Truck Stop

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Chapter XV.

Someone stole his bike.

Lincoln stood in front of the bike rack where his chains were lying on the ground, the locks broken. Both of them. He spent thirty fucking dollars on quality locks only for someone to take a hacksaw to them. His bike wasn’t even expensive, and there were literally three other bikes on the rack that were much nicer, perfectly unharmed.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Lincoln fumed, stomping his foot and glaring at his pitiful broken chain. “Why the fuck would someone take my bike?” He sighed, kicking at the rack in frustration before stomping up the stairs.

“Let’s see, if it’s twenty minutes to get to the city by bus, then it’s probably…” Lincoln sighed. “...an hour and a half to walk there. Fucking hell.” As he started up the stairs, he resigned himself to calling his mom.

“Link?”

Lincoln braced himself. “Hey, mom. I don’t think I can come visit this week, someone stole my bike.”

“What? Why?” His mom said. “You only visit once a week, what kind of son are you?”

The thing is, Lincoln isn’t sure his mom is completely…right in the head. She tended to overreact a lot and swing through moods more than he did. She was quick to get angry, quick to assume and quick to accuse. Lincoln hated it, but he had grown used to it. As she grew sick, she got worse, until Lincoln could barely recognize the mother who had loved and cared for him back in California. She suffered from memory loss as well, so she often forgot that he worked two jobs just to keep the both of them alive

“Mom, there’s nothing I can do,” Lincoln said. “I can’t just walk there.”

“So go buy a new bike!” His mother demanded.

Lincoln stopped climbing the stairs, leaning on the railing and banging his forehead against the wood. “Mom, I can’t afford to buy a new bike. I have to pay your bills.”

“I paid your bills for eighteen years, you can’t do the same for me?”

“I am doing the same, Mom. I’ve been doing it for three years.”

“Your uncle pays my bills,” His mother said. He pinched the bridge of his nose and held the phone away so he could sigh, long and loud. He loved his mother, he really did, but this was something he just couldn’t deal with.

“No, Mom. He just lets you stay with him and Danielle because you’re sick. I’m the one who pays your medical bills,” Lincoln explained, trying to be patient.

“Oh,” His mother said, before going silent. She doesn’t say anything for so long Lincoln almost hung up before she spoke again, voice much softer. “Link, please come. You’re my only son, I can’t bear seeing you just once a week.”

And there was the mother he knew and loved. The mother who took care of him when he fell off his bike and chided him gently for spilling apple juice in the hall. The mother who, when he was sixteen, dragged him out of the bathtub, weights and all. She had cried so much when he had woken up, that day in the hospital, and he had vowed to never do it again. Whenever he felt like it, felt like the world was too much, Lincoln remembered his solemn promise.

“I’ll try, Mom,” Lincoln said, voice breaking. They said their goodbyes and hung up. He stared at his phone before sitting heavily on the stairs, wondering if he would have to walk to the city, when he heard voices drifting up the stairwell.

“There are way too many fucking stairs,” rang Oliver’s voice, his Australian accent recognizable and familiar. “I’m too fucking lazy for this shit.”

“You’re a dancer.” Lincoln’s heart fluttered when he heard Jupiter, sounding amused and god, Lincoln missed his voice. It’d been almost a week since Halloween, and he hadn’t seen Jupiter since. The younger went from popping in at the cafe everyday to never being around, and it just reminded Lincoln of all the friends he’d lost because they hadn’t stuck around.

Briefly, he thought about the dictionary Jupiter had given him as a trick that night. He had read the first few pages, but had given up, skimming through a few pages in the middle before shutting the book. He couldn’t figure out why Jupiter had given it to him.

“Yeah, but not a very good one,” Oliver grunted. “Let me sit down. Jesus Christ, how does Yong-sun do this everyday?”

“Does that mean he’s a better dancer than you?”

“Like hell he is. A better vocalist maybe.”

“Pft, I’m better and you know it.”

“Oh, yeah? Prove it.” He heard rustling and then the sound of Jupiter clearing his throat. What he expected was for the Korean male to start wailing. What he didn’t expect was for Jupiter to sing, in the most beautiful voice, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’.

