Lincoln still felt horribly exposed even as he woke up in the middle of the night. For a second, he was terrified that he’d have to go through that nightmarish experience again, where he saw things that weren’t actually there, but the fear dissipated as he could move his limbs.
Briefly, he wondered why he was awake before he noticed his phone vibrating madly, lit up with texts and calls. Lincoln rolled over and accepted the call without even checking who it was.
“Hello?” He said sleepily.
“Lincoln,” Yong-sun said. He was crying, which immediately set off alarms in Lincoln’s head as he sat up so fast, his vision blurred.
“Yong-sun, what’s wrong?” Lincoln asked worriedly as Jupiter stirred beside him.
“Wha’s goin’ on?” Jupiter mumbled hoarsely. “Time s’it?”
“It’s 3:19,” Lincoln told him. “Yong-sun, hey, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Oliver,” Yong-sun sobbed. “Oliver is in the hospital.”
It fell silent as Lincoln and Jupiter took in the information. Lincoln felt stricken with fear, panic bubbling up in his chest. He hadn’t known Oliver for very long, but it already felt like they were close. Jupiter’s face went white as a sheet.
“Something Joseph,” Yong-sun informed them, sniffling. “Please hurry.”
“Okay, okay. We’re hurrying,” Lincoln said, leaping out of bed and grabbing some old clothes he hadn’t taken with him, throwing them at Jupiter. “Are you by yourself?”
“No, I’m with Jackson-hyung and Xavier-hyung,” Yong-sun replied shakily. He sounded like he had been crying for a while.
“Alright. Okay, I’m gonna hang up now and get ready. We’ll be there soon,” Lincoln said. Yong-sun agreed and Lincoln quickly ended the call, getting changed himself and texting his mom that he had to leave urgently.
“C’mon,” He said to Jupiter, who looked dazed and confused. Lincoln carefully took his hand and lead him downstairs, taking a scarf from the coat rack and wrapping it around Jupiter’s neck. He pulled a hat over Jupiter’s hair before putting one on his own head and guiding the younger out the door and into the car.
“Are you alright?” Lincoln asked softly once they were on the road, heading to St. Joseph’s.
“Distract me, please,” Jupiter begged, still looking pale.
So Lincoln did. He asked him questions about the craziest things Jupiter’s ever done, he asked about Jupiter’s siblings and his favorite places in Daegu, where he was from. Lincoln told him stories about California, what it was like winning the football championships three years in a row.
He talked throughout the whole car ride, never running out of things to say in a desperate attempt to keep Jupiter from crying again. Neither of them mention the big elephant stomping around. Like if they didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t really happening. Lincoln didn’t stop talking until they pulled into the hospital’s parking lot, immediately sprinting to the front doors.
It took a few moments to find the rest of their friends in one of the waiting rooms, the receptionist wouldn’t say a word because they weren’t family, but then a man (presumably Oliver’s father) came and escorted them to the room where everyone else was.
Two police officers occupied the plastic chairs next to the door and the others were seated on couches and on the floor. Lincoln sat next to Xavier and Tsuyoshi on the cold tile while Jupiter clambered into Jackson’s lap and squeezed the living daylights out of him.
Jupiter looked comical in Lincoln’s old clothes, his red hoodie so big it went down to Jupiter’s knees and hanging open to reveal a plain white shirt that hung off his shoulders, covered mostly by Lincoln’s scarf. The clothes engulfed his tiny frame and made him look puny and fragile.
Lincoln was sure he looked like a disaster himself, having just rolled out of bed and driven frantically to the hospital, now awaiting further news.
“Do you know what happened?” Lincoln whispered.
“No,” Xavier whispered back. “We were waiting for you and Oliver’s family. They got here like five minutes before you did.”
One of the officers cleared her throat to get their attention, standing up from the chair. “My name is Officer Harper, I was one of the officers who responded to Mr. Brooks’s distress call. Do any of you know what happened?”
Everyone shook their heads no, so she continued. “Mr. Brooks appears to have been a victim of abuse. His neighbors claimed to have heard a female voice yelling and glass shattering before the time the call was placed. Unfortunately, we have yet to discover who this person may be.”
“He told me he had a girlfriend,” Oliver’s mother said, covering her mouth in shock. “But I didn’t know that she was…”
“It’s okay, ma’am,” Officer Harper stated gently. “Often, victims of abuse do not tell anyone because they are either afraid or because they do not understand that they are victims.”
Lincoln’s head was spinning. Suddenly, things that happened in the past made a lot more sense. Like how Lincoln had bumped into him at the party and Oliver had flinched so hard, he almost tripped over someone else. And before at the cafe, he had thick layers of makeup covering his bare arms and everyone assumed it was part of his costume. The little girl at the cafe who had gotten lost…
Oli had galaxy spots on his arms.
“God,” Xavier choked out. “How could we have not known?”
Tsuyoshi immediately pulled him into a hug, soothing him gently. Everyone was wearing matching expressions of guilt and horror.
“Does anyone have any information on Oliver’s alleged girlfriend?” Officer Harper asked.
“Her name’s Eliza.” A man who had previously been slumped in the corner now straightened up. He looked like Oliver, and Lincoln realized this was probably Oliver’s brother. “I met her once. She seemed sweet.”
The other officer went to go ask him more questions while Officer Harper asked the group of friends things like “did you notice any signs of an abusive relationship?”. Lincoln felt sick to his stomach.
