When Lincoln stepped out of his professor’s office, the first thing he saw was Xavier and Jackson running towards him.
“Hey,” The Chinese boy greeted, out of breath. Xavier waved while hunched over, muttering out curses between gasps. “Don’t mind him, he’s mad ’cause I made him run.”
“All the way,” Xavier huffed, panting. “From the fucking… Psych building.”
“Bro, you need to work on your cardio,” Jackson said, patting his friend on the back.
“I have… asthma… you dipshit,” Xavier wheezed, driving an elbow into Jackson’s stomach.
“Do you need an inhaler?” Lincoln asked, more than a little concerned. He didn’t know much about asthma but Xavier looked like he was struggling to breathe.
“I’m fine,” Xavier replied, finally managing to get his breath back under control. “Never running again.”
“But what if there’s a zombie apocalypse?” Jackson inquired, having recovered from Xavier’s elbow attack.
“I’ll use you as bait,” The American retorted before turning to Link. “Anyway, we came here looking for you. One of the Chinese students that was in your lecture told us you were here.”
“Oh, you mean Chen? I’m surprised she knows my name,” Lincoln said as they started walking downstairs.
“Ah, no,” Jackson said kindly, smiling. “We asked if she knew an American boy in Criminology with bleached hair and super pretty blue eyes. She said you look like a fairy.”
Lincoln felt his cheeks warm and he ducked his head. He heard Jackson and Xavier laugh and felt even more embarrassed. “I do not look like a fairy.”
“You kind of do,” Xavier said. “Or something from a fantasy game.”
“You look like a Hyrulean,” Jackson chimed in, grinning cheekily. Does this guy ever stop smiling? “Your ears are actually pretty pointy.”
“Shut up,” Lincoln protested meekly, quickly changing the subject. “Anyway, what are your majors?”
“I major in Psychology and Photography,” Xavier replied. “And this idiot over here is a Business major.”
“What can I say? I look sexy in a suit and tie,” Jackson smirked, striking a pose when they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“I don’t doubt that,” Lincoln said, pushing open the door. He paused when he realized they weren’t following him. “What?”
The two of them burst out laughing. “I guess that clears that up?”
“What do you mean?” Lincoln frowned, turning to Jackson. Xavier was still cracking up.
“Sorry,” Jackson said through laughter. He took a deep breath only to start laughing again. Lincoln began to grow impatient as they finally calmed down. “We were just worried you might be homophobic.”
“Remember what Jupiter said about Kevin Woo? You looked a little uncomfortable,” Jackson replied finally.
“That’s just because I wasn’t sure if I should agree. I’d never actually came out to anyone before,” Lincoln admitted.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Xavier said, composing himself. “But really? No one? No best friends?”
Yeah, right, Lincoln thought, slightly bitter. He held his tongue though. Xavier and Jackson don’t want to hear your problems, nor should they. He smiled, practiced and careful.
“Nah, no best friends,” Lincoln said casually. “Oh, hey. Why did you guys need me anyway?”
Xavier studied him carefully and Lincoln remembered he’s a Psychology major. He tried to appear relaxed and disguised his nerves. “We wanted to get your contact info. And invite you to lunch.”
“Yes to both,” Lincoln said, and as if on cue, his stomach growled. Jackson chuckled and handed over his phone, a new contact page already open. Lincoln quickly typed in his number, saving himself as ‘Link’ with a few emojis. He did the same on Xavier’s phone, and his own vibrated with texts from both of them.
“Sweet, now we’ve got each other’s numbers. Let’s call a cab, I know where we’re going,” Xavier grinned.
Jackson clapped excitedly, bouncing on his feet. “We’re going to Chive!”
Chive was a classy-looking seafood bar and lounge about fifteen minutes away by cab. Lincoln felt a little out of place wearing a button-up and black skinny jeans, but then again, Xavier and Jackson were dressed mostly the same.
“You’re not allergic to anything, right?” Jackson asked. “Sorry, we should have asked earlier.”
“No worries,” Lincoln assured him quickly. “I’m not allergic to anything. I’ve never been here before though.”
“Oh, try the snapper risotto,” Xavier recommended as they were seated. “It’s really good.”
“Or the shrimp and avocado salad,” Jackson suggested. “I think I’m gonna go with that.”
