dex could mostly understand basic English, but had a hard time speaking anything that wasn’t his native tongue. It wasn’t like Lincoln could talk though, unable to speak anything but English and high-school level French.
When he collapsed face-forward on the couch, Yong-sun had sounded worried. Lincoln had waved off his concern and instead muttered obscenities into the couch cushion until he felt a little better. He felt like shit, which in turn made him feel like an attention whore, because it’s not like anyone was obligated to listen to what he had to say. And it’s not like they were ignoring him intentionally (or at least he didn’t think so) but he couldn’t shake the feeling of dread settling on his shoulders like a lazy cat.
Speaking of cats, Lincoln got up in order to seek the comfort of Bambam, who was licking his paws after a hearty meal. Thanking Yong-sun mentally for remembering to feed the cat, he scooped up the feline and wandered back into the living room, petting the cat’s soft fur. Bambam was a calico cat, his favourite cat breed.
He berated himself once more for feeling bad and leaving early. Luckily, Oliver wanted to leave as well, then Adalric realized he had ten missed calls from his director wanting him back on the set, so there had been a mad scramble as they shrugged on coats and filed into their respective cars with promises to text and call each other. Sighing, he buried his face into Bambam’s fur until Yong-sun crept out of his room, padding softly towards the couch to sit next to Lincoln and tug the cat out of his arms.
“Hey,” Lincoln protested, pouting. Yong-sun pouted at him in return, and Yong-sun’s puppy dog face was much cuter, so Lincoln gave in, throwing his hands up in mock-defeat before curling into as tight of a ball as he could. “What’s up, sunshine?”
“I talked to Jackson,” Yong-sun offered after a few moments of silence.
“I mean, nothing really happened, we just talked. He didn’t even bring up Saturday,” Yong-sun said sadly. Lincoln sighed and reached over to awkwardly pat Yong-sun’s knee in a sad attempt comfort the younger boy. “I guess he just doesn’t like me?”
“Please,” Lincoln snorted, unable to help himself. “You guys have been dancing around each other for days, just straight up ask him on a date.”
“You think that’ll work?” Yong-sun asked quietly, lower lip trembling.
Lincoln nodded and pretended that he wasn’t 99.999% sure that it would work. If one of them could just suck it up and ask the other out, they would already be together and potentially get married. “I definitely think it’ll work. Just try it Yong-sun. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“He could say no and I’d have to move to Mexico or else I would die of embarrassment,” Yong-sun stated flatly.
“I highly doubt that’ll happen,” Lincoln replied dryly, laughing a little. “Come on, Yong-sun. Okay, that was the wrong thing to say. What’s the best thing that could happen?”
Yong-sun bit his lip, bringing his sleeve-covered hands up to hide his face and growing blush. “He could say yes.”
“Exactly, he could say yes,” Lincoln said. “And then you can take him to the arcade because Jackson seems like he would like arcades, and then you can win him an prize and go get hot chocolate and plan a second date. Maybe even kiss him a little, okay?”
“Okay,” Yong-sun sniffled, taking a deep breath. “I am not usually this emotional.”
“I know,” Lincoln replied gently. “Wanna make dinner?”
“Yes,” Yong-sun nodded sharply, unfurling himself and standing on his feet. “What are you make?”
“Making,” Lincoln corrected, flashing a large grin. “I was thinking maybe you should choose, I’m not sure what you like”
“Okay!” Yong-sun said cheerfully, skipping into the kitchen and sliding on the floor with socked feet. “Maybe rice and chicken stir-fry?”
“I don’t think we have rice,” Lincoln said, following Yong-sun and walking into the kitchen in a more composed manner.
Yong-sun scoffed. “Of course we have rice.”
He took out an appliance from the cabinet that Lincoln was sure didn’t belong to him, meaning it was one of the things Yong-sun brought with him when the younger moved in. He plugged it in, setting it carefully on the counter. Then, he dragged out a large bag with a rooster printed on the front from the little closet that held the vacuum.
“I didn’t know where to put it,” Yong-sun said sheepishly, removing the clips that held the bag closed. He pulled out a measuring cup. “Can you get me a bowl?”
