“Happy Halloween!” Lincoln greeted a family cheerfully from his station next to the Attack on Titan cutout propped up. He offered the children some candy which they accept happily, one of them pointing out how cool his sword looked. The expression on the little girl’s face was worth the uncomfortable weight of the sword and shield strapped to his back. He waved a gloved hand at them as Anne directed them to their seats. The cafe was already bustling as more and more people came to visit their cosplay cafe for free candy or Halloween-themed treats that Lincoln, Theresa and Sierra had spent the whole day baking. The cafe looked insane, with green Christmas lights strung around the room to cast a bit of an evil glow. There was a cross between classic Halloween decorations and anime props, like the vase from Ouran Highschool Host Club, one show that Lincoln had actually watched. It was actually full of candy, and the first person to knock it over would win all of it. It was a good thing that Pat had bought it from a thrift store and it wasn’t actually extremely expensive.
“Looking good, Link!” One of the regulars whistled as he walked past. His name was Chris, and he often came to the cafe post-workout for a smoothie and to chat with Anne and Sierra. He smiled widely and lifted a gloved hand for a high-five. He’d been standing at the door for about an hour now, only moving to refill the giant bowl of candy. Happy Go Lucky did not fuck around when it came to candy. None of that tiny little shit you get in bulk from Target. They were handing out king-sized Hershey bars, giant Tootsie rolls and large, swirled lollipops. There was a little rumour going around that Pat and Theresa had a budget of $750 for candy alone. Considering the amount of tips they were getting, it was clearly a good call.
Lincoln sighed a little internally, his face sore from the constant smiles. He had another hour at the door, then two working the counter and one hour on the floor. He couldn’t really complain, though, when Sierra had to bring the Tips jar to Theresa’s office to empty out for the third time since the event started. It was constantly being stuffed with bills and coins from people just dropping in, not to mention the money the girls on the floor were collecting as they waited tables.
“Hey, how’s it going?” Lizzie, a part-time waitress in a Hatsune Miku costume asked as he went to the back to fill up his bowl with more candy. Lincoln felt bad that he didn’t really know her, but she seemed to know him. Whenever he was here, he was always working, and his breaks were spent studying and writing papers on facial recognition and animal behaviour. He never really had time to interact with anyone but Sierra and Anne, the only other full-time workers.
“Pretty good,” Lincoln answered. “A little tiring, but really fun.”
“This is my first Halloween here,” Lizzie said with a wide grin. “I grew up here and I used to work at that stupid Bee Company selling honey to bottle-blondes. My friend Chloe recommended I try applying here. Everyone’s so nice.”
“I’m glad you like it here,” Lincoln said warmly. “I’ve been here for three years now, and it’s honestly the best place I’ve ever worked at.”
“I love it,” Lizzie gushed. “Oh, gosh, I better get back to work or else I won’t be here for much longer. Bye, Link!”
She dashed out the door before Lincoln could tell her that she could probably take a break for an hour and not get fired, considering all the work she put in despite only working there part-time. He stared after her for a moment before shrugging and filling the bowl with candy to hand out to more customers.
Another hour passed in which Lincoln refilled the bowl at least two more times. He was moving on autopilot now, forgetting to take a break. He greeted the customers, handed out candy, refilled the bowl when it was empty. Rinse and repeat. Lincoln sat down and massaged his calves for ten minutes before stretching and standing up. It was already seven past five, he had to get behind the counter so Lizzie could clock out.
Many people greeted him as he walked across the floor, and he smiled and waved happily. Even though he was tired, he still loved his job.
He loved his job a little less, though, when a woman started yelling at him because they were out of jack-o’-lantern cookies.
Lincoln looked up (belatedly realizing he’d been staring at the counter) to see a group of dudes standing in front of him. It took a few moments for him to recognize them.
“Oh, hey guys,” He greeted tiredly. He had just finished his hour on the floor and was back behind the counter for the last hour of his shift. He had gotten a lot of requests from people outside his seating area, so he was all over the place taking orders and delivering them.
“Whoa, dude, you okay?” Hajime asked. He was spinning a basketball on the tips of his fingers, dressed in a black and red basketball jersey with Japanese characters, Gakuen, and the number five printed on it.