Lincoln was rendered both motionless and breathless and Jupiter sang. The younger sounded like a trained vocalist, voice deep and smooth. Stupidly, he thought of a Snapchat Jupiter had posted on his story a little while ago with the caption “so smooth bitches call me Kraft peanut butter” and he had not been lying. Lincoln could probably listen to him sing for eternity.

Jupiter finished the chorus with a triumphant lilt in his voice, then the only sound filling the stairwell was Oliver’s clapping. Only Oliver could make applause sound sarcastic.

“Great, now that you’re done making my ears bleed, we should go get your phone from Yong-sun now.”

“You’re the one who wanted to take a break,” Jupiter grumbled as they started up the stairs. Lincoln scrambled back up the steps and pretended like he was walking down them as they came into view. “Besides, what if I see–”

Jupiter froze when he caught sight of Lincoln coming down the stairs. Oliver bumped into him and scowled, before looking up too and smiling wickedly.

“...Lincoln,” Jupiter breathed.

“Hey,” Lincoln said awkwardly, quirking his lips up into a grin. Suddenly, an idea struck him, and he forced himself to act as nonchalant as possible. “Oliver! I was just about to text you.”

“Oh? What for?” Oliver asked, eyebrows raised and an amused smirk playing across his face as he elbowed a frozen Jupiter into motion.

“Well, someone stole my bike, so I was wondering if I could borrow a car? I’d pay for gas and everything, but I really need to get to the city so I can’t go to a rental place right now.”

“You visit your mom on Sundays, right?” Oliver said thoughtfully. Lincoln nodded, trying not to appear too eager. Oliver grinned deviously while looking between Jupiter and Lincoln.

“Hoe, don’t do it,” Jupiter whispered. Lincoln almost couldn’t suppress a laugh.

“Sure, on the condition that you bring Jupiter with you,” Oliver said. “He needs to go and I don’t have time to drive him.”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Lincoln said automatically, relief bubbling up in his chest. Oliver’s request barely registered in his brain.

“That’s ace! I’ve gotta spend the arvo with ankle-biters, and now that I’ve got this bastard off my hands, it’ll be much easier. You’d think my brother was capable, but he’s hardly a decent bloke. Bloody bludger, can’t even tell Christmas from Bourke street.” Oliver said, smirking like he knew he sounded obnoxiously stupid as he started back down the stairs, throwing his car keys over his shoulder. Lincoln caught them and stared after him. “I’m gonna walk home. Car’s the Nissan, and it’s my fucking baby. Please take care of it.”

“He knows Australian slang pisses me off,” Jupiter muttered, glaring at Oliver’s retreating figure. “I can’t understand it. And he still uses it. I’m ninety-percent sure that no one actively talks like that in Australia.”

“I’m gonna be honest with you, I didn’t understand much of that either,” Lincoln shrugged, adjusting the strap of his messenger bag. “Shall we go then?”

Jupiter gave him a look he couldn’t decipher before shrugging. “Sure.”

Gladly, Lincoln took the lead as they started down the stairs. He was relieved that Jupiter seemed to have either forgotten or was pretending to have forgotten their encounter last week.

“Hey, do you want your dictionary back?” Lincoln asked as they stepped outside. Despite the season, it wasn’t very cold, the sun shining brightly in the sky.

“Did you read it?” Jupiter asked, looking around on his tiptoes. “Jeez, for such a short guy, Oliver walks really fast.”

“I’m sorry.” Lincoln blinked in surprise. “You want to me to read the dictionary?”

“Yes,” Jupiter replied simply. He tugged the keys out of Lincoln’s hands and continued towards the car, leaving Lincoln staring after him in shock. He guessed Jupiter didn’t want the dictionary back. There was probably something written between the pages, and he wanted Lincoln to go through the whole thing painstakingly in order to find it. Or it really was just a trick. Lincoln sighed and followed, climbing into the car where Jupiter was already sitting in the passenger seat.

“Give me your phone?” Jupiter asked with his hand out, pointing at the aux cord.

“Sure,” Lincoln replied, unlocking it and handing it over. “I don’t think you’ll like my music though.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Jupiter shrugged. “I already transferred all my music onto your phone.”