Lincoln just stared at the menu. It wasn’t expensive, only about $10-15 depending on the order. But Lincoln mostly ate fast food or instant food. He couldn’t really justify spending that much on one meal. Still, Jackson and Xavier had went through all that trouble just to bring him here. He’d suck it up and just skip dinner. What I wouldn’t give to not worry about ten fucking dollars.
“Lincoln?” Xavier’s voice broke him out of his thoughts, and he realized the waiter was here to take their orders.
“What will you be having, sir?”
“Um,” Lincoln stammered. “The–the snapper risotto, I’ll have that.” Xavier looked pleased that Lincoln had taken his suggestion into consideration. Once the waiter was gone, Lincoln buried his face in his hands.
“Are you okay? You seem out of it,” Jackson said, looking worried. And seriously, they’re so nice. Lincoln wondered how long they’d stick around.
“I’m fine,” Lincoln managed to say. It was a good thing he was covering his face because Xavier would totally see right through him. Fucking Psychology students. “Just embarrassed. I’m a little socially awkward.”
“Really? But you’re good at your job,” Jackson said. “Or, well, jobs.” He frowned.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Lincoln asked, sending Jackson a puzzled look.
“Link,” Xavier began patiently, while Jackson snorted and rolled his eyes. “You’re a barista and a bartender. Can you think of any other job that requires you to be more social? You’re literally trained in conversation.”
“I’m only good at it when I’m working,” Lincoln confessed, feeling like a child. Maybe Tsuyoshi was supposedly the ‘mom friend’ of the group, but Xavier kind of had a way of making you feel like you were ten years younger. “I try to maintain professionalism, at least until you weirdos showed up.”
“We’re your new best friends,” Jackson proclaimed, and well, it wasn’t like Lincoln was going to argue. He just hoped they would stick around, because he was growing quite fond of them. They chatted comfortably until the waiter arrived with their food, and chose to complain about school while they ate.
“Honestly I’m hoping to graduate in the spring,” Xavier said, which made Lincoln realize he had no idea how old everyone was.
“Xavier’s twenty one, and Hajime just turned twenty. Jupiter’s nineteen and so are me, Yong-sun, and Oliver. Tsuyoshi is twenty two,” Jackson recited, counting on his fingers. “How old are you?”
“I’m twenty,” Lincoln replied. “I turn twenty-one in December. I thought I might be the youngest, but surprisingly I’m not.”
“Jupiter’s the youngest, Jackson and Oliver are turning twenty this year,” Xavier said. “We’re all relatively close in age. Oh hey, you’re allowed to work in a bar when you’re only twenty?”
Lincoln blinked at the sudden change in topic. Jackson shot him a look that read get used to it. “Yeah, I can serve the alcohol, I just can’t drink it. But if anyone asks, I’m twenty-one.”
Xavier nodded, but he seemed distracted. Jackson rolled his eyes, shoved his last bite into his mouth and glanced at his watch.
“Oh shit, is that the time? I’m gonna be late for class.” They started cleaning up, and Lincoln pulled out a $20 bill to cover his part of the bill. Jackson just slid it back towards him and grinned.
“I hate to break it to you, Link, but prostitution is illegal. I’ll suck your dick for free though,” Jackson winked, causing Lincoln to sputter and protest vehemently. If he had been drinking something, it would have been all over the table right now. Xavier reprimanded Jackson for being vulgar while Lincoln struggled to regain composure, feeling as if he could die of embarrassment.
“What he means to say is that he’s got it covered,” Xavier clarified after Lincoln had stopped choking and Jackson had stopped laughing. He glared at the other boy and smacked the back of his head, though he was trying hard to maintain a straight face. Lincoln scowled at Jackson, who had started laughing again despite the death stares from Xavier. He’s too busy scowling to notice Jackson sneakily paying the bill before they could argue.
“Ah, shit, I’ve gotta get to the cafe,” Lincoln muttered, frowning at his phone. Xavier halted his argument with Jackson about the bill and turned to Lincoln.
“I could come with you? We could split cab fare,” Xavier offered. “We’re the ones who dragged you here, and I could use some study time.”
“That’d be great, thanks,” Lincoln grinned, relieved. He had no idea how to walk to the cafe but he wasn’t looking forward to paying for a cab. It’d be cheaper to split the cost. They waited outside for their cabs, Jackson heading to the university and the American duo going to Happy Go Lucky. They said their goodbyes and got into their respective cabs. Xavier chatted comfortably while Lincoln nodded along and prayed he wouldn’t be late to his shift.
He was late anyway, but he found he didn’t mind so much.