After that, it was just more waiting. Tsuyoshi and Hajime tried getting the younger ones to drink water or at least get some rest but they refused. Jupiter stayed curled up in Jackson’s lap, one hand in Yong-sun’s and the other clenched in a fist. Lincoln pried his fingers apart when he noticed blood trickling down his hand, four crescent moon cuts formed in Jupiter’s palm.
The doors to the waiting room swung open and a woman in scrubs came out, carrying a clipboard in her hand. She stopped for a moment, surveying the room before shrugging. “Oliver Brooks’s family?”
“That’s us,” Everyone says simultaneously. Jupiter let out a nervous giggle that had all heads turning towards him for a moment.
The woman frowned. “I’m sorry, any patient information is confidential except towards immediate family only.”
“We’re his parents,” Oliver’s mother said. “And anything you have to say to us, these boys should hear too.” Oliver’s father nodded in agreement, and the others breathed a collective sigh of relief. The woman looked like she was about to argue, but then changed her mind.
“I’m Doctor Williams. Oliver will be alright. He’s currently suffering from a concussion, fractured ribs, a broken arm and internal bruising, along with some serious burns. It looks like there was more than one assailant. Your son is lucky to be alive.”
“He’s okay?” Jupiter said quietly, unfurling from Jackson’s lap and standing shakily. Lincoln noticed how Jackson winced and rubbed at his legs; they must have gone numb under Jupiter’s weight. “When can we see him?”
“I’m afraid only his immediate family is permitted to see him at the moment, as he is in a medically-induced sleep,” Dr. Williams said, shaking her head. Jupiter sighed loudly and sat back down, this time on the arm of the couch. “You’ve all had a rough night, maybe you should go home and get some rest.”
“We’re fine, thank you,” Hajime spoke up. “Could you let us know when we can see him?”
“I’m sure you’ll be allowed once visiting hours start up,” The doctor said, sounding mildly annoyed. Lincoln could have laughed if he had the energy. Yong-sun was already asleep, leaning heavily against Jackson’s shoulder, while Tsuyoshi looked like he was about to keel over from exhaustion.
“If you don’t mind, we’ll come back in the morning and ask your son a few questions,” Officer Harper said to Oliver’s parents. “In the meantime, we’ll do our best to look for the person, or people, who caused this.”
“Thank you so much,” Oliver’s father said. “Have a goodnight, officers.”
“Anyone need to go home?” Xavier asked, yawning and climbing to his feet. “I have class in the morning.”
“We should stay here,” Jupiter said stubbornly.
“Jupiter,” Tsuyoshi said tiredly. “As much as we all love and care for Oliver, we can’t do much about the fact that he’s sleeping. Don’t you want him to get his rest? And besides, we can’t take up all this space in the waiting room, other people need to come here too.”
That shut Jupiter up, and he got up without complaint. Lincoln stood up as well, he also had a lecture in a few hours that he could not afford to miss. Hajime, Yong-sun and Jackson stayed while the others left, the sky already beginning to lighten.
“I kinda don’t want to be alone right now,” Xavier said thoughtfully, staring up at the sky.
“Ditto.” Everyone else said in a chorus of agreement.
“We can go to mine?” Lincoln suggested. “You all know where I live anyway.”
There were a few nods and mumbled “okay”s before everyone went in their respective cars and Tsuyoshi went to get his bike.
The ride is mostly silent, with Jupiter staring blankly out of the window for the most part. He looked dejected at the thought of leaving one of his best friends behind. Lincoln didn’t want to bother him, so he didn’t say a word even as they pulled into his building’s parking lot and he shut off the engine.
Lincoln and Jupiter were quickly joined by Xavier, then they waited for Tsuyoshi who looked practically dead by the time he arrived. Lincoln helped him lock up his bike before they climbed up the stairs, Tsuyoshi leaning on Xavier as they went up.
“I haven’t slept in two days,” Tsuyoshi mumbled as Lincoln unlocked his door and was immediately greeted by Bambam. He picked up the fluffy cat and took him into the kitchen to feed him. “Link, give me that cat.”
“Don’t eat it,” Jupiter commented.
Tsuyoshi jerked his head up and glared. “You racist motherfucker!”
“Everyone, shut up,” Xavier said sleepily from where he was sprawled on the floor. Lincoln finished filling Bambam’s food bowl and walked back into the living room, staring at the Psych student curiously.
“You do realize there’s a couch right there?” Lincoln asked, deeply amused.
“Too far,” Xavier groaned, throwing an arm over his eyes. “Be quiet, I’m sleeping.”
It took him literally nine seconds to start snoring softly. Jupiter wandered over and nudged his side with his foot. Xavier didn’t stir, so Jupiter shrugged and flopped on the ground next to him like a fish out of water. Lincoln tried to convince him that he could sleep in Yong-sun’s bed, but Jupiter just batted his hands away and whined until Lincoln left him alone. Tsuyoshi was already halfway to falling asleep, Bambam curled up on his chest and purring loudly. Lincoln sighed and retrieved all the blankets and pillows he could find, piling them around the idiots on his floor. He felt bad for leaving them, so he decided to sleep on the couch.
Curled up under the last blanket and alone with his thoughts, he couldn’t help but worry about Oliver and school and his mother. It was easy to think of all the bad things that could happen, and Murphy’s Law spares no soul.
Lincoln shut his eyes and let sleep overtake him, dreaming of his scholarship running out, his mother getting worse and a ventriloquist named Eliza.