“Yeah, I’m just tired,” Lincoln laughed, examining everyone’s costumes. Tsuyoshi was dressed similarly to Hajime, but his jersey was black and blue with the number seven printed in white. He didn’t have a basketball, but he had a small silver hoop in his left ear. Yong-sun was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, Xavier was Batman and Jackson was a wolf. Interestingly, Lincoln noticed a new development had occurred between Jackson and Yong-sun, as the two of them were holding hands.
Finally, he spotted Jupiter standing at the back of the group, standing on his tiptoes in an effort to see over the taller men. He was dressed in all black and had whiskers drawn on his face in what looked like eyeliner, the tip of his nose colored black as well. He had a pair of fluffy cat ears sitting atop his hair that was no longer just purple, with different shades of blues and pinks added in. It looked like a galaxy.
“Your hair!” Lincoln exclaimed.
“Isn’t it awesome?” Jupiter giggled, hanging off of Hajime’s arm and poking at his hair. “I just found extra dye and thought I should try it out. I think I’ve outdone myself this time.”
Lincoln nodded. “It looks good. Oh, hey, where’s Oliver?” He looked around for the grumpy rapper but didn’t see any sign of him.
Before anyone could say anything, a woman rushed up to the counter in tears. She looked very young, maybe twenty-five, and she was visibly distressed. Her hair was falling out of her bun and her makeup was smeared. Lincoln winced sympathetically and quickly handed her a bottle of water.
“What happened?” He asked gently.
She gulped down some water and tried to calm down. “I don’t– it’s my daughter, she just disappeared! I swear I only looked away for just a second to get her some Kleenex but when I looked back she was gone!”
“Miss, please calm down, she couldn’t have gotten far,” Lincoln tried to reassure her. “I’ll inform the local authorities, and we can check around the block to see if we can find her.”
As if on cue, the bell atop the door sounded as Oliver came in with a little girl on his shoulders. He was dressed like Jupiter in all black, except he was wearing a cape and had horns perched on his head.
“Mommy!” The little girl shrieked when she caught sight of the woman at the counter. Oliver crouched and helped the little girl down, following as she ran towards the woman who promptly burst into tears once more.
“Emma, I told you not to run off, you scared me half to death!” She cried, while hugging the little girl. “Where did you go?”
“I wanted to look at the lights across the street, but I didn’t want to cross by myself so Oli came with me then took me back here,” The girl explained.
“I’m Oli– erm, Oliver,” Oliver said sheepishly. “I’m sorry, she said it was okay with you.”
“It’s not your fault,” The mother replied. “Emma, I warned you not to talk to strangers. You’re lucky that this nice young man helped you instead of someone dangerous. Thank you for bringing her back,” she said to Oliver.
“It was no problem,” Oliver shrugged, scratching the back of his neck. He excused himself and disappeared towards the bathrooms. Tsuyoshi offered the woman some tissue to wipe her eyes while Emma climbed onto one of the stools and began chattering away.
“I like the big thing at the door! The lights were super cool, there were witches and pumpkins and zombies! Oh wow, your hair is like a galaxy! Oli had galaxy spots on his arms...”
A few minutes later, the mother/daughter duo left the cafe, Emma very put out about the fact that she was being scolded. Lincoln laughed along with the others before taking their orders and making their drinks. “You guys are my #1 customers by now, I swear.”
“We’re just awesome like that,” Jupiter said, shoving a handful of coins into the Tips jar. “Wow, Oliver, you got makeup on too? Aren’t you pale enough to be a vampire without it?”
“Shut up,” Oliver replied gruffly, walking up to the counter. Sure enough, Oliver definitely has makeup on, making him look deathly pale. Which, Lincoln supposed, is what he was going for. “Hey, Link.”
“Hey, dude, what do you want to drink?” Lincoln offered. Oliver goes with an espresso macchiato, dropping a few bills in the jar which was already almost full. Lincoln and another barista are quick to fill the large order of drinks, handing them out and ringing them up to a total of almost $30, which Oliver and Tsuyoshi paid despite everyone’s protests.
“You guys drink expensive shit,” Lincoln chuckled, wiping his forehead. He felt overheated in the cramped cafe. It seemed like everyone wanted to be part of the event, which meant more work for all of them. He almost groaned when another group of people came through the doors, but shut himself up quickly. More people meant more tips. More tips meant Lincoln could finally buy more school supplies and a new charger for his laptop.
