Once again, the cafe is busy and bustling. Lincoln switched places with Anne so he was behind the counter and she was waiting tables, since he was faster at ringing people up. It was their typical lunch rush, selling off smoothies and sandwiches like usual.
“Excuse me sir,” Lincoln said politely to a large man who had cut in front of an elderly woman trying to order. “I’m just going to help this customer here, and I’ll be with you in a moment.”
“I shouldn’t have to wait!” The man exclaimed rudely. Lincoln rolled his eyes (mentally, he’d rather drop dead than actually perform the action) and forced a smile.
“Sir, it’ll just be a moment,” He said before turning back to the woman. She took a few minutes to decide what she wanted while the man behind her tapped his foot and made impatient noises. Lincoln ignored him for the time being, waiting for her decision. He smiled genuinely as he handed her the change and her pastry in a paper bag.
“Finally!” The man from before said rudely, stepping up to the counter. “I’ll have the mango-strawberry sweetheart smoothie.”
“Right away sir,” Lincoln said. “Can I get your name, please?”
“What for?” The man asked, annoyed.
“It’s just standard procedure, sir,” Lincoln responded, polite as ever. “The smoothie will take a few minutes, and as you can see we’re quite busy. This way, orders don’t get mixed up.”
The man grumbled and reluctantly gave his name for Lincoln’s co-worker to write on the cup. Lincoln breathed a short sigh of relief when the man stepped away. Aggressive customers made him nervous, even though he’s dealt with them plenty at the club.
A few minutes after the man received his drink, he came storming back to the counter angrily. Lincoln braced himself for yelling, but what he didn’t expect was a yogurt-laden drink sloshing onto his clothing, the plastic cup clattering at his feet.
“That’s what you get for making me wait!” The man yelled. Lincoln stood in shock as people around him gasped and the man bolted. What made it worse was the fact that Oliver and Jupiter were standing near the door as the man ran past them, mouths agape. Humiliated, Lincoln ran into the break room, soiled clothes and all. He rushed into the employee bathroom, locking the door behind him and leaning against the sink, taking a deep breath. He felt like crying, just a little. Instead, he untied his apron and dropped it in the sink, running the tap. His pants were fine, but his hoodie hadn’t been spared from the smoothie.
Disgusted, Lincoln ripped off his hoodie and shoved it under the stream of running water. He didn’t care that he was getting smoothie everywhere. He rinsed off both articles of clothing as best as he could, dropping them into a bucket after squeezing out the excess water. He’d pick up his hoodie at the end of the shift. He scrubbed the remainder off his face and neck and decided he’d never drink smoothies again.
Taking a few more deep breaths, Lincoln walked out of the bathroom only to be surrounded by a few worried co-workers and the manager. He brushed off their concerns, saying he was fine and no, he didn’t want to go home. Anne grimaced at him, smiling sympathetically and handing him another apron. He put it on and went back out front, cringing when he saw Jupiter and Oliver sitting at the counter.
“Are you okay?” Jupiter asked worriedly as soon as Lincoln was within earshot. “What a dick, I hope karma fucks him up good.”
“Stop fucking swearing,” Oliver grumbled, swatting Jupiter on the arm. Lincoln assured the purple-haired boy that he was fine, thank you. He wasn’t, not really, still shaken from the incident. “Remember what you came here for?”
“Oh!” Jupiter exclaimed, cheeks tinged pink. “Um, yeah. Sorry for getting drunk and puking on your shoes the other night, Link. I mean, I don’t remember it, but Oliver said I did some pretty embarrassing shit.”
“Nothing high-level embarrassing,” Lincoln said automatically. “I mean, I’ve seen a lot of stuff while working at that club, so. It wasn’t that bad in comparison. Um, how was the hangover?” He cursed inwardly at himself for babbling nervously.
“He doesn’t get hangovers,” Oliver complained. “Which is unbelievably unfair.”
“Don’t hate me ’cause you ain’t me, hyung,” Jupiter smirked, flipping his non-existent hair. Oliver rolled his eyes so hard Lincoln thought they’d fall out of his head.