“You what?!” Lincoln sputtered. “When was this?”

“I dunno, a while ago. At yours. I used your laptop,” Jupiter shrugged. Lincoln snatched his phone back and checked the Music app. Sure enough, there were tons of songs by SHINee and VIXX and f(x), though Lincoln had no idea who they were. He recognized BTS and EXO from conversations prior, but he didn’t know the rest. He sighed and handed the phone back, Jupiter plugging it in and hitting shuffle with a satisfied look on his face.

Actually, it’s one of his songs that played while he backed out of the parking space and started driving. A song by Twenty One Pilots, which Lincoln guessed Jupiter didn’t mind because he didn’t skip it. When he glanced over, he noticed Jupiter mouthing the lyrics.

“Okay, so. I’m thinking that I’ll drop you off, let you do what you need to do, then you can call me whenever you’re ready to go?” Lincoln asked over the music.

“Um,” Jupiter smiled sheepishly. “I forgot to get my phone from Yong-sun. I can just borrow someone else’s phone.” He hurried to add when Lincoln gave him a disbelieving look. Lincoln just sighed and rubbed his face with one hand.

“Right. Okay, what are you planning on doing?”

“Nothing important,” Jupiter said hastily. “I just wanted to sightsee, or whatever. I usually do it with Jackson, but…we aren’t really on good terms right now.”

Lincoln frowned. He remembered he had explicitly told Jackson to apologize, and the morning after, Jackson had promised he would as he stumbled out with his shoes untied and his shirt backwards.

“Okay, how about this, I go sightseeing with you, then after we go to my uncle’s house so I can visit my mom. If we stay overnight, she’ll forgive me for being late,” Lincoln said. Hopefully, he added silently. “Then we can drive back in the morning. If that’s okay with you.” He added quickly.

“Okay,” Jupiter agreed, sounding reluctant. They drove in silence, minus the music playing from the speakers. Lincoln didn’t understand the music, and he hated how they weren’t talking.

“Tell me about this group,” Lincoln said, nodding at the speakers. So far all he understood was the “perfect perfect”, “no thanks no thanks”, and the “all in” of the song. The rest was in Korean.

Apparently it was the right thing to say, because Jupiter’s face lit up and he started talking animatedly. “This group is called Monsta X, and the song is called “All In”. They’re just a rookie group, but they’re amazing. Shownu, the leader, was actually rejected from JYP, which is one of the big three of idol companies. Personally, I think Monsta X is one of the most talented groups out there.”

“Who’s your favorite member?” Lincoln asked curiously.

“Probably Wonho. He’s sexy,” Jupiter said, and as Lincoln stopped at a red light, he tapped his shoulder and pointed at Lincoln’s wallpaper. “What’s this song? In the end, everything collides. My childhood spat back out the monster that you see.” He read off, giving Lincoln a question look, eyebrows furrowed and lips pouting adorably.

“It’s by a band called Fall Out Boy,” Lincoln offered. “It’s called My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark.”

“Wow, that is a mouthful,” Jupiter commented. “Dunno how you’d remember that. Holy shit, that girl looks like Donald Trump!”

He pointed, and Lincoln glanced to the side to see a girl who did look like the presidential candidate. She had short, white-blonde hair, a spray tan and a bitchy expression on her face. Lincoln wasn’t one to judge, though. Maybe she was nice and just had RBF.

“What the fuck, she has an anti-gay sticker on her bumper,” Jupiter said as she squealed away once the light turned green. Lincoln changed his mind, she was clearly a terrible person. They ended up next to her at another red light, and her friend in the car caught sight of them, whispering and pointing. Lincoln could only stare in horror as they winked and giggled.

Jupiter on the other hand, giggled and waved before leaning over the console and smacking a big kiss on Lincoln’s cheek. Immediately, their flirty expressions turned to those of disgust.

“Drive, drive!” Jupiter squealed as the light turned green, giggling like a madman. “Oh my god, did you see her face?!”

Lincoln laughed, though his cheeks were heated in embarrassment. “God, Jupiter, I think you traumatized the poor girl.”