“Wow, it’s really crowded,” Hajime commented. “We should get going then, we’ll come back at the end of your shift.”
“Okay,” Lincoln agreed, feeling secretly relieved as he waved goodbye to the group. Not that he minded them being there, but there was just too many people and he didn’t really feel like holding conversations past small talk.
The rest of his shift passed by in a blur, with so many people coming and going that it was making it hard to remember whose drinks were whose. Lincoln felt sleepy and dead on his feet, even after taking a fifteen minute break and drinking two cups of coffee. He didn’t even notice Jupiter was back in the cafe, stepping up to the counter until he blinked and Jupiter was right in front of him.
He had changed out of his cat costume, washed the makeup off his face, and lost the cat ears. In its place, there was a gold headpiece, and his real ears were covered by fake, pointy ones. He was wearing a dark purple muscle tee, and he had gold pieces of armor sitting on his shoulders. Jupiter waved with both hands, covered in silver gloves that matched his silver basketball shorts. It took Lincoln a few seconds before it registered in his brain.
“You’re Zelda,” He said stupidly, standing up straight from where he was leaning on the counter.
Jupiter nodded. “Yes, and you’re done working. I already talked to Teresa, you don’t have to clock out and you can get your share of the tips tomorrow when you show up for your shifts.”
“Okay,” is all Lincoln said, but Jupiter was still looking at him expectantly. “What?”
“Trick or treat!”
Lincoln sighed, shaking his head. Despite his efforts, he couldn’t help his lips curling into a small smile. “Jupiter, I’ve been working all day. Of course I don’t have any candy for you.”
“Well then,” Jupiter said, seemingly undeterred. “That sucks for you, now I’m going to have to play a trick on you.” He took off his brown leather knapsack and opened it, pulling out a dictionary and handing it over.
“What’s this?” Lincoln asked as he stepped out from behind the counter, accepting the book.
“It’s a dictionary,” Jupiter stated obviously.
Lincoln rolled his eyes. “I can see that, but why are you giving it to me? It’s not much of a trick…” He trailed off when he saw the evil glint residing in Jupiter’s eyes. “I don’t like the look you’re giving me.”
“You’ll have to read it and you find out,” Jupiter sing-songed happily. “Oh, and don’t bother giving it back until you do.”
Lincoln gave a put-upon sigh, walking away to retrieve his things from his locker. He stuffed his bow and sword into the locker, figuring he’d just take them home tomorrow. He dropped the dictionary in his backpack before slinging it over his shoulders When he returned, Jupiter was bouncing on his toes impatiently. He’s immediately seized by the wrist and dragged out the doors where the others are waiting. Lincoln yanked his hand away, scowling as he re-adjusted the cap on his head.
“Where are we going?” He asked, not missing the wide berth that Jupiter gave Jackson and Yong-sun.
“To a party,” Jupiter exclaimed, sounding ecstatic. He fell into step next to Xavier and Oliver, immediately joining their conversation. Lincoln stared at him for a moment before walking over to Yong-sun and Jackson.
“This is cute,” He cooed, motioning to the couple’s joined hands. Instantly, they blushed and let go, Yong-sun hiding his face in embarrassment. “Aw, c’mon, I’m not poking fun.”
“We know,” Jackson said. “But some people aren’t happy about it.” With this, he sent a glare at Jupiter, who had stiffened like a pole, his back rigid and staring straight ahead. Jackson rolled his eyes before turning back to Lincoln.
“Can you believe how childish some people can be?”
“Jackson, stop,” Yong-sun mumbled, tugging at the sleeve of Jackson’s fluffy brown sweater. Jackson gave him a guilty look and changed the subject, talking about Halloween instead. Lincoln wondered what was going on between Jupiter and Jackson. From what he could remember, they’d been friends at least since high school, though Lincoln and Jackson had never shared any classes together.
As they walked, Lincoln was reminded of the after-party the night of the showcase. He had felt horribly left out, not knowing what everyone was talking about. He didn’t feel like that, but he did feel like an outsider whenever Yong-sun would whisper in Jackson’s ear, or Jackson would reach up to play with his hair. Lincoln sighed, short and inaudible. He was definitely the third wheel in this situation.