“What does ‘hyung’ mean?” Lincoln struggled to get the word off his tongue, and even then it sounded nothing like how Jupiter was pronouncing it.
“It’s a… formality?” Jupiter said, stopping to mutter to himself in Korean. “You say it to older males you are close to. It means big brother.”
“Ah, so what would be the opposite?” Lincoln inquired curiously.
“Dongsaeng,” Jupiter answered, seeming happy that Lincoln wanted to know, beaming lopsidedly. “Little brother. It doesn’t always have to be familial relationships though. Friendships, too.”
“Link, you aren’t going home?” The manager, Theresa, asked when she passed the counter.
“No, ma’am, I’m alright,” Lincoln replied politely, fidgeting with the bottom of his apron. She always made him nervous because she didn’t know him like Pat did, so she could fire him any second if she thought it’d be fit to do so.
“If you’re sure,” Theresa said, smiling kindly. “You work too hard, Lincoln.” Not hard enough, Lincoln thought to himself. Instead, he smiled back and returned to doing his job. Someone had already mopped up the remainder of the smoothie and taken care of the other customers, so Lincoln didn’t really have much to do.
“You work every night except for Sundays, right?” Oliver asked.
“Yeah, on Sundays I go to visit my mom,” Lincoln explained. Oliver nodded and thankfully, didn’t ask.
The remainder of his shift goes by without incident, Oliver and Jupiter chatting with him whenever he had a spare moment. He switched to waiting near the end, talking to their regulars and bringing them their orders. Theresa called him to her office and asked him about pressing charges, to which Lincoln declined. He clocked out and walked into the bathroom to grab his hoodie, still wet.
Lincoln sighed and gave up. It wasn’t that cold outside, and if he wore the damp hoodie he would catch a cold which he could not afford to get. He returned to the storefront to say goodbye to Jupiter and Oliver, who had stuck around “in case the man comes back”. Lincoln thought they just wanted an excuse to bother him.
“You don’t have a jacket,” Jupiter said disapprovingly, scolding Lincoln like a child. “You’re gonna catch a cold.”
“My hoodie’s still wet,” Lincoln said, holding up the mentioned clothing. “And anyway, I don’t think you catch a cold just in chilly weather. I think you’re just more prone to influenza viruses when it’s cold?”
“Whatever,” Jupiter said, flapping a hand at him dismissively. “My point is, it’s pretty damn cold considering it’s, y’know, October.”
“I’ll be fine,” Lincoln said, shaking his head. “It’s only seven or eight blocks. I don’t really keep count.”
“You live ten blocks from here,” Oliver spoke up, causing Jupiter to send him a weird look. “I drove him home the night you were drunk off your ass.”
“Can we not bring that up?” Jupiter whined.
“Here, take my jacket,” Oliver offered, and despite Lincoln’s protests, he slipped out of the (expensive-looking) military jacket and handed it over.
“No I can’t take that, you’ll get cold,” Lincoln said. Oliver shook his head.
“His house is like, five minutes away from here,” Jupiter piped up. “Which is totally unfair. I’m gonna start sleeping over more.”
“Please don’t,” Oliver deadpanned. “Take the damn jacket or I’ll fight you. Don’t test me, motherfucker.”
“It’s fine!” Lincoln insisted. Jupiter made a sound of frustration that sounded like a dying cat and yanked the jacket from Oliver. He forced Lincoln’s arms through the sleeves, surprisingly strong for someone so tiny. And wow, if Lincoln didn’t feel like a child before, he certainly does now, even though he’s got at least three inches on both of them. Despite the height difference, the jacket fitted perfectly.
“Damn,” Oliver whistled. “It looks better on you than it did on me.”
“That’s not true!” Lincoln could feel his face turning red and sighed. “Thank you, I’ll return it to you tomorrow.”
“Nah, it’s no problem,” Oliver waved him off, but he was smiling. “Later, Lincoln.”
Lincoln quickly said good-bye and stepped outside. As soon as he does, he’s grateful for the jacket. He’d always been sensitive to the cold. He walked quickly to his apartment, wanting to take off the jacket before he wrecked it.