“Well, gay marriage is legal here,” Jupiter sniffed. “So I don’t get why people are still against it. You know, because other people’s happiness is totally their business.”

“I agree,” Lincoln said, nodding. “Like, my mom’s siblings are homophobic but they don’t even have a reason why. And I was just like, ‘gee, Aunt Margaret, just because your marriage didn’t work out, doesn’t mean you have to ruin everyone else’s’. There’s a reason why she refuses to send me Christmas presents.”

“You said that?!” Jupiter asked, eyes wide in disbelief. “If I said that, I would have gotten my ass whooped. With a broom.”

“Ouch,” Lincoln winced. “Okay, where did you want to go first?”

“There’s a park, let’s go there,” Jupiter said eagerly. Lincoln quickly found a place to stop the car before they walked the short distance to the park that was just off Highway 21. Jupiter sighed happily and dunked his head into the fountain. “It’s so hot.”

“Barely,” Lincoln said, unable to take his eyes off the other male. His white shirt turned transparent with the water, clinging to his honey-toned skin. “How the fuck do you have abs?”

“I dunno, I just burn off all my fat from being so hyper all the time.” Jupiter shook his head like a dog before toddling after some birds in the same manner of a little kid. He had his hands outstretched like he was going to grab them. Lincoln wondered what he’d do if he caught one. Before he could even think about it, Jupiter was tearing off through the bushes.

“Where the fuck are you going?!” Lincoln yelled, sighing exasperatedly. When there was no reply, he bit his lip in worry and started after him. The branches snagged on his shirt and he fell into a thorny shrub, but he managed to make it through and eventually stumbled upon the other side. He looked up from picking thorns out of his shirt when he heard a happy squeal and fits of laughter.

Jupiter is on the ground, wrestling with a very large dog while the owner is watching, seeming caught between amusement and horror. The dog is a German Shepherd, and is probably half Jupiter’s height. Lincoln jogged up to the owner with an apologetic expression on his face.

“Sorry,” He said breathlessly, offering a smile. “He’s a little crazy.”

The man smiled back warmly. “No worries, it was my fault too. I need to keep a better grip on Saturn, but she loves to play and I’m just too old.”

“Your dog’s name is Saturn? That’s funny, my friend’s name is Jupiter,” Lincoln laughed. “I think I need to keep a better grip on him too.”

“Link!” Jupiter caught sight of him and sat up, giggling as Saturn licked his face. “She’s so cute!” He looked absolutely elated with the dog in his arms, knocking him back down into the grass. Lincoln watched them roll around with a wry smile on his face. Jupiter had grass and dirt sticking to his wet hair and shirt, but he was happier than ever.

“Oliver’s gonna kill you if you get all of that in his car,” Lincoln called.

“Who cares?” Jupiter grinned, finally sitting up again and settling for patting Saturn on the head, scratching behind her ears. The German Shepherd thumped her tail on the ground, panting happily. Lincoln thought they both looked like over-eager puppies. “Thank you for letting me play with your dog, mister.”

He stood up and walked over, Saturn trotting at his heels. When she finally remembered her owner, she bounded up to him and twined around his legs, barking at him. Jupiter walked over and acted in a similar fashion towards Lincoln, wrapping his arms around him.

“Agh, you’re getting dirt all over me,” Lincoln complained, though he made no move to push the younger away. Jupiter just smirked lazily and dropped his head on Lincoln’s shoulder. Jupiter Kim, Lincoln had learned quickly enough, was a very tactile person and always demanded physical affection from everyone around him that he deemed close enough. He also had absolutely no concept of privacy and personal space.

“It was no problem,” The owner chuckled. He took hold of Saturn’s leash in his hand again, tugging the dog forward. “And might I add, you two make a cute couple.”

The man walked away before Lincoln could stutter out a reply, his cheeks burning. Jupiter seemed to not have heard, or maybe he didn’t care as he jumped onto Lincoln’s back. Lincoln’s hands automatically went up to grip at his thighs.