Lincoln nodded and retrieved the large silver bowl he used for baking from the cabinet, handing it to Yong-sun, who was talking to himself in Korean. Lincoln shrugged and removed frozen chicken breast from the freezer, tossing it in the microwave and hitting the defrost button.
“Do you think four cups is good?” Yong-sun asked. “I think so.”
“It’s probably enough,” Lincoln said awkwardly, having no idea how much rice was required. He watched interestedly as Yong-sun removed a pot from the appliance, which Lincoln guessed was a rice cooker. The younger began rinsing the rice before dumping it into the pot and adding some water, putting it in the rice cooker and pressing a few buttons.
Lincoln took out the now-defrosted chicken breast, slicing it into smaller pieces while Yong-sun turned on the stove and added oil, peeling and chopping garlic to throw in. Yong-sun rummaged around in the cooking utensils drawer until he found a wooden spatula Lincoln had taken from their old house in California.
“You need to be more good at shopping,” Yong-sun said accusingly. “You had no vegetables when I came.”
“Vegetables are expensive,” Lincoln said, shrugging. “I just don’t have the money.”
“Oh, okay,” Yong-sun said. “Then I’ll buy the vegetables, and you can help me cook.”
“Deal,” Lincoln agreed, sighing with relief. Yong-sun was quicker than him when it came to chopping up vegetables, precise and efficient like he had spent his entire life chopping vegetables. Lincoln added the pieces of chicken to the pan and kept an eye on them. “It’s not gonna be very good, we didn’t marinate the chicken.”
“It just has to taste okay,” Yong-sun responded. “And we can’t die.”
“I’d be pretty pissed if I spent all that money on university only to die before I even graduate,” Lincoln laughed, helping Yong-sun scoop peppers, eggplant, ginger and broccoli. He wasn’t even sure if they’d all taste good together. He barely ever cooked, mostly relying on instant noodles and microwave meals to get him through the day. Yong-sun took over stove duty while Lincoln found a cream of mushroom soup mix and asked if Yong-sun wanted to eat some.
“Soup and stir fry is weird,” Yong-sun said. “But I want soup.”
So Lincoln made the soup, following the package directions. Yong-sun finished with the stir fry, adding powders and sauces that he must have bought because Lincoln surely didn’t already own any of them. They sat down together at the tiny, rickety table when everything was finished, Yong-sun dutifully filling up two glasses of water. Lincoln separated the food into equal proportions and took a bite of the stir-fry, a little bit skeptical. The feeling melted away when he tasted it, surprisingly delicious and much better than he expected.
Yong-sun took a liking to the soup, delighted to discover that Lincoln owned several more packages. He talked about how the soups he usually ate were spicy or bitter, never creamy like the one they were eating. After they both finished, Lincoln did the washing up while Yong-sun made a tea that he liked. Lincoln had never tried jujube tea—as it read on the box—but Yong-sun had said it was sweet. “We can have with dasik.”
While Yong-sun was pouring the tea into mugs since Lincoln didn’t own teacups, Lincoln opened Google and searched up what dasik was. He spelled it wrong, but eventually found that dasik was sort of like a cookie but less sweet, literally translating to tea snack. Yong-sun had a little tray of them, and they were multicoloured with designs on the top that made them look really pretty. Lincoln found that he actually liked them, despite a different taste he wasn’t used to.
“I want bulgogi,” Yong-sun complained a little. “I like chicken but I want bulgogi very much.”
“What’s that?” Lincoln asked curiously.
“It’s made from...cow?” Yong-sun said uncertainly.
“Beef?” Lincoln clarified, continuing when Yong-sun nodded. “We can try making it? I mean, I know it won’t taste traditional, but if we go to the international supermarket, we could find what we need.”
“Really?” Yong-sun asked, eyes going wide, breaking out in a blinding smile that turned his eyes into crescents. “I’m happy!”
“I’m glad you’re happy,” Lincoln said softly, returning his smile. “C’mon, let’s go watch some Phineas and Ferb.”
“Okay!” Yong-sun said excitedly, picking up the rest of the confectionary and following Lincoln back into the living room. “Hey, Lincoln?”
“Yeah?” Lincoln replied as they sat back down on the couch, turning on his laptop. The screen flashed to life and opened immediately to Netflix where he had left it.
“What’s a Phineas and Ferb?”