Kicking open his door, Lincoln took off his shoes and dropped his hoodie on the floor. He hung up the jacket on a hook and collapsed onto his couch in front of his laptop. He still had a paper to write.
Out of curiosity, Lincoln typed the brand name of the jacket, Jeremiah, and added ‘military jacket’ to his search. He clicked on the link to Jeremiah Clothing and found the jacket he had just been wearing and checked the price listing. He almost choked on his own spit.
Two hundred fucking dollars.
“Yeah, Oliver is very rich,” Yong-sun told him. He hadn’t seen the Korean boy since their original meeting two weeks ago, but Yong-sun had walked into the cafe ten minutes ago. It took Lincoln an embarrassingly long time to put a name to his face but Yong-sun hadn’t seemed to mind. “He doesn’t like to show off or anything, though.”
“I have never met anyone who could casually lend someone a $200 jacket,” Lincoln mused. “Oh, well. He’s still Mr. Serious Dancer to me.”
Yong-sun looked relieved. “People treat him… differently when they find out he’s rich. I don’t like it.” He frowned and muttered in Korean, reminding Lincoln of Jupiter.
“I don’t think the amount of money he has makes him any different,” Lincoln replied, turning away to serve a customer. He returned shortly after, Yong-sun smiling at him patiently. Him and Oliver were complete opposites. Oliver was harsh and serious, Yong-sun was soft-hearted and gentle. Lincoln liked the both of them.
“Have you seen them play?” Yong-sun asked, pointing to Lincoln’s shirt. He looked down automatically at his Panic! at the Disco shirt and smiled.
“Yeah, once when I was younger and lived in California.” It had been probably the best night of his life. He had gone with two friends when he was still in high school, and even though they left him stranded at the venue, he still cherished the memory. “You like them?”
“Yes!” Yong-sun exclaimed. “I like them very much. You live in California?” He struggled to pronounce the state name, saying it as Cariforyah instead of California. Lincoln couldn’t help but grin.
“I moved here to live with my mother during my senior year of high school,” Lincoln explained, staring at the design printed on the Korean student’s pink hoodie. A zombie unicorn complete with brains and skeletal parts. It looked like it had been hand-printed.
“That must have been very hard,” Yong-sun replied, smiling sympathetically. Lincoln shrugged and instead compliments Yong-sun’s hoodie, quickly changing the subject. “Jupiter made it for me. He is good at art.”
“I can see that,” Lincoln giggled. The design made a lot more sense now that he knew Jupiter was the one who made it. “It looks cool.”
“Oh!” Yong-sun suddenly exclaimed, clapping his hands. “I remember why I come here.”
“Came,” Lincoln corrected politely. He had thought about leaving it briefly, but thought Yong-sun might appreciate the help a little. Yong-sun nodded and repeated his sentence with the correct tense.
“I want to invite you to see our performance,” The dancer said excitedly. “We are having a… how do you say it? Showbox?”
“Showcase?” Lincoln wondered, to which Yong-sun nodded again. “Oh yeah, I’d love to. Um, what time?”
“Wednesday at six,” Yong-sun informed him. Lincoln could probably take some time off, leave a couple hours before his shift ends. He knew Theresa wouldn’t mind, and he’d feel bad if he didn’t go since Yong-sun came all the way to the cafe just to invite him. “Jackson and Tsuyoshi will come to get you. You will be here?”
“As always,” Lincoln promised. Yong-sun gave him a confused look. “Yes, yes I will be here! I’m looking forward to seeing you dance.”
“Thank you!” Yong-sun said, bowing his head. “Would you join for soju, hyung?”
“What?” Lincoln asked, forgetting to be polite. He had no idea what soju was. It felt a little weird to be called hyung but he didn’t want to disrespect Yong-sun’s culture.
“It’s a Korean drink,” Yong-sun said. “With alcohol.”
“Oh, uh, sure. I’d love to,” Lincoln replied weakly, feeling awkward like he did on his first day of high school.