“You have nice shoulders, I’m so jealous,” Jupiter commented before dropping down and chasing after a squirrel. Lincoln prayed for the small animal as Jupiter sprinted after it, climbing up a tree with ease. He perched on a branch for a moment before hooking his legs around it and hanging upside down. He pulled a face at Lincoln, which was soon covered by the fabric of his shirt since there was nothing keeping it from falling.

“Whoa, that’s a little too much skin,” Lincoln said jokingly, shielding his eyes. Jupiter curled upwards until his hands were holding the branch, then let his legs drop.

“Hey, Link, wanna hang out?” Jupiter asked cheekily. Lincoln pretended to gag at the horrible joke while Jupiter laughed and dropped down from the tree. He brushed himself off, leaving only streaks of dirt behind, and came bounding back to Lincoln much like the dog they met earlier.

Jupiter dragged him to other places, a little strip mall, a plaza and a shopping centre. Lincoln’s already been to most of these places, but he had to admit that being with Jupiter made it even more fun. They had been around pretty much the whole city, visiting different shops, trying on clothing and testing furniture though neither of them were planning on buying anything. Jupiter got his makeup done by a girl at a stand and bought three products while having a twenty minute conversation on the best cosmetics. They got kicked out of a bookstore when Lincoln admitted to never have watched a single Hayao Miyazaki film and Jupiter proceeded to throw books at him.

As the sun was beginning to set, Lincoln and Jupiter had bags in their hands, long-ass Snapchat stories and sore legs from walking around. They collapsed in a booth in a teeny cafe that reminded Lincoln of a popular hipster cafe in their town, a tourist place with the word ‘fox’ in the name. Even Jupiter agreed (because of course, every art student had been there) as he surveyed the decorations.

“My legs hurt,” Lincoln complained, rubbing at his calves. “You have so much energy.”

Jupiter laughed delightedly. “I don’t know where it comes from. I used to bike around Daegu, where I’m from, with my dad. I think that’s where I got my stamina.”

Lincoln leaned forward curiously. “You never really talk about your family.”

“I don’t?” Jupiter asked, sounding surprised. “Ah, well, I live with my mom currently. My dad is still living in Korea, he’s a businessman. My siblings are living with him. I came here to pursue my dreams of becoming an artist and a dancer. I picked here at random, and my mom got an amazing job opportunity. She’s a writer, so she understands why I picked my career path. My dad wanted me in STEM, though.”

Jupiter continued on about his siblings, how his sister liked the same music as him and they often fought about the best groups or new songs. His younger brother loved to play basketball and was really good at it. He had a fond smile on his face the whole time he spoke of them, making Lincoln wish he had siblings.

Jupiter talked a lot. He told stories about his life back in Daegu, about his dog back home and his elementary school. Lincoln just listened and occasionally asked him questions about his previous life, which Jupiter happily answered. When Lincoln was in his first year of university, he had attended a lecture done by a guest speaker called The Art of Conversation. The guest speaker had spoken on how everyone loved to talk about themselves, a rule Lincoln lived by whenever he found himself sitting in awkward silence. But when he was talking to Jupiter, he found that he wanted to know more, and he wasn’t just trying to carry on a conversation or get someone to like him.

“I’m talking too much, aren’t I?” Jupiter paused, smiling wryly.

Lincoln shook his head furiously. “No, I like listening to you talk. Keep going, I want to know more about how you started singing.”

The smile Jupiter gave him was blinding. “I’m gonna go get us some drinks, first. They have bubble tea, what flavor do you want?”

“Um, green apple,” Lincoln answered after a moment of consideration. Jupiter stood up from the bench, stretching his arms above his head. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, it’s alright. I’ve got it,” Jupiter added when Lincoln moved to pull out his wallet. “Don’t worry, it’s only a couple bucks.” He waved off Lincoln’s protests and walked up to the counter. Lincoln checked his phone and connected to the free guest Wi-Fi. Instantly, his phone blew up with notifications. He had been added to a Facebook group chat.

