Truck Stop

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Chapter XIX.

Jupiter was too frustrated and upset to go back to Oliver’s room, so Lincoln made him wait in the hospital cafeteria while he told Tsuyoshi and Hajime that they were planning to go somewhere else. They were standing outside of Oliver’s room when he found them, Xavier having gone to the bathroom.

“The hospital’s psychologist wanted to talk to him,” Tsuyoshi offered by way of explanation. He seemed tired and stressed out; Lincoln felt really sorry for him.

“We don’t know what to do,” Hajime said, lowering his voice. “He doesn’t seem to get that Eliza was hurting him.”

“How did we not know?” Lincoln asked.

“I feel like shit for not noticing. I guess I thought if anything was wrong, he would tell us,” Hajime said.

“He thought there wasn’t anything wrong,” Tsuyoshi whispered brokenly. “He was blaming himself, he thought he deserved it. I-I just can’t believe…” He trailed off, tugging at his hair frustratingly. His shoulders heaved as he took deep breaths, probably trying to calm down.

The thing about Tsuyoshi, Lincoln noticed, is that he seemed to have this notion that he had to be calm and level-headed at all times. It was obvious that he tried his hardest to control every situation in a manner that best suited everyone.

“Hey, it’ll be okay,” Hajime said soothingly, patting Tsuyoshi’s shoulder. He motioned for Lincoln to go while trying his best to console their eldest friend. Lincoln paused for a moment before sighing and retreating down the hall, trying to find the hospital cafeteria. He doesn’t need to though, because Jupiter finds him first, surprise attacking him by leaping onto his back.

“Jesus Christ!” Lincoln gasped, staggering with the additional weight. Jupiter clung onto him with both his arms and legs, limbs wrapped tight around Lincoln’s torso like restraints.

Jupiter snorted. “No, Kim Jupiter.”

Lincoln groaned and pried Jupiter off of him, the younger refusing to let go until Lincoln almost gave up and looked for a crowbar. Luckily, Jupiter became occupied with coaxing the receptionist into letting him have one of the lollipops she kept on her desk. All it takes is one flash of his signature cheeky grin and the receptionist is handing over the entire bowl. Jupiter rummaged through the sweets until he found a round, bubblegum-flavored lollipop. Smiling satisfactorily, he removed the wrapper and popped the candy in his mouth, bowing in thanks and returning the bowl.

“I got a lollipop,” Jupiter crowed triumphantly, waving the lollipop in Lincoln’s face. Lincoln just rolled his eyes and walked out of the hospital, Jupiter trailing after him like a lost puppy. “How are you not upset?”

“Of course I’m upset,” Lincoln responded, recognizing what Jupiter was referring to. “But you just can’t blame the victim. I know you want Oliver to realize that he was trapped in a bad relationship, but he can’t see that.”

“I know,” Jupiter said immediately, sounding guilty. “I know that in my head. But my heart doesn’t want to listen. I hope they find her.”

“I do too,” Lincoln agreed, before suggesting they talk about something else. Jupiter was only happy to accept, chattering about outer space. Lincoln stuffed his hands into his pockets, listening as Jupiter explained his theory on space mermaids. Apparently one of the planet Jupiter’s moons had an enormous ocean buried under a thick sheet of ice.

“See but here’s the thing,” Jupiter was saying. “There were geysers spotted coming up from below the surface, right? Which means there’s something keeping the water from freezing completely. Exhibit A: the moon has a core. It could possibly sustain life. Therefore space mermaids.”

“It’s a nice theory,” Lincoln admitted. “But we haven’t even sighted mermaids on Earth, the only planet we know that can sustain life.”

“Okay but,” Jupiter continued. “Like ninety-five percent of the ocean is unexplored? There’s no proof that mermaids aren’t real, y’know?”

“That is true, but mermaids in space is a whole different plane,” Lincoln shrugged.

Jupiter stopped, staring at Lincoln’s face for an uncomfortable amount of time. “You know, you’re the first person who’s ever engaged in a conversation with me about this type of stuff.”

“Well, it is interesting. Like all that weird shit they found on Mars resembling creatures and objects we see on Earth? It’s pretty crazy, there’s a lot to talk about.”

“Most people just think I’m weird for bringing it up,” Jupiter said sadly. Lincoln looked back and saw the face of a kid that had been hated on for being different, and immediately felt a pang of something in his chest. He took three steps forward and put his arms around the shorter boy, holding him tightly.

“You’re not weird,” Lincoln told him seriously. “Nuts, maybe--don’t you dare give me that you look, you fucking pervert, I’m trying to be nice-- but you’re fine.”

“I know I am,” Jupiter replied, drawing back and wiggling his eyebrows. “It’s funny how we’ve only been friends for a short while but it feels like you’ve been in our little group for ages.”

“Sometimes, I feel like it’s not gonna last,” Lincoln admitted in a state of vulnerability. Jupiter’s hands fisted the material of his hoodie tightly, eyes dark and serious when they met Lincoln’s.

For a boy with a car alarm heart, Jupiter was oddly quiet when he spoke. “It will last.”

And his gaze was so fierce that Lincoln felt every wall he ever built shatter in that moment. Maybe for the first time in his life, he wasn’t afraid to be so open.

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