“We don’t buy very expensive ones,” Yong-sun warned. “But we buy many drinks and mixers.”
“Good thing I’m a bartender,” Lincoln joked. Yong-sun only smiled gently, perhaps not understanding the joke. A group of art students come in and Lincoln served them. When he was finally finished handing out chai lattes and caramel frappuccinos, Yong-sun had already left, a note and a tip in his place.
Rehearsal! Sorry :(
“He left a message for you,” Sierra, always the nosy barista, informed him, reading over his shoulder. “He said he had dance practice and apologized for his limited English when it came to writing. I helped him spell rehearsal, he was super cute about it.”
“He’s kind of adorable,” Lincoln admitted.
“Did you see his sweater? I’m so jealous,” Sierra gushed. “The pink looked so nice on him, and it was so fluffy!”
“Wonder where he got it,” Another coworker chimed in. “Honestly, he could be a model, he’s so good-looking.”
“We’ve got our own little model,” Theresa added, walking up to the counter and pinching Lincoln’s cheek. “Now get back to work, guys.”
Lincoln ducked his head, feeling his face heat up. He left the counter to fix the decorations that were falling down. Leave it to Anne to mess up even Halloween decorations. He was in the middle of fixing the Jigsaw mask when Teresa told him to switch to waiting tables. He quickly grabbed his trusty pad and pen, moving quickly to take orders from people who didn’t already have their food or coffee. He chatted with the regulars and smiled so much his face hurt, elated. Waiting tables was much better than making drinks, whether it was here or at the club. The bells above the door jingled as someone walked in, and he looked up for a brief moment. Suddenly, his mood wasn’t so great and he felt sick to his stomach. Standing in front of him was his ex-best friend Carson Bruie.
“Oh my god! Lincoln, is that you?” Carson exclaimed, and Lincoln felt a stab of bitterness. Carson obviously didn’t know that Lincoln pretty much resented him, and it probably wouldn’t bother him. Apparently, he had never needed Lincoln in the first place. He carefully schooled his face into a surprised expression and walked up to Carson.
“I haven’t seen you in months!” Lincoln forced a smile. Hollywood would love his acting, that’s how fake his smile was. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been good, never better,” Carson laughed. Lincoln had secretly been wishing that Carson was suffering from a bad life, but his dreams were crushed and he was a shitty human being. “How have you been?”
Terrible, Lincoln thought.
“Wonderful,” is what he said instead. He wished he had a mask, he wasn’t sure how well he was hiding his emotions. Good thing he used to work in retail until he found a job at Happy Go Lucky.
“That’s good! Hey, wanna catch up? It’s been so long,” Carson suggested. Because you walked out on me. Because you left, Lincoln thought viciously.
“Actually,” Lincoln said, all fake polite and sugar-sweet. “I’ve gotta get back to work, so.” He looked pointedly at his apron and held up his pad and pen.
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” Carson nodded. “I guess I’ll talk to you later? Call me!” Don’t have your number anymore.
Lincoln sighed and went around with a fresh pot of coffee, thanking the heavens when Carson chose to sit at someone else’s tables instead of the ones Lincoln was serving.
“You know him?” Sierra asked nosy as ever, nodding at Carson’s table.
Lincoln exhaled shakily, his knuckles white from gripping the handle of the coffee pot harshly. “Do you remember my first week here?”
Sierra’s eyes widened. “You mean he’s the one you came in with on your first day?”
“Yep,” Lincoln muttered, unable to keep bitterness from seeping into his tone.
“I haven’t seen him around in years,” Sierra commented. Three, to be exact. It’s been three fucking years. “What happened?”
“Oh, you know, we had a falling out,” The blonde lied through his teeth.
Actually what had happened was that Carson had gotten tired of Lincoln’s baggage and left. He’s not even exaggerating.
The whole time Carson was at the cafe, Lincoln avoided him like the plague. He shivered and glared daggers into his ex-friend’s back when he left.
Why did he have to come back into Lincoln’s life when it was so clear he never wanted to stay in the first place?