Oliver Brooks guys guess what 2:23 PM

Yong-sun Park what? 2:23 PM

Jackson Liang is this important? 2:23 PM

Hajime Hachimitsu Oliver, why do I feel like you did something you shouldn’t have? 2:24 PM

Oliver Brooks i made lincoln drive jupiter to the city 2:25 PMOliver Brooks hajime you dick why do you always assume i did something? 2:25 PM

Hajime Hachimitsu Well, you did, didn’t you? 2:25 PM

Tsuyoshi Gushiken Stop fucking swearing, Oliver 2:26 PM

Xavier Reynolds shut the fuck up i’m in the middle of a lecture 2:28 PM

Xavier Reynolds wait you forced Lincoln to be Jupiter’s chauffeur 2:28 PM

Xavier Reynolds Link, has he killed you with his cringey aegyo yet? 2:29 PM

Lincoln laughed as he read through the conversation. He quickly searched up what “aegyo” meant and discovered it basically meant to act cute and childish.

Lincoln Hartridge still alive and well, guys 3:22 PM

Yong-sun Park hi Link! ☆*:.。.o(≧▽≦)o.。.:*☆ 3:25 PM

Oliver Brooks has added Adalric Becker to the conversation

Adalric Becker has added Dexter Amari to the conversation

Lincoln smiled and set his phone down, before he realized that Jupiter should have been back by now. Craning his head, he could see Jupiter standing near the counter with two drinks in his hands. Lincoln wondered why he was unmoving as he must have been on his way back, when he noticed another guy cornering him. Lincoln quickly leapt out of his seat and made his way over to where the two of them were standing.

“Fucking chink,” is what he heard when he arrived.

“Wow,” Jupiter replied. “I didn’t think there were still racists like you around, I thought they all died at the beginning of the holocene epoch.”

Lincoln almost laughed at the sight of the guy’s clueless expression, but fear and worry were still coursing through his veins. He approached Jupiter, who just wordlessly handed him the drinks and continued staring the guy down.

“Jupiter, let’s go,” Lincoln whispered.

“No,” Jupiter said, not taking his eyes off the other man.

“Go back to your country, chink,” The guy said, advancing threateningly. Jupiter didn’t back away, facing the larger with a steely look in his eyes. It would be comical to see a 170 cm dude square up against a guy well over 190 cm, if Lincoln wasn’t so scared for Jupiter’s life. There was a small crowd beginning to form, he had no doubt they’d be asked to leave soon.

“First of all,” Jupiter said calmly. “I’m not Chinese. And secondly, your ancestors stole this land from the First Nations, so I highly suggest going back to your own country before you tell me to go back to mine. Or at least read a sixth-grade history textbook. Maybe you’ll learn something.”

As a few spectators snickered, the man’s face reddened and he clenched his fist. Lincoln braced himself, ready to either jump in or call the police. The man threw a punch, but to Lincoln’s surprise, Jupiter calmly blocked it before delivering a spinning kick to the man’s shoulder.

“I’m a black belt in taekwondo,” Jupiter told the man’s crumpled form. “But if you still want to fight, I’m willing to take this outside.”

Lincoln held his breath, fingers tightening around the cups he was holding. The man’s face turned even darker as he turned on his heel and stormed out of the cafe. Lincoln sighed in relief before kicking Jupiter’s ankle.

“What the fuck? Why would you confront him?! You could have gotten hurt!” Lincoln yelled. “They could have called the police!”

“He was harassing one of the cashiers,” Jupiter shrugged nonchalantly, taking one of the cups from Lincoln and sipping through the straw. “I had to do something.”

“My god,” Lincoln said, pinching the bridge of his nose. He exhaled shakily, trying his best to calm his heart. “Why didn’t you tell me you’re a black belt in taekwondo, anyway?”

“It never came up,” Jupiter said, grinning. He turned to one of the girls standing behind the counter. “Are you alright? That dude was a total a-hole.”

“Y-yes,” The girl stuttered. “Thanks for helping me. There’s my manager, I’m gonna go explain what happened.” She briskly walked over to an angry lady who was probably ready to kick Jupiter out. The Korean male seemed to be completely unaffected by the situation, wandering over to their table and sitting down. Lincoln sighed, took a sip of his own drink and went over to join him.

“If you do that again,” Lincoln hissed. “I will personally kick your ass myself.”

Jupiter just smiled.

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